Thursday, August 30, 2007

Calvinist or Arminian - which are you?

Personal Testimony

A few years ago I flew to a city in the northeast to preach. While driving to the airport for my flight home, one of the pastors who rode with me asked whether I was a Calvinist or Arminian. At the time, I did not know how to answer, since I was uninformed about the difference between the two. Rather than admit my ignorance, I claimed that I was Calvi-minian. The question, however, intrigued me.

That same year we were studying the book of Romans on Wednesday nights. As part of my study I was reading commentaries by James Boice and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I came across the words monergism and synergism, words with which I was not familiar. That led me to further study, and I found myself agreeing with Monergism. It wasn’t so much that I was being persuaded by what I was reading, as I was recognizing that the writers were putting words to what I already believed.

Paul’s argument in Romans 9 was a watershed for me. I began to identify myself as a Calvinist by the middle of the chapter. The objection that Paul raises in verse 14, then answers in verses 15 through 18 convinced me of the truthfulness of Monergism.

Romans 9:14-18 (NKJV)
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

Lately, in my reading, listening to MP3 sermons, and discussing theology with others, I have come across a number of people that profess to be neither Calvinist nor Arminian. In a number of instances these individuals profess to be Biblicists. The question that arises in my mind is, “Can someone be neither?” and the answer that I come up with is a resounding no.

Church History

The Synod of Dordt met during 1618-1619 to settle a dispute that was initiated by the Remonstrance of 1610. The document that contains the doctrinal statements of that Synod is known as the Canons of Dordt. This historical church document outlines the difference between the Arminians and the Calvinists. If an individual denies one of the statements the Canons affirm, then on that statement he affirms the position of the Remonstrance. There is no third option, no Biblicist option. On each of the doctrinal points one either affirms the Calvinist position or affirms the Arminian position.

The Remonstrance consisted of five points, but in their response the Synod combined the third and fourth. For each point there are multiple Articles which lay out the conclusions of the Synod. Following the Articles there is a section listing the errors the Canons reject, which would be those arguments the Remonstrance was advocating. I have included select portions of each section and then summarized the Calvinist and Arminian position for each point. By noting which position you affirm, you should be able to determine where you stand on the scale between Arminianism and Calvinism. Hopefully you will be able to accurately answer the question, which I could not answer a few years ago.

First Head Of Doctrine
Of Divine Predestination

Article 1
As all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish, and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin…

Article 7
Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, He hath out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will, chosen, from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom He from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.

This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God hath decreed to give to Christ,…

Article 9
This election was not founded upon foreseen faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition in man, as the prerequisite, cause or condition on which it depended;…

Rejection 5
That the incomplete and non-decisive election of particular persons to salvation occurred because of a foreseen faith, conversion, holiness, godliness, which either began or continued for some time;…

Both Calvinism and Arminianism teach that God has an elect people; the difference is that Calvinism affirms that God’s choice is based solely in Him, for His purposes. Arminianism affirms that God’s choice is based on how individuals ultimately respond in faith.

Which do you affirm – Calvinism or Arminianism?

Second Head Of Doctrine
Of the Death of Christ and the Redemption of Men Thereby

Article 1
God is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely just. And His justice requires (as He hath revealed Himself in His Word), that our sins committed against His infinite majesty should be punished, not only with temporal, but with eternal punishment, both in body and soul; which we cannot escape unless satisfaction be made to the justice of God.

Article 3
The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.

Article 8
…it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father;…

Rejection 6
…that God, as far as He is concerned, has been minded of applying to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; but that, while some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will,…

Both Calvinism and Arminianism affirm that the death of Christ was sufficient to atone for the sin of the entirety of humanity; the difference has to do with the effectiveness of His death. Calvinism affirms that Christ’s death effects the salvation of the elect, whereas Arminianism affirms that the effect of Christ's death is left to the free choice of man.

Which do you affirm – Calvinism or Arminianism?

Third And Fourth Heads Of Doctrine
Of the Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God,
and the Manner Thereof

Article 1
Man was originally formed after the image of God. …but revolting from God by the instigation of the devil, and abusing the freedom of his own will, he forfeited these excellent gifts;…

Article 2
Man after the fall begat children in his own likeness. A corrupt stock produced a corrupt offspring. Hence all the posterity of Adam, Christ only excepted, have derived corruption from their original parent,…

Article 3
Therefore all men are conceived in sin, …they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, or to dispose themselves to reformation.

Article 7
This mystery of His will God discovered to but a small number under the Old Testament; under the New (the distinction between various peoples having been removed), He reveals Himself to many without any distinction of people.

Article 10
…it must be wholly ascribed to God, who as He has chosen His own from eternity in Christ, so He confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of His own Son,

Article 14
Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure; but because it is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him; or even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will, consent to the terms of salvation and actually believe in Christ; but because He who works in man both to will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe and the act of believing also.

Article 16
…this grace of regeneration does not treat men as senseless stocks and blocks, nor takes away their will and its properties, neither does violence thereto; but spiritually quickens, heals, corrects, and at the same time sweetly and powerfully bends it; that where carnal rebellion and resistance formerly prevailed, a ready and sincere spiritual obedience begins to reign, …

Rejection 4
That the unregenerate man is not really nor utterly dead in sin, nor destitute of all powers unto spiritual good, but that he can yet hunger and thirst after righteousness and life, and offer the sacrifice of a contrite and broken spirit, which is pleasing to God.

Rejection 7
That the grace whereby we are converted to God is only a gentle advising, …

Rejection 8
…that all the works of grace having been accomplished, which God employs to convert man, man may yet so resist God and the Holy Spirit when God intends man's regeneration and wills to regenerate him, and indeed that man often does so resist that he prevents entirely his regeneration, and that it therefore remains in man's power to be regenerated or not.

Rejection 9
That grace and free will are partial causes, which together work the beginning of conversion, and that grace, in order of working, does not precede the working of the will; …

Both Calvinism and Arminianism affirm that man is depraved; the difference has to do with the extent of man’s depravity. Calvinism affirms that man’s depravity extends to his incapacity to believe. God regenerates the elect, thus giving him the capacity to believe. Arminianism affirms that even though man’s depravity has incapacitated him, God has provided every man with "prevenient grace," which allows man by his own natural will to choose or reject salvation.

Which do you affirm – Calvinism or Arminianism?

Fifth Head Of Doctrine
Of the Perseverance of the Saints

Article 1
Whom God calls, according to His purpose, to the communion of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, He delivers also from the dominion and slavery of sin in this life; though not altogether from the body of sin and from the infirmities of the flesh, so long as they continue in this world.

Article 8
Thus, it is not in consequence of their own merits or strength, but of God's free mercy, that they do not totally fall from faith and grace, nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which, with respect to themselves, is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, …

Article 12
This certainty of perseverance, however, is so far from exciting in believers a spirit of pride or of rendering them carnally secure, that on the contrary, it is the real source of humility, …

Rejection 3
That the true believers and regenerate not only can fall from justifying faith and likewise from grace and salvation wholly and to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and are lost forever.

Rejection 5
That without a special revelation we can have no certainty of future perseverance in this life.

Calvinism affirms the doctrine commonly referred to as "eternal security." The Remonstrance neither affirmed nor denied the doctrine.

Here is Article 5 of the Remonstrance:
That those who an incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand; and if only they are ready for the conflict. and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ's hands, according to the word of Christ, John 10:28: "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.

Which do you affirm – Calvinism or Arminianism?

By noting which of the Calvinist points you affirm and which you reject, you should now be able to determine where you stand on the scale between Arminianism and Calvinism.

For Further Study

Five Articles of Remonstrance

Prevenient Grace

Synod of Dort

The Five Points of Calvinism


The Arminian Controversy

What Are the Essential Differences Between Calvinism and Arminianism?

Some Things Non Calvinists Should Know About Calvinism

God's Sovereignty in the Salvation of Men

A Defense of Calvinism

Historic Church Documents

Links in this article are provided solely for information purposes,
and do not in any way imply full and complete endorsement.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mission Trip 2007 Final Report

Front row (L to R): Chris, Cindy, Julie, Sarah T., Sarah M.,
Rachel, Jennifer, Matt (Jennifer's husband).
Back row (L to R): Brian (Sarah M.'s daddy), Austin (Cindy's son),
Darrell (Julie's Dad), Logan, Scott, Barry, Stephen.

Sarah and I arrived home from our trip at almost 11 pm on Monday July 24. I am having a difficult time finding a single word to answer the question "How was your trip?" Here are a few words that readily come to mind: wonderful, encouraging, heart-warming, exhausting.

I have two primary responsibilities when taking mission teams to Jamaica. The first is making all the arrangements for the team prior to the trip - contacting a church in Jamaica with which to work; arranging lodging, meals, and transportation; putting together a schedule that includes sightseeing activities, while at the same time making sure that the team has enough time to rest and recuperate; then establishing a budget for each team member based on those factors. That process consumes a greater amount of time as the date of travel nears.

The second responsibility is logistics while in Jamaica. I was not actively involved in the teaching portion of the VBS, as my main task each day was to provision food for the team, the children, and the church members who assisted us. On the final day of VBS we had 160 children, plus the 15 member team, plus 10 to 15 ladies and men who helped us in preparing and serving the meal. Sarah was my assistant and was a tremendous asset.

Here is a pictorial journal of the week from my perspective:

07/13, Friday - Flew from Columbia to Atlanta, then to Montego Bay. While in the Terminal E food court saw David Loftis, an MK from Jamaica, whom I had not seen in almost 20 years. He, Carol, and their 3 children were hosting a choir of 52 from Colonial Baptist Church (Cary NC), and were on the same flight into Montego Bay.

07/14, Saturday - Visited Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf, and was delighted to see the staff. They loaned us 2 large coolers so that we could keep our water and soft drinks cold.

07/15, Sunday AM - Left Montego Bay at 8 am and drove to Rock Cliffe Baptist Church for the morning service. Had a wonderful time fellowshipping with the believers there.

Rock Cliffe then

Rock Cliffe now

The music in the 4 church services we attended was outstanding. None of the churches had pianos, and they sang a cappella. At Rock Cliffe there was an old man who played the banjo while sitting on the front pew. He tried to pick up the key that the choir started in and play along with them, but was no match for the voices of the congregation.

At Cataboo, Devene played an electric guitar. She is not a trained musician and plays by ear, but what an ear! The choir would start the song and she would find the key and join them.

After the service at Rock Cliffe the church ladies had prepared sandwiches for us. On Saturday we had purchased sandwich meat, bread, pickles, chips, and drinks for our Sunday lunch, but didn't use them. We were appreciative of the sacrifice the congregation made to provide us with lunch.

07/15, Sunday PM - Sarah and I went to Sellington Baptist Church, while the team stayed at the Ashton Great House, to recuperate from 2 long days of travel.

Sellington then

Sellington now

The church is also in the midst of a building project, working as the money becomes available. Another sweet time of fellowship, with no one checking their watch to see how long the preacher went. Sarah had taken a soundtrack to sing, and a young woman, Demesha, who led the worship, and who had a beautiful voice, sang along quietly with Sarah from her pew. I thought to myself how wonderful it would be if Sarah would give her the soundtrack, but did not voice that thought to Sarah. After the service I was thrilled to watch Sarah give her the soundtrack.

07/16, Monday - After taking the team to the church, Sarah and I, along with Pastor James, went to Black River to get lunch.

We had Juici patties on Monday and Friday;

PB & J sandwiches on Tuesday and Thursday;

and spiced bun with cheese on Wednesday.

Some elderly ladies from the church along with the pastor's wife Retinella, served the food and drink.

Pastor Sylvan James Family

Many of the ladies when introduced to me, said “Your daddy used to be my pastor.” That was a special blessing of the trip.

07/17, Tuesday - After VBS I took some of the team for a 3 hour scenic tour. The others were too exhausted. I think that summers in Columbia, SC are warmer than Jamaica. The difference here is that I go from a house with A/C to a car with A/C to an office with A/C. The only time I am away from A/C for any length of time is my 3 hour UPS shift from 4 am to 7 am. In Jamaica, our vans and our rooms had A/C, but we spent more time away from A/C, and the humidity tired the team quickly.

07/18, Wednesday - I started transporting children to the church before going for lunch. On Friday I had 41 children, plus myself and Deacon Coke.

full front seat

counting the children

Deacon Coke Family

I called my dad, and told him that I was a better man than he because I carried more children in my van than he had (the most he ever carried was 32). The vans were 15 passenger Toyota Hiace's, with 5 rows of 3 seats. The 5th row was removed to make room for luggage.

In the afternoon we took the Black River Safari cruise to see the flora & fauna and the crocodiles. Cornell was our pilot, and at the turn-around-point of the cruise he jumped into the river, followed by 2 of the teenage boys and Pastor Matt. One of the teenage girls jumped in next, followed by the other 2 teenage boys (who I'm sure didn't want to be outdone by a girl), and Pastor Barry. I, being mature, stayed in the boat. The crocodile that had come up to the boat earlier swam away because of all the commotion.

Cornell & 'friend'

Cornell & 'friends'

07/19, Thursday – The 4th day of VBS. Pastor Matt posted entries to his blog from the cyber cafe in Black River, and has more information about the VBS, along with pictures.

'we be surfin mon'

07/20, Friday - 160 children at VBS! On our way out of the Cataboo community we decided that it would be fun to jump off the bridge into the river.

Crocodiles, what crocodiles?

a calm river

the water was cool

On the return trip to Montego Bay we stopped at Fairview Baptist Bible College, where camp was in session.

I was very pleased to see that the playing field has been leveled. This work was done by a group from Colonial Baptist Church (Cary NC) a few months ago.

07/21, Saturday - Visited Dunn's River Falls.

The north coast highway is complete from Rose Hall Great House to Ocho Rios, and is a pleasure to drive. The remaining portion to complete is from the airport heading east to Rose Hall.

There is a new resort property, The Palmyra, being built near Rose Hall.

07/22, Sunday - Returned to Cataboo for the morning service. I asked those who had heard my daddy preach, to stand.

07/23, Monday - Our flight was delayed leaving Montego Bay because the incoming flight was late, so we missed our connection in Atlanta. They have finished building the beautiful new east concourse, housing Gates 8 to 19, and waiting is “no problem, mon.”

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