Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Logic of Both Calvinism and Arminianism

I link many of my articles under the Theology label to Sharper Iron (SI) for further discussion. My recent article titled Free Will generated some wonderful discussion that continued for twenty pages before it was closed down by a moderator. It also led, indirectly, to the banning of a commenter, who denied original sin in his posts, since SI members are required to affirm the doctrinal statement.

In a post (page 1, #4) on that thread one respondent wrote of Calvinism as, "merely a philosopher's attempt to complicate the simplicity of Salvation." In a subsequent post (page 5, #29) he explained that the reason he "called Calvinism a philosophy" was because "the arguments presented by the strong Calvinists are such circular arguments that it truly becomes a philosophical argument and not a logical, rational argument."

In response to his statements, I wrote (page 19, #130) of my intent to write this article showing that "each of the approaches to understanding salvation is an internally consistent philosophy." My purpose is not to defend Calvinism nor critique Arminianism, but simply to show that both views are logically consistent.

In an article titled Calvinist & Arminian Presuppositions, Joseph M. Gleason shows that both Calvinism and Arminianism flow logically from certain presuppositional starting points. He states that:
Calvinists often use the following type of reasoning: God is Sovereign. He is in control of everything. That's their starting point, and everything else in their theology flows from there.

Arminians often use the following type of reasoning: God is fair. And God is love. He knows that love, hate, punishment, and reward cannot exist without men being morally able to choose either good or evil. For the Arminian, that's the starting point, and everything else in their theology flows from there.
In another article, titled An Introduction to Calvinism, Gleason writes:
It should first be understood that Calvinism is a highly logical, systematic, and interconnected system of belief that relate(s) to our spiritual nature and ultimately our salvation.
Jeff Paton, in an article titled A New Strategy For Refuting Eternal Security, states that:
Five point Calvinism is a thoroughly consistent system that could truly contend for the position as the genuine theology of God. It meets the criteria of consistency. Arminianism is the theological opposite of Calvinism. Arminianism is also thoroughly consistent forwards and backwards within itself. The Arminian system of theology is also a contender as the true theology of God since it is also non-contradictory.
In another article, titled The Last Refuge of Calvinism, Paton writes:
In theological debate, both Calvinism and Arminianism have their longstanding traditions and arguments. Both systems attempt to make sense of Biblical passages and reconcile them to the whole. But the strength of Calvinism relies on another factor outside of the Bible which is valued as much, if not more than the Bible, i.e., unassailable logic. In their system of theology, one doctrine builds upon the other with perfect consistency with the whole.
On his blog, in an article titled John MacArthur on Calvinism and Premillennialism..., David Sliker writes:
The line of thinking behind Calvinism is a logical progression that begins with the critical premise - total depravity.
Since Calvinism is noted for the TULIP acrostic, I will use the order of the acrostic to present both Calvinism and Arminianism.

  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the Saints
Death, both spiritual and physical, was the effect of the sin of Adam. Man's spiritual death not only alienates him from God, but also hinders him from seeking to be reconciled to God. In order for there to be reconciliation, God must initiate such, but there is no inherent obligation on the part of God to initiate reconciliation. He therefore has the right to choose with whom he wants to be reconciled and thus the basis of His choice is His own free will. God also provides the sacrifice to atone for those and only those whom He has chosen. Since he has chosen a fixed number with whom to be reconciled and has provided the sacrifice that makes such reconciliation possible, it is certain that all those chosen will be forever reconciled.

  • Deprivation
  • Conditional Election
  • Unlimited Atonement
  • Resistible Grace
  • Assurance and Security
Death, both spiritual and physical, was the effect of the sin of Adam. Man's spiritual death not only alienates him from God, but also hinders him from seeking to be reconciled to God. Prevenient grace (see below) is provided to every individual by God, giving the individual the capability of seeking reconciliation with God. Since all mankind now has the capability, election must be conditioned on each individual's response to the provided grace. The sacrifice God provided was for every individual, whether or not they respond positively to the provided grace. The provided grace must be resistible since it is evident that not all respond positively to it. Assurance is not guaranteed since man may choose to turn away from the grace that he once chose to turn toward.

The Articles of the Remonstrants did not take a firm stand on assurance and security. The last sentence of Article 5 states:
But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginning 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 neglecting grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full confidence of our mind.
We conclude then that both Calvinism and Arminianism flow logically and rationally from a presuppositional starting point. To claim that either approach is neither logical or rational is to misunderstand that which each position affirms and rejects.

Addendum: Prevenient Grace

Article 4 of the Remonstrants pertains to Prevenient Grace.
That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. but respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible; inasmuch as it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Ghost. Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places.
In an article titled Prevenient Grace, Robert L. Brush begins by defining prevenient:
The word "prevenient" is based upon two Latin words which mean "to come before." While this is not the way in which we normally use the word "prevenient" or "prevent," for our purposes in this article we will use the original meaning of this word. Thus prevenient or preliminary grace refers to the operation of God's grace before we turn to God. Implied is the concept that God's drawing grace precedes the human response of faith.
In an article titled A Short Response to the Arminian Doctrine of Prevenient Grace, John Hendryx writes:
In short, they (Arminians) affirm that prevenient grace, which is given to all men at some point in their life, temporarily brings the sinner out of his/her condition of total depravity and puts them in a neutral state of free will wherein the natural man can either accept or reject Christ.
In an article about John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, R. G. Tuttle Jr. describes Wesley's view of Prevenient Grace as:
…the universal work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of people between conception and conversion. Original sin, according to Wesley, makes it necessary for the Holy Spirit to initiate the relationship between God and people. Bound by sin and death, people experience the gentle wooing of the Holy Spirit, which prevents them from moving so far from "the way" that when they finally understand the claims of the gospel upon their lives, he guarantees their freedom to say yes. This doctrine constitutes the heart of Wesley's Arminianism.
Jeff Paton, in an article titled Prevenient Grace, writes:
...the condition of faith must be freely exercised by the will of man that has been enabled by the prevenient grace of God.

...the notion that the grace of God is given freely to all men at the time of their coming into the world is, according to Wesley, clearly manifest in the Scriptures.
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and do not in any way imply full and complete endorsement.