At New Hope Church in Alsip, Illinois, an easy 50-minute drive from downtown Chicago, worshipers have been wrestling with difficult topics from the Christian faith. One of them is the debate between Calvinists and Arminians. The article below was put in the church bulletin to serve as spark plug as people in the pews think through the myriad issues and focus on the sermon dealing with the same subject to be delivered by their senior pastor Gerry Miller.
Great thinkers have struggled to resolve the tension between predestination and free will. Historically, the debate has been carried out mostly between Calvinists and Arminians. In America, the emerging method for resolving this tension appears to be Arminian. In Europe and everywhere else that has been under a monarchical system of government where a sovereign king is in charge, it is Calvinist.
In a nutshell, Calvinism states that God decreed, chose, and predetermined those who would be saved before they were born. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Arminianism states that God looked into the future and with foreknowledge saw those who would freely choose Him and then making sure that the choice they made would eventually come to pass. Space limitations prevent us from describing in detail the differences between these schools of thought. There is, without a doubt, a large pool of logic that can be mined from either one. Perhaps what greatly separates them lies in the Calvinist emphasis on total depravity of man – his total inability to choose God using his own powers (Romans 1:16-20) - and the Arminian belief that man has a fully free(d) will.
The Bible certainly teaches predestination. However, it is not clear on how God performs it. We are given statements that the Holy Spirit operates in our inner being as well as outside of it through the influence of parents, institutions, culture, friends, events and circumstances. We are told of how God hardened the heart of the Pharaoh. We are told of how God chose Abraham for His own reasons. God also chose Israel for His own pleasure as a special people even though He never explained why.
Can we really comprehend or know how God can sovereignly choose us without violating the dignity of our will? Perhaps not. But we can rest assured that this historical tension pales like nothing compared to the immensity of the grace that we can experience through His salvation. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:4-9).
If no one else gets saved as a result of rejecting His offer of salvation, it is only fair and just that we all go to Hell. If only one of us gets saved as a result of accepting His offer of love, that is amazing grace!
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