If I had to choose between the two options of the 5 Points of Arminianism and the 5 Points of Calvinism, I would have to choose the 5 points of Calvinism not because I find it all correct, but because it has less problems than the 5 points of Arminianism which, when consistently committed to human freedom over God’s freedom, does to Bible verses what a multi-car crash does to automotive parts making a mess and throwing everything out of its rightful place. The problems with the 5 points of Calvinism and the 5 points of Arminianism include the entire ring in which they box.
One, they are theological systems reacting to one another. This is not the best way to have sound doctrine. It is best to work from the Scriptures and not in reaction to another system. To allow a system and not the Scripture to set the theological categories is not the healthiest way to form doctrine.
Two, both systems start with man and not God. The Bible starts with God, “In the beginning, God…” For any theological system to be God-centered it has to start with God and not man. Anytime we start anything without God first, problems are sure to ensue.
Three, both systems basically start in Genesis 3 arguing about the nature of man. They skip the storyline of the Bible that starts with God as Trinitarian Creator, creation, humanity made in the image of God, Satan, divine angelic beings, the cultural mandate, sex, gender and marriage without sin or shame. To just skip these issues is a lot to omit. For example, I had my first date with my wife Grace on March 12, 1988 and if to explain our relationship and history I skipped everything up until last week you would have a hard time understanding our relationship because you would lack context and history. The same is true of the Bible. A lot happened before Genesis 3 and it is all very important.
Four, the debate over the third point on the extent of Jesus atoning death on the cross ends up creating a tightrope you can fall off in either direction. Arminianism taken too far leads to universalism where Jesus’ death is applied to everyone so that everyone goes to Heaven and Hell is empty. The argument that love wins in the end means God loses in the end. Calvinism taken too far may actually disagree with John Calvin himself who may have not believed in limited atonement. This point is forever debated because Calvin repeatedly spoke of the universality of the atonement for all people, but never wrote in explicit detail about the extent of the atonement as later done by Calvinists.
Five, some staunch Arminians and staunch Calvinists assert that their five points are “the gospel”. The problem with this approach is that if you disagree then you are dismissed as denying, or at least compromising the gospel of Jesus Christ. A better approach is to let the gospel be the gospel and admit that 1 Corinthians 15:1-7 written by the Holy Spirit through Paul is better than both the five points of Arminianism and Calvinism because it is “first” or highest importance, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
Why is it important to remember that all man-made systems, belief structures, and institutions will have failures and flaws? Why is it important to start with God in everything we do?
This is an excerpt from Pastor Mark’s Romans 8-9 commentary Duck Duck Doom. You can get a free e-book copy by clicking here or get a physical copy for a gift of any amount during the month of March here.
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