Monday, October 25, 2010

Hyper-Calvinism and Hyper-Arminianism: Equal and Opposite Errors

. . . our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power . . .
-- 1 Thessalonians 1:5

The "but also" is an and, not an or.

The gospel is a word, a message, an item of news about something that happened. It comes in word. It comes as more than word, but certainly not less.

The gospel comes in word and takes hold of some in power, by the grace of God through the power of the Spirit.

The Church historically has fallen for equal and opposite errors in regard to the gospel and its power.

Some know the gospel is word but don’t think it’s power, so we try hard to manipulate people to make decisions. Thus additional verses of "Just As I Am," emotional pleas for raised hands, impulse-tugging scare tactics. We believe someone's decision for Christ hinges on our effectiveness in the invitation.

Some know the gospel is power and so become stingy with the gospel as word, so they abdicate responsibility to share the word. They figure since election is true, God will take care of saving people apart from mission.

Both overreactions are wrong; both ignore Scripture and even disobey it. The gospel comes in word and power. Let’s be faithful in our role and trust God to be faithful in his.


Matt said...

Amen, good call to both sides here to keep the scriptures, all of them, together in plain view when working out our belief and practice.

I might argue, having just recently come back from this road, that the logical conclusion of an arminian view of salvation leads to a worried, hurried, anything-to-get-a-decision methodology.

If you forget the scriptures about love, this would ultimately lead to scare tactics, emotional manipulation, brainwashing, and use of force. This would be "hyper arminianism".

By contrast, Calvinists run the danger of forgetting the scriptures that command us to preach and evangelize, and so "rest" comfortably as the "frozen chosen", and sit in judgement over the non-elect. This is hyper calvinism.

Both extremes leave out the scriptures, as you state, but as a former arminian, we got there a lot more quickly...

Jared said...

Matt, probably depends on the context.

I came out of a revivalist Arminian background too; weren't a lot of Calvinists where I came from, but God was gracious enough to let me meet some good ones, instrumental in my adoption of Reformed soteriology.

But in my present context, the Reformed camp does not have a good reputation, and largely for good reason. The Calvinists in New England -- or in Vermont, I guess I should say -- have a reputation for isolationism, joylessness, and abdication of responsibility for mission and evangelism.

I don't think the systems themselves have much to do with how quickly we follow them to unScriptural conclusions. (And yes, yes, I agree plain vanilla Arminianism is unScriptural, but that's not what I mean.) I think the sin in us helps us make even good theology bad behavior. In that respect, Calvinists and Arminians are on equal footing.

Aidan said...

I haven't read all your stuff but it's rare to find theology so well grounded & balanced like this. My Church has been referred to as 'Calvinistic Armenians' in the past!

Roberta said...

Having been brought up in a Presbyterian church and having belonged to a Bible club at school where most were Baptists, I thought that evangelism involved bringing boys to youth group. Now, years later, I consider singing in the choir evangelism and being friendly to my neighbors and relatives hoping for an opening to talk about Jesus. I brought my son and daughter to the Lord at 4 and 5 years old and they are still believers. Don't know if any others have come to the Lord as a result of my living for Jesus.