Category: Calvinism and Arminianism

Can we say, ‘Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away’?

Job 1:21 – “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Not everyone thinks this famous confession, uttered by Job after all his sons and daughters had perished, is good theology.

Ben Witherington, whose daughter tragically died in 2012, wrote this:-

This reflects Ben’s Arminianism, but it does not accurately reflect what the book of Job is actually saying.  Andy Naselli paraphrases the teaching of the book on this point:-

  • Meanwhile, unknown to Job, Satan joins the sons of God (apparently God’s angels) when they present themselves before God, and God initiates a discussion with Satan about Job (Job 1:6–8).Satan accuses Job of serving God merely because God has blessed Job, and God gives Satan permission to test Job but not touch him (Job 1:9–12).

Re-imagining TULIP

Anyone who has a smattering of theological knowledge will have heard of the TULIP acronym:-

T = total depravity
U = unconditional election
L = limited atonement
I = irresistible grace
P = perseverance of the saints

As a summary of Calvinistic beliefs, it is pretty inadequate.  For one thing, it is couched in terminology that almost entirely negative, and therefore does not lend itself to the heartfelt doxology that good theology should always engender.  For another thing, it was never intended as a summary of Calvinism, but rather as a response to the ‘five points of remonstrance’ that the followers of Arminius had previously raised against the prevalent Protestant theology of the day.  …

Do we have ‘free will’?

C.H. Spurgeon had a portrait of John Gill, Baptist preacher and commentator, in his vestry.  The portrait, says Spurgeon, ‘represents him after an interview with an Arminian gentleman, turning up his nose in a most expressive manner, as if he could not endure even the smell of free-will.’ (Commentating and Commentaries, p9)

Spurgeon himself, as a good Calvinist, had a similar distaste for the notion of ‘free will’.  I must say that I sometimes feel that an appeal to free will is used too glibly by preachers in order to explain away some of the tougher points of Christian doctrine and experience.…

‘Myths About Calvinism’

My eye was caught by a review in Christianity Today of a recent book by Kenneth J. Stewart entitled Ten Myths About Calvinism.  Stewart writes as a Calvinist himself, but is somewhat critical of some trends and tendencies within the latest resurgence of the movement, especially as represented by the ‘young, restless and reformed’ brigade.

Here are some of the ‘myths’ about Calvinism, as identified by Stewart.  These ones, he says, are all held by Calvinists themselves.…

“Your God is my devil”

At about 3pm on 1st August 2007 a interstate bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed.  Workmen had, just a few days previously, been conducting extensive repair work to the 40-year-old bridge.  There were tons of building materials piled up on the bridge at the time of its collapse.

Bethlehem Baptist Church is within sight of that bridge, and John Piper is its Senior Pastor.  Just a few hours after the disaster Piper, not yet knowing the scale of human injury and loss, or whether any of his own friends and colleagues had been directly affected, wrote of his immediate thoughts and feelings about what had just happened.…

Molinism – the doctrine of middle knowledge

Luis de Molina (1535-1600) was a Spanish Jesuit theologian who attempted to reconcile the apparently contradictory doctrines of divine sovereignty and human free will by postulating that God has a ‘middle knowledge’ (scientia media).

Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) had taught that God has two kinds of knowledge.  The first is a knowledge of the actual: a knowledge, arising out of God’s absolute decree, of what exists in the past, present and future.  The second is a knowledge of the possible: of what could exist in the past, present and future, but does not, because God has not decreed it.…

Five Points – of Arminianism and of Calvinism

It is often assumed that the so-called ‘five points of Calvinism’ provide an adequate summary of reformed (that is to say, Calvinistic) doctrine. It is not really so. They were formulated (in 1618, at the Synod of Dort) as a response to a five-point Remonstrance put out by certain Belgian theologians a little earlier in the same century.

The theology of the Remonstrance, which came to be known as Arminianism, was based on the belief that faith is a free and responsible human act which is exercised independently of God, and that since the Bible commands all to believe, all must be able to believe. …

Notes on the doctrine of election

What follows formed the basis of a couple of recent small group studies.  I should point out that the choice of topic was theirs, not mine!

Eph 1:3-14  is a good place to start: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.