Where is the love of God in Calvinism? Part 4
Calvin, Arminius, and the Church Counsels
The typical Christian that rejects the doctrines of Calvinism are frequently called an “Arminian.” This labeling I believe is a failure of most Calvinist because the typical Christian today is neither a Calvinist or an Arminian. We should follow God’s Word and not the word of men.
1 Thessalonians 2:4 (KJB) “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.”
This name comes from Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), a Bible scholar who dared to disagree openly with John Calvin. The doctrinal “points” of both theological systems came into summary form as a result of debates that raged between the two positions.
Who was Jacobus Arminius?
Arminius was a Dutch theologian who started out as a Calvinist and even studied in Calvin’s seminary in Geneva. While studying in Geneva, his entire family was murdered by Spanish Catholic troops which had invaded his hometown of Oudewater, Holland. Because he dared to disagree with Calvin, Arminius was labeled a heretic. Even today the heretical followers of Calvin unjustly charge Arminius with grave heresies.
Although some of Arminius’ followers drifted into doctrinal heresy, Laurance Vance writes, “Arminius was just as orthodox on the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith as any Calvinist, ancient or modern.”
What did Arminius teach?
Arminius neither taught nor practiced violence and revenge against one’s enemies. He did not approve of capital punishment for heresy. He believed in the infallibility of the Bible as inspired by God.
He rejected the doctrines of the Roman Church:
- He called the Mass a denial of “the truth and excellence of the sacrifice of Christ.”
- He called the Pope “the adulterer and pimp of the Church, the false prophet, the enemy of God, the”
- In contrast to Augustine, Arminius rejected the Apocrypha and the authority of Church tradition.
Matthew 15:3-6 (KJB) “But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.”
He believes in the sinfulness of man, and that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Although Arminius believe that it was theoretically possible for a saved person to “fall away,” he also stated, “…at no period have I asserted, ‘that believers do finally decline or fall away from faith or salvation.’” [Works of Arminius, Vol. 1, p. 741] It is important to note, however, that many of his subsequent followers do believe that saved people do “fall away” from grace either by sin or apostasy. It appears that Arminius believed in the possibility but not the practice!
Dave Hunt has summarized Arminius’ teaching regarding salvation:
Arminius was convinced that the scriptures teach that those who will be in heaven are there because they believed the gospel, not because God elected them to be saved and regenerated them without any faith on their part. He firmly believed and taught predestination as “an eternal and gracious decree of God in Christ, by which He determines to justify and adopt believers, and to endow them with life eternal, but to condemn unbelievers and impenitent persons.” [What Love Is This? p. 77]
Church Councils: The Battles Begin
Within a year of Arminius’ death in 1609, 46 Arminian pastors met at Gouda, Holland, to draw up and sign a statement of protest again the prevailing Calvinism. Their “Remonstrance” stated in part that the doctrines of Calvinism were “not contained in the Word of God nor the Heidelberg Catechism, and are unedifying—yes, dangerous—and should not be preached to Christian people.”
The five brief paragraphs of their Argument became known as the Five Points of Arminianism. Dave Hunt summarizes them:
- God from eternity past determined to save all who believe in Jesus and to “leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath….”
- Christ died for and obtained redemption and forgiveness of sins for all, but these benefits are effective only for those who believe on Christ.
- Man cannot “think, will, nor do anything that is truly good,” and that includes “saving faith,” but must be regenerated.
- That God’s grace is essential for salvation, but that it may be resisted.
- That those truly saved through faith are empowered by the Holy Spirit to resist sin; but whether they could fall away from the faith “must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.”
Several months later, the Calvinists responded with a Counter-Remonstrance. By combining several of its original seven points, we arrive at what is commonly called the Five Points of Calvinism:
Total Depravity – Because the whole race has fallen in Adam and become corrupt and powerless to believe, God draws out of condemnation those whom He has chosen unto salvation, passing by the others.
Unconditional Election – The children of believers, as long as they do not manifest the contrary, are to be reckoned among God’s elect. God has decreed to bestow faith and perseverance and thus save those whom He has chosen to salvation
Limited Atonement – God delivered up His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross to save only the elect.
Irresistible Grace – The Holy Spirit, externally through the preaching of the gospel, works a special grace internally in the hearts of the elect, giving them power to believe.
Perseverance of the Saints – Those whom God has decreed to save are supported and preserved by the Holy Spirit so that they cannot finally lose their true faith. True believers do not carelessly pursue the lusts of the flesh but work out their own salvation in the fear of the Lord.
The Great Synod of Dort (The Netherlands)
Having defeated the Arminians in a complicated political battle, the Calvinists used their new-found authority in 1618 to convene a church council for the sole purpose of establishing Calvinism as the official doctrine of the Netherlands.
The council adopted Calvin’s Five Points as “Canons” of the Church and stated that rejection of the Canons was rejection of the gospel.
Under the authority of the state, 200 Arminian pastors were removed from their pulpits, and many were exiled. Persecution of Arminians continued unabated until 1625.
Four of the primary leaders of the Arminian cause met with sad consequences for their beliefs:
- John Uytenbogaert—exiled and goods confiscated.
- Simon Episcopius—banished.
- John Gan Oldenarnevelt—beheaded.
- Hugo Grotius—sentenced to life in prison but later escaped.
The Westminster Confession of Faith
In 1643 the English Parliament called for a convening of the church leaders to structure the doctrine of the Church of England. England had wavered between Catholicism and Protestantism, but by 1643 Protestantism had won the day.
Parliament, which had opposed (and eventually executed) King Charles I, favored Calvinism and controlled the entire assembly. In fact, only Calvinist divines were invited to the gathering. Not surprisingly, the Westminster Confession is thoroughly Calvinistic. Dissenting voices had been all but completely silenced for the sake of the political unity of the nation.
In Part 5 and subsequent articles we will start to examine the five tenants of Calvinism, also known as the Tulip. We will show that the Bible does not agree with a single, solitary point.
Calvinist today like to point to some theologians from the past such as Charles Spurgeon who admitted to being a Calvinist. Spurgeon always preached that a person needs to accept Jesus Christ which of course proves that we are saved by our Free Will when we believe in Jesus Christ. This can be very confusing but if we understand that Calvinism was at its high point at the time when Spurgeon lived and was accepted as theological we can understand why he discussed Calvinism but preached Free Will.
In part five we will begin to examine each pedal of the tulip Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints. We will explain what Calvinist believe but also understand this changes constantly and differs by groups. We will explain why each one of the tenets of Calvinism is completely unbiblical.
Hebrews 13:8 (KJB) “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
The Bible is so clear about our Free Will why is there are those who seek another way to heaven? Is it pride or arrogance or ignorance?
Matthew 22:14 (KJB) “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Many have been called to repentance and salvation. In fact the invitation to come to Christ begins with Israel and extends to the whole world. However, only few accept that invitation and thus become chosen to spiritual leadership after having received Christ. Those who in fact respond to God’s gracious offer in the gospel become the chosen in Christ Jesus. Of these even fewer are called to leadership in the church and the later kingdom.