One of the most hotly debated topic among christians in recent times has been on the subject of Calvinism. The Southern Baptist Convention is tangled in this situation at the moment as well as several other denominations including Calvary Chapels. The question of God’s sovereignty in salvation is an important topic to explore, not merely on philosophical grounds, but mainly a thorough examination of scripture. When looking at the topic of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, many are confused just where to start dealing with these issues. I recall being quite perplexed at the whole debate and essentially put it aside for quite awhile before I had the desire to look into these important issues. It honestly didn’t take long once I began to examine the relevant texts to come to the conclusion that the bible teaches the doctrines of grace. The question is: How do I approach this and what literature might be available to help me sort through both sides of the debate? Here are a few thoughts!
Of course, prior to even beginning a study to this magnitude one must have a good grasp of scripture in general. I believe that the primary place we need to go to in order to settle this debate is in the pages of scripture. There are a number of texts that need to be examine and to list them all would take up the majority of this post. I think most would agree on the following especially in regards to the doctrine of election: On the Calvinist side I would recommend a thorough examination of John 6:37-44; Romans 8-11, Ephesians 1 and on the Arminian side 1 Timothy 2, 2 Peter 3 and yes, John 3.
With that said; there have been many books written in regards to the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. I remember reading Norman Geisler’s “Chosen but Free” along with James White’s “The Potter’s Freedom” which gave me a tremendously thorough understanding of the issues. I could also recommend the debate book between James White and Dave Hunt titled “Debating Calvinism” which, while filled with accusations of misinterpretation over and over again, there was still some useful information in this debate. A few years ago Intervarsity Press published two books dealing with this debate called “Why I am not an Arminian” (Peterson/Williams) & “Why I am not a Calvinist” (Walls/Dongell) so there is no shortage of books dealing with the issues surrounding the Doctrines of Grace.
There are lots of resources to go by and I believe that each of these resources would be helpful in understanding the subject matter a little better. I believe it is important to recognize that this is an in-house debate and a very important one since it affects the way we view God’s Sovereignty and freedom, man’s sinfulness, Christ’s atonement, the nature of grace and even how we evangelize the lost. I believe each scripture noted in this debate is important and should be examined carefully. The arguments presented by both side should be listened to carefully and also tested according to the scriptures.
I welcome any suggestions that you might have!