They have finally posted these two debates done just about a week ago. The first debate was on the topic of the atonement and the second debate on the subject of biblical healings. Enjoy!
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!
The term in-house debate is generally used of biblical beliefs that are not agreed upon en toto and have been discussed very passionately within the church. An age old debate that has surfaced time and time again is on the subject of predestination & election. The debate has been primarily amongst those who call themselves Calvinists and Arminians with a slightly modified version of these two views which I call 4-point Arminianism. Each view has significant implications with regards to the doctrine of salvation.
Calvinists would argue that God has predestined a certain number of individuals before the foundation of the world unto salvation and that man is totally dependant on God to save him because man has been so corrupted by the fall that he does not desire salvation. Men are brought to faith through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and God grants men faith & repentance. Calvinism summarizes its theology through the five points of Calvinism:
- Total Depravity: This states that men are born in this world enslaved to sin and sin has affected their whole being including their will where they no inclination towards God or His gospel.
- Unconditional Election: This states that from eternity past God has chosen a particular people to whom He will show favour especially through salvation. This election is not based upon anything within man, any good works or even an autonomous faith.
- Limited Atonement: This view is also called Particular Redemption in which Christ’s death is particular and definite. Christ’s death actually accomplishes what it set out to do and is effective for the elect.
- Irresistible Grace: This is the idea that God’s grace overcomes the rebellious will of the sinner and where God grants the sinner faith & repentance through the Holy Spirit.
- Perseverance of the Saints: This is the teaching that those who are the elect will persevere to the end because it is God’s persevering in them and hence they are secure in God.
To summarize all this, Salvation is the work of God and God alone.
Arminians see salvation as cooperation between man & God for the salvation of souls. All men have the ability to choose for God and Christ died potentially for all men equally. The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of their sin and men must exercise their free will in an autonomous sense in faith towards Christ. The Arminian theology can also be summarized with five points:
- Human Free Will: This is the view that man has a sinful nature due to the fall yet still possesses the capacity to believe in Christ and sin has not totally corrupted man.
- Conditional Election: This is the view that God’s election is based upon the active working of His foreknowledge in order to see into the future and know who will finally believe on His Son.
- Universal Atonement: This is the doctrine that states that Christ’s death was universal and hence meant for all mankind equally.
- Prevenient Grace: This is the understanding that God’s grace is never “irresistible” and that is can always be rejected under any circumstance. Arminians still see the necessity of grace in helping man.
- Falling from Grace: This point states that men who have received Christ can fall from grace at any time and salvation is dependant on the faithfulness of the individual.
To summarize all this, Salvation is the cooperative work of God and man.
4-point arminianism is very similar to Arminianism but has some one differing point that sets it apart. The big difference between the two is that 4-point arminianism would affirm a modified version of the 5th point of Calvinism in that they believe in a form of eternal security. Once an individual has placed his faith in Christ then there is nothing that can cause to fall away. The vast majority of evangelicals today hold to this view.
We would like to know where you stand. Your comments are welcomed!
The debate between the Calvinist understanding of soteriology and that of Arminianism has been going on for centuries now. It has been an in-house debate in many churches there has been good some productive discussions between the two sides while in others it has brought heat rather than light. The heat has been somewhat turned up over the last couple of days due to a statement soon to be published by the Southern Baptist Convention titled “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”. The statement basically declares, for the most part, Calvinism as false teaching and goes on to imply that it has no place in the convention. It seems they are issuing a warning that “new Calvinists” are invading their organization in order to steal the sheep. I’m not an expert on this issue but there are those who would disagree with this argument. Sadly, after reading the statement, I can see why they would believe it was false. The problem is that this statement is nothing more than a caricature of what Calvinists believe and a denial of some fundamental doctrines including original sin. Read the statement for yourself below. This statement is very divisive and will have a huge negative impact in churches throughout North America who look to this organization for guidance. I pray that there will be wisdom in handling this issue as to not create such a controversy as to see churches split.
A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation
Every generation of Southern Baptists has the duty to articulate the truths of its faith with particular attention to the issues that are impacting contemporary mission and ministry. The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. This movement is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation.
While Calvinists have been present in Southern Baptist life from its earliest days and have made very important contributions to our history and theology, the majority of Southern Baptists do not embrace Calvinism. Even the minority of Southern Baptists who have identified themselves as Calvinists generally modify its teachings in order to mitigate certain unacceptable conclusions (e.g., anti-missionism, hyper-Calvinism, double predestination, limited atonement, etc.). The very fact that there is a plurality of views on Calvinism designed to deal with these weaknesses (variously described as “3-point,” “4-point,” “moderate,” etc.) would seem to call for circumspection and humility with respect to the system and to those who disagree with it. For the most part, Southern Baptists have been glad to relegate disagreements over Calvinism to secondary status along with other important but “non-essential” theological matters. The Southern Baptist majority has fellowshipped happily with its Calvinist brethren while kindly resisting Calvinism itself. And, to their credit, most Southern Baptist Calvinists have not demanded the adoption of their view as the standard. We would be fine if this consensus continued, but some New Calvinists seem to be pushing for a radical alteration of this long- standing arrangement.
We propose that what most Southern Baptists believe about salvation can rightly be called “Traditional” Southern Baptist soteriology, which should be understood in distinction to “Calvinist” soteriology. Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is articulated in a general way in the Baptist Faith and Message, “Article IV.” While some earlier Baptist confessions were shaped by Calvinism, the clear trajectory of the BF&M since 1925 is away from Calvinism. For almost a century, Southern Baptists have found that a sound, biblical soteriology can be taught, maintained, and defended without subscribing to Calvinism. Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is grounded in the conviction that every person can and must be saved by a personal and free decision to respond to the Gospel by trusting in Christ Jesus alone as Savior and Lord. Without ascribing to Calvinism, Southern Baptists have reached around the world with the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. Baptists have been well-served by a straightforward soteriology rooted in the fact that Christ is willing and able to save any and every sinner.New Calvinism presents us with a duty and an opportunity to more carefully express what is generally believed by Southern Baptists about salvation. It is no longer helpful to identify ourselves by how many points of convergence we have with Calvinism. While we are not insisting that every Southern Baptist affirm the soteriological statement below in order to have a place in the Southern Baptist family, we are asserting that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and that they do not want Calvinism to become the standard view in Southern Baptist life. We believe it is time to move beyond Calvinism as a reference point for Baptist soteriology.
Below is what we believe to be the essence of a “Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” We believe that most Southern Baptists, regardless of how they have described their personal understanding of the doctrine of salvation, will find the following statement consistent with what the Bible teaches and what Southern Baptists have generally believed about the nature of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Articles of Affirmation and Denial
Article One: The Gospel
We affirm that the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for any person. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved.
We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.
Genesis 3:15; Psalm 2:1-12; Ezekiel 18:23, 32; Luke 19.10; Luke 24:45-49; John 1:1-18, 3:16; Romans 1:1-6, 5:8; 8:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 4:4-7; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-16; 2 Peter 3:9
Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man
We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.
We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.
Genesis 3:15-24; 6:5; Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 6:5, 7:15-16;53:6; Jeremiah 17:5,9, 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:19-20; Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-18, 5:12, 6:23; 7:9; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 6:9-10;15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:11-15
Article Three: The Atonement of Christ We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.
We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith. We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will. We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.
Psalm 22:1-31; Isaiah 53:1-12; John 12:32, 14:6; Acts 10:39-43; Acts 16:30-32; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:10-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-20; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 9:12-15, 24-28; 10:1-18; I John 1:7; 2:2
Article Four: The Grace of God
We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.
We deny that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.
Ezra 9:8; Proverbs 3:34; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 19:16-30, 23:37; Luke 10:1-12; Acts 15:11; 20:24; Romans 3:24, 27-28; 5:6, 8, 15-21; Galatians 1:6; 2:21; 5; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:2-9; Colossians 2:13-17; Hebrews 4:16; 9:28; 1 John 4:19
Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner
We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel with repentance and faith is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a new creation in Christ and enters, at the moment he believes, into eternal life.
We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.
Luke 15:24; John 3:3; 7:37-39; 10:10; 16:7-14; Acts 2:37-39; Romans 6:4-11; 10:14; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; 6:15; Colossians 2:13; 1 Peter 3:18
Article Six: The Election to Salvation
We affirm that, in reference to salvation, election speaks of God’s eternal, gracious, and certain plan in Christ to have a people who are His by repentance and faith.
We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation.
Genesis 1:26-28; 12:1-3; Exodus 19:6; Jeremiah 31:31-33; Matthew 24:31; 25:34; John 6:70; 15:16; Romans 8:29- 30, 33;9:6-8; 11:7; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2:11-22; 3:1-11; 4:4-13; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 7:9-10
Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God
We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation orcondemnation.
We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.
Genesis 1:1; 6:5-8; 18:16-33; 22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; 1 Chronicles 29:10-20; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Joel 2:32; Psalm 23; 51:4; 139:1-6; Proverbs 15:3; John 6:44; Romans 11:3; Titus 3:3-7; James 1:13-15; Hebrews 11:6, 12:28; 1 Peter 1:17
Article Eight: The Free Will of Man
We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God’s gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.
We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person. We deny that there is an “effectual call” for certain people that is different from a “general call” to any person who hears and understands the Gospel.
Genesis 1:26-28; Numbers 21:8-9; Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 8:1-22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; Esther 3:12-14; Matthew 7:13-14; 11:20-24; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 9:23-24; 13:34; 15:17-20; Romans 10:9-10; Titus 2:12; Revelation 22:17
Article Nine: The Security of the Believer
We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity. This process begins with justification, whereby the sinner is immediately acquitted of all sin and granted peace with God; continues in sanctification, whereby the saved are progressively conformed to the image of Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit; and concludes in glorification, whereby the saint enjoys life with Christ in heaven forever.
We deny that this Holy Spirit-sealed relationship can ever be broken. We deny even the possibility of apostasy.
John 10:28-29; 14:1-4; 16:12-14; Philippians 1:6; Romans 3:21-26; 8:29,30; 35-39; 12:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:12; Colossians 1:21-22; 1 John 2:19; 3:2; 5:13-15; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 13:5; James 1:12; Jude 24-25
Article Ten: The Great Commission
We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God’s means of bringing any person to salvation.
We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 51:13; Proverbs 11:30; Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:6; Acts 1:8; 4:12; 10:42-43; Romans 1:16, 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:17-21; Ephesians 3:7-9; 6:19-20; Philippians 1:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:1-5