Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thoughts on Calvinists and Arminians

This post is from the DG blog today:

Today, 250 years ago a great pastor was born, Charles Simeon...His greatest influence was probably through sustained biblical preaching for 54 years. This was the central labor of his life. In 1833, he placed into the hands of King William IV the completed 21 volumes of his collected sermons.

He tried to be conciliatory in doctrinal disputes. Here is an example of how he conversed with the elderly John Wesley:

Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

Yes, I do indeed.

And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

No.

What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother's arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree. (Moule, 79ff.)

Why aren't the current debates/conversations between Wesleyan/Arminians and Calvinists seasoned with such grace? I have two thoughts. First, many of the neo Calvinist camp wear their Calvinism as a badge of honor. They are contentious and looking for an argument - and at times, I'm one of them. So the neo-Reformed crowd is partly to blame, but so are many contemporary Wesleyan/Arminians. Few are as biblical and God centered as the elderly Wesley. Most [at least here in the States] are closer to the heretic Finney than to Wesley or even Arminius. They are more concerned with their rights, more optimistic about their nature than Wesley or the Bible. There's comes the rub - Calvinists rightly contend against such man-centered Finneyish theology. Yet, we are often quick to assume that all non-Calvinistic theology is as heretical as Finney's was. More grace, more bible, and more listening would certainly yield better results and truer unity.

2 comments:

Lisa Joy said...

This conversation sums up the past year of my life in terms of theology! As a Wesleyan/Armenian attending a Reformed church, this is the attitude both me and my fellow parishioners have settled on. It just makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Who is Finney? I don't think I've ever heard of him.