is perfect, and cannot lie, then what is revealed to us in scripture must be
true. If we perceive that there are contradictions in the word of God, we must
conclude that the error is either in our understanding, or could be an error on
translation. One option that is not acceptable is that God is in error! I
conclude that if I find verses that seem to be contradictory, I must reevaluate
my understanding and thinking, since the problem is not the Bible, the problem
is with my limits of knowledge and understanding.
Theology that is inconsistent with itself is clearly not the theology of God. If we must retain a policy of interpretation that demands that we do not cause the Scriptures to contradict themselves, we can no longer assume that we can do otherwise when it come to theology.
Five point Calvinism is a thoroughly consistent system that could truly contend for the position as the genuine theology of God. It meets the criteria of consistency. Arminianism is the theological opposite of Calvinism. Arminianism is also thoroughly consistent forwards and backwards within itself. The Arminian system of theology is also a contender as the true theology of God since it is also non-contradictory. "It is conceivable that both Arminianism and Calvinism are wrong, but it is wholly impossible for both to be right. The Bible offers no contradictions, if one system is right, the other is wrong. There is no compromise possible." Chafer, Systematic Theology 3:274
These are the only two systems available to the Christian that meet the standard of non-contradiction. All other theologies are not truly systematic and cannot have a legitimate claim as the system of God. Only pure Calvinism and Arminianism have the honor of this claim. The question is not which of these two systems is most appealing, but which system is Biblical! Chafer argues that it is Calvinism that is the true theology of God, and that it is backed by the Bible. This Scriptural backing I find to be lacking. Calvinists have written countless volumes of books in attempts to reconcile the Scriptures to their system. Arminianism on the other hand, has not. To vindicate our position there is very little that one has to dig into like, original languages and historical sources. The whole of the Scriptures speaks clearly in our favor.
As one chooses a system they can have Calvinism
which has to twist and turn the entire Bible on its ear to maintain its scheme,
or you can have Arminianism which has the whole of Scripture on its side and
only a handful of verses in which to deal with as difficulties. The question is
not which theology appeals to our situation, but which plan is the plan of the
Bible? Arminianism is the theology of the Bible!
Calvinism may be an appealing and popular system, but it is not Biblical. Theology flavors and dictates our beliefs, which is important to know. Belief is only of value if it is based on truth. There is no virtue in believing a lie!
WHOSOEVER WILL/ FREE GRACE
system is based on the presupposition that man is elected from all eternity
apart from any foreseen morality or faith. Those who are "chosen"
before the foundation of the world are considered "elect", and those
that are elect are predestined to eternal salvation with God. But
since the Bible is clear that not all will be in heaven, how does the
Calvinistic system explain how the death of Christ is applied to the elect? It
is a payment that is limited only to the elect. This can only lead
us to one inevitable conclusion, that exhortations to man to "choose this
day whom he shall serve" must not really be a choice but a verification of
the elect and non-elect. How will we know who is elect since man's will has nothing
to do with it? It is called irresistible grace, a calling of God
that cannot be thwarted by man or refused. In their eyes it comes down to
"whosoever must" and not "whosoever will". Since salvation
in Calvinism is not based on a moral transformation of the sinner, God must
receive the sinner on the bases of a moral transfer of the righteousness of
Christ called imputation. This is where God is somehow blinded to
the reality of our sin, and in return He can only see the holiness of Christ
when He views our lives. This ignores an important fact that morality is
not transferable. I cannot transfer righteousness to you anymore than you can
give me your sin. Vincent Taylor wrote, "imputation" can never be
anything else than an ethical fiction. Since it is not a commodity, but a
personal state, righteousness cannot be transferred from the account of one
person to another. Righteousness can no more be imputed to a sinner than bravery
to a coward or wisdom to a fool." (Forgiveness and Reconciliation P.57)
In a Calvinist view though, if one is elected, predestined, paid for, irresistibly drawn, the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, then he must infallibly be saved. This is an unconditional perseverance that is inevitable due to the election of God. Calvin's perseverance is more than modern eternal security. Proof of one's election is that God ensures the elect will not leave the truth, and the self deceived will apostatize as evidence of their damnation prior to their death. This is not an explanation that is to be found in the Bible, but the the textbooks of Calvinistic theologians.
Notice the systematic continuity of this system. If you are elect, the path leads you to believe that you will be saved in the end no matter what! Every essential in this plan supports the whole. As a design it is a superb one, but not a Biblical one.
Arminianism believes that God is genuine in his call to "whosoever will." In view of this, the atonement of Christ is not limited, but is a provision made for all as we are told in 1 John 2:2, "And he is the propitiation for our sins: not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." God calls each and everyone of us in His own way, and His own time. Man is free to accept this gracious gift or to resist and refuse the offer. This approach makes man responsible for his sins and damnation, and avoids the absurdity of making God the author of sin by determining all actions. God must initiate the offer of grace to the sinner and enable him to repent. This is truly grace and not coercion. Since the atonement is made for all, the offer is made to all.
God hates sin, and the atonement he provides must by nature remove sin out of the believer in order to make man acceptable to God. The new birth, or regeneration, is designed to give us a new nature and not a blanket covering for our sin. Ultimately we must endure in our faith unto the end to be saved since the Bible is clear that there is no reward for the quitter or backslider. It is Christ who reforms us, works through us, and saves us. We are not earning our salvation through works, it is Christ working through us to salvation.
Baptists are the
predominant partial Calvinists of our day. They are the norm of what we will
most likely deal with. Their theological system is a conglomeration of
Arminianism and Calvinism. They seem to believe that by extracting what they
feel to be the Biblical truth from both sides, they have come up with what they
believe to be the true Gospel of Christ. They start with the freedom of the
"whosoever will" of Arminianism, but deny the believer continued
freedom after salvation which is the locked-in fatalism of Calvinism. They
preach a theory that their sins are "Paid in full" but seem to miss
the point that if the atonement of Christ paid for sins forever, they must
accept Universalism. If all are not saved as they contend, they have yet to
prove Biblically when and where these sins become "un-paid" for in a
persons life. Either these sins were paid for while Jesus was on the cross two
thousand years ago in reality or they were not. Payment that occurs when one
believes is just another unbiblical fiction in their theological repertoire.
The Baptist rationale is based solely on the assumption that eternal security is true. They built their self contradictory theology starting with eternal security on back. They work from the end result they desire, on backwards to whatever else meets their fancy. If eternal security as a doctrine can be disproved, their whole theological system topples with it. The difficulty in convincing an Eternal Securist to change is to be found in the fact that if one is found to be wrong in one area, and adjustment of belief is crushing, then what must the failure of an entire system be like? This is a higher cost that most will be willing to pay. They cling tenaciously to their comfort and pride in exchange for truth and salvation!
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PARADIGMS
A paradigm is a term that is used much in modern psychology. It may be well defined as the glasses we look through when we see the world. It is the filter of presupposition that everything must pass through to enable us to understand. Once an Eternal Securist is taught that certain verses prove the doctrine of unconditional security, it is mentally untenable for any verse to contradict it. They must contort any text that defies what they believe to be the "gospel". This all seems so rational to them since in their eyes, "Eternal Security is the gospel". Since all of the Arminian "proofs" must pass through the filter of their thinking, the verses must be brought into alignment with their presuppositions about the believers security. Many an Arminian has been frustrated in his inability to find a Scripture to convince the Securist of the truth. The Securist has a "bunker theology". That is, if every attack can be deflected, even if by mental trickery, then the Securist feels that he must have the truth since you could not stump him. If they can destroy all of the numerous verses that oppose them, they feel vindicated in their doctrine. In view of our current method, this is why we usually fail in our task.
Breaking the paradigm is the only way we can break through to some of the most stubborn of the Eternal Securists. We must avoid our old tactics and adopt a new one. I suggest that we should put the fire into their "bunker". What I mean by this is that we should make them "prove" Eternal Security! Stop bombing them with "Arminian" verses, only to harden their position by our defeat. We should make them perform the impossible, that is, to prove Eternal Security to be a fact. If we take refuge in our own "bunker" we can devastate every proof they have, and by doing so, we gain an opportunity to convince them of what these verses really do say without a Securists presuppositions.
Refuse to move from this posturing until they give in and are defeated. Do not fall for their usual ploy of diversion and distraction when they are about to crumble. Remember, it is their false doctrine that is on trial, and not any doctrine of ours, so do not be tempted to give them an upper hand in the discussion. They want you to argue their way; the way they are prepared to defeat you.
I have found that an Eternal Securist is quite taken back when approached this way. This is nothing more than just turning the tables on them by using their own technique!. They have used this tactic for years with great effect. They want you on the defensive so they can endlessly distract you from the fact that their doctrine has no Biblical substance. What you will find is that most of them will become very frustrated with themselves in there inability to convince you. The fact that you are "trying to understand" encourages them to put in even greater efforts to find a verse that proves eternal security. If you are prepared to answer their assertions Biblically, their foundation will quickly fall. Tell them " I would not base my salvation on assumptions, but on sound, Biblical proof." This is the authority that we both acknowledge; it is our common ground. Getting them to see that their doctrine has no Biblical backing is the quickest way to get them to doubt their own beliefs. This is the doorway to victory in their minds and hearts. The rest is up to God.
To be effective in this tactic, one must be ready to give a sound exegesis of all their "proof" texts. We must be able to show what the text does say, and what it doesn't say.*
Am I saying that this is the only way to deal with this issue? Of course not! Is this strategy always effective? No, but it has been ten times more effective than the old "Arminian" approach. Is there a better way to communicate the truth to those who are deceived? I hope so. I would welcome and encourage a continued dialog on this issue.