Imagine if…

, posted by Richard Coords

Sometimes theology can make us frustrated, and the Calvinism / Arminian controversy has been making Christians frustrated for centuries. But this can be a good thing if it drives us closer to God in seeking Him.

Be forewarned, this is going to be an odd post, because it’s going to deal with hypotheticals. Imagine, if you will, that God sent a prophet to answer a “Yes/No” question, in terms of whether Calvinism or Arminianism was the correct theology. Imagine for a moment that the hypothetical prophet told you something that you didn’t want to hear, that yes, your theology was wrong and that the other theology was right. Now I ask you, what is your immediate reaction, and then after reflecting on it, what is your reaction?

I did this myself. I imagined what it would be like if I found out that Arminianism was false and Calvinism was true. I imagined how I would feel if I found out that “everyone” at Hebrews 2:9 actually meant everyone of the elect, and that the “world” at John 3:16 actually meant an elect world, and that the “whole world” at 1st John 2:2 actually meant the whole word of the elect, and that “all men” at 1st Timothy 2:4 just meant the elect men, and that “any” and “all” at 2nd Peter 3:9 just meant all of the elect and any of the elect. My immediate reaction was anger. It would not just be anger for the deceptive way that the Bible would be written, that is, by the use of universal terms in an unrestricted, unbounded and unqualified manner without an explicit, that is, explicit clarification, but also anger at the thought that a laymen such as myself had any business trying to read and understand the Bible, when yet an expert scholar is needed to clarify when these special nuances must be applied. Honestly, if I found out that Calvinism was true, I would set aside my Bible forever and just read commentaries, so that I can be told when red means blue, up means down and left means right.

I believe that the Arminian, John Wesley, also imagined for a moment, what it would be like if Arminianism was wrong and Calvinism was true. What resulted was a rant that Erwin Lutzer, in his book “The Doctrines that Divide”, called the harshest criticism of Calvinism ever written. Here is the quote:

“…one might say to our adversary, the devil, ‘Thou fool, why dost thou roar about any longer? Thy lying in wait for souls is as needless and useless as our preaching. Hearest thou not, that God hath taken thy work out of thy hands; and that he doeth it much more effectually? Thou, with all thy principalities and powers, canst only so assault that we may resist thee; but He can irresistibly destroy both body and soul in hell! Thou canst only entice; but his unchangeable decrees, to leave thousands of souls in death, compels them to continue in sin, till they drop into everlasting burnings. Thou temptest; He forceth us to be damned; for we cannot resist his will. Thou fool, why goest thou about any longer, seeking whom thou mayest devour? Hearest thou not that God is the devouring lion, the destroyer of souls, the murderer of men? Moloch caused only children to pass though the fire: and that fire was soon quenched; or, the corruptible body being consumed, its torment was at an end; but God, thou are told, by his eternal decree, fixed before they had done good or evil, causes, not only children of a span long, but the parents also, to pass through the fire of hell, the “fire which never shall be quenched; and the body which is cast thereinto, being now incorruptible and immortal, will be ever consuming and never consumed, but “the smoke of their torment,” because it is God’s good pleasure, “ascendeth up for ever and ever.”’” (Free Grace, Sermon 128, Preached at Bristol, in the year 1740)

Now I would like for Calvinists to try this. I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but I’ve read where some Calvinists had taken the impression that it made them feel that God was weak and aloof. In my own experience, having left a Calvinist Church, leaving Calvinism made me feel that I was never secretly saved, but really was unsaved, and really was on the path to an eternal Hell, and that God really would have let me go there, had I rejected His Son. It gave me the impression of a God who really was impartial, and that grace was not upon select sinners, but only upon the redeemed in Christ. It gave me the impression that I was less relevant and Christ was more relevant. It gave me the impression that my standing with God the Father was not based upon any special favor to me, but my standing with Christ alone. Thoughts?

Richard Coords