James Leonard, “Why I’m an Arminian and Why Calvinism Is Dominating the Evangelical Book Market”

, posted by SEA

On our outreach Facebook discussion page, James Leonard, one of our vice presidents, briefly addressed the questions, “Why I’m an Arminian?” and “Why Calvinism is dominating the evangelical book market?” We thought his answers worth posting here:

Someone asked me why I am an Arminian. It was an open-ended question. Here’s my reply….

I’m Arminian because I believe the Bible, of course. 🙂

I think God predestines believers. I reject the notion that God predestines people to believe.

I affirm the notion that Jesus died for everyone’s sins.

I think Calvinism assumes a “Salvation by grace UNTO faith,” and not “Salvation by grace THROUGH faith.” Calvinists would deny this, but whenever I confront them on this they can’t adequately articulate a proper understanding of what “through” means.

I believe that the new life, eternal life, and regeneration are all components of salvation that are christocentric–these are all found “in Christ” and experienced by those united to Christ by faith.

Calvinists, on the other hand, think that God regenerates you in order that you can then believe. For them, regeneration makes it possible to believe. In effect, for Calvinists, a person has the new life of Christ prior to faith.

I also think that union with Christ requires on-going faith, and not some past tense faith. That is to say, just because I believed in Christ back in 1967 does not guarantee that I will continue in faith. In fact, scripture repeatedly emphasizes that believers must persist in faith, and issues the direst consequences against those who make shipwreck of their faith.

. . . . . . . .

Another friend asked another open-ended question: Why is it that Calvinism is dominating the evangelical book market? Here’s my reply….

Calvinism and Arminianism waxes and wanes.

Arminianism is the default perspective of the Christian church.

When Calvinism waxes, it takes a while for Arminianism to respond.

In the mid 1980s, a Westminister Theological Journal lamented the waning of Calvinism. The article title played off the title of the folk song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Its title was “Where Have All the Tulips Gone?” At that time, it seemed that J.I. Packer and R.C. Sproul were the only Calvinists around, and a few minor players.

In the mid 1990s we saw a resurgence of Calvinism. It has taken about 10 years for Arminians to wake up. It’s a pendulum swing, I think.

In 2006 or so, we formed the Society of Evangelical Arminians. 
Our website is full of resources.

Since Arminianism is the default system of Evangelicalism, we feel compelled to produce apologetic literature for Arminianism only when Calvinism is waxing. Arminians are happier doing more ministerially-oriented work and writing.

Another real problem is that people don’t know they are Arminians.

Instead, all they know is what Calvinist apologists say: “Arminianism is a works-oriented system that is humanistic.” This narrative is so powerful that people who actually hold to Arminianism avoid the
term and assert that they’re not theologically oriented.

So we are left saying that this scholar or that scholar does not identify as Arminian, but produce works that accord well with our system.