written by SEA member Roy Ingle
I had a friend of mine who embraced Reformed theology. He had been an Arminian for many years and then he begin to read various Calvinist authors such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and he begin to listen to men such as Paul Washer. Soon he was meeting with a group of Reformed brothers to talk theology and then he had it, his conversion to Calvinism. He began to speak of Calvinism and “the doctrines of grace” in terms of a conversion, “God opened my eyes to the doctrines of grace.” He began to speak down on Arminians such as myself for our lack of enlightenment, our lack of understanding of the majesty of grace, and, to use Washer, he begin to say that our problem is that we Arminians thought too highly of man and not enough about God. My old friend spends more time now giving his testimony of his conversion to Calvinism then he does in witnessing to the lost (which he use to do very often).
I know that what I am attacking here is not true of all Calvinists. I have several godly Calvinist brothers who do love the Lord, love His Word, love His salvation, and hunger to glorify Him in all that they do. While they love Calvinism, they understand that God’s grace is not limited to their view of theology. God’s Church includes both Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike.
So why do we Arminians find the Calvinist’s “conversion” offensive? First of all, many well-meaning Calvinists such as my friend above speak in terms that sound almost gnostic to us. That there is a unique, spiritual understanding that God has sovereignly allowed them to discover while leaving us non-Calvinists in the dark. The phrase, “When God opened my eyes to the doctrines of grace” sounds as if God, by His grace and for His glory, allowed you to see in Scripture something that we ignorant folks just can’t see because of our love for man-centered theology. Does that not seem a bit prideful?
Secondly, we Arminians simply don’t enjoy the division of the Body of Christ. At least that is true of this Arminian. I gladly love and enjoy reading Calvinist authors, praying with Calvinist brothers, and enjoy sharing the gospel with Calvinist brethren. I believe the kingdom of God is not limited to my scope of theology. I have friends who disagree with me over Arminianism, over worship styles, over Bible translations, over end times views, etc. but we still are all brethren in the kingdom. Jesus died for sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and not for one particular group of theology. That surely would be a limited atonement! Paul the Apostle makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 that division is not from God. How true is 1 Timothy 6:4 of many of us? We need not divide up the Church over our views regarding Arminianism or Calvinism.
Third, we find it offensive because this means that the vast majority of the Church is not enlightened. Consider the fact that the vast majority of Christendom is neither Calvinist nor Arminian. In fact, I would argue that the majority of evangelicals are in fact semi-Pelegian and neither Arminian nor Calvinistic in their views regarding salvation or evangelism or the fall of mankind. While we Arminians and Calvinists love our systems of theology, we are very much the underdogs here and we should be teaming up to evangelize the nations instead of splitting churches and causing confusion among the saints. Instead of building up the body of Christ, we are often found making Christians angry at each other when in fact we are both born of the Spirit if truly converted to Christ by His grace (John 3:3-7). Since most of the Church is not composed of Calvinists or Arminians, we find it offensive that Calvinist “conversions” seem to make it sound, again, like a gnostic conversion where God took them deeper than everyone else. We are all wrong and in the dark except for the brother who read Piper over here and who now embraces Reformed theology.
Fourth, our salvation through Christ should be what strengthens us and not divides us, but when a brother or sister claims to have been “converted” to Calvinism, it sounds as if salvation in Jesus is not enough. Like ‘the second work of grace’ teaching, it makes it sound as if you get saved in Jesus and then you must have this second experience of God opening your eyes to Reformed theology. As Spurgeon stated, “We are all born Arminians and then we are born again Calvinists.” Huh? What if I wrote that the other way around, “We are all born Calvinists and then born again Arminians.” Is that not offensive? Frankly, salvation in Jesus is not about Arminianism or Calvinism but about the precious gospel. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17) and is not confined to one group other than disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). Praise God for that! God doesn’t save me because I am an Arminian or agree with Arminius. He saves me because of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19-21). It is Jesus’s work and not my own that saves me (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Lastly, we Arminians and Calvinists agree with each other more than we disagree. I am not denying that we do disagree and sometimes we disagree with passion. I am not downplaying this. John Wesley said about the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election that this doctrine “makes our blood boil.” No doubt Wesley (and we as well) was often passionate about his views. Yet Wesley was not just a great example of teaching Arminianism but he was also a great friend to the great Calvinist preacher George Whitefield. Wesley preached Whitefield’s funeral and honored his great and godly friend whom he loved while disagreeing passionately over various views. I too love my Calvinist brothers and sisters. I love to hear and read John MacArthur. I actually enjoy John Piper. I enjoy Dr. James White and his apologetics work that I used to evangelize Mormons even before I knew that White was Reformed in his theology. I love R.C. Sproul and Dr. Steve Lawson. I love Albert Mohler. I enjoy Matt Chandler and David Platt. Yet I don’t agree with all of these brothers over all issues. For instance, I use The MacArthur Study Bible, even while not agreeing with MacArthur over his Reformed theological views nor his end times views. Does my Arminianism cause me to hate these brothers? No! Does my Arminianism cause me to disagree with these brothers? Yes! But let it be known that I disagree with love and respect and not anger. Let us be united around Christ and not around simply our views from Calvin or Arminius or Luther or Campbell.
For the original blog post with comments, go to: http://arminiantoday.com/2012/09/22/why-arminians-find-calvinist-conversions-offensive/