Theology Does Matter - I



It is quite true that any discussion on Reformed theology brings in a lot of questions from men and women who have a different theological persuasion. The article series that records my debate on Calvinism and Arminianism named 'Answering Arminianism' also resulted in a lot of heated discussion on these matters by those who read it and I received many mails asking many questions - some angry, some distressed and some not at all able to comprehend anything I wrote.

So instead of simply continuing the series, I am starting another series which seeks to answer some of the common questions and criticisms raised against Reformed theology. . 

I hope and pray that the Lord may use these truths and enlighten His saints.

1. Why discuss such things, can we not just be a child of God rather than being a Calvinist or an Arminian?


People who ask this question obviously do not realize the practical implications of theology. That is why they challenge the importance of making a further distinction to a child of God as a Calvinist or an Arminian. Now what does it mean to be a Calvinist? It means to identify yourself with Reformed understanding of the sovereignty of God, the sinfulness of man, the unconditional choosing of God's people, the perfect atonement of Christ, the efficacy of grace and the faithfulness of the Lord in preserving His saints. Now no Christian would say that discussing what the Bible says on these fundamental truths is a waste of time. Moreover every lover of Bible would seek to press on to know the biblically accurate truth regarding these doctrines. So it is of great importance to study these things for they very much determine our understanding of God, sinful man, the work of Christ, the nature of grace and the nature of salvation.

Calvinism and Arminianism differ in these essential convictions leading to their different understanding of grace and thus their appreciation of God's grace is also totally different. If that is what all this boils down to, then I think it is very much a matter of utmost importance to preach these truths that will lead His saints to appreciate grace better.

Let me explain what I mean.

For a Calvinist, God is absolutely sovereign – He is actively working out His eternal plans to His desired end. For the Arminian, God is sovereign, but is dependant on man's co-operation for many of His plans to come to pass. Thus the Calvinist worships a God who is the enthroned God – who is in control of everything, whose plans shall come to pass and unto Whom he ascribes salvation entirely. A glorious God, who is victorious in all He does and thus is worthy of worship.
(see Daniel 4:35, 37; Acts 4:27,28; Ephesians 1:11;)

For a Calvinist, man is radically depraved and though his will is free, it is free only to sin. So for man to repent and believe the gospel, the Holy Spirit should regenerate him – take away the heart of stone and put a new heart of flesh- that with this new heart given by God, he responds to the gospel in repentance and faith. For an Arminian, man is radically depraved, but has free will to choose God or his sin. So for him to repent and believe, grace just needs to aid his unregenerate free will to choose God. Thus for the Calvinist, grace in conversion is a powerful regenerating work of God, whereas for the Arminian, it is merely an aid. Hence the Calvinist has no ground for boasting about his conversion as it was God's work that included him in Christ Jesus and not any exercise of his unregenerate free will – thus he has praise alone for God who toiled in him.
(See Genesis 6:5, 8:21, Ephesians 2: 1- 3, Romans 8: 7, 9:16, Ezekiel 36:22-27, Acts16:14, Acts 18:27, Titus 3:4-7; Philippians 2:13; I Corinthians 1:30-31;)

For a Calvinist, God chose specific sinners afore time to be saved in Christ. For an Arminian, God chooses those who are believers in Christ. Thus Calvinist believes in unconditional love of God whereas Arminians believe in conditional election where the condition is faith. The Calvinist believes that those whom God chose to save are also gifted with faith. Hence for a Calvinist faith is a result of God's election and for an Arminian, election is a result of one's faith. Thus the Calvinist overflows with rapturous praise for He who did not spare His own Son for us, has granted along with Him all things necessary for the complete salvation of His people.
(See Ephesians 2:8-9, John 6:44, 10:26, 17:2, Acts 13:48, 2Timothy 1:9, 2:10, Ephesians 1:4-6, 2Thessalonians 2:13;)

For a Calvinist, Christ died on behalf of His people made up of all kinds of people - Jews and Gentiles, paid their punishment in full and when He rose they also rose from the grave to be seated with Him in heavenly places. For the Arminian, Christ died for the whole mankind, did not save anyone in particular at Calvary but has made salvation possible for men who shall believe. Thus when He rose, no one in particular rose with Him and when He sat down at the right hand of majesty, no one in particular sat down with Him in heavenly realms. Thus for a Calvinist, Jesus is the Saviour, whereas for the Arminian, Jesus is the one who makes salvation possible. Therefore for the Calvinist Jesus offers a real salvation whereas for the Arminian Jesus provides a theoretical salvation. Hence the Calvinist is humbled by the love of Christ and is in debt to glorify Christ with his whole being.
(See Ephesians 5:25-27, 2:5; John 11:51-52, John 10:14-16 {cf. John 10:26}, John 17:6, 9, 19; Mark 10:45{cf Isaiah 53:11};)

For a Calvinist, grace is efficacious that though a believer can resist and rebel, grace is powerful enough to work in him, discipline, break and lead him to repentance and faith. For an Arminian, grace is not that efficacious, for a saint can do certain sins and lose his salvation. Thus for the Calvinist, God who called him and started a good work in him, is faithful to complete it and present him without fault before the Lord on the last day. But for the Arminian, God is not faithful to all in whom He started a good work, but to some who meets certain merits. So in essence there is great room for man to boast about his salvation. Thus again the Calvinist is humbled by the great love of God and he ends up appreciating grace more than the Arminian.
(See John 10:28-29, I Corinthians 1:8-9, Jude 24, I Peter 1:5, I Thessalonians 5:23-24, Philippians 1:6;)

These compelling reasons make a Calvinist to urge all children of God to have a Reformed understanding of these precious doctrines which lead us to appreciate grace and God, better.

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By Jay Dharan
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