Calvin vs. Arminius
March 3, 2008
In the Calvinist vs. Arminianist debate I lean toward Arminianism. For those of you unfamiliar with this age old debate I would simplify the debate as those who believe God first elects a man then chooses Christ (Calvinist) vs. those who believe man chooses Christ then God elects him.
I’m not going to get into this debate, especially when most people on both sides haven’t read any John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius and inherit the straw men of our side’s long held positions. Smart guys line up on both sides of the argument from Calvinists like Greg Bahnsen, Francis Schaeffer and Greg Koukl to Arminianists like C.S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig and Wesley.
The main reason that I reject Calvinism is that I believe that God wants all to come to be saved:
2 Peter 3: “God is not willing that any should perish, but all should come to repentance.”
If God doesn’t want any perish yet he only elects some before the foundations of the earth then he clearly didn’t want all to come to repentance. Most Calvinists give me pretty bad answers like “It’s a mystery.”
I didn’t even want to write about that…only that I’ve also been studying a similar divide between atheists. There is a camp that believes free will is just an illusion. We’re particles in motion and they operate in a strict cause-and-effect world. There is no mind, only the illusion of a conscious soul that is actually just an array of synapses firing.
In the other atheistic camp are those who might think quantum particles behave in a non-deterministic fashion. Both camps have their brilliant thinkers erecting straw men and slamming the other side, much like those of use who believe in God.
I’m starting to wonder if there’s something really deep within the mind of man that is both free and not free. That is expresses itself in these two sides of philosophy be you an atheist or a Christian.
Anyways, if you didn’t like this and you believe in some form of determinism I hope you don’t blame me for the contents of this post. This brings me to the most offensive idea to us not having true free will and that’s responsibility.
A man’s responsibility by definition is measured by his ability to perform within a normal expectation. My 6 year old is held to a higher level of responsibility than my infant because she can grasp the moral implications of her actions. Yet within the Calvinist/Materialist Determinist camps we have people incapable of doing anything but bad things. To the Calvinist, a man cannot choose to be saved by Christ until he is first elected by God (an many are not elected). Can a moral agent be blamed for rejecting Christ when he can do nothing else?
The younger my children are, the less they are held into account for their behavior. I don’t scold the 10 month old for pooping his diaper but if my 6 year old messed her pants we’d have a little talk about appropriate potty behavior…as one gains abilities, one is held to a higher standard of responsibility. Or, “to whom much is given much can be expected.” Where a person’s ability is reduced, they have less duty, less responsibility for their actions.
A man so evil that he has no ability to act one way or another should not be held responsible for actions he could not make. No free will = no responsibility. For the atheist and the Christian. They are blameless, like kids in diapers.