Sunday, August 23, 2009

Strawmen and Calvinism

Straw men are easy to construct. It’s probably the best way to quickly discredit someone with whom you are debating. The problem is that straw men fall away under scrutiny. Very quickly. Straw men are intellectually dishonest and serve no positive purpose whatsoever in a debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. They have been used on both sides for centuries and have done nothing but caused division among the body of believers.

In the past few years, I have seen a certain straw man argument consistently pop up when discussing theology with my Calvinist brothers. Invariably, I am the recipient of the following criticism, “Well, you just aren’t comfortable with the total sovereignty of God.” This statement usually suggests that I believe that God can’t know everything and is not totally capable of doing as He wishes. A few times, I have been accused of accepting Open Theology since I was arguing for the Arminian position. Again, a straw man thrown to discredit my position.

Having a proper view of God is important. Just read Your God is Too Small by JB Philips. One aspect of that view is that God is sovereign over all. The main difference between the Calvinist and the Arminian is not whether God is sovereign, but how He chooses to manifest it.
Calvinists believe that God chooses whom He will elect. With this, there is a great deal of thanksgiving given to God for His grace. I admire this. The Calvinist is truly grateful for the grace that was given to him since he was literally plucked from the fire by a loving God.
The Arminian, on the other hand, believes that God does not elect, but gives the individual enough faith to become a believer. This doesn’t take away from His sovereignty, but shows that He is permissive in letting us choose, but only with His help.

So let’s cut it out with the straw men. It happens on the Armininan side too. One famous Christian radio host calls the God of Calvinists a “cosmic rapist.” I find this utterly reprehensible and totally misrepresentative of the Calvinist belief. One thing will be helpful, let the person speak for their own beliefs instead of making the assumption. It will go a long way in furthering the dialogue.

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