Strike While the Irony is Hot
It’s the Calvinist/Arminian thing again, but not yet another exposé of Calvinist theology. All these years I’ve focused mainly on that which I do not believe, because it has been the Calvinists who’ve been beating people over the head with their theology. That is, Calvinism is the aggressive view, the one that asserts itself and promotes itself with force by every means and in every venue possible. We might even call it “irresistable gracelessness” or “Doctrines of Disgrace”. (veterans of Calvinism debates get the joke there)
But the main irony I’m thinking about is that while Calvinists always cry “misrepresentation” of their views, it is truly Arminianism which is misrepresented by them, to the point where I’ve always denied being one according to the definition Calvinists use. To them, being an Arminian means being an antinomian, a lawless denier of the sovereignty of God. And it might be wise to continue denying being Arminian unless I first of all insist that whatever Cavlinist I’m talking to allows Arminians to define their own beliefs.
But that brings up another issue: who officially represents either view? My experience has been that no matter which Calvinist author is cited, the particular Calvinist I’m talking to will deny that the author is representative of “true” Calvinism, or at least their own personal understanding of it. Now I’m all for people having the “sovereignty” to reject particular points of any system, but not for accusing their opponent of misrepresentation or ignorance of their personal beliefs, especially when such deviations from authoritative sources are not stated up front.
Yet at the same time, if one is going to use labels, one should be able to point to some kind of official organizations or authors that define them. Many today do in fact believe that they can wear any label they want while rejecting major tenets of the system that coined it, but that doesn’t make it logical or defensible. That is, while some claim to be Calvinists but deny a defining belief such as limited atonement or hedge on what “inability” means, Calvinism is a system; the system does not exist without all its essential parts, and the TULIP acronym is universally used to define Calvinism or “Reformed” theology.
By now I think it’s obvious that at least part of the reason the Calvinist/Arminian debate never ends is due to the attempt to hold on to a “macro” label while dodging and weaving on the “micro” level. The dividing line in practice as opposed to theory boils down to whether God forces people to be saved (I’ve never seen any exception to this). Yet in spite of reserving the right to reject particular points of the system, Calvinists often deny this right to Arminians, and insist that whatever system they think Arminianism is must be wholly applied to every non-Calvinist.
In the past I’ve referenced The Calvinist Corner or Monergism as authoritative representatives of Calvinism/Reformed Theology, but I don’t think I’ve done any for Arminianism. So I found one I think can be considered such: Society of Evangelical Arminians. I’ve mentioned Free Grace before, but that is actually a subset of Arminianism. As the Society article states, Arminianism allows a certain degree of deviation from main points because some of those points were never “set in stone” in the first place; that is, Arminianism is not as interested in micromanagement as is Calvinism. But then, that’s what one would expect from a system defined primarily by its acceptance of free will.
So in the future, and as long as my opponent accepts Arminians’ definitions for their own beliefs, I think I can honestly say I’m an Arminian according to the Society definition. I’m tired of the “misrepresentation” cry from Calvinism while it misrepresents Arminianism. Know whether or not you believe what a given “system” teaches, and then either proudly wear or clearly reject whatever label others might apply. And if you do wear a lable, cite the authoritatve source and understand what it means; know your own beliefs instead of letting others define them for you.