Calvinism or Arminianism? It’s the Wrong Question!

For some people in churches who actually care about what they believe, an often heard debate is between Calvinism and Arminianisn. The question being, which is correct? It’s the wrong question for several reasons.

Firstly, both viewpoints are an attempt to put God in a box, to reduce the way He works to some simple formula that anyone can understand. We simply do not have the intelligence to fully fathom God. If we did, people would give up rock climbing or singing and design new Universes for a hobby; but most people don’t even begin to understand the Periodic Table of the Elements, never mind have the ability to design it from scratch. We are not asked to understand God, but to trust Him. If you have a five-year-old, you don’t expect it to understand everything that you do, but simply to trust you and be obedient. And the difference between your understanding and a five-year-old’s is pretty small compared to the difference between yours and God’s. We only see through a glass darkly; we should never try to reduce God to simplistic or human terms.

Second, Arminius and Calvin are mere men who lived fifteen hundred years after Christ. That’s nearly as far away in time from the Crucifixion as we are now. And as mere men, post-Biblical writers, they lack the Authority of Scripture.

Third, this type of debate invariably involves the flinging of Biblical references back and forth. This leads people to spend time reading such references along with the post-Biblical writers concerned. Their time would be far better spent reading the whole of Scripture without the thoughts of post-Biblical sources in their heads. The latter course provides a sense of what Scripture says as a whole. Such a feel for the whole of Scripture is essential, since any sound doctrine must resonate with the whole of Scripture, not just a number of verses; never mind verses which may not be accurate translations, nor quoted in proper context.

Fourth, Calvin should never be viewed as a valid commentator on the Bible, both on account of his executions of people he disagreed with and also on account of his predestination theory being blasphemous. See Calvin the Murdering Blasphemer for more on this, and more on Predestination here.

William Tyndale, who risked his life for the sake of Bible translation and ultimately gave it up burning at the stake, said he wished that “every plough boy would read it.” It doesn’t take great intelligence to walk behind a plough, but to read the Bible one would obviously need to be able to read. Tyndale clearly did not feel that any qualification was necessary to read the Bible beyond basic literacy. In these days of near universal literacy, this puts us all on the spot. God didn’t put seven-hundred and fifty thousand words into Scripture for us to pick out the ones we liked, and Tyndale didn’t give his life so that a man in a dog collar could tell us what it says. It is vital both to read the whole of Scripture for yourself, and also to avoid entanglements with the numerous and multiplying post-Biblical sources.