I have been a Christian for many years and have been actively studying the word, but I am relatively new theology and the different theological thought systems. I guess I should say I am new to the study and acknowledgment of the different theologies, as I have been under the influence of them based on the teachers I have subjected myself to.
Theology is rather interesting in that it gives insight in to the motivations of people and the way they perceive God / Scripture. Two I am looking at now are Arminianism and Calvinism. I was introduced to Calvinism years earlier, but only to the extent of predestination. I didn’t look at it further until recently. Both schools of thought have basically five points in which they adhere to:
Partial Depravity – humanity is tainted by sin, but not to the extent that we cannot chose to come to God on our own. We are capable of choosing to accept salvation or reject it without any influence from God.
Conditional Election – God chose who would be saved based on knowing beforehand who would believe. God chooses those whom He knows will believe.
Unlimited Atonement – Jesus died for everyone, even those who are not chosen and will not believe. Jesus’ death was for all of humanity, and anyone can be saved by belief in Him.
Resistible Grace – God’s call on a person’s life to be saved can be resisted and/or rejected. We can resist God’s pull towards salvation if we choose to.
Conditional Salvation – Christians can lose their salvation if they continue in a life of sin and/or fall away from God. The maintenance of salvation is required for a Christian to retain it.
Total Depravity – As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all humanity is dead in trespasses and sins. Man is unable to save himself
Unconditional Election – Because man is dead in sin, he is unable to initiate response to God; therefore, in eternity past God elected certain people to salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not based on man’s response because man is unable to respond, nor does he want to.
Limited Atonement – Because God determined that certain ones should be saved as a result of God’s unconditional election, He determined that Christ should die for the elect alone. All whom God has elected and Christ died for will be saved.
Irresistible Grace – Those whom God elected and Christ died for, God draws to Himself through irresistible grace. God makes man willing to come to Him. When God calls, man responds.
Perseverance of the Saints – The precise ones God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure.
** Now I got both lists from the same website, but only Calvinism had biblical references, which I removed for this post, included. The website claimed that Calvinism is more biblically based than Arminianism. I don’t agree. **
At this point in my walk, I am willing to say I would be considered an Arminian. I get caught up on the apparent conflict between total depravity and limited atonement. The other three seem to violate the premise of the free will of man, thus we have no say in our future.
Depravity is the result of Adam’s sin. I don’t count Eve as part of this because all authority had been given to Adam, not Eve, so when Adam sinned, disobedience was introduced to man-kind. I don’t see how all of humanity can be dead in trespasses and sin when you have God interacting with people prior to the introduction of the Law. There was no way for people to pretend to be right with God. Now, man can not save himself for it is by grace that we are saved. But it is up to man to believe in Christ and His sacrifice in order to be saved.
Those who are saved are the elect. Election is dependant on depravity. If man can not be saved unless God choose him, then only those who God are deemed worthy of salvation are part of the election. My issue with this is that Jesus supposedly became sin. To become sin, you have to take the sins of all of mankind. If you are only taking the sins of some of mankind then Jesus did not become sin and thus the Bible has a proven lie. If there is one lie in the Bible, why believe any of it and base your salvation on it. It can not be trusted.
Atonement. This goes back to depravity and election. Did Jesus die for all sins or just some sins. If He died for some sins, how do you know He died for your sins? It can’t be based on works, since anyone can do good works. If Jesus died for all sins, then atonement has been made for all sins and that atonement is unlimited. I guess it could be considered limited in the fact that God knew how much atonement would be needed to cover the sins of all of mankind, but not limited in that it is only available to a few, who may or may not know who they are.
Grace. Can God be resisted? Does man have free will? If free will is true, then grace can be resisted.
Salvation is a big thing with people. Can someone who is saved give up that salvation. I don’t want to say they can lose it, since you have to accept it by choice and salvation is not based on works. Can someone turn their back to God and reject salvation? I don’t see why not. I know it says that when we are saved, we have been baptized into Jesus and have become new creations. The word baptized here is of a transformation and not just the dunking process many of us have gone through. But doesn’t it also say work out your salvation. That is not works, but the active process of living out your salvation. I have heard some say that the salvation process was not a true one, but how can you tell. If you believe in Jesus as the Son of God and that He died on the cross to atone for our sins, aren’t you saved? If you died right then and there, are you saved? If you believed that but kept sinning, you effectively remove yourself from God’s presence and reject Him. It was the disobedience of Adam that caused the fall from God. Why is disobedience after salvation any different.
My thoughts are still a work in progress. They adapt as I become closer to God. I believe they will be stronger and I will have a better understanding of them as God reveals truth to me. I guess it really comes down to a question of free will. If you believe in the free will of mankind, then in my mind you follow Arminian thought. If you don’t believe that God gave mankind free will, you tend toward Calvinism.