This is a poignant moment in time when we find ourselves at a landmark 500 years after the Reformation. And while we have much cause to celebrate the reclaiming of several precious truths, are we to also rue the various denominational divisions that have lasted these many years among us Protestants. Having been united by the same love for the truth (eg: the five solas), how have we been unable to be of one Mind for this long?
As much as a pacifist that I am, this article is more about being faithful to the Scriptures – and I guess that’s where the problem lies. The irreconcilable differences between say Calvinists and Arminians do not arise from gross error but from the slip-ups in each one’s otherwise very sincere attempts to be absolutely faithful to the written Word. So yes, I acknowledge I could just be adding yet another sincere but flawed attempt : to reconcile all of Scripture that could potentially unite all of us under the same doctrine – and therefore it should not matter how sincere the writer seems to be but whether the contents match up to the truth, consistency and glory of God’s revelations of Himself in the Bible.
Intrigued by the wonderful inspiring reformers from both calvinist and arminian camps, I have wondered how both couldn’t find themselves on exactly the same page – case in point, John Wesley and George Whitefield. The simple explanation from each camp is that the other unfortunately has gotten a critical doctrine terribly wrong. But what if each camp has gotten different but equally important truths exactly right but have missed a step in simple human logic to uphold them both simultaneously, which then got exacerbated by building more and more on that error with only the intent to hold on to the precious truth they each saw, until we now have a yawning gap to bridge.
How then do we reconcile Calvinism and Arminianism? How do we reconcile the Supralapsarian and the Infralapsarian? Is it Double Predestination or Single Predestination? I’d propose we trace each doctrinal position back to its root and evaluate that against Scriptures – and if there is any independent truth there, we should simply hold it as true without immediately rejecting it based on our inability to reconcile it with our existing beliefs. Working down from the root, we’d do well to identify the points of conflict and see if it arises from a direct contradiction in Scriptures or if it’s mere human reasoning, which very well could be faulty.
For example, tracing the Calvinist and Arminian conflict to its roots – we find that calvinism contrasted Justification by Faith alone against the Roman Church’s reluctance to the ‘alone’ qualifier. This was a precious truth to be upheld continually. They found additional supporting material in reclaiming from Scriptures the doctrine of Total Depravity or Inability of the Flesh. They now argued – how can man contribute to his own salvation by faith and works if there is no good in his flesh to do any good work. In fact, even faith must be of irresistible grace for sinful flesh cannot even self-generate faith.
The counter question to this position of God working out salvation from beginning to end is concerning those who are lost – does God not perform any work in them. The calvinist rightly is led to the doctrine of election, but desiring to hold on to the earlier truths, rushes into presenting their doctrine of reprobation. And here the Arminian is offended when forced to worship a God who counsels the death of man as an eternal decree from before creation when Scripture has revealed God to love the world and not desire the death of the wicked. The arminian in turn, desiring to hold on to this truth, rushes into presenting their doctrine of freewill synergism which offends the calvinist when forced to worship a God who is not Sovereign but instead dependent on human will. Defenses and attacks and further inferences built on these over years has easily detracted us far away from the basic root problem.
How can this catch 22 be resolved? By simultaneously upholding the truths of God’s sovereignty and His love for the whole world and His predestining the elect and His offering redemption in Christ to each and every man, elect or not – all being independent truths found in Scriptures…and by simultaneously rejecting the errors of Reprobation as an eternal decree and Freewill synergism – all being human inferences in themselves. The ensuing reconciliation may challenge our existing beliefs – but the objective should be to step within the boundaries of what Scriptures alone says and not adding to it our ‘common sense’. (I am well aware that I could be fallen under that very thing I warn against, but setting reconciliation of all parts of Scripture as the ultimate indicator should set us on firm ground.)
Here is the Link to the Single Predestination worldview which primarily is concerned with faithfulness to Scriptures – but may serve to reconcile many denomination differences as additional benefits. (It is presented unedited in its First Draft form – and will undergo further revisions to help present and communicate better.)
In later posts, the intent would be to address general concerns or to elaborate more on certain points which wasn’t possible within the scope of this post alone.