Everybody was Free-Will fighting!

I’ve always found the song “Kung-Fu Fighting” a bit comical; the performance is even more hilarious. You can watch it here if you wish. I also don’t really get why one would waste so much time singing about something like that either. But the fight that is going on amidst the body of Jesus Christ over the issue of free-will is no laughing matter. Primarily because it is civil war in the church and is diabolically (I mean every ounce of that word) opposed to the unity our LORD prayed for in John 17.

I must confess, I have been on both sides of the battle of this civil war. I have cast aspersions at the opposing team and received like blows. Terms of endearment such as “Heretic,” “Pelagian,” “Muslim,” “God-denier,” “Idolater” or more theologically rooted terms such as “Moron,” “Ignoramus,” or “Stupid” were amidst the arsenal of labels one could use when referring to opponents. This wasn’t just confined to me, but was exemplified by others also on both sides. I’m not trying to justify myself, but just say it’s a common thing. After all, this is war! Right?

Both the Army’s and the Calvy’s have their crazies and their peace makers. And let me quickly chase a rabbit – I will refer to both sides in generic terms. Calvinists (AKA Calvy) and Arminians (AKA Army) correspond to those who do not believe in free-will and those who do respectively. No disrespect is meant to either side. I realize there are hyper-Calvinists and hyper-Arminians, but we aren’t really discussing those as I think these groups are clearly outside the realm of Christian orthodoxy. I am not using the term “non-Calvinist” as I do not wish to give the idea that Calvinism is the standard (nor will I reveal what side I am on as this is not about me).
Okay, got that rabbit. Oh! There’s another one! Hang on… and please note that all Arminians do not believe one can lose his/her salvation. There… done. Now back to what I really wanted to talk about.

Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:35 NASB). The world looks at us and they see the Calvy’s entrenched under their predestinarian-limited atonement banner and the Army’s holding the fort under their free-will-universal atonement colors and gun smoke from both sides fills the gulf between. Both side look at the world and shout their love for Jesus. They hold open arms to the lost and plead with them to join the family as the love of Jesus is greater than anything they could ever know, as they unload everything they’ve got against their brother in Christ across the way. If you weren’t already a child of God, wouldn’t you want to join this lovely family!?

Now don’t think I’m saying there are not doctrinal issues worth fighting for as long as we just all love Jesus. I know that people have different “Jesuses”, and believe me – doctrine is VITAL. But sit back and think about this with me. What vital Christian doctrine are we fighting over? If you look back through church history, no one fought this fight. Augustine fought Pelagius, but that can’t be compared to Calvin fighting Arminius, for Pelagius was ruled a heretic by the church as he denied original sin (unlike Arminianism that affirms the doctrine of original sin and man’s depravity).
Permit me to give a list of some things both sides agree on:

  • Jesus is the virgin-born Son of God
  • The Trinity
  • The inspiration of Scripture
  • Salvation by grace alone
  • Salvation through faith alone
  • God created the world
  • All men are born sinners
  • Jesus Christ will physically return
  • All who die in unbelief will eternally perish
  • The sinless-ness of Jesus
  • Salvation is only through the atoning death of Jesus
  • The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are historical events with redemptive meaning
  • There is nothing man can do to save himself
  • There will be a bodily resurrection and final judgment of all mankind
  • The eternality of the Son
  • The hypo-static union

I could list more, but I think you get the picture. Now compare this list of things Army’s and Calvy’s agree on with the creeds of the first 500 years of the church (links given at the end of the post). You’ll see that both fall within orthodoxy. I realize that Armys say Calvys make God the author of sin and an unloving monster. I am fully aware the Calvys say Armys believe in a works salvation and deny the saving efficacy of the blood of Jesus. But I have never met a Calvinist who taught that God was the author of sin or that God was an unloving monster. Nor have I ever met an Arminian who taught salvation through works or denied the saving efficacy of the blood of Jesus, and I have friends on both sides of this civil war. Are you beginning to wonder what it was we were fighting over to begin with?

I’m all for having dialogue with the brother of the opposite “theological system,” but do so in love remembering he is still a brother. He, whether Calvinist or Arminian, loves God just as much or possibly even more than you do. So, while we can discuss and even disagree on the nature of free-will, the definition of election, the extent of the atonement, and the like let us not make our favored system the Gospel.

I have heard the following account as a question being pose to George Whitefield (a Calvinist) about John Wesley (an Arminian) as well as a question being posed to Wesley about Whitefield. Whichever true, the spirit of the response is what we as children of God should strive to exhibit:

Whitfield was asked, “Do you expect to see John Wesley in Heaven?”

“No,”  was his reply. Continuing, “John Wesley will be so close to the Throne of Glory, and I will be so far away, I will hardly get a glimpse of him.”

The Apostle’s Creed
The Nicene Creed
The Definition of Chalcedon
The Athanasian Creed

~                    ~                     ~                     ~

Daniel Pulliam is the author of Reflections & Meditations, a blog that is deep, challenging, and honest. I first met Daniel through Facebook, and our online friendship began as a result of some pretty heated debates over such issues as the Bible, salvation, standards, and various topics of doctrine. About a month ago he wrote about his Fierce Doubts and Distant Friendships – a post that really encouraged me as I had experienced a similar situation not long before. His post about Chasing the Moon is another one of my favorites. Check out his site and let him know you stopped by!


Posted on March 17, 2011, in "Guest Post" March and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. This is a wonderful post. A great reminder of how we should act as brothers and sisters in Christ. I have had many heated and civil debates/discussions on this issue, for I am very strongly situated on one side of the argument. I believe whole-heartedly that discussions on this issue between the two different sides can be very beneficial, if done with the right attitude. Even when we don’t agree, there is nothing wrong with discussing to each other what we have learned and why we believe what we do in order to strive together to know the truth better. We are sinful beings and will never know that truth perfectly. We are never going to be 100% correct. Not to say that you shouldn’t study and hold strong to what you’ve learned, but even if you don’t agree with someone, even on a topic as touchy as this (free-will vs. predestination), you can still learn from each other.
    My husband and I don’t even agree on this issue. And though I will confess that I can get a little “passionate” for what I believe when we have these discussions, we always agree that we are just sharing with each other the wonderful things that God has been teaching us in our lives.
    To conclude my thoughts, I agree that we as Christians need to be careful about when, where, and how we have these theological discussions/debates. Every Christian’s goal is to bring others to know Christ, but if we are distracted by arguing with each other to notice the person standing next to us crying for help and understanding, then we can agree this has gone too far. Therefore these debates should be kept private among Christians who are steady in their faith. And believe me that’s hard to say because I have enjoyed reading online debates many times, but have they really accomplished anything for anybody? So when things are going to be publicly stated lets make sure it is uplifting not only to your fellow Christians, but to those who have not yet found Christ.

  2. Let’s also not forget that these two are not the only options within Christianity and everything doesn’t come down to Arminianism OR Calvinism.

    • Good thought, Nick. I tried to avoid getting into the finer points of how people define Calvinism and Arminianism. I know Arminians who say they aren’t Arminian, and know of people who are not Arminian but think they are. There are 5 point, 4 point, 4.5 point Calvinist, etc. (LOL!) I tried to establish my use of the term around one’s belief in free-will. Which is why I admitted early in the post to using both terms in a general sense. It seems to me that one either believes in free-will or he doesn’t. It is on this one point that I use the terms Arminian/Calvinist.

      I’m not against using terms, but I don’t think it is vital that we fit into any particular camp as a whole. Good reminder though. Thanks! =)

  3. Very well written, and I wish more people would understand that there are differences in preferences between all Christians. This does not make one group necessarily “right”, or one group “wrong”. I DO believe the fundamentals of the faith are necessary, but since when does the issue of Arminian/Calvinist determine a persons eternal destiny? Last I read, it was determined by faith in Jesus Christ…

    Thanks again for the post, Daniel

  4. Great post, Daniel! I especially loved this line:

    “If you weren’t already a child of God, wouldn’t you want to join this lovely family!?”


    Thanks for sharing and, Heather, for allowing Daniel to write on you blog.

  5. Enjoyed this, Daniel. Excellent point. I guess I especially appreciate it because chapter 9 of my own Bible study (“Loving Christians from other churches”) comes to the same conclusion. I enjoy your comments on Heather’s regular blogs too – they always seem to be well thought out. Keep up the good work.

  1. Pingback: Calvinism & Arminianism: « Reflections&Meditations

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