Christianity 201

December 8, 2017

Continuing in the Faith: Two Perspectives

Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.
 – Luke 17:33

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. – John 16:13

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Phil. 3:14

Today’s post was intended to be a return to Blogos.org for the usual type of devotional article you see here. However, I stumbled across this article — the link “letter from the editor” got me curious — and while some of this isn’t new to many readers here, I hope you will take the time to read this and notice the balance this writer achieved between what can be two divisive doctrinal viewpoints.

Which view is right for you?

Are you confused by Calvinism and Arminianism and which to believe?

By Jim Allen

Calvinism and Arminianism are two major branches of Protestantism that follow separate theological views, pulling the true Gospel apart into two camps of faith. While the views differ in how one attains and continues in salvation, they do agree on the core of Christendom, which is faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). It is also true that most believers know nothing about either of these two doctrinal views when saved.

I was one of them. I had no clue. Not until sometime later did I learned about these two views and then became entirely confused by which one was correct. Of course, the adoption of Calvinism or Arminianism can influence how one lives out his or her Christian faith.

Beyond a personal influence, these two branches of Protestantism have split the church for nearly five hundred years. But, here’s the thing. Got Questions got it right by recognizing Calvinism and Arminianism are too demanding for anyone to understand. They correctly said both views fail to fully explain God’s role and man’s role in the mysteries leading to salvation. More precisely:

Human beings are incapable of fully grasping concepts such as these because the theology is deep and demanding. Yes, God is absolutely sovereign and knows all. Yes, human beings are called to make a genuine decision to place faith in Christ, and these two facts seem contradictory to us, but in the mind of God they make perfect sense. (Source)

Can these two opposing views ever be brought into alignment with Scripture? I have read the arguments for and against Calvinism and affirm some aspects are biblical while other aspects fog the brain. At the other end is Arminianism, which also has views that battle against the teachings of the Bible.

While the conversation between these two views is not the most important topic in Christianity, it’s a worthwhile discussion in having. This article makes no attempt to uphold one view over the other or reconcile opposing verses of either view; but rather, its purpose is to look beyond the teachings of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius to the centrality of the true conversation.

Is Calvinism or Arminianism the right conservation to have about salvation? I would propose neither because the right answer for salvation is a message that has been longstanding since the Resurrection. The message of Christianity is far more than adopting a view to walk out one’s faith. Christianity is about entering into a living and loving relationship with the Lord of Glory. Jesus said it’s all about exchanging a life we can never keep for one we can never earn (Luke 17:33).

The Apostle Paul wrote about the exchange. Paul said our change begins when God changes us into a new person by changing what we think (Romans 12:2). But, what we think and believe can be skewed by what other men think and believe. Men can hold us captive to their view (by what they teach) instead of God’s view, and herein the peril.

Was the greater problem for Calvin and Arminius a tendency to pitch their tent of understanding (about salvation) around selected verses that supported their personal beliefs? Did they set aside, gloss over, and debate away verses that didn’t agree with those views? Some think so.

Of no surprise and as a result, the number of opinions supporting Calvinism or Arminianism is vast. The Internet is overflowing with books and articles and charts and testimonies supporting one view over the other. Reading the arguments for one will convince you until you read the rebuttal given by the other. It’s all very confusing, troubling, and unnecessary. It’s not the conversation we need.

Even more so, the Bible makes no attempt to distinguish the Gospel into two opposing views. There is no reason to redefine the Gospel. Jesus didn’t split hairs and the apostles were never inspired to write other than what they did. The Bible is a finished work. It stands on its own. It needs no clarification.

Dividing the Gospel into different views is the work of men, a work never intended by the Lord of Glory. He made everything simple, and we receive it by faith. Man makes everything hard, and we debate it until entirely confused. Is Calvinism the right answer for salvation? No and neither is Arminianism.

The right answer for salvation is for a believer to make it a personal quest, to view the Lord of Glory through the lens of the Bible, and to discover for themselves the deep caverns of unveiled truth (John 16:13). When revealed, the believer will be encouraged to continue in the faith.

Calvinists call “continuing in the faith” irresistible grace. Armenians call it making a commitment of faith. Whatever you call it, it’s the high call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). This is the conversation worth having.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

In closing, there is no greater call than to hear the One calling from above (1 Peter 2:25); and, there is no greater conversation than with the One who is the lover of the soul (John 10:28).


*Calvinism is named for John Calvin, a French theologian who lived from 1509-1564. Arminianism is named for Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian who lived from 1560-1609. (Source)


Linked scriptures are in the ESV. We selected three and quoted them at the top of this article, and those are NIV.

July 6, 2013

Knockin’ On The Door of Your Heart

Revelation 3 20Revelation 3:20 — “Behold I stand at the door and knock…” — is a well-known verse that is often used in evangelistic presentations to urge the hearer to respond to God. While there’s nothing wrong with this interpretation and usage, it doesn’t exactly fit the context.  But we’ll deal with that more tomorrow…

The context of course is the 7th of the seven letters that begin the book of Revelation, this one to the church at Laodicia, “…the last and worst of all the seven Asian churches, the reverse of the church of Philadelphia; for, as there was nothing reproved in that, here is nothing commended…” (Matthew Henry)

We’ve written about the earlier verses in this section that inspired the Brian Doerksen song, Light the Fire Again; shown here:

(NIV) Rev 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

There is judgement in verse 16:

 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

And also in verse 19:

 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.

And yet then in verse 20, there is the offer of grace, but not only grace, but the intimacy of a shared meal; one of the highest forms of community among friends in an eastern culture:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

And then a promise of greater reward in verse 21:

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

The blog Brandon Devotional gets at the heart of where the dinner with the Lord might take place:

The hospitality of a host towards their guests in the past showed a lot more reverence than it frequently does today. In fact, guests were treated as royalty in accordance with the host’s means. By honoring He who dines with us, and developing a relationship, in faith, with Him, then He is not only invited to our table, but we are invited to His! How much more are the Lord’s means than that of man, and if Christ treats His guests as royalty, the meal He serves to His friends will be immeasurable by anything the world has to offer.

The blogger at Father I Love You finds a parallel between Revelation 3:20 and Jesus’ meeting with Zacchaeus.

He looked up to Zacchaeus and hurried him to come down as He wanted to stay in his house. This is a reward Jesus gave to Zacchaeus for the effort that was taken. No one in the crowd got this reward. Zacchaeus hurried down and welcomed Him. Here is were Zacchaeus opened the door of his heart on hearing Jesus voice.

There is a beautiful commentary on this verse at the blog of the Deaf Church in New Orleans, titled The Curse of Moderate Christianity:

Sometime we argue about whether or not to use Revelation 3:20 when we lead people to Christ. I think it is a beautiful picture of Christ coming again and again to the human heart. He comes, he knocks, he calls for us, and then he waits for our response. Many of you have seen the famous painting by Holman Hunt in which Christ stands at the door of an English cottage. All seems normal until you realize that there is no doorknob on the outside.

The door must be opened from within.

So it is for all of us all the time. Christ comes to us again and again and says, “I want to spend time with you.“ He calls to us. Then he waits for our response.

For those who open the door, Christ comes in and makes himself at home. I find great hope here for every Christian who feels far from the Lord. In a sense this final invitation speaks to all seven of the churches of Revelation 2-3, and thus it speaks to all Christians, everywhere, all the time.

Christ still stands at the door and knocks.
He waits for you to come and open the door.

But one blogger violently disagrees with the idea of using this verse in evangelism.  At the blog Daniel’s Place:

It can be seen immediately that there is a problem with applying this verse to the context of salvation and the Gospel call, not the least is which the contexts are different. The biblical context is towards people in the Visible Church as opposed to unbelievers, corporate as opposed to individual, and the call is to return back to their professed faith as opposed to calling unbelievers to repentance and faith. Such a major difference immediately invalidates such an application as committing a case of eisegesis. And pragmatism is no substitute for fidelity to the Word of God. There is no mitigating factor for misquoting the verse even if it somehow works, as if we have the power to convert anyone in the first place.

In fact, dare I say it, but that the application of this verse to evangelism actually demeans Christ. It reduces our sovereign Lord to be the helpless and often rejected beggar always so “meekly” knocking on everyone’s doors, and most of them will reject Him anyway. It dethrones God and elevates Man, as if Man is the center of all things. Such an Arminian methodology compromises the person of Christ and the Godhead, and therefore dishonors the Lord we claim to worship.

Personally, I think to say this “dishonors the Lord” is to miss the Bible’s larger picture of the character of God, and the way in which the Holy Spirit works.  (Compare with tomorrow’s post on this same verse.)

Finally, as this verse plays into the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism; the writer at Doctrinal Matters takes the opposite view to the above writer  in a post tiled Revelation 3:20 versus Calvinism

Here is how Revelation 3:20 actually reads (Jesus is speaking) – “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him ….”

Here is Calvinism’s version of Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock it down: only the elect will be allowed to hear my voice, and they will do nothing, as I will already have come in to them previously …”

Certainly even the strongest Calvinist would have to admit that the church at Laodicea has free will in this particular matter.

June 8, 2011

He Died for Our Life: John Calvin

One of the joys of putting this together everyday is being able to mix on one site some of the best writing from both Reformed and Arminian perspectives.  This particular item by Calvin appeared on Tullian Tchividjian’s blog, the pastor of Coral Ridge Church in Florida and grandson of Billy Graham.  He called it Gospel Gold from John Calvin.  Pay particular attention to the detail in the paragraph beginning “He died for our life…” which details things outside the usual list accomplished through Christ’s suffering and resurrection.

A while back, a friend of mine sent me this nugget of gospel gold from John Calvin. It comes from a stunning preface to Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament (1534). Another friend, Justin Taylor, added line breaks to make it easier to read.

Calvin wrote:

Without the gospel

everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel

we are not Christians;

without the gospel

all riches is poverty,
all wisdom folly before God;
strength is weakness,
and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made

children of God,
brothers of Jesus Christ,
fellow townsmen with the saints,
citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,
heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom

the poor are made rich,
the weak strong,
the fools wise,
the sinner justified,
the desolate comforted,
the doubting sure,
and slaves free.

It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone.

For, he was

sold, to buy us back;
captive, to deliver us;
condemned, to absolve us;

he was

made a curse for our blessing,
[a] sin offering for our righteousness;
marred that we may be made fair;

he died for our life; so that by him

fury is made gentle,
wrath appeased,
darkness turned into light,
fear reassured,
despisal despised,
debt canceled,
labor lightened,
sadness made merry,
misfortune made fortunate,
difficulty easy,
disorder ordered,
division united,
ignominy ennobled,
rebellion subjected,
intimidation intimidated,
ambush uncovered,
assaults assailed,
force forced back,
combat combated,
war warred against,
vengeance avenged,
torment tormented,
damnation damned,
the abyss sunk into the abyss,
hell transfixed,
death dead,
mortality made immortal.

In short,

mercy has swallowed up all misery,
and goodness all misfortune.

For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit.

If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things.

And we are

comforted in tribulation,
joyful in sorrow,
glorying under vituperation,
abounding in poverty,
warmed in our nakedness,
patient amongst evils,
living in death.

This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.

Do yourself a favor and read this over and over and over. It’s nutritious!

May 17, 2010

Partial Depravity

Nobody likes to think of themselves as “depraved” but one of the things Calvinism has brought us is the phrase “total depravity;” it’s actually the “T” in the “TULIP” acronym.

Catholics say that we are born with “original sin;” though to see to widespread nature of different types of sinful acts is to know there’s nothing original about it.

The “Four Spiritual Laws” begin with premise that “Man is sinful and separated from God…”

But what happens after conversion?

Much of the Apostle Paul’s writings discuss the dual nature; the fight put up by the desires of the flesh.   James talks about “double mindedness.”   In the epistles at least, we get a picture of the spiritual warfare raging all around us; the accompanying tension between where we are positionally in Christ, and where we find ourselves pragmatically in the world.

But on Sunday mornings, nobody wants to admit this.  That’s probably why in surveys of “crazy hymn and chorus lyrics” people always vote for:

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.

I mean seriously, what terrible advertising for the Christian life.   Nobody wants to admit to that propensity to sin.   And as for depravity, Dictionary.com defines it as “moral corruption” and there are people I know who don’t know Christ that I would regard as “upstanding morally;” so I don’t think too many Christ-followers would even want to say they were depraved before they made Him lord of their lives.

This past week I was driving my car and my mind wandered into less than stellar territory.   (More about thoughts in tomorrow’s post.)   Please don’t try to guess or read too much into this, but after the thought had flashed through my brain — okay, it actually parked there for about five minutes — I thought about how people are, and how I am, always just a few mis-steps away from conceding to my human nature and its way of thinking.

But we are also possessed of a divine nature.   I want to end this the way the song quoted above ends; with a prayer for redemption;  this was my prayer for the beginning of this week, and it’s not such a crazy hymn lyric, either:

Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.