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January 9, 2010

By Victoria Day

Before we begin…

The Arminian/Calvinist debate has always been a heated one.  Christians on both sides are equally guilty of accusations that do little to promote unity in the Spirit of Christ.  I have seldom seen a “civil” debate between the two differing sides and in this is our challenge.

As I’ve matured in my Christian walk I recognize that although within the Body of Christ doctrinal differences on the non-essentials are inevitable, they must not keep us from maintaining the unity of the faith.  Sometimes we even tragically sacrifice charity to defend our positions on these non-essentials when just coming back to the communion table with the understanding of “Christ crucified” and a brotherly hug is all that God requires.

It is worth reiterating that the A/C debate is a scholarly debate over a non-essential doctrinal issue.  For those who want to make it an essential of the faith, I believe you would be in error.  The requirements of salvation are so simple that a child should be able to understand them and newborn Christians, unless exposed to the Doctrine of Grace early on, will continue in evangelical/Arminian belief because that’s all they are taught.  It took me 11 years after I was saved to really understand that there was another view.  A well known reform author sent me in the direction of Calvin and a year long study awakened me anew, but during that time I never doubted I was saved.  In the learning process, sorting out what God was showing me through Scripture, but saved none-the-less. 

Both Arminians and Calvinists believe God has saved them, but it’s a matter of how, when and whether we must “do something” (or whether it is God who does it all).  I, of course, believe it is God alone.  Scripture teaches us that man’s will is not involved in this process. 

“For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”   (Romans 9:15-16 NASB)

But this article isn’t about whether Arminian theology is wrong and Calvinism is right.  Among both groups there are varying degrees of doctrinal acceptance.  No, this article is about how we are to treat one another in spite of our biblical stand.  I’m sure that Charles Wesley and George Whitefield are laughing at us down here and possibly laughing at themselves as God has clarified what they have seen only through a mirror darkly. 

So, with that said, I will continue to write in favor of the Doctrines of Grace while treating others with differing views respectfully.  No, I don’t see myself changing my view on this one.  I dedicated a great deal of time trying to prove it wrong and it proved me wrong.  It is a wonderful doctrine and one that not only assures me of God’s love, but humbles me as I think of the amazing grace given to a sinner such as I.

Even so, no matter what side of the debate you are on, this is not an issue to divide over.  When addressing heresy, there is no way to avoid offending someone, but when speaking with brothers on non-essential doctrine, our speech should be salted with a couple of cups of GRACE.

 I like this statement:

 “A man is not to be judged a heretic for speaking or writing an error – we all fall into this group.  A heretic is one who continues in teaching falsehoods that strike at the basics of Christian beliefs.”  Stuart Brogden

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