As a conclusion to this week long series on Calvinsim, Arminianism and Molinism, I wanted to speak about the benefits all of three to the body of Christ and the dangers associated with each one. All three have things about them which deserve commendation and all three have tendencies about them which could lead to condemnation.
Benefits: Calvinists have a passion for right theology. They are concerned with protecting orthodoxy and attacking heresy. Their utmost concern, at the heart of their theology, is the glory of God. I do not see it as a coincidence that the majority of theology professors seem to be Calvinist.
The most prominent and prolific theologians from church history from Augustine to Calvin to Jonathan Edwards to John Piper today hold to a Calvinistic understanding of election. They are to be commended for their heart for God’s glory and their concern for theology.
Dangers: However, their strengths often become their weaknesses. It can be easy to drift from protecting orthodoxy to attacking differing Christian interpretations of Scripture. Too often, Calvinists spend more time demeaning their Arminian brother for his “wrong theology” than they do actually showing the grace of which they speak so often.
There is also the possibility of drifting toward dead orthodoxy. When you are so concerned with the facts of salvation, it can be easier to forget the reality and joy of salvation.
This is not all Calvinists. It would be wrong to make that assertion. I know numerous irenic brothers and sisters in Christ who hold to the doctrine of unconditional election, while simultaneously unconditionally loving their fellow Christian. I know many Calvinists who are joyful and happy with vibrant, active faith.
Benefits: Arminians have a passion for evangelism. Their theology drives them to tell everyone about the Gospel. At the heart of their theology, is a desire to affirm man’s responsibility to accept or reject Christ’s offer of salvation. Most evangelism professors I know hold to at least a few of the five points of Arminianism.
I do not find it a coincidence that many of our great evangelists have an Arminian perspective on election: John Wesley, Charles Finney, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. They are to be commended for their concern for human responsibility and passion for evangelism.
Dangers: Unfortunately, often times Arminianism drifts toward universalism or some form of works-based salvation. Many find the leap too tempting from a universal call of salvation to simply universal salvation. Others find it too easy to move from basing salvation on God’s grace exercised through our faith, to attributing some measure of merit in those who choose to follow God.
This is definitely not always the case, many Arminians keep their passion for evangelism and add a desire for maintaining historical Christian doctrine. It is an unfair criticism to charge them all with being adrift in a theological sea with no anchor to hold their beliefs in place. Many are able to balance both a desire to see the lost come to Christ and to see the truths of the Bible affirmed and exalted.
Benefits: Molinism has a passion to see biblical truths balanced and presented in a logical way. At the heart of their theology is a God who is consistent and unchanging. Most Christian philosophy professors are Molinists.
Some of the greatest Christian thinkers of our day embrace some form of Molinism, from William Lane Craig to Alvin Plantinga. They are to be commended for their desire to affirm all of Scripture and formulate a logical, consistent picture of who God is and what He desires.
Dangers: Molinists are not as prevalent as the other two, but there are weaknesses which can harm this perspective as well. There can be a temptation to boil God down and fit Him in a philosophical box.
While we do worship a God of order, His creation tell us that, we do worship a God that is far above us. We cannot understand all there is to know about Him and it can be detrimental to our relationship with Him to attempt to make everything fit together neatly.
Both Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll have been quoted as advising pastors to work like an Arminian and sleep like a Calvinist. I would add “and think like a Molinist.” Unfortunately, many of us work like a lazy Calvinist, worry like a distressed Arminian and we don’t think much at all.
The point is that whatever our theology, we should:
- proclaim the Gospel as if everyone we meet had the opportunity to accept the Gospel only if we told them about it
- rest in the fact that we cannot save anyone, salvation is a work of God and He will do His job, no need to worry
- think deeply about the way Scripture relates to Scripture and the way God has rationally and logically ordained this world for our good and His glory.
So today, work like a Arminian and think like a Molinist, then tonight sleep like a Calvinist. You’ll need the rest if you’ve been doing the first two.