The annoyances listed
- Some Calvinists don't understand Arminianism
- Some Calvinists misrepresent Arminianism
- Some Calvinists assume determinism when using reducto absurdum
- Some Calvinists approach situations as extremes
- Many Calvinists redefine words
- Some Calvinists mock the Arminian position
- Some Calvinists believe contradictory statements
- Some Calvinists equate knowledge with causation
- Some Calvinists call faith a work
- Many Calvinists read Scripture thru their theology
1. Some Calvinists don't understand ArminianismBy this I mean that some Calvinists feel free to jump into a discussion, or offer their opinion on distinctiveness between the systems but they only have a grasp on Calvinism. It is clear from what they do write that they do not understand Arminianism at all. Now having an extensive understanding of Arminianism may not be required, but a basic understanding on what Arminians believe is important. And a greater understanding is required when discussing subtle intricacies of the 2 systems.
I myself have studied neither system in great detail. And my attachment to Arminianism is only because I think it best represents my biblical view. But I know what I believe, and some of what Calvinism claims (for itself), and some of what Arminianism claims.
2. Some Calvinists misrepresent ArminianismThis is related to item #1. By understanding Arminianism I mean what Arminians claim to believe, not what non-Arminians say Arminians believe. If you misconstrue my system then prove the misconstrued system incorrect what have you really done? I never held what you say in the first place. Calvinists are not immune to calling non-Calvinism Arminianism. But non-Calvinism is anything not Calvinist and covers a multitude of beliefs. Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Universalism, and Open Theism are all non-Calvinist, but they are also non-Arminian.
If you wish to claim that Arminianism is logically incoherent and leads to Open Theism (or Universalism, or whatever) then do so, and show how, but don't say that Arminianism teaches Open Theism, it does not.
3. Some Calvinists assume determinism when using reductio ad absurdumA valid way of demolishing an argument is to assume its premises and show the consequences are nonsensical. The Calvinist can assume the Arminian position for the sake of the argument and show how following these ideas lead to contradiction, or absurdity, or anti-biblical ideas. Frequently what one finds when Calvinists do this is that unstated premises form part of the argument, usually an assumption of determinism. I suspect this is because they find it hard to think in a non-determinist way such is their usual mode of thinking. But determinism is not an Arminian position and has no place in arguments for Arminianism, stated or unstated.
4. Some Calvinists approach situations as extremesI see this with regard to the Calvinist approach to sovereignty and freewill. I read statements along the lines of: if God does not control every molecule in the universe at all times then he is not in control at all. Or: if men have any freedom to choose how they act, then they can choose anything at all including flying.
Let it be clear that Arminians think that God is in control of the universe, just not in the exhaustive deterministic manner that some Calvinists claim; and that men have some freedom in their thoughts and actions, but not complete freedom to think or do anything.
5. Many Calvinists redefine wordsWords like "sovereignty" and "choose" and perseverance" seem to take on meanings dislocated from their usual sense. If English translates Hebrew or Greek words suboptimally then say so, and identify better translations. But words in English have meanings. Use them.
6. Some Calvinists mock the Arminian positionThis is unacceptable. The only potential justification for mockery is when used on mockers, specifically those who mock God. Arminianism in terms of its foundational views has a long tradition. While both Arminians and Calvinists claim their view is the biblical one, extra-biblical support is strong for Arminian-like views and a good case can be made for it antedating Calvinist-like views.
If you think Arminianism is wrong, dangerous, or heretical then say so. And a little humour is acceptable. But mockery is not an appropriate expression toward fellow God-fearers.
7. Some Calvinists believe contradictory statementsGranted, there are subtleties in this debate. And perhaps there are aspects that men struggle to comprehend. But logical contradictions are contradictions. That means that we need to examine our arguments closely, are there subtle errors in the argument, or do our premises need minor tweaking. But calling a logical contradiction a mystery does not cut the mustard. Our reasoning ability may be incomplete, but incompleteness does not equate to error. And mystery in the New Testament does not refer to this type of contradictory logic.
8. Some Calvinists equate knowledge with causationThere does not seem to be any reason to think that knowledge of a future action, whether likely or certain, implies causation of such action. This is really not that complicated. Arminianism claims God has such knowledge, but it does not equate that with causation. Of course God can cause things, but future knowledge does not necessarily imply cause.
If the Calvinist wishes to argue that the only way that God could know the future for certain is if he caused every action, then say so. But this is saying that God both knows and directly causes the future. But to argue knowledge is causation is nonsense. Consider the many things people know that will happen in the future that they do not cause.
9. Some Calvinists call faith a workThis is frustrating. Faith and works can have a variety of meanings. Paul and James may talk about them in slightly different ways. But nowhere in the Bible are thoughts, desires, and choices described as works. Works are actions we do. If a person, or an angel, or God offers us something and we accept it, this is not a work. If a Calvinist defines choosing to accept God's offer of salvation a work, thus works based salvation, then I plead guilty.
10. Many Calvinists read Scripture thru their theologyThis is to be partly expected. We all do this to a degree with our preconceptions. Though hopefully over time Scripture will transform our thinking to a more biblical perspective. Scripture is supposed to modify our thinking. But if you transform Scriptural passages into Calvinist theology then what you are reading is less likely to challenge your thinking. Read what it says. Deal with the tension. Examine the context. Both Arminians and Calvinists need to do this. But there are times when Calvinists refer to passages and their interpretation seems disconnected with the words on the page; at times even contradictory.
DiscussionThese are all issues I have come across. There may be others I have not remembered to include, and other people may think of more.
It needs to be clear that I do not think that this post disproves Calvinist theology in any way. Further, while it is a complaint against how some Calvinists argue, it need not be seen as a complaint against Calvinists in general. I would not wish to argue as an Arminian in the ways I have identified above, nor would I wish other Arminians to do so. As such it is possible for a Calvinist to agree with much of this post. If I happen to be incorrect about Arminianism, arguments by Calvinists along these lines are not likely to persuade me otherwise.
Discussions may get heated at times but Christians should desire that fellow Christians come to a greater understanding of the truth.