- EP 100: How To Stop Teaching False Doctrine (Part Two)
What is Arminianism and why does it matter? A great deal if it unknowingly affects how you preach and teach scripture. We examine this worldview and conclude this two-part series on false doctrine.
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Transcript of Today's Show
Last week I spoke with you about the seriousness God lays upon leaders to make sure they teach and preach sound doctrine or teaching. James the apostle puts it this way in chapter three verse one:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
We who lead will be judged to a higher standard than everyone else because of what and even how we teach. We looked at Calvinism last week and rather than go over what I shared, I would simply ask you to go back if you’ve not listened to that episode yet, or much of what I will share today will not make a whole lot of sense.
If you as a leader are governed by a system of thought in addition to scripture, you run the danger of teaching false doctrine. Why? Because that system of thought will accentuate what it deems important and minimize what it deems insignificant.
Calvinism or reformed theology has some amazing principles to contribute to biblical teaching. It also has weaknesses that can nullify different aspects of our faith.
Today, we turn our attention to Arminianism. First, what is it?
Jacob Arminius studied under John Calvin who espoused the views we now understand as Calvinism. However, he took issue with some of those views and put forward another line of thinking.
Like Calvinism, Arminianism also has its five points designed to contrast with the 5 points of Calvinism often identified with the acronym, Tulip. They are:
- Total Depravity
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Irresistible Grace
- Perseverance of the Saints
Arminianism has it’s contrasting five points. They are:
- Free will
- Conditional Election
- General Atonement
- The Holy Spirit Can Be Resisted
- One Can Fall From Grace
Arminians hold forth the idea that man is not spiritual helpless, but has the free will to choose or reject God. While the lost sinner needs God’s grace to repent, man can choose using his free will.
Man can resist the Holy Spirit and his will plays a key role in accepting or rejecting the grace of God. Therefore, Arminianism holds that it is possible to lose one’s salvation.
Rather than get into all the particulars of Arminianism contrasts with Calvinism, I have a link at ministerstoolbox.com in the show notes written by someone who took the time to make comparisons on each of the points.
If you are a doctrine geek, the link will help you greatly.
Arminianism forms the doctrinal foundation of Methodists, Pentecostals, Nazarene, Catholics and American Baptist to name a few. As mentioned last week, most people really have never thought where their particular theology originated. They have been taught by their leader or via seminary to view scripture through a Calvinistic or Arminian lens.
Once again, there is nothing inherently evil in either theology until or unless you find yourself rejecting certain beliefs because they do not fit either discipline.
I became born again through a Christian coffeehouse outreach during a revival sweeping the nation called the Jesus movement during the last century. Thousands of young people left drugs, immorality, and rebellion to give their hearts to Christ during this amazing move of God.
The church I first encountered the born-again message was attached to one of these coffeehouses and was known as a Pentecostal church. Because I was raised in a Catholic home and both denominations are based in Arminianism, I experienced scripture through this particular worldview.
In my first few years of living the Christian faith, I went through a lot of personal struggles. Due to the Hell-fire and brimstone preaching of people like David Wilkerson and Leonard Ravenhill, I found constant insecurity about my relationship with God.
Sin, as with all people, was a daily struggle, but making it worse was this fear that I might die in sin and therefore go to hell instead of heaven. This dread weighed heavily on me, bolstered by the Arminian worldview that one can lose their salvation.
As it happened, I attended a conference in Florida with some members of our church when a Baptist scientist got up to speak and said something that really set me free. He said, “Many Christians are no sooner saved from sin then they spend the rest of their time figuring out how they might get unsaved.”
His statement was funny but painfully true and literally set me free from bondage. Unknowingly, the Holy Spirit set me free from the bondage of a doctrine I knew nothing about.
As I grew in faith, I started reading the life and writings of great Calvinists like Jonathan Edwards and started listening and reading people from both camps.
I discovered that a great deal of the Calvinist worldview made biblical sense to me. God’s sovereignty and grace were two aspects sorely missing from my Arminian worldview. I knew the words but had no idea what they meant.
As I said last week, a hyper Calvinist has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to the present day ministry of the Holy Spirit, but much of the teaching regarding salvation, redemption and even predestination resonated with me.
Arminianism tends to embrace the present-day ministry of the Holy Spirit described in I Corinthians chapters 12-14, Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11 &12. That does not mean that the application of these truths is necessarily accurate.
I can tell you from years of experience that there are far more people of the Arminian persuasion who remain absolutely clueless regarding the activity of the Holy Spirit. Yet, they see themselves as knowledgeable and embracing of the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, because of a much more open approach to the Holy Spirit, worship is more vibrant and the expectancy level for God to move is profound. I also found within Arminianism there is generally more attention given to trying to live a pure life morally.
On the other hand again, I also found a danger within the Arminian worldview is this idea that God is beholden to specific formulas. If life does not work out as expected, then somehow the person didn’t do the formula right. This approach causes much unnecessary confusion and sometimes chaos.
I found some beliefs within the Arminian community reek of pride. In fact, both disciplines when practiced to the extreme yield pride which is certainly the opposite character of what Christ exemplifies.
Extreme Calvinists were proud of their education and intelligence. Arminians were proud of their special and exclusive relationship with God and a better understanding of the Holy Spirit.
Truthfully, both seemed to be legends in their own minds.
As I read scripture, I learned like you did that Holy Spirit is the real teacher according to I John. That means he is not bound by either discipline. Frankly, one can conclusively prove that the other discipline is unscriptural and that concerns me.
The Bible is not a weapon against each other but a weapon against darkness. Darkness is not defined by adherence to Calvinism or Arminianism but by straying from the teaching of Christ and his word.
Paul instructed Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth. Peter tells us to let scripture define itself by measuring each verse against others to arrive at the truth.
When we follow this path, you will find that both Calvinism and Arminianism are both right and both wrong. In fact, God has created a tension in scripture so that both can be right simultaneously which intellectually drives everyone nuts.
There is a divine tension in scripture that validates predestination and free will at the same time. Westerners particularly struggle with this because we want scripture rationally explained to fit into our enlightenment point of view. We want to explain God and be viewed as sensible and reasonable, but that is just not the gospel.
One historical fact that ought to catch our attention is related to the Great Awakening in the mid-1700’s. Here in the United States, the Holy Spirit caused a spiritual awakening from 1740-1742 that massively influenced the direction of our country in ways it would take too long to fully explore.
This awakening by the Holy Spirit was led by Jonathan Edwards, a man who was more Calvinistic than John Calvin himself.
At the same time, across the Atlantic, another massive revival took place over a longer period of time that revolutionized Europe. Thousands came to Christ principally through the ministry of John and Charles Wesley who gave birth the Methodist movement.
Here s the twist. Edwards was a Calvinist. Wesley and Arminian. Yet God did incredible things through both. Evidently, He was not conflicted by their theological differences.
These two points of view are not as central as westerners would like to think. In other parts of the world, God moves in amazing ways irrespective of these worldviews.
God is not a mind. He is a Spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth Jesus said in John 4:24. The moment we think we have God figured out doctrinally, we become deceived.
Paul himself reiterates that the ways of God are past finding out in Romans 11:33. That is annoying to us in leadership because we want to be recognized as leaders who are wise and in control, but in truth, we are not.
Through the years, many outside the church ask me to define myself denominationally. This has always been a challenge for me.
I am not a Baptist, though I believe in adult water baptism.
I am not Pentecostal, though I believe in the present-day ministry of the Holy Spirit and all of His gifts.
I am not Methodist, though I believe in personal sanctification.
I am not Catholic, though I believe in the virgin birth and the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
In some ways, I feel like I relate to most denominations in one form or another on an evangelical level, but if I had to define myself, I would call myself a Babticostal. Yes, I know that is not a denomination, and that might be the point.
A friend of mine once asked me what I thought about Calvinism. I replied I believe in most of it, as long as I don’t understand it. I wasn’t trying to be snarky…well actually a little bit, but my point was that we don’t have to understand everything in scripture to fully embrace its truth. I refer to that as faith.
To conclude, both these theologies have something to offer but don’t allow them to shape how you view the church or the world. If you do, you will ultimately be choosing to teach false doctrine and not serve those God has entrusted to you. Arguing the merits of one over the other has been going on for centuries and is a foolish waste of time that Satan enjoys.
As long as we divide ourselves along these theological lines, the kingdom of God suffers.
Well, time’s up once again. I mentioned earlier that I would offer a link for those who want to examine the contrasts between these two philosophies on our show notes page at ministerstoolbox.com.
I also want to reiterate that we recently created a new page that has all the free downloads of our first hundred podcasts. Just go to ministerstoolbox.com/downloads and you can access them anytime you wish.
Thank you once again for listening. As always, I end each show with a quote especially for you. This one is from the famous missionary Jim Elliot who was martyred for his faith. He said:
“…be careful how you tie down the Word to fit your set and final creeds, systems, dogmas, and organized theistic philosophies! The Word of God is not bound! It's free to say what it will to the individual, and no one can outline it into dispensations which cannot be broken.”
- 2018-01-10 13:57:26 UTC