John Pedersen writes a deeply passionate plea outlining his concerns and fears during his transition from Arminianism to Reformed theology.
“If Arminianism is so evil, why did many Reformed believers start their Christian lives as Arminians, as Christians who believed in “free will”? I myself was a believer in “free will” Arminianism for years, and it was a long and painful journey for me to finally see the biblical basis for the doctrines of grace.”
“All those years, I read my Bible, prayed, and sought the salvation of my friends and loved ones, just as I do now. My transition to Calvinism was somewhat reluctant, but the inevitable result of Christian maturity, good Reformed books, and the patience and godly example of Reformed believers who did not castigate me for my free will beliefs but encouraged me to see the greater richness and deep biblical truths of Reformed doctrine.”
“I was loved into the Reformed Faith; not condemned into it. People like you, instead of showing compassionate acceptance to those with deficient doctrinal understanding, attack them as enemies of Christ and alienate them, proving that you care more for artificially rigid doctrinal precision than for people.
Answer: A principle of all arguments in defense of the false gospel is that those who defend Arminianism show essential belief in what they defend.
First, because many “Reformed” believers began their Christian lives as believers in the “free will understanding” of salvation as taught by Arminianism, it can not be distinguished from the “Reformed Faith” as something evil, but as a less consistent and immature expression of the faith which is most biblically expressed in Reformed theology.
Second, this view teaches that love and tolerance are the key elements in ministry to those with ” Arminian” assumptions. The idea is that people are more apt to listen to you and even agree with you if you treat them with acceptance and love, affirming them where they are, so to speak.
Third, this view sees those who regard Arminianism and the Reformed faith as two different gospels as fixated on artificially rigid doctrinal hair-splitting which sacrifices the lives of people on the altar of being right, or values winning an argument about “truth” over showing love.
Each point is a different way of granting legitimacy to Arminianism as a valid expression of the Christian faith, and a different way of saying that “Arminian” believers are true Christians who mean well and are a little confused.
Everything in the argument depends on the sacrosanct position that Arminians are true, biblical Christians, including the person formulating the argument. Challenge and expose that position as false, and the whole argument disappears.
The entire assumption of the false gospel of Arminianism is that of human sovereignty and divine dependence on the will of man for salvation and forgiveness. Otherwise, it would not be Arminianism. Insofar as it can be distinguished as Arminianism, what makes it distinctive is its premise of human sovereignty (“free will”) and inherent human righteousness (“foreseen faith”).
Whereas the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was necessitated out of the fact that salvation could not be gained by human work or righteousness (Isaiah 59:15-20; Galatians 2:21; Titus 3:5), Arminianism actually grounds salvation ultimately in the work of man, asserting that God’s actions toward men are indiscriminate and that the difference between those who belong to God and those who do not is not found in God, who treats all men the same and desires equally that all men should come to him, but is found in man, and his sovereign free will.
In the face of the biblical statements about the horrible judgment that fell on Christ and the purpose of this work on the cross to secure the salvation of his elect people, such an assertion is consummate perversion, and gross evil.
By expressing the conviction that “free will Arminianism” and the “Reformed Faith” are two versions of the same thing, distinguished as a more or less biblically consistent rendition of the same belief, the transition from Arminianism to
Calvinism is seen by this argument as a transition from one seat to another on the same bus.
For the person making the transition this way, it is indeed a change from one seat to another on the same bus. The seat may read “the Reformed Faith”, but the issue is not the seat at all, but the bus. If you sit in the ” Reformed Faith” seat on an Arminian bus, you are just riding more comfortably in the same direction, and upheld by the same superstructure, and powered by the same engine, as all the “Free will” seats.
I say this to such a person: No wonder you get along with all the other “free will” passengers so well. You are one of them. You may have a form of godliness, but you deny the power of godliness (II Timothy 3:5).
This leads to the final point. If the “Arminian” bus is headed for a fatal precipice, and I can see it as one who is “Reformed”, am I showing love to the people on the bus by smiling and waving them along? Or should I not warn them of their grave danger, insisting that they continue only at the peril of their souls? If they do not agree with me that their course is indeed a perilous one, how could they do other than see my earnest warnings as condemning, harsh, and un-loving?
They may be headed for a picnic on their nice bus, and I want to spoil their picnic. I can see how if I came on their bus to warn them with the urgency warranted by their peril and they did not believe me, they would want to throw me off the bus as a disruptive, crazy, kook who is trying to sow discord among the passengers on the bus and create unnecessary speculation as to their destination.
I am compelled to warn those under the evil spell of the Arminian lie of their grave danger. This is the only loving thing to do for the sake of the elect who need to be rescued from the darkness of religious wickedness, and it is the only thing I can do for the sake of God and his purposes in hardening those who refuse to accept the warning.