Yesterday I posted summaries of the “five points” of both Arminianism and Calvinism. Today I want to demonstrate how these differences, while substantial and important, are not essential. In other words, Calvinists and Arminians are on the same team! We can work and worship together, because we agree that:
- Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone
- God is Triune, and sovereign over all things, including salvation
- The Bible is inerrant and authoritative
The list could go on. But many within the Southern Baptist Convention (the current flashpoint for a centuries-old debate) and elsewhere would benefit from a little historical context of cooperation. I submit to you now two examples of admirable cooperation. The first is Charles Simeon’s account of a conversation he had with John Wesley more than 250 years ago (recounted in J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God):
Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?
Yes, I do indeed.
And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?
Yes, solely through Christ.
But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?
No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.
Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?
What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?
And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?
Yes, I have no hope but in Him.
Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree.
The second goes straight to the source. Writing of John Calvin’s Commentaries on the Bible, Jacobus (James) Arminius himself said the following:
“After the reading of Scripture, which I strenuously inculcate, and more than any other … I recommend that the Commentaries of Calvin be read … For I affirm that in the interpretation of the Scriptures Calvin is incomparable, and that his Commentaries are more to be valued than anything that is handed down to us in the writings of the Fathers — so much that I concede to him a certain spirit of prophecy in which he stands distinguished above others, above most, indeed, above all.”
I’ll be the last one to say that our doctrinal differences aren’t important, or aren’t worth debating. But surely we can all play nice, right? Let’s save our daggers for the Enemy.