Within the Southern Baptist Convention there is a great controversy over Calvinism and Arminiamism. I only use these because in the end they are the extreme side of both ends. I know that my little bit will not help the debate, but it will be my two cents nevertheless.
Calvinism is based partly on the teachings of John Calvin, a reformer; born in 1509 and died in 1564. I am not a follower of John Calvin, nor would I call myself a Calvinist, but neither am I an Armenian. Just to get to the nitty gritty of the matter Calvinism teaches the sovereignty of God in salvation, and there is no Biblical problem with that. No one can be saved except the Spirit of God draw an individual to God (John 6:44).
The problem with this belief is when it is carried to the extreme by living as though there is no human responsibility in taking the message of the gospel to the lost of the world. We are commanded by Jesus Himself to “go into all the world…” Many of those who have fallen into this lie will say that this is spoken only to the disciples, or apostles of Jesus and has no merit for today’s believers. I guess the rest of Scripture, then, has no merit for us. That is the only conclusion one can reach with that belief.
The extreme calvinist will tell you too that God only sent Jesus into the world to die for the elect; thus the title of this post. According to Strong’s Concordance “world” is from the word “kosmos, cosmos” which takes in all of creation, the universe, and every thing and everyone upon planet earth. Especially those made in His image and after His likeness, but He does not leave out the rest of His creation. The extreme calvinist will also deny the freewill of man.
Yes God is sovereign in salvation of mankind. No Christian can deny that and believe Scripture; however, one cannot deny that Christ came and died, was buried, and rose again from the grave, that “Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” To deny that is to deny the Scripture as well.
It is my understanding that the extreme of Arminianism is that an individual can of his/her own will decide to be saved. The logical conclusion of that is; if one can on their own merit decide to be saved, in their own time, place and way; then, they could at any time, any place, and any way they choose decide not to be saved as well.
What amazes me about the sovereignty of God is that God saves by His discretion and grace; and that His will is and will be done no matter what we may say or do. The sovereignty of God, and the freewill of man are both taught in Scripture. To deny one or the other is to deny the Word of God. They work together to accomplish the will of God on earth and for His glory.
In the end neither one of these man made soteriologies are going to get anyone to God or heaven;
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
As Baptist we need to agree that the Scriptures are true; and that we do not understand all there is to know about God, His sovereignty, or His salvation by grace. We are called to trust and believe on His Son, His death, burial and resurrection.
Let us get together, and get it together.
-Tim A. Blankenship