Saturday, August 05, 2006

Why Calvinism and Arminianism aren't the only options

Hardline Calvinists and Arminians both seem firmly convinced there are only two views on the subject of the cause of our redemption, and that between them they represent the whole of the theological spectrum. They base this on whether Calvinism and Arminianism are the only two answers to a particular question.

But consider another question that only has two answers: "Have you stopped beating your wife?" It is a classic example of a trick question. As asked, it only has two answers: yes or no. But in a typical case, both answers leave a wrong impression. "Yes" implies that the man used to beat his wife but then stopped; "no" implies that the man is still beating his wife. As the question is asked, there are only two allowed answers; typically both are wrong. In reality there is a third answer: the question itself is based on false premises. Maybe a man never did beat his wife, or is not married. So despite the fact that the question has two answers, there is a third possibility: that the question itself, as asked, is invalid.

Calvinists and Arminians frequently say that they are the only theologies on the block because they are the only answers to a particular question. But that doesn't make the question valid. The question is roughly this: "Whose free and unmediated will saves you?" The choices are "God's free and unmediated will" (Calvinism) or "Man's free and unmediated will" (Arminianism).

Here is what is missing from this picture of salvation: Christ. It's a major omission. Both Calvinism and Arminianism add on Christ at a later stage. And that is where the premise of the question is wrong. It is in Christ that God turns to us in grace. It is in Christ that we encounter God's grace and are changed by it. So it is in Christ that we turn to God and are restored to God's favor and grace. God's choice to show us grace through Christ was a free and unmediated choice. But from there, Christ is the mediator between God and man.

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