Received this question from a good Christian brother and friend –
So we should be a “Calminian” 😊!
Sorry, not trying to be flippant Bro Kam Weng. If we cannot fully understand it due to our finite minds trying to grapple with a divine mystery, I think it is ok agree to disagree and not let it divide us and certainly it should not be one side saying to the other “the gospel you preach is defective”.
Response: I fully agree with you that we must always bear in mind our limitations in the face of divine mystery. Humility is in order. Spurgeon notes that some Arminians display holiness that ought to put to shame Calvinists who turn out to be spiritually cold & legalistic. More importantly, both Calvinists & Arminians who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be heaven & their rewards will be based on far more wider considerations than just doctrinal precision.
On the other hand, humility does not mean we refrain from offering clear doctrinal teaching and theological critique for fear of being regarded as judgmental, proud & obsessed with imaginary heresy. Truth must be holistic, systematic and consistent. As teachers of the Word, we must firmly & respectfully stress that there are right and wrong doctrines, especially the primary doctrines affirmed by historic creeds. If we simply accommodate doctrines all and sundry and without due diligence, we end up tolerating not only secondary doctrines (which may be matters of indifference), but unwittingly accepting heresy (those teachings which violate primary doctrines & eventually undermine the infallible authority of God’s Word). Did Paul not write, “And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8).
It wouldn’t be right for anyone to go around to telling people, “The gospel you preach is defective.” Their criterion of theological judgment is probably narrowly applied and shared in a spirit that is insensitive & proud, and fail to appreciate how as preachers (both Calvinist & Arminian), we are all trying our best to keep our focus on Jesus Christ & the cross. Furthermore, not every Christian needs to be burdened or embroiled with the Calvinist-Arminian debate. Let’s not disturb most of our congregation whose simple love for Jesus often puts off to shame.
Please note that my posts are directed at bible teachers & church leaders and shared in the spirit of collegiality & mutual accountability, as our calling requires us to be conscientious & diligent in examining doctrine.
[John Calvin wrote, “The pastor ought to have two voices; one, for gathering the sheep; and another, for driving away wolves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both; for he who is deeply skilled in it will be able to govern those who are teachable, and to refute the enemies of the truth” Commentary on Tit.1: 9]
Superficially, we may pick & choose whatever parts of Calvinism or Arminianism we please. But if we study both theological systems carefully, we have to conclude that there are fundamental differences in their soteriologies. Mixing them at our convenience can only result in confusion & contradiction. Spurgeon therefore criticizes the suggestion that we offer sermons that are “three grains of Calvinism and two grains of Arminianism” (Calminian?).
Spurgeon proceeds to describe the holistic way to attain a proper balance of doctrine and ministry:
6. A steward’s business is to dispense his master’s goods according to their design.
A wise steward will maintain the proportion of truth. He will bring forth things new and old; not always doctrine, not always practice, and not always experience. He will not always preach conflict, nor always victory; not giving a one-sided view of truth, but a sort of stereoscopic view, which shall make truth stand out “evidently set forth” before them. Much of the preparation of spiritual food lies in the correct proportion of the ingredients. One spoke incorrectly of using in his sermons three grains of Calvinism and two of Arminianism [Calminian?]; meaning, as I afterwards learned, that he preached both a full gospel and a free gospel: in that which he intended, I fully agree with him. Let us give a wide range of experience, not forgetting that higher life which consists in increased lowliness of mind. To make full proof of our ministry, will require great discrimination; for a want of balance in preaching has done serious injury to many a church. The line of wisdom is as fine as a razor’s edge, and we shall need Divine wisdom to keep us to it. We are not always to harp upon one string. Our Master’s servants will murmur if we give them nothing but “rabbits hot and rabbits cold.” We must bring forth, out of the Master’s stores, a rich variety of food fit for the building up of spiritual manhood. Excess in one direction, and failure in another, may breed much mischief; let us therefore use weight and measure, and look up for guidance.
Brethren, take care that you use your talents for your Master, and for your Master only. It is disloyalty to our Lord if we wish to be soul-winners in order to be thought to be so. It is unfaithfulness to Jesus if we even preach sound doctrine with the view of being thought sound, or pray earnestly with the desire that we may be known as praying men. It is for us to pursue our Lord’s glory with a single eye, and with our whole heart. We must use our Lord’s gospel, and our Lord’s people, and our Lord’s talents, for our Lord, and for Him alone.
[Charles Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry (Banner of Truth, 1960), pp. 265-266]
May the Lord grant us integrity and balance in doctrine, and humility and love in fellowship our ministry.