Apollos or Paul?

Realizing I’m setting myself to take shots from both sides, I nevertheless have to say, I think the Calvinist/Arminian argument is silly, maybe even harmful. It corresponds to the first century argument Paul quashed in I Corinthians 3. I am of Apollos, some said. I’m of Paul, came the reply. Who cares? Paul cried. He shot down the divisive cliquishness, stating clearly that God causes growth, no matter who plants and who waters.

So I look at today’s “Protestant debates” in much the same light. Who cares if Calvin is strong on predestination. The key is, What does the Bible have to say about predestination? Who cares if Arminius was strong on God’s foreknowledge of man’s choices. The key is, What does the Bible have to say about God’s foreknowledge and man’s choices?

Since it is God who is over all, how much more important is it for us to look at the whole counsel of Scripture and accept what He says, even when some statements seem in contradiction.

Jesus, who is the Great Shepherd and the Spotless Lamb, who is the Door and the Way, the Suffering Servant and the Reigning King seems to have no trouble with contradictions. Why then, must we?

Both Calvinists and Arminians can quote appropriate proof texts from the Bible. Many of them. Why, then, doesn’t it seem plausible God intended it that way? That He not only foreknew man’s choices but predestined the outcome, that salvation is through faith a person must confess and by election—the exercise of God’s will?

There are a few places where the two sides of the coin show themselves together. One is John 3:18.

He who believes [man’s choice] in Him is not judged; he who does not believe [man’s choice] has heen judged already, [predestination] because he has not believed [man’s choice] in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Here’s another one from John 6:44.

No one can come to Me [man’s choice] unless the Father who sent Me draws him [God’s election]

Or this from I Peter 2:8.

“A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word [man’s choice] and to this doom they were also appointed [God’s appointment].

How about this from Matthew 22.

For many are called [with the implication they must answer the call or reject it—see the preceding parable] but few are chosen [God’s sovereign decision]. (v. 14)

Then there’s Romans 8:29-30.

For whom he foreknew, he also predestined … and these whom He predestined, He also called…

I could list out many more, and some better, if I had the time to search through my notes. Of course there are clear verses that seem to support one position, such as Luke 13:33 (for free will):

How often I [Jesus] wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it.

And Romans 9:11-13 (for predestination):

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, … “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Mind you, I know neither side will be convinced by anything I say. Calvin’s system has a way to explain all the verses the Araminians use, and the Araminians have answers to all the verses the Calvinists use. Undoubtedly they both have a way of interpreting the verses that contain both parts of the “free will”/predestination arguments.

But I stand with Paul:

For when one says, “I am of [Calvin]”; and another, “I am of [Arminius],” are you not mere men? What then is [Arminius]? And what is [Calvin]? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one … So then neither … is anything, but God who causes the growth …

6 Comments

  1. Good points, Becky.

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  2. “I stand with Paul.”

    Oh, and therefore against Apollos? I just knew you had an agenda!

    [I kid! I kid!]

    The only thing less fun than watching the Calvinists steal angels from the pin of the Arminians* is watching a good person step in and try to settle those kids down. I hope your bruises heal soon, and who knows, maybe you’ll turn just one of them on to higher pursuits and then it will be worth it.

    *Which, of course, they can’t help but do. After all, Calvinists are predestined to argue with everyone about what amounts to biblical esoterica. God bless them. They are like the well-intentioned but hapless nerd in the movie who drives everyone crazy until the pivotal moment when their seemingly useless skills are the only thing that stands between the heroes and certain doom.

    Yes, I just called Calvinist/Arminians church nerds. I swear, it is an attempt to deflect any vitriol from you, Becky, to me!

    Wow. You do such a much better job at diplomacy.

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  3. Oh, the places I can go with this one. 0=)

    Slight correction, though, Paul — Arminians can be just as vehement, even worse on occasion.

    I’ve drawn the conclusion, though, that both these men erred one way or another. Each side has inherent problems in which they skew the character of God and the position of God and Man in the universe.

    Honestly, my own conclusion is the points on which neither side will argue.

    1. God is not a tyrant.
    2. Man is not the center of the universe.
    3. Man is entirely responsible for his own actions.
    4. God is entirely sovereign.

    Calvinism, once taken to its complete end, leads to the negation of human responsibility and reduces God to a power-monger. Arminianism, however, leads to the negation of God’s will and creates an extremely anthropocentric view of the world.

    Of course, neither side sees themselves as that way. Both also tend to lead to inherent issues on the matter of salvation, evangelism (yes, I used the dirty word), sin, and the nature of evil. Try as they may, the attempts to satisfy said problems tend to be rather weak at best.

    So there you go. I am now less diplomatic. Unless you consider diplomacy successfully offending both sides. Hey, fair’s fair, right, Becky? 0=)

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  4. Sigh. I goofed up my own attempt at humor.

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  5. I heard an illustration once many years ago that I’ve never forgotten. When we enter into heaven, the sign over the entrance will say: “Whosoever will may come.” After we pass through the gate, if we look back, above the entrance we’ll see: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…” (Rom 8:29).

    God’s smarter than me, so I figure he’s got it covered one way or the other. My job is to trust, believe, yield, confess, follow, love, serve…I could go on, but I’d better get busy!!

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  6. Thanks for these comments. XPaul and Kaci, I appreciate you deflecting the ire that might otherwise have come my way. And yes, it would seem the followers of Ariminius are as staunch a those following Calvin

    Rich, I love that little piece of fiction. Lots of truth there, I should think. I especially like the use of Scripture, because that’s exactly what I’m talking about Both sides have great verses to “prove” their point of view.

    I can only conclude, both are true, being as ALL of Scripture is true.

    Becky

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