Why I Am Not A Calvinist (Tim Pierce)

Dr. Tim Pierce is doing a series on why he left Calvinism at his blog Inadequate in Myself.  He seems to considers himself a non-Calvinist rather than an Arminian (the reasons for which have not yet been made clear in the series, though he has mentioned having problems with theological “systems” in general).  His series is ongoing, but it is worth a read.  He seems to be taking his time in order to be as clear as possible concerning the various reasons why he came to believe that Calvinism did not represent a purely Biblical theology.  Here is an excerpt from Part 3:

A big part of my journey out of Calvinism was a journey of discovery of its basis and the way the system didn’t deal with the greater picture of God’s relationship to man. It was also a discovery of how Calvinism had become in many ways its own sort of idol for me – the irony being that at the very moment I was speaking words about the “greatness of God” I was actually enthralled by the greatness of my own intellect. John Newton (A Calvinist) put it well when he wrote:

“And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self- righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.”*****

The difference between me and Newton is that I see this as almost an inherent part of the system of Calvinism, because I believe that systems themselves have inherent dangers, and when placed together with some of the content of Calvinism, such is almost unavoidable. In the weeks ahead I hope to outline more specifically where I believe the system of Calvinism has eclipsed some of the content of Scripture as it pertains to Grace and in so doing, stepped into an untenable position biblically speaking.

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10 Responses

  1. “He seems to considers himself a non-Calvinist rather than an Arminian (the reasons for which have not yet been made clear in the series, though he has mentioned having problems with theological “systems” in general). “

    Maybe because he is NOT an Arminian.
    I have not yet read his articles but I can understand why he would have problems with theological systems. While I recognise that the doctrines of Arminianism are much closer to the truth than those of Calvinism, there is still a clear devotion to the teachings of A man. A MAN is to an extent being glorified every time someone confesses to being Arminian or Calvinist. Why not stick to being and confessing to being disciples of JESUS. Let us ALL follow Him instead of Arminius, Calvin and what other dead teachers that are constantly lauded within the labels we use.

  2. onesimus,

    I understand the issue you have with labels and not wanting to be too closely associated with a man other than Christ. However, it is not as big of a deal to me as it seems to be for you. For me it is just an easy referent for my beliefs so that people generally know where I am coming from theologically. Yeah, I could just say I am a Christian (and in most contexts that is all I would ever do), but that doesn’t tell people much as far has how you interpret the Bible. There are Christians who interpret the Bible in a variety of ways. Saying I am an Arminian gives people a quick referent to the basic way that I interpret Scripture, especially with regards to soteriology (God’s love for the world, desire to save all, conditional election, resistible grace, etc.).

    I don’t agree with all that Arminius taught. I think he was wrong about some things, so it is not like I am fully committed to the theology of a man and am putting him above Scripture or God. I am first and foremost a follower of Jesus Christ and the word of God is the final authority in my life. But I also interpret the Bible in essentially the same way as Arminius did (with respects to those aspects mentioned above), and since his name has become associated with that basic interpretation, I don’t mind calling myself an Arminian. It doesn’t mean I am a follower of Arminius. It just means that my interpretation of Scripture largely matches what has come to be known as Arminianism.

    I could call myself a non-Calvinist (and surely I am), but that would leave far too many questions unanswered as to my theological perspective, whereas saying I am an Arminian narrows things down much more. Like I said, it is just not that big a deal to me. I think that when most people hear someone say “I’m and Arminian” or “I’m a Calvinist” they understand that all that is meant is that the person largely agrees with a certain theological perspective. It does not mean that they are a follower of a man or put a man’s teachings above the teachings of Christ, or that they do not see God’s word as the final authority. It doesn’t mean that a person can’t put the teachings of a man (any man) above those of Christ, but it isn’t usually the case when people accept certain labels. It is just an easy and identifiable referent to a certain theological perspective based on a certain interpretation of Scripture. If someone has a problem with accepting labels, fine. If someone does not have a problem with it, fine too. It’s not a big deal to me either way.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  3. Onesimus,

    I strongly disagree with the thrust of your comments. Hopefully this will help to dispel a mistaken notion that you have, and I think a number of people have, that Arminians are devoted to Arminius and his teachings (or even that Calvinists are necessarily devoted to Calvin and his teachings). “Calvinism” and “Arminianism” have become theological terms to denote certain collections of beliefs. If you believe the collection of beliefs that make up Calvinism, then you are a Calvinist. If you believe the collection of beliefs that make up Arminianism, then you are an Arminian, whether you admit it or not (sort of like a person who says he is not a person, but a humanoid or perhaps just refuses to be classified. He is a person just the same because he has the essential quaslities of a person.) Neither Calvinism nor Arminainism has devotion to the man that the systems were named for as part of the system. Most Arminians disagree with Arminius on any number of issues. Now undoubtedly there are Arminians who are devoted to Arminius. But that doesn’t make them Arminian. What makes someone Arminian is simply believing certain points of doctrine that Arminius happened to teach as bibilical. The theological world could have come up with any number of names for such a collection of beliefs. Theologians could have called it “sileghdoi-ism” and adherents of what we now call Arminain beliefs “sileghdoi-ans”. But it would not change the fact that that is what such people believe. And refusing the label just because theologians decided to use a prominent theologian’s name who taught such beliefs, seems confusing and unhelpful. That is simply a common practice in theology, designating a position by a prominent theologian who either taught such beliefs or has been alleged to have taught such beliefs. Sometimes, the theologian a system is named after did not even teach everything in the system. There is question, for just one example, of whether Pelagius really taught some of the things that have come to be known as Pelagianism. There is question of whether Calvin really taught limited atonement (and I am not denying he did). That doesn’t mean the names of the systems should be changed. The names are just a convenient way of designating a certain body of belief. If one does not agree with the teachings of a system, then fine. One should reject the label. But if one does agree with the teachings that fall under a particularly named system, whether the system was named after a certain theologian or a new word was made up for it, one should not confuse others by rejecting the label. It seems like many people would say, “well, I am not an Arminian.” But then you go down the line with them and they will assesnt to everything that makes someone an Arminian. Such a person is an Arminian, and denying it doesn’t really help anyone. Now, I can appreciate that someone might not want to embrace a label and be known by it because they want to avoid getting into factions or contributing to a divisiveness that can result from theological disagreement among God’s people. But that’s different than denying that one is what a particular label signifies when one is in fact what the label signifies.

    Now none of this is directed at Dr. Pierce. But it is all too common for people who are actually Arminian in their theology to deny being Arminian because of a misunderstanding of what Arminianism actually teaches. It seems that Calvinist misrepresentation is largely responsible for that. That’s one reason that we put together this survey at SEA: http://evangelicalarminians.org/Are_You_an_Arminian_and_Don%27t_Even_Know_It%3F

  4. Ben,

    Thought I would let you know that I have posted a follow up article on my blog to your post last month on regeneration and total depravity. I don’t think I covered any new ground, but I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the questions I ask at the end of the article… That is if you have time to consider this issue again.

    Here is the link:

    http://gritsgrace.blogspot.com/2009/10/total-depravity-and-regeneration.html

    God bless,

  5. Hello Greg,

    Greg I looked at your post and I do not think your questions are good ones, allow me to explain why. First of all, on Romans 7 which is a highly disputed passage (i.e. different good commentators take different positions on who is being described there: is it Paul pre-regeneration, post regeneration, representing the Jewish person under the law apart from the Spirit etc. Etc.) is ASSUMED by you to be speaking of a regenerate person: “I think it important to this discussion that we note that this was the Apostle Paul speaking about himself after regeneration (new birth).” If this is wrong then already your questions are off base. Second, the questions themselves are asking questions that scripture does not answer (i.e., scripture does not tell us specifically what effects regeneration has upon us). There are very few verses in the New Testament specifically on regeneration and **none** of them address your questions.

    So you are literally asking questions that the scripture is neither asking nor addressing.

    This leads to speculation, but all that it is, is speculation.

    Third, if depravity is defined as sin being universal and having universal effects on all of creation and upon every aspect of mankind, then any bible believing person will assent to that. That truth does not go in favor of either calvinism nor Arminianism (and is held by both).

    So your questions:

    “And this leads into the following questions that are at the heart of this post.

    1) What effect, both practical and theological, does regeneration (new birth) have upon the corruption of the fallen, now regenerated, man?

    2) Does regeneration completely negate the corruption of the fall in the regenerated man? (yes/no)

    3) Does regeneration partly negate the corruption of the fall in the regenerated man? (yes/no)

    4) Does regeneration negate none of the corruption of the fall in the regenerated man? (yes/no)”

    Cannot be answered with a simply Yes/no as we do not have any scripture telling us to what degree, or what extent, or what amount, regeneration takes away “the corruption of the fall”.

    We know biblically that the fall led to universal separation (i.e. spiritual death) for all men born after Adam/Eve (except for Jesus during his incarnation) and decay of the entire creation (see Romans 8). We know that at this time believers who are regenerated received the Spirit and can now produce the fruit of the Spirit, but that believers still sin. We know our bodies will die and must someday be transformed to be suitable for eternity (cf. 1 Cor. 15). We know that in the New Heavens and New Earth there will be no more corruption, no more sin, the effects of sin will have been eliminated. But we live in the “in between time” between the coming of Jesus and the giving of the Spirit (cf. Acts 2) and the final state where there is no longer any corruption due to sin. We seek to grow in the knowledge and likeness of Christ during this period but again we are not given any promises that the corruption of sin will be completely eliminated during this time.

    Again I don’t think your questions are good in light of these things, but if forced to choose one, I would choose Yes to (3). The corruption of the fall is partly negated. This reminds me of Martin Luther’s apt phrase “simul justus et piccare” (simultaneously just and a sinner). That really is our state now, we are a “mixed bag” being both justified before God and yet still sinning.

    Robert

  6. Greg,

    I went to your post and left three comments. Now, when I click on the link, there are no comments. Is this a problem with my computer or did you do something with my comments?

  7. Greg,

    Nevermind. I just tried again and this time it worked for some reason.

  8. It is somewhat tedious to have to embrace labels, but it seems necessary for understanding. But here are the simple and unvarnished beliefs of an “Arminian”.

    Jesus died for the sins of the entire world, and every single sinner has a God given free will to choose or reject that redemptive offer. That frames the Great Commission as a passionate mission rather than a perfunctory exercise that has no more eternal purpose than playing baseball “to the glory of God”.

  9. I recently did a post on Calvinism at my blog. After reading Pierce’s blog entries on calvinism, I noticed that we both were attracted to it because, as he put it, “who wouldn’t pursue a doctrinal position that advocates so clearly man’s complete inability and God’s complete sufficiency.”

  10. diglot,

    Where is your blog?

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