Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Question of Unity

Recently, Mark Dever at Together for the Gospel, raised the issue of Calvinist and Arminians Together. He stated, "The real front line is not between Calvinist evangelicals and Arminian evangelicals. It is between those who are lost in their sins and those who have been saved by God's sheer grace in Christ." I can find some agreement with Mark on this point. However, it has caused me to ponder a couple of questions. Perhaps you can help me with the answers.

"Do I find more common ground and unity with an Evangelical Calvinist who allows for the ordination of women or with an Evangelical Arminian who does not? Can we be together with Complementarian Arminian Christians but not with Egalitarian Reformed Christians?"

Whew! Perhaps we just have too many labels to begin with.


Mattie said...

Thanks for the link...very insightful blog. I grew up in the Arminian camp, but have found myself with TULIP leanings as I've studied the Bible more in recent years.

I have seen many, many divisions between the two "camps." It's good to see a brother writing about the Truth that we both have in common, the Gospel Itself. While the differences between the two are great, the Truth at our core is Greater.

wwdunc said...


It seems to me that it depends on the level of involvement. Does the involvement require a compromise of convictions or a stifling of one's freedom to express one's views?

For example, just the other year I was filling in as the organist for a church that was celebrating their anniversary (I was their musician 25 years ago). The preacher for that afternoon's service was a female clergyperson. In my role, I was not required to endorse female ordination or compromise (or even state) my views. I was just there to play the organ!

Another situation: A couple months ago, I was one of the men's retreat speakers for a local church (where my family and I used to be members in my pre-"fully Reformed" days) that is, basically, Arminian in its theological orientation (although, I doubt any, besides the pastor, would know what "Arminian" meant). This church's denomination has long ordained women and now has female bishops (women hadn't yet made it to the bishopric when I was there).

This was my second year in a row speaking at this men's retreat. I had no problem participating for the following reasons:

1) The need of the people to hear and receive the teaching of the word of God.

2) My topic was not women in ministry or Calvinism vs Arminianism. It would be picking a fight to deliberately go "there", and would have contributed nothing to my topic.

3) The pastor and (as far as I know) the vast majority of the participants accept the Bible as the authoritative word of God.

4) I was not required to compromise my convictions.

5) Although this is no longer my church home, I still know these people and they still hold a place in my affections and concern.

Basically, the more intimate the fellowship, the sharper the divisions need to be. Sort of like the relationship we have with women who are our friends (let's say, at work) versus the relationship we have with our wives.


ajcarter said...

Good points, Wyeth. I wonder how Dever would respond. I wonder how he would add clarification to the depth and nature of his proposed "togetherness."

GUNNY said...

Sooo many of these binaries intersect and there are varying levels of unity/comfort.

For example, I may feel more at home with a bunch of Reformed folks who baptize infants (e.g., Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican) than I might with those who don't, but are anti-nomian or Arminian or seeker-driven, etc.

I would also feel more at home with those of different ethnicities who share my "core" theological beliefs, than with those of my tribe who do not.

What about "together" for a cause? For example, could/should we have "unity" with the Roman Catholics and/or Mormons when it comes to organizing a pro-life rally together?

These are tough questions that are often thorny and require each one to prioritize competing values.

Thanks for your post.

Ken Davis said...

I can fellowship in a group of Arminians (and often do, given that in my part of Toronto there are very few Calvinists) and we can raise the issue of the sovereignty of God in salvation and discuss it amicably and leave as close friends. To raise women's issues gives me more pause and I think it would give rise to harsher debate regardless of the soteriology of the gathering. Am I right in that assessment? I don't know but given that those are my feelings I guess I would say I am more comfortable in a group of Arminian complemntarians. It is an interesting thing to say when we consider that the soteriological question receives the greater weight in Scripture.

ajcarter said...

You have raised just the point.

"It is an interesting thing to say when we consider that the soteriological question receives the greater weight in Scripture."

This is precisely what I am thinking and wrestling with. Thanks for your input. Might we all make such honest and thoughtful evaluations.