Are you sick and tired of arguing?
Maybe it’s been the advent of social media, but I’ve come to the point where I’ve realized that arguing is fruitless. While it may be temporarily fun to “put someone in their place” or to feel like you’ve gotten the upper hand on somebody, ultimately arguing produces little to no results other than pride in the hearts of the participants.
It is also important to note that there are many people who hate Calvinism. They believe (mistakenly so) that the God of Calvinism is hateful and unfair. For many, hearing the word Calvinism produces a violent internal reaction like one would have after observing a dirty diaper. Perhaps because of misunderstanding or even lack of familiarity with the Bible, they revolt upon hearing this word.
That’s why I’ve adopted a new strategy when approached about the topic, and one that you might find helpful as well.
Many years ago, a preacher I know was part of an Arminian church. In one of the Sunday school classes, his teacher asked for prayer requests. One of the prayer requests was for the salvation of a family member. This Sunday school teacher was famous for his diatribes against Calvinism, and a member of the class asked, “Sir if God is not involved in saving people, why do you take prayer requests for people’s salvation?” The man thought about it for a few seconds and said, “You’re right, we are no longer going to pray for anything like this anymore.”
This startled the people in the class and rightfully so, Christians have been praying to God to save souls throughout church history. Although, on the one hand, you have to appreciate this man’s consistency, on the other his position really limits the type of fellowship we could have together. I think this story helped me get right to the heart of the discussion. Is God involved in the saving of souls or not?
As pastors, we are called to shepherd souls very carefully. We are called to preach the Word, to be ready in season and out of season, but Paul reminds us to do so with great patience (2 Tim.4:2). Sometimes, it takes years to undo teachings that people received during their time in false religions. Sometimes, it takes years to undo teaching that people received during their time in churches that didn’t preach the Bible consistently.
I think that when it comes to this discussion a helpful question for people is, “Do you pray for people’s salvation? Do you spend time asking God to save souls?”
I’ve found that this single question gets to the heart of this discussion like no other. Either God is not involved at all, and therefore we shouldn’t ask Him to save anyone, or He is the elector who chooses people and transforms their hearts.
I mean, prayer for the salvation of souls is a common practice in Scripture. Paul consistently prayed for evangelism.
In Colossians 4:3-4 he prays for open doors.
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
In Romans 10:1, he prays for the salvation of the Israelites.
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they are zealous for God, but not on the basis of knowledge.
In Philemon 1:6, he prays that Philemon’s evangelism would be effective.
And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.
Even Jesus, Himself commands us to pray for Gospel workers in Matthew 9:38.
Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Paul and others in the Bible are constantly thanking and crediting God with the salvation of souls. They do so in 1 Cor. 15:57, 2 Cor. 9:15, James 1:17-18, Psalm 95:1-3, and Eph. 1:15-16 just to name a few.
Instead of arguing about Calvinism versus Arminianism, perhaps it’d be best to start from a point of agreement and then slowly progress from there. Agree that we should pray for the salvation of souls, and then spend time in prayer with that person that God would do just that in the lives of each other’s loved ones.
You will find that the Sunday school teacher I talked about earlier is an anomaly and that most people, despite their concerns with the word Calvinism, are actually practicing Calvinists at heart, and whether or not they adopt the label, the important thing is that they give God the glory that He deserves.