Question: I’ve been told by a Calvinist that if I’m not a Calvinist, then I’m an Arminian. As a Christian, do I have to be one or the other?
Response: As I mentioned in a previous newsletter, I have a major problem with labels. More often than not, they characterize a person according to the definition imposed upon him by the questioner. They are also very subjective because the person who imposes the label on another rarely knows what the labeled person actually believes. In your situation, rather than clarifying anything, it is terribly misleading.
The dichotomy usually has to do with salvation and whether a believer is eternally secure or not. Calvinists claim to believe in eternal security; “Arminians” are said to believe that a Christian can lose his salvation. Both statements have their problems.
First, “Perseverance of the saints” (the P in T.U.L.I.P.) is hardly an assurance of eternal salvation, as Calvinists claim.
Second, Jacob Arminius himself believed in eternal security. (See Dave Hunt, What Love Is This?, p. 91, footnote 17, from The Works of James Arminius, Vol. 1 and 2)
If someone feels like they need to label me, the only label I would go along with is a “biblical Christian.” At least with that label there is an objective basis for determining the Scriptural basis for what I claim to believe rather than being entangled with the doctrines and definitions that men make up.
To demonstrate how ridiculously complex man’s labels can become, consider someone whom I might label as a Calvinist. Would that label really represent the person’s actual beliefs? It’s hard to say. Is he a hyper-Calvinist? Is he a 27-point Calvinist? A 5-point or a 4-point, a 3-point, 2-point, or a 1-point Calvinist? Does he believe in limited atonement or particular redemption? Is he a supralapsarian (also referred to as an antelapsarian) or an infralapsarian (also referred to as a sublapsarian)? Is he an amillennial Calvinist, a postmillennial Calvinist, or a premillennial Calvinist? Is he a Christian Reconstructionist or a Theonomist Calvinist? Is he a neo-Calvinist or a neocalvinist (Kuyperian Calvinist)? Is he a preterist or partial preterist Calvinist? Is he a Calvinist cessationist or a Calvinist continuationist? Is he a providentialist Calvinist? Those are just a few of the categories to which some Calvinists subscribe.