Enns’ writings this week on atonement and faith and works are thought-provoking to say the least. Has God preordained who will receive salvation eternally or does he just know who will accept salvation for eternal life because he is God? How does this relate to the two subjects identified for comment?
Calvin taught that God is sovereign both knowing and preordaining of all things. (Enns 2008, p477) Arminius taught that God gave us all universal grace and the freedom of the will. (Enns 2008, p476) He knows what we will choose but lets us make that choice. How do these two opposing points of view impact the act of atonement?
Again, the two views get you to the same place on different roads! Calvin taught that the death of Christ was to substitute for our sin, making the death-penalty for sin unnecessary. Arminius taught that atonement was a substitution for the death-penalty not for the sin itself. We all have the death-penalty because of our offense of sin. By eliminating either the sin or the penalty, the result is the same, life in Christ!
Regarding faith and works, there is also a difference of opinion! Calvin aligned with Luther in the idea that justification or salvation is by faith alone. (Enns 2008, p479) “Works have no part in salvation.” (Enns 2008, p479) Calvin saw this justification as a legal step in salvation, of course only occurring in those that God had preordained would receive salvation. Calvin and Luther believed that works are the proof of your justification or salvation. God first elects those who will receive salvation, gives them the ability and desire to have the faith to accept it then allows them to prove it all occurred by their works.
Arminius also taught that justification is by faith alone, but the sinner himself elects to show the faith, receive the salvation and prove its existence by works. Once again, you get to the same place on a different road! At this point in human history, only God knows which point of view is correct. How thankful I am to be on “the list” either by my own free will or by God’s preordained election.
As a lifelong Southern Baptist, I have never heard the Calvinistic point of view taught from the pulpit. It is possible I have not listened closely enough. I believe that my denomination would be more aligned with the Arminian point of view. That is however, a highly debated topic in the Southern Baptist Convention. General research has taught me that between 10-30 percent of Southern Baptists identify themselves as some form of Calvinist. (The Gospel Coalition Website, http://Gospelcoalition.org, accessed 9/10/13) Officially the SBC has no position on the question. (SBC Official Website, http://SBC.net, accessed 9/11/13) Someday we all have a lot to talk about and eternity to get through it all!