As many of you know, my family and I moved to Norman, Oklahoma, a year and a half ago primarily due to my mother’s illness. Previously, we lived in Frisco, Texas, where I was a pastor at Stonebriar Community Church for six years. We all loved the church. We loved the people, the commitment to the preaching of God’s word, and the reverence for certain traditions. Oh, and did I mention grace?! That is why I went there in the first place – grace! Rarely (and sadly) do you find a passionate commitment to the word of God and a attitude of grace. This situation gives forth to energy. Call it the power of God, the movement of the Holy Spirit, or whatever you will according to your tradition, but the church was alive. I wanted to be there every day. I miss it greatly.

Grace and truth. The two most important elements in my hierarchy of looking for a church.

Notice, to the surprise of many, I did not list “perfect theology” as a criteria. I did not even say theology that I am always comfortable with (since there is no perfect theology). At Stonebriar, I had it all. Just about everything Chuck taught, I agreed with. If not, I loved the man so much that I would bend myself to agree with him! (At least for that Sunday.) Of course, Chuck is a pastor more than a professional theologian. But he was committed to sound theology and he is a Calvinist! (a four pointer at least). Oh the depths and riches of reformed preaching! The power, the hope, the pride that can be taken when God’s sovereignty is preached in such a way.

However, today I do not go to a Calvinistic church. In fact, I am at an Arminian church. In fact (again), I am a regular teacher at a church that is both Arminian and Egalitarian. In fact (last time), last week I had to call the pastor that I am under to ask if it was okay for me to teach on “Women in the Church,” a topic in a current series I am on. This church is called Crossings Community Church and it is part of the Church of God, Anderson (not the charismatic Church of God you may be thinking of).

Let me briefly define a few terms before we move on (I will get in trouble if I don’t. If you already know these “big” words, move on. If not, learn them! – its not that hard):

Calvinist: One who believes in the doctrines of grace most traditionally defined by the TULIP acronym. The most controversial of the doctrines are Unconditional Election: the belief that God elects some individuals to salvation and not other based upon his sovereign will; Limited Atonement: the belief that Christ’s death only paid for the sins of the elect; Irresistible Grace: the belief that when God’s saving grace is presented to the elect, it is always effective (i.e. they will not ever reject it); and Perseverance of the Saints: the belief that those who are saved (the elect) will persevere and cannot “lose” their salvation.

Arminian: One who denies all of the Calvinistic doctrines of grace except the first, Total Depravity. The Arminian will opt for a belief in “Conditional” election: the belief that God’s predestination is based on the foreseen faith of the individual; “Resistible” grace: the belief that God’s saving grace can be rejected by anyone; “Unlimited” atonement: the belief that Christ’s death paid for the sins of every individual; and the belief that a truly saved person and fall from or “lose” their salvation.

Complementarianism: Belief in essential equality, but functional hierarchy in the sexes. This hierarchy is by God’s design and is not due to the fall. Man is to be the leader in the church and home. Women are not to be in positions of authority over man in the church or home, but are honored due to their role in the same way as men.

Egalitarianism: Belief in the essential and functional equality of the sexes. All role distinctions which imply leadership belonging to the man is due to the fall, not by God’s design. Therefore, women can serve in positions of authority over man in both the church and the home. Role is assigned by individual giftedness, not gender.

So . . . Why does this Calvinistic Complementarian go to an Arminian Egalitarian church?

There are many reasons, but I want to highlight the three most important and then attempt to help you gain perspective in choosing a church.

1. Crossings teaches the Gospel and focuses on it.

“But, but, but . . . I thought you said they were Arminian . . . Oh, I get it. You really don’t care that much about Calvinism and egalitarianism.” No, this is not the case. I care deeply about the doctrines of grace. A little less so about complementarianism, but don’t mistake this for any sort of apathy. It just demonstrates how much I prioritize my Calvinism. However, there are many things that I prioritize even more than Calvinism . . . much more. These include the centrality of Christ, the proclamation of the Gospel, and the authority of Scripture. But there is one more thing. One more thing that I have come to value more and more over the years . . .

2. Crossings teaches grace and does not divide over non-cardinal issues.

Crossings does not just preach grace, you can feel it when you walk through the doors. I have been to dozens of churches where right as you walk through the doors, it as if a heavy burden has been placed upon your back. Smug looks of suspicion along with demeaning conversation are the most readily expected experience. I am sad to say but this is especially true of many churches in my Calvinistic tradition. All they are concerned with is making you a Calvinist. Sigh . . . I would that all men (and women) were Calvinists like me, but my goal is not necessarily to make them such. But Crossings is not about making you an Arminian, either – obviously since they have me teach! They are gracious in non-cardinal issues, allowing for diversity. They understand that diversity actually teaches more and illustrates God’s grace more than digging your heels in on every doctrinal matter. I love grace so much. When I go there, it does feel as if the burden is removed and you are joining a place with many broken people seeking help together.

Friends, this is the heart of Evangelicalism. Evangelicalism 101.

3. I am needed and used there.

Who am I to obscure the call of God based upon my particular doctrinal favoritism? These are God’s people and I will love God’s people wherever they are. If I can be used in a church that does not line up perfectly with my theology, that is great. Why would I ever turn down an opportunity to teach a group of people just because they don’t already agree with me? That is just plain silly and lacks perspective. Would I rather teach and serve somewhere that the people already would be in agreement with me? Would you? Where is the fun in that?

(Just to make it plain, I always teach in accordance with the umbrella that Crossings provides. I do make it known, when relevant, where I stand on certain issues, but I also go out of my way to help the members understand where Crossings stands and why. I respect them very much in this. But, these issues don’t really come up that much since there is so much that Calvinists and Arminians do agree upon. We just often forget how much.)

Would it be better if they were Calvinists? Would it be better if they were Complementarians? Sure, as long as they kept the grace. But, if I have the choice, I will never trade perfect theology (or nearly so) for grace. Grace is the Gospel. When you lose that, where do you go? Stay in bed.

You will never find the perfect church . . . never! There is no perfect denomination. There is no perfect tradition. There is no perfect church and there never has been. Although Stonebriar was close, it was not that close.

I don’t believe in trying to find a church based upon non-cardinal doctrinal issues. But, unfortunately, many churches don’t share my perspective, which makes it hard for people like me. If you go to a church and they have different convictions about certain issues and all they are doing is trying to convert you, this is a troubling experience. This leaves the Christian with the only option of attempting to find a church that agrees with them on everything. What a detriment to the diversity of the body of Christ. Doctrinal statements are fine. Crossings has one. Stonebriar has one. But when every detail of the doctrinal statement is prioritized to the point where every member has to sign off on everything, this is unfortunate in my opinion.

I go to a church that is full of grace and truth. That is why I go to an Arminian church. If there were a Calvinistic church like Stonebriar that was full of grace and truth (and there are some), I might go there. But right now I feel as if I am where God wants me to be.

However, this is my opinion and I am curious as to your thoughts.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    144 replies to "Why Do I (A Calvinist) Go to An Arminian Church?"

    • Leslie

      I am not surprised, Michael. I have followed you for quite a while now, and I know you are a man of truth and grace. And I go to a Methodist church, not because I fully agree with Methodism, but because this particular church practises WIFE (Swindoll) well.

    • C Michael Patton

      Leslie, I am not surprised about this from you as well!

      WIFE

      Worship
      Instruction
      Fellowship
      Evangelism

      Never forget it!

    • Sam

      Michael, I have the exact same situation in my life and ministry right now. I’m a Calvinist attending, and teaching, in an Arminian church. I also teach in a another church’s Bible College that is Arminian.

    • Philip

      Thank you, Michael, for this post. As a committed Wesleyan-Arminian, I did my MA and PhD work at a school where none of my profs were “Arminian” or “Wesleyan,” but were various gradations of Calvinistic. I deeply appreciated their awareness that the theological distinctives of Calvinism are not the sine qua non of orthodoxy or the gospel, and I did my best to learn how to articulate their position with the same clarity and fidelity they would expect from an adherent.

      This post gives me hope there are more Calvinists who recognize the relative significance of their theological distinctives and are willing to live that out in their lives.

      Blessings to you.

    • kisanri

      Beautiful, oh how I long for a church like that.

    • Greg

      Hi Micheal
      I am a recent convert to calvinism (last 2 years)after being introduced to your online theology program and I think required reading at that time Wayne Grudems Systematic Theology.
      I go to the same church Tim Challies calls home,Grace Fellowship church.
      Our home church pastored by Paul Martin expresses itself in grace and truth,I love it!
      I have a sister who in error thinks that because Arminians have not heard the true gospel preached across the pulpit they are not saved.
      I believe that perfect theology may be there error.
      She is not a hyper calvinist as she still preaches to the lost but I think she is more of a neo gnostic calvinist(perfect knowledge)
      This lack of grace is always a bone of contention between us.
      I am also almost finished George Whitefield biography which beautifully portrays the relationship between Calvinism and Armininism with George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers.
      I may just suggest she read his biography.
      May God bless all that you do in his name.
      Greg

    • Greg

      Michael,

      What would a church look like that has an attitude of grace?

      How did Stonebriar look?

      Greg

    • Kara Kittle

      CMP,
      As a Pentecostal I have also been a victim of that kind of attitude you described above. And you are right, there is no perfect theology.
      Would you be close to what they call “Bapticosts”? LOL.

      I know the Church of God, Anderson. Bill Gaither belongs to that. For those who don’t know, the Pentecostal one is Church of God, Cleveland Assembly.

      On the converse side though, would it be appropriate for an Arminian to teach at a Calvinist church?

    • Wayne in Frisco

      Michael, thanks for this post. It gives me a lot to think about, as you often do.

      I have been searching for the “perfect” church, or something close, for the last couple of years. In the meantime, I have been going to Stonebriar. It is only because of your views of Chuck and TTP that I was willing to give it a chance. It is quite shocking to me to hear that Chuck is a Calvinist! A few months ago, I heard him preach one of the best sermons ever on the sovereignty of God and I thought, this is what I’ve been looking for! Amen! and Hallelujah! Then, the next week was about “wrong-way” Christians and left me confused on his theology. I am still searching for a church, but you have made me feel better about Stonebriar in the meantime.

      One quick note, coming from the Baptist (Southern) tradition, almost everyone I know is a 4 point Arminian but the one point that they disagree about is falling from grace. They deny depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, effectual calling, but they hold tight to once-saved, always-saved. And you have argued in TTP, if total depravity (radical corruption) is true, then the rest must necessarily be true. So, I would certainly like to hear more explanation on how depravity is the one point on which Arminians agree with Calvinists.

      Thanks again for the post.

    • Kara Kittle

      Wayne in Frisco,
      As a Pentecostal, we do believe in total depravity, but how to handle it is what makes us different. There is simply no such thing as a little bit depraved…”a fly in the ointment”.

      But even though people are, God still speaks to them, God still moves for them…as when we pray for someone whether or not they have faith.

      But we go on to teach that once you have received Jesus Christ and have become born again, now you are no longer in that previous depraved condition. And you must allow God to do the work in you.

      Take the example of the potter’s wheel, that clay was smashed and smashed until it became the shape the potter was pleased with.

    • […] and does so very well. Not surprisingly (to me, at least), this is from C. Michael Patton on Parchment and Pen. To quote his definitions of “complementarian” and “egalitarian”: […]

    • Hi Michael,

      I loved this article. Secondary issues must take a back seat.

      As a five point Arminian, Charismatic, Egalitarian (it is no wonder we disagree on so many items), I have attended several churches that were none of the above.

      I have grimaced a couple of times when the Pastor has gotten a little to Calvinistic, but that tends to happen once or twice a year.

      Most churches whether Charistmatic in theology or not, tend to be non-charismatic in practice, and I can live with that. I tend to be a pretty quiet charismatic anyway.

      I remember reading something by Grudem (I think) about core versus secondary beliefs and what we should be willing to divide over. I was with him on all issues except the role of women.
      I will not go to a church that is not Egalitarian. Simply because I believe that non-Egalitarian churches are quenching the spirit, when they don’t allow people (women in this case) to exercise their spiritual gifts. I realize that this is a little inconsistent with being willing to attend a non-Charismatic church, but my views of Egalitarianism are stronger than my Charismatic views.

      By the way I grew up as a Calvinistic, Non-charismatic with a hierarchical view. It was 25 years ago that reading in 2 Peter and Hebrews made me question my Calvinistic views and I ended up in a denomination (the Alliance) which tended toward the Arminian side of things (they had some Calvinistic Pastors, but not many, at least up in Canada), they were Charismatic in theology, but not so much in practice, and were split down the middle on the Complementary/Egalitarian debate. It provided a good landing place for me to look objectively in all directions theologically.

      Twenty-five years later I am still willing to learn, which is one reason why I visit this blog on a regular basis.

    • Heather

      Very interesting post.

      I’m pretty new to both doctrines and find myself leaning in the “Calvinist” direction. But it doesn’t seem right to label myself as such because I don’t hang my salvation on John Calvin’s understanding of Scripture, but rather the finished work of Christ.

      Some people seem to believe that it is heretical to hold to the doctrine to which they do not personally subscribe. And fellowship has been broken over the differences. It made me wonder–Since both doctrines can’t both be exclusively correct, do the differences in the teachings mean that (at least) one is heresy? If one teaching is heretical, am I obligated to avoid those who believe it? At what point is a man’s incomplete understanding of God to be considered heresy?

      I have wondered if the two teachings MUST be considered as complete opposites at all times. It appears that you believe there actually is common ground which should not be compromised. That is encouraging.

      Perhaps I don’t understand either perspective well enough to be discussing this.

    • Greg,

      I can fully affirm 5 of the 10 statements in your Church’s statement of faith. Is that a passing grade? 🙂

      Just saying this to show that at some point attending another type of church can be very difficult.

      By the way, I work in Burlington, so we are practically neighbours.

    • Matt J.

      Man, Michael! What are we going to do with you? People with their head on straight aren’t allowed to have blogs…

      Thanks for the post. It’s encouraging.

    • Stephen

      I’m really glad you took the time to write this out, Michael. I’m a young pastor in the Church of God (Anderson) – notice how I write “Anderson” in parentheses…that’s pretty standard practice for us LOL – and I’ve been listening to the Theology program and reading your blog for about a year and a half now. You will never know how greatly your ministry has helped me in thinking through my own theology, which in turn helps my small church in Ohio. While I usually disagree with you at many points, I am almost always able to see past that because of your humility and honesty. So it IS possible to Calvinists and Arminians to not only co-exist, but learn from each other and build each other up!

      (And may I just say that I am shocked that my little denomination made it onto the theology blog and into this converstation! Now I know how all the cool Baptist kids feel. 🙂 )

    • EricW

      Good for you, CMP! Eclectic Christian – Michael Bell and I would probably have a lot in common.

    • Glenn

      Howdy,

      I think it is great that you can teach under the authority that you have some disagreements. I appreciate that evidence of your graciousness.

      As a pastor, it is my opinion that most people cannot do just as you are doing. They tend to belittle the pastor they disagree with or come right out and say that the pulpit is wrong. That is where I must draw the line – when people start teaching aginst what is being taught from the puplpit.

      One does not have to agree with everything in our statement of faith, but our teachers must teach in accordance with and not contrary to our affirmation of faith. A beficial way all churches should consider in the use their confessions of faith is found in this article: “How We Use Our Statement of Faith” (http://www.ccwtoday.org/article_view.asp?article_id=91).

      If we admit we are all in theological development and certainly don’t have perfect theology, we can work together when we disagree on terciary issues (Category 3 beliefs – beliefs not necessary for salvation, orthodoxy, or ecclesiology, or philosophy of minsitry). See “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity” (http://www.albertmohler.com/commentary_read.php?cdate=2004-05-20) for a good understanding of the needed triage in applying our beliefs for the sake of unity (I have more than 3 categories though).

      In saying this, I do find that most (not all) Arminians are realy “Christian Humanists,” who tend to truncate the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. This is why, thought teachers don’t have to fully subscribe to our church’s Affirmation of faith, they must teach in accordance with it and not contrary to it. I would not allow someone to actively promote a theology that is contrary to the church or the elders affirmations of faith. In this way the flock is protected from false teaching and allowances for differences and theological development can be maintained in unity.

    • Joshua

      Michael,

      Thanks for the post. Just a follow up question.

      Would you feel the same way about the church if you were a “staff” Pastor? In other words, would you remain at a church where they taught doctrines (but not the “essentials), that you disagreed with?

      Just curious if this would change things, and why.

      Your brother in Christ,

      -Josh

    • Vance

      Patton is slowly being drawn into our “dark side” of Arminianism. :0)

    • Adam Omelianchuk

      It’s good to know that there is an opposite of me out there! I go to a Calvinist-complementarian church and I am an egalitarian-Arminian.

      Graciousness and care for others matters much more to me than the doctrinal i’s and t’s.

    • C Michael Patton

      Josh, I don’t know how I would feel. As long as they gave me freedom to teach the way I teach and respect their stance on things—i.e. teach Evangelically—then I would.

      In fact, in my description of the “perfect” church that I will someday write about, I would like to have a diversity of Evangelicalism on staff. I know that this is not the “right” way to do it necessarily, but if you have two pastors on staff who disagree about Cal and Arm and still love and fight the good fight together, that says more than you could know.

    • C Michael Patton

      The lion and the lamb together.

    • YnottonY

      Michael defines Unconditional Election this way:

      1. “Unconditional Election—the belief that God elects some individuals to salvation and not other based upon his sovereign will.”

      Actually, an Arminian could agree with this definition as it is stated. It does not sufficiently bring out the distinction(s). One could simply say that:

      2. UE is the belief that God elects some individuals to eternal life, apart from any foreseen virtue in them (even faith).

      Michael defines Limited Atonement thusly:

      1. “Limited Atonement—the belief that Christ’s only paid for the sins of the elect.”

      This definition is too reductionistic, as it only accounts for the Owenic variety of Calvinism. One could simply say that:

      2. LA is the belief that Christ came with a special design to ultimately secure the salvation of the elect alone through his all-sufficient sacrifice.

      This broader way of putting it can account for all the positions that were present during the Synod of Dort (including the English and Bremen delegations), which is much more complex than Patton’s singular limited imputation presentation.

      Michael defines Irresistable Grace this way:

      1. “Irresistible Grace—the belief that when God’s saving grace is presented to the elect, it is always effective (i.e. they will not ever reject it).”

      This definition bothered me the most. It could leave the impression that the elect never resist God’s gospel call to saving grace. This it not what Michael means to suggest, I trust, but the above wording could easily leave that impression. One could simply say that:

      2. IG is the belief that God has determined that the grace offered in the gospel will be effectually received by all of the elect alone as some point in their lives, such that they cannot morally resist this special grace.

      This refined definition guards against the notion that the elect never reject “God saving grace” when it is presented to them. The unregenerate elect frequently do reject God’s offer of saving grace

      In conclusion, I realize that Michael is not seeking to be overly technical in his definitions in this very brief blog post (nor am I), but we must be careful enough in our definitions (however brief) so that people are not misled in an area that has been historically very difficult to understand. Since much confusion abounds in these areas today, let’s be careful not to contribute to those confusions by inaccurate and/or reductionistic definitions.

      Tony

    • Wm Tanksley

      What a great post, with encouraging replies!

      It reminds me of one pastor who said something about there not being any exam that will allow one into heaven… Our works can’t save us, and that includes our works of belief.

      One response:

      I will not go to a church that is not Egalitarian. Simply because I believe that non-Egalitarian churches are quenching the spirit, when they don’t allow people (women in this case) to exercise their spiritual gifts.

      The fact that you identify ‘egalitarian’ with an uppercase E causes me concern — I hope it’s misplaced. Not all churches that don’t allow women pastors also refuse to allow women to exercise their spiritual gifts. Some do; some don’t.

      -Wm

    • C Michael Patton

      Michael, that is why we still get along.

      However, I am taken aback by this statement:

      “Simply because I believe that non-Egalitarian churches are quenching the spirit, when they don’t allow people (women in this case) to exercise their spiritual gifts.”

      Was the majority of the historic Christian church quenching the Spirit? I could understand it if you said that this view was too far off for your comfort level, but to ascribe the SQ to it! Ouch!

      I think that the Spirit is much harder to quench than that!

      Granted, if they were chauvinistic and legalistic with it, that would be the case. But it would be hard for me to say that, say, Stonebriar is quenching the Spirit.

      God bless you brother.

    • C Michael Patton

      Tony, I would break my own blog rules of getting the post off topic if I attempted to defend my definitions. Suffice it to say that I am soon going to be writing a very long series of blog posts in defense of Calvinism, with the expressed intention of correcting misunderstandings!

    • C Michael Patton

      Wm,

      “Not all churches that don’t allow women pastors also refuse to allow women to exercise their spiritual gifts. Some do; some don’t.”

      Although this is not a church, I do allow women to post! A very able woman named Lisa Robinson.

    • YnottonY

      Michael,

      I look forward to reading what you say in those upcoming posts. However, even though my brief definition interaction above does not deal with your main point, it does deal with one of your subpoints, which is your definitions. So, to that extent, I believe I was still on point. Your brief definitions, in this post, are problematic (particularly the ‘Irresistable Grace’ definition), even if they only constitute a subpoint of your post. I would encourage you to be more careful in the future 🙂

      Grace to you,
      Tony

      p.s. I also enjoy doing ministry with “non-Calvinists.” In fact, I am working with one now in order to refute the strictly limited or Owenic views of the atonement 😉

    • C Michael Patton

      Tony, again, you will just have to wait until that is the subject.

    • mbaker

      Michael,

      Where does compatibilism, or ‘soft determinism’, as some call it, which is the belief that God is totally sovereign but lets man freely make choices, (good or bad), factor in between Calvinism and Arminianism?

    • C Michael Patton

      Compatiblism is what I call “Evangelical Calvinism.” It actually represents a more mainstream Calvinism rather than a more radical form. I am a compatibalist.

    • Ken Marchlenski

      Thank you for your mature insight. I have copied two small paragraphs and saved them concerning diversity and doctrine. They speak to what and where I am in being found acceptable among many churches. Many pastors seem paranoid about possible ‘problem’ would-be members. People (like myself) who like to talk about Scripture and Christ but may dissagree with them on certain secondary issues but are willing to keep these differences to themselves if allowed to stay long enough to show that or be simply asked. My last church that I wanted to join very much, shuned me over something that I was not even told. My only guess was that maybe we differed on the “Lordship” issue? No one wanted to talk. They just walked away. Too much rejection and pain for me to pursue things beyound that. They had my call in to them and my e-mail address and phone number. Never a call or contact back. When I first walked in, I was treated as a long lost friend. It was last in a long list of weak or sick churches that I tried. I’m a retired 60 year old man who loves the Lord and theology for all of my 25 years as a Christian. Exceipt for formal Greek training, I am home taught. I am ‘opinionated’ on only the fundamentals, with one exceiption that I see as a fundamental doctrine: Eternal Security. I cannot see how the Arminian Gospel can be a ‘Grace’ Gospel. It seems that Calvanistic Grace is preached at conversion and then replaced with certain prohabitions later on. This is not meant as a criticism but an observation. It seems double minded but only on a subliminal basis. I do believe that they teach Grace but later on and on their printed litature comes the few prohabitions. This I believe, begins to undermine that doctrine of Grace.

    • YnottonY

      Michael said:

      “Notice, to the surprise of many, I did not list “perfect theology” as a criteria.”

      Seriously, who are the “many”? I don’t think anyone would ever accuse you of looking for a church with perfect theology, especially if they know that you’re constantly and perpetually reacting against your own fundamentalistic past. This post actually comes across as most of your posts, as if you’re perpetually announcing to the world: “I am no longer a fundemantalist bigot! I hate my past mentality. I have an open mind now, even as a convinced ‘five-point’ Calvinist!”

      Whenever I check out this blog, I am never surprised to see you reacting against any possible perception by others that you’re still a narrowminded, fundamentalist bigot. So, I am not at all surprised (or critical of the fact) that you’re going to Crossings Community Church, and I don’t think anyone else is really surprised either. Do you think some of your friends and readers here are surprised? You write as though “many” are.

      Sincerely,
      Tony

    • C Michael Patton

      Tony, I am not surprised by your tone, that is for sure 🙂

    • Dr. G.

      It is sometimes hard to fully understand, outline, and defend the doctrines/dogmas of any particular denomination or church. Or in any case, sometimes it’s better to keep in mind or openly discuss, the description and merits of many different doctrines, in order to see the larger context; even as we defend the beliefs of our particular church.

      Looking at many different doctrines and churches is useful. Especially when in our Non-Denom era, the average churchgoer is usually not fully apprised of – or committed to – the fine detail of this or that particular church dogma.

      So the average churchgoer might like to hear what his or her own church believes, in comparison to what other churches do. But in part, a broader overview is also useful not only to clarify our own churches; but also … to open us up to the larger … body of Christ. Which would include not only our own congregations.

      Looking around at various doctrines of different churches, through comparative Dogmatics, can be a way to broaden our vision. And to extend the hand of Christian fellowship, the brotherly spirit, to all the many other various Christian churches.

      And to see – and join – the larger Body of Christ?

    • C Michael Patton

      Besides, who said I had a fundamentalistic past? Exposure yes, but past no.

    • mbaker

      Michael,

      I think I probably fall into that camp too, but there’s very little I’ve been able to find on it, doctrinally speaking, except as it pertains to philosophy. Perhaps I am looking under the wrong definition.

      Can you please cover this aspect in your upcoming post on Calvinism, and how it differs, or is in harmony with unconditional election?

      That would be most appreciated, because some of us can’t place ourselves firmly either in the beliefs of Arminianism or Calvinism.

      Thanks.

    • C Michael Patton

      You bet. That will be a major part of finding the harmony between sovereignty and responsibility. Calvinists hold them both in tension. Have you read my “Why Calvinism is the Least Rational Option”? http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/11/why-calvinism-is-the-least-rational-option/

    • mbaker

      Oops, our posts crossed, Michael. I was, of course, referring to compatibilism, and not fundamentalism.

    • YnottonY

      Michael,

      My “tone”? You seem offended by something I’ve said. I am just interacting with what I perceive to be very common in your posts, including this one; that is, an interest in making sure that your readers know that you’re not a narrowminded religious bigot. You’re openminded enough to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials, and therefore you’re willing to go to a church such as Crossings, even though you have significant differences with them on at least two issues: Calvinism and Egalitarianism.

      I am just offering this for your consideration: No one is really surprised that 1) you’re not looking for a church with perfect theology and 2) you’re going to a church that you describe as “Arminian” and “Egalitarian.” Why then write as if you’re talking to “many” people who will be surprised by that? I know I am not surprised. I doubt that the religious bigots who have opposed you on Paltalk are surprised either. I’m just wondering why you think anyone at all would be surprised by your attendance at CCC?

      Sincerely,
      Tony

      p.s. I recall a blog post in the past (perhaps it is lost now?) where you spoke about your prior involvement in (not merely an exposure to) fundamentalism. That’s why I mentioned it. If you had such a past, as I recall you did, it would why you are now constantly reacting against it.

    • C Michael Patton

      Tony,

      I don’t know. I guess I just posted it for people’s thoughts and help to further see how I view things. I don’t really know if they are surprised, but, as the post says, many might be considering my attention to theology.

      Hope that clears things up.

    • C Michael Patton

      Also, the post does not hinge on whether people are surprised or not. That is really not the issue here.

    • Oida

      Kara Kittle,

      I don’t believe you’re understanding Wayne’s concern. But I’ll allow him to respond. Good try though. 🙂

    • Wm,

      The fact that you identify ‘egalitarian’ with an uppercase E causes me concern — I hope it’s misplaced.

      I meant nothing by having upper case versus lower case. In either case I am not sure what the concern would be.

      Wm (quote 1) and Michael (quote 2)

      Not all churches that don’t allow women pastors also refuse to allow women to exercise their spiritual gifts. Some do; some don’t.

      Was the majority of the historic Christian church quenching the Spirit? I could understand it if you said that this view was too far off for your comfort level, but to ascribe the SQ to it! Ouch!

      An egalitarian believes that if God has gifted someone to be a Pastor, then they should be able to serve as a Pastor regardless of gender. If a person is gifted then by not allowing them to serve in the way that they have been gifted I see that as limiting the Spirit. A complementarian might respond by saying that they don’t believe that God gives gifts in that way, but then I see that as restricting God as to what he can or cannot do.

      I think the problem comes when we take what is descriptive and try and make it prescriptive. For example the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada have a statement that says:

      It is recognized that the historical and biblical pattern has been that elders in the church have been men. The weight of evidence would imply that this pattern should continue.

      The first statement is descriptive. It is what has happened in the past. The second statement is prescriptive, but leaves an opening.
      A completely prescriptive statement would have read something like “All evidence would determine that this pattern must continue.”

      Now the Alliance recognizes that there has been a pattern. I recognize that pattern too. They also realize that God in his sovereignty has in the past and can in the present and future make exceptions to that pattern. (For example there is a pretty extensive list of women in leadership in scripture.) So what the Alliance did after some 20 years of debate on the issue is determine that if a congregation felt that God was calling a woman to a leadership position as an elder they could by a 2/3rds vote allow that to happen.

      My point is, don’t take a position that is going to limit what God might choose to do. I he decides to choose a woman to lead or teach, who am I to say no? So yes, I believe that a church that says a woman can’t teach or a woman can’t pastor, they are limiting God, and thus potentially quenching the Spirit.

      P.S. I have enjoyed Lisa Robinson’s posts on this site very much.

    • “now allowing” in the previous post should read “not allowing”

    • Dr. G.

      On description (of past practices in the churches and so forth) becoming an eternal prescription, for the future? On abandoning that link-up?

      Personally I like a lot of freedom. So much that I don’t usually contribute in Dogmatics discussions at all; they are all too dogmatic. Even when they are stretching the limits (allegedly).

      Still, a note of caution for those who are about to change the rules. My experience has been that there are problems, when we decide that a) little in the past, even in the Bible or traditional doctrine, is really prescriptive for the future. And b) then we start presenting one our new ideas, as the word of God.

      For a pastor to announce something as doctrine or dogma, in effect he is announcing it as absolutely certain; as the word of God. And people will often follow it to the letter.

      Granted, the equality of women is a massively popular idea in pop culture; but can Egalitarianism hold up to this standard: being announced in chruch – and therefore being announced implicitly, as the absolute truth? As the word of God? Against which there is no appeal?

      Are we really that certain about equalitarianism? And do we have the authority to make that determination, in the name of God?

    • Dr. G.

      Especially in the Protestant church … that fought Mary tooth and nail? Granted: Judith; Esther? Still; are we really following Judaism at all, or the God of even Jesus, when we all but completely abandon patriarchialism?

    • Dr. G.

      I see Egalitarianism as allowing God to be sovereign, and not to make pronouncements that would restrict God in his sovereignty.

    • C Michael Patton

      Friends, let’s not make this about the gender debate. If you do, keep in the context of the discussion. I can see this turning into something else very quickly! 🙂

    • Michael,

      I am afraid that this conversation may have sidetracked the original intent of the thread. It still fits somewhat in that it helps us clarify how free we are to worship in other types of churches. Should we placing a hold on the egalitarianism versus complimentarianism debate?

    • I think you just answered my question! 🙂

    • Susan

      Michael, reading this tells me why I have found YOU so READABLE. If I were such a gifted writer of theology as you are (which I’m not), and if I were a teacher of such (which I’m not)…..I could have written this blog. Or, at least I will say that what you have written expresses my heart as well. Fortunately, we attend a church which is more in keeping with Stonebriar, as you have described it. There has been one shortcoming however, a shortcoming which has greatly concerned me. A shortcoming which I have prayed about, and been somewhat vocal about: A lack of evangelism. It wasn’t always this way. I attended the church since I was a child, we used to have an evangelism pastor years ago, and a senior pastor who really had a heart for evangelism.
      I have seen signs of hope from the pulpit on the issue of evangelism over the past year. Our pastor is now returning to a series in Matthew which he began last year, which he promised would culminate in the Great Commission (as it does!). We had gone in a rather social- gospel direction for a few years…. but I think that the rudder is turning… s l o w l y but surely.

      It’s great that your pastor allows you to teach… it would be a crime if he didn’t!

    • YnottonY

      Michael,

      Didn’t you once hold to a KJV-Only position? That would be an example of the kind of narrowminded fundamentalism and bigotry in your past that I was referencing in post #34 and #41 above. That, to my mind, would constitute an involvement in, and not merely exposure to, rigid fundamentalism.

      Grace to you,
      Tony

    • In regards to teaching in the church. I am currently not a member of my Baptist church, and cannot be because my wife was not baptized by immersion. Having said that, I have been given permission to teach, as long as I agree to not teach contrary to the statement of faith. As a result there are certain things that I will not likely teach on, one of which is Baptism. (Unless expressly asked by the Elders to do so.)

      Although our church leans to an Arminian viewpoint, their is nothing in the statement of faith which would prevent a Calvinist from putting forward a Calvinist position. Although it is Egalitarian, there is nothing that would prevent a Complementarian from putting forward a Complementarian position. People might not like it, but if it is not codified in the statement of faith, there would not be much they could do about it.

      If something is in a statement of faith, I would be very hesitant to even lay out what I believe if what I believe is contrary to it. I say this even if I was to present the churches position.

      Going to a church that has a statement of faith that you cannot agree with means that you just have to shut up about certain things.

    • Dr. G.

      Sure. But this raises a good general question relevent to the matter of changing churches, dogma … and our changing what we once proclaimed as the word of God. We should be very careful about announcing our own opinions, as the expression of God’s sovereign will. Isn’t there a danger here? Hubris for example?

      God could change anything … but how often does he? And how do we know, what evidence do you have, he has changed it in a way that coincidentally alligns with your own opinions? So that you are now in effect, the sovereign voice of God?

      Shouldn’t there be some kind of … coronation first, or something?

    • Chuck Thomas

      Well stated explanation for where you have landed in your move from TX. I would describe myself as holding to Reformed doctrines, but when we moved to a (really) small town, the only church that exhibited the grace you describe was the United Methodist Church. Would have guessed even 6 months after we moved here that I would have never wound up worshiping at the UMC. But it has been a great result, and like you, I get to teach and even preach about 4 times per year.

      Another point I have discovered is that apart from the Pastor and a handful of others (it is a small church, without a huge staff), I would be willing to bet that the VAST majority of those who worship there cannot cite the distinctives of Weslyan-Arminianism, OR Calvinism. They too are drawn by the grace that is present in the body.

    • Dr. G.

      Post 56 referring to post # 49.

      Here and now? I guess to be sure, Grace helps a lot of things.

    • C Michael Patton

      Chuck, what a gracious way to put it. I would describe Crossings the same way.

    • Dr. G.

      God could change anything … but how often does he? And how do we know, what evidence do you have, he has changed it in a way that coincidentally alligns with your own opinions? So that you are now in effect, the sovereign voice of God? Shouldn’t there be some kind of … coronation first, or something?

      Great line there Dr. G. about the coronation. 🙂

      I wasn’t trying to say that God was changing anything. I think what I was trying to say is that God throughout history has given exceptions to the general pattern. To try to say that he can no longer do so is to usurp his voice.

      To get us back on track, it is when we prescribe on secondary issues that things must be a certain way that we make it difficult to fellowship with each other.

    • C Michael Patton

      I worked for a KJV organization. This was before I even knew what all that stuff was about. But I would certianly not say I was a fundamentalist. Never have been. Always have been too big of a sinner! The sins you can’t hide too easily. I sin “boldly!”

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks Susan!

    • Michael,

      I visited Stonebriar’s website.

      Here are some interesting observations.

      Generally, I don’t have a problem with the 7 core beliefs. I have to do mental gymnastics in order to affirm inerrancy, but I have that problem with most Evangelical churches. The 20 section statement of faith is another matter.

      What is interesting to note that as a egalitarian, I do not have a problem with the core beliefs or statement of faith. The church also seems to be what I would call “functional egalitarian”. That is, women are serving in leadership and pastoral positions without receiving the title.

      As a charismatic I would not have an issue either. The “sign gifts” are neither mentioned nor denied.

      As an Arminian I would not be able to sign the statement of faith
      as there are too many things in it that I cannot affirm.

      As someone who is not dispensationalist, I would not be able to sign either. (Primarily the pre-trib rapture part.)

      Typically if I can’t sign a statement of faith, I can’t be a member, deacon or elder. (I imagine that is the case at Stonebriar.) As I would not be able to fully exercise my spiritual gifts at Stonebriar, it is very unlikely that I would attend there as my church.

      Now some churches have only that you only have to uphold the statement of faith to be a member, not necessarily agree to it. In that case attendance becomes more likely, especially if we hold the same core beliefs.

    • C Michael Patton

      Greg, (#7)

      That is a great question. There are so many intangibles to grace. It is hard to mimic or describe, but you know when it is there. It comes when people see them selves as in just as much need as you. They are not there to “fix” everyone, but to try to be fixed together. They don’t look down on you, but, at the same time, are not without commitment. They hope for righteousness, yet are continually broken by sin, their own and yours. It is a smile, a hug, a gift, and a presence.

      It is the opposite of those who would judge you for not conforming to everything that they do or think. It is the opposite of legalism.

    • Vance

      I am a Gideon (the Bible in the hotel folks) and I speak in about a dozen churches a year as part of this ministry. A handful of pastors actually take the opportunity to go on vacation, knowing their pulpit is in good hands with the Gideons, and I preach the sermon. This is tricky business since I have to review what their basic positions are so as not to cross any boundaries. The Gideons have a strong policy of NOT engaging in any sectarian discussion since we are made up of nearly every protestant denomination, and want to keep it that way.

      What I have found is that there are some solid common grounds that I can preach anywhere, mostly focusing on the place of Scripture in our personal lives (being a Gideon and all). And, I teach sunday school at a fundamentalist church (family history) and I manage to steer clear of areas in which I (strongly) disagree with ease.

      I think we share much more in common than those of us who engage in the various theological debates seem to remember. And, even where we do differ, the Joe in the Pew would likely not even know what we are talking about.

      But the “church full of grace” point is very well said, Michael. I have been in pentecostal and Lutheran and everything in between. No denomination has a corner on the market on this and they have it, or don’t have it, in a very evenly dispersed manner. So, the formal theology of the church has little, or nothing at all, to do with whether they are likely to have that grace.

    • Dr. G.

      In fact, the general idea of this blog is true. In fact, given so many different churches with different doctrines, it’s hard to get a good match between pastor and church. But maybe an exact match probably isn’t necessary; especially on minor, non-“cardinal” issues.

      For myself, I spent many years as an Army brat, on bases where there was only one minister for all Protestants; so that the minister had to avoid secondary issues, and concentrate only on … core issues that everyone agreed on. Which actuallywas perfect. So that I avoided sectarian disputes.

      In fact though, in the Army I avoided sectarianism to the point that … it irritates me to hear the lesser doctrinal squabbles today; and to take them seriously. Much less, teach them or argue for them. I’m all for … forgetting the little stuff. And not letting it get in the way of larger fellowship.

      Still therefore, I worry about a theology of big words, if it happens to focus on the very Big Words that describe doctrinal differences …. Maybe it is useful to mention them once … just long enough for us to see their relative unimportance. And to clear the way, so that we can move on to other, core issues?

      And feel fellowship – not sectarian difference – with all Christians? Even “all” men and women?

    • C Michael Patton

      Mike, good observations.

      Stonebriar’s doctrinal statement is a really a cut and paste from DTS (like so many others). But one is not required to believe all of these things before they can be a member or serve there.

      In fact, during my ordination, Chuck asked me if I was a five point Calvinist. He asked all five us us being ordained this questions. All but one answered “yes.” But we were ordained nontheless. Two of us went on staff there. Chuck is very passionate about his belief in unlimited atonement. What he did that day illustrated something I will never forget: you can be very passionate about certian doctrinal issues, but that does not mean you either divide, or, more importantly, refrain from laying hands of approval on. Wow. Just retelling that story invigorates me!!!

    • Kara Kittle

      Who’s Wayne?

    • Oida

      If I misunderstood, I apologize. Sounded like you were responding to Wayne’s concern.

      Entry # 10.
      Kara Kittle on 28 Apr 2009 at 8:24 am #
      Wayne in Frisco,

    • Kara Kittle

      Oh,
      Wayne in Frisco…let me see what I said to him way up there….

      Ok, no I wasn’t arguing with him, I was making a personal observation from my Pentecostal perspective. That’s all.

      Sorry Wayne, I forgot I responded to you this morning.

    • Wm Tanksley

      For a pastor to announce something as doctrine or dogma, in effect he is announcing it as absolutely certain; as the word of God. And people will often follow it to the letter.

      There are two different words here… “Doctrine” and “dogma”. Doctrine is “that which is taught”. Dogma is that which one may only reject in peril of their salvation.

      Failing to teach doctrine seems to be a failure to be a teaching institution :-). It’s not saying that what we teach is inviolable; it’s merely teaching that we teach _something_ and not _nothing_.

      Teaching dogma is a more serious commitment, and one should do so both carefully and reverently. Many churches teach an aversion to it, and I admit that I don’t like it as some people define it … But it seems to me that there are some essentials, and without those you’re simply not a Christian, and anyone who sees you claiming to be one has a right and perhaps obligation to point that out.

      -Wm

    • Dr. G.

      Are the people often clear about the distinction? Most people hear doctrine … and act like, think, it’s dogma. From God.

      In actual practice, its probably all but impossible to really make the distinction clear in church; both tend inevitably to get presented as the word of God in sermons.

      The only way to avoid it? Avoid doctrine alogether? Concentrate on core issues?

      Stipulating explicitly in sermons that it is “doctrine” and not “dogma” … takes time; and is rarely understood by the public. Especially if and when the pastor inevitably wants to present his doctrinal positions in such a way as to deliberately obscure the difference; as if they were absolutely binding; as if they were the firm word of the Almighty.

    • Mary

      Thank you for posting this!

    • Vance

      Very ironic and serendipitous: I just got a call from a pastor after posting #65 above, asking my to cover his service this Sunday, since he had a family emergency (had been planned to go in about a month, anyway). We really are like the “substitute teachers” for pastors! :0)

      It is an Assembly of God church, I think I will preach on TULIP. :0)

    • Kara Kittle

      Vance,
      Then wouldn’t you be preaching with an agenda? Sounds a little subversive to me…lol.

      Do they know you lean that way? Of course I am just being silly…but no, do they know?

    • Vance

      Kara, actually, I lean the other way, I am Arminian, but I could definitely give a full and fairly convincing sermon on TULIP, then turn around and give a sermon the opposite way. Since I believe that the truth lies very much beyond our limited ability to understand “God things”, and I think both positions must necessarily have it wrong to some degree, I think a presentation of both would be most honest! :0)

      But, seriously, no, usually the churches we speak at have no clue what our particular theological leanings are, and we try to keep it that way. We try to respect each church and act as a person would as a guest in another country.

      What is most difficult is when a pastor has a particular agenda of his own he is working on and asks me, as a guest speaker, to work that argument/position into my talk! That has happened a couple of times.

    • Wm Tanksley

      Are the people often clear about the distinction? Most people hear doctrine … and act like, think, it’s dogma. From God.

      I don’t know if that’s true!

      Many people hear doctrine and act like it’s random opinion. Some people hear doctrine and act like it’s a buffet. It just doesn’t feel to me like “most people” are dogmatic in the sense you’re claiming.

      A lack of doctrine also leads to a serious weakness. Knowing God with our whole being is a good thing, and it involves knowing God with our mind. My attempts to think about God should be backed and supported by others; that will help me go further than I could on my own, and it may correct me where I go astray.

      The same applies to the commands of Christ. We are to teach the nations to do as He has commanded (the Great Commission), which involves a lot of doctrinal commitment.

    • Wm Tanksley

      The rest of your post I like and agree entirely with.

      But this:

      And feel fellowship – not sectarian difference – with all Christians? Even “all” men and women?

      Are you being more Christlike than Christ? We are Sons of God in a way that the world — and the people in it — cannot understand. We are their fellow creations, but we are not brethren.

      -Wm

    • rayner markley

      Thank you for this discussion, Michael, and I admire you for your approach, as many here have done and particularly Kara #1. It shows me that our doctrinal beliefs are not as important as our ministry, and in fact the two are somewhat separate.

      Your emphasis was on Calvinism vs Arminianism. Jesus was neither one. Largely, Jesus was not teaching doctrine; He was teaching people to live right with God and right with their neighbors. We can do that in many churches, of course, and doctrine has little to do with it.

      I realize that an underlying goal of this website is to ‘reclaim the mind.’ That seems to mean examine doctrine. To the extent that it brings out harsh differences among us it is a disservice. However, you have shown here, and in fact in most of your writing, that grace and truth with love are the overriding principles of the Gospel of Christ.

    • Kevin Jackson

      Hi CMP, Looks like you and Peter Enns have something in common! 😉

      BTW, as an Arminian I really appreciate your attitude, and also appreciate that you’re willing and able to articulate the Arminian view in such a way that Arminians can agree.

    • Charlie

      Well said, Michael. We have to focus on the main things, as Christians, and I think you’ve said well what they are.

      Only one small quibble. You said “right now I feel as if I am where God wants me to be.”

      Surely, as a good Calvinist, you *are* where the Sovereign God wants you to be, as you can be nowhere else? 🙂

      Always enjoy reading your clear thinking.

    • Kara Kittle

      Rayner,
      One time a long time ago I took an online quiz that asked if I were Calvinist or Arminian…and it came back I was Arminian…but I never heard the word preached in my church. Then last year I took another online quiz…what religion are you…the result was I apparently am Orthodox Quaker….LOL.

      I am a Trinity Pentecostal and make the clear distinction that I am not under the umbrella term of Charismatic…to this day I do not know what an Orthodox Quaker is, but am thinking about finding one of their churches to see what it is like.

      I do have a policy that on Good Friday I will attend a church different than mine because it is one defining tradition we all share. I find nothing wrong with that because we are supposed to be united under this one thing. And that one thing for one day transcends all our little squabbling over doctrines. Most Pentecostals don’t have Good Friday services but one of the most interesting was in the Anglican Church. It was the same message, the same Savior, the same crucifixion. I have spent Easter services with my friend in the Church of Christ…the one that used to be German Reform.

    • carol jean

      Michael,

      thanks for defining this “grace” you are talking about. I thought maybe you were saying “grace” and meaning “love.

      MP wrote:

      That is a great question. There are so many intangibles to grace. It is hard to mimic or describe, but you know when it is there. It comes when people see them selves as in just as much need as you. They are not there to “fix” everyone, but to try to be fixed together. They don’t look down on you, but, at the same time, are not without commitment. They hope for righteousness, yet are continually broken by sin, their own and yours. It is a smile, a hug, a gift, and a presence.

      It is the opposite of those who would judge you for not conforming to everything that they do or think. It is the opposite of legalism.

    • Stan Hankins

      I have a question for you. Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
      I too once went to a works based church. The reason was I was married to a “Church of Christ”. They believe that they alone can be saved. Water baptism saves you. Works save you. Taking the Lord’s supper saves you. Attending church saves you. Having a piano in the church condemns you, ect.
      Why would anyone choose to take a yoke upon themselves that neither they nor their ancestors have been able to bear?
      How on earth does a man go from listening to Swindoll to that?
      I guess I don’t get it. But I love you brother, I hope the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus washes over you.

    • […] Mike Patton, a stark-raving out-of-the-closet Calvinist, has some incredibly good insights here. […]

    • Ken Blatchford

      Michael,

      I never did read a reply to the question earlier about the reverse of what you are doing. What would you think of an Arminian being allowed to teach in a Calvinistic church?

    • Matt J.

      I’ll second Ken. I’ve seen a lot of Calvinist guest speakers in Arminian churches but never the other way around…

    • C Michael Patton

      Ken, it all depends on how the church is set up. If it is explicitly Calvinistic and seeks to push this making sure all its memebers are Calvinists, then it obviously would not work. But if it is more Evangelical then it would work.

    • Vance

      I guess the follow-up question would be whether an Arminian church would be more likely to allow a Calvinist teacher/evangelist in their pulpit than the other way around. And if so, why so?

      I think Calvinists tend to be more focused on those doctrines that make them, well, Calvinist. They can tick off the points like a mantra and, very often, it becomes the most important feature of their Christian self-identification. Whereas Arminians tend to much less concerned about those theological nitty-grittys and focus on the big ticket items which are the essentials of salvation. As mentioned above, most folks who ARE Arminian in their belief structure have never even heard the word Arminian.

      Now, what this does is allow the Arminian to often become open to very loose and occasionally dangerous doctrinal swings. So, I see a problem both ways, even setting aside the idea of who is right or wrong on the “points”.

    • C Michael Patton

      Stan, what are you talking about?? Your post makes no sense. I don’t go to a church that promotes such things at all.

    • Glenn Leatherman

      As a pastor and one who affirms the doctrines of grace, I have adopted a policy that genuinely helps promote and maintain understanding, purity, and harmony within the church. While there may be other ways, I have adopted this policy because it promotes unity that a church needs to have. I would handle the oversite of teachers with different persuasions (things that are not essential for salvation and orthodoxy) differently that those with different or contrary “convictions” (beliefs that are essential for salvation and orthodoxy).

      Adapted from: How We Use Our Statement of Faith
      Copyright © 2003 Christ Fellowship Elders
      Christian Communicators Worldwide, Inc.
      http://www.ccwtoday.org/article_view.asp?article_id=91

      Churches have historically used confessions or statements of faith in order to summarize and clearly identify what they believe. Many historical confessions have been preserved, and are used by churches to this day. Instead of adopting an historical confession, we have chosen to use the following summary of biblical doctrine, entitled “G3C Statement of Faith,” as our statement of beliefs. Listed below are several important things you should understand about the purpose of our statement of faith, and about the way it will be used.

      1. Our statement of faith will be a helpful introduction to the doctrines we will teach, giving you assurance that we will remain solidly biblical in our convictions. While we strongly believe that the doctrines set forth in our statement are an accurate summary of biblical truth, we do not require everyone joining our church to understand and affirm the statement at every point.

      2 We may invite guest speakers who do not agree with every point of doctrine in our statement of faith. There are many faithful ministers of the Word who do not hold to the exact expression of our convictions. Though our statement will guide us in selecting those we choose for guest speaking, it will not preclude those who are in complete agreement in the most basic areas, while differing somewhat on secondary issues.

      3. We do expect conformity to the statement of faith for our pastors, interns, and teachers–those most associated with the pastoral duty of teaching the truth. This does not imply that every teacher must have a thoroughly formulated understanding of every aspect of the statement. It does mean, however, that they are willing not to knowingly teach contrary to the established doctrine of the church while working out the finer points. Certain doctrines are so clear and so necessary that a teacher or potential leader would have no reason to be in confusion over them (e.g. the inerrancy of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the nature of saving faith, the sovereignty of God, etc.). However, certain difficult points of doctrine may take even good students some time to work out (e.g. the extent of the atonement, the precise relationship between the covenants, etc.). Since any teaching is a pastoral extension, the pastor(s) will decide which points of theology, on a case by case basis, may remain suspended in the mind of a teacher or potential leader. Pains should be taken, however, to remove the confusion and to come to a solid conviction and doctrinal unity.

      4. If a teacher comes to a conclusion contrary to the statement of faith, he is required to inform the pastor(s) about his conflicting belief. The pastor(s) will work with his concerns until there is unity in understanding. If an issue in the statement is found to be in error when compared with the Word of God, a correction will be made to the statement. If unity is unattainable, then the pastor(s) and the individual must fall back on the statement of faith as correct, until proven otherwise. In this case, the teacher will be asked to discontinue teaching until there is a better resolve. It is possible that at some point, a pastor or teacher may completely apostatize (i.e. disbelieve certain essential doctrines once held true). In that special case, church discipline is in order and all teaching responsibilities will be terminated.

      5. Our statement of faith is subservient to the Scriptures. It should never be viewed as having an authority equal to that of the Bible. It is authoritative only in a limited sense, as far as it accurately reflects the meaning of Scripture. We view it and use it as a tool to promote, achieve, and maintain doctrinal understanding, purity, and harmony.

    • Ken Blatchford

      Vance,

      I would rather the church be stiff and doctrinally sound as Calvinists are than being found inconsistent and focused on just the “big ticket” as is the case where lose-your-salvation-every-other-week happens.

    • Vance

      Ken, I agree regarding the dangers found in many modern evangelical Arminian churches. But my point was that, right or wrong on the doctrine (keep in mind that I don’t necessarily agree that Calvinism IS doctrinally sound, but setting that aside for this discussion), it is question where you “major” and where you “minor”.

      I think Calvinists too often Major in the Minors, meaning they spend way too much of their time and energy on matters that are not “salvation” issues, or the primary focus of Jesus’ commands for us here on earth: loving God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.

      Yes, the “loose” Arminians often get distracted away from these core principals and “salvation issues” with their various extremes and idiosyncratic ways, but a distraction is a distraction, whether it be an inordinate focus on a TULIP point or speaking in tongues.

    • Dr. G.

      But there are many reasons not to get too firm about doctrines.

      1) First: as a practical matter, countless bloody wars were fought between Christians on matters of doctrine – like the Thirty Years War, 1618-1648, between Protestants and Catholics. Over often precisely issues like … the Eucharist, and transubstantiation; being discussed on this blog. Given that, should we really … get all that firm and dogmatic about our doctrines?

      2) To this day, in fact, though this blog promotes this level of theology – Dogmatics – it is easy to see that it often causes conflicts, fights.

      3) Then too, since these very doctrinal debates are ancient – having gone on for – in some cases almost two thousand years – without clear resolution … doesn’t that suggest they are “fruitless?”

      With all respect to this blog and it’s orientation, perhaps it would be to review some strengths and limitations of its approach, therefore.

      4) Indeed, does the Bible itself really firmly outline this or that doctrine? A poststructural theological look at the Bible, suggests that it was written in equivocal language, to simultaneously entertain three or four theologies; and thus “include” many rival schools … even in ancient times. So that finally, the BIble itself is not entirely firmly unequivocal at all, in its message. (What indeed is the meaning of “blessed are the poor in spirit”? Half the words in this sentence are impossibly polysemic; this sentence has at least five possible different meanings. And the context does not firm any one of them up, either).

      For these and other reasons, much contemporary scholarly theology, has pretty stopped writing much on the aspect of theology that this blog focuses on. Which might be called … Dogmatics? Denominational taxonomy? Which is perhaps useful at the level of … a pastor deciding which denomination to preach for.

      But many would say that most serious scholarly theology just bypasses these endless doctrinal disputes. Which again, have been going on for in some cases, literally thousands of years … without resolution. Most of contemporary theology currently addressing other problems, other approaches, altogether. As our host knows; as he offers courses on those subjects. So that his own approach is often broader.

      5) Given all that – and more? It seems there are many reasons not to get too bogged down in doctrine at all.

      With all due respect and gratitude for this blog, a brief discussion here, of the strengths and limitations of its approach, seems in order. Especially and specifically, a discussion on the concentration on denominational doctrine, or Dogmatics.

      Could this blog consider opening topics more relevant to contemporary Theology? Rather than reviving the war between Protestants and Catholics, say?

    • […] Why do I (a Calvinist) go to an Arminian church? C. Michael Patton […]

    • Wm Tanksley

      “I think Calvinists too often Major in the Minors[…]”

      This is too often true in the worst way.

      But I think there’s a bit of unfairness here. The prevailing culture right now is strongly Armenian; the default position is to side with what you know. People who aren’t doing that MUST make a conscious effort to be different, and they will be obvious. People who just assume “free will” implies what they’ve always held about the roles of God and man in salvation won’t make a splash, but they can and do still teach their doctrines with the same incorrect emphasis that their opposites on the other side have.

      The true error isn’t to “major in the minors”, if you define that as “study and develop opinions on points that aren’t critical to salvation.” The true error is to preach a false gospel, either one that doesn’t involve what it should or involves what it shouldn’t.

      -Wm

    • Wm Tanksley

      “But there are many reasons not to get too firm about doctrines.”

      All the reasons you listed seem to indicate that people believed those ideas were important. Yes, they then seemed to make a lot of errors… But that doesn’t mean they were wrong about the importance of the ideas. Were they?

      -Wm

    • cheryl u

      Indeed, if doctrine weren’t important, why is there such an emphasis on it in the New Testament? Timothy was even told by Paul to take heed to himself and to his doctrine so that he could save both himself and his hearers.

    • Stan Hankins

      Ok, I will put it another way. You either believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone—OR you believe that you can work your way to heaven, lose your salvation, ect. You can’t have it both ways.

      Paul had this to say about those who tried to say we are saved by Jesus plus works: ” If any one ( even an angel from heaven) preach a different gosple than what we preached- let him be eternally condemned.

      Pretty clear. Adding any works to salvation is very dangerous. We are saved by faith in Christ. There is NO other way.

    • mbaker

      Stan,

      You are right that we are saved by grace, through faith on the basis of what Christ did alone.

      However, it is important to preserve this truth just as it was handed down to us. It was carefully preserved and recorded by those disciples of Christ and the apostle Paul at great cost to themselves as well.

      So that doesn’t mean that doctrine replaces salvation, nor is it considered to be ‘works’, even if some parts of the church argue that it is. It is simply a reinforcing of the biblical truth that has been handed down in such a way that it is kept intact for all generations.

      Whether we are Armianians or Calvinists, or fall into any denominational category, or not, there are many essential truths of the Christian faith, such as how to live a Godly life, what commandments to follow, and what our commission as Christians is. That is essential doctrine, and the truths we are to continue to go by until Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, comes back for His people.

    • Vance

      Wm Tanksley:

      I would not say the error was in “study and develop opinions on points that aren’t critical to salvation”, but in a focus on them to the detriment of the basic, core issues for salvation. I think having such a belief, and even study and discussion about them are useful and even important, but I don’t think these are things that rise to the level of importance that they are often given.

      For the most part, the Calvinist/Arminian debate is about the mechanics of how God does his salvific work, and the ways in which Man responds. I see little, if any, actual “Christian Living” impact on accepting or denying “TULIP”. There will be folks who completely reject them who are in heaven, and people who dogmatically hold to all five. And, I have not seen any significant evangelism or Christian witness impacts between the two sides either.

      So, with that perspective, the idea that people actually allow “how we believe God goes about His business” to divide fellowships seems a shame.

    • cheryl u

      Vance,

      I recently read an article on another blog, a very Calvinistic one, where they came extremely close if they didn’t actually do it, to calling the Arminian understanding of the Gospel “another Gospel” that was to be accursed as spoken of by the Apostle Paul. These differences do really draw out hot disagreement at times and even some pretty heavy pronouncements of one side against the other.

    • Ken Blatchford

      Vance,

      My experience in Pentecostal circles in some very small circles has been fairly painful. Abusive pastors often control people with sending them to Hell when they don’t toe the line. It is usually some sin of the flesh like smoking cigarettes pot or tobacco, fornication (that’s a big one) or some other outward sign of damnation. No joke. I’ve seen people wanting to commit suicide by throwing themselves off a roof for having once tasted of salvation (Hebrews 6;4-6) .

    • Vance

      cheryl, I have met a number Calvinists like that. I prefer the Michael Patton variety!

      Ken, I agree entirely that there are those who do damage with their presentation of what they believe to be true doctrine. I have seen people respond to Calvinist teaching with, “well, either I am elected or not, God will decide, so I might as well go about my business the same either way”. I have heard Calvinists eschew evangelism since it has all been decided anyway. These are corruptions of Calvinist teaching just as what you describe would be a corruption of Arminian teaching.

      I think that the doctrinal issues raised by the Calvinist/Arminian debate fall squarely into the “hold your beliefs, but hold them loosely, and not dogmatically” category. They are not essential enough, nor can we be sure enough about them, to do anything else.

    • Kara Kittle

      Did my post not post earlier?

    • Kara Kittle

      I have a question about doctrines though…if Arminian doctrine is based in Bible scripture and Calvinist is based in Bible scripture…why are they so diametrically opposed?

      And who is to say either is wrong or right? Is it because it makes sense to the believer? I think if we assume it’s right because we were told it was right for so long does not necessarily make it so.

      Doctrine is important, but when doctrine removes from us our love toward each other then it is wrong. Just because a preacher says it is right, don’t assume it is. I said before and I will say again, John Calvin just formed a doctrine from his own viewpoint the same as all theologians have.

      Why are we bashing each other’s heads over some guys viewpoints? Does God not speak today? Does God not reveal Himself today? When has He ever stopped? And this doctrine of grace is not just God’s responsibility toward man, but man’s responsibility toward each other.

      When our doctrine does not teach us the fundamental lesson that we are to be ambassadors of the heavenly kingdom while living here, and we are to be showing love as Christ loved us, bearing each other’s burdens as the Bible commands then our doctrine is as worthless as dirt. If Christ is not the author of the doctrine then it is nothing, and if there is no charity, all the pulpit banging, Bible thumping fire and brimstone is just a bunch of noise.

    • Kara Kittle

      Sorry about my meltdown

    • mbaker

      I don’t believe one should offset the other. Grace is in the minds of many folks a ‘doctrine’. I believe we can and should have both. However, to be overzealous about either is to cross a line into extremism.

      There are after all, many folks who abuse grace to the point that they think they can commit any sin, and get a free pass from God. Then there are the hyper-calvinists and hyper-armianians who consider each other’s beliefs heretical. I don’t even have to mention the hyper-charismatics who obviously have thrown away any authority in the church except themselves.

      I have been in all kinds of churches doing ministry over the years. It is generally my observation that grace and truth are pretty much equally honored in the more balanced ones. I am fortunate indeed to have one of those.

    • Kara Kittle

      mbaker,
      I actually had a long answer but decided against it. So I will try and refine it…

      I just have to ask this though in your thoughtful post, and by the way I think you are very insightful and honest and enjoy reading your posts. The authority in the church…can you define for me what you mean by that?

      Is the church meaning the whole broad spectrum of Christendom or the individual body itself?

    • Wm Tanksley

      I would not say the error was in “study and develop opinions on points that aren’t critical to salvation”, but in a focus on them to the detriment of the basic, core issues for salvation.

      I guess we all need to emphasize that beliefs won’t save you. Even the core ones. Christ can and does save us in spite of our errors. What the errors hurt is our effectiveness for Christ.

      I see little, if any, actual “Christian Living” impact on accepting or denying “TULIP”. There will be folks who completely reject them who are in heaven, and people who dogmatically hold to all five. And, I have not seen any significant evangelism or Christian witness impacts between the two sides either.

      With all respect, I think you’re wrong here. Your witnessing and your Christian life are precisely the things that will be affected by these lesser doctrines.

      For example: How can one avoid working harder if one actually believes that NOT working could lose one’s salvation (thus the Arminian has an advantage over the Calvinist)? And how can it fail to be heartening to believe that God’s work will hold in spite of my occasional failure (and thus the Calvinist has an advantage over the Arminian)?

      So, with that perspective, the idea that people actually allow “how we believe God goes about His business” to divide fellowships seems a shame.

      I think you’re right. With that said, I want to make a minor clarification of my own. The error isn’t in dividing (local) churches; it’s making enemies out of fellow Christians, whatever church they’re going to. There’s usually nothing wrong in switching to a different church because the people there study and teach a doctrine a little closer to what you believe; the error would come in rejecting all your brothers at your old church. I suspect you’d agree with that, I’m just saying it explicitly.

      -Wm

    • Wm Tanksley

      I have a question about doctrines though…if Arminian doctrine is based in Bible scripture and Calvinist is based in Bible scripture…why are they so diametrically opposed?

      They’re not diametrically opposed. They’re extremely close, differing only in fine details on a very few points.

      Doctrine is important, but when doctrine removes from us our love toward each other then it is wrong.

      Doctrine doesn’t remove love; people remove love. When we allow ANYTHING to come between our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are sinning. Teaching more doctrine isn’t the solution; but teaching less doctrine also isn’t the solution. Confessing our sins and repenting of them is the solution.

      -Wm

    • Glenn Leatherman

      Howdy,

      There is a great difference in minsitry and evangelism depeding on ones view of God’s sovereignty in salvation. It makes one either man-centered or God-centered in his minsitry and pursuit of holiness. There is a huge difference in worldviews.

      for instance, if one thinks that in the final analysis that salvation rests in man’s decision, then ministry is all about getting the right human technique because it rests with the Christian to convice a person to accept Christ, but if salvaiton rests in the final analysis with God then our responsibility is simply to proclaim the gospel agressively and leave the results with God.

      Soli Deo Gloria

    • mbaker

      Kara,

      Sorry to be so long in noticing your comment of #109. The comments get to going so fast sometimes they get lost in the shuffle.

      In answer to your question:

      I consider the church to be all the individuals who profess Christ, and consider Him alone as their risen Lord and Savior, with the recognition that as such He is the Head of the body. And his Word is the final arbitrater of any religious matter.

      There are different kinds of ‘authority’ figures in the heirarchy of different churches and denominations under whose banner we worship in, of course, but none of them supercedes the authority of Christ, either individually or corporately.

      And thanks for your kind comments by the way.

    • Kara Kittle

      mbaker,
      I think I may be lost in the plethora of churches described on Parchment and Pen. I grew up in an independent church and as such there really is no authority on the level as John McArthur or Adrian Rogers that we would claim. I wouldn’t claim one anyway, but call me silly like that.

      We have a pastor, but he is accountable as the congregation is. He is certainly the one who leads the church from that perspective but we don’t look to him to solve all our problems in life. Well some do, but that’s another story. He is very happy when we step out in faith and do something for Jesus. He certainly is not a singular father figure, but he is good to go for advice if we need to.

      So I just don’t recognize a central authority figure to represent me as a fundamentalist or evangelical. Perhaps that’s because I have been in the independent church for so long. I have tried other churches when we lived in another state, I was a member of the Foursquare Church for about a year. I suppose Jack Hayford would qualify as an authority figure but since I don’t know him personally it’s kind of hard to recognize him from my viewpoint.

    • mbaker

      I know what you mean, Kara. There are so many schools of thought out there nowadays. It can sure be confusing. While I respect that there has to be someone to keep order in the church, and certainly it is biblical to be respectful of those who do, I find some churches stress their authority too much, some too little, and in some anything goes. That sometimes makes it hard for the individual believer to find a good balance.

      I have never gotten into the Armianian-Calvinist debate camps for that reason, because I think we can easily get into extreme positions on either side of the issue, if that’s going to be our church’s main concern. So my personal concern in any church is a good balance between relationship and truth. I see that produces spiritual growth in the believers on all fronts. I don’t believe we can have a truthful relationship with Christ without knowing the Way, The Truth and the Life in full measure.

      I am fortunate to have found a pastor who does embrace both grace and truth, like CMP’s. Our pastor both pastors his flock individually and collectively through his love and compassion, and is faithful in his commitment to preaching the word of God straight from the Bible.

      He will be the first to say he’s not perfect, but considers himself God’s servant, and often a reminds us that Christ is the Head of our church. He says that anytime we think he has said something wrong from the pulpit, in the name of the Lord, he will be glad to re-examine it in the light of God’s word. That has been a first for me hear in a church in all my years of ministry!

      But it took a long time to find that. Unfortunately well balanced churches are getting to be the exception rather the rule in this area.

    • Dr. James Galyon

      Michael:

      May our lives be adorned by the reality of our doctrine. Nice post.

      Your Calvinist, ahem – *Christian* Brother,
      James

    • Rusty

      “Why do I….?

      The “why” is understandable.

      The “how” becomes more mysterious.

      Thankfully Paul was not confused.

      Peace

    • Brian Montanari

      Very good read! I agree with you and understand as I’m in the same situation, a calvinist going to an arminian church! It is far better to be connected with a church that is gospel focused and non legalistic than holding on to perfect doctrine and sacrificing grace and freedom in Christ. My local church that my wife and I are a part of is well balanced in doctrine(lightly Charismatic in nature), is a good family church with many ministries both in house and outreaches, and staying relevant in community. Also, as complementarian involved in a moderate egalitarian church, the pastor seems to drive home the importance of male leadership being essential in both church and home life. From my stand point, I can learn a lot from the church that I’m associated with and take the wisdom and guidance from a balanced church and at the same time hold to my own convictions on secondary matters. The bottom line is that so many believers are losing focus on being gospel-centered and are more concerned about their own desires by choosing what church is suitable for them.

    • Steven Long

      I guess after 118 other comments this is probably nothing significant. I appreciate the post because I have been dealing, for the last several months, about this very issue: holding one set of doctrines and attending the church of somewhat (but not completely) different doctrines. I love my pastor and the people of the congregation but have a tendency to nit-pick certain things. This post was tremendous in slanting my view (not in a bad way, of course) in the other direction. Thanks again for the post. I really do enjoy this blog and also loved your video series on the Atonement from TTP.

      In Christ,
      Steven

    • Chad

      Interesting article! Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder to not get too hung up on theological controversies. I am actually in the position of being an Arminian(or non-calvinist) at a Calvinist Church. I am an elder there and teach on occasion. I attempt to steer clear of issues or points of doctrine that might cause division. My family is there because we value Family integrated worship and passing on our faith to the next generation. I admit, it is difficult at times to bite my tongue, but the alternative is to try to find the “perfect” church. I remember a wise friend once saying – “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it or you will spoil it” 🙂

      Chad

    • Michael

      You know I heard a recent comment by John Piper indicating that Calvinist’s shouldn’t date (in his opinion) nominally Christian Arminian’s. You might have to change your church when your kids get to that age lest they become yoked to someone who is only nominally a Christian.

      This was intended sarcastically btw. Piper has some good things to say, but IMHO should be denounced in no uncertain terms for some of the extreme comments him and the likes of MacArthur (calling Arminian’s barely Christian) and others make when it comes to this issue. I also believe that Arminian’s aren’t allowed in leadership or to teach at Piper’s church. It’s odd how often it seems Arminian’s are far more apt to call this a non-essential issue than Calvinists are.

    • Wm Tanksley

      You know I heard a recent comment by John Piper indicating that Calvinist’s shouldn’t date (in his opinion) nominally Christian Arminian’s.

      This is an AWFUL thing to accuse someone of, and your first reaction should have been to confirm it, NOT to gossip about it. It turns out it’s a completely false accusation. Piper says that Arminians are true Christians, and a Calvinist married to one is NOT unequally yoked; however, he also says that the process of seeking a mate includes considerations of doctrinal compatibility, and Calvinists and Arminians are doctrinally different.

      Piper has some good things to say, but IMHO should be denounced in no uncertain terms for some of the extreme comments him and the likes of MacArthur (calling Arminian’s barely Christian) and others make when it comes to this issue.

      Back this one up, or apologize for it. (I don’t know, maybe it’s true; but you’re not a reliable source, but a gossip-spreader.)

      I also believe that Arminian’s aren’t allowed in leadership or to teach at Piper’s church.

      Do you have some kind of problem with that? Piper’s church is explicitly Reformed Baptist. It would be pointless for them to ordain or hire someone who didn’t support their church’s distinctive doctrines.

      It’s odd how often it seems Arminian’s are far more apt to call this a non-essential issue than Calvinists are.

      I’ve seen a lot, and I haven’t seen this.

      -Wm

    • #John1453

      Re posts 121 and 122:

      Actually, it was R.C. Sproul who used the adjective “barely”:

      “I agree with [J.I.] Packer and [O.R.] Johnston that Arminianism contains un-Christian elements in it and that their view of the relationship between faith and regeneration is fundamentally un-Christian. Is this error so egregious that it is fatal to salvation? People often ask if I believe Arminians are Christians? I usually answer, “Yes, barely.” They are Christians by what we call a felicitous inconsistency.”

      The above statement by Sproul can be found in his book, Willing to Believe: The Controversy Over Free Will, published by Baker Book House. The statement is quoted by C. Stephen Evans, in his article, “Robots with Choice?”, published in Christianity Today, found at http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/1998/julaug/8b4034.html

      As for MacArthur, at least one TULIP true believer argues that he is secretly an Arminian:

      http://www.scribd.com/doc/13575805/John-MacArthur-an-Arminian-in-calvinist-Clothing

      Regards,
      #John

    • michael

      http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/AskPastorJohn/ByTopic/45/2602_Should_I_date_someone_whose_theology_is_different/ is my source. Maybe I’m reading more into this then I should, but in this case, given the last paragraph, somehow I don’t think so. When I said that it seems that Piper thinks Arminians are only nominal Christians I was taking this from numerous videos I’ve seen of his and writings on his site where he discusses the seriousness of the Arminian error. His language and general way of approaching the issue seems to be that Arminianism is about the worst error you can make and still be in the fold. But again I could be reading too far into the stuff I read on his site.

      As for the Sproul, MacArthur thing I apologize. I got the two mixed up and you are correct that it is Sproul who made that comment and not MacArthur. The complaint I had about MacArthur (which I thought was Sproul – sorry for the mix up) is the way he seems to misrepresent Arminian’s on the issue of Total Depravity and compares them to Semi-Pelagian’s. But this is minor compared to calling someone barely Christian.

      As to the last point I have Arminian friends and used to have Calvinist friends. When I finally came down on the side of Arminianism while in undergrad my Calvinist friends stopped associating with me. One even called me a heretic. Furthermore while in law school I had a number of fellow students (who actually go to John Piper’s church) who stopped associating with me after finding out I was an Arminian and didn’t agree with Piper’s theology. And by stopped associating with me I mean stopped talking to me or inviting me to Bible studies and other Christian Lawyer events that were put on. I personally have nothing against associating with Calvinist brothers and sisters as I consider it a collateral issue, but I don’t get that from the other side at all. However I am honestly just going on personal experience here – maybe yours has been different.

      Oh one more thing. In response to the thing about John MacArthur being an Arminian. There is a person I knew in undergrad who now attends a conservative Presbyterian church who recently posted a note on Facebook about why Reformed Baptists aren’t truly Reformed. This guy is one of the ones who doesn’t talk to me anymore.

    • michael

      I meant to say conservative Presbyterian seminary not church. Sorry.

    • Wm Tanksley

      Maybe I’m reading more into this then I should, but in this case, given the last paragraph, somehow I don’t think so.

      No, I think you’re reading way too much into that.

      But thank you for the citation; it’s very helpful to have a first source, and I hereby retract the charge of “gossip” against you. You’re not a gossip if you can point to evidence; you may be overstating things (I’d say), but you’re definitely not a gossip.

      Piper isn’t saying that Arminians are less Christian; he’s saying that we differ enough in very fundamental ways that there will always be some friction. That doesn’t place any blame on either side; the problem isn’t the wrongness or rightness of either side, but rather the friction caused by the differences.

      Unfortunately, I don’t know what Piper videos you’ve watched, but I’d suspect that you’re viewing them with a jaundiced eye (i.e. looking for attacks).

      I agree with you that “barely Christian” is an awful thing to say. Sproul should know better than that — he had a point to make, but he didn’t have to include such an insulting “almost-lie” (is that “barely a sin”?) in order to make it; he’ll answer to God, and he deserves your condemnation.

      I admit that your personal experience is all too believable. I’ve seen that happen myself; unfortunately, I’ve seen it happen on both sides (not just from Calvinists). I don’t think either side is more charitable than the other… and I don’t see how citing it advances the argument in any way, since none of the bad treatment is based in any way on the principles in contention. It’s just bad treatment, and shows bad faith on the part of the specific people who do it. At most it shows a bad culture — but that has never been traced to the specific doctrines.

      -Wm

    • michael

      I apologize for not posting the link originally as I intended my first post to be somewhat sarcastic and not completely serious. As to the culture thing, maybe it’s just been my experience and maybe I just see persecution where I shouldn’t, but it just seems to me the most vocal on this issue as well as a number of others come from the Reformed side of things. If you search the internet for the various “discernment” (aka bash other Christians) blogs they seem to be Calvinists without fail. As further evidence or this I offer CMP’s own article asking Calvinists to just calm down. Although he does note correctly in his post the increasing militancy of Arminian’s in return. I think this is because we are all just human and you can only take so much punishment, and so much name calling before you eventually give into the human inclination to fight back sinful as this may be. I feel it too.

    • Wm Tanksley

      I apologize for not posting the link originally as I intended my first post to be somewhat sarcastic and not completely serious.

      Things intended to amuse or educate can easily wind up unjustly hurting others — compare Sproul’s “barely Christian”, which was intended educationally, but was actually … horrible.

      If you search the internet for the various “discernment” (aka bash other Christians) blogs

      I can’t accept that as evidence; there’s no search I can imagine that would return useful results of that nature.

      In the meantime, there’s the serious problem that most of American Christianity right now is Arminian (wait — that’s not the problem!), and most of them don’t even realize that there’s even a question about it (that’s the problem). When I explain what I believe, the response is shock and disgust — I’m accused of insulting God, of wanting people to go to hell, of being smugly certain of my salvation… All (well, mostly) from people who were never acquainted with my beliefs, and couldn’t even find theirs in the Bible beyond a few prooftexts.

      (This site isn’t like that! I like our commenters.)

      I think this is because we are all just human and you can only take so much punishment, and so much name calling before you eventually give into the human inclination to fight back sinful as this may be. I feel it too.

      So true.

      -Wm

    • James

      I enjoyed your article, and your honest commitment to serving God no matter where you are put by him. I too am facing a dilema in searching for a new home church. I was raised as a full blown armenian, but have been in a 5 point Calvinist church now for 10 years. Some of my family members won’t even speak to me now becuse of this switch.

      But now after 10 years, we are considering a switch to a mostly armenian church. (Southern Baptist who vary on calvinism depending on where you go, however this church holds on to #5 only) The problem for me with the reformed church is not the doctrine, but my pastor falls into the category of a hyper-calvinist at times and is very exclusive. (the idea that he is the only one in this part of the state teaching the gospel because he is teaching the 5 points, and to go somewhere else would be to turn your back on the gospel.

      Also there is no programs for reaching out to the community, and basically no emotion in the worship segment. The lack of involvement and association has prompted us to look elsewhere, but the nagging question remains, how much good bible doctrine does one give up to get the other things? My current pastor would say those who dont subscribe to his way of preaching and believing worship a “Peanut God” a God who wants to save and can’t.

      It is disturbing for me to go through everything I have went through to find good true doctrine (absent the hyper-calvinism the pastor throws in the mix) only to go back to the salvation “by chance” of the armenianism.

      I will pray for Gods will in the matter and I know as well that God desires those who will worship him in Spirit and truth. Afterall its not doctrinal beliefs that save you but Christ alone.

      Thank you again for your article.

    • […] However, this is my opinion and I am curious as to your thoughts. via reclaimingthemind.org–Check the post out for an awesome comment discussion! […]

    • Jireh8

      I just came across this article while researching on the neo-gnostic calvinism issue.

      I am curious, have you remained where you were? Have all in leadership/teaching positions been able to maintain the civility you promoted?

      If there were *growth* issues for any involved, were you able to resolve them and if so, how?

      Thanks for the thought provoking article. I enjoyed reading through the other comments too!

    • Danny Crowder

      Hi Michael,

      Love the website and your ministry in teaching theology. Only recently have been reading the blogs, and it is so good to see another believer, like myself, who is of Calvinism, but does not make it an ‘essential’ of Christian fellowship.

      I have two adult daughters who live in another state, and I have encouraged them to remain in fellowship with a CoG (Anderson) because it not only focuses on the essentials, but in living out one’s faith. There may be a church in their area that is of my denomination (SBC), representing the classical view of Calvinism, but I believe the Lord has placed them in that local body for his purpose.

    • drano

      I, too, am a Calvinist (5 pointer, less than that and you are a hybrid, not a Calvinist). My wife and I briefly attended Crossings a few years back and sat under Jerry Regier in SS. I was aware that the senior pastor was not seminary grained and his sermons lacked depth but the SS class and the music were ministering to me and a couple of long-time friends were also in the SS class. We decided to join the church but first attended a thiniing-about-joining-Crossings class on Sunday night with the Senior pastor and other staff. I asked only a couple of questions but the answers were not what I wanted to hear. At that point, I decided that doctrine was not of primary concern to the church and open sin would not be confronted under any circumstances. I believed that went against the scripture and decided that sermonettes were for Christianettes and neither I nor my wife wanted any part of it. It was the right decision and I question your committment to Calvinism since there are many opportunies in the OKC metroplex to affiliate with a church that is much closer to your understanding of the doctrines of Sovereign Graced.

    • Tio Papo

      I am not sure where I fit…but then again there was an article you posted that a lot of us are just misfits…..! I simplified at least for my peace of mind this “predestined” stuff. It really doesn’t make much sense…hey but whosoever believed Scripture should be sensical? Philosophers….and they are just charcoals elected to hell, so we can’t pay much attention to them, right?
      See in practice do you witness any calvinism when trying to make a disciple?Do we dare take the position that if there is the slightest objection to the good news “they” were meant for hell”?
      I really wonder about interpretations….Has anyone ever diagrammed Romans 9?
      I guess it would make a great logic lecture!

    • GregG

      Michael, appreciate the article. I’m hoping into the discussion late, so you may have already answered this. How would you respond if they appointed a female teaching pastor within your church? Would it change your position or participation? Would you continue to serve under her authority?

    • Guz

      I have difficulty accepting that a man who denies eternal security, is a Christian. Such a person does not even mean the same thing that I do if he says, “I trust Christ as my Savior.” Included in what I mean by that is that I trust that the Lord Jesus has given me eternal life, that I shall never perish, that I shall live with Him transformed in a state of bless & perfection forever. I don’t mean that I have a temporary state of grace.

      I put it to you that to say “I might lose my salvation” is a denial of trusting Christ to save you.

    • Guz

      Drano says:

      “I, too, am a Calvinist (5 pointer, less than that and you are a hybrid, not a Calvinist).”

      Given what Calvin wrote on 1 John 2:2, can you prove that Calvin was a 5-pointer, believing in limited propitiation?

    • zKatherine

      I just stumbled upon this blog post as I google searched in exasperation “calvinist attend a methodist church”! My husband and I left our RCA church we’ve been members of for 7 years. Every Sunday is a new experience in frustration and disappointment now. We live in an area where there is a CRC or RCA church on every corner and it seems we’ve visited all of them in our near vicinity (though I admit a few we pulled into the parking lot, saw only about 20 cars and left again). The church we stumbled upon as a last resort just to “worship somewhere” one Sunday? A United Methodist Church. And we’ve been drawn back over and over by their preaching, their warm hearts, and their commitment to local missions. We aren’t close to making a decision yet, but I’m praying hard about this since I’d like to make a firm commitment sometime before fall (and youth group/sunday school programs start up again) so that our children have some stability back in their lives and can begin making new friends. Thank you so much for this encouraging blog post. I have placed so much emphasis on my reformed beliefs that it may be clouding God’s will for our lives.

    • Craig Bennett

      Michael. I love the humility and spirit of this post. I recently said in my blog post about the division in the SBC that a modern Paul perhaps would say

      “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Slave nor Free, Male nor Female, Arminian nor Calvinist…but all are one in him!”

    • […] disunity within the Southern Baptist Conference regarding theological beliefs. Michael Patton from Credo House has re-posted a brilliant article that he first posted in 2009 about why he a Calvinist fellowships […]

    • S. Wesley Mcgranor

      Conyinually in this wretched postmodern West; man rejects God. Some who ideally thought they were the elect missed the actual election.

    • Kirsty

      Some people were querying whether an arminian would be allowed to preach at a calvinist church.

      Certainly my dad – who is very arminian – has done so. And he was speaking on Ephesians 1 – not exactly an uncontroversial topic. However, they were happy for him to preach, even having read in advance what he was going to say (which did surprise me!)

      I think the whole ‘calvinist church’/’arminian church’ thing is a bit silly anyway. My church is neither – there are both strong arminians and strong calvinists in it. The mechanics of how salvation works need make no difference to how we preach the gospel (“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved”) or how we live as Christians.

    • Daniel

      Michael Patton, I also am a Calvinist attending an Arminian church, and for many of the same reasons. This article was really helpful. I am a New Calvinist, and somewhat Charismatic friendly, but not Word of Faith. I was thinking about leaving my church, because I feel sometimes like a fish out of water. Most Calvinists I know there are under cover, but I made my Calvinism known in my Sunday school, during class discussion.
      We are actually going through your Theology program now, so I decided to Google you, and check out your soteriology. I’m glad you are a Calvinist. Somehow that makes be feel better about the class, and I think I will stay put.

      Also, I read through a number of your articles here. On New Calvinism, you said you could be the poster boy for the New Calvinist. I could too. I didn’t know how to make the distinction, but I am definitely a New Calvinist. That is probably because the ministry of John Piper has had a great influence on me, and because I come from a Reformed upbringing, but ventured into Charismatic circles on my own, after leaving home.

    • Daniel

      Love this!
      I too primarily believe the Calvinistic doctrines, however I refuse to refer to myself as either stripe. They’re both biblically correct when you keep them balanced and they’re both heresy when you exclude the other.
      I too go to an Arminian church, IFB.
      I like that WIFE accronym! That’s why I go to my church! I love the congregation like family and they focus on Christ and living a life of holiness FOR Him, to please and obey Him.
      Glad I’m not crazy lol
      Thanks for this, Lord bless you!

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