We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you–be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20
I’ve always heard it said “people are watching you” so be good.
Whether you like it or not, people are watching you. You’re witness is real. Even when it seems like life is usual, people are watching.
Recently I have found this to be true, bot hat work and at church, people have said things about me in conversation that was surprising. First was surprising was the Who. People whom I am not personally close with were saying things about me. Second thing that was surprising was the what. People caught on to you, your personality and your character faster than you think.
The witness aspect is real and it is was there. It was encouraging to hear the positive things people had to say about me and challenging in the ways that were negative.
Be on guard, you are an ambassador of Christ in all things you do.
I am impressed and almost envious of the simplicity my parents were enjoying one evening.
The history of Calvinism and Arminianism is a very interesting one. The theological issues of Predestination and Election were not novel to John Calvin nor Jacob Arminius. The debate of “Arminianism V. Calvinism” was not ever about a real life debate between John Calvin and Jacob Arminius. In fact the two men never met. The debate is more about extreme theology taught by the followers of these two men more than what these two men actually believed. The solution is moderation. What one can learn from history is that it is best to study all Scriptures and discovery for one’s self what the solution is for these deep questions of soteriology, instead of running with one of the two options of Calvinism and Arminianism, look for middle ground. Look for what the Bible says. Look at all the theology Calvin and Arminius agree upon. It is not necessary to pick one or the other when there are flaws with both systems, neither which honestly represent either man or the Word of God completely.
McGrath, Alister E, A Life of John Calvin: A Study in the Shaping of Western Culture. Malden, Ma: Blackwell Publishing, 1990.
Steele, David., Romans: Interpretive Outline. P&R Publishing, 1989.
Tangelder, Johan D. “The Doctrine of Election.” From the Pastor’s Desk. (1989 – 1993). Retrieved from http://www.reformedreflections.ca/pages/pastor-desk-index.html accessed on July 29th, 2009.
Chamberlain, Ava. “The Theology of Cruelty: A New Look at the Rise of Arminianism in Eighteenth-Century New England” HARVARDTHEOLOGICALREVIEW HTR 85:3 1992,
MÜLLER, RICHARD A. “HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL STUDIES ARMINIUS AND THE REFORMED TRADITION” WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL WTJ 70 2008: 19-48
Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983.
Elwell, Walter. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mi: Baker Academic, 2001.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Mi: Zonderzan, 1994.
Williams, Michael D,”THE FIVE POINTS OF ARMINIANISM,” PRESBYTERION COVENANT SEMINARY REVIEW 30/1 (Spring 2004): 11-36
MacArthur Jr, John. “Is the Doctrine of Election Biblical?” Adapted from The Body Dynamic. (1996.) Christian Art Distributors. Retrieved from http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/GTYW02.htm accessed on March. 1st, 2010.
Godfrey, Robert. “Who Was Arminius?” Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 9, Number 7, February 11 to February 17, 2007
Arminius, James. The Works of James Arminius, Vol. 1. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius/works1.iv.xxv.html
Witt, William, Creation, Redemption and Grace in the Theology of Jacob Arminius” University of Notre Dame, 1993..
Jay T. Smith. “Review of several books,” JOURNAL OF THE NABPR PERSPECTIVES IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES, 336-338
Shellrude, Glen. “The Freedom of God in Mercy and Judgment: A Liberrarian Reading of Romans 9:6-29” Evangelical Quarterly EQ, Paternoster Periodicals.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1985.
Douglas Weaver and Nathan Finn. “Youth for Calvin: Reformed Theology and Baptist Collegians.” Baptist History and Heritage, Spring 2004.Accessed on July 10, 2009, pg. 40.
Walker, Ken. “TULIP Blooming.” Christianity Today 52, no. (2. February 2008): 19-19. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost(accessed August 2, 2009).
Hansen, Collin. “Young, restless, reformed : Calvinism is making a comeback–and shaking up the church.” Christianity Today Sep 2006. (September 01, 2006). Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed August 1, 2009).
Brief History from Dort to Today
The synod condemned Arminianism. The Calvinists insisted that supralapsarianism did not represent all of Calvinism, yet the Arminians had continually treated the two as virtually the same thing. The political and religious condition of the 17th Century was already in a lot of conflict and struggle, as wars and battles, (including the Thirty-year war which was still occurring at the time), due to religious tension. Therefore, the Synod temporarily put the issue of Calvinism and Arminianism on hold. The Calvinists are in the winning seat as Reformed Protestants (Calvinists and Arminians alike) go to war against the Catholics. On a whole the war did not affect this theological issue. The Protestants winning the war was more important than this theological issue, because both Calvinists and Arminians wanted freedom from the Catholic Church. Although it is interesting to note that some of the banished Arminians were promoted by Kings (both James and Charles) because they supported the king’s efforts to prevent war and work for peace. While Calvinists on the other hand were the first to carry the sword and fight. Therefore, more conflicts and wars were created simply because of this theological difference, some Arminians were working for the Catholic King.
After the war, Charles the Third and James the Second both supported the Anglican Church. It was difficult to be any other kind of protestant in Europe until the Great Awakening. There were many people who left England and Europe for America and religious freedom from the Anglican Church. Finally though a group of Puritans within the Anglican church rose up out of the church and began a movement for freedom. They were called Methodists. They were in a “holy club” which encouraged prayer and bible study. Their goal was sanctification and holiness. They lead revivals from 1730–1755. Many of the pastors and leader of this movement were Arminians including The Wesley Brothers. During the Great Awakening and afterwards, when the Methodists and off-shoots of Methodism were the most popular denominations in America, Arminianism rose in popularity again. Although some Calvinists joined the movement such as George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, despite the differences in theology, these men put aside their differences for the common goal of revival.
To this day, Methodism and its offshoots (Pentecostals, the Holiness denominations, Charismatics and Third Wave Charismatics) along with General Baptists usually subscribe to Arminianism, while Presbyterians, Reformed Churches, Particular Baptists, and others subscribe to Calvinism. Largely because of its origins in Germany and Scandinavia rather than the British Isles, Lutheranism was uninvolved in the dispute, and official Lutheran doctrine (as well as, coincidentally enough, Primitive Baptist belief) does not fully support either group, preferring instead its own peculiar doctrinal formulations about the relation of human freedom to divine sovereignty. Post-reformation Roman Catholicism, and even more so Eastern Orthodoxy, has remained outside the debate.
More recently, the debate has been much milder than it was in the 17th and 18th Centuries but yet it has remained a topic that gets people passionate. There are a lot more positions, a lot more room for grace and middle ground., although there is also unique problems. The first according to Chamber is sin. “Following Great Awakening, Puritanism in New England underwent a radical reformation. Fueling this reformation was the replacement of the traditional Christian value structure that was defined by the seven deadly sins…” America has took a turn away from being God-centered and is now less focused on good theology.
The academics in America have developed some odd theology that gives a new option in the debate: Open Theism. “The debate, however, has been reinvigorated in recent years with the entry of the “Open Theist” into the conversation.” An interesting point by Michael Patton is that there are four truths from the Bible that need to hold true to any theological grid regarding soteriology. They are: 1. God has exhaustive knowledge of the future. 2. God created all people. 3. God loves all people. 4. Many people are going to end up in an eternal place of torment for rejecting God. Open Theism denies the first point that God has exhaustive knowledge of the future. An extreme position of Arminianism (admittedly not many people follow) Universalism denies the fourth point because no one is going to Hell for rejecting God. While hyper-Calvinism (or High Calvinism) denies the third point of God’s love for all. It is best that we do not go to an extreme and leave behind both high Calvinism and extreme Arminianism. According to pollsters, there is a slight rise in Calvinism currently, as there is a rise in the number of Calvinistic professors at many Seminary nationwide. 
Another point of recent study is that no matter which theological grid one chooses to “fit” into, there are always problems when trying to interpret all Scriptures according to that one grid. It is not a good idea to take the principles of one soteriological position and then try to apply these principles to all aspects of Scripture. When one’s thinking is dominated by these principles, one takes other Scriptures out of context and interprets passages that have nothing to do with soteriology and make them as if they are, not only soteriology but also make them (the Scripture passages) fit into a particular soteriological view!
A good passage that is commonly interpreted based on Calvinism or Arminianism is Romans 9. Glen Shellrude points out that there are problems with both approaches. Therefore it is better to focus on Scriptures instead of one of these soteriological positions.  It is clear that the primary function of the election language in the Bible is to stress that God takes the initiative in salvation and that his purpose is to create a people who will attain to that salvation. But it is never said that this means either that there is a non-elect section of humanity who cannot attain to salvation or that there is a fixed group of previously chosen “elect” who will be called, justified and glorified in some automatic fashion.’ Moderation is key.
 Michael D Williams,”THE FIVE POINTS OF ARMINIANISM,” 25.
 Ava Chamberlain. “The Theology of Cruelty: A New Look at the Rise of Arminianism in Eighteenth-Century New England” (HARVARDTHEOLOGICALREVIEW HTR 85:3 1992), 355.
 Jay T. Smith. “Review of several books,” JOURNAL OF THE NABPR
PERSPECTIVES IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES, 336-338
 Michael Patton.
Douglas Weaver and Nathan Finn. “Youth for Calvin: Reformed Theology and Baptist Collegians.” Baptist History and Heritage, Spring 2004.Accessed on July 10, 2009, pg. 40.
 Ken Walker, “TULIP Blooming,” Christianity Today 52, no. 2. (February 2008): 19-19. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost(accessed August 2, 2009).pg. 19.
 Collin Hansen. “Young, restless, reformed,” Christianity Today Sep 2006. (September 01, 2006). Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed August 1, 2009).pg. 37.
 This is another topic I have written an entire research paper on.
 Glen Shellrude,. “The Freedom of God in Mercy and Judgment: A Liberrarian Reading of Romans 9:6-29” (Evangelical Quarterly EQ, Paternoster Periodicals), 318.
History of Jacob Arminius and Arminanism
Jacob Arminius was a very well educated young man. Arminius went to Leiden from 1576 to 1582. Many of his teachers especially Kolmann believed and taught that high Calvinism made God both a tyrant and an executioner. Arminius wanted both sides of the debate so he went to Calvin’s academy in Geneva. Theodore Beza, Calvin’s hand-picked successor and son-in-law, was the chairman of theology at the university. Admiration flowed both directions in Beza’s friendship with Arminius. Arminius learned from the Calvinists. He learned so much from the Calvinists that he was able to debate and even refute them. Jacob Arminius refuted Theodore’s supralapsarianism and his high view of unconditional election, which went beyond what Calvin himself taught in the area of unconditional election. Summarizing and debating high Calvinism. Arminius not only refuted Beze but also against the majority position of most theologians at the time. The theology of the reformers was still hot and taught by the scholars of the time.
Jacob Arminius received his doctorate and professorship of theology at Leiden in 1603. Unfortunately for Arminius, Franciscus Gomarus was a strict Calvinist professor at Leiden at the time. Upon hearing about Arminius’s professorship, Gomarus publicly began opposing Arminius and his teachings (even during Arminius’s own classes!) Long story short, Gomarus and Arminius did not have a good friendship like Beza had with Arminius. Worse, from 1603 till 1609, Arminius spent most of his time debating and recovering from lost legal and theological battles. The issues were so stressful for Arminuis that he died in 1609.
For the most part, Arminius wanted to stay Biblical. His doctrines against some of the strict and high Calvinists were simply getting radical teachings grounded and more Biblical. Gomarus taught that God knows since eternity, since the beginning of time, who will be among the saved and the damned and supralapsarian predestination and i nfralapsarianism (also know as absolute predestination or double predestination.) This was not originally what John Calvin taught. Arminius wanted to ground this teaching and get back to the Biblical balance between the sovereignty of God in all things and also allow for a measure of free will to be tangibly expressed and performed by human creatures. And while human beings must be enabled to believe in Jesus Christ such does not validate any theory of “effectual grace”, according to Arminius.
Unfortunately due to his untimely death and the regrettable debate just before his death, Arminius was accused of saying that high Calvinism makes God the author of evil but he was also accused of errors on the authority of Scripture, the Trinity, original sin, and works salvation — all charges which Arminius not only denied, but cited agreement with both Calvinism and Scripture. He died young at forty-nine years of age and his followers (the Remonstrants) published his works after his death: Remonstrantiœ and Five articles of the Remonstrants.
Arminius stated that “the grace sufficient for salvation is conferred on the Elect, and on the Non-elect; that, if they will, they may believe or not believe, may be saved or not be saved.“ William Witt states that “Arminius has a very high theology of grace. He insists emphatically that grace is gratuitous because it is obtained through God’s redemption in Christ, not through human effort.” Arminius himself agreed that God’s grace saved man. He agreed that it was God’s effort that saved man! He agreed more with that actual teachings of John Calvin than he was against Calvin. What Arminius could not stand for was high Calvinism and double predestination. John Calvin probably would not have stood for it either.
Arminius never meat Calvin. He was not directly against Calvin’s basic teachings, but against the excessive teachings of Calvin’s followers. The theology of Arminianism did not become fully developed during Arminius’ lifetime, similar to how Calvinism was more a creation of Calvin’s followers. Similarly also the followers of Arminius take Arminius’ teachings to a new level and use it against all of Calvin’s followers. So we are left with an artificial debate between two men who never intended on debating each other where for the most part these two men agreed with each other theologically more than they disagreed.. Besides all the the debate is no longer representing the actual teachings of these two men!
Arminius himself did not even devise the T.U.L.I.P. acronym. It was the Remonstrants lead by Hugo Grotius who created a five points synthesis or theological grid. Their five points were: 1. God chooses to save those who place their faith in Christ. 2. Christ is the Savior of all men/world, General Atonement. 3. New Birth is a moral necessity. Man is depraved.
4. Grace of God can be resisted. 5. Victory in Salvation is secured for people who continue to seek the help of God however may lose salvation if at any time if he stops actively seeking help of God. 
Right after the Five articles of the Remonstrants was published, there was a Calvinistic response, the Synod of Dort in 1618 and 1619. It was here that the Five Points of Calvinism was issued. These ever famous five points are shortened to the mnemonic acronym or acrostic of “T.U.L.I.P.” Initially Gomarus stayed on with the Calvinistic opposition group the contra-remonstrants. Gomarus resigned from his post and went to Middleburg in 1611, where he became preacher at a Reformed church. It is speculated that the controversy around Arminius is the reason why he resigned. It is possible that either he took Arminius’ death and defeat so ill that he chose to resign or that it was the politically correct thing to do or someone forced him to resign. This was the peak of Calvinism and high Calvinism and one of the lowest points of Arminianism.
 RICHARD A. MÜLLER “HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL STUDIES ARMINIUS AND THE REFORMED TRADITION” (WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL WTJ 70, 2008), 25
 Robert Godfrey “Who Was Arminius?” (Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 9, Number 7, February 11 to February 17, 2007), 1.
 RICHARD A. MÜLLER “HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL STUDIES ARMINIUS AND THE REFORMED TRADITION”, 27.
 Ibid, 28.
 Ibid, 26.
 Arminius, James. The Works of James Arminius, Vol. 1. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius/works1.iv.xxv.html
 William Witt, Creation, Redemption and Grace in the Theology of Jacob Arminius, ( University of Notre Dame, 1993), pp. 259-60.
 RICHARD A. MÜLLER “HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL STUDIES ARMINIUS AND THE REFORMED TRADITION,” 28
 David Steele, Romans: Interpretive Outline. P&R Publishing, 1989.
History of John Calvin and Calvinism
John Calvin was a sixteenth century second generation Protestant reformer, due to his responsibility in systematizing its thoughts. He wrote Institutes of the Christian Religion. His final 1559 version is an exhaustive, systematized defense of the Reformed faith. The theological grid of “Calvinism” is not exactly “of Calvin.” John Calvin never heard of the T.U.L.I.P. acronym. While Calvin certainly taught on predestination theology, it was not his bread and butter. There is so much more to Calvin’s theology, much which centered on grace and justification through Jesus Christ, not predestination, especially not double predestination. Predestination plays quite minor role and it fits in a proper place behind Jesus and grace. Alister McGrath points out that “to understand Calvin it is necessary to read Calvin.” Unfortunately the debate of Calvinism has gone beyond what Calvin actually had to say.
As pointed out earlier Calvin’s conception of predestination is not original to him. Unlike Luther, Calvin was in a situation where he could be far more comprehensive and systematic. Calvin’s theology is built upon a firm trust in the holiness and complete authority of Scripture over and above human tradition and teachings of “The Church.” Thus Calvin’s theology can be said to be a thoroughly biblical theology. Calvin’s massive commentaries on nearly every book of the Bible reveal a heart that was focused on the Word, and saw the Word as the only true source for discerning divine
Also as pointed out earlier, most people assume that Calvin dogmatically hammered on “T.U.L.I.P.” Calvin did not. “T.UL.I.P”. better represents the further expositions of his followers such as Theodore de Beze. In particular, the concept of “limited atonement” is particularly difficult to find in Calvin’s actual writings. This expansion from Calvin’s theology was made by de Beze who took Calvin’s thinking to a logical extreme that Calvin himself was not willing to go. For Beze, nothing falls outside of the will of God. Nevertheless, all of Calvin’s theological teachings are held together by a strong conviction of the sovereignty of God—that is, God has complete and supreme authority over the universe, the earth, the unfolding of history, and especially the salvation of mankind. God alone gives salvation as a gift; it cannot be earned in any way.
Most of Calvin’s influence derives from his ministry in Geneva, a city that was both influenced by Calvin, and also influenced the Reformer. Although Calvin had a lot of influence in France, history seems to forget. Calvin came to Geneva quite by accident as he had intended to go to Strasbourg but was derailed by certain military action. After he stayed in Geneva for two years, making some pastoral blunders due to his inexperience in the ministry, he and Farel (another influential reformer) were expelled from the city due to conflict with the City Council which attempted to control nearly every aspect of civic life. Subsequently, both he and Farel were recalled to Geneva and asked to reclaim their positions of theological influence after a pro-Farel majority seems to have achieved power in the City Council. Though Farel’s influence waned and Calvin’s grew exponentially, history does not verify the dictatorial fashion of authoritarian leadership that Calvin is often assumed to have possessed. He was always held in check by the Council, even as his authority held the Council in balance. Though Calvin has a reputation for ‘eliminating’ opponents, only one execution was performed under his leadership in Geneva. Thus his bad reputation as a ‘dictator’ is quite undeserved.
 Alister E McGrath, A Life of John Calvin: A Study in the Shaping of Western Culture. (Malden, Ma: Blackwell Publishing, 1990), 139.
 Alister E McGrath, A Life of John Calvin: A Study in the Shaping of Western Cultur., 169
 Ibid, 145
 Michael D Williams,”THE FIVE POINTS OF ARMINIANISM,” (PRESBYTERION COVENANT SEMINARY REVIEW 30/1, Spring 2004): 11-36
The modern debate of Predestination, today, centers on the doctrine of election. The doctrine of election is one of the most complicated and challenging issues of Calvinism. Not only is it hard to explain, but there is a lots of theological implications to holding opinion to one side (or the other) of this doctrine. Scripturally, the doctrine is complex because Scriptures seem to speak for both sides of the man-made argument. The problem is the man-made argument, not the Scriptures. The doctrine is very Biblical, although the argument divides people by misunderstanding and forces an artificial false dichotomy.
Calvinists hold that God chooses certain people to have his special favor upon. God’s selection of those for salvation is absolute and unconditional. God chooses people because He loves them, it pleases Him to do so. God only takes part in salvation. While Arminians hold that Christ died for all men and (all men) have the ability to choose faith in Jesus Christ. Man takes part in salvation with God. Followers of both Calvin and Arminius have taken extreme views of both positions and twisted each other’s words to make the argument more complex.
Wayne Grudem, a reformed theologian defines election as “an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure.” The reformed position makes it clear that God is in full control and does as He pleases. Man has little say in the matter. Man cannot earn salvation in the first place. Arminians agree that individuals are foreordained to salvation, that God chooses one over the other. Where Arminians disagree is on the point of “unconditional” or “absolute” predestination or election. Arminians have gone so far to say that Calvinism is fatalistic and kills evangelism. Arminians ask Calvinists “why then should we live holy if we are just God’s puppets/robots?” And “ Does not this doctrine contradict free will?” And “if all is ordained, why evangelize?”
The Calvinist response to these objections is not “double predestination.” Rather, a deeper study of the Word. The Word of God presents the out-working of our salvation in a personal relationship with God. God’s act of election was neither impersonal nor mechanical.The New Testament shows us that our choices in life do matter. We are not robots. It is also clear in the Bible, that we as Christians must preach the Gospel. Election should comfort the saint, give them reason to praise God, and encourage evangelism. Both reasonable Calvinists and Arminians can agree with these Biblical truths. So much of the debate of election is in the details, it is an interworking of a non-essential.
Is it possible that man works with God on salvation? That God bases his foreknowledge of predestination on man’s faith? No. Scripture never speaks of our faith as the reason God chose us. Election based on something good in us would be the beginning of salvation by merit. Think about the idea of unconditional grace. It is not earned. It is a gift. Predestination based on foreknowledge does not give people free choice. In fact, that is the definition and Calvin’s point exactly! Election must be unconditional! While many Arminians are “reformed” and believe the “Solas” of our faith, somehow the understanding of “Grace Alone” is not enough for them. Man having a choice over God would contradict both Calvin and Arminius, in their views of God’s predestining and a reformed idea of Grace Alone.
The modern debate between what is known as Calvinism and Arminiansim centers also on the acronym of T.U.L.I.P. which was devised to summarize the five points of Calvinism.The five points are: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Preservation of the saints. Total depravity means that all men are sinners by nature. While these are the main points of the modern debate, it is not really what John Calvin focused on, and while Arminius and his followers did construct five points of Arminianism (which is separate from the TULIP or five points of Calvinism), it was not meant to go against ALLCalvinists, just the extreme ones.
 I have dedicated entire research papers to this topic alone. I recommend this article:MacArthur Jr, John. “Is the Doctrine of Election Biblical?” Adapted from The Body Dynamic. (1996.) Christian Art Distributors. Retrieved fromhttp://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/GTYW02.htm accessed on Aug. 1st, 2009.
 Millard Erickson. Christian Theology. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983), pg. 929.
 Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.( Grand Rapids, Mi: Zonderzan, 1994), pg. 670.
 Milard Erickson. Christian Theology. Pg. 934.
 Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Pg. 674.
 Ibid, pg. 676-679.
 See appendix A
The soteriological debate between God’s Sovereignty and man’s free will (which includes issues of election, depravity, predestination, and atonement) has been heated and cooled many times through-out the past three centuries. The debate continues to be relevant in the 21st Century as seminarians, pastors, ministers, professors and theologians search for the most Biblical response. The debate is not a simple one. Besides the confusion over theological terms and finding the real Biblical truth, a lot of concepts have been tweaked by bias over the span of history.
History tells a story that needs to be heard. Not everyone who is familiar with “T.U.L.I.P.” is familiar with where “T.U.L.I.P.” came from. Many people know the concepts of Predestination and Free Will, they know the “theological grids” and all the concepts to debate unfortunately these same people do not know what real life history brings to the argument. They do not know the story behind the theology. Dare I say, John Calvin and Jacob Arminius would both be rolling in their (respective) graves if they had seen or heard the arguments people are making today about the theology they each supported. A lot of the hype in debate is based on assumptions and exaggerations of both Calvin and Arminius, not on their actual teachings. Worse, much of the modern hype in this debate is exaggerations of false assumptions! Recent history has taken the debate much outside of what these theologians ever intended it to be.
Certain theological topics keep coming up throughout history. What is interesting is that the topics dominating the debate between Calvin and Arminius were not novel topics. They had been thought and even debated about long before Calvin’s lifetime. Augustine and Pelagius, would be the first really well documented “debate” on God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Luther had an interesting and related theological response to Erasmus regarding this topic. Somehow it is the “Calvin V. Arminius” conflict that is most remembered, even though these two men never even met in real life, unlike the other two situations! Calvin died when Arminius was only four years old.
This is precisely the concern of this paper. If Calvin and Arminius never met in real life to debate God’s Sovereignty, why are these two men’s “theological grids” always compared to one another’s? One must examine the history of the life of John Calvin, his followers and his theology and then also one must study the history of the life of Jacob Arminius, his followers and his theology to truly comprehend not only what these two men truly had to say but how followers of these men have influenced and skewed the debate and the theological grids to be different from what these original men had in mind.
Recently Michael Patton wrote on his Parchment and Pen blog “WHY TRADITIONAL ONSITE SEMINARY IS STILL (BY FAR) THE BEST OPTION.” The post got me thinking and questioning my own choice of getting my MDiv online. While for the most part I agree with all the points Michael makes I wanted to write about my experience. Michael’s post brought up a lot of great points that got me thinking…and asking, what I am personally missing out on a a DLP? How is my situation good? bad? Is my experience positive? Legitimate? Etc…
I am in pursuit of my MDiv with the Liberty Distance Learning Program. I am very fortunate to be in the situation that I am in. I choose the online option for financial reasons. Not only is the online option cheaper than going, but also I have more flexibility and convenience with work. This is not to say I could not have gone to Liberty and gotten a job in Lynchburg, Va…but with the online option I can work anywhere I am, which right now happens to be Lancaster/Columbus, Ohio. Lancaster is where I am really involved in my church. I am on the elder/advisor team. I am always helping any way I can. I am leading outreaches to the community, preaching from time to time and teaching a small group class.
As far as in mentoring and discipleship, it is my own personal experience that has made this work. I am personally mentored by my pastor at my church. I agree that this is an important thing that Liberty Distance Learning does not provide. Also I do have a really amazing group of friends that are my age whom I often get a lot of encouragement, fellowship, and challenge from. I realize that not all online students have this.
Liberty has done some things in their online Seminary program that also makes the program excellent. While it does not fill-in all the gaps and problems (like the ones Michael mentioned and I wrote about above) below I am going to share on how the program does meet some of the other problems Michael writes about.
One is that program does require giving sermons in front of live audiences. While I realize that being ripped apart by both peers and your professor who truly want you to grow is a little different, in my situation, I was fortunate to have both my pastor, another pastor, the professor and few peers who did rip apart my sermons and presentation/delivery of the sermons which did help me grow. And I also had a ton of encouragement from church members and other friends my age who gave me positive feedback.
While there are other aspects of the on-site experience that cannot be mimicked online my experience so far is pretty positive but I owe much credit to my church and my friends.
Tim Kimberly wrote a response or another side of the issue in Insider’s Critique of Seminary Online”>AN INSIDER’S CRITIQUE OF SEMINARY ONLINE. Here also I wanted to write about my experience at Liberty. Tim makes some excellent points as well. Having Seminar online is a good option in some situations but it must be done carefully and in such a way as not to hurt the reputation of the Seminary.
I think that some of the things Liberty is doing are very helpful in protecting their reputation. First the process of application and getting into the program did require a little bit of work. While some of it could have been faked I think that what Liberty required was very reasonable and helped protect their reputation. The requirements besides just an application and fee included a pastoral recommendation, a personal testimony, and character assessment/testimony from three friends. Not everyone is accepted into the program.
Another question Tim presents is how do online Seminaries determine the character of students away from their coursework. What is the character of the person, not just the student – what is their real life like? This is important because ever graduate of the Seminary (including online students) are stamped with that University’s “seal of approval.” This person is cut out and endorsed by our University to do ministry: be chaplains, pastors, etc. The University as Tim points out needs to be considered for legal reasons, reputation reasons and general for the good of Christianity and the good of the next generation of church leadership!!!
These are all good and solid points. My experience with Liberty has been interesting in this regard. I am curious after reading these two articles, how is Liberty’s reputation? What will employers, churches, ministries think of Liberty and me because I went to Liberty (online!)?
There are some things that Liberty is doing that I can personally say that do look at a student’s character. In the discipleship and evangelism classes the coursework required that we as students shared about our real life experiences. Evangelism reports required us to share our faith and then simply journal/report what happened. Ministry Application Project and Discipleship Plan Report required us to take action, report on how we took action, interact with the principles of the coursework in our real life ministry and set goals for the future. A lot of emphasis is on real life interaction.
I understand that all of this could be fabricated, broad and not very personal. But students who are very honest with themselves (like myself) are not short on the details of the real life emphasis. I have been very transparent and honest with my professors. They know me and can see me for who I am. While I am not sure if it is the same way with all the students, I know that for me, many of the professors are repeat professors, so they know if I am being honest and growing from course to course.
It is an interesting discussion. It has really got me thinking. I am sure I am missing out and some challenging and some encouraging and helpful learning. Although at the same time I am learning a lot and doing other things that cannot be done at an onsite experience. Daily I am interacting in the real world with real people at my real life job. Developing friendship and acquaintance with real people and ministering to them. I am learning about people and how to minister to them in a real life setting. Not only that but I am able to get ahead financially. Working a real job is saving money instead of spending money onsite.
My last point is really a question. What is Liberty’s reputation? Is it bad that Liberty is not one of the ATS schools? Liberty is the largest evangelical University and third in nation of all online universities. Liberty was founded by Jerry Farwell who was generally a pretty conservative person theologically, although he is also known for letting just about anyone go to Liberty University (undergrad institute not Seminary) despite theological diversity/differences. What do you think of Liberty’s reputation?