This post is the result of a conversation I saw the other day in which a group of Calvinists (I presume, at any rate) were discussing the false teaching and heresy of Arminianism.
Not being a Calvinist I took umbrage at the conversation. There is much to be said for Reformed theology. I very much appreciate its view of the supremacy and sovereignty of God. Too often Xians have such a small view of God and try to live life as though we ourselves are sovereign. We aren’t.
While I wouldn’t call myself a hard-core Arminian, I do believe that God’s initial action towards humanity requires a human response. In that sense, we are free to decide to respond positively towards God in faith or we can choose to reject the Gospel.
The biggest problem I had with the conversation I saw was the fact that these Xian brothers were labeling a position contrary to theirs as false teaching and possibly heresy. This was disheartening, for I have never thought of my Reformed friends as heretics or false teachers—simply people who disagree on some points of Xian theology.
We can still join together as Credal Xians and proclaim:
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
The third day he rose again from the dead:
He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
I believe in the Holy Ghost:
I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
The forgiveness of sins:
The resurrection of the body:
And the life everlasting.
But labeling me, a pastor who leans towards Arminianism, a false teacher and heretic, removes me from the shared faith we proclaim in our creeds. It creates a barrier between good Xians who share a common core belief. I still preach Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected. I still preach Acts 4:12:
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
We are often too quick to label anything that disagrees with us as heresy. We then quickly set up walls to separate ourselves from those who disagree with us. What I find humorous is that the Greek word for heresy (hairesis) developed in the Bible to mean schism or faction. Thus the apostle Paul seems to suggest that a heretic is a person who is divisive or factious (see Titus 3:10).
So the Calvinists who seek to be divisive are being heretics…in the Pauline sense, of course. 😉
All said and done, I have no beef with Reformed Xians. I have found them to be good people who take faith seriously. But, while some people fear the word ecumenical, to some degree there needs to be leeway for us to disagree on elements of faith and theology while still holding to the essential core of Christian doctrine.
Because, to someone else, we’re all heretics in one way or another.