I had a question regarding Ariel’s views on Calvinism. Our Evangelical Free church is about to hire a pastoral candidate who refers to himself as a 4 1/2 point Calvinist. A friend of mine (a “five-pointer”) claims the TULIP of Calvinism is Scriptural, that Calvin just “codified them.” I’ve some knowledge of Calvinism and it seems to bother me. Maybe I’m making too much of it. Just wondering what insights you may have? Thank you and God’s richest blessings!
This is an excellent question and one that can be addressed through studying Ariel Ministries doctrinal statement. Calvinism is a theological system, and like any theological system, merely reflects an attempt to systematize and synthesize biblical data. You will find that Ariel Ministries’ doctrinal statement reflects to a large extent the conclusions commonly lumped together as “Calvinism”. Specifically:
1. Total depravity simply means that sin extends to all members of humanity and that we are, by nature, incapable to follow God without divine assistance. It does not mean that every person is as depraved or evil as he can be. This doctrine is reflected in “Man: Created and Fallen”.
2. Unconditional election means that our salvation is unconditionally grounded in God’s choice from eternity past and not on individual human merit. This is reflected in “Salvation — Section One — The Means of Salvation”.
3. Limited atonement has nothing to do with limitations in the power of the Messiah’s death but simply means that it was designed for some but not all of humanity (the idea being that if it was meant for all but not applied to all it reflects poorly on God’s omnipotence). This is a point that diverges from classic Calvinism in the doctrinal statement. See “Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus The Christ — Section Two — The First Advent”, were it states that He provided atonement for all men but applied only to those who believe. This is likely the half point that your candidate is stuck on.
4. Irresistible grace refers to the certainty of salvation for those whom God has called. In other words, the Holy Spirit invariably overcomes man’s natural resistance to God’s call for everyone who receives the call. This is reflected in “Salvation — Section One — The Means of Salvation”.
5. Perseverance/preservation of the saints refers to the eternal security of the believer and that nothing man can do trumps God’s call. This is reflected in “Salvation — Section Three — Eternal Security”.
So, you can see from the above that Ariel and Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum are, at minimum, 4 point Calvinists with perhaps a quarter to a half point extra regarding atonement. There is no question in my mind that these points best reflect the biblical data as revealed in the New Testament.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Answer contributed by Steven Charles Ger, Th.M., Director, Sojourner Ministries.