And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech
or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ,
and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words
of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith
would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
I Corinthinians 2:1-5
I've attended churches teaching Arminian theology. I've attended churches teaching Calvinist theology. I've also attended a few that I'm pretty sure might have been teaching Oprah's theology, but that's a story for another time. Sitting under the teachings and serving among the people of all those various churches has largely been an enriching and positive experience. Though I have to confess it is not easy to follow the path of truth when different churches say it lies in different directions.
In a nutshell, Arminianism teaches that free-will is the deciding factor in salvation. God provides grace to permit people to see and choose Him, knowing ahead of time who will say 'yes.' Calvinism teaches that God has determined beforehand who will be saved and who will be damned and Man, being dead in his sins, has nothing whatever to do with it. There is much more besides, but that's the heart of the matter. Both sides are full of people who are sincere and thoughtful and serious students of the Word. And each side is convinced that the other is mistaken...and possibly a little careless with their scholarship.
But have we done ourselves a disservice in forcing a choice? What if it's less an either-or and more a both-and question? The God I find in Scripture seems to have no problem operating in a world in which both predestination and free-will are essential ingredients. He doesn't struggle with opposing sides both being true at the same time. This is the God who says that one must lose his life to gain it. The One who says that leaders must be the servants of all. The One who designed the universe to follow the laws of physics... then fairly regularly breaks them to make His miracles. God doesn't have a problem with paradox, in fact He seems to revel in it. The tension of holding two seemingly opposing truths doesn't wear Him out. He has offered Scriptural evidence for the truth of both pre-destination and free-will—without mentioning there might be conflict between the two. We are the ones who have trouble with this, thinking we must find and choose the one, correct side.
The God of order and decorum is also the one who delighted when David danced before the Lord with all his might...showing his underpants and possibly more besides. The God who designed the vast universe and ordained all things before they even existed, also orchestrates the details of the tiniest insect's life cycle. He is a mighty sovereign, high and exalted, enthroned above all kings and powers, yet also humble and lowly, the servant of all. How can it be that He left us an important theological muddle to figure out? Is it possible He couldn't decide which side to pick? Did He forget to erase from Scripture all the evidence for the other side?
History is full of men and women who thought long and hard about what God means in His word, which is a good thing. There have been thousands of books written on theology, saying all sorts of—sometimes conflicting—things. But all these books, as serious, well-meaning and beneficial as they are, are not the Word of God. They are simply the thoughtful opinions of good and scholarly folks.
I may be slapping some sacred cows here, but weren't John Calvin and Jacob Arminius both men and therefore by definition creatures with limited minds? Why must we make God fit into either of their particular theological boxes, as if we fail the test if we don't answer this question? It isn't that they weren't serious scholars, or sincere believers or good men. They gave their all, trying to wrap their heads around what is essentially a mystery. I'm grateful for both and for all the great minds and tender hearts who've wrestled with the big questions of the faith. But God is simply bigger, higher and wiser than any human mind's ability to understand Him. Some things He has revealed, some things we may search out and some things remain mysteries, no matter how much and how long we cogitate on them. He has simply not definitively answered all our questions.
Isn't that what we long for—a God bigger than Man's biggest minds can fathom? A God who could easily have told us that one side or the other is correct, but chose instead to give us ample evidence for both? Selah. So with a wry smile (and a little rebellion) I'm refusing to choose, unofficially calling myself an “Arminiacalvinist.” He is too big to fit neatly into our little systems. He is too wise and too busy to involve Himself in solving our theological controversies. He delights in bringing us to the end of our own wisdom as He brings many sons to glory and builds His kingdom... which is kind of the point. I like to think that God enjoys our attempts to understand and explain Him, but prefers our loving friendship and cheerful obedience.
But the Lord is in His holy temple;
let all the earth hush and keep silence before Him.