The Genevans were outraged to learn that the mayor had declared April 1 “Arminian Pride Day.” “Political correctness run amok!” the Calvinists growled. “And right here in our fair city. Why can’t those Arminians just go back in the closet?” Rumor even had it that the Home Depot and Disneyland were both sponsoring the Arminian Pride Parade. And perhaps worst of all, there was talk that the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy for the military was about to be revoked, allowing prideful Arminians to serve shoulder to shoulder in the armed forces alongside their humble Reformed brethren.
Are Arminians really a prideful bunch, gloating in the superior character that is manifested in our choice to choose God who, in virtue of our choice, chose us? Mac Lee seems to think so: “In order for true free will to exist, that being each person contains within themselves the ability to or not to choose God, without God’s first choice of them, then A’s can say “I am smarter than unbeliever X, because I chose salvation and they did not”….”
I hear this a lot. But I’ve never seen any evidence that Arminians are more prideful than Calvinists. “Well they should be” comes the predictable reply.
Really? Such criticisms leave out an important doctrine, this little thing called prevenient grace.
Consider this illustration of the Arminian view of salvation. A small plane is flying over the Potomac River in winter when it crashes, leaving its two occupants soaked, bruised, and passed out on two jagged rocks. A special rescue team then flies in and one rescuer lowers from the helicopter with an extra harness, a bottle of special oxygen and a mask. He needs to use the oxygen to revive the occupants so that they can climb into the harness with his help and then be carried to safety. He fits the mask over the first man. Moments later he revives, willingly climbs into the harness with the rescuer’s aid, and is carried to safety. Next the rescuer turns to the second man. He fits the oxygen mask over his face. The man revives. But when he sees the rescuer he inexclicably refuses to get in the harness. Instead he jumps into the churning river and is swept away to his doom.
At the press conference later, do you think the first man will make either of the following two statements?
(1) I saved myself!
(2) I am smarter and/or better than my companion who refused to get in the harness!
Of course not! He’ll simply be thankful that he was saved even as he shakes his head sadly that his friend refused the harness. No pride here.
Now let’s turn things around. What about Calvinists? There are two kinds of Calvinists.
Calvinist type A: the kind that believes God loves the elect and hates the reprobate.
Calvinist type B: the kind that believes God has a special love for the elect and only a general, non-saving love for the reprobate.
According to type A, God has from eternity loved the elect and hated the reprobate. According to type B God has from eternity had a special love for the elct and a general love for the reprobate (which happens to look, in practice, a lot like hatred, especially after a few million years of divinely ordained roasting).
So the elect person thinks: “Hmm, why does God love me so much and not my lost friend?” There are two basic options. On option A there is something especially lovely in the elect that is absent in the reprobate. On option B the elect truly is indistinguishable from the reprobate in which case the choice of God to love and so elect one and not love and so reprobate the other is wholly arbitrary. (An aside: it isn’t arbitrary that God chooses to elect some and reprobate others since doing so maximizes his glory. But the specific individuals he chooses to elect and reprobate truly is arbitrary.)
So the Calvinist faces a dilemma. S/he can think either there is something pretty nice in l’il ole me that makes God love me so. (Ack! Pride!) Or S/he can think God’s love of him/her is completely arbitrary. (A chill goes through the room.)