Unity Within Christianity Despite Theological Differences

Calvinism and Arminianism are hotly debated theologies but we need to see past them and straight to Scripture.


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Mitchell Tyler, Staff Writer

When reading this article, as well as delving into theological discussion, there is one thing that we all need to remember: unity among Christians is far more important than being”right,” or “winning,” the argument. In such large issues, we have to be united. They are not issues that define our salvation. When we look at these subjects, we should be able to discuss, shake hands afterword, and maintain the fact that God is good. We cannot forget what Jesus said in John 17: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” Jesus wants us to be unified by Him and His Gospel- not divided by certain issues within it. Remember that as you read. 

Within Christianity, we have theology that’s defined as “open-handed” and “close-handed”- “open-handed” refers to the aspects of Christianity that are different within the faith. For example: baptism methods are debated among members of the faith- Roman Catholics prefer infant baptism, while Baptists prefer baptism by dunking after a decision is made. These differences are debated, yet do not change the fact that both Roman Catholics and Baptists are Christians. “Closed-handed” theology refers to principal truths in the faith. The deity of Jesus, for example, is not debatable. If you do not believe that Jesus is in fact God then you are not a Christian. Open-handed subjects are debatable, while closed-handed are not.

Arguably the most highly debated of open-handed theological topics is that of Predestination. Predestination is defined as “The divine foreordaining of all that will happen, especially with regard to the salvation of some and not others. It has been particularly associated with the teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo and of Calvin.” In other words, God has chosen some for salvation and not others.

When it comes to the debate, two camps are often formed: the Calvinists and the Armenians.

Calvinism’s name finds its source in the name of John Calvin, one of the great Reformers in Christianity. He maintained the view that mankind is nowhere near powerful enough to determine its eternal fate by a personal decision. That would encroach on the sovereignty of God. Sovereignty meaning God’s absolute power of the universe and control of our fates. One scripture (of many) used by those adhering strictly to Calvinism is John 6:44, which says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Basically, people cannot resist the call of God, so they will follow him. This fits into the idea of predestination because it shows that God has called and we can do nothing on our own to resist that.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Arminianism. It’s name is derived from Jacobus Arminius, the Dutch reformer. The philosophy differs from Calvinism in regards to salvation. Atonement was for all, and man has the choice, the decision of whether he will go to heaven or not. God has given man the absolute choice between heaven and hell. John 12:32 says, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” Here, we see that Jesus says that he will “draw ALL people” to himself. There are, of course, many other references that could go either way, but to be basic, mankind has the choice of whether or not they go to heaven.

These two camps of reasoning, Arminianism and Calvinism, find their beginnings in extremely gifted men. Both obsessed with theology, Arminius and Calvin sought out to find the “right” answer to certain biblical principles. They sought to glorify God more by knowing more about Him. That is a righteous motive. The only issue is when their theology leads to division among believers. People find themselves adhering more to a doctrine rather than Scripture. We cannot be caught up in the ins and outs of theological mindsets. We must, however, be obsessed with Biblical truths. Do not take other people’s word for what is right, with their scripture references. Look into the Scriptures, read in context, pray that the Spirit will help you understand. Without knowing the answer concretely, we can for sure say that God is good, Jesus has indeed payed for sin, and He’s coming back. We are united by the Gospel and Scripture.

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” John 17: 20-21