I’m going to have to be sensitive on this one: Steve Wilkens and Don Thorsen say their new book, Everything You Know about Evangelicals Is Wrong (Well, Almost Everything): An Insider’s Look at Myths and Realities say that not all evangelicals are Calvinists.
I have to be sensitive here because bringing up Calvinism these days, with the resurgence of Calvinism among the NeoReformed, can draw heat if one is not careful.
But Wilkens and Thorsen are right: Evangelicalism, at least as they define it (and I agree with them), is a Big Tent and it includes those who are committed to the Bible, to the cross, to personal conversion and to an active Christian life. All in a Protestant key. But all also processed through the revivalism of American history, including the missionary movement, that included both Calvinists like Jonathan Edwards and Arminians like John Wesley and Finney and those who are neither one nor the other in emphasis, like Billy Graham and the Neo evangelical coalition that formed around the 1950s.
As Don Thorsen observes in his opening to this chp, the minute one suggests one is an Arminian, one hears the words Pelagian or semi-Pelagian, and those words — which speak of human freedom and are often used as the bogeyman that knocks down all enemies — and then the argument gets ugly.
Scholars like Don Dayton and Robert Johnston (The Variety of American Evangelicalism
) have clearly shown that Western evangelicalism — and let’s not even bring up global stuff here because it would trump the case — has an Arminian dimension. But there is a clear and powerful voice today that wants to say that only the Reformed branch of evangelicalism is truly evangelical. Wilkens and Thorsen disagree, and this chp is worth your reading if you need to brush up on this issue.
Question: Is it true that Calvinists fear Liberalism while Arminians fear Fundamentalists? Is this a generally accurate issue or too general to be of use? Do you think Calvinists are more theory-based while Arminians are more praxis-based?
Their contention, and I agree with them, is to welcome Calvinists in the Big Tent, but also to say that not only Calvinists are to be in the Tent. It’s a Big tent and not just one kind of Christian tent.
They have a nice few pages describing Calvin and appreciating Calvinism. Then they sketch the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.
1. Total depravity vs. universality of sin.
2. Unconditional election vs. conditional election
3. Limited atonement vs. unlimited atonement
4. Irresistible grace vs. resistible grace
5. Perseverance of the saints vs. assurance of salvation
Three elements that shook Calvinism and manifested diversity for evangelicalism: revivalism, the importance of the experience of faith, and the emergence of other kinds of Christians, like Anabaptists, Anglicans, Quakers, Pietists, Methodists, etc..
They also say an evangelical is someone who is neither Liberal nor a Fundamentalist. Agree or disagree?