There are certain basic beliefs that everyone will agree on but when you press the issue you find that the understanding and applications are different. One of the central ideas of Christianity is that we are saved by the grace of God, not by our own efforts. In other words, salvation is a gift. Salvation is not something that we can earn.
On one side of this is the tremendous price that sin demands. The only acceptable payment for sin is death.
(Hebrews 9:22 NASB) And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.This presents a problem. We have all sinned. The only way to cleans the sin it by paying with our lives. Sin is that important. But if we die to pay the price, we die in our sins because our death is still not enough to pay the price.
This is where Jesus becomes our hope. He is the perfect lamb of God. He is our sacrifice.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV) For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.Only the perfect lamb was worthy to pay for our sins.
Because of this we talk about our forgiveness in terms of grace, a free gift bestowed by God. So far we are all in agreement.
The question that divides us is how God decides to bestow that grace. Who will be saved? How will God make the choice?
At one extreme we have the Pelagian position. This was a heresy that taught man could earn his salvation. He was solely responsible and could work hard enough to deserve a place in heaven. This has been rejected by all Christians.
At the other extreme we have the Five Point Calvinists. The five points are summarized in the acronym TULIP. The middle three letters concern us here. “U” stands for “unconditional election.” This means that being saved is totally unrelated to how you live or whether you continue in sin. God does not use standards we can measure. The “L” stands for “limited atonement.” This means that Jesus did not die for everyone, just the ones who are chosen by God. The “I” stands for “irresistible grace.” This means that God chose you at the moment of creation and you really have nothing to say about it. He made the decision for you.
The third position, and the best since I agree with it, is that we are saved by grace and part of that grace is the action of the Holy Spirit making it possible for us to respond freely to the call of God. This is the Arminian position. We either respond “yes” or “no,” but the choice is ours. We are not saved by our efforts but the grace of God is extended to those of us who choose to believe. Thus, as the verse above says, we are saved by grace, through faith.
It is interesting that each step calls the ones below them anathema. All of us disown the Pelagians. Calvinists disown the Arminians. As an Arminian I expect heaven to be full of Calvinists but they will be surprised that I made it.
Isn’t love wonderful?
homo unius libri