Comment by George Bryson

George Bryson left a comment on my other blog. I’m cross posting it here, where it is more likely to be read. Bryson is associated with Calvary Chapel, and is a non-Calvinist who does not consider himself Arminian. His comment deals with why he writes against Calvinism and not Arminianism.

Bryson is the author of several books that deal with the problems of Reformed Theology.(Calvinism: Weighed and Found Wanting, and The Dark Side of Calvinism: The Calvinist Caste System).

I just happened on your site (or as our Reformed friends would say, was foreordained to find you. One of the questions I hear a lot is “why don’t you write a book against Arminianism” or why not explain “why it is that you are not an Arminian”?

For many years I thought about writing a book explaining why I am not an Arminian but never felt a need to write a book against Arminianism. The reason is that I am not against Arminianism the way I am against Calvinism. It never offends me and I do not see it as a threat to the health and well being of the church of Jesus Christ.

I do not see Arminianism on a agressive campain trying to win everone over to their views, even if it means misleading their potential converts. For these and many other reasons, I do not see Arminianism as a threat. So it is difficult for me to justify the kind of time it takes me to write a book that I would be happy with.

My disagreements with Arminians are real but not usually serious. When an Arminian scholar represents his views, he does not usually feel a need to hide anything or to hold anything back. They tell you what they believe and why

This is not always so for many Calvinists. I am happy to see a lot of Arminians representing themselves and I do not think they will find a need to become rude, personally attack those they disagree with, deliberately attempt to insult or offend non-Arminians. I am sure there are exceptions.

On many Calvinist websites to be rude and crude is considered cool and hip. May it never be so with Evangelical Arminians. In Christ, George

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17 Comments

Filed under Calvinism, George Bryson

17 responses to “Comment by George Bryson

  1. So what are his problems with Arminianism if you know?

  2. SLW

    It's reaffirming to see that someone without a dog in the fight notices the same rudeness so many Arminians have complained about.Which, BTW, I think arises from Calvinists cold-blooded, intellectual approach to doctrine (which fits their conception of a dispassionately arbitrary electing god), rather than the warmth of Arminian theology (which has no disconnect with God being love).

  3. Roy – I'm not certain. My best guess is "eternal security", although of course there are a few Arminians who hold to that view.SLW – yes it is, I agree.

  4. Isn't Bryson from Calvary Chapel? I would like to know his problems. I have never read his book so I don't know if perhaps he shares about his views on eternal security. I would think that most Calvary folks would reject eternal security but I could be wrong since I don't fellowship in a CC church.

  5. Roy, yeah, Bryson is associated with CC. I think he does hold to "Eternal Security". Here's a quote from his book on Calvinism:"The saved should persevere in faith and holiness to the end of their life on earth, thereby proving their love for the Lord. The truly saved, to the degree they fail to persevere in faith and holiness, have to that same degree demonstrated a lack of love for the Lord. Although saved, they experience a loss of fellowship with the Lord inthis life, and a loss of rewards in the next.John 15:1-14"

  6. Dear GeorgeHow can you say that you are not an Arminian when many (if not most) theologians say that you must be one or the other? Dear…I can say this based on the facts.I disagree (agreeably) with Article 1 of the Remonstrance when it says:That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ's sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end…The Remonstrance view of election to salvation is eternal and conditional. It is God looking into the future and seeing who it is that will believe in Jesus Christ and persevere (in faith and holiness) in Christ until the end and then electing them accordingly. While I believe that God sees the future and who it is that will believe because He is omniscient and sees everything (past, present and future), I do not believe election is based on who will believe or believe and persevere(future tense) but on who did believe alone in Christ alone through Christ alone (past tense). In my view, once a person believes he is elect for whatever it is that God elects a person to do or be. "Show me an elect person and I will show you someone who has believed in Jesus Christ for salvation. Show me someone who has believed in Jesus Christ for salvation, and I will show you someone God elected from the time he believed". God of course, knows who will believe and who He will elect. But his election is not based on what He knows but on what He makes (i.e., an elect person of the believer) of the believer relative to faith in Christ.I do not believe perseverance is factored into God making a person one of the elect or keeping an elect person an elect person. For the Remonstrance, if you fail to persevere in faith and righteousness to the end it may mean that you forfeit the benefits of what you were elected for; chiefly salvation. For the Reformed it (failure to persevere to the end)would mean you were not really elect and saved in the first place. In both cases, salvation is ultimately discerned through performance of the saint relative to the perseverance of the saint (i.e., Arminianism) or the one who appeared (i.e., Calvinism) to be a saint. In Christ, George

  7. Hi Mr Bryson, thanks for the clarification. There are some Arminians that hold your position. Here's one: OSAS Arminian. The Remonstrants themselves were ambiguous on the question of perseverance.Either way, as non-Calvinists we have much in common and as you say we can disagree agreeably. Thanks again for your thoughts. God bless.

  8. Gary Bisaga

    I am thankful for George Bryson’s comment here because it helps illuminate his beliefs. However, I have to say that I am still confused. (Full disclosure: I am a Calvinist member of a very Arminian Calvary Chapel.) I hope George is reading this comment and will address to him, though I’d welcome an answer in the third person as well.

    George, you said on the Bible Answer Man show with James White that on every doctrinal distinctive you disagree with Arminians. As you did not enumerate any of them, I was wondering about this. Now it appears that you disagree only with the common Arminian position that you can lose your salvation. As Kevin notes, this is not necessarily a distinctive: it seems to me that point 5 of the Remonstrants makes clear that both the position of losing your salvation through ordinary sin and the typical Calvary position of being able to walk away from your salvation by lack of faith fall under the umbrella of Arminianism.

    Regardless, is this the only point of doctrine in which you disagree with Arminians? Isn’t this different from differing on every distinctive point as you said on BAM, or am I misunderstanding?

    Regarding being treated badly by Calvinists, there is no excuse for that. However, I think part of it is our frustration over refusal to come right out and admit that your position IS so closely aligned to Arminianism as to be all but indistinguishable. I have tried to ask my own pastor the question of how you disagree with Arminianism, and received the same traditional Calvary answer: we’re right in middle of Calvinism and Arminianism, repeatedly refusing to explain how that is so. I think my demeanor in this note will demonstrate the attitude in which I have approached him: respectfully and honestly.

    I am waiting anxiously to hear your answer.

    • Thanks for the comment Gary.

      It’s difficult to see where Bryson disagrees with Arminianism. It’s pretty common though for those who hold “Arminian” views to reject the label. Steve Lemke (a non-Calvinist Southern Baptist) has a similar view. See here: http://sbctoday.com/2011/06/07/the-middle-way/

      The essentials of Arminianism are 1) Election is conditional, based on faith 2) Jesus died for all, and 3) Grace is resistible. All the other issues are really a side show.

      As you highlighted, conditional security is not distinctive of Armininanism, a person can hold to either view. And the view of election that Bryson describes above (God saves those who believe in Christ) is completely compatible with Arminianism. The same is true of the stuff in Lemke’s list – non of it is essential to Arminianism (mode of baptism, church government, women in ministry, etc).

      • Gary Bisaga

        Thanks for pointing this article out to me, Kevin. Wow. Besides learning a new wordoid (“Arminianistic”), some of what Lemke says is as bad as Norm Geisler’s mis-characterizations in Chosen But Free.

        One of the things that bugs me most about this whole discussion (continued by Lemke) is the constant comparison with the “5 points of Calvinism.” Geisler is one example in redefining them to fit his theology (calling those who hold to them in their old, un-redefined form, “extreme”). Calvary chapel pastors are another, primarily in suppressing discussion of the articles of Remonstrance; if they discussed the latter, it would be clear to all (not just to us geeks who care about such things :-) that the Calvary position is Arminianism, pure and simple.

        What you note about the non-essentials in Lemke’s list is also something people do to the other side: saying (as I’ve heard said) that Calvinism is very close to Roman Catholocism because some Calvinists baptize babies. The quantity of misunderstanding in a statement like that is breath-taking, but there you are.

        To try and avoid all this folderol, I’ve sometimes tried to use “monergistic” and “synergistic” to describe our respective positions; unfortunately, I get blank stares from nearly everybody (including my pastors) that I use them on, so I’ve stopped. BTW, do you consider those terms fair? I would much rather people used neutral terms rather than the emotion-laden terms used by most folks (“extreme Calvinism”, “theistic fatalism”, etc). It’s so nice to have an unemotional theological discussion without the typical odium theologicum.

        Blessings brother, Gary

      • Hi Gary,

        The baptism issue you point out is an excellent one. One can affirm either infant baptism or believer baptism and be a Calvinist. And of course holding to infant baptism does not make one a Catholic! :)

        Regarding Monergism/Synergism, I’m usually comfortable with those terms. It is necessary to qualify what synergism is, as a Pelagian could also be considered synergistic. Arminians believe we cooperate with God, but we do not believe that we initiate (God does all the drawing), nor do we believe in merit (salvation is all of grace). Is the human will able to say “no” to God’s grace? That question gets to the heart of the matter.

        Thanks again for your thoughts and God bless!

  9. Gary Bisaga

    Totally agreed with you, brother. I am pretty much with you also in agreeing that whether we can say “no” is, in many ways, the heart of the matter. (We monergists would not quite state it that way: we’d want to add that we ALL say “no” to God’s grace until He sovereignly regenerates us, but I don’t want to quibble when we’re playing so nicely. :-)

    I think another similar “dividing line” question is this: does God do anything different, either in kind or extent, regarding saving the Christian vs. the unbeliever? (I’m not speaking of whether He does different things AFTER salvation – we obviously agree He does – but before.) I would say yes, I think you would say no. I think questions like these are very effective in getting to, as you say, the heart of the matter rather than all the noise issues.

    Or as Luther wrote to Erasmus, “You alone have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not worried me with those extraneous issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such like – trifles, rather than issues – in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood… you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot. For that I heartily thank you; for it is more gratifying to me to deal with this issue…” Would that everybody in these debates would see the issues so clearly as Luther and Erasmus!

  10. Martha Donohue

    Don’t any of you people realize that Calvinist & Arminian are NOT the only two choices? There is the Biblical interpretation, which is neither Calvinist NOR Arminian! Calvinists follow Calvin, Arminians follow Arminius, but Christians follow Christ!

    • In reality though, most non-Calvinists have the same beliefs as Arminians, they just don’t call themselves Arminian (and that’s certainly fine). Check out the survey here, and I’ll bet you find that you are in agreement with the Arminian view: http://evangelicalarminians.org/survey-are-you-an-arminian-and-dont-even-know-it-2/

      • Gary Bisaga

        I agree with Kevin here – when it comes to salvation, non-Calvinists have generally the same view, whether they be Methodist, Nazarene, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, or non-denominational denominations. (Heck, the Mormon and JW understandings are pretty close also, though obviously their misidentification of Christ makes all the difference in the world.) I always tell my Arminian-in-all-but-name Calvary Chapel friends, just go ahead and call yourself an Arminian. Be proud! You don’t follow Arminius and I don’t follow Calvin – we all make the best understanding we can out of the text. Saying (as George Bryson does) that he’s not an Arminian but rather a Biblicist is just papering over the issue. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, might as well call it a duck.

      • True Gary – to a point. All non-Calvinists agree we make a choice whether or not to believe. Arminians also affirm with our Calvinist brothers that we are saved by grace through faith. Not by works, as Mormons (and arguably some Catholics) do. Also, it’s worth pointing out that some non-Christian views are very deterministic like Calvinism (Islam, and Hinduism for example). As you say, the misidentification of Christ is the root issue.

      • Gary Bisaga

        I didn’t mean to lump Arminianism together with Mormonism et al… Of course you know (though all your readers may not) that the deterministic forms of Islam are much different than classic Calvinism (but similar to hyper-Calvinism) in that we have a compatibilist view toward free will, while Islam merely eliminates it. Hyper-Calvinism is to Calvinism as open theism is to Arminianism.

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