3.07.2010

Is Calvinism A Minority Among Trinitarians?

bbwarfield I read and interact with Calvinist with some frequency. I regularly listen to the podcast of Dr. James White, who is a Calvinist apologist. I disagree with White on many issues but I do respect his rigor and love for the text of Scripture.

B.B. Warfield stated, “the world should realize with increased clearness that Evangelicalism stands or falls with Calvinism.” Calvinist do seem to be convinced that they are the very center of soteriological orthodoxy. Warfield even concluded that Evangelicalism cannot stand without it. Of course, I disagree and so do many.

Many? Yes! By many I mean around 1.8 billion of Trinitarians alone. For example, the following groups do not believe in Calvinism.

Roman Catholics (worldwide): 1.5 billion

Orthodox (Greek, Russian, etc.): 225 million

Wesleyan/Methodist: 10 million

Assemblies of God: 48 million

Calvary Chapel: 2-5 million

Church of Nazarene: 2 million

This is not an exhaustive list because it does not include Oneness. Groups that do hold, almost exclusively, to Calvinism (even then some are not) are:

Baptists All (worldwide): 110 million

Anglican (worldwide): 70 million

Lutheran (worldwide): 66 million

Reformed Presbyterian: 2.5 million (US)

Around 300 million Protestants are Calvinist and the estimated remaining 1.8 billion are not. Those who are Calvinist then make up a very small percentage of Protestant Christianity. Talmadge French, a Oneness scholar, has noted that "preliminary research suggests that the actual size of Oneness Pentecostalism is approaching 20 million." (French) That figure is probably closer to 30 million today and it can safely be said that all 30 million reject Calvinism as well.

Although an appeal to large numbers doesn’t make something true or false it does help one gain perspective. Calvinism is a minority view within Protestantism itself. Often criticism is laid against Oneness theology, which is Arminian for the most part, for it being a minority or small. If one has paid attention to the growth of Oneness Pentecostalism you will know that it is rapidly growing but is small in proportion to a group like Catholicism. Large numbers do not make something true or false. If large numbers meant something was true then Catholicism would be true and neither Calvinist or Arminian would agree on that position.

11 comments:

Michael said...

A very interesting post indeed.

A couple of things though;

Calvinists do not see themselves as the center of orthodox soteriology, but instead, the doctrine of faith alone, through grace alone, by Christ alone as the center of the authentic gospel. It too should be observed that this is a secondary issue within Evangelicalism, as most Arminians do not follow such a belief to it's logical conclusion; which is decisional works-righteousness.

Evangelicals do not acknowledge all Trinitarians as Christians. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox,(Aside from the fringe ecumanism, that is.) liberal mainline Protestant denoms like the ELCA, Episcolpalians, most of the PCUSA, most Methodism, etc, would in the mind of the great majority of Evangelical Christians, fall well out of the bounds of orthodoxy, and many into apostasy in total. Anglicans and Lutherans are not Calvinistic denominations. Most Anglicans are Arminian, and Lutherans reject limited atonement. There is no official Anglican position on the subject, at least not since the puritans left. Baptist are not all Calvinists, as there are probably more Arminian Baptists than Calvinist Baptists. (So far as my perspective anyway. . .)

Also, you stated that the Oneness movement "is Arminian for the most part." To this I would also disagree. I believe the majorative Oneness position is fully palagian. Arminians do not hold to palagianism.

In Protestantism, most in this nation I believe are Armininian and semi-palagian in their understanding of this issue. But, there has been a great resurgence of reformed persons and scholarship. No one can argue the massive effect Calvinism has had in the discipline of apologetics and systematics as of late. Given the sort of anti-intellectialism that seems prevalent in US Christian culture, it is refreshing in my mind to see this resurgence. I find that Pentecostalism, and the charastmatic movements have fought long and hard to separate the church from some of it's long held doctrines. Things like Sola Scriptura, Tota Scriptura, the doctrine of the hypostatic union, and yes Calvinism, have been and currently are viewed as a sort of bogus, archaic dogmatism by many Trintarian Pentecostals. There are of course, exceptions. The notion that "we don't need doctrine, just Jesus" seems to be one that radiates from Pentecostalism. I was in a Pentecostal church for 10yrs, and this was my experience as it has been for many of my brethren. There is of course a focus on the esoteric, which can be useful and praiseworthy, but not at the expense of truth.

Oneness Pentecostalism must by nature reject Calvinism. The Oneness doctrine of baptism alone would necessitate this. Not to mention the rejection of the doctrine of Original Sin, apparent invalidity of the Oneness understanding of the atonement; that is, how can a finite man (the Son) pay an infinite debt? Perhaps, there are also other aspects to examine in regards to the Oneness understanding of penal substitutionary atonement that would prevent a Calvinistic understanding of the text too.

I find the thrust of your argument to be predicated on numbers, even though you acknowledge the fact that the majoritive position is not the plum line for truth. Great post though, nicely done.

Ever read Warfield on the Trinity?

JN Anderson said...

Michael, thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I enjoy and desire dialogue even though we may disagree on many issues.

I agree with your post mainly. I think, though, that the sola fide and sola gratia are part of the basic building blocks for Protestant-Reformational view of soteriology, in contradistinction to that of the mother Catholic church. I agree that Arminianism does not equal to a decisional works righteousness. I enjoy the writings of Roger Olson, a classical Arminian in which I find lots of agreement. I reject the ULI of the TULIP.

If we take out the Anglican and the Lutheran, some of which are Calvinist just like some baptist are not Calvinist, then that does not do so good in the favor of Calvinism. Essentially, making it an even smaller minority.

Not all Oneness offer a Ransom to Satan view of the atonement either. My point is a sort of reply to folks who say that Oneness is small and insignificant. Many of those pointing fingers are Calvinist (e.g. James White) in my opinion, although it seems you are not. I say that the majority decision is NOT always true.

I have a 20-volume collection of Warfield as well. His writings on the Trinity are in there but I rarely consult them.

Michael said...

I see, so you do affirm Total Depravity and Eternal Security? Intersesting indeed. Do you find that your position in regards to these issues is a small minority within Oneness Pentecostalism?

John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

Interesting site. Hope you'll take a look at our Christian/Calvinist site, TheAmericanView.com, and
read some articles, listen to some radio shows, please. We are Christians first and not Republican Party cheerleaders. Thanks. Comments welcome...

“The American View” call-in radio show can be heard daily, live, at 11 a.m. to Noon (EST) by going to NationalProlifeRadio.net and clicking on “ON AIR NOW LISTEN LIVE.” Our call-in phone number is 1-866-986-6397. Do give us a call, please. And do pray for the success of our program that it might glorify God. Because, as He says in Psalm 127:1: “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
Communications Director, Institute on the Constitution
Host, “TheAmericanView” radio show
Recovering Republican
JLof@aol.com

JN Anderson said...

Michael, not really. There are many, even Oneness scholars, who hold to Total Depravity. I am unsure about Perseverance of the Saints. There was an article in the Pentecostal Herald a couple years back by Tom O'Daniel, from Apostolic School of Theology, that affirmed Total Depravity.

JN Anderson said...

John, thanks for the link. I liked the thoughts on our Republic and the view against abortion. I have some works by Rushdoony as well. Stop by often. I'll try to catch a radio show soon.

SeekingToFind said...

@Michael I'm a Oneness Pentecostal that affirms Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistable Grace, and Perseverance of the saints.

I do agree with you that a majority of Oneness Pentecostals DO hold a Pelagian like soteriology, my own teacher admitted that he considers himself a "Semi-Pelagian."

However, I would not define "works" the same way that Luther or Calvin might define "works." I think that we read Paul through Luther's eyes, but I would prefer to read Paul through HIS Eyes.

It seems likely to me, as it is argued by N.T. Wright and James D.G. Dunn, that the "Works" that Paul refers to are Jewish earmarks. Such as, Circumcision, food laws, and Sabbath Observance, and not the Christian Ordinence in Baptism. I doubt greatly if any Oneness Pentecostal will ever say "I earned my salvation when I got Baptized! Jesus didn't pay for it! The GREAT difficulty of getting wet did!"

Michael said...

SeekingToFind,

I find your theological position fascinating. However, given that Paul includes both Jews and Greeks in Romans 4 by way of the latter portion of Romans 3, I think Wright, Dunn, and the other "new perspective" folks are just wrong. Abraham is the exemplar of New Testament salvation, and as such his faith was credited as righteousness apart from works- as his justification was made prior to the introduction of the Mosaic Law. There is much that could be said here, however, the elephant in the room is your adherence to the notion that baptism is a requirement of salvation. And of course, there is also the issue of the identity of God.

Unknown said...

Seekingtofind, please email I have questions for you mjreyes713@gmail.com
I am a oneness Pentecostal struggling with reform theology

alan said...

Regarding Calvinists being a small percentage of the protestant faith, I'm ok with that. The Jewish people are a small percentage of the world's population but look at the influence they've had (art, science, medicine, finance, media, etc). Seems calvinism has had the same influence in Christian faith. Just a thought.

heshimu said...

The BB Warfield quote was good, pinned it to my twitter wall.

Calvinism is the irrefutable truth of scripture, obvious to be seen by anyone who has eyes to take the Bible seriously and let Scripture speak for itself. Calvinism is "Salvation is of the Lord", which is obvious, for the "Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world", and, "Many are called and few are chosen", and, "You have not chosen me", and, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated", etc, etc, etc,. "Even so then at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace", and He says, "I will have mercy on whom I will", and, "It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy". No reading of Romans 9 can conclude anything except predestination, lest you willfully close your eyes. This is God's glory that He showed Moses in Ex 33.

Believe the gospel.

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)