As I wander around the theological blog world, I repeatedly run into arguments between Calvinists (those who hold to the Doctrines of Grace) and Arminians. Some of the discussion is good, while some of it is not. Those discussions that both challenge us all to know why we believe what we believe and are handled in a Christian manner can be edifying. Unfortunately, many of these types of discussions quickly degenerate into not much more than name-calling.
One frustration I have in reading articles on the Calvinism/Arminianism issue is that both sides have a strong tendency to set up straw man arguments. These arguments occur when a person attacks a distorted view of his opponent's position instead of the actual position itself. This happens very frequently between Calvinists and Arminians.
Here are some straw man arguments by Arminians against Calvinism:
-God sends people to Hell who want to go to Heaven.
-Repentance and belief do not matter because election doesn't require it.
-God isn't a God of love.
-God capriciously chooses some people to salvation.
-Evangelism isn't important.
-Calvinism encourages antinomianism.
The above are not what Calvinists believe, but are what some Arminians say Calvinists believe in order to then attack a fallacious position.
Now let's turn the tables and look at straw man arguments by Calvinists against Arminianism:
-Salvation is based on works instead of grace.
-God is in no way sovereign.
-God cannot see into the future.
-Man can be good enough to go to heaven.
-Salvation can be lost without a person knowing it.
-Arminianism encourages universalism.
The above are not what Arminians believe, but are what some Calvinists say Arminians believe in order to then attack a fallacious position.
All of these straw man arguments do nothing good for the kingdom of God. In fact, they are probably harmful to the church. As followers of Christ, we have a duty to build one another up in our faith. Straw man arguments only divide; they never unite.
In a recent post, I attempted to deal with some Calvinism and Arminianism-related issues in a Christlike manner. I tried to be respectful of the Arminian position even though I do not agree with it. When describing the Arminian position, I attempted to explain what is actually believed instead of attacking some sort of straw man.
As we have these discussions, let's avoid the straw man at all costs.