Debating Calvinists

Debating Calvinists

Rule #1 is that before you build your case, first build a bridge. If you don’t have a connection to them, you won’t make a connection with them.

Rule #2 is to listen. You are either a Reactor or a Listener. Reactors will cut you off and filibuster you, as soon as they hear something that they don’t like. Don’t be like that. Actually listen to what a person is telling you and try to follow their trail of thought. That’s what being a Listener is all about. A Listener can reach someone, while Reactors succeed only in turning people off.

Rule #3 is that since you are writing to people who will resent what you’re saying (since Calvinism has become so sacred to them), you will NOT be afforded an opportunity to slowly develop your points. Being as efficient with your words as possible, making your points, but without beating around the bush.

Rule #4 is Stay On Point. In other words, don’t trade encyclopedias and call that your best attempt at a meaningful dialogue.

Rule #6 is to Ask Questions. The best way to open a closed mind is by asking questions. Former Jehovah’s Witness, David A. Reed, explains: “Notice, too, the teaching methods that Jesus used. Glancing quickly over any one of the four Gospel accounts, you will observe that many of his sentences had question marks at the end. Question marks are shaped like hooks--‘?’--and they function much the same way in hooking on to answers and pulling them out through the other person’s mouth. Jesus was highly skilled at using these fishing hooks. Rather than shower his listeners with information, he used questions to draw answers out of them. A person can close his ears to facts he doesn’t want to hear, but if a pointed question causes him to form the answer in his own mind, he cannot escape the conclusion--because it’s a conclusion that he reached himself.” (Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse By Verse, p.115)

Rule #7 is to understand the Calvinist perspective. Most Calvinists have the belief that they used to be an Arminian, and therefore already know what it teaches. However, most were never Arminians at all, but simply Non-Calvinists who were uninformed of Arminian interpretations. For instance, a Calvinist will tell you that if man was left to his free will, no one would believe. To the Non-Calvinist, this may make sense, and guess what?, the Arminian agrees!, as Arminianism teaches the doctrine of Prevenient Grace. The difference in theologies is not whether God intervenes, but exactly how God intervenes.

Rule #8 is to beware of loose Analogies. If you want a relevant analogy, stick with a biblical analogy. For instance, in terms of the extent of the Atonement, use the biblical analogy that the Lord used at John 3:14-15 where He pointed to Numbers 21:6-9. In other words, don’t make stuff up, or else in the end, you’ll be saying, “Well, it wasn’t a perfect analogy. I was just trying to....”

Rule #9 is to beware of Calvinists Using Arminianism to Prove Calvinism. In some instances, Calvinists will cite examples of Prevenient Grace as evidence for Irresistible Grace, such as Acts 16:14 where God opened Lydia’s heart to respond to the Gospel. This is the Prevenient Grace of God, operating upon the old heart. Calvinistic Irresistible Grace is not God opening hearts, but exchanging hearts to that of the new creature in Christ, in order that their decision for Christ may be rendered irresistible. You’ll learn that you must watch Calvinists like a hawk.

Rule #10 is to beware of Calvinist Misquotes and False Assumptions. The best example of this is found at Ephesians 1:4 where the Calvinist will frequently lop off IN CHRIST while inserting TO BE.

Rule #11 is to Remain Patient. Nothing can derail a good dialogue by rudeness. If you are met with rudeness, return with politeness, and keep asking pointed questions. People’s beliefs matter a lot of them, and so when disagreed with, people can sometimes get fairly upset, and so in order to have a decent conversation, you’re going to need to make allowances for human nature, and make sure not to respond defensively, but with understanding and grace and respect.

The only way that a person will change their mind on anything is to encounter an authority that is greater than their own, and there are many forms of this. There is the authority of God’s Word. There is also the authority of a Church body, or a convincing witness, a trusted pastor, or a friend or a family member. Every one of us finds someone or something that is compelling or persuasive to us. The problem with many Calvinists is that TULIP Calvinism has become an authority, and which is an authority that stands over Scripture, and so when a Calvinist reads a Bible verse, the verse is forced to confirm to the authority of TULIP, and this is dangerous. Another problem that plagues Calvinists is that they often find that the 1600 “Reformers” are persuasive to the point of being an authority, and so Calvinists will often place their trust in the godliness of those men, but they are fallible men, and unfortunately, their testimony for Calvinism has been a great detriment to the Church.

These are the things to do. Here are the things not to do.

Rule #5 is to Beware of the Weakest Link. Not only do you want to make your point in as few words as possible, and not only do you want to stay focused on a central point, but you also need to recognize that your strongest argument is only as strong as its weakest link. Realize that it is human nature for others to target your weakest point. Even though you may have intended to focus on one particular area, don’t be surprised to see an entirely different point being challenged, if you mistakenly tried to make too many points. It’s a natural tendency to want to throw in extra points, but beware. Therefore, your argument should only be a one-link argument. That way, the other person must deal with your central point without getting side-tracked.
John Wesley: “Answer all [the Calvinists’] objections, as occasion offers, both in public and private. But take care to do this with all possible sweetness both of look and of accent… Make it a matter of constant and earnest prayer, that God would stop the plague.”