You have engraved me on your hands: Arminian and Calvinist reasonings

hands nail-scarred-hands-300x278

To whom do these hands belong? If you live in the West you will probably say – you don’t have to be a Christian – Jesus Christ, which would be right. What could these open hands represent? Two expected possibilities: 1. the suffering of Jesus and 2. Jesus is inviting us to come to him. What the picture does represent is “My name is graven on his hands,” – a song.

What I’d like to write about is the Arminian and Calvinist interpretation of the lyrics of this song. But first a brief description of the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism.

When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it. Both the Arminian and Calvinist accept Christ – freely; the difference is that for the Calvinist, Christ has to first free you from the bondage of your will, which, in its natural state, does not seek God (of the Bible). “There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). For the Arminian, in contrast, you are free to choose or reject God.

On James White’s recent “Dividing line” programs, he has been critiquing Michael Brown’s Arminianism on Brown’s “Line of Fire” program. In the latest of White’s “Dividing line,” one of the callers (on the “Line of fire”) told Brown that he prays like a Calvinist because he asks God to open someone’s heart. Brown responds that you don’t have to be a Calvinist to pray that prayer; all Christians should pray that prayer, says Brown. According to the Arminian God is knocking continually, if not continuously, at an unbeliever’s heart. One thing God will not do, according to the Arminian, is violate your free will by forcing entry into your heart. (Coming to Faith in Christ: “All I need to do is say ‘Yes’” – You Wish!).

Here now is the song (in italics). I describe the Arminian and the Calvinist views below the sections of the song.

Before the throne of God above 
I have a strong and perfect plea.
 A great high Priest whose Name is Love
 Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

Arminian: God wanted to save me. I opened my heart to the possibility, and he then engraved me on his hands – saved me.

Calvinist: God wanted to save me, which he had decided from eternity. He opened my heart, which he had decreed from eternity – that is why he foreknew me – and at the crucifixion engraved me on his “nail-scarred hands” (the title of the picture above).

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within, Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

The Arminian and Calvinist agree.

Because the sinless Savior died, My sinful soul is counted free. For God the just is satisfied
 To look on Him and pardon me.

Arminian –After the saviour kindled the desire in people’s hearts to believe through his “prevenient grace” (which he grants to “whosoever”), they decided to make him their saviour and so the possible saviour became an actual saviour.

Calvinist – After (logically, not chronologically) the saviour raised me from the dead (spiritual death) by his grace, I repented and believed. Jesus is not a possible saviour, but saviour, pure and simple – which does not mean simplistic.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb, 
My perfect spotless righteousness,
 The great unchangeable I AM,
 King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
(underlining added)

My life is hid with Christ on high,
 With Christ my Savior and my God!

Arminian – Christ purchased “whosoever” by his blood, that is, he redeemed everybody. An illustration. You’re a slave in chains. Jesus comes by and redeems you. But being a gentleman, he asks you whether you would like your chains removed. If you say yes, he saves you; if you say no, you’re free to keep your chains. So, although the possible saviour has paid the price for your freedom (redeemed you – through his blood), if you still want to reject him,, no sweat, for God has predestined you to feel free to throw the blood he spilt for you back in his face. In this case, two prices are paid: your redemption paid through Christ’s blood; hellfire for rejecting your redemption.

Go figure.

See follow-on post 

All I want is a shack somewhere – where I can find God: wouldn’t it be lovely


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