Answering an Arminian on the Perseverance of the Saints
A while back, a reader in Georgia asked me to address and answer an Arminian, Dr. Curtis Hutson, on the “Five Points of Calvinism,” of which Hutson disagrees with all five. Today, we will address point five: the preservation/perseverance of the saints.
We established in point one that Curtis Hutson is uninformed, as to the history of the people and events leading up to the Synod of Dordt (1618–1619), and its correction of the five heretical points of Arminius’ followers, the Remonstrants. Hutson again places emphasis on their five points of disputation being something John Calvin taught. He did not.
Reading through Hutson’s five points of disagreement with the Synod of Dordt, I was a bit surprised by his unwillingness to hold the fifth point of Arminianism. In fact, he offers the baffling claim, “I am neither Arminian nor Calvinist.” This is quite remarkable because he has remained perfectly in step with the Arminian position, until now.
Hutson is like many Arminians who struggle with this fifth point. Something in their Bible reading or conscience convinces them of something they refer to as, “eternal security.” Rejecting the language of Calvinists, while also using the language of Calvinists leaves Huston in a double-minded position. On the one hand he argues against the term, “perseverance.” On the other hand, Hutson embraces the term “preservation.” He seems unaware that Calvinists embrace and employ both terms equally.
Preservation is a term used to view the issue from God’s perspective. God has promised to preserve His chosen people whom He has predestined, called, justified, and who He will glorify (Rom 8:30).
Perseverance of the saints is looking at the issue from the perspective of the child of God (1 Jn 3:1, 10). The Holy Spirit is a permanent resident in the heart of the Christian (Rom 8:9, 11), and His promise is to never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb 13:5).
Ironically, Hutson favorably quotes the Reformed Baptist of Victorian London, Charles H. Spurgeon, who as a Calvinist would disagree with everything Hutson has stated, in his disagreement with the five points of Calvinism. With almost bizarre frequency, many Arminians quote Spurgeon along with the Reformed. Hutson also quotes the Calvinist Lorraine Boettner, who sees the logical reality that one must fall into Universalism, Arminianism, or Calvinism. We stated in another article, in this series, that Arminianism and Calvinism are diametrically opposed to one another. Therefore, they cannot both be Christian.
After misinterpreting Joel 2:32, “That whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” In this, Hutson implies this to be a prerequisite for one to be saved, which again is an Arminian view and erroneous. The true meaning is that those who are saved, having been born again, will pray in the Spirit, as those who will be saved to the end. Only Christians call upon the name of the Lord and are saved.
In an ironic twist, Hutson charges Calvinism, as being a system of human philosophy, developed by man and depending on fallible logic and frail, human reasoning. This was one of the major complaints of the fathers at the Synod of Dordt. In all manner of trickery, Arminians projected their own fallacies upon the Reformed. Apparently, nothing has changed in the four hundred years since. Which system of theology is more God-exalting, and which system is more man-exalting? The fact that Arminianism is nick-named, “man-centered theology” for its positioning man in the place of God should easily answer that question.
Hutson adds an ad hominem fallacy to close the entirety of his presentation, “It (Calvinism) is not a Bible doctrine, but a system of human philosophy, especially appealing to the scholarly intellect, the self-sufficient and proud mind. Brilliant, philosophical, scholarly preachers are apt to be misled on this matter more than the humble-hearted, Bible-believing Christian.” Ad hominem arguments are a typical device, for one who has lost an argument, and who turns from debating the issue to attacking opponents, personally. In truth, Arminianism is a much more complicated system because of its inconsistencies that all must be tied in the make it coherent. The result, once one understands it, is simply awkward. Hutson’s fifth point is a suitable example.
Approaching our conclusion, we must return to the issue, in which preservation and perseverance are two words describing the same work of God. Our Lord preserves His elect, and His elect persevere to the end, as a result. It is inconsistent, historically and practically, to hold four points of Arminianism and one point of Calvinism. Hutson does not know church history, and therefore, he breaks from his Arminian fathers, who brought — not four interconnected points, but five of them.
In conclusion, Curtis Hutson comes closer to the truth in point five than he does in his position on the first four points, but because this is an illogical and inconsistent position to hold, it invites no applause from us. It is simply more confusion from Arminianism. Thus, despite both groups being in error, we have more respect for the consistent Universalists than the inconsistent Arminians.
The Good News is that God has chosen a people for His own possession (1 Pet 2:9), from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4–5; Rev 13:8). He has given those select ones to Christ (Jn 6:37), and God the Father draws them to the one and only Redeemer of His people (Jn 6:44). Having received the gift of God (Rom 5:5), the Spirit of Christ (2 Cor 5:5), these born again come to and follow the One who loved them and gave Himself for them (Jn 10:28; Eph 5:2; 1 Pet 1:3), that is, His church (Eph 5:25).
Having begun the good work of delivering His beloved from slavery to the world, sin, and the devil, His promise is to finish His good work in them (Phil 1:6). Believers in Jesus trust in Him, alone (Prv 3:5–6), to accomplish everything His Word promises to us (Ps 57:2; 138:8), including His preserving us to the end, in what is rightly called, “the perseverance of the saints.”
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 20, 2022