You only have to be in Christian circles a few months before you come across the debate that rages between Arminians and Calvinists. You soon pick up these two
words—“Arminians” and “Calvinists”—especially if you are a college or university student and you live in Zambia. What you rarely ever hear about is Hyper-Calvinism. In fact, most often, when people are fighting against a Calvinism that does not believe in evangelism they are actually fighting Hyper- Calvinism. They just don’t know it!
Why does this battle ever rage in the first place? The two individuals whose names make up the controversy lived in the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe. Why should their controversy so long ago and so far away still rage in Zambia today? The simple answer is that it is because its primary subject is that of evangelism and salvation. Apart from the subject of the glory and worship of God, is there any topic that is more important than that?
What usually gives birth to this debate is the practice of evangelism. Evangelicalism in Zambia is robustly evangelistic. Those who are of an Arminian streak tend to exert a lot of pressure on individuals to “give their lives” to Jesus Christ. They want them to make a decision and to do so now. At the end of an evangelistic meeting, they may even use underhanded tricks (e.g. falsely claiming that people have raised their hands to give their lives to Jesus when they tell people to close their eyes as a way to nudge the reluctant to do the same). Those of a Calvinistic streak abhor this. They simply share the gospel and exhort sinners to repent and trust in Christ, but they leave the Holy Spirit to finish the job on those who are the elect of God. Why this different approach to evangelism? It is because of the very controversy that once took place between Arminians and Calvinists in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries!
The debate also often ensues when Christians talk about individuals who once claimed to be Christians but are now living in open and stubborn sin. Were they real believers who have lost their salvation or were they never believers in the first place? This is a very practical question and it demands an answer. Arminians find themselves giving the first answer and Calvinists find themselves giving the second answer. You can imagine the heat that comes out of such debates as each side rushes to the Bible for proof texts.
It is in order to help us to think more clearly about all this that we have
put together this issue of Reformation Zambia. It is the hope of the editor that those who are new to the Christian faith and who stumble across this debate will read the few pages of this magazine and soon see with the clarity of noon day what this debate is all about. Admittedly, all the articles are written by Calvinists and so you will have to pardon the bias when you stumble upon it. It is difficult to be unbiased when the souls of men and women are at stake.
Choolwe Mwetwa clarifies the Calvinistic position by showing the problems with both the Arminian and the Hyper-Calvinistic positions. He urges us not to run away from labels because they help us think in historic categories. This is very helpful. Why re-invent the wheel in every generation?
Chopo Mwanza deals with Hyper-Calvinism. Starting with a brief description of Arminianism and Calvinism, he proceeds to tackle Hyper- Calvinism head on by giving us a few of its characteristics. It is important for all of us to stop confusing Calvinism with Hyper-Calvinism. The two are not the same. This article will cure all of us of this malady.
Finally, Wege Sinyangwe writes on Arminianism. In his article, he defines Arminianism, responds to its five articles, outlines its effects, and shows the lessons that we can learn from it. Sadly, this is the most dominant understanding of salvation today. Very few Christians think deeply enough to see its grave errors. This article helps us to see how we can do this.
May this issue of Reformation Zambia help us to be clearer about the doctrine of salvation as it takes us back to the major landmarks in the church’s historical understanding of how God brings sinners to salvation. It is only as we see more clearly through these lenses that we will help our generation to glory in the true gospel of our God and in the God of that gospel.