I am part of a Reformed mailing list that every now and then discusses something of interest. The list used to be quite busy, but recently there has been very little discussion, and much of what has been discussed has been quite boring (ie who would like to purchase old issues of a denomination-specific magazine). However, a couple of days ago someone asked an intriguing question. He asked what impact a belief in Calvinism or Arminianism has on daily living. So how would the daily life of a staunch Arminian vary from that of a Calvinist?
While there has been some conversation about this matter, it seems that most people have not come up with anything convincing.
My contribution to the discussion was that most Reformed people I know live with what I call a ‘DV-mentality.’ D.V. is the shortened form of the Latin words Deo Volente which translate to ‘Lord Willing.’ I used to attend an extremely conservative church and anytime a person spoke about the future, he would append ‘Lord willing’ to the sentence. ‘We will meet again, Lord willing, next Thursday.’ ‘Tim and Aileen will, Lord willing, be married next Saturday.’ When written in a church bulletin or magazine, usually the initials D.V. would replace ‘Lord willing.’ So a marriage announcement might read ‘Tim and Aileen have indicated their desire to be married. If no objections are brought forward, the ceremony will take place next Saturday, D.V.’
While the insistence on adding a ‘Lord willing’ to any discussion of the future became nearly superstitious, I do believe it was indicative of a fundamentally Calvinist belief — that of God’s sovereignty. While Arminians claim to believe that God is sovereign, their theology denies the fullness of this belief. So I do believe that most Calvinists have a greater view of God’s sovereignty and this does impact their lives as they live with a view to God’s total control over life. They know that their plans and their dreams are all subject to God’s will, which He generally keeps hidden from us until it happens. They tend to assume less about the future and depend more on God for what will come to pass.
A second suggestion was that Calvinists tend to have more children than Arminians. This has certainly proven true in my experience, but it is important to note that most Calvinists I know are part of a culture or tradition that encourages large families. Also, the most Arminian of Arminians, Roman Catholics, also have large families. Both Catholics and many Reformed Christians believe that birth control is wrong. In the case of Calvinists this stems from a view of God’s sovereignty, for if God wants me to have a large family, who am I to deny His will? If God really wants me to have a child, I will have one despite birth control. Either way, who am I to attempt to supercede control over my family, which in reality is God’s family?
The final suggestion is that Calvinists have a higher view of church matters. I have certainly found it to be true that Calvinists generally spend more time in church, in Bible study and in devotions than Arminians. While evening services are becoming increasingly rare in Arminian churches, they are still standard fare in Calvinist churches. The same holds true, albeit to a lesser extent, with Bible studies and adult Sunday school classes. This would almost seem to indicate that staunch Calvinists take their faith more seriously than staunch Arminians, and that is not something I truly believe at this time.
That is the full extent of the discussion to this point. I would be interested in knowing your thoughts on this. Does Calvinist or Arminian theology really impact our lives, or is it merely a ‘head-matter?’ Drop in to the forums and let me know what you think.