Just as a Christian or biblical, world view is one of several possible world views, there are three main theological questions whose answers determine biblical views. The biblcal view held determines the bias brought to the study and interpretation of the Scriptures. The biblical view is the framework in which the Bible is viewed and through what filter interpretations are determined.
The answers to these three questions determine the biblical viewpoint in which you approach the study of the Bible. Having the correct answers to these questions is the only way to fully understand and rightly divide the Bible correctly.
The three questions are:
- Predestinated -vs- Free Will
- Works -vs- Grace/Faith
- Closed -vs- Open
Taking the first half of our first question, under predestination there are two options:
- Calvinism—limited atonement
- Universalism—universal salvation
They both rely on God's predestination and irresistible grace. The principal difference is in who is predetermined to be saved. In Calvinism, it is a limited atonement covering only those few elected by God. In Universalism, it is the whole human race. Calvinism is also known by Reformed and Sovereign Grace theology as well as Presbyterianism.
It seems to me that neither the proponents of Calvinism or Universalism could reconcile the apparent contradiction concerning Christ atonement due to their assumption that the atonement was an automatic salvation for someone; which it was not.
- Calvinism—if Christ died for your sins you must be saved, all are not saved so he could not have died for the sins of everyone but only a predetermined few: the elect.
- Universalism—if Christ died for all, all must be saved; there is no eternal punishment, no hell.
On the other side of our first equation is Free Will which also has two options.
- Arminianism—Salvation is open to all, conditioned upon an individual free will choice to have faith toward God.
- Open Theology—Salvation is open to all, conditioned upon an individual free will choice to have faith toward God.
Although Arminianism and Open Theology both hold the same positions on these and many other points, their theological views part company over the last of our three questions. They both share many of the same denominations: Baptist, Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, etc. Most Churches if not Calvinist are Arminian where Open Theology is in the minority.
The second theological question in forming a biblical view is whether salvation is by works or Grace/faith. Obviously, under predestination, it is grace as no works were done before being predestinated, so this question would apply to those holding to Free Will. You will find salvation taught as being by works as well as by grace/faith in Churches holding to free will. Their names will not provide clues to which. However, remember that works and grace are mutually exclusive; they cannot be mixed, so any Church attempting to do so is teaching works.
Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
Our third question of whether history is complete, fix, unchanging, closed; or open and ongoing in real-time under the guidance and control of God which deals with what comprises God’s foreknowledge. Is history complete? Is God just looking at it all at the same time just telling us what he already did, or what just happened to happen; or is he guiding and controlling history allowing time and chance, along with man’s free will to play their part?
Arminianism has history completed, fix, closed as Calvinism. The difference is that Arminianism rejects predestination and has history just flow as it happened to happen and God's foreknowledge is due to him being able to see all history at once.
Open Theology asserts something quite different that history is not complete. Open Theology views history as being in real-time, ongoing, guided, and controlled by God in accordance with his predetermined plan and purpose. History is laid out as a sort of map which may have many set waypoints but several ways of reaching those points. Many events are predestinated and inevitable, however, there is room for minor changes in the course history takes in arriving at them constrained by the bounds of the master plan. Those course changes come about due to man’s free will, time and chance, but most importantly the Lord’s dealing with and judging the actions of man.
The answers to these questions determine the framework in which the Scriptures are approached; the context in which you are interpreting its meaning. My personal opinion on what the correct answers, after many years of considering the matter, are:
- Free Will