I don't know what to call myself.
I'm clearly neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian. I'm not the former because I entirely and utterly reject Limited Atonement and I am unconvinced of the absolute irresistibility of grace. I am not the latter because I affirm eternal security. It is difficult to state one's disagreement with Arminianism about, for example, election, because there is no one Arminian view of election (so far as I can tell). I believe that there is such a thing as individual election, and I believe that the relationship between individual election and foreknowledge (and there undoubtedly IS a relationship between these two concepts) is beyond my understanding.
Many of my friends would call themselves and someone like me a "Biblicist."
I can see the difficulty with the term. To call myself a biblicist on this particular question is easy to take as an insult. If my position is the biblical one, then where does that leave Calvinism and Arminianism? There is a ring of arrogance about it. It sounds like, "I'm biblical and you're not." It can feel like it needs a requisite "nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah" following close upon its heels.
But maybe that's not the only way for me to view myself as a biblicist. Perhaps, instead of claiming that I am a biblicist because NEITHER of you (my Calvinistic and Arminian friends) have the Bible on your side, I can be claiming that I am a biblicist because BOTH of you do, at least in substantial part. BOTH Calvin AND Arminius were trying to be good biblical theologians (as were Beza and Wesley and many of the whoever else among their myriad respective followers and embellishers). Neither of them were ENTIRELY unsuccessful. They cannot have been perfectly right, the both of them, but then neither is it necessary that they both were perfectly wrong.
And so, here I am, having been persuaded by your sermons and lectures, and books. Here I am, having nodded in agreement with 95% of what you have concluded about the operations of the gospel. Preach from Romans 9 or Hebrews 6, and do it just right, and you can make me squirm uncomfortably in either case. In neither case have I conceded entirely (I hold neither a Calvinistic view of Romans 9 nor an Arminian view of Hebrews 6), but one has to be blind not to see that either passage (as well as quite a few others) poses serious problems for the strictest adherents of one viewpoint or the other. Neither of you have done a good enough job of answering the biblical objections of the other. And that's after four solid centuries of effort. After so many people for so many years in so many books, sermons, lectures, and debates have poured so much effort into this endeavor, am I wrong to conclude that the failure hasn't been for a lack of intelligence, eloquence, time, money, daring, or opportunity? Am I wrong to suspect that the case hasn't been made fully on either side because neither side's case can be made? That the fault lies with the facts and not with the advocates?
I cannot help but do so.
And so, I think there's a GREAT DEAL of Calvinism that ought to be embraced as perfectly biblical, as well as some of Arminianism. The logical side of me—the Mr. Spock in my head—echoes E. Earle Ellis and tells me that, if I would be philosophically consistent, I must be one or the other. I see the philosophical need for that. I really do. Indeed, I don't just see it; I FEEL it.
And yet, I have seen the price of that logical consistency. Portions of the Bible I must bid farewell if I go in either direction. I must bid those portions farewell either by standing on my head hermeneutically to make them say something other than what they clearly seem to say or by relegating them to the category of those passages that I have sworn to my theological system not to preach or otherwise to acknowledge in public. I have seen the price, and I am unwilling to pay it.
Some Calvinists will call me an Arminian. Some Arminians will call me a Calvinist. They're both wrong. And they're both right, if I must abide by their nomenclature. I'm an inconsistent Arminian. I'm an inconsistent Calvinist. I admit it. I am inconsistent in both of those ways because my commitment to being consistently biblical has prevented me from consistency in these areas. That's why I call myself a biblicist.
And in doing so, I confess that I'm probably messing that up. Some Calvinists would say, "If you were really a biblicist, you would become a Calvinist." Some Arminians would say likewise about their position. You know, maybe you're right. Really, maybe you are. When I call myself a biblicist, I'm not attempting to describe some achievement of mine; I'm trying to describe an endeavor of mine. I'm speaking not of my accomplishment, but of my motivation. Perhaps I am not a Calvinist because I am interpreting the Bible wrongly, but what is preventing me from being a Calvinist is truly my attempt to interpret the Bible rightly (even if you think it is the imperfections of that attempt that are "at fault").
"Biblicist" need not be a term that divides us. Maybe, instead, it could become a term that unites us. Yes, there are people on both sides who are so committed to a human theological system that they would consider it betrayal even to consider that the Bible might, in some places, teach things that undermine the absolute certainty of their tenets. But I believe that there are people of good will from various points along this particular theological spectrum whose commitment is to the Bible above any theological system. I believe that there are people who would, when pressed to do so, generally describe themselves as a Calvinist or a Classical Arminian or an Amyraldian, or something else along the continuum, but who would nevertheless humbly concede, "…but there are a few passages in the New Testament that make me really uncomfortable with my position sometimes, and I wish I understood the Bible more clearly about these matters." I believe that many of these are people who can recognize the attempted biblicism of many of their sisters and brothers whose struggles have led them to a different place than their own. Such people deserve to be called biblicists. Certainly this seems to be true of the many people—the enormous number—who have found both the strict Calvinistic and the strict Arminian answers to be insufficient in respecting the whole of the biblical witness and have attempted some sort of a hybrid or a tertium quid in order to make their favored theory more compatible with their understandings of the Bible.