Does RZIM have a position on Calvinism or Arminianism?
The relationship between election and free will are not issues on which Mr. Zacharias writes or speaks. RZIM does not have an official ministry position on the doctrines of Calvinism or Arminianism, and we have staff members holding to a variety of views in both of these doctrinal traditions. Our ministry is not officially affiliated with any particular denomination, and our staff represents a variety of different denominations. The mission and vision of RZIM is evangelism undergirded by apologetics, and we seek to stay true to that mission and calling.
Mr. Zacharias has often used the concept of paradox to reconcile God's sovereignty with human responsibility and freedom:
Likewise, and well before the 1960s, Chesterton dealt with the paradoxes of Christianity in Orthodoxy, and in fact, devotes an entire chapter to this theme. Now I believe in the Law of Noncontradiction when I’m using the laws of logic, but I also know the paradoxes with which the human heart lives. Further, contradiction and paradox are not one and the same. The Law of Noncontradiction affirms that the same question cannot elicit two absolute answers that are opposite to each other. One of the two answers, if opposite to the other, would have to be qualified. A statement that makes claims to two things that are mutually exclusive is a contradictory statement. If the Law of Noncontradiction did not apply to reality, our law courts would be buried. When attempting to separate truth from falsehood, we seek to identify anything that is contradictory.
But a paradox is not a contradiction. Paradox involves two counter-points on the same issue, both of which are not claiming an absolute nature. Consider, for example, the roles of emotion and will in marriage. Which element assures the success and longevity of a marriage, emotion or will? To be sure, without the will the marriage cannot survive. At the same time, without strong emotion a marriage would become drudgery. God brings the paradoxical roles of will and commitment and emotion and feeling to bear upon marriage. When you hold these in tandem, you will find that there is a beautiful blend of two seemingly different strands of your personality.
The classic illustration of this in theology is the paradox between the responsibility of man and the sovereignty of God. How can God give us the freedom to exercise our own will and still be sovereign over the universe? Western theologians tend to confuse the question by asking which one of the two is binding. The answer is ‘both are binding.’ This is a marvelous paradox that God brings to focus in the crucifixion of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Peter says in Acts, ‘This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross’ (2:23). In the Crucifixion, God Himself was subject to evil men. Peter doesn’t tell us where God’s sovereignty ended and the responsibility of man began; he simply tells us that they are both real.
Another example is the paradox of Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, yet knowing that he would raise him in a moment. The fact that there is both pain and joy at the same time is a paradox and not a contradiction, for the emotions are not mutually exclusive. What about the paradox of faith and reason? Are they mutually exclusive? Absolutely not. God has put enough into this world to make faith in him a most reasonable stance, but He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by reason alone. Such is the paradoxical nature of Christianity, and Chesterton deals with it in extenso in his masterwork, Orthodoxy.
Although the human mind is engaged by mystery, we do not in turn know how to engage it. In other words, the paradox we encounter in matters of faith is not comfortable because we do not know how to hold the two parts of it in balance. Our compartmentalizing minds want to put everything into a box, and yet the claims of Christian belief are not mutually exclusive. God, in his divine sovereignty, has given to us liberties and freedoms. Since our sovereign God chose to grant us this privilege, it cannot be something that in any way diminishes his sovereignty. He circumscribes the limits of that freedom such that we cannot violate His sovereign plan and His will, but that does not negate the freedom that we enjoy. Paradox sits uncomfortably on our rational mind, but then so should the Incarnation, since it is the advent of a Person who is proclaimed to be very God of very God while also being very man of very man. How can God be entirely man while still being entirely God? It’s a paradox of the highest order….
Resources for further study include:
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer
Predestination and Free Will: Four Views on Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom edited by Basinger and Basinger
Determined To Believe by John Lennox