CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Theology is not my thing. Give me history or apologetics, even some mild philosophy. But given the apparent growth of Calvinism among younger evangelicals, I have found the old Arminianism v. Calvinism debate more interesting of late. Because of that interest, I recently commented on a post over at the Triablogue blog. In addition to doing some fine apologetics work, most of the bloggers there are staunch Calvinists.

In any event, the title of the post referred to "free will" and associated that term with Arminianism. This can lead to some confusion, though it is very understandable as the debate has been framed by such terms for many decades. It would probably be more accurate to say that Classical Arminianism affirms "freed will." That is, man in his natural state is unable to choose to follow God and therefore is in exactly the same state that Calvinists call "Total Depravity." But unlike Calvinists, Arminians believe that God has extended, through His Son, prevenient (or preceding) grace to all humanity. This preceding grace is enough to free man's will to the point that it can develop faith in Christ. It is at that point that man is said to have a "freed will," in that the will has been freed by God's grace to make a choice to follow God or not.

So, in normal state, the will is not free. After prevenient grace, it is a "freed will." Belief in "free will" can often lead to identifying Arminianism with Pelagianism, which it is not (the notion that man can choose to follow God without God's direct intervention).

Which leads us to the next term that is sometimes used to distinguish Calvinists and Arminians: predestination. Calvinists believe in it and Arminians reject it, right? Nope.

Both theologies affirm a form of predestination, with admittedly very significant differences. Arminians believe that God predestines those he forsees will have faith in Him. This is sometimes called "conditional election." (Rom. 8:29: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers"). Calvinists believe God predestines whom he wills and that faith follows predestination. This is usually called "unconditional election." (Eph. 1: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will").

So for Arminians God first forsees faith and then predestines those who will have faith, whereas for Calvinists God predestines whom He wills and none would have developed faith without predestination.

I have not taken sides in this post but simply sought to discuss a few of the important terms in the debate.

48 comments:

I have never been comfortable with the "either/or" approach to this debate: your either under this label or that...

Thanks for a fair minded post.

I have avoided this topic at my blog because once you open this can, the worms never stop crawling out. But Dr. MacArthur's message on the "Challenge of Evil" moved me to write. This issue is at the core of many other issues.

John R.

Woops...

Forgot to mention I heard Dr. MacArthur's message at ths years Ligonier conference.

John R.

And I want to mention that John has been taking copious notes on the Legonier's conference that he attended a few days ago which are posted on his site, Anvil and Fire. Good stuff.

As a former "Arminian" turned Calvinist, I must add that there aren’t very many true “Arminians” today. Most people who call themselves Arminian would be shocked at what classic Arminianism actually taught. For example, if you ask most modern Arminians if Christ paid for sin at Calvary, they will say, “Of course”. They are shocked to find that Arminius himself did not believe this.

“The immediate effect of the death of Christ is not the remission of sins, or the actual redemption of any,” - James Arminius

I would suggest everyone read John Owen's "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ". In my opinion, Owen exhausts the issue (and settles the debate). The heart of the debate centers around the intent and purpose of Christ's death. There are really only two choices. Either Christ died to "save His people from their sins", and "secure eternal redemption", or else he died to give men the possibility of saving themselves by way of libertarian free will.

I can appreciate the intent of those who try to rectify the debate, as many books have tried to do recently. However, there is no middle ground to be found. The debate is not a small one about "5-points", but involves two totally different worldviews about the sovereign nature of God in all things, and about the nature and purpose of man.

John,

I liked your posts about the conference. Lots of Calvinist heavy hitters there.

It would be nice if there was some middle-ground, but I think there is not. Puritan Lad is right that the two views are by nature different from each other. I think he goes a little too far by talking about totally different views, at least in emphasis. The fact is that Arminianism is an offshoot of Calvinism. Calvinists sometimes seem to treat it as the opposite of their theology when in fact it is the closest theological system to their own among all Christian beliefs.

Which is why I am troubled by something else to which your post noted, the arrogance and contempt that many Calvinists demonstrate towards those with whom they disagree. Not all, but many Calvinists simply seem to think that their view is so obviously correct and Biblical that the opposition must be either ignorant or idiots.

Now, saying there is no middle ground is not the same thing as saying that there cannot be brotherhood and fellowship among Arminians and Calvinists. Indeed, their must be if we are to take the unity of the Church seriously.

PL,

That depends on how you define a "true Arminian." But I am not sure your example makes your point. Arminius believed that Jesus Christ's death was payment in full for the sins of believers and indeed for all. But he did not believe that salvation was effectuated until mixed with faith. Of course, Calvinists too believe faith is necessary for salvation, do they not? Salvation by faith alone?

Moreover, sometimes theological systems develop over time while still being rooted in a notable originator. Or are you going to show me were Calvin explicitly articulated a doctrine of limited atonement, as is highlighted in the Five Points: TULIP. Indeed, R.T. Kendell has argued that Calvin affirmed a universal atonement. Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649. Others have simply concluded that Calvin "did not fully or consistently develop his teaching on this subject." Charles Bell, "Calvin and the Extent of the Atonement," EQ 55:2 (1983), page 123.

That being said, I think you have a point in there. For many, Arminianism has become a short-hand for belief in free will of some sort. So lots of Christians may have heard the term and think it applies to them, without understanding some of the intricacies. But unlike you, I think they would probably be more surprised by how similar Armininiasm is to Calvinism in that both affirm Total Depravity and Predesitination. Many Arminian scholars also accept the penal-substitutionary theory of atonement, though the governmental view has developed largely in Arminian circles.

Layman,

I can only take Arminius at his own words. (See above quote, and there are others). Arminius and his followers taught some things that would truly disturb modern Arminians.

Calvin did teach Particular Redemption (Limited Atonement). I’ll get you some info tonight.

As far as "free will" goes, Calvinist have no objections, as long as free will doesn't become sovereign, able to change God's immutable decree.

BTW: I want to clarify that I do consider modern “Arminians” to be my brothers in Christ. They include some of my closest family members. However, these differences are not unimportant.

God Bless,

PL

Layman,

I hope I don't appear to be one of those "arrogant" Calvinists. Being a former Arminian myself, I hope to exude a little grace in all of this, however passionate I may be.

PL

PL,

Sorry about that. I didn't mean to include you in that and I hesitated before writing it. But it does seem to be the case that some Calvinists treat other Christians with contempt for not sharing their theology.

Passion is great. Contempt is not. I haven't thought of you as contemptuous or arrogant at all.

And I will readily admit that whereas I think that some Calvinists fall into the stereotype of their being arrogant, some Arminians fall into the stereotype of not being very sophisticated.

In any event, I commented on the other blog and started this one because I truly have been trying to explore both theologies. My initial sympathies I admit were with "Free Will" and against "Predestination." But studying Arminianism actually helped me better understand Calvinism and realize that both affirm a completely fallen nature needed God's grace and that both believe in Predestination. But you are right, there are significant differences between them and I am not of the camp that thinks such discussions and debates should be ignored.

I have been reading both sides of the debate for a while and have learned a lot, but have a lot more yet to learn and hope that your blogging and commenting activities will help me in that regard.

Layman,

One of my earliest blog series was an explanation of my retraction from Arminianism in favor of the Reformed Faith. Hope that you will be blessed by these.

The Doctrines of Sovereign Grace
T – The Myth of Libertarian Free Will
U - Election and the Myth of Contingent Predestination
L – It is Finished! - The Atoning work of Christ
I - The Gospel of Power and the God of Successful Evangelism
P - Assurance and Perseverance
The Ramifications of Bad Soteriology

One of the most difficult obstacles for those who are new to the Reformed Faith is God's Sovereignty in the sinful acts of wicked men. You'll find that addresses in the second post above.

I struggled for a long time with that one myself.

BK,

Thanks for visiting my site. I really enjoyed the conference.

Layman,
I was talking with my good friend Steve Weaver today about the attitude some have toward others with whom they disagree.

Our conclusion was that this is possible with any position people may take.

I just read something over at Phil Johnson's blog that addressed the same issue. His attitude was like Weaver's--a refreshing, patient, and godly one.

If we do not maintain such a spirit, how can we really wrestle with the issues in a constructive way?

BTW, Weaver has a paper over there, "If God is Sovereign, Can Man Be Free." He just emailed me the link. I have printed it and look forward to reading it.

Despite what I may have felt about one sermon at the Ligonier conference, I'll go back--if it has been so determined :) :)

Nor am I going to throw out my MacArthur Study Bible.

John R.

John R.,

I agree that anyone can demonstrate contempt and arrogance in their beliefs. But the distribution is not always an equal one between various positions. :)

Funny that you mention the MacArthur Study Bible. I recently acquired an ESV bible and avoided the Reformation Study Bible because Sproul was the editor. Now, I have no doubt that Sproul is a fine scholar, but I just didn't want a Calvin Study Bible at this point.

Layman said...

"Which is why I am troubled by something else to which your post noted, the arrogance and contempt that many Calvinists demonstrate towards those with whom they disagree. Not all, but many Calvinists simply seem to think that their view is so obviously correct and Biblical that the opposition must be either ignorant or idiots."

Is Layman talking about the attitude of some Reformed popularizers, or the attitude of Reformed theologians?

Let me also say that I hold the CADRE is very high esteem.

Steve,

There seemed to be a dismissive tone at the conference which John R. attended (see his notes re: MacArthur's comment), but nothing rising to the level of what I've seen in online and in person contacts I've had with some Calvinists. And I have carefully said "some," rather than "most," "majority" or "all." It is enough, though, that I'm not the only one to have noticed it.

The fact is that I learn best through discussions. But straight forward ones with cards on the table that do not fall into games of "gotcha" or with ever shifting sands of the points at issue. I've read stuff on both sides and thought that maybe it was time for some interaction with proponents. Admittedly, I have been disappointed by the first thread I attempted to comment on.

Like I said, my focus and studies have overwhelmingly been directed at historical apologetics. Theology beyond that has not been my field and my thoughts on the issue are much more tentative. I don't think a systemic theology is something you adopt overnight on the basis of some offered proof texts or philosophical arguments about determinism which owe more to human philosophy than exegesis.

Layman,

I'm not challenging the accuracy of your characterization. I just think it's important to distinguish between the pros (scholars, theologians) and the popularizers.

How would you like to structure a more constructive dialogue? I'm more than open to your proposals.

Btw, I appreciate everyone's comments on this thread. {s}

JRP

Layman,

To be sure, MacArthur's is not the only study bible on my shelf... :)

Sometimes you've just gotta get some air.

John R.

Layman,

One thing I've learned over the years regarding systematic theology, is that it can't be built from biblical exegesis without eventually appealing to some kind of metaphysical procedure for settling apparent conflicts.

To give a generalized example: verse set 'A' may seem to be making claim 'A', and verse set 'B' may seem to be making claim 'B'. Are we supposed to read one set in light of the other one? Both sets in light of a third set? If so, which one? The answer cannot be avoided for any practical purpose; but _any_ answer arrived at will be metaphysics.

Or again, sentence 'A' may seem to mean 'A', taken by itself, but would clearly mean 'B' if taken in larger context of the surrounding material. Virtually everyone agrees in principle that this is how exegesis should be done (whether on the Bible or on most other texts)--but hardly anyone ever notices that in doing so, we have appealed to some kind of principle above and beyond the textual data itself. Why should it be that way, instead of just taking sentences by themselves? (Or even rolling dice and reading sentences in conjunction with each other as the die rolls suggest?--which some existant manuscripts give evidence of being used for, btw!) Answering that question, in any direction, involves doing metaphysics.

I'm not saying there aren't plenty of dangers involved in doing it. I'm only saying that there's no way _not_ to do it and still do practical theology. It can't be avoided.

JRP

Steve,

As discussed in our emails, I'll let you know when I post on topics related to Arminianism or Calvinism.

JRP,

I understand that human reason and philosophy will play a part in theology, but I was specifically referring to a discussion I had in which -- to the best of my memory -- not a single verse was offered. The focus was more a philosophical argument against the notion of free will and acting as if that settled the issue.

Layman,

Being a former Arminian, I hope to be able to address some of your objections to Calvinism. Let's start with "free will". If you like, I can list scriptures that refute what I call "libertarian free will". I use that term because, when Arminians and Calvinists discuss "free will" they are usually comparing apple and oranges (which is the main problem).

One of the charges that Arminians throw at Calvinists is that we deny the existence of "free will". Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Westminster Confession of Faith devotes an entire chapter 9 to "free will".

Calvinists properly define free will as man's ability to do what he wants to do. However, this is true of both the redeemed and the lost. Man's free will isn't totally free until the Son makes it free. Until then, it is a slave to sin, at enmity with God, loving darkness and hating the light, deceitful and desperately wicked, drinking iniquity like water, and can no more do good in the eyes of God then a leopard can change it's spots (Scripture references available upon request.) Man's will, however free we wish to think it, cannot free itself from sin, nor can man use his free will to change his own heart. That must be the work of God alone (Ezekiel 36:26-27). This contradicts the Arminian version of "free will", which says that a man may change his own wicked self into a Christian by simply coming to Jesus. Thus the new birth becomes optional, and God's immutible decree becomes altered by human choice.

What I have found in the Scriptures is the absolute sovereignty of God, with absolute predestination. Man's "free will" is lacking, or at best, limited to his own lusts and desires. In short, man's "free will" is not the cure for his sinful nature. It is the cause.

I would ask you to think to yourself, why are you a Christian? What changed in your life? Did you really change your own heart? What role does the Holy Spirit play in a person's salvation?

Hope this helps,

PL

PL,

I appreciate the distinction you are trying to make, but for most of us it is not "free will" to be able to choose only what our nature dictates to us. Rather, free will is understood to mean the ability for the self to select a course of action without either other internal or external factors being a sufficient cause for the choice.

This, of course, does not make Calvinism wrong. I just think it it a more accurate description of what people -- Arminian or not -- think when they talk about free will. Here is how Bruce Reichenbach puts it:

To say that a person is free means that, given a certain set of circumstances, the person could have done otherwise than he did. He was not compelled by causes either internal to himself or external to act as he did. Though certain causal conditions are present and indeed are necessary for persons to choose or act, if they are free these causal conditions are not sufficient to cause them to choose or act."

Predestination & Free Will, page 102.

This contradicts the Arminian version of "free will", which says that a man may change his own wicked self into a Christian by simply coming to Jesus.

This is an inaccurate characterization of Classical Arminianism. Arminians actually do not believe in complete free will either. They agree with Calvinists that man in unable -- without God's gracious intervention -- to choose to follow God. Arminians are clear that many cannot on his own come to God.

Your comment plays right into Roger Olson's hands as he alleges that "One of the most prevelant and damaging misconceptions about Arminianism is that it is human-centered because it believes in the innate ability of humans to exercise good will toward Goad and to contribute to salvation even after the fall of Adam." Arminian Theology, page 137 (discussing Myth 6).

According to Arminius, "In his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good."

In other words, when it comes to the T-Total Depravity, of TULIP, Calvinists and Arminians are on the same page.

I would ask you to think to yourself, why are you a Christian? What changed in your life? Did you really change your own heart? What role does the Holy Spirit play in a person's salvation?

I was raised in a Christian home and became a Christian at a very young age. I do not remember feeling any significant chance in my heart. God's grace is the only way that I, or anyone else, can be saved and desire to love God.

Here is the problem...

"He was not compelled by causes either internal to himself..."

Man is always compelled by causes internal to himself. Man's will is not totally free to choose any course of action, but will always choose according to what is in his own heart. For example, what prevents any sane person from eating raw roadkill? There is nothing preventing us from doing so, except our own nature, lusts, and desires. We don't do so, because we don't like roadkill. Our will have been affected by our own hearts.

Your quote by Olson and by Arminius was very interesting. I would like to know how that plays into the First point of Arminianism. Those who presented their case at the Synod of Dort would have disagreed. I would ask Roger Olson how a person can be saved, since, according to Scripture, no one can come to Christ unless the Father grants it, and since the natural man cannot receive the things of the kingdom of God. If man is totally depraved, which you would agree, then what would cause them to come to Christ, since their nature is at enmity with God, and they hate the light? One cannot logically accept Total Depravity and reject the other four points. Total Depravity denies that man has any ability to come to Christ apart from the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was very clear. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3). This is 100% the work of God, and 0% man's work.

I would also ask, from an Arminian perspective, what is the difference between a person who rejects the gospel vs. one who accepts it? If unconditional election is denied, then the saved person must have had some inherent goodness that the unsaved did not have. He was able to make a better decision then his unsaved neighbor, and therefore should get some of the glory for his own salvation.

I was raised in a Christian home and became a Christian at a very young age. I do not remember feeling any significant chance in my heart. God's grace is the only way that I, or anyone else, can be saved and desire to love God.

Amen. However, did you decide to be born in a Christian home? What prevented you from being born in a Muslim home, where you could be raised as a suicide bomber for Allah? Was it not the sovereign grace of God alone that put you into a Christian home with Christian parents who taught you and raised you in the admonition of the Lord? Where does your free will come in?

In the end Jesus saves and does so completely. He did not die just to give us a choice, but actually seeks and saves His lost sheep. Salvation requires what Jonathan Edwards refers to as a "Divine and Supernatural Light", the kind that enabled Peter to profess his faith.

"And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 16:17)

Without this light, no one will ever be able to come to Christ. There is more in my post The Myth of Libertarian Free Will, where I examine both the existence and limits of free will according to the Scriptures.

God Bless,

PL

Man is always compelled by causes internal to himself. Man's will is not totally free to choose any course of action, but will always choose according to what is in his own heart. For example, what prevents any sane person from eating raw roadkill? There is nothing preventing us from doing so, except our own nature, lusts, and desires. We don't do so, because we don't like roadkill. Our will have been affected by our own hearts.

A better question would be what makes a person choose between pizza and a more healthy sandwich. There a person chooses between different options, weighing their desires, knowledge, inclinations, and selecting between them.

Saying man is always compelled to do whatever he did is not exegesis, its an adoption of materialistic reductionism.

Your quote by Olson and by Arminius was very interesting.

Well, let us start off by acknowledging that your characterization of Arminianism was inaccurate. You may still have problems with what they do believe, but Arminians do not believe that man simply chooses God of his own will. Man is totally depraved and cannot even desire God without God's intervention.

I would ask Roger Olson how a person can be saved, since, according to Scripture, no one can come to Christ unless the Father grants it, and since the natural man cannot receive the things of the kingdom of God. If man is totally depraved, which you would agree, then what would cause them to come to Christ, since their nature is at enmity with God, and they hate the light? One cannot logically accept Total Depravity and reject the other four points. Total Depravity denies that man has any ability to come to Christ apart from the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit

Just which Arminians have you read? This is basic Arminian belief.

Arminians believe that it is the grace of God which enables man to choose God and which plants in man the desire to have a relationship with God.

Consider Picirilli:

Man's will is no longer naturally free to choose God apart from the supernatural work of the Spirit of God... Therefore, left to himself, no person either can or will accept the offer of salvation in the gospel and put saving faith in Christ....

Grace, Faith, Free Will.

He quotes Arminius:

It is very plain, from the Scriptures, that repentance and faith can not be exercised except by the gift of God.

I would also ask, from an Arminian perspective, what is the difference between a person who rejects the gospel vs. one who accepts it? If unconditional election is denied, then the saved person must have had some inherent goodness that the unsaved did not have. He was able to make a better decision then his unsaved neighbor, and therefore should get some of the glory for his own salvation.

The difference is that one person chose God through the Grace of God while the other rejected Him, despite the Grace of God. This is not meritorious for the one who chooses faith because he could not have even made that choice without the Grace of God.

However, did you decide to be born in a Christian home? What prevented you from being born in a Muslim home, where you could be raised as a suicide bomber for Allah? Was it not the sovereign grace of God alone that put you into a Christian home with Christian parents who taught you and raised you in the admonition of the Lord? Where does your free will come in?

Yes, I thank God for my parents and their teachings. My freed will comes from the Grace of God.

In the end Jesus saves and does so completely. He did not die just to give us a choice, but actually seeks and saves His lost sheep. Salvation requires what Jonathan Edwards refers to as a "Divine and Supernatural Light", the kind that enabled Peter to profess his faith.

His death accomplished much more than a choice. For even a choice made would not be sufficient for salvation apart from the atoning work of Christ. There is still sin to be paid for and Christ' death paid that sin.

You say you were an Arminian and I believe you to be sincere. But some people use Arminian simply to mean a Christian who believes in free will. There is so much more to it than that. You don't really seem to have grasped the basics of Classical Arminian theology.

There are serious objections to Arminian theology, but they are not really the ones you are raising.

“Saying man is always compelled to do whatever he did is not exegesis, its an adoption of materialistic reductionism.”

I have to disagree.

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:18-19)

The human heart is what it is, and man cannot change his own heart. I could point to Pharaoh as a prime example. Arminians are uncomfortable with the idea that God hardened his heart, so that he would not obey. In all of this, God was glorified.

“The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

“Well, let us start off by acknowledging that your characterization of Arminianism was inaccurate. You may still have problems with what they do believe, but Arminians do not believe that man simply chooses God of his own will. Man is totally depraved and cannot even desire God without God's intervention.”

I have to disagree here. I used to go to an Arminian church, and that is exactly what they teach, that man chooses God, and as a result, God helps him along. It’s even sung in most churches today “I have decided to follow Jesus”. Contrast this with the Song of Moses, “The Lord has become my salvation”. I haven’t researched your quote by Arminius yet, but I do know what the Arminians presented at the Synod of Dort.

“As men may change themselves from believers to unbelievers, so God’s determination concerning them changeth,”

That is Arminianism in a nutshell. Today, they will openly declare that “God is a gentleman, who will never violate your free will”. Not so.

“The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” (Psalms 33:10-12)

“Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, That he may dwell in thy courts…” (Psalms 65:4)

“Arminians believe that it is the grace of God which enables man to choose God and which plants in man the desire to have a relationship with God.”

I have read quite a few. Some are more “pelagian” than others, as you have pointed out. However, I just quoted from the Remonstrance at the Synod of Dort. They would disagree with you.

I would go a step further and say that God doesn’t just “enable man to choose God”, but rather compels him to do so. In the end, salvation is God’s sovereign choice not man’s.

“For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth. So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will be hardeneth.” (Romans 9:15-18)

"The difference is that one person chose God through the Grace of God while the other rejected Him, despite the Grace of God. This is not meritorious for the one who chooses faith because he could not have even made that choice without the Grace of God."

So man’s free will is greater than the sovereign grace of God? See Romans quote above, and there are others. Why did one person choose God and the other reject Him? Do they both have the same “free will”? Do they both have the same wicked heart? What made the difference? What enabled one person to make the right choice while the other could not? If what you say is true, then there are millions of souls currently burning in the fires of Hell that are just as much bought with the blood of Christ as you and I.

In any case, you hold that the reason one is saved and the other isn’t is because he made a better choice. The lost man has the same grace, but was able to choose Hell despite God’s best efforts. This is one of the many problems I have with Arminianism. God’s Grace is Irresistible (Romans 9:15, John 5:21, Isaiah 55:11, and many others.)

"You don't really seem to have grasped the basics of Classical Arminian theology."

Oh, I understand classic Arminianism to be sure. All one has to do is read the writings of the Remonstrance at the Synod of Dort. (Most Arminians today would be shocked at what classic Arminianism taught.)

At least you believe that Christ paid for sin. (As I showed earlier, Arminius himself did not believe that.) However, I must now ask, whose sins did Christ pay for?

God Bless,

PL

Layman,

I read this again, and need to respond.

“Arminians do not believe that man simply chooses God of his own will. Man is totally depraved and cannot even desire God without God's intervention.”

I don’t remember making that particular claim, so let us clarify this…

Here is the heart of the disagreement. A Pelagian would say that “that man simply chooses God of his own will”. A Calvinist would say that God regenerates man according to the good pleasure of His will. A semipelagian (Arminian) would say that that God calls man, and helps man get saved, yet leaves the final decision to man (free will).

To that, you apparently agree.

“Arminians believe that it is the grace of God which enables man to choose God”

I disagree. It is the grace of God that saves souls, completely. That’s the disagreement.

So let's start over again here...

This is probably going to seem a roundabout way of reconciling the theological differences here; but the recent topic (and there are several interrelated ones between Calv and Arm positions) has focused a lot on the question of people doing things apart from God.

I ask both Layman and PL, then: who is it who does anything at all apart from God?

(Be careful--in a way, this is a trick question. I ask it, though, for purposes of clarifying some agreements between you, one way or another. Also, I am extremely serious, as an orthodox trinitarian Christian, about the answer.)

JRP

PL,

I am still uncomfortable with your initial characterization of Arminianism, which you either know was untrue or refuse to acknowledge was inaccurate.

I have to disagree.

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:18-19)

The human heart is what it is, and man cannot change his own heart. I could point to Pharaoh as a prime example. Arminians are uncomfortable with the idea that God hardened his heart, so that he would not obey. In all of this, God was glorified.

“The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)


Even if the verse from Matthew was some sort of declaration of reductionism -- which I doubt since it does not expound on what the "heart" means -- it is discussing the state of sinful man. Jesus is teaching than man in his unredeemed state is sinful. That is a far cry from saying that I ate a granola bar this morning and lacked the capacity to choose to eat something else. It is an even farther cry from claiming that God's grace cannot provide a person with the ability to choose.

As for the reference to Proverbs, I do not deny -- nor do I think Arminian's deny -- that God can direct the actions of people, especially world leaders.

I have to disagree here. I used to go to an Arminian church, and that is exactly what they teach, that man chooses God, and as a result, God helps him along. It’s even sung in most churches today “I have decided to follow Jesus”. Contrast this with the Song of Moses, “The Lord has become my salvation”. I haven’t researched your quote by Arminius yet, but I do know what the Arminians presented at the Synod of Dort.

Your initial characterization was that Arminians believe that people "simply" choose God "on their own." That is not the case. Yes, a decision is made. But only because of God's Grace which enables people to make a decision. Otherwise, on his own, man is lost.

And I'm hesitant to ascribe to systematic theological belief systems their core affirmations based on popular lyrics. I know that many Calvinist churches have cleansed their worship teams of theologically incorrect songs, but -- for better or worse -- most churches are not so diligent.

And what is the source of your quote? The Arminians were not really particiants in the Synod except in the way a defendant participates in a criminal trial. Is this something one of the defenders, such as Episcopius said? If so, I would like to see the context.

In any event, I have given you quotes from Arminius and two leading contemporary Arminian theologians who are crystal clear that man's will is unable to desire Christ apart from God's grace. You pluck one tiny unsourced quote from who knows who. I will add another source to try and convince you that Arminians (or perhaps you can grant that at least some Arminians) affirm the total depravity of man.

Arminius' early followers presented a petition to the Dutch States, called a "Remonstrance," which articulated their core beliefs. This included Episcopius and Groitus. There were five articles to the statement. From Article 3:

That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit; and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good.

As Picirilli notes, this Article declares that, "Not even man's free will can initiate a positive response to God apart from enabling grace." Grace, Free, Will, page 14.

“The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” (Psalms 33:10-12)

Careful, there, sounds like you are advocating Corporate Election! :) The people God had chosen of whom the Psalmist speaks was the nation of Israel. But as Acts notes, they resisted the Holy Spirit.

I have read quite a few. Some are more “pelagian” than others, as you have pointed out. However, I just quoted from the Remonstrance at the Synod of Dort. They would disagree with you.

I've quoted the founder, his earliest followers, and leading contemporary Arminians. Yet you've ignored them or dismissed them as something you will look into. As I myself say, some people really misuse the term Arminian. That is why I used the term "Classical Arminians." They clearly embrace the concept of Total Depravity.

I would go a step further and say that God doesn’t just “enable man to choose God”, but rather compels him to do so. In the end, salvation is God’s sovereign choice not man’s.

I know you would go further. That is what makes you a Calvinist. But this does not render Arminians pelagianists.

We can both cite to scriptures:

You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.

And many others. I plan on going through all of these as I have time because as I have said before, I have not embraced Arminianism or Calvinism.

So man’s free will is greater than the sovereign grace of God? See Romans quote above, and there are others. Why did one person choose God and the other reject Him? Do they both have the same “free will”? Do they both have the same wicked heart? What made the difference? What enabled one person to make the right choice while the other could not?

Is man's will greater than God's sovereignty? Not at all, but can a a sovereign God decree that man has a choice? And if he does, then the possession of free will is not in contradiction with God's sovereignty.

Influences could include upbringing, prior exposure to the Gospel teachings, etc. But ultimately, the difference was the God-granted Grace-enabled choice that each person made.

Do you contend that God is not sovereign enough to grant a choice?

If what you say is true, then there are millions of souls currently burning in the fires of Hell that are just as much bought with the blood of Christ as you and I.

Well, only if you consider them "bought" when payment was refused. And since Calvinists believe in the sufficiency of Christ's death to save all, then this sounds like semantics. Both Arminians and Calvinists can accuse each other of all that "wasted" blood of Christ.

In any case, you hold that the reason one is saved and the other isn’t is because he made a better choice. The lost man has the same grace, but was able to choose Hell despite God’s best efforts. This is one of the many problems I have with Arminianism. God’s Grace is Irresistible (Romans 9:15, John 5:21, Isaiah 55:11, and many others.)

Yes, the resistability of God's Grace is a key point of departure for Arminians and Calvinists.

"If any man be willing to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Matthew 16:24-25.

Oh, I understand classic Arminianism to be sure. All one has to do is read the writings of the Remonstrance at the Synod of Dort. (Most Arminians today would be shocked at what classic Arminianism taught.)

I have shown by Arminius' own hand, the writings of his immediate followers, and by reference to leading contemporary Arminian theologians that you are wrong about Classical Arminiansm. It embraces Total Depravity. In the face of this evidence, you base your (mis)characterization of Arminianism based on one small snippet from one unsourced statement.

At least you believe that Christ paid for sin. (As I showed earlier, Arminius himself did not believe that.) However, I must now ask, , whose sins did Christ pay for?

I will let John answer for me:

"And he is propitiation concerning our sins, and not concerning ours only but also concerning the whole world." 1 John 2:2.

PL,

Here is the heart of the disagreement. A Pelagian would say that “that man simply chooses God of his own will”. A Calvinist would say that God regenerates man according to the good pleasure of His will. A semipelagian (Arminian) would say that that God calls man, and helps man get saved, yet leaves the final decision to man (free will).

To that, you apparently agree.


Classical Arminianism is not semi-pelagian. It affirms man's total depravity and complete inability to desire or choose a relationship with God.

Layman:

{{Well, only if you consider them "bought" when payment was refused. And since Calvinists believe in the sufficiency of Christ's death to save all, then this sounds like semantics. Both Arminians and Calvinists can accuse each other of all that "wasted" blood of Christ.}}

Which, along with Irresistable Grace and Predestination, is precisely why some Calvinists (John Piper being a popular exponent of this position, for instance) hold strongly to the notion that God never had any intention of saving those people in the first place. I know for a fact, Classical Arminianism (perhaps) aside, that this is currently a key bone of contention between the two camps. I wonder if PL will go this route...

JRP

JRP,

I hope I have not come across as ignoring the differences between Armininianism and Calvinism. Of course there are significant differences. They agree on Total Depravity, but disagree on almost all the rest of TULIP. A's favor Conditional Election through foreseen faith, C's favor Unconditional Election, by God's unknown or perhaps arbitrary selection. A's favor Unlimited Atonement, C's favor Limited Atonement. A's favor Resistible Grace and C's favor Irresistible Grace.

When it comes to Perseverance of the Saints, C's favor it and A's are split.

{{I hope I have not come across as ignoring the differences between Armininianism and Calvinism.}}

No, no, not at all. I'm a tactical analyst, so I was making a guess as to where the reply would be on that. Obviously it's an important point of difference (and not necessarily held by all Calvinists, though I think the hardliners are correct that their position, as a whole, taken to its logical end, arrives at this); but while related to the current discussion it hasn't (or hadn't) yet come to the fore. Consequently, I was interested to see an opening in that direction develop (and was wondering, since not all Calvinists hold to it, whether PL would take it.)

JRP

Also, I honestly have no idea how much of the debate over God's intentions toward the people in hell, can be traced back to the classical Arminian dissent from Calvin. I'd be curious to know about that, too. (I've heard different things concerning whether Calvin taught that, didn't teach it, would have agreed with it assuming he didn't teach it based on other things he wrote, etc.)

JRP

It seems to me that the burden of proof fall upon the Arminian to show that the concept of "prevenient grace" is clearly taught in Scripture. If, as layman suggest, "Classic Arminianism" is closer to Calvinism than most suggest and the difference is found withing the concept of "prevenient grace," this must be a clearly taught doctrine in Scripture. My view is that there is scant evidence within the biblical witness for such a view. This is a fruitful discussion since the theology stands or falls on this single issue.

"I wonder if PL will go this route...

Yes. God predestines men to both Heaven and Hell. Scriptures available upon request.

Layman,

Wen you say that God paid for the sins of "the world", does that mean every single individual who ever lived?

Yes, well, we all have scriptures available upon request. {s} I trust we're all reasonably familiar with the data already (aside perhaps from texts not normally referenced and discussed by any side, simply because they're obscure and not normally discussed in any case.)

I take it then (just to be clearly clear {g}) that you are agreeing to the notion that God _never had any intention at all_ of saving the people who actually end up in hell.


Robert and/or Lynne (can't be sure which of you is writing, sorry {g}):

{{t seems to me that the burden of proof fall upon the Arminian to show that the concept of "prevenient grace" is clearly taught in Scripture.}}

That would be easy enough to do, from OT and NT both; even Calvinists strenuously insist (and rightly so I think) on prevenient grace, including prevenient saving grace. John Piper (who again comes to mind as an example) even insists on prevenient _general_ grace to those who are in hell.

The difference between hardline Calvs, such as Piper (compared to some others in the Calvinist school who wouldn't go so far), and some other schools of theology, on prevenient grace, is whether God extends this for anyone other than for the people whom God does save. They would say no to that--which, if they go the specific route taken by Piper, would also involve schisming (as I would call it) between God's grace generally and 'saving' grace. But obviously they're saying yes to prevenient grace in other regards. Arminians (and I, who most Arminians would not consider to be Arminian I think {g}) believe God extends grace (and specifically even saving grace) preveniently to everyone. _That_ is the difference, in regard to the current topic.


Back to PL: I don't know for sure what Layman is going to say, but (as he probably knows already from other discussions) I myself would answer, yes, God pays and has paid for the sins of every single individual who ever has lived. You and I probably mean somewhat different things by 'paying'; but even in the case of 'paying' as for, let us say, a wedding feast, the people who are invited can still refuse to come; and apparently even if they come, they can still refuse to wear the wedding sash provided (preveniently! {g}) by the father--who even then _still_ calls such people 'Friend'.

They _cannot_ refuse being tossed outside for refusing to wear a freely given sash, though. {s}

(Scripture references available upon request, if actually needed in this case. {g})

JRP

Incidentally (perhaps also providentially! {g}), today's _King of Stories_ entry deals _very_ specifically with God's intentions toward those in Gehenna. (Ironically, harmonizing the texts tends to obscure this a bit...! {amused g} Mark reports it plainly enough, though. {shrug} As do Matthew and Luke, in their own ways.)

JRP

PL,

Yes, Arminians affirm Universal Atonement. Jesus died for people that have not, in fact, been saved.

Lynnbert,

Some form of Preceding Grace is necessarily a part of Arminianism. At least Classical Arminianism. But the fall of Prevenient Grace would not validate Calvinism. And Arminians themselves have different understandings of what, in fact, the principle involves. Some stress it enables everyone to embrace God while others, like Picirilli, state that it is only effective with the preaching of the Gospel.

Jason,

Good point. Calvinists in fact do believe in "common grace." Thus they seem to accept some form of regeneration caused by the Spirit, though just enough to keep us all from murdering each other and not enough to give us a desire for God.

All,

The main purpose of this post was to get to an understanding of terms and beliefs. I think we have accomplished much of that. In future posts I hope to delve more into the exegetical and theological issues related to the divisions (such as Prevenient Grace, as Lynnbert suggests). In other words, since we all have our proof texts and arguments, examining them in any depth will probably better be left to future posts.

Thanks to all who participated! This post served its purpose and much more thanks to all the thoughtful comments.

I'm not shutting this down by any means, just stating my future intentions.

It is important to see Christ's atoning work as a purposeful means to a purposeful end, that being the actual salvation of His people. This is what the Arminain would deny (including Arminius himself).

"God pays and has paid for the sins of every single individual who ever has lived. You and I probably mean somewhat different things by 'paying'; but even in the case of 'paying' as for, let us say, a wedding feast, the people who are invited can still refuse to come; and apparently even if they come, they can still refuse to wear the wedding sash provided (preveniently! {g}) by the father--who even then _still_ calls such people 'Friend'."

You nailed the problem. If Christ has indeed paid for the sins of everyone who ever lived, then no one could ever go to hell. Arminians usually point to scriptures that speak of Jesus paying for the sins of “the world” or “all people”. However these phrases are rarely used in a universal since, even today. While Arminians will try to redefine “payment”, the Bible does not give that option. For example, if the term “world” in 2 Cor. 5:19 was to be used universally, then you would clearly have universal salvation.

"Calvinists in fact do believe in "common grace." Thus they seem to accept some form of regeneration caused by the Spirit, though just enough to keep us all from murdering each other and not enough to give us a desire for God."

Sorry Layman, “common grace” is not regeneration.

Calvinist hold that the blood of Christ was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28). Arminians, no matter how you slice it, hold that the blood of Christ was poured out for everybody for the “potential” forgiveness of sins.

We see in Scripture that God not only changes hearts and saves souls, but he hardens hearts and blinds eyes. Thus the wicked Pharisees could not be saved, because the kingdom was hidden from them by God. Why? “…even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Luke 10:21)

Christ did not die hopig that people would use His gift to get saved. He actually came to "save His people from their sin" (Matthew 1:21). His work cannot fail, and it saves all that He intended for it to save.

PL,

Since my goal here is to clarify common terms, perhaps you could clarify just what Common Grace is to Calvinists? My understanding is that it is the grace of God that allows mankind to live in relative peace at times and cooperate with each other in society. Louis Berkhof said that it "curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of me."

You may not like calling that some form of regeneration, but it obviously envisions the work of the Holy Spirit among men lifting them up to a point somewhat above their natural state.

Layman,

I agree, as an opening examination this thread has done fairly well. I do wish some specifically Arminian adherents had contributed more, though, since you’re not really in either camp, and I’m positively a ‘3rd way’ proponent anyway. {g} Maybe next time. (Put out a call for Arminians in the Cadre proper, to participate?)

PL,

{{Sorry Layman, “common grace” is not regeneration.}}

I agree, fwiw. Or, it isn’t necessarily regeneration per se. God gives the good things of this world to the evil and good alike--that’s a common grace (and one Calvinists can easily believe in), but it’s hardly regeneration.

Now, _I_ accept some form of regeneration caused by the Spirit (thus also by the Father and Son, for where one Person is in operation all three are in operation), common to all men; as does St. Paul, apparently, when he testifies that those who do not have the Torah may be either condemned _or_ defended on the day of Christ’s judgment. This means I don’t have to diss exhibitions of apparent fruit of the Spirit among non-Christians as being only some kind of counterfeit, either. Instead, I gladly rejoice when I see it; for God is working among the nations, as... um... well, gosh, pretty much the whole Bible says on occasion. {s}

Granted, this means I have to put up with Christ (i.e. God Incarnate) instead of Christianity being the Way, the Truth and the Life. But I find, speaking as an ultra-doctrinaire concerned with avoiding heresy (such as, for example, gnosticism), that I can put up with that pretty easily. {g!}

{{You nailed the problem. If Christ has indeed paid for the sins of everyone who ever lived, then no one could ever go to hell.}}

The father in the parable paid for those people to be at the wedding feast of his son; and the parable explicitly involves the butt-kicking of people for whom the father has paid the way to join him and the son. Granted, I’m willing to agree that theological positions shouldn’t be established primarily from parables, but still--insofar as the fate of those punished by the father parallels hell, they’re receiving punishment both for not coming and for trying to get in on their own merits. And they _were_ in fact invited. The punishing anger of the father in the story makes no sense unless his original invitation was real and serious. It’s practically the main point to the story.

{{Arminians usually point to scriptures that speak of Jesus paying for the sins of “the world” or “all people”. However these phrases are rarely used in a universal since, even today.}}

If you mean Arminians don’t mean those words in a universal sense when disputing with Calvinists, I can answer from experience that they certainly do, and strenuously so. If you mean Arminians show that they themselves aren’t always serious about the universal application of ‘kosmos’ and ‘pan’ and that sort of thing, when it comes time to do their _own_ theology--well, you won’t hear any disagreement from _me_. {g}

{{For example, if the term “world” in 2 Cor. 5:19 was to be used universally, then you would clearly have universal salvation.}}

Really! {ggggg!} Yes, I agree, Arminians do tend to punt on that. You are very correct to tag them for the inconsistency.

And, fwiw, the word for ‘world’ there is a grammatic cognate of ‘kosm-’, which does in fact refer to all creation. Also, nothing in that section of 2 Cor has anything to do with defining ‘payment’, per se. It has a lot to do with explaining the scope of God’s intentions in reconciliation, which is not at all the same thing. (In effect, 2 Cor 5:17-20, and maybe also 21, is a synopsis of Col 1:9-20ff.)

Where the Arminians punt on this, is in saying that eventually God gives up trying to reconcile sinners--His interest in reconciliation is only temporary, which in effect means that the blood of Christ on the cross is a work with only temporary ends in view in regard to some souls. Calvinists insist, on the other hand, that God’s saving grace is eternally persistent, and that it is highly important as a theological point that we can positively _trust_ God to accomplish His work in those whom He is trying to save, and not to just give up on it--that would be tantamount to coming down from the cross when it got too annoying. But since Calvinists also insist on the hopelessness of hell, sooner or later the logic of their position is going to lead to the notion that God never had any intention of saving _those_ people at all.


May we at least all agree, though, that the Son Incarnate was not named Jesus because He would save His people from _hell_? There is, after all, something rather more important to be saved from. (And it isn’t primarily from God’s punishment, much less from God’s justice, either. He was called _Jesus_ because He would save His people from...)

I mention this, because (sloppy theology aside) universal salvation theology isn’t supposed to be about being saved from hell. That may very well happen, too (though even then it is not the eternal consuming fire from which we are being ‘saved’! Very much the contrary!) But it isn’t the main thing.

_I_ am not primarily concerned with being saved from hell. I am primarily concerned with God saving me from...?


{{We see in Scripture that God not only changes hearts and saves souls, but he hardens hearts and blinds eyes.}}

True; though in the case of heart hardening there is typically something the people were doing first. The _complaint_ of God in Isaiah, frequently quoted (including by Christ), is not that _He_ is squinting shut their eyes and stopping their ears and hardening their hearts so that they will not turn around and be saved by Him, after all! (Granted, God is doing some of that, too; but the _complaint_ indicates something _else_ is happening _first_. Which would be...?)

And the praise of Jesus in Luke 10:21, btw, doesn’t have anything topically to do with condemnation of “the wise and intelligent” at all, whether wicked Pharisees or otherwise. Even _I_ can think of verses more pertinent to your claim than _that_... {lopsided g!} But there is a greater miracle, and better evidence for revelation, if ones who could never have reasoned out these things themselves, become the agents of the message. Besides which, it fits better into the Lord’s attempts to destroy ambition and the oppressment of people by power-exertion (including intellectual power.)

JRP

Incidentally, that verse from Luke 10 just happens to feature in today's _KoS_ entry. (I promise, I didn't plan it that way. Providentiality is fun {g}, though a bit disconcerting, too, when it's happening.)

JRP

Layman,

Jason answered "common grace" pretty well. However, I must reply to a few of his comments.

"But since Calvinists also insist on the hopelessness of hell, sooner or later the logic of their position is going to lead to the notion that God never had any intention of saving _those_ people at all."

This is correct. While it may sound offensive it is scriptural. Absolute Predestination. The only other alternative is that Christ's blood was absolutely worthless for the vast majority for which it was intended.

"The LORD has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of destruction." (Proverbs 16:4)


"The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born...this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. " (Matthew 26:24. Acts 2:23)

"For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." (Jude 1:4)

Jonathan Edwards Sermon "Wicked Men only useful in their Destruction" is a masterpiece of hard biblical truth. However, if one is Arminian, it will certainly offend.

PL,

Common grace elevates man -- to some extent -- from his totally depraved state. It might make you uncomfortable -- or offend you to use a common phrase of yours -- to refer to this as some form of partial regeneration, but the label is hardly the point.

The only other alternative is that Christ's blood was absolutely worthless for the vast majority for which it was intended.

And just how, substantively, is this different than the Calvinist belief that Jesus' sacrifice was sufficient to save all but in fact only saves a few? Like I said, Arminians and Calvinists can both accuse each other of wasting the blood of Christ.

In any event, you are not even correct in your classification of Arminian belief. Arminians belief that Christ' blood at least provides the opportunity for salvation for others. Calvinists belief God had the means to save all -- Jesus' blood -- but himself chose to withhold it from the rest of the world.

"The LORD has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of destruction." (Proverbs 16:4)

This falls far short of establishing double predestination of individuals.

As for the next quote, Arminians belief God has plans and foreknowledge too. Not sure how this cuts your way.

As for Jude 1:4, Arminians don't deny that God designated false teachers for condemnation. Indeed, they would hardly expect him to do otherwise.

Layman,

Double Predestination is biblical as well as logical. You cannot have God presdestining His people to Heaven (which is supported by innumerable Scriptures) and not have Him predestining the rest to Hell. He does so, if by no other means, not predestining tem to heaven.

Common Grace does not involve regeneration above total depravity in the least bit. Total Depravity does not mean that all men are equally bad, or that they can't get worse. There are certainly levels of depravity, and some men are certainly worse than others.

Total Depravity means that the entire man has been infected with the sinful nature. He is spiritually dead, and cannot do the least thing to obtain life. Eternal life must from from God alone, and the Lord quickens whom He will. The pharisees did not believe. Why? Because they were not His sheep. Common Grace did not help them at all in terms of regeneration.

Romans 9:10-24 clearly teaches all five points of Calvinism. But as I said earlier, the debate isn't merely one of points. It involves two different worldviews concerning the sovereignty of God and the state of man. In Arminianism, God's sovereignty is merely lip service. They really don't believe it, but hold that, in the end, man is in control of his ultimate destiny. This is unbiblical to the core.

PL,

Since you do not seem to understand Arminianism I can hardly accept your take on it or condemn its ahderents as being insincere. That you do I find troublesome. People can be sincerely wrong. As I believe you are in your understanding of Arminianism.

How can common grace not involve regeneration above total depravity "in the least bit" if its necessary to permit societys to function on earth? Just what purpose do you think it serves if it does not alleviate the hardest edges of total depravity?

I know the term regeneration offends you, but the fact remains that Calvinism affirms a form of God's grace that partially elevates all men above his worst inclinations.

And as for double predestination, your point only carries weight if you are right about Calvinistic predestination. But there are other understandings of predestination than the Calvinist one.

PL,

{{Jason answered "common grace" pretty well.}}

Thanks. I do try to think in terms of what other people can accept. {s}

{{The only other alternative is that Christ's blood was absolutely worthless for the vast majority for which it was intended.}}

Fwiw, I can obviously sympathize with the Calvinist complaint that Christ’s blood should not be considered wasted for even one person for whom it was intended. (Layman hasn’t understood yet that you mean, by this, that God _never intended_ to save “the vast majority” of people, thus Jesus’ sacrifice was only for the few He intended to save. Since His blood, on this theology, was never intended for the vast majority, then of course it wasn’t wasted on them.)

However, to be fair, an Arminian could answer that God’s grace is abused whenever we sin at all; a position that cannot be avoided by distinguishing between ‘saving’ grace and ‘common’ grace, since even if God never intended to extend ‘saving grace’ to certain people it still remains true that in sinning they are transgressing against _some_ kind of good being graciously provided by God. Otherwise, there is no point to punishment per se! Consequently, then, unless we’re just going to go with zombie-cigarette people (which I’ve seen some Calvinists of my acquaintence go with--though that would seem ridiculous, since there could be no point to _punishing_ such souless puppets, even in annihilation), even a Calvinist will have to agree that _some_ measure of God’s grace is effectively and permanently ‘wasted’ by sinners. (As Layman points out, from the Arminian perspective it is the sinners who are doing the wasting of Jesus’ blood, freely offered.)

And in either case (whether Calv or Arm), a doctrine of hell’s hopelessness effectively means no hope for positive justice to ever be fulfilled in the ones condemned. There is no hope for reconciliation between them and the people (from God on downward) against whom they have sinned, because God Himself has given up even trying to work toward achieving that. Which, not incidentally, means that God refuses (and on hyper-Calvinist theology, never even intended at all) to even try working “fair-togetherness” (which is the Greek word commonly translated as “righteousness”) in regard to those people.

I do not see how this failure “to fulfill all righteousness” (something for which Jesus Himself submitted to baptism) can be improved by inferring that God must (therefore?) have never intended to fulfill righteousness toward and with (much less _in_) some peopl in the first place. Righteousness _has_ been broken; and the One Who is Good, according to these theologies, either stops working toward repairing it or never intended to repair it in the first place.

How this description of God substantially differs from being a quasi-benevolent version of Darkseid the Destroyer (aside from mere insistence that God must be ‘good’ anyway, as if simply repeating this in variations at maximum volume in the face of the other parallel insistences, would be accepted for even a single moment by any Christian were that claim being made concerning any other deity), is, thank God, not my problem. {g}


{{While it may sound offensive it is scriptural.}}

I have learned something else from scripture. {s} But, it does give an increasingly clearer idea of where the divisions lie between theological positions.


{{"The LORD has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of destruction." (Proverbs 16:4)}}

It is also written, including numerous times in close proximity to this verse, that unrighteousness and injustice is an abomination to the Lord. So, He has made prideful and haughty abominations for Himself, then?! And either will act to ensure they remain abominations for Himself (since abominations please Him so much, apparently, except of course for all the times they don’t), or else will remove them from existence (per the annihilationists), so that then they will not even be ‘for Himself’ anymore.

If you repair the verse (which I think can be done) to something more like, “The Lord has made everything for its/His own purpose (the Hebrew is vague there), even the wicked for a day of evil,” then you still have God making abominations and insisting that they shall remain so without ever intending they be anything else than abominations to Him. God, on this plan, not only permits evil, but insists on persons being evil, without ever intending they ever be anything else. And then punishes _them_ for this. (Or maybe punishes Himself for this, and then tortures them unremittingly anyway.)

Personally, I do not see how this is an improvement (morally or in any other way) to a doctrine that God intends for them to be something else, but then decides to give up on them, wasting even His own sacrifice for their sake. I can understand a person insisting on loving and holding to his sins, even for eons of the eons; I can understand God continually trying to lead the man to repent (choosing to treat the man as the child He has made in His image and not as a mere puppet made in His image), even for the eons of the eons. But if I am asked to accept (with or without understanding) that God is Himself a maker of an iniquity that He Himself by His own choice refuses to even try to undo--then I think we have arrived at a theology of mere power-application being the most fundamental thing behind all reality. Which, while that might be theism (Muslim for instance), is not trinitarian theism, btw.

Whereas, I (in my position) can agree that the man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed is wailing and will wail--understanding, of course, that _this includes me!_ For when I sin, I betray God, too, no less than Judas (or even Satan). Well that I _should_ wail!--for then I may sorrow, and _all_ those who sorrow shall be comforted! It is an exceedingly common theme in scripture, that God brings the proud of heart and the haughty to sorrow (this is what it means for a heart to be made ‘contrite’, i.e. pulverized), _so that_ they will repent and He may heal them of their sins. The final song of Moses, from which St. Paul quotes in his epistle to the Romans, comes immediately to mind.

This is extremely important to understand, for in the final song of Moses, the adversaries of God are both the Jews and the Gentiles, and God uses each to chastise the other; specifically unto repentence, in the case of Israel. But St. Paul strongly insists, that rather than blaming each other for being vessels of wrath (i.e. from which God pours out destruction), or each condemning the other and claiming superiority in the matter of Jesus being betrayed unto death (certainly according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God), Gentiles and Jews should instead rejoice together that One God is Lord of them all, “who has shut up _all_ into disobedience--that He should give mercy _to all_.” (Paul’s exultation and praise to God after this declaration is among the most beautiful and stirring in all of scripture.)

This, I believe, puts a vast and mighty check on what we should believe concerning those whose hearts God Himself has hardened in order that certain things may happen, especially so that the history of salvation may happen. St. Paul hopes for the salvation of all Israel; and includes the Gentiles in that hope--regardless that God has hardened the hearts of each.

(It also helps, though it isn’t strictly necessary, to be familiar with what Jewish historians and rabbis were teaching in those days concerning the Exodus pharoah and what happened regarding him later. One way or another, they taught that he went on to give glory to God and become a servant of God; thus the rabbis taught that pharoah became the king of Ninevah, thus explaining why that king was later so willing to call his city to repentence at the ridiculously poor and unwilling preaching of a man who did not wish them to be saved! In light of this, that phrase from Romans 9 looks very much like a reference to Jonah’s story: it does not depend on the one who wills or the one who runs, but on God _Who has mercy_.)

Incidentally, the Greek of GosMatt 26:24 does not read that it would have been better _for that man_, if he had not been born. But in any case, unless you intend to teach a pre-existence of souls in beatitude some of whom God chooses to bring to birth so that they may be hopelessly cursed, thus Himself doing evil to and making evil of that which was originally good; then I recommend you consider the phrase to be rhetorical _pity_ on Christ’s part for the coming grief of that man Judas, since this is how the saying was commonly used.

Also incidentally (I say ‘incidentally’, since I do not deny that God hardens the hearts of men), the word you are translating ‘designated’ in Jude 1:4, is actually ‘written’, as in ‘written of’. Jude makes clear later (v. 14ff) that he means Enoch, seventh from Adam, propehsied the coming of irreverently irreverent men (the repetition is very much like this in the Greek {g}), who will be judged by God when God also comes, among whom Jude naturally includes these men who are pestering his congregation. (The revelation to which he is referring is one of the non-canonical books of Enoch, written very very much later than Enoch’s time, of course. Whether you consider that to be important or not, I don’t know. {shrug})

On the other hand, this example is useful for distinguishing an important theological distinction (not very well kept by either the Arminian or Calvinist groups, in my experience, btw). For there is a difference between a prophet seeing something God is going to do in regard to certain people in the future (from the prophet’s perspective), and God setting a determinist chain in the past to bring about a future effect. Not that I deny that God can do this (I have seen it happen in my own life, for that matter), but I frequently find Arm vs. Calv disputation concerning predestination, being debated as though God Himself was dependent upon natural time, so being, in essence, actually a creature of Nature (or at least that our Nature is not in fact wholly dependent upon Him for its existence and upkeep).

It is because Calvinists are not careful to avoid teaching this doctrine and to affirm the other (including when disputing _on this topic_), that some Arminians, accepting the fallacy as a position of orthodox theology (since after all the Calvinists are doing it, too, or so they find!) have tried to abandon the claim of God’s actual foreknowledge or even God’s omniscience. This needlessly exacerbates the disputation between ‘free will’ and ‘God’s soverignty’, since the correction to be made is not between one or the other of these things, but in a metaphysical doctrine accidentally held in contravence to what even they recognize elsewhere to be orthodox theology. (The doing of metaphysics isn’t the problem--the topic is itself metaphysics. The technical error is the problem: in effect, the Calvinists and Arminians who do this are teaching something like what Mormons believe regarding God! Not surprisingly, irreconcilable nonsense results. {s})

{{Total Depravity does not mean that all men are equally bad, or that they can't get worse.}}

While I understand this, and am willing to agree “that the entire man has been infected with the sinful nature”, you should also be aware that when Calvinists preach this line they not infrequently use language which seems to insist _exactly_ that all men are equally bad and cannot get any worse. When you uncautiously state, for instance, without clearly qualifying that you mean the man does in fact have life in his spirit as well as death, that, “[the man] is spiritually dead, and cannot do the least thing to obtain life” (as if a good man _could_ do anything to obtain life!), then you have only yourself to blame if opponents come away thinking you mean that all men (or perhaps all men who haven’t said and done certain things to ‘become Christian’, at God’s prompting or otherwise) are equally bad and cannot get worse. (How could one get worse than being spiritually dead with no life at all in one’s spirit??)

{{In Arminianism, God's sovereignty is merely lip service.}}

Speaking as one who regularly debates Arminians, this if false--except in those cases where Arminians (reacting against a common error shared by some Calvinists, as discussed above) do in fact formally renounce God’s sovereignty. If God sovereignly offers salvation (which can be obtained no other way), and if God as sovereign chooses to allow man the freedom to reject salvation, God’s sovereignty has not at all been abolished--though indeed the proud and haughty man might suppose that by making use of existence and powers freely granted to Him by God, he somehow in rebelling becomes sovereign of himself. (Not infrequently the proud and haughty man is helped in this delusion by clumsy theologians who insist that rebels exist or will eventually exist entirely separated from God. At which point, of course, if that could possibly happen--which I deny--then they would be drawing their existence from someone or something other than God, whether themselves or something else. At best this is cosmological dualism, not trinitarian theism.)

I repeat and emphasize: this debate is _not_ about God’s sovereignty, per se. It is about God’s love and justice. Which, btw, means that at bottom it is a debate over whether supernaturalistic trinitarian (or at the very least bi-nitarian) theism is true, or some other kind of theism. For some other kind of theism could be true, while involving (as _all_ camps strenuously assert) God’s sovereignty. But a theism of God actively self-begetting and actively self-begotten (and actively proceeding as God from this interaction), _must_ involve God never setting aside either His love or His justice--which at the root of all reality must also be the same thing--for to permanently do that (I am not talking about delaying a fulfillment of love and justice from the perspective of natural time), requires that love and/or justice _not_ be essential to God’s own self-existence, upon which all reality depends. If some theism other than supernaturalistic trinitarianism could be true, then that might be true of God, too, I suppose: that He could refuse to ever do love or justice or permanently set either or both aside. (Just as all trinitarians agree God _may_ set aside His wrath, in this or that case; for His wrath is not intrinsic to His own self-existence.)

But, since I happen to believe trinitarian theism is true, then guess what I am very careful to avoid denying in my theology? {s} And in my evangelizing.

(Hint: I avoid denying "The Lord is Salvation" or "The Lord saves". There was Someone's name we were warned in the strictest possible terms not to deny, Whose name meant these...)

JRP

JRP,

Layman hasn’t understood yet that you mean, by this, that God _never intended_ to save “the vast majority” of people, thus Jesus’ sacrifice was only for the few He intended to save. Since His blood, on this theology, was never intended for the vast majority, then of course it wasn’t wasted on them

I think I understand. This is classic Limited Atonement. My point is that Calvinism also affirms the doctrine of sufficiency. That is, Jesus' death, though limited in intentional application, was sufficient to save all. Thus, God has plenty of Jesus' blood with which He could have saved people but chose not too.

I don't find the doctrine repulsive, but I do think it makes ironic the Calvinist accusation that Arminians are wasting the blood of Jesus.

Layman,

{{My point is that Calvinism also affirms the doctrine of sufficiency. That is, Jesus' death, though limited in intentional application, was sufficient to save all. Thus, God has plenty of Jesus' blood with which He could have saved people but chose not too.}}

Right (as a Calvinist doctrine, or a hyper-Calvinist doctrine anyway. Not all Calvs go this far.)

But you had asked how Christ’s blood being absolutely worthless for the vast majority for which it was intended, is substantively different than Jesus’ sacrifice being sufficient to save all _it was intended for_. This is why I thought you hadn’t understood PL’s claim about it never being intended for “the vast majority” in the first place.

That being said, I see now your complaint was actually along the line of, ‘Even Calvinists believe that Jesus’ sacrifice _could have_ saved everyone. On Calvinist principles, then, the blood of Christ was effectively wasted by _not_ being applied to all, when God could have done so but simply chose not to.’

With which disagreement I have no disagreement. {g} And I recognize the irony in a Calvinist accusing Arminians of wasting the blood of Jesus. Fortunately, not a problem I have to work around. {g!}

JRP

Use of Content

The contents of this blog may be reproduced or forwarded via e-mail without change and in its entirety for non-commercial purposes without prior permission from the Christian CADRE provided that the copyright information is included. We would appreciate notification of the use of our content. Please e-mail us at christiancadre@yahoo.com.