Archive for the ‘Arminianism Defended’ Category
Here is the video from the recent debate between Dr. Michael Brown (Arminian) versus Bruce Bennett (Calvinist) over the subject of, “Who Makes the Final Choice in Salvation – God or Man?” I was blessed to see how this debate, as with Dr. James White, unfolds. It is clear that we can debate each other will respecting each other in Christ.
People often base their views of others based on preconceived opinions about them. Consider politics. If I say Republican what do you think of: white people, all for corporate America, lower taxes. If I say Democrat what do you think of: pro-abortion, liberals, welfare party. I know I just wrote those based on my own preconceived thoughts about those two political parties neither of which I am a member by the way.
The same is true theologically. If I could ask Arminians to describe Calvinists what would many say: sovereignty of God, God hates the non-elect, decrees all things and causes all things, wrathful, unfair, arrogant. I know that some of them are wrong and some are right but you see my point. We view each other through our lenses, our theology. The same is true of Arminianism. If I could ask say the angry Calvinists I have met (at times) on Twitter or other social media places, how would they describe Arminians: hates the sovereignty of God, free will, human centered, exalts the love of God above the holiness of God, denies the grace of God, denies unconditional election, foreknowledge, open theism. Again, some of those are correct and most of them are wrong.
Let me deal with some of the misconceptions I often encounter about Arminianism.
1. Arminianism is Man-Centered Theology.
I am not sure where this comes from other than Calvinists who would either A) have not read any works of Arminius or other Arminian theologians, or B) don’t really know Arminians. All the Arminians I know would clearly seek to avoid making human beings the center of our theology. Our passion should rightly be the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the center of all true biblical theology. There is no doubt that we do teach two truths about humanity that would differ with Calvinism. First, Arminianism does teach that Jesus died for all people. Secondly, Arminianism does teach that God does allow the person that hears the gospel the will, through grace, to either reject the gospel or accept the gospel. We believe God’s grace frees the will to believe. Where we stand with our Calvinist brethren is that we believe that all people are bound in sin and cannot earn their salvation apart from the grace of God. Like Calvinists, we believe that sinners are bound in their sins and apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, they will not believe.
However, I would deny that Arminianism is man-centered. Arminius wrote:
The Object of our Theology being clothed in this manner, so abundantly fills the mind and satisfies the desire, that the apostle openly declares, he was determined “to know nothing among the Corinthians save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. ii, 2.) To the Phillipians he says, that he “counted all things but lost for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus; for whom he had suffered the loss of all things, and he counted them but dung that he might know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.” (Phil. iii, 8, 10.) Nay, in the knowledge of the object of our theology, modified in this manner, all true glorying and just boasting consist, as the passage which we before quoted from Jeremiah, and the purpose to which St. Paul has accommodated it, most plainly evince. This is the manner in which it is expressed: “Let him. that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth.” (Jer. ix, 24.) When you hear any mention of mercy, your thoughts ought necessarily to revert to Christ, out of whom “God is a consuming fire” to destroy the sinners of the earth. (Deut. iv, 24; Heb. xii, 29) The way in which St. Paul has accommodated it, is this: “Christ Jesus is made unto us by God, wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord!”(1 Cor. i, 30, 31.) Nor is it wonderful, that the mind should desire to “know nothing save Jesus Christ,” or that its otherwise insatiable desire of knowledge should repose itself in him, since in him and in his gospel “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom, and knowledge.” (Col. ii, 3, 9.)
Arminius wrote further about the study of God:
In God, who is the primary object of the Christian religion, three things come in order under our consideration:
(1.) The nature of God, of which the excellence and goodness is such that religion can honourably and usefully be performed to it.
(2.) The acts of God, on account of which religion ought to be performed to him.
(3.) The will of God, by which he wills religion to be performed to himself, and that he who performs it be rewarded; and, on the contrary, that the neglecter of it be punished.
So God is the object of true theology.
2. Arminianism Focuses on Free Will.
How often have I heard that Arminians champion free will. In fact, this may be what we are most known for. The reality is that free will only comes into play concerning the nature of the gospel and whether sinners can reject the free offer of the gospel. Otherwise, Arminians hold that the will of mankind is bound in sin. Notice this from an often quoted section of Arminius:
In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man.
You’ll notice that Arminius clearly held that humans are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). Humans are not running around with their free will and doing what they like and then coming to Christ for salvation when they want to come. No! We all need the divine aid of God. We need His grace to be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). None can come to Christ apart from the drawing power of the Holy Spirit (John 6:44). Yet we teach that if the gospel is preached, the Spirit of God works through the gospel to draw sinners to the Savior (John 12:32). We believe the gospel draws the lost (Romans 10:17). We would differ with our Calvinist brethren over the issue of irresistible grace. Calvinists would say that once God has sovereignty chosen a person to be saved (unconditional election) then that person will come and be saved once God graciously calls them (effectual calling). We deny this. Yet we equally deny the Pelagian view that man is born innocent and can freely come to God by their own free will powers when they so desire.
Exactly correspondent to this darkness of the mind, and perverseness of the heart, is the utter weakness of all the powers to perform that which is truly good, and to omit the perpetration of that which is evil, in a due mode and from a due end and cause. The subjoined sayings of Christ serve to describe this impotence. “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. vii, 18.) “How can ye, being evil, speak good things?” (xii, 34.) The following relates to the good which is properly prescribed in the gospel: “No man can come to me, except the Father draw him.” (John vi, 44.) As do likewise the following words of the Apostle: “The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be;” (Rom. viii, 7;). Therefore, that man over whom it has dominion, cannot perform what the law commands. The same Apostle says, “When we were in the flesh, the motions of sins wrought in us,” or flourished energetically. (vii, 5.) To the same purpose are all those passages in which the man existing in this state is said to be under the power of sin and Satan, reduced to the condition of a slave, and “taken captive by the Devil.” (Rom. vi, 20; 2 Tim. ii, 26.)
3. Arminianism Denies the Sovereignty of God in Salvation.
For a while there I was being sent one YouTube video after another from various Calvinists featuring sermons from Calvinist preachers on the issue of the sovereignty of God in relation to salvation. These clips were meant to show that Calvinism truly exalts the sovereignty of God in salvation while Arminians deny this. Yet that is not accurate. Like our Calvinist brethren, we are monergists in salvation and synergists in sanctification. We believe that the work of regeneration is done by God (John 3:3). God is the one who must give new life to a sinner (2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5-7). The sinner does not contribute to salvation. The work of salvation is accomplished sorely through Christ alone (Romans 4:5).
Arminius said that the vocation of God to salvation comes through the preaching of the Word of God:
The external cause, which outwardly moves God, is Jesus Christ by his obedience and intercession. (2 Tim. i, 9.) But the instrumental cause is the word of God, administered by means of men, either through preaching or writing, which is the ordinary method; (1 Cor. xii, 28-30; 2 Thess. ii, 14;) or without human assistance, when the word is immediately proposed by God inwardly to the mind and the will, which is extraordinary. And this is in fact both the word of the law and that of the Gospel, which are subordinate in the operations apportioned to each other.
And here humans can resist the Word of God by their sins:
The accidental result of vocation, and that which is not of itself intended by God, is the rejection of the word of grace, the contemning of the divine counsel, the resistance offered to the Holy Spirit. The proper and per se cause of this result is, the malice and hardness of the human heart. But this result is, not seldom, succeeded by another, the just judgment of God, avenging the contempt shewn to his word and call, and the injury done to his Holy Spirit; and from this judgment arise the blinding of the mind, the hardening of the heart, “the giving over to a reprobate mind,” and “the delivering unto the power of Satan.” (Acts xiii, 46; Luke vii, 30; Acts vii, 51; 2 Thess. iii, 2; 2 Cor. iv, 4; Psalm lxxxi, 11-14; Isa. lxiii, 10; vi, 9, 10; John xii, 37-40.)
Yet those who hear the gospel and believe the gospel do so because of God’s sovereignty:
But, because “known unto our God are all his works from the beginning of the world,” (Acts xv, 18,) and as God does nothing in time which He has not decreed from all eternity to do, this vocation is likewise instituted and administered according to God’s eternal decree. So that what man soever is called in time, was from all eternity predestinated to be called, and to be called in that state, time, place, mode, and with that efficacy, in and with which he was predestinated. Otherwise, the execution will vary from the decree; which charge of mutability and change cannot be preferred against God without producing mischievous effects. (Ephes. iii, 5, 6, 9-11; James i, 17, 18; 2 Tim. i, 9.)
4. Arminians Believe in Works-Righteousness.
I once had a talk with a Calvinist on the Internet and he continued, despite my saying no, to say that I held to works-righteousness. I would respond with Scripture such as 2 Corinthians 5:21 and he would come back and say, “You still hold to works-righteousness.” And why? Because I was not a Calvinist. He honestly believes that only Calvinism holds to true salvation by grace through faith (though I would argue that he holds to salvation by grace unto faith).
I have been saved for over 20 years and I have never met a person who was truly saved who held that we are saved by grace but kept by works. I have had long discussions with people who believed we had to keep the commandments to remain saved and I have had to clarify that teaching but I have never met anyone who was truly in love with Jesus Christ who would teach that Jesus saves us but we keep ourselves. It doesn’t take a theologian to read the New Testament and see that Jesus is our salvation. Period. Salvation is found only in Christ and kept only in Christ. We don’t keep ourselves. We didn’t earn our salvation and nor can we keep it by our flesh. We must look to Christ alone to keep us forever.
Now Jesus did say that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments (John 14:15; 1 John 5:1-4) and Jesus did say that we are to hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27-29) which requires we read and study His Word (John 8:31-32). Jesus did say that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood which means that He is our total life (John 6:56). Paul called Jesus our life in Colossians 3:4. Jesus must be our love, our passion, our Savior, our God, our Lord. He is our everything (Galatians 2:20).
The vocation or calling to the communion of Christ and its benefits, is the gracious act of God, by which, through the word and His Spirit, he calls forth sinful men, subject to condemnation and placed under the dominion of sin, from the condition of natural life, and out of the defilements and corruptions of this world, to obtain a supernatural life in Christ through repentance and faith, that they may be united in him, as their head destined and ordained by God, and may enjoy the participation of his benefits, to the glory of God and to their own salvation.
How then can we sinful people love God? Arminius wrote:
The principal cause is the Holy Spirit, who infuses into man, by the act of regeneration, the affections of love, fear, trust, and honour; by exciting grace, excites, moves and incites him to second acts, and by co-operating grace, concurs with man himself to produce such second acts.
Through the Holy Spirit we are enabled to love God, fear God, and humbly obey Him as Lord. In my flesh, I will not love God nor obey Him (Romans 3:10-18) but through His Spirit, I can love God and obey Him. I am not perfect at this but the Spirit of God convicts and sanctifies me in this life.
I know this is just a little of the many misunderstandings about Arminianism and I know that I left much unsaid. I am sure that my critics could find holes in my reasoning and theology. However, I simply ask to be heard. I do love Christ. I love Jesus above Arminius or above Wesley. I am not saved by grace through faith in man but in Christ alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Christ alone is the One who stands before the Father for me (Hebrews 7:25). Christ alone is the One who saved me by His own blood on the cross (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:14). I know that I don’t deserve His grace. I deserve His wrath but praise God for Romans 5:8-11:
8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
For more information on Arminianism please see my page for recommended reading.
On a follow-up post from the previous post, I wanted to address the issue of false conversions. I first heard of this term when I first became familiar with Ray Comfort. Comfort preached hard about false converts and how so many people in the visible church were not truly saved. He said that false conversions are the result of a faulty gospel message. I looked around and I agreed. So many people in the Church seemed to have been through a ritual whether prayer or baptism or church membership but their lives were marked with sin and lack of faith in God. They showed no zeal for the Lord, no passion for God, no hunger in prayer or for God’s Word, and lived in rebellion against God. They said they loved Jesus but they showed through their lives that they really hated God (Titus 1:16).
I do believe there are many in the Church, whether Arminians or Calvinists, who do not know Christ as Lord. They believe they are saved. They would confess that they are saved but their lives show that they are lost (1 John 2:3-6). Their life of sin shows that they are still in rebellion against God (1 John 3:6-9).
The key difference I would have with Ray Comfort would be over apostasy. Brother Ray would say that a true child of God is saved forever and if a person falls away from the faith, they were never saved to begin with. His teaching is that true children of God will persevere in the faith. Those who do not prove they were not regenerated by the Spirit (1 John 2:19). He would point to people such as Judas as proof or the false disciples of John 6:60-71. Another example could be Simon in Acts 8:18-24.
The Arminian reply is that while there are false converts, this does not negate the fact that there are warning passages given to believers. The entire book of Hebrews would be a case in point. Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:6-19; 4:1-20; 5:8-9; 6:4-20; 10:19-39; 11:13-16; 12:1-29 – all these warn believers. One must stretch to prove that the writer is not writing to believers in Christ. Of course there are many more than the book of Hebrews but my point is that we must do something with the warning passages. I believe they are there to warn us of a real possibility of personal apostasy so that we might avoid this (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). 1 John 2:24-25 (NKJV) says:
24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.
Eternal life is found in Christ Jesus. None dispute this point. I would argue that the gift of eternal life is given to us in Christ Jesus and only in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). To be outside of Christ is to be lost (John 15:1-11). Jesus is our salvation from beginning to end (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Our salvation and our security are found in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:38-39).
So the final verdict would be that yes there are certainly those among us Arminians who are not saved. I don’t doubt that. This is true of all Christendom. Yet I would also preach that true Christians must be on guard and must remain focused on Christ alone for our salvation. I would preach that our eyes must remain fixed on Christ alone to save us (Hebrews 12:1-2) and not our good works nor our own wisdom. Christ is our life (Colossians 3:1-4). Remain in Jesus by faith (1 Peter 1:5) and make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11). Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
The issue of assurance has never been a major issue among any of the Arminians that I associate with nor with any of the Arminian churches that I have attended on a regular basis (and Arminian churches are all I have been to on a regular basis since the Lord saved me in 1992). I have heard a few teachings on it but very few Arminians that I know struggle with the assurance of our salvation.
And why is that? In fact, in the history of Calvinism there has even been an assurance controversy. Hyper-Calvinists have often said that one cannot know that one has assurance of their salvation. None can actually know they are the elect until the day of judgment. One can seek to have assurance and one should look for evidence of assurance but it is possible for a person to live their entire life believing they are the elect of God but then die and be cast aside because they were in fact non-elect (Matthew 7:21-23).
Arminianism has always placed great emphasis on the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is our salvation and Arminianism has always stressed that the work of Christ alone accomplishes our salvation. Further, we maintain that a person is justified through faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9) and that our salvation is found only in Jesus (John 14:6; 15:1-11). To be outside of Christ is to be lost. There is only one way to eternal life and that is in Jesus Christ, through loving Him and blessing Him and being faithful to Him (Colossians 1:21-23). The Arminian then takes the Word of God about salvation (that Jesus shed His blood for all) and applies that to all who place their total faith in Him (1 Timothy 4:10). Those who reject His blood are lost and condemned for their own sins (John 3:14-18). The believers hope lies not in their election but in the elected one, the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life so that we might have life in Him. We recognize that eternal life is found only in Jesus and this life begins the moment of salvation and continues only in Christ (John 8:51).
This is why Arminians don’t struggle with our assurance. We know we are the elect of God through faith in Christ. We know that Jesus shed His blood for us. We don’t doubt for one minute that Jesus didn’t die for us (1 John 2:2). We trust the Word of God that says that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). That would be me. I am saved not by my works but through the grace of God given to me in Christ Jesus. I have done the work of God for salvation (John 6:29; Romans 4:5). My hope, my assurance, my reward is Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)! I realize that apart from Him, I am lost (Romans 6:23). I know that I cannot overcome sin by my power but only in Christ Jesus (Galatians 5:16-17). I recognize that if I sow to my flesh, I will reap destruction (Galatians 6:7-9). My entire life is focused on the Lord Jesus alone. He only is my defense (1 John 2:1).
Here is the debate between Dr. Michael Brown (Arminian) and Dr. James White (Calvinist) at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC.