Archive for the ‘James Arminius’ Category
I was reading from the Works of Arminius and noticed a short note he wrote on why we sin. Arminius wrote,
The efficient cause of actual sins is, man through his own free will. The inwardly working cause is the original propensity of our nature towards that which is contrary to the divine law, which propensity we have contracted from our first parents, through carnal generation. The outwardly working causes are the objects and occasions which solicit men to sin. The substance or material cause, is an act which, according to its nature, has reference to good. The form or formal cause of it is a transgression of the law, or an anomy. It is destitute of an end; because sin is amartia a transgression which wanders from its aim. The object of it is a variable good; to which, when man is inclined, after having deserted the unchangeable good, he commits an offense.
The effect of actual sins are all the calamities and miseries of the present life, then death temporal, and afterwards death eternal. But in those who are hardened and blinded, even the effects of preceding sins become consequent sins themselves.
Notice that Arminius is clear that he gives no reference to God causing us to sin. We sin because we have a sinful nature and because we want to sin by our own free will which is itself enslaved to sin apart from grace.
On both sides of the Arminian and Calvinist debate is the understanding that Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to the undeserving sinner who believes in Christ alone for salvation. Arminius wrote,
Hence we likewise deduce: That if the righteousness by which we are justified before God, the Judge, can be called formal, or that by which we are formally justified, (for the latter is Bellarmine’s phraseology,) then the formal righteousness, and that by which we are formally justified, can on no account be called “inherent;” but that, according to the phrase of the Apostle, it may in an accommodated sense be denominated “imputed,” as either being that which is righteousness in God’s gracious account, since it does not merit this name according to the rigor of justice or of the law, or as being the righteousness of another, that is, of Christ, which is made ours by God’s gracious imputation. Nor is there any reason why they should be so abhorrent from the use of this word, “imputed,” since the apostle employs the same word eleven times in the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, where the seat of this point or argument lies, and since the efficacy to salvation of God’s gracious estimation is the same, as that of His severe and rigid estimation would be if man had perfectly fulfilled the law without any transgression. (2 Cor. v, 19, 21.)
Arminius further wrote,
Whether it is to be understood “that the righteousness, for which, or unto which, faith is imputed, is the instrumental operation of faith;” which is asserted by some persons. In the theses on justification, which were disputed under me when I was moderator, I have adopted the former of these opinions not in a rigid manner, but simply, as I have likewise done in another passage which I wrote in a particular letter. It is on this ground that I am accounted to hold and to teach unsound opinions concerning the justification of man before God. But how unfounded such a supposition is, will be very evident at a proper season, and in a mutual conference. For the present, I will only briefly say, “I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.” Whatever interpretation may be put upon these expressions, none of our Divines blames Calvin or considers him to be heterodox on this point; yet my opinion is not so widely different from his as to prevent me from employing the signature of my own hand in subscribing to those things which he has delivered on this subject, in the third book of his Institutes; this I am prepared to do at any time, and to give them my full approval. Most noble and potent Lords, these are the principal articles, respecting which I have judged it necessary to declare my opinion before this august meeting, in obedience to your commands.
You can see that even in the writings of Arminius is an acknowledgment that imputation of righteousness is not set in stone. I believe that Arminius held to imputed righteousness based on his writings but I acknowledge that some Arminians have rejected the teaching. They do so not out ignorance of the Word of God but rather because they see the teaching as leading to antinomianism. I can see their danger.
The arguments against the doctrine of imputation are based on two main arguments. First, the argument from a logical viewpoint that the teaching leads to spiritual apathy. The logic here is that if we teach people that God no longer sees their sins because of the doctrine of imputation then why obey Christ as Lord? Why avoid sin if in fact God no longer sees our sins? What is the point of 1 John 1:9 if in fact we have the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to us?
The second argument is that the Bible never says we are imputed with Christ’s perfect righteousness. The Bible says that we are righteous and they point to this as “declared righteousness.” For example they point to Romans 3:22 as proof. Romans 3:22 reads, “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction.” The righteousness of God through faith. They see this as declared righteousness and not Christ’ righteousness imputed to us.
Two other passages are 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Philippians 3:9. Philippians 3:9 is the strongest text on imputed righteousness. The text reads, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” They again point out that Paul does not say that we have Christ’s righteousness but rather that through faith God declares us righteous.
My view is that we have both in Christ. We are both declared righteous before God because of Christ and we also are imputed with the righteousness of Christ. All of the focus in salvation is upon Christ. I have nothing in my hands to bring to God for salvation nor after salvation. I need Christ from beginning to end for my salvation. Jesus is the very One that I look to save me and to keep me saved (1 Peter 1:5). Before God I have no righteousness. I need Christ and His intercession (Hebrews 7:25) for salvation. I need Him standing before the Father and pleading for me. I need His Spirit to help me to turn from sin (Galatians 5:16-17). I need Jesus!
Does this matter? Does it matter if we teach imputation or declared righteous? I believe it does. If we teach only declared righteous, I fear that our focus becomes us. We are righteous because we believed but we also need righteousness when we fail. I do fail. I do sin. I hate my sins but I do fall short of the glory of God though the Bible calls me to forsake sin (1 John 2:1). When I fail, do I lose my declared righteousness? Thus I need the righteousness of Christ. Again, I have no righteousness apart from Him. Romans 3:10-18 is clear that I am not even close to being righteous. I need the righteousness of the only perfect one to ever live. Paul even makes it clear in Philippians 3:7 that all of his own righteousness (which was pretty good if the test is man) was worthless apart from Christ. Paul was willing to throw out his own self-righteousness for the righteousness of Christ (Philippians 3:8-11).
I praise God for the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, that I am saved through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9) and that my salvation is apart from my own good works (Titus 3:5-7). God is gracious in His salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son.
IV. The uses of the moral law are various, according to the different conditions of man.
(1.) The primary use, and that which was of itself intended by God according to his love for righteousness and for his creatures, was, that man by it might be quickened or made alive, that is, that he might perform it, and by its performance might be justified, and might “of debt” receive the reward which was promised through it. (Rom. ii, 13; x, 5; iv, 4.) And this use was accommodated to the primitive state of man, when sin had not yet entered into the world.
(2.) The first use in order of the moral law, under a state of sin, is AGAINST man as a sinner, not only that it may accuse him of transgression and guilt, and may subject him to the wrath of God and condemnation; (Rom. iii, 19, 20;) but that it may likewise convince him of his utter inability to resist sin and to subject himself to the law. (Rom. 7.) Since God has been pleased mercifully and graciously to treat with sinful man, the next use of the law TOWARDS the sinner is, that it may compel him who is thus convicted and subjected to condemnation, to desire and seek the grace of God, and that it may force him to flee to Christ either as the promised or as the imparted deliverer. (Gal. ii, 16, 17.) Besides, in this state of sin, the moral law is serviceable, not only to God, that, by the dread of punishment and the promise of temporal rewards, he may restrain men under its guidance at least from the outward work of sin and from flagrant crimes; (1 Tim. i, 9, 10;) but it is also serviceable to Sin, when dwelling and reigning in a carnal man who is under the law, that it may inflame the desire of sin, may increase sin, and may “work within him all manner of concupiscence.” (Rom. vi, 12-14; vii, 5, 8, 11, 13.) In the former case, God employs the law through his goodness and his love for civil and social intercourse among mankind. In the latter case, it is employed through the malice of sin which reigns and has the dominion.
(3.) The third use of the moral law is towards a man, as now born again by the Spirit of God and of Christ, and is agreeable to the state of grace, that it may be a perpetual rule for directing his life in a godly and spiritual manner: (Tit. iii, 8; James ii, 8.) Not that man may be justified; because for this purpose it is rendered “weak through the flesh” and useless, even if man had committed only a single sin: (Rom. viii, 3.) But that he may render thanks to God for his gracious redemption and sanctification, (Psalm cxvi, 12, 13,) that he may preserve a good conscience, (1 Tim. i, 19,) that he may make his calling and election sure, (2 Pet. i, 10,) that he may by his example win over other persons to Christ, (1 Pet. iii, 1,) that he may confound the devil, (Job 1 & 2,) that he may condemn the ungodly world, (Heb. xi, 7,) and that through the path of good works he may march towards the heavenly inheritance and glory, (Rom. ii, 7,) and that he may not only himself glorify God, (1 Cor. vi, 20,) but may also furnish occasion and matter to others for glorifying his Father who is in Heaven. (Matt. v, 16.)
VI. From these uses it is easy to collect how far the moral law obtains among believers and those who are placed under the grace of Christ, and how far it is abrogated.
(1.) It is abrogated with regard to its power and use in justifying: “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by that law.” (Gal. iii, 21.) The reason why “it cannot give life,” is, “because it is weak through the flesh:” (Rom. viii, 3) God, therefore, willing to deal graciously with men, gave the promise and Christ himself, that the inheritance through the promise and by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But the law which came after the promise, could neither “make the latter of none effect,” (for it was sanctioned by authority,) nor could it be joined or super- added to the promise, that out of this union righteousness and life might be given. (Gal. iii, 16-18, 22.)
(2.) It is abrogated with regard to the curse and condemnation: For “Christ, being made a curse for us, hath redeemed us from the curse of the law;” (Gal. iii, 10-13;) and thus the law is taken away from sin, lest its “strength” should be to condemn. (1 Cor. xv, 55, 56.)
(3.) The law is abrogated and taken away from sin, so far as “sin, having taken occasion by the law, works all manner of concupiscence” in the carnal man, over whom sin exercises dominion. (Rom. vii, 4-8.)
(4.) It is abrogated, with regard to the guidance by which it urged man to do good and to refrain from evil, through a fear of punishment and a hope of temporal reward. (1 Tim. i, 9, 10; Gal. iv, 18.) For believers and regenerate persons “are become dead to the law by the body of Christ,” that they may be the property of another, even of Christ; by whose Spirit they are led and excited in newness of life, according to love and the royal law of liberty. (1 John v, 3, 4; James ii, 8.) Whence it appears, that the law is not abrogated with respect to the obedience which must be rendered to God; for though obedience be required under the grace of Christ and of the Gospel, it is required according to clemency, and not according to strict [legal] rigor. (1 John iii, 1, 2.)
ON THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD WHICH COME TO BE CONSIDERED UNDER HIS WILL AND, FIRST, ON THOSE WHICH HAVE AN ANALOGY TO THE AFFECTIONS OR PASSIONS IN RATIONAL CREATURES
I. Those attributes of God ought to be considered, which are either properly or figuratively attributed to him in the Scriptures, according to a certain analogy of the affections and virtues in rational creatures.
II. Those divine attributes which have the analogy of affections, may be referred to two principal kinds, so that the first class may contain those affections which are simply conversant about good or evil, and which may be denominated primitive affections; and the second may comprehend those which are exercised about good and evil in reference to their absence or presence, and which may be called affections derived from the primitive.
III. The primitive affections are love, (the opposite to which is hatred,) and goodness; and with these are connected grace, benignity and mercy. Love is prior to goodness towards the object, which is God himself; goodness is prior to love towards that object which is some other than God.
IV. Love is an affection of union in God, whose objects are not only God himself and the good of justice, but also the creature, imitating or related to God either according to likeness, or only according to impress, and the felicity of the creature. But this affection is borne onwards either to enjoy and to have, or to do good; the former is called “the love of complacency;” the latter, “the love of friendship,” which falls into goodness, God loves himself with complacency in the perfection of His own nature, wherefore he likewise enjoys himself. He also loves himself with the love of complacency in his effects produced externally; both in acts and works, which are specimens and evident, infallible indications of that perfection. Wherefore he may be said, in some degree, likewise to enjoy these acts and works. Even the justice or righteousness performed by the creature, is pleasing to him; wherefore his affection is extended to secure it.
V. Hatred is an affection of separation in God, whose many object is injustice or unrighteousness; and the secondary, the misery of the creature. The former is from “the love of complacency;” the latter, from “the love of friendship.” But since God properly loves himself and the good of justice, and by the same impulse holds iniquity in detestation; and since he secondarily loves the creature and his blessedness, and in that impulse hates the misery of the creature, that is, he wills it to be taken away from the creature; hence, it comes to pass, that he hates the creature who perseveres in unrighteousness, and he loves his misery.
VI. Hatred, however, is not collateral to love, but necessarily flowing from it; since love neither does nor can tend towards all those things which become objects to the understanding of God. It belongs to him, therefore, in the first act, and must be placed in him prior to any existence of a thing worthy of hatred, which existence being laid down, the act of hatred arises from it by a natural necessity, not by liberty of the will.
VII. But since love does not perfectly fill the whole will of God, it has goodness united with it; which also is an affection in God of communicating his good. Its first object externally is nothing; and this is so necessarily first, that, when it is removed, no communication can be made externally. Its act is creation. Its second object is the creature as a creature; and its act is called conservation, or sustentation, as if it was a continuance of creation. Its third object is the creature performing his duty according to the command of God; and its act is the elevation to a more worthy and felicitous condition, that is, the communication of a greater good than that which the creature obtained by creation. Both these advances of goodness may also be appropriately denominated “benignity,” or “kindness.” Its fourth object is the creature not performing his duty, or sinful, and on this account liable to misery according to the just judgment of God; and its act is a deliverance from sin through the remission and the mortification of sin. And this progress of goodness is denominated mercy, which is an affection for giving succour to a man in misery, sin presenting no obstacle.
VIII. Grace is a certain adjunct of goodness and love, by which is signified that God is affected to communicate his own good and to love the creatures, not through merit or of debt, not by any cause impelling from without, nor that something may be added to God himself, but that it may be well with him on whom the good is bestowed and who is beloved, which may also receive the name of “liberality.” According to this, God is said to be “rich in goodness, mercy,” &c.
IX. The affections which spring from these, and which are exercised about good or evil as each is present or absent, are considered as having an analogy either in those things which are in the concupiscible part of our souls, or in that which is irascible.
X. In the concupiscible part are, first, desire and that which is opposed to it; secondly, joy and grief.
(1.) Desire is an affection of obtaining the works of righteousness from rational creatures, and of bestowing a remunerative reward, as well as of inflicting punishment if they be contumacious. To this is opposed the affection according to which God execrates the works of unrighteousness, and the omission of a remuneration. (2.). Joy is an affection from the presence of a thing that is suitable or agreeable — such as the fruition of himself, the obedience of the creature, the communication of his own goodness, and the destruction of His rebels and enemies. Grief, which is opposed to it, arises from the disobedience and the misery of the creature, and in the occasion thus given by his people for blaspheming the name of God among the gentiles. To this, repentance has some affinity; which is nothing more than a change of the thing willed or done, on account of the act of a rational creature, or, rather, a desire for such change.
XI. In the irascible part are hope and its opposite, despair, confidence and anger, also fear, which is affirmatively opposed to hope.
(1.) Hope is an earnest expectation of a good, due from the creature, and performable by the grace of God. It cannot easily be reconciled with the certain foreknowledge of God.
(2.) Despair arises from the pertinacious wickedness of the creature, opposing himself to the grace of God, and resisting the Holy Spirit.
(3.) Confidence is that by which God with great animation prosecutes a desired good, and repels an evil that is hated.
(4.) Anger is an affection of depulsion in God, through the punishment of the creature that has transgressed his law, by which he inflicts on the creature the evil of misery for his unrighteousness, and takes the vengeance which is due to him, as an indication of his love towards justice, and of his hatred to sin. When this affection is vehement, it is called “fury.”
(5.) Fear is from an impending evil to which God is averse.
XII. Of the second class of these derivative affections, (See Thesis 11) some belong to God per se, as they simply contain in themselves perfection; others, which seem to have something of imperfection, are attributed to him after the manner of the feelings of men, on account of some effects which he produces analogous to the effects of the creatures, yet without any passion, as he is simple and immutable and without any disorder and repugnance to right reason. But we subject the use and exercise of the first class of those affections (See Thesis 10) to the infinite wisdom of God, whose property it is to prefix to each of them its object, means, end and circumstances, and to decree to which, in preference to the rest, is to be conceded the province of acting.
This doctrine is also hurtful to the salvation of men.
1. Because it prevents that saving and godly sorrow for sins that have been committed, which cannot exist in those who have no consciousness of sin. But it is obvious, that the man who has committed sin through the unavoidable necessity of the decree of God, cannot possibly have this kind of consciousness of sin. (2 Cor. vii, 10.)
2. Because it removes all pious solicitude about being converted from sin unto God. For he can feel no such concern who is entirely passive and conducts himself like a dead man, with respect not only to his discernment and perception of the grace of God that is exciting and assisting, but also to his assent and obedience to it; and who is converted by such an irresistible impulse, that he not only cannot avoid being sensible of the grace of God which knocks within him, but he must likewise of necessity yield his assent to it, and thus convert himself, or rather be converted. Such a person it is evident, cannot produce within his heart or conceive in his mind this solicitude, except he have previously felt the same irresistible motion. And if he should produce within his heart any such concern, it would be in vain and without the least advantage. For that cannot be a true solicitude, which is not produced in the heart by any other means except by an irresistible force according to the absolute purpose and intention of God to effect his salvation. (Rev. ii, 3; iii, 2.)
3. Because it restrains, in persons that are converted, all zeal and studious regard for good works, since it declares “that the regenerate cannot perform either more or less good than they do.” For he that is actuated or impelled by saving grace, must work, and cannot discontinue his labour; but he that is not actuated by the same grace, can do nothing, and finds it necessary to cease from all attempts. (Tit. iii, 14.)
4. Because it extinguishes the zeal for prayer, which yet is an efficacious means instituted by God for asking and obtaining all kinds of blessings from him, but principally the great one of salvation. (Luke xi, 1-13.) But from the circumstance of it having been before determined by an immutable and inevitable decree, that this description of men [the elect] should obtain salvation, prayer cannot on any account be a means for asking and obtaining that salvation. It can only be a mode of worshipping God; because according to the absolute decree of his Predestination he has determined that such men shall be saved.
5. It takes away all that most salutary fear and trembling with which we are commanded to work out our own salvation. (Phil. ii, 12) for it states “that he who is elected and believes, cannot sin with that full and entire willingness with which sin is committed by the ungodly; and that they cannot either totally or finally fall away from faith or grace.”
6. Because it produces within men a despair both of performing that which their duty requires and of obtaining that towards which their desires are directed. For when they are taught that the grace of God (which is really necessary to the performance of the least portion of good) is denied to the majority of mankind, according to an absolute and peremptory decree of God — – and that such grace is denied because, by a preceding decree equally absolute, God has determined not to confer salvation on them but damnation; when they are thus taught, it is scarcely possible for any other result to ensue, than that the individual who cannot even with great difficulty work a persuasion within himself of his being elected, should soon consider himself included in the number of the reprobate. From such an apprehension as this, must arise a certain despair of performing righteousness and obtaining salvation.