Posts Tagged ‘Moral Government Theology (MGT)’
On Original Sin, Sinful Nature, and Romans Chapter Five
“What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die….Yet say ye, Why?
I was reading a book written by a moral government brother and he stated that he did not believe that the atonement of Christ did away with the wrath of God since the New Testament states that God’s wrath remains even after the atonement of Christ. He cites the following passages:
Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. – Luke 21:23
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36
Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. – Acts 12:23
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. – Romans 1:18
But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. – Romans 2:5
On account of these the wrath of God is coming. – Colossians 3:6
For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand? – Revelation 6:17
He also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. – Revelation 14:10
The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. – Revelation 16:19
He goes on to write:
We are not saved from the wrath of God at Calvary, but we are saved from the wrath of God, because of Calvary, at conversion. Though our penalty can be withheld, God will only turn from His wrath when sinners turn from their sins. Those who stay in their sins are those who stay under God’s wrath despite the atonement that was made for them. Those whom Jesus died are still under the wrath of God and are going to receive the penalty of hell, unless they repent of their sins and believe the gospel.
Obviously there is much truth to what he states in the above. I do not deny that the wrath of God still abides on those who do not repent of their sins. Some Calvinists hold that the wrath of God was appeased at the cross for the elect of God only and thus a penal substitutionary is seen as satisfying God’s wrath for His elect at the cross. The problem I have with both views is that the wrath of God is appeased in Christ’s atonement only when it is received by faith. This is the key (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Notice one of my favorite Bible passages in Romans 3:21-26:
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
You will notice the passages I underlined. The atonement, our propitiation (1 John 2:2; 4:10) through the shed blood of Jesus (v.24) are made only for those who appropriate the work of Christ. John Wesley preached,
Whosoever thou art, O man, who hast the sentence of death in thyself, who feelest thyself a condemned sinner, and hast the wrath of God abiding on thee: Unto thee saith the Lord, not, “Do this,” — perfectly obey all my commands, — “and live;” but, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”The word of faith is nigh unto thee:” Now, at this instant, in the present moment, and in thy present state, sinner as thou art, just as thou art, believe the gospel; and “I will be merciful unto thy unrighteousness, and thy iniquities will I remember no more.”
A sinner must appropriate, by faith, the atonement of Christ in order to be saved and to remain saved. Our salvation, from first to last, is entirely dependent upon the Lord Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins. Our salvation is not our faith, our works, our righteousness but rather our salvation is complete faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins (1 Peter 3:18). Scripture clearly presents the atonement of Christ as a vicarious atonement in our place (Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 26:28; Galatians 1:4; etc.).
Arminius wrote this about the satisfaction of God’s wrath at the atonement for the sinner:
[God] rendered satisfaction to his love for justice and to his hatred against sin, when he imposed on his Son the office of Mediator by the shedding of his blood and by the suffering of death; and he was unwilling to admit him as the Intercessor for sinners except when sprinkled with his own blood in which he might be made the propitiation for sins…In this respect also it may with propriety be said, that God rendered satisfaction to himself, and appeased himself in “the Son of his love.”
As Vic Reasoner writes,
The biblical doctrine of propitiation is based on the premise that we can do nothing to compensate for our sins or turn away God’s anger. Therefore, God takes the initiative and Himself provides the propitiation in the person of His Son.
Reasoner then quotes Wesley,
The purpose of the propitiation was to appease an offended God. But if, as some teach, God never was offended, there was no need of this propitiation. And if so, Christ died in vain.
Christ faithfully died for God and He satisfied the wrath of God against sin. He shed His blood to atone for our sins and He was condemned for our sins against the law of God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Galatians 3:13-14). Christ died for God and with a view on pleasing the Father. Jesus willingly laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11) which would be all those whom would be saved through faith in His blood (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:1-2). All can come and be saved in Christ (John 1:12-13; 3:16).
My point in all this is to simply show that Arminianism correctly teaches the penal substitutionary view of the atonement. In my estimation, the penal view teaches that Christ died for God and not merely for our sins. The focus of the cross was upon God and not humans. The purpose of the atonement was the satisfy the just wrath of God against sin. However, I believe that the atonement is only sufficient for those who appropriate His work. The cross saves no one apart from faith (Romans 5:1). Those who reject the cross by their unbelief remain under God’s wrath (John 3:36; Romans 1:18-32). God’s wrath will be poured out upon those who reject Christ and they will be eternally condemned (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10). The fact that Jesus died on the cross saves no one. The work of Christ only saves those who place their faith in His saving work (Romans 10:14-17).
The following is a video done by Jesse Morrell. Brother Morrell holds to moral government theology but his video is interesting. I cannot say whether I agree or disagree. I know so little of Augustine and his theology. I am aware of some of his teachings but have not read his works nor any books on him. I am aware that Calvin gleamed much from Augustine and I know that many Calvinists today hold that Augustine was a champion of orthodoxy in his battles with Pelagius.
Morrell argues that Augustine was wrong in his views on mankind. He argues that the early Church held to free will and that man was not born with a sinful nature.
Watch the video and judge all things by the Word of God. The Word of God alone is the inerrant and infallible truth of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
I hold to the penal view but here is a PDF file from John Miley on why he rejected the penal view. I think its well worth reading even if you do not hold to the moral government view. One can at least see that Miley was not ignorant in his views and sought to be biblical.
You can find the article here.
Charles Finney is often presented as an Arminian. Often times I have heard Calvinists refer to Finney as an Arminian or that his soteriology was essentially Arminian. While I agree that Finney often uses language that is similar to Arminians and he often defends points of Arminianism that we would defend such as an unlimited atonement, conditional election, or conditional perseverance of the faith, nonetheless I do not agree that Finney is an Arminian. The goal of this article is to point out the differences in Finney’s theology that marks him outside of Arminianism.
Charles Finney is known for the “new measures” that he was using for his revivals. While Finney did not invent the sinner’s prayer or the altar call, he did refine them and bring them to the forefront of evangelism. Now, nearly 200 years later, the use of the altar call or the sinner’s prayer is so rampant in the Church that few even stop to consider whether it is biblical or not. I know of churches that have either split or removed the Bible teacher over altar calls. I myself do not give altar calls when preaching. This has led some to believe that I oppose evangelism (which I do not) or that I oppose calling people to salvation (which I do not). Some so defend the usage of the altar call that to not have an altar call is heresy. This all comes from the ministry of Charles Finney.
But what did Finney believe about salvation? What did he believe about man’s inability and the gospel? First, let us look briefly at the teachings of Arminius concerning justification. This will help us see the key differences between Arminius and Finney.
Arminius stated this about grace and free will:
Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.
I confess that the mind of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins. And I add to this — that teacher obtains my highest approbation who ascribes as much as possible to divine grace, provided he so pleads the cause of grace, as not to inflict an injury on the justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil.
Thus Arminius taught that while man is free, he is bound by sin. This is the same teaching as Martin Luther or John Calvin. Arminius did not teach that man was free to just up and choose Christ. In fact, he agreed with Romans 3:10-18, that man was sinful and depraved. Apart from the grace of God and the drawing power of the Holy Spirit through the gospel, mankind has no hope. We are utterly sinful and we, by nature, are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). Our desire is not to seek after God which is why He must first seek us (1 John 4:10). The Lord is the great evangelist who seeks after the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). He is the one who opens the sinner’s heart for the gospel (Acts 16:14). He is the one who regenerates us (Titus 3:5-7). No doubt faith is that which receives this salvation as Arminius stated,
Faith is the instrumental cause, or act, by which we apprehend Christ proposed to us by God for a propitiation and for righteousness, according to the command and promise of the gospel, in which it is said, “He who believes shall be justified and saved, and he who believeth not shall be damned.”
When a person believes the gospel, they are saved (John 5:24). We are justified through faith (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by works (John 6:29; Romans 4:5). This act of justification leads to the imputation of righteousness as Arminius states,
The form is the gracious reckoning of God, by which he imputes to us the righteousness of Christ, and imputes faith to us for righteousness; that is, he remits our sins to us who are believers, on account of Christ apprehended by faith, and accounts us righteous in him. This estimation or reckoning, has, joined with it, adoption into sons, and the conferring of a right to the inheritance of life eternal.
Clearly Arminius stood with the Reformers in his views regarding justification and salvation by faith in Christ. Arminius stated,
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.
To summarize Arminius’ views regarding salvation. Arminius taught that:
- Salvation is accomplished through the cross of Christ alone.
- Salvation is received by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
- A believer is then declared righteous before God because of the gracious act of Christ and His salvation that He Himself accomplished on the cross.
- Salvation is the gracious work of God who must open the sinner’s heart to receive salvation. The Spirit of God does this work of conviction and He alone regenerates. Salvation is not obtained by any works (Isaiah 64:6) nor by the act of the will (John 1:12-13).
- The nature of humanity is that we are totally depraved, dead in our sins and without the life of God in our souls (Romans 3:23). The wages of our sins is death (Romans 6:23) and we deserve God’s just wrath against our sins (Romans 1:18-32). Yet God is good and loving and He sent His Son to die for our sins (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Jesus alone is our substitute for the forgiveness of our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 2:21-24).
Next we will turn to the theology of Charles Finney to see if he agrees with Arminius over these doctrines. In the end, I hope to show that Finney was not an Arminian but was semi-Pelagian if not a Pelagian. Further, let it be shown that Arminius opposed Pelagianism in all its forms. To ascribe to Arminius that he was a semi-Pelagian is not only inaccurate but unfair.
Many want to place Charles Finney among Arminians. How often have I heard some Calvinists state that Finney was an Arminian and a poster board for Arminianism. Finney was not an Arminian. As far as I know, Finney never claimed Arminianism. Even a short reading of the works of Arminius in comparison to the works of Finney will show that he is not an Arminian in the sense of the teachings of Arminius. As I have pointed out before, Arminius affirms original sin. He holds to the same form of original sin as Calvinists do. Finney did not. Finney denied original sin.
The question I have often heard is whether Finney was a heretic. Many Calvinists believe he was and that he preached a false gospel. One Calvinist even did a video series attacking Charles Finney as a very dangerous heretic and a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Phil Johnson from Pyromaniacs believes that Finney was a heretic and a false teacher. I have read most of the works of Finney and if you have never read his book on the gospel, I would encourage you to read it and then ask yourself whether he was preaching another Jesus. You can find Finney’s book on the gospel here. I have read Finney’s books on prayer and on the Spirit and on the Lord Jesus and I fail to see how Finney is such an apostate. I don’t agree with Finney on all issues but I don’t feel that he is an outright heretic worthy of damnation.
I think a couple of thoughts are in order about Finney. First, Finney was converted while practicing law and this had a great effect upon his views of Scripture. For Finney, the moral government of God was supreme and the duty of humanity was to obey the divine law of God. Failure to obey God’s law brought about condemnation and required atonement for our sins. Finney viewed the entire work of Christ as fulfilling the sinner’s need for salvation because of our violation of the law of God. Finney believed that the free will was intact and that we are born free to either serve God or not serve God and he viewed 1 John 3:4 as true sinning.
Secondly, Finney was combating intellectual Calvinism that had taken root in New England during his time. The dryness Finney encountered after his conversion to Jesus Christ led him to deny Calvinism because he saw it as defeating true passion in the heart of the saint. Finney also witnessed the dry intellectual preaching of his day and he longed for passionate preaching of the Word of God. Finney fulfilled that. Thus Finney preached against the dry Calvinism of his day and the lack of conversions among the people living in New England who claimed to be Calvinists. It seems from reading Finney that almost all of the Calvinists he knew were not passionately living for the glory of God and set out to preach against them and to see people converted to Christ. In my estimation, Finney preached Jesus and salvation in Him through faith and apart from works (Romans 4:5). I don’t see evidence that Finney preached another Jesus.
Over the next few days I will be posting articles by Charles Finney on original sin. Again, Finney does not represent Arminianism but represents Moral Government Theology (MGT) as Winkie Pratney before him. MGT has its roots from some of Arminius’ teachings but not entirely and differs with Arminius mainly here in original sin.