Sunday, December 28, 2008

Arminius on Original Sin and Guilt

On one of the discussion boards, there is a self styled teacher who has made a point of building what he feels is a case against Arminians regarding the work of grace in this world, what we refer to as prevenient or preventing grace, inferring that as Arminians we instruct that grace has annulled the guilt of all men through the work of Christ. At its core is the Pelagian suggestion that men have been restored to that place where they may approach or disregard the LORD, the Gospel, the good things of God based on some measure of their own renewed merit. Of course this reflects a poor understanding of our Christian doctrine. Nonetheless men such as he persist in their claims in spite of protests to the contrary. Fortunately Arminius addressed this specific issue in his Nine Questions and made his sentiments clear regarding the effect of original sin and the state of natural man. The following are the questions posed and his succinct reply.

Does original sin, of itself, render man obnoxious to eternal death, even without the addition of any actual sin? Or is the guilt of original sin taken away from all and every one by the benefits of Christ the Mediator?

If some men are condemned solely on account of the sin committed by Adam, and others on account of their rejection of the Gospel, are there not two peremptory decrees concerning the damnation of men, and two judgments, one Legal, the other Evangelical?


Those things which in this question are placed in opposition to each other, easily agree together. For original sin can render man obnoxious to eternal death, and its guilt can be taken away from all men by Christ. Indeed, in order that guilt may be removed, it is necessary that men be previously rendered guilty. But to reply to each part separately: It is perversely said, that "original sin renders a man obnoxious to death," since that sin is the punishment of Adam's actual sin, which punishment is preceded by guilt, that is, an obligation to the punishment denounced by the law. With regard to the second member of the question, it is very easily answered by the distinction of the soliciting, obtaining, and the application of the benefits of Christ. For as a participation of Christ's benefits consists in faith alone, it follows that, if among these benefits "deliverance from this guilt" be one, believers only are delivered from it, since they are those upon whom the wrath of God does not abide.

From his statement, it is beyond refute that the proper Reformed Arminian position regarding the condition of man with regard to original sin is that natural man remains "obnoxious" in such a state. As with other Christian doctrine, faith plays a central role in the restoration of man, a faith specific to the finished work of Christ. Lacking this faith there can be no restoration of man's fallen condition. So with this understanding, it cannot be said that natural man outside of Christ has had his fallen nature annulled or has been restored to a place of revelation light. He remains in his obnoxious condition. The pastor or layman who faces such charges should take some strong comfort in knowing that these claims against us have been adequately addressed. Let the defense be as with Arminius, we defend our faith with faith itself.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Some People can Never Go Home

I changed pictures on the header of my blog again today. It's one of those things I do occasionally just to give myself a new splash or image to look at while I journalize thoughts. The snowy picture was taken of my hometown's main street from the vantage of the local newspaper office where my grandfather used to work as a printer. Looking at this picture I must admit I get homesick to a degree even though I have not had to live in such a wintry scene in many years. I remember the bitter cold January days, three feet of snow to shovel out from under. I remember this particular snowstorm and the couple days off from school we enjoyed. This storm was still winding down when the picture was taken. By the next morning, all the snow would be pushed to the center of the street and cars and trucks would pass each other sight unseen until approaching the intersection. This was the routine … massive amounts of snow, try to get through it, plow it up, haul it off to the steep river bank and dump it, wait for the next one in a few days.

To be honest I miss it on one hand and am glad not to have to go through it again on the other (at least not to that extent). What sparked my interest again today in this photograph was the steeple in the background. The structure underneath it sits in the town square and is an old and beautiful Congregational Church my mother used to force me to attend when I was a young child. I always hated going. Sometimes I would pretend to be fast asleep when my mother called, unable to respond to the "gospel call" yet as soon as she left the house up I bounded ready to watch whatever could be found on TV. The church had merged with another to become the United Church of Christ but it's doctrines and practices were unknown to me. I was a child not much interested in being dragged to a social gathering of the towns elites. It did not seem that God was tugging at me to run to that church. Looking back and knowing the teachings and practices of that church I can now understand why.

The church is still very much active, still very beautiful and still very much opposed to the truths of scripture. Many of the same families still attend sitting in the same long wooden pews their predecessors sat in their generations. There are some new faces and new names but I know none of them. I can barely remember the old. While I might return to the town, I cannot bring myself to return to that old Congregationalist Church with the tall white steeple in the middle of town.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pyromaniac Simplicity or Simply Playing With Matches?

There is a sharp distinction between being simple and touting your own simpleton approach to logic. Simplicity is to be admired, if in its concise approach, it brings a defining resolution to the issue. offers up what they feel is a simple exoneration of their philosophical approach to God's Word. Instead, it appears to be yet another overly simplistic slow pitch falling short of home plate. Phil Johnson offers the following tidbit of bologna to whet our appetites.

If God knows the future with certainty, then the future is (by definition) already predetermined. If tomorrow is predetermined and you don't want to acknowledge that the plan was decreed by God, you have only two choices: Some being other than God determines the future and is therefore more sovereign than He. That is a kind of idolatry. Some impersonal force does the determining without reason or coherence. That is a kind of fatalism.

While clearly there is a problem with his false dilemma, such a statement exposes a greater problem with his lack of fully comprehending the matter of God's omniscience. Arminians are often accused of clinging to some notion of God having to peer down through the annals of time to know what will be. As silly as such a notion is, it is even worse still to observe those who make the charge fall prey to their own imaginations. The first sentence of Mr. Johnson's mistake has the LORD doing what? .. predetermining everything that will be as a prerequisite for his omniscience. I am sure he has not thought of this in such a manner but he should give further thought to his premise. The Calvinist omniscient LORD is such only through his predetermining all events. It is a silly notion and I am sure most Calvinists would agree yet they cling to their determinism with such fervor. Additionally, the notion of this false dilemma leading to the possibility of theistic fatalism on the part of Arminians is quite absurd given the theistic fatalism inherent in Calvinism's hard determinism. At best this is a sophomoric attempt to lob a poorly handled tar brush all the while painting one's face with irredeemable pitch. It is wiser for the Calvinist, Mr. Johnson and , yes, those Arminians predisposed as such, to understand that God's knowledge, His omniscience, is not a matter of peering though time in order to know or predetermine anything. The LORD is the Alpha and the Omega (sorry J. White, He beat you to it). He is the beginning and the ending of all things, of all knowledge. He is, in a word, eternal and transcends any notion we might have of time. He simply knows and in a manner that neither you or I can truly and fully comprehend. We can put words to it and attempt to describe it but the idea of an omniscient LORD peering through time or having his omniscience subject to predetermining every action is preposterous.

Let's demonstrate Mr. Johnson's absurdity with a simple example. I posit that God's omniscience is challenged under the Calvinist scheme if I choose my eggs over easy tomorrow morning rather than fried lightly or scrambled. Perhaps my choosing brown socks over grey will diminish His sovereignty over my dress? Of course this is silly yet if my choice of eggs has been predetermined rather than known and my grey socks were picked for me by the LORD before the foundations of the world (yes, an active or hard determinism for there is no other rational alternative in Calvinism) then the LORD has indeed constructed a fatalistic scheme in which men are given only the appearance of living lives. Instead we are fodder for destiny, some to be glorified board pieces, others the sawdust under the table. Such is the false dilemma Mr. Johnson presents. If Christians reject his theistic fatalism, his deterministic notion of omniscience and the enslavement of God's sovereignty to the wiles of Calvinist predestination, we are relegated to being either idolaters or fatalists (the latter charge still being an amusement in light of determinism). Not only that but in rejecting Calvinist philosophy, Mr. Johnson has us on the slippery slope to Open Theism. This has been a frequent charge in recent years but each and every one of those who sling such a charge around fail to realize many proponents of open theism have their roots in Calvinism rather than Arminianism, having been poorly grounded in plain truth, jumped feet first into a bigger cauldron.

The plain Christian truth is the LORD is Omniscient, He is Eternal and He is Sovereign. As such He has in His sovereign wisdom chosen to give men a synergistic plan of salvation in which He uses men to preach a gospel to men and frees their wills through grace to enable men to respond to the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has admonished, warned and extolled men to do and be what he desires men to be through Christ. He does not desire that men perish and rather than worry about labeling Christians as idolaters or worse for rejecting the philosophical musings of men raised up in dead bone churches, the Calvinist should have greater concern for the exalting of a philosophy that blasphemes the LORD as the author of sin. Hard words perhaps but they are in response to a calloused heart.

Arminius on the Authorship of Sin

One of the common objections to Calvinist doctrine is that determinism seems to make the LORD to be the author of sin. Our Calvinist brethren strenuously object to this characterization and probably for good cause. Who would wish to attribute wickedness to God? I recall a young Calvinist telling me that this charge against Calvinism is something that came out of the Finney school of thought and is relatively new representing a desperate charge on the part of Arminians. Whether the Finney ever made such charges or even whether Finney could rightly be called Arminian are questions for another discussion but one thing is certain. The perception that Calvinistic determinism places the LORD as author of sinfulness is nothing new in this debate. It was a concern very early in the Reformation as Beza began to shape Calvinist doctrine. Supralapsarian doctrines began to gain a strong hold in the Calvinist churches and the doctrinal difficulties with this issue of authorship was a question of interest in the days of Arminius. Arminians have long held that Calvinist determinism is grounded in grievous error placing the LORD as the author of sin or wickedness. In his defense of Christian doctrine, Arminius addressed this matter in his Nine Questions, the second of which went to the issue of the authoring of sin. Those comments follow.

If it be said, "that God, by his eternal decree, has determined and governs all things and every thing, even the depraved wills of men, to appointed good ends," does it follow from this, that God is the author of sin?

Is "to determine or direct all things and every thing, even the depraved wills of men, to appointed good ends," the same thing as "to determine that man be made corrupt, by which a way may be opened for executing God's absolute decree concerning damning some men through wrath, and saving others through mercy?"


Sin is the transgression of the law; therefore, God will be the author of sin, if He cause any man to transgress the law. This is done by denying or taking away what is necessary for fulfilling the law, or by impelling men to sin. But if this "determination" be that of a will which is already depraved, since it does not signify the denying or the removing of grace nor a corrupt impelling to sin, it follows, that the consequence of this cannot be that God is the author of sin. But if this "determination" denote the decree of God by which He resolved that the will should become depraved, and that man should commit sin, then it follows from this that God is the author of sin.

For those pastors who face troubled questions from their flock, Arminius provides a clear and concise path to follow regarding this matter. We can with a clear conscience declare that determinism of the hard variety found among many "High Calvinists" does indeed accuse the LORD of being the author of sin and therefore a promoter of the very wickedness He finds detestable.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Arminius on Election

In November of 1605, Arminius presented himself to the curators of the University of Leyden, the result of which was an affirmation of his Reformed Christian credentials. This presentation was a series of nine questions, each with a countering question regarding several doctrinal positions germane to Protestant understanding of the scriptures. The first of these inquiring questions and counters dealt directly with scriptural election and the following was Arminius' presentation on this matter.

1. Which is first, Election, or Faith Truly Foreseen, so that God elected his people according to faith foreseen?

1. Is the decree "for bestowing Faith on any one," previous to that by which is appointed "the Necessity of Faith to salvation?"


The equivocation in the word "Election," makes it impossible to answer this question in any other manner, than by distinction. If therefore "Election" denotes "the decree which is according to election concerning the justification and salvation of believers." I say Election is prior to Faith, as being that by which Faith is appointed as the means of obtaining salvation. But if it signifies "the decree by which God determines to bestow salvation on some one," then Faith foreseen is prior to Election. For as believers alone are saved, so only believers are predestinated to salvation. But the Scriptures know no Election, by which God precisely and absolutely has determined to save anyone without having first considered him as a believer. For such an Election would be at variance with the decree by which he hath determined to save none but believers.

Arminius, as a result of this reply, was deemed fully within the Reformed faith and his statement reflects a proper understanding of the scriptures by those of a classical or Reformation Arminian persuasion. Election should be viewed from at least a two-fold perspective as indicated in his reply. Every pastor approached by one of his flock with an eye toward receiving an answer regarding election can feel confident in presenting this Arminian view.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Gospel of 1st Corinthians 15

Richard Coords of Examining Calvinism posted a thread on the CARM website regarding the Gospel as preached to the Corinthians by Paul. It goes right to the heart of the Calvinist error regarding what we are to preach and to whom. Consider the passage in discussion.

"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which [was bestowed] upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether [it were] I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed." (1Co 15:1-11 AV)

This is the Gospel that was preached not to the elect or to believers or even those sitting in a church on a Sunday morning (not that our 21st century version was common in that day). No, this Gospel message was preached to unbelievers who hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ were convicted and moved to embrace Christ. Christ died for their sins being the message. It was not a message of Christ perhaps dying for some of them. It was a universal declaration, one not to be mistaken for the philosophy promoted by our Calvinist brethren as an inappropriate support for their peculiar doctrines. We should take comfort and be emboldened by Paul's witness and never be swayed from the truth of the Gospel and scripture, it being a counter to the musings of revisionist Christianity.

Richard also included a link to Jerry Vine's website offering affordable DVD copies of the recent John 3:16 Conference where this matter also came up in presentation. I believe these materials will provide an invaluable resource for Christian studies in our church groups and to soundly rebut the philosophical attempts at influencing sound Christian thought in our churches.

Friday, December 05, 2008

An Atonement For All

There is a place in the scriptures I turn to when challenged by those of the limited atonement view. It is a picture and type of what Christ would do once and for all at Calvary. In the Old Testament, Israel was instructed to observe a particular day and a statute kept ever more and still kept to this day through Christ's fulfilled sacrifice. The High Priest offered a sacrifice to the LORD on the day of Atonement or Yom Kippur for the benefit of every soul within the borders of Israel including its strangers, the faithful and yes, those unfaithful. The sacrifice, being a picture of what Christ would do, presents Israel as a type of the world with all sorts of men within itself yet only a remnant truly known of the LORD as saints. There is nothing unlimited in this atonement except its efficacy through faith. This is a lesson I can only wish our Calvinist brethren would take to heart.

"And [this] shall be a statute for ever unto you: [that] in the seventh month, on the tenth [day] of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, [whether it be] one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: For on that day shall [the priest] make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, [that] ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It [shall be] a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, [even] the holy garments: And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation. And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses." (Le 16:29-34 AV)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Drops of Blood

This idea has surfaced in the past on this blog and on others but the thought came to life again when I encountered a fellow stating "…Both bad and good... I guess it really is by grace through faith and not by works so that we can't boast. God justifies the ungodly... I am not advocating antinomianism, but just making an observation that God's grace is more powerful than any transgression. Just one drop of blood was enough to take away all sin forever as far as the east is from the west." This statement intrigues me to no end. The power is in the blood as the old Pentecostal song goes (at least that is where I heard it first) so it is not surprising to believe that just one drop of Christ's blood could remove the east from the west carrying a immeasurable multitude of sins with it. It sounds right yet if you think about it for a moment it also adds a quantity or limitation to it. Of course there are only so many drops of Christ's blood to go around unless we regard the blood as with the loaves and fishes. But is this a correct manner of thinking about Christ's blood?

Consider how many drops of blood it took to save that man across the street or myself. Could we squeeze out one drop for each of us as into a thimble and thank the LORD for the salvation given? I am beyond certain we would still be standing in our sins for to cover my own hideous innumerable sins requires a life, my own at least. The Hebrews used to offer live sacrifices of bulls, rams, goats, sheep and doves to carry themselves in the LORD's graces for a season yet even that was not enough after a lifetime of shed blood. Sin carries a great cost, the very life of men and it is knowing this that we can look upon not just the shedding of droplets of Christ's blood but his complete sacrifice necessary for cleansing us of sin. For that man across the street or myself it took every drop of Christ's blood, every sign of life in His glorious body to remove our sins as far as east is from the west. Not less than all of His blood and His life were required not by me or that other man or any man. Christ's life was required as propitiation by God the Father. So, where does this thought or idea lead?

I have listened to men tell me in so many words that there is only so much of Christ's blood to go around, only so many drops to save a limited number of people yet they seem not to consider that whether they alone are saved or the whole world, it took the death of Christ to accomplish what provides for salvation. If ten souls are found faithful by Christ and a thousand perish, it is suggested that Christ would have to be a failure if His blood was a provision for all one thousand and ten. I am astonished by such thinking knowing that one soul saved is a priceless treasure in the eyes of God and even more so by the knowledge that every sign of Christ's life was required for just that one soul. Rather than muse over the imaginary failings of Christ I would rather hold concern for the souls who fail to labor in a plentiful harvest knowing that the blood of Christ is sufficient for a harvest of infinite size. Pray for those whom the LORD has called to preach His Word that they be unhindered in their mission to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world who's only Hope is the Man who shed every drop of blood just for them.