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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Speaking the Same Thing

When I am asked of my theological leanings, the answer is almost always Arminian, sometimes Wesleyan or even evangelical Protestant. When asked who or what I am, my reply is Christian yet the title of this blog refers to the thoughts of an Arminian Christian. We get caught up in labels, some we approve of and others swiped against us without warning or desire. Certainly we apply labels to others and the truth of the matter is that labels help identify a set of beliefs one holds. Yet can we be said to speak the same thing if some of us are known as Arminians and others Calvinistic? The Apostle admonishes us in the following.

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them [which are of the house] of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (1Co 1:10-13 AV)

Paul looks at the divisions and contentions and recognizes that we too easily lose sight of who and what we are, followers of Jesus Christ. There are ecumenical things we are to speak whether Arminian, Calvinist, Baptist, Charismatic or even Catholic. These same things we are to speak are not the unique distinctives that identify us as denominations. We do not preach TULIP thinking we are preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Nor do the FACTs of Arminian thinking become what constitutes our ecumenical message. The Pentecostal preacher does no service to the LORD in preaching the doctrine of the essential evidence of tongues thinking this is the Good News. There is something else we need to speak to be united as one in Christ.

"But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, [even] in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Ro 10:8-11 AV)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Christian Reformation

In 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther presented a list of 95 Theses entitled Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. This was a shot ultimately heard around the world but certainly echoing in Wittenberg, Germany and the European principalities as a cataclysmic rebuke of Papal authority and scriptural confinement. This act ushered in the age of the Reformation even though it is rightfully begun earlier and among Luther's contemporaries as well. It opened the European continent and Isles to the most stalwart of Christian declarations, justification by faith. The Reformation provided the impetus for the spread of evangelical missions so much so that rather than be known as Protestants, we are better served with the distinction as Evangelicals. The Gospel of Christ no longer constrained by often times illiterate priests serving an even more so peasantry, found its way to every corner of the globe over the next four centuries. Christians preached Christ and continue to do so, Christians reformed from the ways of a self serving papal organization that sought to strangle the light of Christ. We are indeed a Reformed faith.

Baptists, Anabaptists, Lutherans, Arminians, Calvinists and others encouraged by the valor of men such as Luther and Huss comprise the fruit of the Reformation. Our Calvinist brethren are sensitive about sharing the distinction of Reformed for they seem to have claimed the phrase as their own and limited it to their own unique doctrines. Yet, they seem unaware or unconcerned about the source of their label, the reformation itself. Lacking that great Lutheran, one certainly not Calvinist, or his fellow Melanchthon, there could have been no sustained Reformation. Lacking the intellectual strength of men such as James Arminius, Episcopius and others, the evangelical fervor of Christianity might well have extinguished under the burden of a harsh determinism. To that end we give thanks to the LORD for His grace in such matters. Nonetheless, there are cur dogs in our midst who exalt the letter R at the cost of denigrating those who serve the purpose of the cross. Denying any place at the Christian table, these souls have staked a claim upon one label after another not realizing that at the end day such zealotry will choke the life out of them. To their label of Reformed I reply Christian, to the Doctrines of Grace I answer the teachings of Christ. Pray for the zealot who does not know what he speaks of.

There are Christians and I number myself among them that have grown weary of sects whose tongues are unbridled and whose desires are to grow a further schism. I yearn for a Christian ecumenicalism where we speak the same things, the things of our Christian faith. A wise pastor once preached to me an immeasurably valuable lesson. Before there can be revival in the Kingdom of God there must first be a reformation in the house and before there can be a reformation there must be repentance in the body.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Who Are We To Be?

As saints in Christ we have a standard and expectation in our behavior and manner. With the sectarian battles around us it is far too easy to lose sight of this truth. I truly find the Calvinist distinctives to be disturbing and grossly misrepresentative of our LORD yet even in this, I am admonished by the Apostles to walk in a certain way, communicate with the brethren in a particular manner and not besmirch our LORD's name in any discussion. This is not in word only but in deed as well. It is time to put a better foot forward thinking of the blessed hope rather than the battle. As Christians, the battle is already won and the curses of a zealots mind have no bearing nor impact on one's victory in Christ.

"This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with [his] hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Eph 4:17-32 AV)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

By What Measure Do We Dispense Charity?

The following inquiry came up in a discussion earlier this weekend and I wanted to remember this exchange because I think it is critically important in our outlook and participation on this internet media. We hammer and are hammered until our crowns are bruised and keep coming back for more. Sometimes it is good to step back and recognize that something is wrong. The LORD knows I need several steps to be in league with many of my considerably more meek brethren. A Calvinist fellow asked the following and I replied as noted below.

It saddens me
that the division between Arminianism and Calvinism can cause some to actually believe that one or the other is not a Christian. Am I missing something or do we not agree on the essentials of the faith to remain in the same body of Christ? 

Are there any here (besides you know who you are...) that really do believe that one or the other cannot be a Christian and maintain either the Arminian view or Calvinistic view?

God bless.

This has been a long standing problem with sectarian zealots regardless of what side of the fence they stand. Admittedly I have a bias here. I see FAR more of such among your Reformed fellows here and elsewhere. I think that is an honest observation although I am sure several would disagree. There are souls on this board who claim an affinity for Arminianism but they neither know it's doctrines or the love of the brethren that it's leading lights expressed. They are in a word or two, internet jockeys. The same is true of your Reformed fellows. One in this thread has posted a link to a schismatic article openly challenging the Christianity of much of the body of Christ. This is evidence not of faith in Christ but trusting in a learned theology. As soon as a zealot moves to the place where he or she denounces the work of Christ in another fellow's life because of sharp differences from their particular ecclesiastical view, I believe they have lost their first love and that has nothing to do with Calvinism or Arminianism.

Somebody who professes the love of Christ, adhering to the established orthodox tenets of the early Christian community i.e. Nicene creed should not have to endure the scurrilous attacks launched by sectarian zealots against their trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. That doesn't matter whether it is directly on this board, preached in your churches or published on your internet sites and in your tomes.


Blessings In Christ




Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Apologist's Evening Prayer

From all my lame defeats and oh! much more

From all the victories that I seemed to score;

From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf

At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;

From all my proofs of Thy divinity,

Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead

Of Thee, their thin-wore image of Thy head.

From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,

O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.

Lord of the narrow gate and the needle's eye,

Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.


- C.S. Lewis

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Articles of Our Arminian Faith

The articles of our faith have been posted countless times on many blogs and references. I don't think another time will hurt.

The Five Articles of the Remonstrants, 1610

Article 1.

That God, by an eternal and unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ his Son before the foundation of the world, has determined that out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ's sake, and through Christ, those who through the grace of the Holy Spirit shall believe on this his son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath and to condemn them as alienated from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John 3:36: "He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that does not believe the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him," and according to other passages of Scripture also.

Article 2.

That, accordingly, Jesus Christ the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  And in the First Epistle of John 2:2: "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

Article 3.

That man does not posses saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is necessary that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, and will, and all his faculties, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, "Without me you can do nothing."

Article 4.

That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to the extent that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, since it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places).

Article 5.

That those who are incorporated into Christ by true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, as a result have full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no deceit or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ's hands, according to the Word of Christ, John 10:28: "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginning of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of neglecting grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full confidence of our mind.

These Articles, thus set forth and taught, the Remonstrants deem agreeable to the Word of God, tending to edification, and, as regards this argument, sufficient for salvation, so that it is not necessary or edifying to rise higher or to descend deeper.

The Articles of the Remonstrants are adapted from Phillip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Volume 3Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1996, pp 545ff.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Dr. Ben Witherington has done it again with an outstanding article on his blog dealing with the archaeological evidence of synagogues or as he phrased it "purpose built religious buildings". Skeptics have attempted to discredit the NT scriptures by casting doubts regarding authenticy of the existence of synagogues during Jesus' ministry and accounts in the Book of Acts. This is certainly worth reading and bookmarking for future reference.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

God’s Synergistic Plan of Salvation

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Ro 10:12-17 AV)

Reading and listening to these words, I came to a conclusion this morning. I should fear for the soul of a monergist. I should fear that he has become disobedient to God. I should fear that he has no concern for the state of the lost. I fear he has lost his first love and has become selfish to the point his faith rests in his theological ruminations rather in a love for Christ and his fellow man. Now to be fair and practical as well, the same fear should extend to all of us if we have parked our evangelical spirit in favor of a comfort in empty musings. It is a hollow faith that spends all its energy chasing to sectarian battles and it is beyond certain that I have emptied the urn of faith on several occasions in expending myself in worthless squabbles. I believe the solution is to ignore the enticement of the flesh and turn to the greater things of God instead. Place the offending party out of mind and continue fellowship with souls who appreciate the discourse of scripture. Only then can someone such as I focus on the desires of God and obedience to those desires.

Much is made of monergism by those who coined the term and its intended insult, synergism. The monergists belie any intent by his LORD of interaction, of engaging the creation in bringing to fruition the rewards of grace. Man has absolutely no place in the struggle for souls from the monergist perspective. There is nothing man does in God's plan of salvation that has any worth in God's eyes, if the monergist is true. Yet, from the opening passage we see an entirely different teaching of the scriptures. In the LORDs plan of salvation, souls preach the good news of Jesus Christ so that other souls might be saved. Preachers proclaim the crucified Christ so that faith might come to unbelieving souls who lacking such faith are surely condemned. To be sure, the preacher who fails in this commission fails to see souls brought into the kingdom. Christ told us clearly that the harvest is plenteous but the laborers are few. There are souls in this world in need of salvation and one of the chief responsibilities of the preacher if not the only matter that should concern him is the preaching of the cross so that men might be saved. Christ did not merely tell us there are souls to be saved but that there are disproportionate souls to save with regard to the number of preachers and pastors needed to do this work of the LORD. This is a scriptural tearing down of that sectarian lie called monergism. The scriptures do not tell us that blessed are the feet of those who sit on their behinds resting in their theological fatalism, not at all. Instead, blessed are those who preach the Good News and seek the salvation of men.

Is there a cost of resting in monergistic fatalism? I believe there is a dire cost, an eternal damnation for some. Ezekiel brings this cost to light in the following.

Eze 33:6 But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.

There is an expectation on the part of the LORD that His servants are engaged, at the ready for service to His plans and desires. His plan of salvation is, to borrow the Calvinist slur, synergistic, the raising of men to work the desires of God in this world so that souls might be saved, made safe and secure in an otherwise dangerous and deadly world. The preacher in proper service to the LORD is the one who brings the Word of God to souls so that faith might come to such. Lacking that "synergistic" commitment and obedience, men and women perish. They do not wait for the next obedient monergistic fatalist to sit still. They perish instead. No, the preacher preaches Christ knowing with a purposed heart that if he does nothing, men go to hell. That is God's plan of salvation with regard to faith, preaching and the saving of souls.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Antinomian's Prayer by John Fletcher

A contemporary of John Wesley and his friend and spiritual fellow, John Fletcher tackled the growing antinomian tendencies of certain Calvinistic churches and advocates in his day. At times his challenging objections to what could only be defined as a lukewarm faith touched on sarcasm and intended wit. The following from his Second Check To Antinomianism is an example of such. Our Calvinist brethren would strongly object to the characterizations contained here but it is understandable to keep in mind that Fletcher was dealing with a Methodist revival in the midst of a dry anti-evangelical, mostly Calvinistic church world caught up in its liturgy with no fire in the belly. Its antinomianism offended his sensibilities as a lover of Christ and his yearning to preach His Good News.


"'Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' Had we seen thee, dear Lord, in any distress, how gladly would we have relieved thy wants! Numbers can witness how well we spoke of thee and thy righteousness: it was all our boast. Bring it out in this important hour. Hide not the Gospel of thy free grace. We always delighted in pure doctrine, in salvation without any condition; especially without the condition of WORKS. Stand, gracious Lord, stand by us, and the preachers of thy free grace, who made us hope thou wouldest confirm their word.

"While they taught us to call thee, Lord! Lord! they assured us that love would constrain us to do good works; but finding no inward constraint to entertain strangers, visit the sick, and relieve prisoners, we did it not; supposing we were not called thereto. They continually told us, ' human righteousness was mere filth before thee; and we could not appear, but to our everlasting shame, in any righteousness but thine in the day of judgment.' As to works, we were afraid of doing them, lest we should have 'worked out' abomination instead of' our salvation.'

"And indeed, Lord, what need was there of our 'working it out?' For they perpetually assured us, it was finished; saying, If we did anything toward it, we worked for life, fell from grace like the bewitched Galatians, spoiled thy perfect work, and exposed ourselves to the destruction which awaits yonder trembling Pharisees.

"They likewise assured us, that all depended on THY decrees; and if we could but firmly believe our election, it was a sure sign we were interested in thy salvation. We did so; and now, Lord, for the sake of a few dung works we have omitted, let not our hope perish! Let not electing and everlasting love fail! Visit our offences with a rod, but take not thy loving kindness altogether from us; and break not David's covenant, 'ordered in all things and sure,' of which we have so often made our boast.

"May it please thee also to consider, that if we did not love and assist some of those whom thou callest thy brethren, it was because they appeared to us so exceeding legal; so strongly set against free grace, that we judged them to be Obstinate Pharisees, and dangerous reprobates. We therefore thought, that, in hating and opposing them, we did thee service, and walked in thy steps. For thou hast said, 'It is enough if the servant is as his Lord:' and supposing 'thou didst hate them,' as thou dost Satan; we thought we need not be more righteous than thou, by loving them more than thou didst.

"O suffer us to speak on, and tell thee, we were champions for thy free grace. Like true Protestants, we could have burned against the doctrine of a second justification by works. Let then 'grace' justify us 'freely without works.' Shut those books, filled with the account of our deeds, open the arms of thy mercy, and receive us just as we are.

"If free grace cannot justify us alone, let faith do it, together with free grace. We do believe finished salvation, Lord; we can join in the most evangelical creeds, and are ready to confess the virtue of thy atoning blood. But if thou sayest, we have 'trampled it under foot, and made it a common thing,' grant us our last request, and it is enough.

"Cut out the immaculate garment of 'thy righteousness' into robes that may fit us all, and put them upon us by imputation: so shall our nakedness be gloriously covered. We confess we have not dealt our bread to the hungry; but impute to us thy feeding five thousand people with loaves and fishes. We have seldom given drink to the thirsty, and often 'put our bottle' to those who were not athirst; but impute to us thy turning water into wine, to refresh the guests at the marriage feast in Cana; and thy loud call, 'in the last day of the feast at Jerusalem: If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink!' We never supposed it was our duty to 'be given to hospitality:' but impute to us thy loving invitations to strangers, thy kind assurances of receiving 'all that come to thee;' thy comfortable promises of 'casting out none,' and of feeding them even with thy 'flesh and blood.' We did not clothe the naked as we had opportunity and ability;- but impute to us thy patient parting with thy seamless garment for the benefit of thy murderers. We did not visit sick beds and prisons, we were afraid of fevers, and especially of the jail distemper; but compassionately impute to us thy visiting Jairus' daughter, and Peter's wife's mother, who lay sick of a fever; and put to our account thy visiting putrefying Lazarus in the offensive prison of the grave.

"Thy imputed righteousness, Lord, can alone answer all the demands of thy law and Gospel. We did not dare to fast; we should have been called legal and Papists if we had; but thy forty days' fasting in the wilderness, and thy continual abstinence, imputed to us, will be self denial enough to justify us ten times over. We did not 'take up our cross;' but impute to us thy 'carrying THINE;' and even fainting under the oppressive load. We did not 'mortify the deeds of the flesh, that we might live:' this would have been evidently working for life; but impute to us the crucifixion of thy body, instead of our 'crucifying our flesh, with its affections and lusts.' We hated private prayer; but impute to us thy love of that duty, and the prayer thou didst offer upon a mountain all night. We have been rather hard to forgive; but that defect will be abundantly made up if thou impute to us thy forgiving of the dying thief: and, if that will not do, add, we beseech thee, the merit of that good saying of thine, ' Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.' We have cheated the king of his customs; but no matter; only impute to us thy exact paying of the tribute money, together with thy good advice, ' Render unto Cesar the things which are Caesar's.'

"It is true, we have brought up our children in vanity, and thou never hadst any to bring up. May not thy mercy find out an expedient, and impute to us, instead of it, thy obedience to thy parents? And if we have received the sacrament unworthily, and thou canst not cover that sin with thy worthy receiving, indulge us with the imputation of thy worthy institution of it, and that will do yet better.

"In short, Lord, own us freely as thy children. Impute to us thy perfect righteousness. Cast it as a cloak upon us to cover our filthy souls and polluted bodies. We will have no righteousness but thine. Make no mention, we beseech thee, of our righteousness and personal holiness; they are but" filthy rags," which thy purity forbids thee to take into heaven; therefore accept us without, and we shall shout, Free grace! Imputed righteousness! and finished salvation! to eternity."

Extracted from John Fletcher's Second Check to Antinomianism

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Am I Predestined To Be An Arminian?

It's a relevant question to ask. Those who are predisposed to a determinist viewpoint seem to have trouble with this inquiry. It strikes them as odd or perhaps insincere, even hypocritical in some manner. Now, for those who find no shortage of opportunity to denigrate non-Calvinists and deny their position in Christ, it's an easy question to find an answer to. "Of course you were predestined to be an Arminian" they would state. "It's part and parcel of the reprobate life!". Such souls have no real place in the discussion for their minds are predisposed to attacking the body of Christ in any event without realizing the grievous harm they cause themselves and others. For those who profess a fellowship with their Arminian brethren, there is another quandary unrelated to the hatred and avarice of their hyper-Calvinistic fellows.

I began this inquiry after seeing the question stated by another Christian in an on-line fellowship recently. It seemed that the Calvinists he encountered struggled to answer the question directly and instead avoided a commitment to addressing what strikes me as almost an overly simplistic examination. For those who profess a love for Arminian brethren and hold tenaciously to hard determinism or it's very close cousin, compatibalism, the LORD ordains or purposes every action in this world, either through primary or secondary causes. As such the LORD places souls in the circumstances we find ourselves, each of us serving to bring greater glory to God either through the love of Christ or the travails of reprobation. Of course I find such thoughts to be near reprehensible, at best a spiritually poor understanding of the character of God who is Love, Justice. It brings the stench of sin into Glory were it ever true. Even still, the moderate Calvinist, as he must be termed, struggles to answer the question with a great deal of heartfelt forwardness. If I am deemed to be predestined to the Arminian faith and still held as a saint in Christ, there must be a tiered fellowship in the Calvinist mindset.

Calvinist Elitism

A rather contentious young Calvinist addressed my inquiry by responding with the following comment.

It's the rebellious nature within us all ... we're all natively Pelagian, and then Arminian ... and then we are shown the sovereingty of God in all things. So yes, you are predestined to be an Arminian, for that is where God has you -- at least for now.

This raises a rather serious concern regarding sanctification and the relationship some Calvinists believe they have with the LORD. I followed the young Calvinist's comment with a further inquiry asking if he was not "setting the stage for an elitist hierarchy not supported in scripture by suggesting that Arminians and non-Calvinists are left in this rebellious state (within the body of Christ) while Calvinists have been gifted with a greater intellectual and spiritual understanding?". Without drawing upon all the exchange, his defense was principally one of a renewal of the mind suggesting that the Apostle Paul was instructing a doctrine of gifted intellect with Calvinists being the recipients of such gifts as evidenced by their unique teachings. The renewing of the mind argument strikes me as quite odd in that the teaching by Paul really has nothing to do with intellectual grasp. The renewing of the mind has nothing to do with intellectualism and everything to do with changing and keeping the focus of our entire being on Christ rather than the wiles of the world. You only grow in Christ by being one with Him, your faith focused entirely on Him and your desires shaped by a mind that loves Christ. It is a contrast between a worldly focus and one that is dedicated to serving the LORD. That takes a new and continuing mindset on the things of Christ. Nonetheless, it remains striking that Calvinists can be taught in their churches and fellowships the startling falsehood that growth in Christ and sanctification as lovers of the LORD is found rooted in the numerically superior creases of the cerebrum.

Rebellion Against the Ordinations of God

Curiously, the same group of Calvinists offers another response to the question, one that suggests a contrast with one of their cherished doctrines. If Arminians and non-Calvinists are in a state of rebellion and I am rebelling against the predestining of God or His ordaining what I am, then how do Calvinists reconcile that with their refusal of a freed will in man to pursue a course different than that desired by God? Aside from wishing to, in the words of an old cliché, have their cake and eat it too by stating we are both in rebellion and less gifted then they (one cancels the other logically), the ability of redeemed man to rebel against the desires of God comes against several Calvinist thoughts, irresistible grace, deterministic ordination being the two principles. It strikes me as more important to the discussion that this latter issue is avoided than having the original question addressed. Stating that non-Calvinists are in rebellion to the LORD while hoisting themselves as more intellectually gifted than most of the body of Christ is the epitome of haughty arrogance rather than a demonstration of a mind renewed in Christ and prepared for the meek and humble service of Christ.

For now the question is answered. The LORD has predestined that I remain Arminian and in the state of the Calvinist mind, He has ordained my rebellion and smoothed the crevasses of my cerebrum and kept humble the growth of my hippocampus. If only now in my growing age as an Arminian, the LORD would reverse the growth of my prostate, I could be the complete piss and vinegar Arminian man.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kangaroodort has a great post over on Arminian Perspectives entitled Never Really Saved To Begin With. He takes a tongue in cheek look at the mythical responses our Calvinist brethren present when encountering scriptural positions opposed to their perserverence doctrines. 

While I am at it, Thru Faith has an interesting post regarding the true unlimited nature of the atonement of Christ entitled Atonement for All.

Of course, SEA continues providing a broad resource for those Christians interested in understanding the orthodox and historic positions of the Body of Christ.

As always, William Birch at Classical Arminianism continues with his regularly thoughtful posts exloring classical Arminianism and our Calvinist brethrens near constant misrepresentation of what most saints in Christ believe.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ben Witherington has a great short article on his blog entitled HERMENEUTICS—WHAT IS IT, AND WHY DO BIBLE READERS NEED IT? This is one of those enjoyable reads that I bookmark to return to again and again. We sometimes lose sight of our purpose in reading the scriptures and need to turn back onto a proper method of understanding our journey.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Foster’s Objections to Calvinism

As with our current age, the 19th century saw an increase of Calvinist intrusion and misrepresentation of much of the body of Christ. The Rev Randolph Foster penned several letters addressing the aberrant doctrines of the various Calvinist sects and they were presented in a bound volume entitled Objections to Calvinism. In this day when Christians are being seduced to the miry ground of Calvinist thought, it might be appropriate to resurrect these volumes of Christian reflection. There are several works by devout men that we should try to keep in front of us knowing that each generation of saints brings a work of the LORD that each of us can benefit by. The following is the introduction to Foster's volume.

THE SUBJECT OF PREDESTINATION has, for many ages, engaged the attention of theologians and philosophers. That the world is governed by fixed and permanent laws is evident, even to the casual observer. But by whom those laws are established and how far they extend have been matters of controversy. In the Christian world, all admit that the will of God is the great source of law. In the arrangements of the vast systems of worlds, as well as in the formation of the earth with all its varied tribes, we recognize the hand of him who doeth "his will in the heavens above and in the earth beneath." All acknowledge the existence of a Divine decree; but questions arise. Do all things thus come to pass? Are human actions the result of laws as fixed and unalterable as those which govern the movements of the planets? Is the destiny of every human being unchangeably determined before his birth without reference to foreseen conduct? Or has the mind a power of choice? Can it move freely within certain specified limits? And will the nature of its movements and choice influence its eternal happiness? These are questions which in some form have exercised the highest powers of the human intellect.

The Atheistical school of philosophers, ancient as well as modem, taught the doctrine of necessity. With them, matter is eternal; and, no designing mind superintending its movements, there must be a necessity in nature. This has been differently expressed in different ages. Sometimes it appears as the atomic theory of Democritus and Leucippus and, again, as the Pantheism of Spinoza. But, whatever form it may assume, it teaches that all actions come to pass by necessity and denies the responsibility of all beings. It annihilates the freedom of the human will and degrades intelligence to mechanism.

Another class of philosophers admits the existence of a Deity, but denies his special, superintending providence. Such imagine the great First Cause to be, according to the Hindu mythology, in a state of beatific repose; or to be employed in movements so transcendentally important that the affairs of earth are neglected; or that he is himself subject to fate.

The third great class is composed of such as not only admit the existence of God, but who worship him as the supreme Governor and as invested with all moral as well as natural perfections. They reject the doctrine of fate and all necessity, other than that which springs from the Divine decree. But they differ as to the extent of that decree. This difference has given rise to the formation of sects and parties in all ages and to controversies of the most exciting character. Milton in his Paradise Lost fancies the fallen angels engaged in discussions of this nature. They

Reasoned high

Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate;

Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge, absolute,

And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.

Such, too, has been the character of many human controversies. One party maintains that God decrees whatever comes to pass and that the number of those who are to be saved and of those who are to be lost is definitely and unalterably determined from eternity, while others teach that some actions flow from man's free will and that God gives man the power to choose between life and death--decreeing salvation to those who obey his Gospel and pronouncing death upon the disobedient--or, in other words, that characters and not persons are elected. The latter sentiment, so far as a heathen ignorant of gracious influences could perceive, is expressed by Plato when in his treatise against the Atheists he says that God "devises this in reference to the whole, namely, what kind of a situation everything which becomes of a certain quality must receive and inhabit; but the causes of becoming of such a quality, he hath left to our own wills."

The Jewish sects differed upon these as well as upon other points of doctrine. The Essenes taught predestination in its most severe form. The Sadducees held the freedom of the will in nearly the same manner as the Pelagians have since taught; while the Pharisees endeavored to combine the two systems. Prideaux says, "They ascribed to God and fate all that is done, and yet left to man the freedom of his will. But how they made these two apparent incompatibles consist together is nowhere sufficiently explained; perchance they meant no more than that every man freely chooseth what he is unalterably predestinated to. But if he be predestined to that choice, how freely soever he may seem to choose, certainly he hath no free will, because he is, according to this scheme, unalterably necessitated to all that he doth and cannot possibly, choose otherwise."

The Mohammedans were, generally, rigid predestinarians. With them, every event in nature was fixed by an absolute decree. The soldier could neither be killed nor wounded until his time had come. Hence, they acquired a recklessness of all physical danger, as well as of moral feeling. But, even with them, the mind rebelled against fatalism, and the sect of the Motazalites and portions of other sects held the freedom of the human will.

In the early ages of Christianity, the doctrine of predestination, as extending to every act and fixing the destiny of every individual without reference to foreseen faith or works, was unknown. The early fathers teach no such creed. They occasionally use the terms foreordain, predestinate, elect, etc., but they invariably use these expressions in the Scriptural signification as employed by St. Paul and not in the predestinarian, or what has since been termed the Calvinistic, sense.

This continued to be the case for the first four centuries of the Christian era; but at the commencement of the fifth century, the Pelagian controversy arose. As usual in controversies, each party ran into an extreme. Pelagius was right in teaching that God willed all men to be saved and in denying the doctrine of infant damnation which had crept into the Church; but he erred greatly in teaching man's ability, without grace, to commence a religious life or to keep the commandments of God. Augustine, perceiving his errors, held correctly that man's salvation is of grace and that, apart from grace, he has no power to commence or continue a religious career. But he erred in teaching the unconditional election to life of a part of the race and the damnation of the rest, including some infants. Augustine was sustained and his works remain to this day standards in the Catholic Church.

It must, however, be remarked that Augustine is not at all times consistent in his statements. Hence, Calvin alleges that he had attributed to foreknowledge that which pertains only to decrees. His writings thus gave rise to discussions almost interminable. During the progress of the century in which he lived, a number who were termed Predestinarians advocated the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation to the utter denial of free will. Again in the ninth century, Godeschalcus, a Saxon monk, having taught that God had predestinated some to eternal death, a violent controversy arose, heightened by what existed between him and Rabanus, who was his abbot. The doctrines of Godeschalcus were condemned by three councils, and he was cruelly cast into prison. But, afterward, his sentiments were approved by three councils, and at his death the controversy ceased.

The Dominicans, who were for many centuries among the strongest pillars of the Catholic Church and to whom the machinery of the Inquisition was committed, were strict predestinarians. So, also, were the Augustinians and the Jansenists. On the other hand, the Jesuits, who became the most indefatigable enemies of the Reformation, while they professed to believe with Augustine, yet were the advocates of free will. With all its professed unity, the Roman Church has been as much divided upon these questions as the Protestant. At present the Jesuitic theology is prevalent. They deny that they are either Calvinistic or Arminian. But, while they profess to accord with St. Augustine, they have no doubt departed far from his views.

At the time of the Reformation, the great reformers drew much from St. Augustine. Luther was an Augustinian friar, and he found the great doctrine of justification by faith so well established by that father against all opposers, that he received for a time his views on predestination also. On free-will he had a sharp contest with Erasmus, but afterward kept almost silent on these perplexing questions, and, in the latter part of his life, strongly recommended Melancthon's works, which taught a different doctrine. The Lutheran Church, receiving their impress from him, hold only a predestination based upon foreknowledge; in this, strictly agreeing with the Arminian view.

Melancthon, in the commencement of his career, was a rigid Predestinarian. In 1525, writing of the decrees, he says: "Lastly, Divine predestination takes away human liberty; for all things come to pass according to Divine predestination--not only external works, but also internal thoughts, in all creatures." He, however, in a few years changed his opinion, and struck out such passages from his works. To Cranmer he observed that there had been, among the reformers, "Stoical disputations respecting fate, offensive in their nature, and noxious in their tendency." In writing to Peucer he compares Calvin to Zeno, saying, "Laelius writes to me that the controversy respecting the Stoical fate is agitated with such uncommon fervor at Geneva, that one individual is cast into prison because he happened to differ from Zeno." And near his death, referring to the doctrines of predestination, he says they are "monstrous opinions, which are contumelious against God and pernicious to morals."

Calvin became, among the reformers, the great champion of the decrees, and hence the system bears his name. So much importance did he attach to these peculiar views that he scrupled not to apply the most opprobrious epithets to those who refused to receive them. In one of his sermons he says, "The enemies of God's predestination are stupid and ignorant, and the devil hath plucked out their eyes." Again, "Such men fight against the Holy Ghost like mad beasts and endeavor to abolish the holy Scripture. There is more honesty in the Papists than in these men; for the doctrine of the Papists is a great deal better, more holy, and more agreeable to the sacred Scriptures, than the doctrine of those vile and wicked men, who cast down God's holy election--these dogs that bark at it and swine that root it up." And in another sermon he says, "The devil hath no fitter instruments than those who fight against predestination."

Sentiments such as these, taught to the youth preparing for the ministry, could not fail to have an influence in promoting a persecuting spirit. These ministers were scattered among the reformed churches over Europe, and soon began to exhibit their disposition. Liberty of opinion was tolerated for a time; but, early in the succeeding century, the famous Synod of Dort was assembled in which the opinions of the Remonstrants or Arminians were condemned as heresy. Pious and influential ministers were banished from the land, many were thrown into prison, while some of their patrons were put to death. Macaulay well characterizes the proceedings of this synod as manifesting "gross injustice, insolence, and cruelty."

A reaction followed. Arminianism and a modified Calvinism, known afterward as Baxterianism, gained ground upon the Continent and rapidly pervaded the Anglican Church. In the days of Wesley, a strong effort was made to suppress Arminian views. Calvinism being made a test of office in the college in which they were engaged, Mr. Benson was removed, and Mr. Fletcher resigned. A distinguished clergyman, Mr. Shirley, issued a circular, requesting a meeting of ministers to go in a body to Mr. Wesley's ensuing conference and demand that he and his preachers should retract their sentiments. But, though the spirit of the Synod of Dort was aroused, the civil power to punish could not be employed. Mr. W. continued to preach, and Mr. Fletcher, in his defense, issued those masterly Checks which displayed at once his superior genius and the strength of the cause which he had espoused.

In America in early days, the religious sentiment was, generally, Calvinistic. Such churches were supported by law in the New England states until a late period. The colleges and seminaries were also principally under their control. Hence, the introduction of Methodism gave rise to numerous controversies. In the midst, however, of repeated conflicts, Arminianism has increased until now a majority of members in the Union belong to churches which reject the Calvinistic faith. Of the churches, too, which are called Calvinistic, at least one-half have embraced what is termed New School theology. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of that system, the Old School assert that it is a departure, not only to Arminianism, but to Pelagianism.

For some years past there had been a growing union among Christians; controversies were less frequent, and the Presbyterian and Methodist churches were living in peace and harmony. Recently, however, repeated attacks of the most virulent character have been made upon the doctrines and usages of the Methodist Episcopal Church. For a time this was patiently borne; but as forbearance only seemed to increase the frequency and severity of the attacks, a notice of the principles involved became necessary.

The letters contained in the present volume were written by Rev. R. S. Foster, A. M., a member of the Ohio annual conference, who has charge of Wesley Chapel in this city. A number of them appeared in the columns of the Western Christian Advocate; and, at the earnest solicitations of many readers, he was induced to present them in a more permanent form. Their style is clear and forcible, and the process of argumentation strictly logical. As the reader will perceive, he has limited himself to two principal points: first, to show what are the doctrines of Calvinism; and, secondly, to state the prominent objections to them. This work has been well executed by giving the standard authors in their own language and thus preventing any candid opponent from making the charge of misrepresentation. The book will thus be very valuable to such as have not access to extensive libraries, or who have not time to examine for themselves the various writers here quoted. The objections are distinctly and explicitly stated, and the intelligent reader will, we think, be fully convinced that they are well sustained. We commend the volume as one of great merit to such as are perplexed upon the subject of predestination. We doubt not that many, after perusing these pages, will fully acquiesce with Calvin, in terming, as he did, the decree of predestination a horrible decree.

--M. Simpson

Objections to Calvinism as it is, in a series of letters addressed to Rev. N. L. Rice: by R. S. Foster, with an appendix, containing replies and rejoinders

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Arminius on Repentance

From Arminius' Public Disputations, The Works of James Arminius, Translated from the Latin, Vols. 1 & 2 by James Nichols, Vol. 3 by W. R. Bagnall  


As in succeeding Disputations are discussed Faith, and Justification through Faith, the order which has hitherto been observed requires us now to treat on Repentance without which we can neither have fellowship with Christ, nor be made partakers of his righteousness.

1. The matter on which we are at present treating, is usually enunciated in the three Latin words, resipiscentia, paenitentia, and conversio, repentance, penitence and conversion. The Greek word, Metanoia "change of mind after reflection," answers to the first of these, terms;Metameleia"regret on account of misdeeds," to the second; and Ewisrofh "a turning about, a return," to the third. On this subject the Hebrews frequently employ the word h b w  t "a returning," as corresponding with the third of the preceding terms; and the word µ j n or h m j n which expresses the sense of the second. But though these words are, according to the essence and nature of the thing, synonymous, yet each of them signifies a particular formal conception. The First, repentance, is a conception of the understanding; the Second, penitence, a conception of the affections or passions; and the Third, conversion, is a conception of an action resulting from both the others. The general term, therefore, comprises the understanding, the affections, and an ulterior act resulting from both the preceding. The First signifies a change of mind after any thing has been done; and, after the commission of evil, a change of mind to a better state.

The Second expresses grief or sorrow of mind after a deed; and, after an evil deed, "sorrow after a godly sort," and not "the sorrow of the world," although the word is sometimes thus used even in the Scriptures. The Third denotes conversion to some thing, from which aversion had been previously formed. And, in this discussion, it is that conversion which is from evil to good; from sin, Satan and the world, to God. The First comprehends a disapproval of evil and an approval of the opposite good.

The Second comprises grief for a past evil, and an affection of desire towards a contrary good. The Third shews an aversion from the evil to which it adhered, and a conversion to the good from which it had been alienated. But these three conceptions, according to the nature of things and the command of God, are so intimately connected with each other, that there cannot be either true and right repentance, penitence, or conversion, unless each of these has the other two united with it, either as preceding it, or as succeeding.

2. According to this distinction of the various conceptions, have been invented different definitions of one and the same thing as to its essence.

For instance, "repentance is a change of mind and heart from evil to good, proceeding from godly sorrow." It is also "sorrow after the commission of sin on account of God being offended, and through this sorrow a change of the whole heart from evil to good." And "It is a true conversion of our life to God, proceeding from a sincere and serious fear of God, which consists in the mortification of our flesh and of the old man, and in the quickening of the Spirit." We disapprove of none of these three definitions, because in substance and essence they agree among themselves, and, sufficiently for [the purposes of] true piety, declare the nature of the thing. But a more copious definition may be given, such as the following: "Repentance, penitence, or conversion is an act of the entire man, by which in his understanding he disapproves of sin universally considered, in his affections he hates it, and as perpetrated by himself is sorry for it and in the whole of his life avoids it. By which he also in his understanding approves of righteousness, in affections loves it, and in the whole of his life follows after it. And thus he turns himself away from Satan and the world, and returns unto God and adheres to Him, that God may abide in him, and that he may abide in God."

3. We call repentance "the act of man," that we may distinguish it from Regeneration which is "the act of God." These two have some things in common, are on certain points in affinity; yet, in reality, according to the peculiar nature which each of them possesses, they are distinct; though, according to their subjects, they are not separated. We add that it is "the act of the entire man:" for it is his act with regard to the entire mind or soul, and all its faculties; and with regard to the body as it is united to the soul, and is an organ or instrument subjected to the pleasure and command of the soul. (1 Kings 18:37; Romans 12:1, 2.) It is an act which concerns the whole life of man as it is rational, and as it was born with an aptitude to tend towards sin and towards God, and to turn aside from either of them. It consists of the understanding, the affections, the senses, and motion, and concurs with all these conjointly, though subordinately, to [the production of] repentance, penitence or conversion.

(1.) In this act, the Understanding performs its office both by a general appreciation of its value and by its particular approbation and disapprobation.

(2.) The Affections or passions perform theirs, as they are ewiqumhtikov concupiscible, by loving, hating, mourning and rejoicing; and as they are qumoeidh", irascible, by being angry, zealous, indignant, fearful, and hopeful. (Ephesians 3 & 4.)

(3.) The Senses, both internal and external, perform their office by their aversion from unbecoming objects, and by their conversion to those which are suitable and proper. (Romans 6:13, 19.)

(4.) Lastly, the Motions of the tongue, hands, feet, and of the other members of the body, perform their office by removal from things unlawful and inexpedient, and by their application to those which are lawful and expedient.

4. The object of repentance is the evil of unrighteousness or sin, (considered both universally, and as committed by the penitent himself,) and the good of righteousness. (Psalm 34:15; Ezekiel 18:28.) The evil of unrighteousness is first in order, the good of righteousness is first in dignity. From the former, repentance has its commencement; in the latter, it terminates and rests. The object may be considered in a manner somewhat different; for, since we are commanded to return to God, from whom we had turned away, God is also the object of conversion and repentance, as he is the hater of sin and of evil men, the lover of righteousness and of righteous men, good to those who repent, and their chief good, and, on the contrary, the severe avenger and the certain destruction of those who persevere in sin. (Malachi 5:7; Zechariah 1:3; Deuteronomy 6:5.) To this object, may be directly opposed another personal object, the devil, from whom by repentance we must take our departure. (Ephesians 4:27; James 4:7.) To the devil may be added an object which is an accessory to him, and that is, the world, of which he is called "the prince," (John 12:31; 14:30,) both as it contains within it arguments suitable for Satan to employ in seduction, such as riches, honors and pleasures, (Luke 4:5, 6; 1 John 2:15, 16,) and as it renders to the devil something that resembles personal service. (Romans 6:9, 7.) In both these methods, the world attracts men to itself, and detains them after they are united to it. From it, also, we are commanded to turn away. Nay, man himself may obtain the province of an object opposed to God; and he is commanded to separate himself from himself, that he may live not according to man, but according to God. (Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9- 17; Romans 6:10-23.)

5. The primary efficient cause of repentance is God, and Christ as he is through the Spirit mediator between God and man. (Jeremiah 31:18; Ezekiel 36:25, 26; Acts 5:31; 17:30.) The inly moving cause is the goodness, grace, and philanthropy of God our creator and redeemer, who loves the salvation of his creature, and desires to manifest the riches of his mercy in the salvation of his miserable creature. (Romans 11:5.) The outwardly moving cause, through the mode of merit, is the obedience, the death and the intercession of Christ; (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Corinthians 1:30, 31; 2 Corinthians 5:21;) and, through the mode of moving to mercy, it is the unhappy condition of sinners, whom the devil holds captive in the snares of iniquity, and who will perish by their own demerits according to the condition of the law, and necessarily according to the will of God manifested in the gospel, unless they repent (John 3:16; Ezekiel 16:3-63; Luke 13:3, 5; Isaiah 31:6; Jeremiah 3:14; Psalm 119:71; in the prophets passim; Romans 7:6, 7.)

6. The proximate, yet less principal cause, is man himself, converted and converting himself by the power and efficacy of the grace of God and the Spirit of Christ. The external cause inciting to repent is the miserable state of the sinners who do not repent, and the felicitous and blessed state of those who repent — whether such state be known from the law of Moses or from that of nature, from the gospel or from personal experience, or from the examples of other persons who have been visited with the most grievous plagues through impenitence, or who, through repentance, have been made partakers of many blessings. (Romans 2:5; Acts 2:37.) The internal and inly moving cause is, not only a consciousness of sin and a sense of misery through fear of the Deity, who has been offended, with a desire to be delivered from both, but it is likewise [an incipient] faith and hope of the gracious mercy and pardon of God.

7. The instrumental causes which God ordinarily uses for our conversion, and by which we are solicited and led to repentance, are the law and the gospel. Yet the office of each in this matter is quite distinct, so that the more excellent province in it is assigned to the gospel, and the law acts the part of its servant or attendant. For, in the first place, the very command to repent is evangelical; and the promise of pardon, and the peremptory threat of eternal destruction, unless the man repents, which are added to it, belong peculiarly to the gospel. (Matthew 3:1; Mark 1:4; Luke 24:47.) But the law proves the necessity of repentance, by convincing man of sin and of the anger of the offended Deity, from which conviction arise a certain sorrow and a fear of punishment, which, in its commencement is servile or slavish solely through a regard to the law, but which, in its progress, becomes a filial fear through a view of the gospel. (Romans 3:13, 20; 7:7.)

From these, also, proceed, by the direction of an inducement to remove, or repent, a certain external abstinence from evil works, and such a performance of some righteousness as is not hypocritical. (Matthew 3:8; 7:17; James 2:14-26.) But as the law does not proceed beyond "the ministration of death and of the letter," the services of the gospel here again become necessary, which administers the Spirit, by whose illumination, inspiration and gracious and efficacious strengthening, repentance itself, in its essential and integral parts is completed and perfected. Nay the very conviction of sin belongs in some measure to the gospel, since sin itself has been committed against the command both concerning faith and repentance. (Mark 16:16; John 16:8-15.)

8. There are likewise other causes aiding or auxiliary to repentance, some of which are usually employed by God himself, and others of them by those who are penitent.

(1.) For God sometimes sends the cross and afflictions, by which, as with goads, he excites and invites to repentance. At other times, he visits them with the contrary blessings, that he may lead them, after having been invited, by goodness and lenity to repentance. (1 Corinthians 11:32; Jeremiah 31:18; Psalm 80 & 85.)

(2.) The causes employed by penitents themselves are watching, fasting, and other corporeal chastisements, as well as prayers, which are of the greatest efficacy in obtaining and performing repentance. The other causes employed by men are likewise serviceable in exciting the ardor of these prayers. (Psalm 119; Romans 2:4; 5:3, 4; 12:11, 12.) It is possible for this relation to exist between these auxiliary and the preceding instrumental causes, (§ 7,) that the auxiliary causes are subservient to the instrumental, since they excite men to a serious and assiduous meditation on the law and the gospel, and by the grace of God obtain yet more and more a right understanding of both.

9. The form of repentance is the uprightness of the turning away from evil, and of the return to God and to righteousness. It is conformed to the rule of the divine command, and is produced by an assured faith and hope of the divine mercy, and by a sincere intention to turn away and to return. As the penitence of Saul, Ahab and Judas was destitute of this uprightness, it is unworthy to be reckoned under this title. (1 Samuel 15:24, 25; 1. Kings, 21:27; Matthew 27:3.) But since the mind of the penitent is conscious to itself of this rectitude, or uprightness, no necessity exists for such a man anxiously and solicitously to examine whether it be so great, either intensively, extensively, or appreciatively, as the rigor of justice might demand.

10. The fruits of repentance, which may also have the relation of ends, are,

(1.) On the part of God, the remission of sin according to the condition of the covenant of grace in Christ, and on account of his obedience, and through faith in him. (Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31; Romans 3:24:.

(2.) On our part, the fruits are good works, which are "meet for repentance," (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8,) and "which God foreordained," that believers and penitents, who are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10.)

The ultimate end is the glory of God the Redeemer, who is at once just and merciful in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Revelation 16:9.) It results not only from the gracious and efficacious act of God, who bestows repentance, and converts us to himself; but likewise from the act of the penitents themselves, by which turning themselves away from sins, and returning to God, they "walk in newness of living" all the days of their life. It also results from the very intention of repentance itself.

11. The parts of repentance, as is abundantly evident from the preceding Theses, according to its two boundaries, (both that from which it commences, and that towards which it proceeds and in which it terminates,) are two, an aversion, or turning away from the Devil and sin, and a conversion or returning to God and righteousness. (Psalm 34:14; Jeremiah 4:1.) They are united together by an indissoluble connection; but the former is preparatory to the latter, while the latter is perfective of the former. The Papists, however, make penitence to consist of three parts; and seem to derive greater pleasure from employing the word penitence about this matter, than in the use of the terms repentance and conversion.

Their three parts are, the contrition of the heart, the confession of the mouth, and the satisfaction of the work; about which we make two brief affirmations.

(1.) If these be received as parts of the penitence which is necessary before God, then no contrition can be so great, either intensively or appreciatively, as to be in any wise either meritorious or capable of obtaining remission of sins. No confession of the mouth, not even that which is made to God, (provided the confession of the heart only be present,) is necessary to receive remission; much less is the confession which is made to any man, even though he be a priest. And there is no satisfaction, except the obedience of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the justice of God can be satisfied either for sin or for its punishment, even for the very least of either. (Acts 4:12; Hebrews 10:10, 14; 1 Corinthians 1:30.)

(2.) If these be received as part of the penitence to which, before the church, that man submits who has injured her by scandal, that he may render her satisfaction and may contribute to her edification; then indeed those words, [contrition, confession and satisfaction,] may bear an accommodated sense, and such a distribution of them may be useful to the church.

12. The contrary to repentance is impenitence, and a pertinacious perseverance in sinning: of which there are two degrees, one the delay of penitence, the other final impenitence unto death. The latter of them has a certain expectation of eternal destruction, even according to the most merciful will of God revealed in Christ and in the Gospel; lest any one should persuade himself, that the devils themselves, and men who have passed their lives in impiety, will at length experience the mercy of God.

The former of them, the delay of penitence, is marvelously dangerous, for three reasons:

(1.) Because it is in the power and hand of God to make even the delay of a single hour to be a final impenitence, since to Him belongs the dominion and lordship over our life and death.

(2.) Because after a habit of sinning has been introduced by daily exercise, a man is rendered anaisqhtov" incapable of feeling, and his conscience becomes "seared with a hot iron." (1 Timothy 4:2.)

(3.) Because, after the gate of grace has by the just judgment of God been closed on account of a malicious continuance in sins, no passage is open for the Spirit, who is necessarily the author of repentance. Therefore let these words always resound in our ears,

"Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." (Hebrews 3:7, 8; Psalm 95:7, 8.)

And this exhortation of the Apostle,

"Workout your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure," (Philippians 2:12, 13.)

May this be graciously granted to us by God the Father of mercies, in the Son of his love, by the Holy Spirit of both of them. To whom be praise and glory forever. Amen.


It is not a correct saying, that "to those who relapse after having been baptized, penitence is a second plank [for their escape] after shipwreck." Those persons act harshly who, from the example of God not pardoning sins except to him that is penitent, refuse to forgive their brother unless he confesses his fault, and earnestly begs pardon.

The Works of James Arminius