Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Premised Question Easily Addressed

While readying myself this morning I was browsing through a couple of blogs and a discussion board and came across an inquiry of sorts that seems to beg an entire issue rather than just a question. "Can anything come to pass that God has not first ordained and predestined"? There were not many answers to choose from in this Calvinist "poll with those who respond choosing between yes and no. Of course in replying, an answer can be provided but it is the mindset fueling such inquiries that captures my interest. In replying no, one is forced to marry ordain and predestination in an inseparable union that is inappropriate to any context of the two terms. By replying yes, one becomes subject to frivolous charges of open theism or a libertine excess. Even with an example provided there is a certainty of neophyte responses that become as absurd as ill-thought. One respondent pointing to Jeremiah 19:5 is met with what was intended as derision but upon reflection was actually a confirmation of his point. I do not believe the poor soul who replied with derision has a clue that he essentially declared Jeremiah to be stating precisely what the example was intended to present, that the LORD does not ordain every single event of human activity in the sense of commanding or ordering it, setting it's stage. It seems an innocuous question at first glance until it is realized that a denial serves as the foundation of the Calvinist paradigm. Replying with yes when substantiated drives a splitting wedge into that foundation.

The Calvinist mind or rather his theological premise fascinates me to some degree. Some of these souls cling to a supralapsarian position (the premise of the question itself) while others hold to infra or sublapsarian viewpoints. With the case of the Calvinist who posits the original question, he has claimed in the past to be infralapsarian which brings even greater perplexity if not outright humor to the discussion. How can all things have been ordained and predestined if the LORD did not ordain and predestine the fall of man (opposed to the supralapsarian view holding the fall was ordained and predetermined)? Yes, it is a confusing soup, a Bouillabaisse ladled with dangerous bones (see here for a brief discussion of lapsarian views).

Now, back to the question "Can anything come to pass that God has not first ordained and predestined?". The answer is easily yes. The bible speaks of predestination in a very limited sense applying the term only to those in Christ and in addressing the conforming of our minds and image to Christ. It is a predestining to Glory for those who abide in Him and He in us. We are in a very real sense predestined to becoming truly one in Him. It would be scripturally inappropriate to state that the LORD predestined the wearing of my brown shoes rather than the black wingtips this morning. It would be equally out of place from a Biblicist perspective to state that the LORD did predestinate the selection of my breakfast cereals opposed to the eggs and bacon I can only wish to enjoy at this point in my life. Let's keep this in perspective. The LORD does order my steps (Psalm 119:133). He does know the number of hairs upon my head. He does have a plan for my life. The ordering of my steps is a Hebrew idiom, the expectation of one who is faithful to the calling of the LORD. It also does not remove a straying from that ordering, a disobedience to the call of the LORD and willful and sinful removal from what the LORD desires of His saints.

Let's consider the following example provided in the discussion thread.

"And say, Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle. Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter." (Jer 19:3-6 AV)

Clearly, the LORD did not ordain nor predestine the people to do what He Himself states clearly He did not command nor even form in His mind. This is not an attack upon His omniscience. Instead it is an affirmation of His foreknowledge. Yet it is a scriptural refutation of the premised question. The LORD has not ordained and predestined every action of man in this world. In fact it is irrefutable by the very word of God Himself, "…I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind". The object of this statement by the LORD is the burning of children as offerings to Baal meaning that the LORD never purposed or ordained these actions to occur (even though being omniscient He was fully aware of every transgression they did as well as our own here today).

"Can anything come to pass that God has not first ordained and predestined"? When asked this question directly, the scripturally consistent Christian can only answer affirmatively rather than step into the error of the Determinist.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Our Holy And Sinless LORD

"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2Co 5:18-21 AV)

Having recently turned my attention away from the heretical teachings of the Word-Faith sects (Hagin, Copeland, Dollar, Meyer etc.) in order to focus on my own Arminianism and those who misrepresent it, I was drawn back by this passage above. Our Word-Faith (WOF) fellows often present the LORD as one who literally became sin at Calvary and miss the importance of what is being stated. Rather than diminish the deity of Jesus Christ in having Him assume the nature of Satan (Hagin) God Himself in Christ was doing what we mere sinful men could not; reconciling sinful man to Himself. He was being our substitute at Calvary and in a very real sense our representative. The LORD was being made a sin offering in keeping with the fulfillment of the Old Testament type and shadow of God's plan of redemption. It was never the LORD's plan to become sinful and wretched. Instead it was His plan from before the foundations of the world to offer Himself as a pleasing and well accepted sacrifice to the Father on our behalf having never succumbed to sin, holy and righteous in every way before, during and after His Passion at Calvary.



1. God never decreed to elect any man to eternal life, or to reprobate him from it, by his mere will and pleasure, without any regard to his foreseen obedience or disobedience, in order to demonstrate the glory of his mercy and justice, or of his power or absolute dominion.

2. As the decree of God concerning both the salvation and the destruction of every man is not the decree of an end absolutely fixed, it follows that neither are such means subordinated to that decree as through them both the elect and the reprobate may efficaciously and inevitably be brought to the destined end.

3. Wherefore, neither did God with this design in one man, Adam, create all men in an upright condition, nor did he ordain the fall or even its permission, nor did he withdraw from Adam necessary and sufficient grace, nor does he now cause the Gospel, to be preached and men to be outwardly called, nor does he confer on them the gifts of the Holy Spirit,-(he has done none of these things with the design) that they should be means by which he might bring some of mankind to life everlasting, and leave others of them destitute of eternal life. Christ the Mediator is not only the executor of election, but also the foundation of the very decree of election itself. The reason why some men are efficaciously called, justified, persevere in faith, and are glorified, is not because they are absolutely elected to life eternal: nor is the reason why others are deserted and left in the fall, have not Christ bestowed upon them, or, farther, why they are inefficaciously called, are hardened and damned, because these men are absolutely reprobated from eternal life.

4. God has not decreed, without the intervening of actual sins, to leave by far the greater part of mankind in the fall, and excluded from all hope of salvation.

5. God has ordained that Christ shall be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; and, in virtue of this decree, he has determined to justify and save those who believe in him, and to administer to men the means which are necessary and sufficient for faith, in such a manner as he knows to be befitting his wisdom and justice. But he has not in any wise determined, in virtue of an absolute decree, to give Christ as a Mediator for the elect only, and to endow them alone with faith through an effectual call, to justify them, to preserve them in the faith, and to glorify them.

6. Neither is any man by some absolute antecedent decree rejected from life eternal, nor from means sufficient to attain it: so that the merits of Christ, calling, and all the gifts of the Spirit, are capable of profiting all men for their salvation, and are in reality profitable to all men, unless by an abuse of these blessings they pervert them to their own destruction. But no man whatever is destined to unbelief, impiety, or the commission of sin, as the means and causes of his damnation.

7. The election of particular persons is absolute, from consideration of their faith in Jesus Christ and their perseverance, but not without consideration of their faith and of their perseverance in true faith as a prerequisite condition in electing them.

8. Reprobation from eternal life is made according to the consideration of preceding unbelief and perseverance in the same, but not without consideration of preceding unbelief or perseverance in it.

9. All the children of believers are sanctified in Christ; so that not one of them perishes who departs out of this life prior to the use of reason. But no children of believers who depart out of this life in their infancy and before they have in their own persons committed any sin, are on any account to be reckoned in the number of the reprobate! So as that neither the sacred laver of baptism is, nor are the prayer of the Church, by any means capable of profiting them to salvation.

10. No children of believers who have been baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Ghost, and while in the state of infancy, are by an absolute decree numbered among the reprobate.


1. The price of redemption which Christ offered to his Father is in and of itself not only sufficient for the redemption of the whole human race, but it has also, through the decree, the will, and the grace of God the Father, been paid for all men and every man; and therefore no one is by an absolute and antecedent decree of God positively excluded from all participation in the fruits of the death of Christ.

2. Christ, by the merit of his death, has thus far reconciled God the Father to the whole of mankind, -that he can and will, without injury to his justice and truth, enter into and establish a new covenant of grace with sinners and men obnoxious to damnation.

3. Though Christ has merited for all men and for every man reconciliation with God and forgiveness of sins, yet, according to the tenor or terms of the new and gracious covenant, no man is in reality made a partaker of the benefits procured by the death of Christ in any other way than through faith; neither are the trespasses and offenses of sinful men forgiven prior to their actually and truly believing in Christ.

4. Those only for whom Christ has died are obliged to believe that Christ has died for them. But those whom they call reprobates, and for who Christ has not died, can neither be obliged so to believe, nor can they be justly condemned for the contrary unbelief; but if such persons were reprobates, they would be obliged to believe that Christ has not died for them.


1. Man has not saving faith from and of himself, nor has he it from the powers of his own free will; because in a state of sin he is able for and of himself to think, will, or do nothing that is good, nothing that is indeed savingly good; of which description., in the first place, is saving faith. But it is necessary that, by God in Christ through his Holy Spirit, he should be regenerated and renewed in his understanding, affections, will, and in all his powers, that he may be capable of rightly understanding, meditating, willing, and performing such things as are savingly good.

2. We propound the grace of God to be the beginning, the progress, and the completion of every good thing; so that even the man who is born again is not able without this preceding and prevenient, this exciting and following, this accompanying and co-operating grace, to think, to will, or to perform any good, or to resist any temptations to evil: so that good works, and the good actions which any one is able to find out by thinking, are to be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ.

3. Yet we do not believe that all the zeal, care, study, and pains, which are employed to obtain salvation, before faith and the Spirit of renovation, are vain and useless; much less do we believe that they are more hurtful to man than profitable. But, on the contrary, we consider that to hear the word of God, to mourn on account of the commission of sin, and earnestly to seek and desire saving grace and the Spirit of renovation, (none of which is any man capable of doing without Divine grace,) are not only not hurtful and useless, but that they are rather most useful and exceedingly necessary for obtaining faith and the Spirit of renovation.

4. The will of man in a lapsed or fallen state, and before the call of God, has not the capability and liberty of willing any good that is of a saving nature, and therefore we deny that the liberty of willing as well what is a saving good as what is an evil, is present to the human will in every state or condition.

5. Efficacious grace, by which any man is converted, is not irresistible: and though God so affects the will of man by his word and the inward operation of his Spirit, as to confer upon him a capability of believing , or supernatural power, and actually causes man to believe; yet man is of himself capable to spurn and reject this grace, and not believe; and, therefore, also, to perish through his own culpability.

6. Although, according to the most free and unrestrained will of God, there is very great disparity or inequality of Divine grace, yet the Holy Spirit either bestows, or is ready to bestow, upon all and upon every one to whom the word of faith is preached, as much grace as is sufficient to promote in its gradations the conversion of men; and therefore grace sufficient for faith and conversion is conceded not only to those who God is said to be willing to save according to his decree of absolute election, but likewise to those who are in reality not converted.

7. Man is able, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to do more good than he actually does, and to omit more evil than he actually omits. Neither do we believe that God absolutely wills that man should do no more good than that which he does, and to omit no more evil than that which he omits; nor do we believe it to have been determinately decreed from all eternity that each of such acts should be so done or omitted.

8. Whomsoever God calls, he calls them seriously, that is, with a sincere and not with a dissembled intention and will of saving them. Neither do we subscribe to the opinion of those persons who assert that God outwardly calls certain men whom he does not will to call inwardly, that is, whom he is unwilling to be truly converted, even prior to their rejection of the grace of calling.

9. There is not in God a secret will of that kind which is so opposed to his will revealed in his word, that according to this same secret will he does not will the conversion and salvation of the greatest part of those whom, by the word of his Gospel, and by his revealed will, he seriously calls and invites to faith and salvation.

10. Neither on this point do we admit of a holy dissimulation, as it is the manner of some men to speak, or of a twofold person in the Deity.

11. It is not true that, through the force and efficacy of the secret will of God or of the Divine decree, not only are all good things necessarily done, but likewise all evil things; so that whosoever commit sin, they are not able, in respect of the Divine decree, to do otherwise than commit sin; and that God wills, decrees, and is the manager of men's sins, and of their insane, foolish, and cruel actions, also of the sacrilegious blasphemy of his own name; that he moves the tongues of men to blaspheme, etc.

12. We also consider it to be a false and horrible dogma, that God by secret means impels men to the commission of those sins which he openly prohibits; that those who sin do not act in opposition to the true will of God, and that which is properly so called; that what is unjust, that is, what is contrary to God's command, is agreeable to his will; nay, farther, that it is a real and capital fault to do the will of God.


1. The perseverance of believers in faith is not the effect of that absolute decree of God by which he is said to have elected or chosen particular persons circumscribed with no condition of their obedience.

2. God furnishes true believers with supernatural powers or strength of grace, as much as according to his infinite wisdom he judges to suffice for their perseverance, and for their overcoming the temptations of the devil, the flesh, and the world; and on the part of God stands nothing to hinder them from persevering.

3. It is possible for true believers to fall away from true faith, and to fall into sins of such a description as cannot consist with a true and justifying faith; nor is it only possible for them thus to fall, but such lapses not infrequently occur.

4. True believers are capable by their own fault of falling into flagrant crimes and atrocious wickedness, to persevere and die in them, and therefore finally to fall away and to perish.

5. Yet though true believers sometimes fall into grievous sins, and such as destroy the conscience, we do not believe that they immediately fall away from all hope of repentance; but we acknowledge this to be an event not impossible to occur, -that God, according to the multitude of his mercies, may again call them by his grace to repentance; nay, we are of opinion that such a recalling has often occurred, although such fallen believers cannot be "most fully persuaded" about this matter, that it will certainly and undoubtedly take place.

6. Therefore do we with our whole heart and soul reject the following dogmas, which are daily affirmed in various publications extensively circulated among the people, namely: (1.) "True believers cannot possibly sin with deliberate counsel and design, but only through ignorance and infirmity." (2.) "It is impossible for true believers, through any sins of theirs, to fall away from the grace of God." (3.) "A thousand sins, nay, all the sins of the whole world, are not capable of rendering election vain and void." If to this be added, "Men of every description are bound to believe that they are elected to salvation, and therefore are incapable of falling from that election," we leave men to think what a wide window such a dogma opens to carnal security. (4.) "No sins, however great and grievous they may be, are imputed to believers; nay, farther, all sins, both present and future, are remitted to them." (5.) "Though true believers fall into destructive heresies, into dreadful and most atrocious sins, such as adultery and murder, on account of which the Church, according to the institution of Christ, is compelled to testify that it cannot tolerate them in its outward communion, and that unless such persons be converted, they will have no part in the kingdom of Christ; yet it is impossible for them totally and finally to fall away from faith."

7. As a true believer is capable at the present time of being assured concerning the integrity of his faith and conscience, so he is able and ought to be at this time assured of this own salvation and of the saving good will of God toward him. On this point we highly disapprove of the opinion of the Papists.

8. A true believer, respecting the time to come, can and ought, indeed, to be assured that he is able, by means of watching, prayer, and other holy exercises, to persevere in the true faith; and that Divine grace will never fail to assist him in persevering. But we cannot see how it is possible for him to be assured that he will never afterward be deficient in his duty, but that he will persevere, in this school of Christian warfare, in the performance of acts of faith, piety, and charity, as becomes believers; neither do we consider it to be a matter of necessity that a believer should be assured of such perseverance.


1. God is moreover to be considered distinctly in three persons or substances, as he has exhibited himself in the word of God, and as such to be known and contemplated by us. This Trinity of persons is known to us as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. One of these Divine persons or hypostases in the Godhead is avaitios, that is, unoriginated or unbegotten; the other begotten or generated by the Father, or the Father's only begotten; and the other proceeding alike and emanating from the Father by the Son.

2. The father alone is underived or unbegotten, but hath from all eternity communicated his own Divinity to his only begotten Son, made a Son, not indeed by creation, as angels were made the sons of God; not be adoption, as we, who are believers, are constituted sons of God; nor merely by a gracious communication of Divine might or glory as being mediator, but by a real, though mysterious and ineffable, generation; and also to the Holy Spirit, who hath, from all eternity, proceeded from both, by an incomprehensible emanation or spirationem. Therefore the Father is justly held to be the fountain or original of the whole Deity.

3. The Son, therefore, and Holy Spirit, as to their real being or substance, are truly distinct from the Father; nevertheless, they are really partakes of the same Godhead and absolutely distinguished by the same Divine essence with the Father, which appears most evident from the holy Scripture giving them the same titles, and attributing to them the same properties as to the Father. Hence the Apostles' Creed on this subject, which we cordially believe, and whose declarations we adopt; that is, we "believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, etc. - And in the Holy Ghost, etc."

4. The above declarations are sufficient in relation to this holy mystery, a subject which we think it is expedient and becoming always to treat with modesty, prudence, and religious reverence; and we hold it to be the safest course, when speaking of this profound subject, to express ourselves, as much as possible, in the very words, and according to the mode and phrases in which it is presented to us by the Holy Ghost himself, seeing that the Spirit of God himself must best know himself, and is the most capable of stating and exhibiting his own nature and being; and so far as it was necessary to be declared and revealed, it has pleased him to reveal it to us. It is therefore especially becoming of us, that with reverence, humility, and devout feeling, we follow the mode thus presented to us of speaking on this subject, until we be permitted to see God face to face, when in the glory of that bright and celestial world, he will perfectly make known himself to us, amid the unclouded visions and manifestations of his being and will.




Arminius, that servant of Christ, in order to approve himself before God, chose to endure the hatred and contradiction of all mankind, rather than to violate his conscience. - He held out to the whole Christian world the ensign of peace and concord, and he wished a commencement to be made in the Reformed Churches. Being a man of prudence and mild in spirit, he perceived that those Churches were distracted and separated from each other in many ways, and that in these days neither measure nor end was observed in making secessions; that endeavours were therefore to be used to induce the contending parties to lay aside animosity, and to sing a funeral song over their unnecessary enmities and quarrels; that every exertion was then to be employed, to take an accurate account of such doctrines as are absolutely necessary, and each party to confine itself within those limits; that, with regard to all the rest, whatever was capable of being tolerated, or did not hinder salvation, should receive toleration; that the rule of Prudence and Charity alone is sufficient for this purpose; and that, without these, continual strife and hatred must be perpetuated, which would cause the tears of the Church afresh to flow. This was the design of Arminius; and he persisted in it to the close of his life, nothing being such a source of grief and sorrow to him, as the obstinate resistance of those who ought to have shewn themselves the most favourable to this design. Whether it was laudable or not, let those judge who are affected with commiseration at the sight of the whole of Christendom divided into most minute parties: I entertain no doubt myself of its being a pious purpose.

Arminius was too great an admirer and practiser of that Apostolic direction, Let your moderation be known to all men, ever to indulge in bitter or reviling expressions. He will never be detected in having traduced, much less in having rendered odious and infamous, or in having injured by a single word, those whom Capellus calls "the Reformers." Indeed, no one ever dissented from them with greater moderation. Let the writings of Arminius be inspected, and my assertion will be found correct. Such, in fact, was the modesty of this pious and learned man, that he thought all errors, especially those which he accounted to be injurious to piety, ought to be attacked with boldness and according to the meaning of their authors; but that the wanderers in error themselves ought to be treated with mildness and according to the mind of Christ Jesus. For he knew, how easy it is to commit a mistake, how unjust to visit with reproaches him who is in error, how disgraceful to speak evil of a pious man, and how necessary it is for a Christian, and particularly for a Bishop, to be no striker, but patient, (1 Tim. iii.3,) gentle to all men, and in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves. (2 Tim. ii.24.) Such were his sentiments, such was his conduct, - most opposite to those opprobrious arts which Capellus employs!

Arminius was as averse to a new Confession, as he was to a schism. Those things which he considered as desiderata in the Church, he wished to be corrected by the Church and within herself; and he thought those things could be amended there more efficaciously and with greater safety. From new Confessions he did not hope for a remedy, but feared more dangerous paroxysms. To adhere to the scriptures alone; or, where any Confession was established, to tolerate certain improper phrases, solely through a hatred of schism, and either to reconcile them with scripture by the benefit of a mild interpretation, or to correct them by the aid of a lawful revisions, - was, in his opinion, a much better course than to expend labour upon new Confessions which might serve to foment schisms. For as a prudent man he perceived, in this age fruitful in strifes and quarrels, the usual consequence is, that wherever new Confessions are formed, there the minds of men are separated and distracted by their different opinion. - At no period of his life did he assert, much less did he contend, that the article on Predestination in the Dutch Confessions was false or bore evident marks of falsehood, that it contained heresies or abounded with them, much less that it abounded with a multitude of them: As an unexceptionable proof of this it may be stated, that he always endeavoured to establish his sentiments by many and strong arguments from the Dutch Confession itself; and he professed that he was prepared to retire from the ministry, if at any time, either in secret or in public, he had spoken or written any thing contrary to that formulary. He always denied, that the sentiments which he opposed were those of the Confession: He said, they were those of some particular divines, from which he was perfectly at liberty to dissent.

Arminius never said, that the whole human race was at the same time reconciled and healed by the satisfaction of Christ. He was a man of greater accuracy, than to speak in that manner. He has said, that mankind were reconciled by the satisfaction of Christ: But who, except a dotard, would say that they were healed? Arminius only teaches, that God for Christ's sake bestows, on those who are reconciled to Him through Christ, a new power (ability), when they are called by the Gospel, that they may be enabled to free themselves from that servitude, provided they use diligent endeavours, and be not wanting to themselves and to the grace of God. But he who teaches this, teaches a doctrine contrary to that which Capellus wishes. For such a man teaches, that those who are reconciled are still under the servitude of sin; but that, by the aid of grace which is newly bestowed on them by God, it is possible for them to be gradually healed of that servitude. For it is one thing to impart an ability to any one, by which he may come out of his servitude: It is another thing, actually to come out of servitude, or to be healed of it.

Those persons who have lived with Arminius, and who, as the phrase is, have eaten a bushel of salt in his company, can bear testimony to his candour and integrity. France, your country, never produced a spirit possessed of greater integrity. Unless he had been studious of these virtues, he would neither have incurred the chance of so much hatred, no have subjected himself to the peril of such obstinate contradiction. If he occasionally used prudence, out of a greater regard to his own conscience and to the public peace, he did nothing more than what was the duty of a good man and a Christian. He could do this, and he actually did it, without any design to deceive; nay, he did it with the design to approve himself the more to God, who alone inwardly inspects the heart, and to whom, he knew, a hypocrite is more hateful than a man that is openly wicked: For when a bad man wishes to appear a good one, he is then the worst of all.

What could any one desire that was more open, candid, and nervous, than the Declaration of Arminius before the states of Holland? I wish his adversaries had, with equal candour and ingenuousness, declared their sentiments on Reprobation, at the Hague Conference, and more recently at the Synod of Dort! But if ever any persons employed dissimulation, or declined to disclose their sentiments, they were certainly the members of those two assemblies. Indeed it is a thing common in its occurrence, - for a man, when he perceives himself to be guilty of a crime, to use indecent haste in boldly charging it upon others, that he may seem to be at the greatest possible distance from it himself.

In conclusion therefore I say, that Arminius acted in all things with perfect good faith and candour; that he openly professed the doctrine which he held; that according to his own declaration, he always ingeniously believed this doctrine to be contained in the formularies of the Churches; that he never condemned those formularies; and that he never disclosed, except in the assembly of the States and at their command, the considerations which he had marked down according to the decree of the Supreme Magistrate and at the request of the Synod. Capellus therefore, without any just cause, laments the absence of candour in this most candid breast. -Examen Thesium I. Capelli

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Question, "What Is an Arminian?" Answered by a Lover of Free Grace
by John Wesley

1. To say, "This man is an Arminian," has the same effect on many hearers, as to say, "This is a mad dog." It puts them into a fright at once: They run away from him with all speed and diligence; and will hardly stop, unless it be to throw a stone at the dreadful and mischievous animal.

2. The more unintelligible the word is, the better it answers the purpose. Those on whom it is fixed know not what to do: Not understanding what it means, they cannot tell what defence to make, or how to clear themselves from the charge. And it is not easy to remove the prejudice which others have imbibed, who know no more of it, than that it is "something very bad," if not "all that is bad!"

3. To clear the meaning, therefore, of this ambiguous term, may be of use to many: To those who so freely pin this name upon others, that they may not say what they do not understand; to those that hear them, that they may be no longer abused by men saying they know not what; and to those upon whom the name is fixed, that they may know how to answer for themselves.

4. It may be necessary to observe, First, that many confound Arminians with Arians. But this is entirely a different thing; the one has no resemblance to the other. An Arian is one who denies the Godhead of Christ; we scarce need say, the supreme, eternal Godhead; because there can be no God but the supreme, eternal God, unless we will make two Gods, a great God and a little one. Now, none have ever more firmly believed, or more strongly asserted, the Godhead of Christ, than many of the (so called) Arminians have done; yea, and do at this day. Arminianism therefore (whatever it be) is totally different from Arianism.

5. The rise of the word was this: JAMES HARMENS, in Latin, Jacobes Arminius, was first one of the Ministers of Amsterdam, and afterwards Professor of Divinity at Leyden. He was educated at Geneva; but in the year 1591 began to doubt of the principles which he had till then received. And being more and more convinced that they were wrong, when he was vested with the Professorship, he publicly taught what he believed the truth, till, in the year 1609, he died in peace. But a few years after his death, some zealous men with the Prince of Orange at their head, furiously assaulted all that held what were called his opinions; and having procured them to be solemnly condemned, in the famous Synod of Dort, (not so numerous or learned, but full as impartial, as the Council or Synod of Trent,) some were put to death, some banished, some imprisoned for life, all turned out of their employments, and made incapable of holding any office, either in Church or State.

6. The errors charged upon these (usually termed Arminians) by their opponents, are five: (1.) That they deny original sin; (2.) That they deny justification by faith; (3.) That they deny absolute predestination; (4.) That they deny the grace of God to be irresistible; and, (5.) That they affirm, a believer may fall from grace.
With regard to the two first of these charges, they plead, Not Guilty. They are entirely false. No man that ever lived, not John Calvin himself, ever asserted either original sin, or justification by faith, in more strong, more clear and express terms, than Arminius has done. These two points, therefore, are to be set out of the question: In these both parties agree. In this respect, there is not a hair's breadth difference between Mr. Wesley and Mr. Whitefield.

7. But there is an undeniable difference between the Calvinists and Arminians, with regard to the three other questions. Here they divide; the former believe absolute, the latter only conditional, predestination. The Calvinists hold, (1.) God has absolutely decreed, from all eternity, to save such and such persons, and no others; and that Christ died for these, and none else. The Arminians hold, God has decreed, from all eternity, touching all that have the written word, "He that believeth shall be saved: He that believeth not, shall be condemned:" And in order to this, "Christ died for all, all that were dead in trespasses and sins;" that is, for every child of Adam, since "in Adam all died."

8. The Calvinists hold, Secondly, that the saving grace of God is absolutely irresistible; that no man is any more able to resist it, than to resist the stroke of lightning. The Arminians hold, that although there may be some moments wherein the grace of God acts irresistibly, yet, in general, any man may resist, and that to his eternal ruin, the grace whereby it was the will of God he should have been eternally saved.

9. The Calvinists hold, Thirdly, that a true believer in Christ cannot possibly fall from grace. The Arminians hold, that a true believer may "make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience;" that he may fall, not only foully, but finally, so as to perish for ever.

10. Indeed, the two latter points, irresistible grace and infallible perseverance, are the natural consequence of the former, of the unconditional decree. For if God has eternally and absolutely decreed to save such and such persons, it follows, both that they cannot resist his saving grace, (else they might miss of salvation,) and that they cannot finally fall from that grace which they cannot resist. So that, in effect, the three questions come into one, "Is predestination absolute or conditional?" The Arminians believe, it is conditional; the Calvinists, that it is absolute.

11. Away, then, with all ambiguity! Away with all expressions which only puzzle the cause! Let honest men speak out, and not play with hard words which they do not understand. And how can any man know what Arminius held, who has never read one page of his writings? Let no man bawl against Arminians, till he knows what the term means; and then he will know that Arminians and Calvinists are just upon a level. And Arminians have as much right to be angry at Calvinists, as Calvinists have to be angry at Arminians. John Calvin was a pious, learned, sensible man; and so was James Harmens. Many Calvinists are pious, learned, sensible men; and so are many Arminians. Only the former hold absolute predestination; the latter, conditional.

12. One word more: Is it not the duty of every Arminian Preacher, First, never, in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach; seeing it is neither better nor worse than calling names? -- a practice no more consistent with good sense or good manners, than it is with Christianity. Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly of it? And is it not equally the duty of every Calvinist Preacher, First, never in public or in private, in preaching or in conversation, to use the word Arminian as a term of reproach? Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly thereof; and that the more earnestly and diligently, if they have been accustomed so to do? perhaps encouraged therein by his own example!

From the Thomas Jackson edition of The Works of John Wesley, 1872.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Lesser Offense of Those Barely Saved

I was sitting in my disheveled office, if it can be called that in the corner of our "community room" or den, listening to several releases by Matt Redman and The Passion Worship band in the midst of this Passion Weekend. Browsing through several sites this afternoon, I came across a piece posted on James Swan's blog at Beggars All. I did not see a place for posting comments so I thought it appropriate to respond here. The title of his posting was "Semi-Pelagianism 101 – Arminians Are Christians? Yes, Barely!" and it was an excerpt from R.C. Sproul's book Willing To Believe that Mr. Swan apparently spent time in Sunday School discussing. It was this Sunday School study that grabbed my attention this weekend of all weeks in the year. Now many in the Body of Christ have become accustomed to zealots on the fringes attacking us with abandon however what many Christians do not realize is that many of these attacks emanate from within "orthodoxy", from within what should be the ecumenical church. In the mind of many of these "moderate" Calvinists, most of Christ's Body is "barely saved", to use Sproul's phrase and Swan's echo. Quite recently, it was John Piper leading the charge of anathemas against the elders and pastors of most of Christ with a posting on his site that caused quite a stir on several blogs (see my related thread on Rather than these attacks and gross misrepresentations being carried out by fringe groups on the outer edges of Christendom, we, the Body of Christ, are being attacked from a cancer within. Yes, we are barely saved, Mr. Swan and Mr. Sproul. We are scarcely saved as the Apostle Peter phrased it and knowingly stand ready for the falsehoods spoken of us, the innuendo fashioned against us and the musings of those who study the techniques of carnal religion employed against the Body of Christ. Certainly the lover of Christ should be engaged in the study of the LORD's Word, especially so when gathered in fellowship for study and preaching. Speaking falsehoods and generating avarice toward His Body is not a function of fellowship and study of the scriptures. It is instead a display of religious zealotry with one purpose: to throw seeds of schism and dissention. In a word it is anti-orthodox if not outright enmity towards the ecumenical church of Jesus Christ.

Christians would do well to recognize this cancer in its midst and respond appropriately. Our families and friends need to be aware of this enmity against them for it seeks to make inroads into our churches and our Christian outlook. Given we are indeed barely saved even though a haughty and arrogant mind would view this as an inferior position, it is a far lesser offense if any offense at all to be considered as such. It is our expectation to be the recipient of offenses rather than being the offense as intended by Sproul and Swan. Perhaps the words of Peter are best for a close and I will leave the dry bones exegesis for the brothers Sproul and Swan.

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy [are ye]; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or [as] a thief, or [as] an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if [any man suffer] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time [is come] that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if [it] first [begin] at us, what shall the end [be] of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls [to him] in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator." (1Pe 4:12-19 AV)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Arminian Manifesto

Mr. Billy Birch at Arminian Manifesto has started a new site and has a wonderful article addressing the Synod of Dordt as well as an ongoing series on Arminius. It would behoove our Calvinist brethren to read it although I am not holding out a great deal of hope on that count. The truth of Dordt has been hidden and glossed over too many times and it is good to see the truth of the matter discussed once again.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Appealing To The Body

Recently I have come under a bit of disgruntled complaining from some of my Calvinist brethren for using an argument that, in the secular world, would be considered a fallacy of appealing to a majority. Now, if I were to make the claim that something must be correct since 80% of the people agree, I would normally agree with them that this would a fallacious appeal albeit possibly truthful nonetheless. However when we are discussing the things of the Holy Spirit and scriptural truths, being in the Body of Christ counts for something. When the large majority of believers, faithful and lovers of the LORD, reject the unique distinctives of Calvinist doctrine the church and it's Calvinist members should take heed.

Orthodoxy is founded upon a common and historic agreement in the creeds, the fathers and general acceptance in the church at large. Most Calvinists and non-Calvinists would agree with this premise when it comes to determining what is orthodox doctrine in the church yet Calvinists seem to balk when the same premise is applied to their particular doctrines. To be fair I am sure there are Baptists and Wesleyans that react in a similar manner. Within our own tradition we view "Once Saved Always Saved" and it's Presbyterian accompaniment "Perseverance of the Saints" as questionable and not well founded on scripture. Yet we generally do not declare our opponents to be undermining the Gospel as Dr. John Piper recently declared of us. Instead we consider those doctrines to be in error and as well view them as unessential doctrine.

The connection between how we determine orthodoxy and an appeal to a large majority of the saints, particularly those called to pastor and teach, to keep us from being tossed to and fro, becomes apparent when we realize that nobody taught anything resembling any point of Calvinist TULIP until Augustine. Even then the doctrines that formed much of the Calvinist distinctive were not generally accepted within orthodoxy in Augustine's day nor any other time until Wycliffe embraced predestination. The early Calvinist Reformation built itself upon Augustine and not orthodoxy and it's scriptural understanding. Hence, I appeal to the historicity of the church in particular the early church fathers, the writings of the Apostles and the continued agreement that the strong majority of the Body in Christ has today in refusing the Calvinist viewpoint.

Of course the argument from a lot of Calvinists is to point to the church at Rome and make the claim that they too were once orthodoxy and had a lock on what would be considered a majority. That is only true if you believe the Roman Catholic Church represents the orthodox Christian church. I do not hold that opinion and when I refer to orthodoxy I am appealing to the entire church age. Another reply has been the suggestion that the church might well be wrong with baptismal regeneration being an example and adhered to by most of the church throughout its post Nicene years until the Confessional period of the Reformation. That is probably the strongest argument I have encountered yet even this falls by the wayside when we realize that the large majority of the body of Christ agrees that baptismal regeneration is not essential doctrine. The issue is not over what we agree on but over what is in disagreement. With that in mind, it remains a fact that most of the church today refuses the Calvinist distinctives on solid historic and orthodox grounds. It is proper to turn to the church today, it's predominant pastors and teachers grounded in the scriptures and orthodoxy, to assist us in determining what is proper doctrine and practice in the church today. On that count, Calvinism is refused.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Whats Wrong With This Picture?

One of my little quirks and pet peeves has long been a distaste for those people who find it perfectly well to present themselves as possessing credentials that they have not earned, in particular doctorate or graduate degrees in theological fields. The Word-Faith sect (i.e. Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Hagin and their fellows) is a particularly grievous offender of this practice but it is not limited to those on the heretical fringe. On one of the discussion boards, somebody started a thread with "Dr. James White" in the title. Now, I admittedly do not care much for Mr. White's tactics nor his theological and exegetical acumen, but his presented academic credentials are a bothersome issue. I was accused of slandering the man with misinformation today and I don't take kindly to that inference so I thought I would quickly take a look at Mr. White's alma mater. The truth of the matter is this is an embarrassment to the body of Christ as it took a Mormon apologist to flush this out a few years ago. Mr. White received for all practical purposes a correspondence degree from an unaccredited store front "institution" called Columbia Evangelical Seminary (formerly called Faraston Theological Seminary). Here are a few pictures of this "esteemed University" and I reluctantly provide a link to a site presented by a Mormon who has researched the issue extensively.

Mormon apologist expose

Columbia Evangelical Seminary Website

No, not that picture ... These pictures ...

Rome Discovers New Batch of Sins Under Miter

It seems our Roman Catholic friends are redefining sin for the benefit of a new list of "deadly sins". Now, rather than just being concerned about whether neighbor George is coveting somebody else's wife or if another has told tales out of school, we must now be concerned over environmentalism from a "mortal sin" perspective. This could be excused as a silly exercise but unfortunately there are a billion or so souls out there that listen to and regard these pronouncements as some edict from on high as in the heavenlies. Fortunately, most Christians understand that sin is a matter of faith or the lack thereof rather than the lack of compliance with the Pope's opinion on environmental matters. See the Fox News article here.