Saturday, July 19, 2008

Antinomianism, A Calvinist Expectation

Antinomianism, while being more than a mouthful of syllables, is a state of philosophy I seem to encounter among the Calvinist bloggers and discussion sites. While John Fletcher penned an extensive discourse against the antinomian tendencies of Calvinist philosophy, the topic is not much discussed in our discourse with Calvinist brethren. It is one of those topics similar to the Calvinist insinuation of God authoring sin that brings out an astonishing denial. Let's look at a passage in scripture that recently brought this to light.

"Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1Th 5:16-22 AV)

This passage came up during a discussion about whether or not we can frustrate the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the lives of others. The faithful are entreated to avoid several things one of them being to not extinguish the work of the Holy Spirit, to not quench the Spirit. Now ironically this suggestion was offered by a Calvinist who then posited the idea that we cannot frustrate or extinguish the work of God. Further it was suggested that in agreeing with the scriptures directly, we would present ourselves as lessening the LORD to a tiny God with ourselves able to stop his omnipotence. It is an absurd suggestion yet it was the defense offered after he insisted that quench does not mean to extinguish or put out, stifle or subdue. Yet Paul expressly stated "Quench not the Spirit" and the term used in scripture is sbennumi meaning specifically to not extinguish, stifle or suppress. There is a purpose to this apparent madness in attempting to redefine terms and it is to promote the philosophy of a continuous struggle against the LORD. In the Calvinist mind, Christians have no victory over sin, that the struggle with flesh is a Christian expectation and as such desired of the LORD. We are to continuously fail in Christ. Contrast that with the admonitions of the Apostles to be holy as the LORD is Holy, to be instructed in the ways of holiness and cautioned against allowing the flesh to rear up in our lives. By surrendering themselves to the expectations of flesh, the Calvinist becomes a slave to his view of sin being the norm in his walk. He becomes what he denies, antinomian in mind and deed explained away as a normative struggle over which he is not expected victory.

John Fletcher's work is often forgotten in this modern age but it would be wise of us to freshen ourselves against this philosophy of antinomianism that is nothing short of an enemy within the church. It robs the believer of his faith in Christ and produces a dead church content with worldliness and fatalistic expectation and the church deserves better than such a poor lead.

John Fletcher's An Equal Check To Pharisaism And Antinomianism


Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's time R.C. Sproul realized the Christian realm is not defined by Calvinist intellectual polemics and endeavors. He has a plug for the Calvinist counterpart to this book on his blog and of course as with any Calvinist argument there is always a more convincing position stated by the greater body of Christ. Such it is with Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell's book Why I Am Not A Calvinist. It's available in many Christian bookstores and several online sites.

Arminius on the Free Will of Man

For the last 450 years since Christians began openly rejecting the religious philosophy of John Calvin, Theodore Beza and other Calvinists who formulated their assertions in the infancy of the Reformation, we have had to repeatedly cast down a false accusation, a spurious lie regarding the will of man. The charge of "free willism" or some great measure of Pelagianism has often infected the polemic of many Calvinists who either through theological ignorance or deliberate and willful deception slander and libel the greater body of Christ. Arminius addressed this falsehood spoken so easily off the lips of countless Calvinists in his day and ours in his Sentiments. When a modern version of the polemicists Beza, Gomarus and countless of their fellows spew the charges of Pelagianism and "free-willer" as if it damages one's Christianity, they are easily and irrefutably rebuked with the words of Arminius himself.


This is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Why Would God Become Angry At What He Ordained?

I asked this question on a discussion board when a Calvinist rightly pointed out that the LORD gets angry at the sinful actions of fallen men. There is no doubt that sin angers the LORD. The anger of the LORD is expressed in numerous passages yet this truth causes me to ask the Calvinist "why"? How is it that an omniscient God could possibly get angry at what He supposedly (in the Calvinist tradition) causes or ordains? If God issues a commandment that He has purposefully ordained to be broken, is it not an expression of hypocrisy to become angry at what is His very design? I do not think the Calvinist can address this inquiry in an honest manner. In fact I know from my experiences with a few that the response is to engage in an ad hominem fallacy and accuse me of presenting a straw man albeit unidentified. Contrary to the diversions, the question I pose is valid and crucial to understanding the religious philosophy of Calvinism.

Imagine for a moment I have planned an outing for tomorrow knowing full well that there is a bad storm on the way with torrential rains forecasted at 100% probability. I can see the weather map and the red squalls and I know what tomorrow will bring yet I make my plans for the outing nonetheless. Now upon waking in the morning and being faced with an absolute deluge, I fly into a rage because now, my outing is to be cancelled. I had no hope it would clear. In fact I knew it was going to rain yet now I am angry for doing something I knew with complete certainty would fail. Such is the scenario with Calvinist determinism. It has the LORD becoming angry at the fulfillment of His Holy purpose. In Calvinist thought, the LORD has ordained everything that comes to pass, including the sinful actions of men. Now, there is an excuse offered in their defense. We must come to understand the significance of "primary and secondary causes", so the Calvinist states. Yet whether primary or secondary, sinfulness serves the Calvinistic view of the purpose of God and in that sense this is no excuse. Whether primary, secondary, compatibalist or hard determinism, the Calvinist continues to have a God angry at the fulfillment of His desires.

The following was a recent exchange I had with a Calvinist about this matter (his comments in Bold Italics).

Why would God get angry at what he purposed?

You mean aside from the fact He told them not too fully knowing that some would according to thier nature? I guess you'll just have to live with the fact that there is/was a purpose to it.

That doesn't answer the inquiry. How is it that God, being omniscient, could get angry at what He purposefully ordained (caused in some minds)?

Are you saying that God is the author of sin Trav? No...of course not. Are you then saying that Calvinists believe that God is the author of sin? This can't be the case since the Calvinist believes in primary and secondary causes. Are you then saying that our definition of causes is flawed? one is saying you can't but to do so you would need to prove it via Scripture.

No, I am looking for the Calvinist answer to this question: How is it that God, being omniscient, could get angry at what He purposefully ordained (caused in some minds)?

And I've called you on the straw man implicit in your question. Next?

You have called nothing. In fact you are running from addressing the question. You stated the LORD gets angry and that is true. My question still stands:

The strawman implicit in your question is the caused bit. You know as well as I that we believe in primary and secondary causes. The rest of my response comes logically. Your hand is still stuck in the cookie jar Trav.

Whether you call it primary & secondary causes, compatibalism or just plain hard determinism, it remains you cannot answer the question directly without convicting yourself of a poor religious philosophy. Instead, you refuse to address the question using the slander of strawman as your "defense".

Another Calvinist in the discussion thread had a great one-liner in response to the question and deserves an honorable mention.

Because He purposed to get angry at it..

Arminius on the Perfection of Believers

The scriptures instruct us to be holy as the LORD is holy yet we stumble in sin, some more than others, some it seems not at all. There is a doctrine in some circles claiming the sinless perfection of all true believers yet such an anger can be brewed in the souls that teach such things as to betray the state of their being. I do not believe the scriptures teach such things but I do believe the desire of the LORD is that we be holy in all things, to be brought to a place of Christian perfection where our thoughts and deeds are captured in Christ. Arminius dealt with this matter in the following comments – A.M. Mallett


Beside those doctrines on which I have treated, there is now much discussion among us respecting the perfection of believers, or regenerated persons, in this life; and it is reported, that I entertain sentiments on this subject, which are very improper, and nearly allied to those of the Pelagians, viz: "that it is possible for the regenerate in this life perfectly to keep God's precepts." To this I reply, though these might have been my sentiments yet I ought not on this account to be considered a Pelagian, either partly or entirely, provided I had only added that "they could do this by the grace of Christ, and by no means without it." But while I never asserted, that a believer could perfectly keep the precepts of Christ in this life, I never denied it, but always left it as a matter which has still to be decided. For I have contented myself with those sentiments which St. Augustine has expressed on this subject, whose words have frequently quoted in the University, and have usually subjoined, that I had no addition to make to them.

Augustine says, "four questions may claim our attention on this topic. The first is, was there ever yet a man without sin, one who from the beginning of life to its termination never committed sin? The second, has there ever been, is there now, or can there possibly be, an individual who does not sin, that is, who has attained to such a state of perfection in this life as not to commit sin, but perfectly to fulfill the law of God? The third, is it possible for a man in this life to exist without sin? The fourth, if it be possible for a man to be without sin, why has such an individual never yet been found?" St. Augustine says, that such a person as is described in the first question never yet lived, or will hereafter be brought into existence, with the exception of Jesus Christ. He does not think, that any man has attained to such perfection in this life as is portrayed in the second question. With regard to the third, he thinks it possible for a man to be without sin, by means of the grace of Christ and free-will. In answer to the fourth, man does not do what it is possible for him by the grace of Christ to perform, either because that which is good escapes his observation, or because in it he places no part of his delight." From this quotation it is apparent, that St. Augustine, one of the most strenuous adversaries of the Pelagian doctrine, retained this sentiment, that "it is possible for a man to live in this world without sin."

Beside this, the same Christian father says, "let Pelagius confess, that it is possible for man to be without sin, in no other way than by the grace of Christ, and we will be at peace with each other." The opinion of Pelagius appeared to St. Augustine to be this — "that man could fulfill the law of God by his own proffer strength and ability; but with still "greater facility by means of the grace of Christ." I have already most abundantly stated the great distance at which I stand from such a sentiment; in addition to which I now declare, that I account this sentiment of Pelagius to be heretical, and diametrically opposed to these words of Christ, "Without me ye can do nothing:" (John 15:5.) It is likewise very destructive, and inflicts a most grievous wound on the glory of Christ. I cannot see that anything is contained in all I have hitherto produced respecting my sentiments, on account of which any person ought to be "afraid of appearing in the presence of God," and from which it might be feared that any mischievous consequences can possibly arise. Yet because every day brings me fresh information about reports concerning me, "that I carry in my breast destructive sentiments and heresies," I cannot possibly conceive to what points those charges can relate, except perhaps they draw some such pretext from my opinion concerning the Divinity of the Son of God, and the justification of man before God. Indeed, I have lately learnt, that there has been much public conversation, and many rumors have been circulated, respecting my opinion on both these points of doctrine, particularly since the last conference [between Gomarus and myself] before the Counselors of the Supreme Court. This is one reason why I think, that I shall not be acting unadvisedly if I disclose to your mightinesses the real state of the whole matter.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Arminius on Perseverance

I have never felt comfortable telling any soul that that he might lose his salvation as I have never met a Christian who lost a thing. At the same time, I think Arminius makes an expression of this issue well enough to guide me in my thoughts on the matter. - A.M. Mallett


My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies — yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual. Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration.

From The Works of Arminius, Declaration of Sentiments

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ben Witherington has an on-going review of George Barna and Frank Viola's book Pagan
Christianity that is of great interest. It is wonderful to see a noted Christian scholar tackle this misleading and ill-informed publication. This is another example of sound and orthodox Christianity refuting a neo-theological perspective that should have undergone a more thorough academic review before hitting the presses.

Review Part 1

Review Part 2

Review Part 3

Review Part 4