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.