Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Of Course Arminians Believe In Predestination?

With certainty, there will be both Calvinists and Arminians in heaven.  A Calvinist may arrive in heaven to find out he was right all along.  Perhaps the Arminian will discover that he was right all along.  But one thing is certain, both the Calvinist and Arminian can never conclude that they were both right. These two Christian doctrines are in such contradiction a shipwreck for one is assured.  I still firmly believe that both ships will arrive safely in the harbor.

As one sailing on the Arminian ship I would like to address a myth that is common on that other ship; the idea that Arminians do not believe in predestination.  Arminians shake their heads at the absurdity of this accusation.  Of course Arminians believe in predestination.

 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." - Romans 8:29.   Arminians are strong proponents of predestination. We see no conflict between free will and predestination. But, we struggle with the idea of making free will compatible with determinism. We believe in God's foreknowledge, of course. God foreknows every person' ultimate and final decision regarding Jesus Christ. We believe the focus of predestination should be primarily on Jesus Christ. God foreknew that Christ would make the right choices regarding the cross. God predestined Christ’s death and resurrection based on the decisions he knew Christ would make..

We believe Calvinism ship wrecks on the issue of double predestination. It is illogical to believe that God predetermined some to believe and go to heaven but he did not predetermine others to NOT believe and go to hell. We believe that a holy and pure and sinless God cannot predetermine individuals to hell. This is contrary to God's nature.   Can God do all things?  Can God do anything he wants?  Some may be surprised that he answer is no.  He cannot do anything that contradicts his nature. It is unimaginable, had I power to condemn one of my sons to spend eternity in hell that I would do such a thing. It is even more unimaginable to believe that God would assign people to hell based on his own arbitrary nature even before they had an opportunity to make any decisions or participate in any actions that might make them responsible or accountable.

 Scripture teaches that God extends salvation to all men. "Whosever believeth in him...", (John 3:16) "If any man come to me..." Luke 14:6 "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people." (Titus 2:11) “He is a propitiation for the sins of the whole world” [1 John. 2:2.], “He tasted death for every man” [Heb. 2:9.], “He gave himself a ransom for all” [1 Tim. 2:6.]. It is a gracious decree given of God through his Son Jesus Christ that he is determined to justify and adopt all who will believe. Does not God become a hypocrite if he so clearly extends this invitation to all men knowing that he has already determined some of those men to be lost? Therefore, Arminians believe in predestination but it is conditioned on the choices men make. We don't believe they can make those choices apart from the spirit of God.

 Most would agree that it is logically impossible for God to predestinate to heaven but not to hell. To choose some for heaven and not all to heaven is going to assure that some are chosen for hell. Where are those verses in the Bible that indicate that an arbitrary God sends men to hell unconditionally? I believe this is unproven in scripture because it makes God the author of sin and this, too, is illogical and non-sensical because the Bible teaches that it is God's will that none should perish and all should come to repentance. (Tim 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9) God declares a universal desire that all men be saved.  But, he gives them the gift of free will and in so doing he realizes that some will not use their gift in the manner he wishes and therefore must be punished for their disobedience.  He places the onus on man.  Believe and be saved, or rebel and be lost.

Arminians do not downplay the role of faith in salvation. Faith is the condition for being elected, a gift of God. Faith is NOT the cause of election, God alone is the cause of election. Therefore, God causes the election of those who will have faith in Him. Election is conditional, not on the provisions of God, he will! It is conditional on whether man will choose to believe, he may, he may not. God allows this freedom of man's will because he is not a club-bearing God who will arbitrarily take people to heaven whether they want to go or not and cast people in hell whether they have any accountability or not. "Election and predestination are not the unconditional and mysterious choosing of certain individuals known only to God, but is rather the election and predestination of those who have faith in Christ their Redeemer. Election is in Christ but no one is in Christ without faith." - William Witt

Though I don't agree with all of Philip Limborch's theology, I certainly agree with him regarding 'absolute reprobation'.  "The doctrine of absolute reprobation (Because God elects some to heaven he must therefore elect others to hell) is repugnant to the divine perfections of holiness, justice, sincerity, wisdom, and love."  (A Complete System, or, Body of Divinity, p. 371).  The core problem for Arminians is that unconditional predestination is totally incompatible to the very nature or God.  It is not who God is.  "Surely it is dishonorable to the name of God to suppose that he would charge on sinners a resistance which was to them a necessity, and complain of outrage on His Spirit whose influences were only partially put forth." -  William Burton Pope.  Would God infect a man with sin, determine him to never have an opportunity to be free of it and then, in a rage, condemn him to an eternal hell?  This is an absurdity in the minds of Arminians. 

Those who respond to the call of the Spirit of God and who, with God’s help, choose to believe (have faith) are predestined to an eternity with the Savior.  Who said Arminians do not believe in predestination?

Kevin teaches Bible and Apologetics to high school students at Lafayette Christian School in LaGrange, Georgia. He loves writing about theology, apologetics and politics.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Why would you call that Arminianism?

In my discussions with those friends who are persuaded by Calvinism and especially by the doctrine of predestination, I find they often do misunderstand or display a healthy ignorance of what true Arminianism really is.  I cringe when I hear Arminians accused of believing that they must earn their salvation through good works.  It is eye-popping and heart-stopping to hear that Arminians believe that they have an equal part with God in the salvation of their souls.  Here is their misconception in a nutshell:  that Armininians must initiate their own salvation and then maintain it through the accumulation of good works. 

Classical Arminianism has always given God all the glory for salvation and reserved no credit whatsoever for human endeavor in the work of salvation.  All true classical Arminians will declare that the human soul is completely and entirely dead in trespasses and sins and every man would  be hopelessly lost without the prevenient grace (that grace which prepares the way) extended by the Holy Spirit of God.  This prevenient grace is taught throughout scripture, although, like the word ‘trinity’, ‘prevenient grace’ is never found in the Bible. 

In spite of the opinions of uninformed Calvinists, Jacob Arminius had a passionate commitment to the grace of God.  Arminius’ theology was clearly sola gratia.  To interpret the theology of Arminius by the beliefs of those who followed is an error committed by many who have never studied the original works of the man.  Thus, Arminians get a bum rap by being compared to Pelagians, semi-Pelagians or devotees of the Remonstrants who successfully twisted the original doctrines of Arminianism so as to make them at least unbiblical and at most heretical.

Arminius didn’t deny the work of God’s grace in the salvation of man.  He did question whether that grace was irresistible.   The Calvinist would argue that if grace is resistible then salvation cannot be all of grace.  The Arminian wonders why the Calvinist believes that resistance to the gift causes the gift to be sullied or diminished.  Why, asks the Arminian, is the gift not worthy of reception if it is accepted willingly?  It is only worthy of reception if we are forced to receive it.

Simon Episcopius and Arminius, unlike Philip Limborch and later Remonstrants, believed that prevenient grace is the grace that goes before to prepare the soul to respond freely to the calling of the Spirit of God to salvation.  Through the ages true classical Arminians have lamented the fact that Limborch’s theology has been labeled ‘Arminian’.  Limborch believed that the fallen human will needs only assistance, mainly through access of knowledge, not renewal, in order to acquire salvation.  Arminius would say that man is totally depraved and it is impossible to do or think any good without prevening grace.   Limborch would counter by saying that man is not totally depraved, he is only weakened by his lack of knowledge and limited capabilities.

John Wesley redirected Arminianism back toward its original form.  Although he has been falsely accused of being a Pelagian for several hundred years now.  A careful reading of Wesley’s sermon “On Working Out Our Own Salvation” should remove all doubt as to his position on the grace of God.  “Whatsoever good is in man, or is done by man, God is the author and doer of it,” Wesley proclaimed.  Wesley taught that we can only respond to God because he did first extend his grace to us.

Prevenient grace does not remove the free will of man so that he can be forced to salvation by an arbitrary God.  Prevenient grace simply prepares the heart of man so that he can choose to not resist the grace of God.  Having received prevenient grace he can choose not to reject it or he can choose to resist it but not without consequences.  Thus, the only role of the human in his own salvation is the nonresistance to the grace of God.

Adam Clarke summed up the Arminian position by saying, “God gives the power (to believe).  Man uses the power thus given, and brings glory to God:  Without the power no man can believe; with it, any man can.”  (quoted in H. Orten Wiley’s Christian Theology, pp. 369-70)  Faith is an expression of man’s free will only after it is recognized as a work of God.

Free Will Baptist theologian Leroy Forelines summed Arminian’s interpretation of grace by saying: “The Holy Spirit must work before there can be a successful communication of the gospel to the sinner and before there will be conviction and response from the sinner.”    

Arminians believe salvation is impossible without the effectual preparatory grace of God.  The application of this grace to the human soul does not eliminate or diminish the soul’s freedom.  It simply enables the soul to no longer resist the grace of God.  Arminianism promotes the scriptural teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone.  God makes this possible without diminishing the responsibility of man to practice non-resistance toward his grace.

Kevin teaches Bible and Apologetics to high school students at Lafayette Christian School in LaGrange, Georgia. He loves writing about theology, apologetics and politics.