Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Man’s Enslavement to Sin

I was browsing through an article written by a Calvinist about evangelism and in particular on the issue that many in the visible Church do not know the gospel.  He was angry that the gospel sometimes is reduced to methods instead of seeing the truth of the gospel as in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In many ways, I agreed with him.  He is absolutely correct that the gospel is not A then B then C.  It is much more than that.  At the same time, I don’t doubt that the gospel is simply enough for us to preach to children or to the uneducated the gospel and they can be saved through Jesus Christ.  His article was good but I do take exception with one major point he makes in the follow ups in the comments.  He notes that Arminians must struggle in preaching the gospel since we believe that man is not a slave to sin and that apart from the work of the Spirit, mankind cannot be saved.  He quotes Romans 8:9 (as does Calvinist apologist James White often times in attacking Arminians).

I find this laughable for several reasons.  First, the author makes a common mistake about Arminianism and assumes that Arminianism equals Pelagianism.  Even Calvinist theologians such as R.C. Sproul believes that most Arminians border on semi-Pelagianism.  I know some Arminians don’t mind this.  One Arminian theologian wrote, “I don’t care what you label me so long as I am biblical.”  Perhaps but the orthodox Church has historically condemned Pelagianism including Arminius.  Arminius wrote that he condemned Pelagianism and did not agree with the Pelagians.  Are we to think then that Arminius really did embrace Pelagianism even if he wrote against it?

Secondly, Arminius believed that mankind was indeed a slave to sin.  Jesus said that whoever sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34).  Arminius never doubted that man was a slave to sin.  Arminius wrote that sin comes from two main sources, our own flesh and Satan:

(1.) The former is Man himself, who, of his own free will and without any necessity either internal or external, (Gen. iii, 6,) transgressed the law which had been proposed to him, (Rom. v, 19,) which had been sanctioned by a threatening and a promise, (Gen. ii, 16, 17,) and which it was possible for him to have observed (ii, 9; iii, 23, 24.)

(2.) The remote and mediate efficient cause is the Devil, who, envying the Divine glory and the salvation of mankind, solicited man to a transgression of that law. (John viii, 44.) The instrumental cause is the Serpent, whose tongue Satan abused, for proposing to man these arguments which he considered suitable to persuade him. (Gen. iii, 1; 2 Cor. xi, 3.) It is not improbable, that the grand deceiver made a conjecture from his own case; as he might himself have been enticed to the commission of sin by the same arguments. (Gen. iii, 4, 5.)

Some Arminians don’t agree with Arminius over this next point but Arminius agreed with the Calvinist of his day over the doctrine of original sin and wrote this:

The whole of this sin, however, is not peculiar to our first parents, but is common to the entire race and to all their posterity, who, at the time when this sin was committed, were in their loins, and who have since descended from them by the natural mode of propagation, according to the primitive benediction. For in Adam “all have sinned.” (Rom. v, 12.) Wherefore, whatever punishment was brought down upon our first parents, has likewise pervaded and yet pursues all their posterity. So that all men “are by nature the children of wrath,” (Ephes. ii, 3,) obnoxious to condemnation, and to temporal as well as to eternal death; they are also devoid of that original righteousness and holiness. (Rom. v, 12, 18, 19.) With these evils they would remain oppressed forever, unless they were liberated by Christ Jesus; to whom be glory forever.

Arminius believed that all of mankind was sinful.

Thirdly, Arminius taught that the work of regeneration was a work of the Spirit.  None can be saved apart from His working and His grace.  Ephesians 2:1-9 is a powerful chapter that shows that in our flesh, we are dead in our sins without the life of God. The only hope we have is the gracious work of God in saving us in His Son.  This salvation is by grace through faith and apart from works (vv. 8-9).  Arminius never doubted this doctrine.

So why accuse Arminians of holding to a doctrine that we don’t hold to?  I know of no Arminian theologians who deny that salvation is a work of God and not by works.  I know of no Arminians who hold that we “will” ourselves to salvation (John 1:12-13).  I know of no Arminians who hold that we are not enslaved to sin.  I know some Moral Government theologians and evangelists who deny much of what I have written here but no Arminians that I know would.  We would embrace the reality that salvation is a supernatural work of God (2 Corinthians 5:17).  We embrace that the whole of salvation is a work of God from beginning to end.  We embrace that mankind, apart from the prevenient grace of God, cannot be saved.  We embrace the fact that our salvation is rested and grounded only in the work of Jesus Christ and not our flesh.

%d bloggers like this: