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Does Arminianism Deny the Providence of God?

Here is an excellent article from the Examining Calvinism blog on the Arminian view of the providence of God.  Arminius wrote the following about divine providence:

I consider Divine Providence to be “that solicitous, continued, and universally present inspection and oversight of God, according to which he exercises a general care over the whole world, but evinces a particular concern for all his [intelligent] creatures without any exception, with the design of preserving and governing them in their own essence, qualities, actions, and passions, in a manner that is at once worthy of himself and suitable to them, to the praise of his name and the salvation of believers. In this definition of Divine Providence, I by no means deprive it of any particle of those properties which agree with it or belong to it; but I declare that it preserves, regulates, governs and directs all things and that nothing in the world happens fortuitously or by chance. Beside this, I place in subjection to Divine Providence both the free-will and even the actions of a rational creature, so that nothing can be done without the will of God, not even any of those things which are done in opposition to it; only we must observe a distinction between good actions and evil ones, by saying, that “God both wills and performs good acts,” but that “He only freely permits those which are evil.” Still farther than this, I very readily grant, that even all actions whatever, concerning evil, that can possibly be devised or invented, may be attributed to Divine Providence Employing solely one caution, “not to conclude from this concession that God is the cause of sin.” This I have testified with sufficient clearness, in a certain disputation concerning the Righteousness and Efficacy of Divine Providence concerning things that are evil, which was discussed at Leyden on two different occasions, as a divinity-act, at which I presided. In that disputation, I endeavoured to ascribe to God whatever actions concerning sin I could possibly conclude from the scriptures to belong to him; and I proceeded to such a length in my attempt, that some persons thought proper on that account to charge me with having made God the author of sin. The same serious allegation has likewise been often produced against me, from the pulpit, in the city of Amsterdam, on account of those very theses; but with what show of justice such a charge was made, may be evident to any one, from the contents of my written answer to those Thirty-one Articles formerly mentioned, which have been falsely imputed to me, and of which this was one.

You can the find the post here.

Arminius on God’s Permission For Sin

Arminius makes the following interesting comments concerning sin and the fact that God permits evil.  Arminius is clear that God does not cause evil nor does He create evil but He does permit evil in His divine providence and His infinite wisdom.  We humans will never comprehend the wisdom of God nor His ability to take free decisions that are sinful and use them for His glory and honor such as in the case of Judas’ betrayal of Christ or the crucifixion itself as an act of indescribable love (Acts 2:22-24).  That God permits evil is the view of the Arminian.  That God causes evil must be the view of Calvinism.

Arminius writes,

X. The permission of sin succeeds, which is opposed to hindering. Yet it is not opposed to hindering, as the latter is an act which is taken away from the power of a rational creature by legislation; for, in that case, the same act would be a sin, and not a sin. It would be a sin in reference to its being a forbidden act; and it would be no sin in reference to its being permitted in this manner, that is, not forbidden. But permission is opposed to hindrance, in reference to the latter being an impediment placed on the capability and will of an intelligent creature. But permission is the suspension, not of one impediment or two, which may be presented to the capability or the will, but of all impediments at once, which, God knows, if they were all employed, would effectually hinder sin. Such necessarily would be the result, because sin might be hindered by a single impediment of that kind.

(1.) Sin therefore is permitted to the capability of the creature, when God employs none of those hindrances of which we have already made mention in the 8th Thesis: for this reason, this permission consists of the following acts of God who permits, the continuation of life and essence to the creature, the conservation of his capability, a cautiousness against its being opposed by a greater capability, or at least by one that is equal, and the exhibition of an object on which sin is committed.

(2.) Sin is also permitted to the will; not because no such impediments are presented by God to the will, as are calculated to deter the will from sinning; but because God, seeing that these hindrances which are propounded will produce no effect, does not employ others which He possesses in the treasures of his wisdom and power. (John xviii, 6; Mark xiv, 56.) This appears most evidently in the passion of Christ, with regard not only to the power but also to the will of those who demanded his death. (John xix, 6.) Nor does it follow from these premises, that those impediments are employed in vain: for though such results do not follow as are in accordance with these hindrances, yet God in a manner the most powerful gains his own purposes, because the results are not such as ought to have followed. (Rom. x, 20, 21.)

XI. The foundation of this permission is

(1.) The liberty of choosing, with which God formed his rational creature, and which his constancy does not suffer to be abolished, lest he should be accused of mutability.

(2.) The infinite wisdom and power of God, by which he knows and is able out of darkness to bring light, and to produce good out of evil. (Gen. i, 2, 3; 2 Cor. iv, 6.) God therefore permits that which He does permit, not in ignorance of the powers and the inclination of rational creatures, for he knows them all, not with reluctance, for he could have refrained from producing a creature that might possess freedom of choice, not as being incapable of hindering, for we have already seen by how many methods he is able to hinder both the capability and the will of a rational creature; not as if at ease, indifferent, or negligent of that which is transacted, because before anything is done he already [“has gone through”] has looked over the various actions which concern it, and, as we shall subsequently see, [§ 15-22,] he presents arguments and occasions, determines, directs, punishes and pardons sin. But whatever God permits, He permits it designedly and willingly, His will being immediately occupied about its permission, but His permission itself is occupied about sin; and this order cannot be inverted without great peril.

You Can’t Kill John Piper

Here is a great post from William Birch called, “You Can’t Kill John Piper” on the issue of divine determinism.  Great read.  I also recommend his follow up post as well.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/30/2013 at 2:49 PM

Arminius on Divine Providence

I consider Divine Providence to be “that solicitous, continued, and universally present inspection and oversight of God, according to which he exercises a general care over the whole world, but evinces a particular concern for all his [intelligent] creatures without any exception, with the design of preserving and governing them in their own essence, qualities, actions, and passions, in a manner that is at once worthy of himself and suitable to them, to the praise of his name and the salvation of believers. In this definition of Divine Providence, I by no means deprive it of any particle of those properties which agree with it or belong to it; but I declare that it preserves, regulates, governs and directs all things and that nothing in the world happens fortuitously or by chance. Beside this, I place in subjection to Divine Providence both the free-will and even the actions of a rational creature, so that nothing can be done without the will of God, not even any of those things which are done in opposition to it; only we must observe a distinction between good actions and evil ones, by saying, that “God both wills and performs good acts,” but that “He only freely permits those which are evil.” Still farther than this, I very readily grant, that even all actions whatever, concerning evil, that can possibly be devised or invented, may be attributed to Divine Providence Employing solely one caution, “not to conclude from this concession that God is the cause of sin.” This I have testified with sufficient clearness, in a certain disputation concerning the Righteousness and Efficacy of Divine Providence concerning things that are evil, which was discussed at Leyden on two different occasions, as a divinity-act, at which I presided. In that disputation, I endeavoured to ascribe to God whatever actions concerning sin I could possibly conclude from the scriptures to belong to him; and I proceeded to such a length in my attempt, that some persons thought proper on that account to charge me with having made God the author of sin. The same serious allegation has likewise been often produced against me, from the pulpit, in the city of Amsterdam, on account of those very theses; but with what show of justice such a charge was made, may be evident to any one, from the contents of my written answer to those Thirty-one Articles formerly mentioned, which have been falsely imputed to me, and of which this was one.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/02/2013 at 6:17 PM

Do You Want God Back in America Again?

“We need to vote God back into America again.”  “We need to put God back in His rightful place in our nation.”

These are quotes directly from people on Facebook about “the most important election in our life time.”  People are crying out to God to remove President Obama and for Him to restore His glory by placing His man in the White House.

I have many issues with such a view.

First, if you really want God back in America, it will not begin in the White House or any other political office.  It begins with preaching the gospel!  You want to turn American away from sin, from immorality, from the just wrath of God against our wicked nation (Romans 1:18-32) then it begins with the cross of Christ (Romans 1:16-17).  My advice for turning America to God is to preach Him, to glorify Him, to exalt Him, to preach His Word, to preach His salvation.  It doesn’t begin with elections but with preaching the God who elects.  If we will preach Christ and stop preaching for entertainment, we will see a transformation in America as people repent of their sins (Acts 3:19-20, 26).

Secondly, if you really want God back in America, we must have a mighty move of repentance.  It will not come from elected officials.  It will not come from legislation.  God will be glorified when the Church repents of playing games with the gospel and not being diligent in making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).  Our national sins of abortion, of racism, of homosexuality, of adultery, of lying, of greed, of covetousness, etc. all flow from our rebellious, hard hearts that are against God.  We don’t love God. We despise Him (Romans 3:10-18).  We don’t want Jesus to rule over us (1 Samuel 8:7-9).  Apart from the gospel, we are all God-haters and would gladly kill Him if He was here.  It is the only the gospel that sets us from being God-haters to being slaves of Christ (John 6:44).  God must save sinners through the preaching of the gospel in order for our nation to turn and the Church must get back to this basic truth: preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).

Third, while it is true that God does give nations over to their sins, He has never forsaken His faithful disciples (Hebrews 13:5).  He never will.  God has never “left” America or any other nation.  He allows them to dive into sin but He is sovereign over the nations and He will reign over the nations forever.  Consider Psalm 2:1-9:

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Does God seemed worried about the nations?  Not in the least bit.  Is God worried about who will be elected President of the United States or who is on the throne in China or any other nation?  Not at all.  In fact, Psalm 2:4 says that He scoffs the nations.  God is laughing at the nations and scoffing them!  He is not worried about being voted out of office at all.

Know this disciple of Jesus: The LORD reigns and He will reign forever more!  We need not fear.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/05/2012 at 2:11 PM

The Omniscience of God Concerning Free Will Events

In Exodus 3:18-22 we read what Yahweh tells Moses concerning Pharaoh and the plunder of the Egyptians.  God tells that Moses that He is going to set His people free from the bondage under the Egyptians (vv. 7-8).  He then tells Moses in verse 18 to go and tell Pharaoh that the Jews were to go into the wilderness to sacrifice to the LORD yet Yahweh tells Moses in verse 19 that He knows that Pharaoh will not let them go unless compelled by a mighty hand and so in verse 20 Yahweh tells Moses that He will strike Egypt with wonders and then Pharaoh will let them go.  God even promises in verses 21-22 that He will give the Jews favor with the Egyptians so that the Jews will plunder them.

Anyone who knows the book of Exodus and the history of the Israelites knows that all this comes to pass.  Moses goes before Pharaoh and sure to God’s word, Pharaoh denies that the Israelites can go free.  God does wonders that amazes both the Egyptians and the Israelites and finally, after the striking down of the first-born in all of Egypt, Pharaoh calls Moses to him and tells him to leave (Exodus 12:31-32).  The Israelites even plunder the Egyptians as God promised (Exodus 12:36).

What amazes me about Exodus 3:18-22 is that Yahweh clearly foresees all the free will decisions that will come to pass.  In His complete omniscience He knows what Pharaoh will do and say and even what the Egyptians will do for the Israelites after God’s judgment upon them.  Romans 9:14-18 gives us insight into God’s choosing of Pharaoh for His own purpose.  Romans 9:14-18 is not salvation in nature.  The point of Romans 9:14-18 is that God is sovereign to choose whomever He desires for His own purpose without saving them in the process.  Pharaoh could have been saved if he had repented of his sins but he continued in his unbelief and hardened his heart toward Yahweh.  The parallel between John 15:16 and Romans 9:17 are similar.  Jesus’ choice of His Apostles in John 15:16 was to service and not entirely to salvation (as the case of Judas shows).  This is true of Pharaoh as well.  He was chosen by God for God’s own purpose: to show His glory and wonders to the Israelites.

What is amazing though is that God knows the free will choices that Pharaoh and the Egyptians would make.  God does not force these decisions but He knows them just as He knows your thoughts before you even utter them (Psalm 139:4).  Jesus knew the thoughts of many in the Gospels.  In Mark 2:8 we read that Jesus perceived the thoughts of the people questioning His words in their hearts.  In John 2:25 we read that Jesus knew what was in man.  In John 6:64 Jesus even knew who did not believe about the disciples spoken of in verse 66 and about Judas (verse 71).  On a side note, Adam Clarke makes the point that could it be that Jesus was reaching out to Judas trying to call him to repent of his wickedness beforehand?  I know this is speculation on Clarke’s part but I do see the love of Jesus even for a Judas.

I write all this because some accuse us Arminians of rejecting the omniscience of God.  They believe that we hold to open theism, that God does not know all future actions of free will creatures.  I certainly reject this notion.  I believe from passages such as Exodus 3:18-22 that God does indeed know all things.  He knows even the free will decision of people.  He foreknows even those who will believe the gospel of Christ (Romans 8:29).  While this knowledge is not unconditional in that salvation is based on conditions that God has set including belief, He does know those who will believe.  This mystery is beyond me.  I cannot fathom knowing all things including decisions others are going to make.  God does.  God knows all things.  He foreknows all events.  He has chosen in His sovereignty to allow for free will from His creatures so that none can accuse Him of evil and say on the day of judgment that they were only doing what God had caused them to do.  Calvinists believe that God renders certain whatsoever comes to pass including sin.  How does this not make God the author of sin?  If God is going to render certain all things that come to pass then this means that He causes them to come to pass.  In essence, this makes God the one who caused the event (even sinful) to be rendered certain.

The Arminian view is that God simply knows.  That is it.  God knew the free will actions of Pharaoh and the Egyptians before it happened because He knows.  God knew when you would believe.  God knew that I would write this post.  That God knows is not the same as God caused.  God foreknows all things including the free will decisions of people.  He controls all things but He does not cause all things.  He knew the free will actions that would be taken toward His Son (Isaiah 53:4-6) but He allowed those free will choices to be made and for Jesus’ death to come to pass (Acts 2:23 notice that Peter says that those Jews were guilty of Jesus’ death through the hands of lawless men).  God allowed people to make free will choices to crucify His Son but He knew those choices would be made even if He didn’t make that choice for them.

There are some who take comfort in a fatalistic view of God’s omniscience.  I have even known some who would abide in sin believing that God knew and rendered certain their sin so why fight it?  I have seen some find comfort in their struggles of life by believing that God caused their troubles to come upon them by His own sovereign choice.  I have seen women mourn over their dead baby only to bless God for killing the child.  They find comfort that God causes all things to come to pass even if they don’t understand God’s ways.  They read the book of Job and see the hand of God crushing Job as proof that we should expect the same in this life.

I don’t know.  I don’t find much comfort in that thought.  I do believe that God is sovereign.  I do believe that God foreknows all things.  I do believe that God controls all things.  I reject that God causes all things.  Did God cause Adam to sin?  Did God cause Judas to betray Jesus?  Did God cause Hitler to murder over 6 million Jews?  Did God cause the rapist to rape a little girl?  What kind of God is this?  Despite the picture that Scripture presents of Him being loving and good, I would find this fatalistic view of God as appalling.

I am not sure if either Arminianism or Calvinism has the answer to the problem of evil.  The Calvinist views the sovereignty of God as meaning that He must cause all things to come to pass for His glory even the hardening of sinner’s hearts.  The Arminian views the sovereignty of God as God allowing free will decisions to be made that He does know but does not cause.  The open theist view is that God allows the future to partly open so that free will decisions are completely unknown to Him before they take place in time and then God reacts to those free will decisions.  I believe that all three may have problems but I accept the Arminian view as I believe from cases such as Exodus 3:18-22 that God does know all things including the future free will choices that others will make and He is able to make prophetic statements in that regard.

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