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Short Thoughts on the Inclusive/Exclusive Debate

I have been enjoying the lively debate over at the Society of Evangelical Arminians site on the issue of inclusive and exclusive positions of the gospel.  Kevin Jackson from Wesleyan Arminian wrote a good piece defending the inclusive position and the response by Brendan Burnett.  You can find the first post here and the response here.

While I will not rehash the arguments Kevin gives nor the response that Brendan gives, I will add my own two cents worth.

First, I take serious the words of Christ in all four Gospels to take the gospel to all the nations (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; John 20:21).  Acts 1:8 likewise commands the disciples to take the gospel to all nations.  This is a serious command of our Lord and not to be taken lightly.  The fact is that the Church is to take the gospel out.  Sadly, in our day, many want to have the world come to us.  The reality is that the gospel is to be preached to all nations.  This command of Jesus is vital if in fact Jesus is the only way to the Father and the gospel must be heard and believed for people to saved.

Secondly, 1 Timothy 4:10 implies that Christ is the Savior of all men but especially of those who believe.  Adam Clarke writes, “[God] has provided salvation for the whole human race, and has freely offered it to them in His Word and by His Spirit.  What God intends for all He actually gives to them that believe in Christ.”  Christ shed His blood for all men but only those who appropriate His blood through faith are saved (Romans 3:24-25).

Thirdly, Romans 10:14-17 implies the necessity of the preaching of the gospel for people to be saved.  Romans 10:17 specifically calls for saving faith to be acted through the preaching of Christ.  As Clarke again writes, “Preaching the gospel is the ordinary means of salvation; faith in Christ is the result of hearing the word, the doctrine of God preached.”

Fourthly, 1 Timothy 2:4 implies that the will of God is for the salvation of all but 1 Timothy 2:5-6 is clear that Christ alone is our mediator before God.  Paul the Apostle goes on in verse 7 to say that this is why he was appointed to preach the gospel to the Gentiles thus implying that their only hope was Christ.

And lastly, I believe the Bible is serious about the issue of sin.  It is not merely ignorance about God that keeps people from Him.  It is our sins.  In fact, Romans 1:18 says that our sins bring the wrath of God and Romans 1:20 says that people are without excuse.  The fact is that we love our sins and we love our depravity.  Apart from the work of the Spirit, none of us would or could be saved.  We are simply too sinful to seek a holy God.  Instead, humanity seeks false gods of their own creations.  The gospel alone is able to break the power of our sins and bring peace with God (John 6:44).

I know these are short thoughts.  I hope I am not demeaning Kevin in this post.  He is a good brother.  I was pondering this issue this morning and just wanted to jot these downs.  Two books to read on this issue are: Faith Comes by Hearing and Eternity In Their Hearts.

The FACTS of Salvation

Here is a link to an excellent article written by the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA) president, Dr. Brian Abasciano.  The article is a defense of classical Arminianism in its evangelical form.  I highly recommend it for reading and study.

You can find the article here.

Praying for the Lost by Brian Abasciano

Dr. Roger Olson is making headlines among the theology blogs for writing a post on how he feels that Arminians are not being consistent when praying for the Lord to save the lost.  Dr. Olson’s contention is that this is not consistent with Arminian theology and practice.

The Society of Evangelical Arminian has released the following post from Brian Abasciano, the president of the SEA.  The post is entitled, Arminians Can Be Consistent and Pray for God to Save the Lost.  This is an excellent rebuttal to Dr. Olson’s post.  Brian Abasciano does a good job in a short post of presenting the biblical basis for not only praying for God to save the lost but he also demonstrates that this is still consistent with Arminianism.

Over the years I have seen Calvinists place this argument out there before as well.  The argument is that Arminians are not being consistent in their theology by asking God to save a person.  This would imply that we believe that God would save a person against their free will and thus we deny our belief in free will.  We also would be implying by praying for the lost to be saved that God alone saves sinners by His sovereign power and grace.  This would imply that we reject irresistible grace while yet holding to it since we are praying for the Lord to save a sinner who is against Him by bringing Him to Christ through His power.

Is that really the case?  Do Arminians really believe all the above?  You should read the article to learn the accurate Arminian view.

Another Reason For The Rise in Calvinism

Francis Chan noted that today’s preachers are better speakers in his estimation than in years go by mainly because modern preachers have the advantage of iPods and downloading thousands of sermons that they can both copy and learn from.  I would agree somewhat.  I don’t know if I’m prepared to say that modern preachers are better than preachers of the past mainly because of the content.  I see little sound doctrine coming out these days from new churches.  Many are building new churches based on methodology and not upon the foundation of Scripture.

Yet this also got me to thinking about the rise in Calvinism among the “young, restless, and reformed” crowd.  When I was in college in the 1990’s, Calvinism was very popular.  I, being an Arminian, was clearly an outsider at my college.  Some even branded me as a heretic for my Arminian views.  Calvinism, in those days, was popular because of just a few preachers including R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, John Piper, and a few of our college professors.  But the spread of Calvinism had not reached its pinnacle.  That was to come with the dawning of the Internet.

The Calvinists websites are impressive.  Have you looked at The Gospel Coalition or Monergism.com?  Have you considered Ligonier or Grace To You?  These sites are all impressive to say the least.  They also are full of Calvinism.  No doubt they do promote much good and the gospel of Christ goes forth in many of them so I am thankful for them.  I do not pray condemnation upon them but God’s blessing.  However, I do oppose their Calvinism.  I certainly believe that their Calvinism is not biblical though they would completely disagree.

My point in this is to spur Arminians out there onward in building solid websites that would promote Arminianism.  We have the Society of Evangelical Arminians site which is moving along promoting sound Arminianism.  I do recommend the SEA site. I am no web designer but I do think the SEA site is not as solid in look as the Calvinist sites above.  I feel this will change in time.  It has been said that Arminianism is a moving faith in that Arminians are too busy seeking to evangelize the world to sit down and promote their thoughts in books or on the Internet.  That may sound godly but I believe that Arminians need to be excellent in our promotion of Arminianism and honest in giving our views.

That said, you can find many good Arminian blogs out there and most are better than mine.  You can several links on this site for solid Arminian blogs.  I praise God for them.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/18/2012 at 10:49 AM

Dr. Brian Abasciano Responds To Dr. Dan Wallace On The Issue Of Corporate Election

Here is a link to an article written by Dr. Brian Abasciano to Dr. Dan Wallace on the issue of corporate election.  Many Arminians hold to corporate election meaning that God doesn’t elect individuals as much as He elects groups of people such as Israel in the Old Testament or the Church in the New Testament.  I believe the view holds some valid points and that it should not be overlooked.

You can find the article here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/24/2010 at 1:22 PM

Thrilled by the Number of Arminian Blogs and Sites

When I first starting blogging in December of 2006, there were few Arminian blogs and sites. Granted blogging has taken off since then and I am thrilled to see the number of Arminian blogs and sites that are now on the Internet. I pray that God is glorified through them all! On my blog you can find a list on the right side of the page with many Arminian sites and ministries.


I think one thing that has helped Arminians has been the Society of Evangelical Arminians. This site was created to counter the Calvinist site, Monergism. The SEA is a great site for Arminians or people who want to better understand what evangelical Arminians hold in our beliefs. SEA has helped many people realize that they are Arminians and this has built up the number of Arminian bloggers.

May every Arminian cry with Psalm 119:33, “Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.” May God bless SEA and may the truth of God’s Word go forth.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/16/2010 at 10:14 AM

FACTS of Arminianism vs. TULIP of Calvinism

Here is a comparison between the FACTS of Arminian theology versus the TULIP of Calvinism. This was originally posted at the Society of Evangelical Arminians site and written by Brian Abasciano and Martin Glynn. You can find much more articles helpful to understanding Arminian theology at the Society of Evangelical Arminians website.

ARMINIANISM

Arminianism may be represented by the acronym FACTS:

Freed by Grace (to Believe)
Atonement for All
Conditional Election
Total Depravity
Security in Christ

These points broadly and roughly correspond to the historic Articles of Remonstrance (though they are not specifically a representation of them), which were composed in July 1610 by early Arminians and constitute the first formal summary of Arminian theology. Article numbers have been indicated for each point for convenient comparison. The points are presented here by logical order rather than acronym order to facilitate explanation most helpfully.

Total Depravity (Article 3)

  • Humanity was created in the image of God, good and upright, but fell from its original sinless state through willful disobedience, leaving humanity sinful, separated from God, and under the sentence of divine condemnation.
  • Total depravity does not mean that human beings are as bad as they could be, but that sin impacts every part of a person’s being and that people now have a sinful nature with a natural inclination toward sin, making every human being fundamentally corrupt at heart.
  • Therefore, human beings are not able to think, will, nor do anything good in and of themselves, including merit favor from God, save ourselves from the judgment and condemnation of God that we deserve for our sin, or even believe the gospel.
  • If anyone is to be saved, God must take the initiative.

Atonement for All (Article 2)

  • God loves the world and desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
  • Therefore, God gave his only Son to die for the sins of the whole world so as to provide forgiveness and salvation for all people.
  • While God has provided for the salvation of all people by Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death for all, the benefits of Christ’s death are received by grace through faith and are only effective for those who believe.

Freed by Grace {to Believe} (Article 4)

  • Because of Total Depravity and Atonement for All (as described above), God calls all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, and graciously enables those who hear the gospel to respond to it positively in faith.
  • God regenerates those who believe in Christ (faith logically precedes regeneration).
  • God’s saving grace is resistible, which is to say that he dispenses his calling, drawing, and convicting grace (which would bring us to salvation if responded to with faith) in such a way that we may reject it. Those who hear the gospel may either accept it by grace or reject it to their own eternal destruction.
  • Apart from the realm of pleasing the Lord and doing spiritual good, people often have free will, which means that, with respect to an action, they can at least either do the action or refrain from doing it. People often have genuine choices and are therefore correspondingly able to make choices.
  • God has ultimate and absolute free will. His choice to supernaturally free the will of sinners by his grace to believe in Christ is a matter of the exercise of his own free will and sovereignty.

Conditional Election (Article 1)

  • God has sovereignly decided to choose only those who have faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, for salvation and his eternal blessing.
  • God has foreknown from eternity which individuals would believe in Christ.
  • Among Arminians, there are two different views of election conditioned on faith:
    1. Individual election: The classic view in which God individually chose each believer based upon His foreknowledge of each one’s faith and so predestined each to eternal life
    2. Corporate election: Election to salvation is primarily of the Church as a people and embraces individuals only in faith-union with Christ the Chosen One and as members of his people. Since the election of the individual derives from the election of Christ and the corporate people of God, individuals become elect when they believe and remain elect only as long as they believe.
      (For more on corporate election, see here.)

Security in Christ (Article 5)

  • Since salvation comes through faith in Christ, the security of our salvation continues by faith in Christ.
  • Just as the Holy Spirit empowered us to believe in Christ, so he empowers us to continue believing in Christ.
  • God protects our faith relationship with him from any outside force irresistibly snatching us away from Christ or our faith, and he preserves us in salvation as long as we trust in Christ.
  • Arminians have differing views of whether Scripture teaches that believers can forsake faith in Christ and so perish, or whether God irresistibly keeps believers from forsaking their faith and therefore entering into eternal condemnation (as unbelievers).

CALVINISM

The Calvinist position may be represented by the acronym TULIP:

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints

These are derived from the Synod of Dort, a local synod in Holland, which convened in 1618-1619 to contradict and condemn the Articles of Remonstrance. Here is a brief explanation of each point, with corresponding article numbers from the Articles of Remonstrance indicated for convenient comparison:

Total Depravity (Article 3)

  • Same as the Arminian points
  • Though we do not differ on how to describe human depravity, Calvinists do also believe that this state requires that God first regenerate a sinner before he can believe in Christ, making him alive and giving him a new, holy nature. But regeneration does not merely enable the sinner to believe; it irresistibly causes the sinner to believe.

Unconditional Election (Article 1)

  • God chose some individuals unconditionally from eternity for eternal life according to his own good pleasure, completely apart from anything having to do with the person, including merit, good works, or foreseen faith.
  • God withheld his mercy from the rest of humanity, ordaining them to dishonor and wrath for their sin.
  • Thus, by the decree of God and for his glory, some people are unconditionally predestined to eternal life, and others are left (and so ordained) to eternal death because of their sin, making two specific and static groups of individuals that can never be changed. (Some Calvinists believe that God purposed to glorify his name by unconditionally choosing some individuals for eternal blessing and some individuals for eternal Hell, and that God ordained the Fall and decided to create the world to accomplish this goal.)

Limited Atonement (Article 2)

  • Christ died only for those certain individuals whom God chose unconditionally from eternity for salvation, enduring the punishment for their sins in their place.
  • Christ’s death for those who have been unconditionally elected irresistibly brings about their salvation and everything necessary for it, including repentance and faith in Christ.

Irresistible Grace (Article 4)

  • Those whom God has unconditionally elected, and for whom Jesus died, God will draw irresistibly to faith in Christ by his grace through regeneration (making faith inevitable).
  • When God brings elect sinners to Christ, he irresistibly causes them to be willing to come to Christ and to come to him in faith freely. (While we are presenting the Calvinist view objectively and typically without comment, the self-contradiction here is just too obvious to let pass: “irresistibly causes them to comewillingly and freely?”)
  • While God calls all without distinction to faith in Christ (the general call), he only calls those he has chosen unconditionally in a way that cannot be resisted (the effectual call).
  • Those God has not chosen will reject the gospel call of their own will and cannot do otherwise.

Perseverance of the Saints (Article 5)

  • Those whom God has unconditionally elected and for whom Jesus has died and whom God has irresistibly drawn to faith in Christ will inevitably persevere in their faith and can neither totally nor finally fall away from Christ, because God will irresistibly cause them to persevere. Therefore, their blessed eternal destiny with God is secure.
  • This perseverance is not based on the believer, who may waver and actually fall into serious sin for periods of time, but is rather based on the continued grace of God.
  • Those who appear to be believers, but fall away from the faith and die without faith in Christ, demonstrate that they had not truly come to saving faith in the first place.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/09/2010 at 9:20 AM

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