Posts Tagged ‘Book Reviews’
Dr. Vic Reasoner is one of my favorite Arminian theologians today. His writings are biblical and yet he has in his mind the average preacher of God’s Word as he writes. Dr. Reasoner writes with a conviction that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God and that all doctrine must flow from the Word of God (Titus 2:1).
In this work, Dr. Reasoner goes verse by verse through the epistles of John and Jude. Dr. Reasoner leaves no stone uncovered as he writes. He deals with his text while also including sound Arminian theology in there as well. I appreciate how Dr. Reasoner is willing to deal with tough texts and along the way includes everything from doctrines of salvation, sin, holiness, sanctification, and even end times.
In regard to debated texts such as 1 John 2:1-2 within the Arminian/Calvinist debate, Dr. Reasoner does two things. First he deals with the text in regard to propitiation and then he looks at how Calvinists have understood John’s words in 1 John 2:2 in regard to an unlimited atonement. To the average reader 1 John 2:2 seems to teach that Jesus died for the entire world. John Wesley, for example, taught that Christ’s atonement was as extensive as the curse of sin. In other words, sin has extended to the entire world and likewise the work of Christ is powerful enough for the sins of the entire world. Sinners who go to hell go to hell because of their own sins and the fact that they have not repented and placed their faith in the Lord Jesus who alone can appease the wrath of a holy God by His graceful work of the cross.
The good thing about Dr. Reasoner’s commentaries are that while it is clear that Dr. Reasoner is a sound theologian and knows his content, he writes with the average preacher in mind. As a man who loves expository preaching and practices this art himself, Dr. Reasoner is offering his commentaries to help the preacher preach the text. He wants preachers to work through the text. Therefore his commentaries, as any good commentary will do, works through the letters. I read this work as a devotion. It is that easy to read and follow. So while Dr. Reasoner does dive into the Greek text or the history behind a debate over a text, he writes with the average preacher in mind.
Overall I once again am impressed by this commentary. I pray that Dr. Reasoner will write more biblical commentaries. While I praise God that we have so many good commentaries out there, we need more solid Arminian commentaries and this one fits the bill.
You can find more information about obtaining a copy of this commentary here.
The Fire Bible was the first study Bible I ever owned. It was called the Full Life Study Bible in those days (early 1990’s). It changed its name to the Life in the Spirit Study Bible and now is the Fire Bible.
The Fire Bible was originally published by Zondervan and was found in the NIV and KJV. I had the NIV. However, over the years my theology changed as well as my Bible translation. I now use the ESV for most of my Bible reading and study. I was thrilled then to see the Fire Bible come out in the ESV.
The Fire Bible is a classical Pentecostal study Bible. The notes are focused on four cardinal doctrines of the Pentecostal movement:
- Jesus Saves (Salvation)
- Jesus Baptizes in the Spirit (Subsequent to Salvation)
- Jesus Heals (Divine Healing)
- Jesus is Coming Again (Jesus’ Second Coming)
These four doctrines are emphasized in the Fire Bible. The notes reflect these doctrines.
The layout of the ESV Fire Bible is impressive. The biblical text is double columned with cross references on the side. This Bible is easy to read without ghosting (where you can see the writing on the other page coming through to the page you are reading). The leather is well done (mine is black genuine leather and is very nice). The paper is not as quality as a Cambridge Bible but is good. I don’t write in my Bibles but this Bible does not have much space for notes.
The commentary is classical Pentecostal as I mentioned above. The view of salvation is Arminian. The view of end times is premillennial with a pre tribulation rapture. While this Bible emphasizes divine healing, the article on healing is clear that doctors are good and needed. Of course, the view of the Holy Spirit is a Pentecostal view with all spiritual gifts available today.
While I am not 100% on board with every note (for example I am post millennial), the notes are solid. What I appreciate is that the notes have a Pentecostal feel to them. Having grown up in the Pentecostal movement and was saved in a Pentecostal church, I know that doctrine does matter but experience flows from the biblical text. This study Bible emphasizes that aspect with a focus on sound doctrine but also upon living the biblical life. Christianity is not merely doctrine but is a life.
I recommend this study Bible. Even if you are not a Pentecostal (say a Wesleyan), this study Bible is useful. The commentary is soundly conservative (for example this study Bible has only one writer of Isaiah). As an Arminian, this is the only Arminian study Bible I am aware of on the market at this time (December 2015). I appreciated the articles on salvation that are clearly Arminian.
This chapter was written by Dr. Jack Cottrell. I have always appreciated Dr. Cottrell. His book on baptism is a must read as well as his commentary on Romans (one of the best Arminian commentaries on Romans in my estimation along with Dr. Vic Reasoner’s). His book on the sovereignty of God is the best I have ever read on the subject from an Arminian view.
In this chapter Dr. Cottrell dives into the issue of conditional election. If you are a Calvinist reading Grace For All, this will be the chapter that really gets you focused on the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism. I know that many Calvinists love the doctrine of unconditional election and view it as the heart of the gospel. They believe that the doctrine protects not just the sovereignty of God but also destroys the pride of men by teaching that God alone saves for His own glory and purposes. God, within the Calvinist system, chooses whom He will save and whom He will damn based on His own choice and nothing in mankind (in other words, God doesn’t choose those who choose Him or foresee their faith but instead He chooses based on His own sovereign choice for His own glory). Calvinists teach that God is just in choosing His elect from among the lump of sinful humanity because He could justly send us all to hell but instead He saves some for His glory and purposes that are known only to Himself (Romans 9:22-23).
Cottrell differs with such a view but he does believe the Bible teaches election. This is important since some Arminians have tried to argue against Calvinism by saying that the Bible doesn’t even teach election. Of course election is taught but the question becomes what does the Bible teach about election? Does the Bible teach the Calvinist view of unconditional election to salvation or does the Bible teach something else? Does the Bible teach that God elects the plan but not the man? Does the Bible teach that God elects classes or does He elect individuals and how does He elect?
First, let us establish the biblical truth of election. Cottrell shows us that the Bible teaches several elections. We must not assume that since the Bible teaches election that it is always unto salvation or unto service. In some cases it is both and in some cases it is just to service. Cottrell points out that God has elected and He has elected:
- Jesus (Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 12:18; Luke 9:35; Acts 2:23; 4:28; 1 Peter 1:20; 2:4, 6).
- Israel (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 1 Chronicles 16:13; Acts 13:17; Romans 9:4-5) which led to Him choosing men to build up the line of Israel such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Nehemiah 9:7; Romans 9:7, 13), Moses (Psalm 106:23) and David (Psalm 78:70) to carry out His purpose for Israel. He even used Gentiles such as Pharaoh (Romans 9:17) or Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1).
- The Church (1 Peter 2:9; 2 John 1, 13). Just as God used individuals in His building of Israel, so He used the Apostles whom Jesus chose to build His Church (Luke 6:13; John 6:70; 15:16) along with Paul the Apostle (Galatians 1:15-16) for His purposes. Both Israel and the Church were corporate elections with certain individuals chosen for special roles in connection with each.
Up to this point, the Calvinist probably would not take exception with what Cottrell has written. It is his next discussion, election of individuals unto salvation that begins to show the key differences between the Arminian view and the Calvinist view.
Cottrell first shows that while a person could be chosen by God to service in Israel, this did not mean that the person was saved. Pharaoh is a case in point. Yet this is not the case with God’s election in the Church. To be in the Church and chosen by God to serve the Church, one had to be saved. God chose Paul the Apostle to serve the Church but He also called Him to service through His salvation. In Romans 11:7 Paul shows us that one could still be among Israel and not be in the Church. Merely to identify with the Jews was not enough to be saved. One had to repent to be in the Church (Luke 13:5; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10).
Cottrell shows the Calvinist understanding of God’s election of people to His Church. This election is unconditional and based on God’s divine choosing that is known only to Himself. God has reasons why He chooses one person over the other but He has not made that known to men. Calvinists often appeal to mystery when it comes to unconditional election and Deuteronomy 29:29. God does not chose people based on any merit of their own nor is it based on foreseen faith or anything else mankind does. God simply elects whom He elects and saves whom He saves by His own sovereign choice. This choice is based on love but not because God sees something in the elect but because God, by nature, is loving and good. Again, God could will to send all of us to hell and that would be just (Romans 5:12) but instead He chooses to save people out of sinful humanity for His glory.
Cottrell contrasts this view (unconditional election of individuals unto salvation) with a view held largely by many Arminians of class or corporate election. This was the view of men such as Dr. H. Orton Wiley who held to corporate election. Robert Shank holds to this view in his book Elect in the Son. Dr. Cottrell points out the flaws of such a view by saying that the Bible speaks of people being chosen to salvation and not merely a plan. For example, Cottrell points to Romans 8:29-30 as speaking of persons and not a plan. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 is speaking of people and not a plan. Ephesians 1:4-5, 11 speaks of people and not a plan. Romans 16:13 says that Rufus has been elected. 1 Peter 1:1-2 speaks of elected Christians. Revelation 17:8 speaks of people who have been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. These are all persons and not merely a plan.
The key to understanding election, according to Cottrell, is that election is conditional and particular. Those who meet the conditions are saved and thus become part of the elect of God. This salvation is not unconditional (as Calvinists teach) but is conditional and particular. God has indeed chosen the Lord Jesus to save lost humanity and Cottrell believes (as all Arminians do) that His atonement was unlimited but is applied only to those who meet the conditions of salvation. God is sovereign and just to make conditions part of His saving. Does this mean then that mankind saves themselves? Of course not! The humble sinner who repents is not saving themselves but is looking to Christ alone to save them by His grace. Was the lost sinner in Acts 16:30 trying to earn his salvation when he asked what he must do to be saved? Paul didn’t reply, “Nothing. Salvation is unconditionally based on God’s sovereignty and choice.” No. He replied that he had to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved (Acts 16:31). Once the sinner met the condition, he was baptized (Acts 16:33-34) just as Jesus taught (Matthew 28:19-20) and Peter preached (Acts 2:37-38).
In the next post on this chapter, we will dive into Dr. Cottrell’s understanding of how election can be individual while maintaining that it is conditional. Cottrell rejects corporate election in favor of God’s divine foreknowledge (which is a strong Arminian view). Others disagree of course such as many Southern Baptists who hold to corporate election.
You can find my earlier reviews of this book beginning here.
Chapter 4 of the book Grace for All is a wonderful chapter. I appreciated it because Dr. Robert Picirilli dives right into the Scriptures to prove his point, that Christ died for all. Picirilli is clear that Christ shed His blood for all but this salvation is only applied to those who repent and believe the gospel. Calvinists (at least in part) acknowledge this to be true despite claiming that Christ’s work on the cross actually saves. Arminians would agree. The work of Christ was not a failure in that it pleased the Father and brought glory to Him (Philippians 2:5-11). Yet none are saved simply because Christ died on the cross. The resurrection after the cross completes the work of redemption for if Jesus is not raised, we are still dead in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). Jesus shed His blood for our sins (John 19:30) and was raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-25). One must place their faith in the risen Savior who did shed His blood for our sins.
Calvinists often assert that the Arminian view of the atonement is that Christ died to make men savable but He didn’t save anyone on the cross. The Calvinist view is that God placed the sins of the elect upon Christ so that when Jesus shed His blood, He shed His blood for the sins of the elect. Yet carried out to its extreme, this would imply that Calvinists hold to eternal justification (as many hyper-Calvinists do). I ask the question: when is a person justified before God? Is it when Christ died on the cross? Is it before time began? Is it when a person places their saving faith in Christ? The obvious answer is the that a sinner is only justified before a holy God when the sinner places their faith in Christ alone to save them from the wrath of God to come (Romans 5:1). We are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by works which we do (Titus 3:5-7). Yet none are saved until they repent and believe the gospel. The Calvinist can argue all day that their sins were placed on Christ when He died but the reality of their salvation only comes when they repent and believe the gospel. This would mean that the Calvinist is not born innocent of sin (this is the hyper-Calvinist view) because they actually sinned in time (Romans 3:23) but their salvation only comes when they (the sinner) repent and believe the gospel. While the Calvinist can argue their monergistic view of regeneration, they cannot argue that the atonement saved them 2000 years ago but rather it saves them when they actually believe in the gospel (Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 15:1-4; Galatians 3:1-5).
Picirilli examines the Arminian position by looking at key words of salvation. He looks at the words redemption, propitiation, and reconciliation. By looking at the words used in their biblical context, it is easy to see that Christ died for all people. Along the way Picirilli points out how Calvinists have interpreted the texts. For example, Picirilli shows how Calvinists have handled 1 Timothy 2:1-6 where Paul uses “all” three times. Calvinists take the word “all” here not to mean all in all people but only all types of people (though the Bible doesn’t use the term here that way). Calvinists go out of their way to build a case against all because the use of the word all would imply that Christ died for all and Calvinism says He died only for the elect.
Picirilli also looks at other key “universal” texts such as 1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:11. I appreciated Picirilli also looking at the book of 1 John and how John uses the word “world” (kosmos in the Greek). By looking at how John uses the Greek, we see that the word “world” is not merely “a group out of the world” as Calvinists often insist but rather the entire world. Jesus shed His blood for the entire world but only those who appropriate their faith in Christ will be saved.
One interesting point is that Picirilli quotes from John Calvin on John 3:16:
Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.
In the conclusion, Picirilli dives into the strongest Calvinist argument for limited atonement and that is that the Bible uses word that suggest that the atonement accomplished what God meant for it to accomplish: salvation. 1 John 4:10 says that Christ’s death was for the propitiation of our sins. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says that God has reconciled the world unto Himself through Christ. Are these meant to suggest universal salvation? Calvinists point out that Arminians deny universalism but how can they if these Scriptures are true? The Calvinist answers that Christ shed His blood only for the elect and He has accomplished their redemption by His own blood to the glory of God. Universalism can be easily rejected, the Calvinist answers, because the Bible is not teaching universalism but instead that Christ died for His elect only that God chose out of the sinful world (Romans 9:22-23).
Picirilli answers this claim by first pointing out that when a doctor makes a diagnosis of a person, that diagnosis does not save the person’s life but we often use language to say that it did. No one would say that the doctor finding a cancer in a person saved them at that moment. It takes the work of the doctor to save the person who humbly submits to the doctor’s diagnosis and allows the doctor to cut out the cancer from their body. At that point, the person is now saved.
Likewise, even Calvinists such as Shedd point out that only those who place their faith in the atonement are saved. The atonement, by itself, saves no one. Consider Romans 3:21-26:
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Notice that the atonement is not said to save but only those who appropriate the work of Christ are said to be saved. Salvation is received by grace through faith. Even Calvinists preach this. We must humble ourselves before the diagnosis of our sinfulness (Romans 3:19-20) and confess that Jesus alone is able to save us from our sins (John 8:24; 14:6; Romans 10:9-13). We must not only preach the universal call to salvation (which I rejoice that Calvinists do) but we must preach that all who place their saving faith in Jesus can be saved. The call is to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).
These gives the Arminian three key points we should ponder. First, we must pray for all to hear the gospel by praying for God to send out laborers to work His harvest (Matthew 9:37-38). Secondly, we should pray for all to hear the gospel and be saved by grace through faith (1 Timothy 2:1-6). Thirdly, we should pray for God to use us in evangelism of the lost (Acts 1:8). The will of God is not for sinners to perish (Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Peter 3:9) but for sinners to repent (Acts 17:30-31).
In my previous post on this chapter, I noted that the author is building a case that divine determinism simply does not fit into a cursory reading of the Bible. One gets the feeling from reading the Bible that free will is implied though not stated. Calvinists often build their case against free will by saying that the term does not appear in the Bible. I would agree but many theological notions we have are not found in the Bible though implied. This is true of the holy Trinity for example. This is true of free will as well. While I would argue that the issue of free will is not the main issue regarding Arminianism, free will plays a part because we believe that our sovereign God has sovereignly chosen to give those made in His image the true capacity to love and interact with Him as their God and creator. True loving relationships are not created by bondage and force but through wooing, caring, and true interaction.
The author points out that one of the problems with Calvinism is the moral exhortations in the New Testament. The author writes:
Every text in the New Testament contains a wealth of moral exhortations as to how God’s people are to live, e.g. remain committed to their marriages (Matthew 5:31-32), forgive those who wrong them (Matthew 6:14-15), be other focused rather than self-centered (Philippians 2:1-4), love and care for their wives (Ephesians 5:25-33), live worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27), resist sin (Romans 6:12). These moral exhortations are comprehensible on the assumption that God has gifted His people with libertarian freedom and extends the grace that enables them to obey. God’s people are challenged to respond to God’s grace by daily striving to live obediently.
Remember that within Calvinism, everything happens because God not only allows it (permission) but He ordains it. All that comes to pass comes to pass because God wills it so and He renders it certain. Many Calvinists use this to teach a positive view instead of the obvious negative. They imply that the reason that we can trust Romans 8:28 is because of the sovereignty of God (all determiner in this case). Dr. James White likes to call this “evil with a purpose.” White teaches that if God is not willing all things, there is no purpose to evil. Of course, the Arminian reply is that there is a purpose to evil: it makes heaven that much glorious (Revelation 21:1-4)!
When it comes to Christians sinning, the determinist view is that God did not give a person sufficient grace to overcome that sin so as to render that sin certain. In other words, when a Christian looks at porn, they are looking at porn because God did not give them the ability to freely reject the sin of porn. The Christian then is looking at porn because God knew that the Christian would and for His glory God wanted the Christian to sin so in order to render the sin certain, God withdrew His grace that would have enabled the believer to resist the porn. I had a Calvinist friend who very much knew this struggle and he continued in his sin of looking at porn (eventually moving on to prostitutes) because he resigned to the fact that God did not want him to overcome his lust and this was his thorn in his side to keep him humble (2 Corinthians 12:7).
One Calvinist noted, “God sovereignly directs and ordains our sinful acts as well as the good that we do.” And they see no problem with this.
The moral exhortations toward believers is to bring God glory (Ephesians 1:12). Believers are called to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), to do what pleases God (Philippians 2:13), to be holy (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7), to love God and others (Luke 10:27), and to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Yet if these are all true and divine determinism is true then it logically follows that the reason that a Christian does not do these is because God wills them not by not giving them the grace necessary to do what He has called them to do in the New Testament. If a Christian is not living holy, it is not because the Christian is neglecting the command to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) but because God has willed that the Christian not be holy and thus He has rendered certain whatsoever comes to pass.
The many exhortations to holiness, to prayer, to fasting, to evangelize, to love our wives, to worship God, to obey God, to not sin, to live a godly life, to preach the Word, etc. are all rather pointless if in fact God is the one who must give us the grace to live them and if He lifts His grace, we are unable to obey them and thus whatever happens happens because God ordains it by His sovereign will.
The gospel empowers people to live righteous lives (Philippians 1:11) and enables us both to will and do what pleases the Lord (Philippians 2:13) but these only make sense in a grace-enabled libertarian freedom sense. God’s grace is sufficient to help us to be holy and to live lives that honor the Lord. When we sin, we sin because we choose to walk in the flesh and disobey the Lord (Galatians 5:16-17).
The author goes on in this chapter to talk about the sins in the Church (1 Corinthians 5 for example) and how does this fit into a divine determinism view. Again, if divine determinism is true then Paul’s rebuking of the Corinthians is in vain since it was God who rendered their sinfulness certain by withdrawing the necessary grace to overcome their sins. The author also looks at over New Testament exhortations such as in James (Jacob) and even the Lord’s prayer. He also briefly writes about apostasy and how apostasy makes no sense if freedom is not allowed.
Overall this was a great chapter. I commend brother Glen Shellrude for this chapter. He has logically thought through the Bible and how does the exhortations line up with divine determinism as compared to libertarian free will. In the end, his case is strong that God has indeed given His creatures free will to choose to obey Him, follow Him, love Him, seek Him, glorify Him, and worship Him.
You can purchase the book here.
This is chapter 3 of the book Grace For All. This chapter is entitled, “Calvinism and Problematic Readings of New Testament Texts or, Why I Am Not a Calvinist.”
This was an excellent chapter. The first two chapters laid down the biblical and philosophical foundations to why Arminians reject Calvinism but now we turn completely to the Word of God for our understanding of why Calvinism is flawed. It begins with what Arminians have the most problem with in regard to Calvinism and that is the Calvinistic teaching of divine determinism. I was surprised once when talking with an educated Calvinist and he said that he had never heard of divine determinism. However, we Arminians view Calvinism as divine determinism. As Glen Shellrude points out in the opening of this chapter, “Theological determinism affirms that everything that happens does so because God has ordained it to happen that way.” Shellrude points to the Westminster Confession of Faith which clearly teaches that all things come to pass by the ordaining of God. While many Calvinists affirm unconditional election and thus they affirm divine determinism from a salvation perspective, many Calvinists fail to see that Calvinism (when taken logically) must affirm God’s sovereignty (all-power and all-rule) as “specific sovereignty” meaning that even the “trajectory of the smallest raindrop” is controlled and ordained by God.
Taken further, divine determinism affirms not just the good of the saints (Romans 8:28) but the evil as well (Genesis 50:20). Yet as Austin Fischer asks, “What about the reprobate? How does God work good for them?” Of course, He doesn’t. God’s plan for the reprobate in Calvinism is hell. This is said to be for His glory. Reading Calvinist works on the issue of God’s love and the reprobate one understands why John Wesley said that unconditional predestination makes our blood boil. It simply doesn’t fit the picture of the Bible about God, His nature, His creation, His love, and those whom He created in His image.
Shellrude points out that Calvinists often try to use the language of permission when speaking of evil and divine determinism but this will not fit with the Calvinist understanding of the sovereignty of God. Divine determinism means that all that happens happens not because God merely permitted it but rather that He plans and renders everything certain for His glory. So what about evil deeds done by evil men that God did not permit but purposed and rendered certain? Some Calvinists simply appeal to mystery but some such as Gordon Clark affirm the goodness of God despite His planning evil deeds and events:
God is the ultimate cause of sin, He is not the author of sin. The author is the immediate cause of an action. Man is the immediate cause of his sin. But he was not free to do otherwise. For God is the ultimate cause of sin.
God’s causing a man to sin is not sin. There is no law, superior to God, which forbids him to decree sinful acts. Sin presupposes a law, for sin is lawlessness.
So how does God in Calvinism escape sinning? Because He is God. Because God can do what He wants, God cannot be held responsible for sin since He is above the law. Reminds me of the cops I see flying down the highway going too fast without their emergency lights on yet cops would argue that they are above the law. I find Clark’s answer less than satisfying.
In the next post I want to jump into this chapter. Chapter 3 was excellent at exploring how Calvinism fits into the Bible but it doesn’t. One must have presuppositions of Calvinism to make Calvinism fit into the Bible. We will examine the many texts that Shellrude looks at in this chapter.
This is an ongoing review of the book Grace For All. This book is edited by the late Clark Pinnock and John Wagner. It is published by Resource Publications.
After reading Roger Olson’s chapter on how Arminianism is not “man-centered theology” but instead is “Man-centered theology” with the focus on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and what He accomplished on the cross and through His glorious resurrection, we are ready to examine what separates Arminians from Calvinists. This chapter, “God’s universal salvific grace” seeks to focus on the grace of God for all. The writer, Vernon Grounds, seeks to build a case from both Scripture and logic that God’s grace was given for all humanity. It was the grace of God that reached out to lost humanity through the cross.
Grounds contrasts how Calvinism views the grace of God that is given only for the elect (those predetermined by God’s sovereignty to be His elect) and that of Arminianism where God’s grace is the power of God, the acting of God to bring sinners to salvation. The gospel by nature then is the grace of God reaching out to lost sinners (Matthew 28:19). God’s grace was fully manifested in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 17-18) and Jesus shed His blood for all (Mark 10:45). Jesus is the one mediator before God for lost sinners (1 Timothy 2:5-6). By the grace of God, Jesus tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).
The chapter tends to get bogged down in philosophy more than exegesis. If one is to err (in my opinion), let them err on spending too much time examining what the Bible says about grace and salvation above what Calvinist theologians have said. While I do think that it is important to see what some Calvinists have said about grace and particularly how salvation is accomplished by grace through faith in Jesus, it is more important to see what the Bible says above what Calvinists or Arminians have said. The final authority for both Arminians and Calvinists must be the Word of God. Therefore, I feel that Grounds doesn’t do justice to this chapter by spending too much time on what Calvinists have said above what the Bible says. No doubt he does cite Scripture here and there but true exegesis is missing.
One need only examine the great commission in Mathew 28:19-20 to see that Jesus intended His gospel to go into every nation. This is the grace of God at work. The message of the Church is now: Jesus is King! Jesus has defeated sin and death. Jesus has won the victory! The message of the cross is thus one of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). God calls out to sinners to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15-16; Acts 17:30-31). Whenever one does repent and believe the gospel, they find that God’s grace was drawing them to salvation (John 6:44). It was the Spirit of God working to draw lost sinners by the gospel to the cross for salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:1-9). A person then is justified before God through faith (Romans 5:1) and not by works (Titus 3:5-7) nor is our salvation unto faith (as in Calvinism).