Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Divine Determinism

“Arminians Despise the Sovereignty of God”

I saw this posted on Twitter and have received this complaint before.  The reasoning is that in Calvinism God is allowed to be sovereign so that all that comes to pass happens because God wills it so (Ephesians 1:11 is the cited passage for this view).  Arminians then despise the sovereignty of God because we deny that God wills all that comes to pass.

Calvinism is not actually congruent on this issue.  Some Calvinists (hyper-Calvinists) hold that all that happens including sin and the Fall of Man are all planned and rendered certain by God.  Other Calvinists would say that God merely allows sin to take place even though He knows it is going to happen and wills it so.  How God escapes being the author of sin in either view is beyond me.  Most Calvinists simply say that since God is holy and good then even when He plans evil, it is good.  They point to events such as the crucifixion of the Son of God as proof of this view (Acts 2:22-23).

Arminianism holds to the sovereignty of God but we believe that God limits Himself so that true loving relationships may exist.  God created Adam and Eve as free will creatures but what or whom was responsible for their fall into sin?  I would argue that Adam and Eve fell because they disobeyed God out of their own free will.  The same would be true for you and I.  We sin because we want to sin.  We sin not because Satan makes us or God wills it so but because we have free will and can rebel against God.  The nation of Israel is proof of this.  God allowed Israel to have a covenant relationship with Him wherein He called them to obey Him and if they did, He would bless them (Deuteronomy 8).  No doubt God chose Israel for His glory (Deuteronomy 9:1-5) but He likewise warned them not to rebel as they had in the past (Deuteronomy 9:6-11) but the people, out of their own free will, rebelled against God anyway (Deuteronomy 9:12-21).  It took Moses’ intercession to turn away the wrath of God (Deuteronomy 9:25-29).

The reality is that Arminianism does not deny the sovereignty of God but we do not exalt God’s sovereignty to the exclusion of His grace, His mercy, or His love.  The cross demonstrates that God loves His creation and desires to have a covenant relationship with them through faith in His Son (John 1:11-13; 3:16; 5:24; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 2 Peter 3:9).  All who call upon the name of the Lord can be saved (Romans 10:13).  The promise of salvation is given to all (Acts 2:38-39).  All can come and drink of the water of life (Revelation 22:17).  The cross shows the great love of God for His creatures (Romans 5:8-9; 1 John 4:10, 14).

So we don’t deny the sovereignty of God.  We simply acknowledge that God, in His sovereignty, has placed a condition upon salvation and that is faith.  When a sinner repents of their sins, they become part of the elect of God whom He foreknew (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:1-2).  The elect are only those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10).  We acknowledge that Scripture teaches both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of humanity to believe the gospel.  Both are true.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/28/2012 at 10:00 AM

What is Divine Determinism?

Dr. Roger Olson, in his book Against Calvinism, uses a term that is familiar to most Arminians but possibly not as familiar even to some Calvinists and that is the term “Divine Determinism.”  What does this term mean?  The simple definition would be the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty to the most minute things.  In other words, in Calvinism God not only controls all things but He also causes all things.  He is the ultimate cause.  Because God is sovereign, argues the Calvinist, then by definition He must be the cause of all things since He would both know and cause all things for one purpose: His own.  Therefore, all things that take place from the salvation of a soul to the murder of an infant happen because God caused it to happen.  To back up his view, Olson let’s Calvinists speak for themselves.  He quotes from modern Calvinists such as R.C. Sproul Sr. or John Piper to show that they mean that God causes all things.

The Arminian does believe in the sovereignty of God.  We would differ with the view that God causes all things.  We believe that God does control all things and He does know all things but we would stop short of saying that He causes all things.  We believe that through His foreknowledge, God does know all that will happen (Romans 8:29).  God knows the beginning from the end.  But does this mean that God then must cause all things to be sovereign over them?  The Arminian answer is no.  God maintains the right to step into our history for His purposes as the incarnation of God shows us in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:17-18).  God can and does often shape history for His purposes and we may not always understand His ways but in the end we can trust in the goodness of God (Romans 8:28).

Does everything happen for a reason?  Does the loss of a newborn baby through it choking on its umbilical cord bring glory to God?  Does the Holocaust bring honor to the name of Jesus?  Of course not!  Even Calvinists would acknowledge this.  But the difference is that some Calvinists (though not all) have a view of God that He must control and even cause the sinful acts of men.  I remember one guy in college arguing even with fellow Calvinists that God caused Adam and Eve to sin for His glory (Genesis 3:1-8).  He said to deny otherwise would limit God.  Arminians believe that God created the world and He chose sovereignly to create a world with limited free will.  I say “limited” because we can’t do whatever we want to.  God does set the limits even of our sins.  For example, God did allow the people of Germany to bring Hitler to power but He did not cause them to nor did He allow Hitler to destroy the entire world.  He allowed general freedom with boundaries.

Obviously the issue of free will and the sovereignty of God is not an easy to understand teaching.  Charles Spurgeon was correct when asked how do you reconcile the two teachings in Scripture when he answered, “You don’t have to reconcile friends.”  The Bible teaches both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.  Both doctrines are true.  Even we Arminians agree that God sovereignly draws the lost to Himself through the gospel.  However, we believe that the grace of God is irresistible otherwise we have no true freedom which in turn would not be true love.  I want my wife to love me because she chooses to love me and not because I make her love me.  The same is true for God (John 3:16).  He gave His Son for the sins of the world (John 1:29) but only those who repent are saved (Acts 2:38-39, 41).

Greg Boyd calls the Calvinist view of the sovereignty of God as “divine blueprint” meaning that God is like a builder who has a blueprint and He sticks by His blueprint and plans the blueprint out to the last inch.  Boyd says that there is no comfort in such a view no matter how you try to teach this belief.  In fact, one writer insists that such a view only leads to a “whatever” view in that even our sins are predetermined by God so if I look at pornography and indulge in sinful acts, so be it since God sovereignly knew I would and He even caused my sin for His glory.  John Piper points to the crucifixion of Jesus as proof positive that God ordains even sinful acts of men (Acts 2:23).  Piper calls the cross evidence of the greatest sin yet planned by God.  And yet Piper believes that the Romans and the Jews will all be held accountable for their sins despite the fact that they were not initially caused by them but by God Himself before the creation of the world.  Arminians would differ with Piper saying that while the cross was no doubt the plan of God, that He foreknew the events does not mean that He caused them.  Acts 2:23 makes it clear that God did foreknow the cross.

I know some of my Calvinist brethren find comfort that God controls every minute detail of life.  I can see some comfort in that at least in a world where we are in chaos from one day to the next.  The belief that God is in control is not limited to Calvinism and we Arminians should rejoice in that.  God does control all things (Psalm 24:1).  The psalmist was correct of course when he wrote, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).  We can be thankful that God has given us free will but that this free will is limited to the extent that God allows (Acts 4:27-28).  God foreknows all things but this does mean that He causes all things.  He moves for His glory.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/21/2011 at 10:35 AM

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