Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Good Books

Five Favorite Living Arminians and Calvinists (2013)

Had an e-mail this week ask me to name my five favorite Arminians and Calvinists and why.  So here is a brief top five along with short reasons why.

Top Five Arminians

1.  Dr. Vic Reasoner.  I enjoy his commentaries on Romans and Revelation as well as his other works.  He is an expository preacher, President of the Southern Methodist College, and a very skilled writer.

2.  Dr. Robert Picirilli.  His book, Grace, Faith, Free Willis simply a good book.  I have read it nearly three times.  He also advocates expository preaching.  I do differ with him over the KJV as he believes that the KJV is the best English translation though he is not KJV only.

3.  Dr. Roger Olson.  While I don’t agree with Dr. Olson on all issues (see inerrancy), I do enjoy his books especially his book, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.  

4.  Dr. Jack Cottrell.  While Dr. Cottrell is part of the Restoration Movement, he does consider himself an Arminian.  His books, especially his commentary on Romans and his trilogy on the doctrine of God, are classics.  Dr. Cottrell will make you think and he always takes theological issues and wrestles with the Scriptures for the final say.

5.  Dr. Michael Brown.  One of the best Christian apologists and a good debater.  He and his friend Dr. James White often aim at each other yet Dr. Brown remains a godly man through it all.  I met Dr. Brown back in the 1990’s and he was a man with a fire for Jesus.  His preaching is a call to holiness.  His book, Go and Sin No More! is a great read.

Top Five Calvinists

1.  Dr. John MacArthur.  I truly enjoy Johnny Mac.  I had the honor of meeting him and found him to be a godly, warm man.  His writings are full of Scripture and I love his passion for expository preaching.  His book, The Gospel According to Jesus, is a must read for all disciples.

2.  Matt Chandler.  I enjoy Matt’s preaching style.  He is not a deep expositor like MacArthur above but he does teach the Word faithfully and calls people to radically follow Jesus.  His book, The Explicit Gospelis a must read.

3.  Paul Washer.  This brother burns with a passion for Jesus.  Paul describes himself as a “Spurgeonite” when asked what he believes.  I love his zeal for the lost, his hunger for holiness, and his preaching of repentance.

4.  Dr. Gary DeMar.  DeMar use to have a 2 hour podcast that I would download and listen to in my truck.  I first downloaded it to disagree with him but more and more he opened my eyes to many things.  While I don’t always agree with Gary, he is an excellent thinker and writer.  His book, Last Days Madness, is a good read.

5.  Dr. Richard Mayhue.  Some may not know who this is.  Dr. Mayhue is one of John MacArthur’s right hand men.  He is a good Bible teacher, a deep thinker, and signed a book for me once.  His book, The Healing Promise, is a good read.

Short Thoughts on Reading Fiction

I use to think that reading fiction was a waste of time.  Why read books that are not real?  Why get into a story that has been made up in the minds of fallen flesh?  This was my mindset.  I would read only my Bible and mainly theology books with a few historical books sprinkled in there just for fun reading.

However, I now enjoy a few fiction books here and there.

It’s not that I have embraced fully fictional books.  I still would rather read something that is true such as the Bible (which is the inerrant and infallible Word of God) or theological works above a fictional book but I have found fictional book to be fun reading.  Fictional books can bring a little spice to your reading.  I will admit that sometimes my theological reading is more discipline than fun.  There are only a handful of books written by theologians that I have actually loved reading and, like a fiction work, could not put them down.  Robert Picirilli’s Grace, Faith, Free Will was such a book.  Roger Olson’s Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities was another.  John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus and his book, Charismatic Chaoswere such books.  Jack Cottrell’s What the Bible Says About God the Ruler was the best book I have ever read from an Arminian viewpoint on the subject of the sovereignty of God.  Dr. Vic Reasoner’s commentaries on Romans and Revelation are both books that I devoured.  R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God and J.I. Packer’s Knowing God were likewise excellent books.  Iain Murray’s books on revival are also books that I have enjoyed from a historical-theological point of view.

Fiction books are to be read like all other books besides the Bible and that by allowing Scripture to be our guide.  We are to test everything in comparison to what God has said in His Word (1 John 4:1).  Since the Bible alone is the God-breathed Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and only the Bible is written by men of God under the direction of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), we are to test all books (and everything else) through the lenses of Scripture.  Scripture faithfully reveals the mind of God.  When Scripture speaks, God speaks (see Galatians 3:8 where in Genesis 12:3 it is Yahweh who is speaking).

Why is fictional reading so fun?  Why does our flesh enjoy it so?  I think the reasons would vary of course but in my own life, fiction is a good break from the norm.  Fiction takes us into world’s that we create in our own minds.  Fiction creates people in our own minds who are not real and we can make them appear as we would like them to appear.  Fictional works (especially mysteries) take twists and turns that we would not be aware of.  That is how fictional authors keep your focus.

My general rule is that I read about 80% of my time from either God’s Word or theological books.  I spend another 10% reading history books.  I spend the final 10% reading a fictional work.  Typically I enjoy a good mystery or thriller.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/15/2013 at 9:09 PM

The Arminian Springboard

I have been reading Dr. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology text and I must say that I have been enjoying what I read.  Once again I am struck by how much we classical Arminians have in common with our Calvinist brethren when it comes to theology.  We are much closer than we like to realize.  First cousins would surely apply here.  We must remember that Arminius studied under Beza, the successor of Calvin in Geneva and Calvin’s son-in-law.  Arminius was a Calvinist theologian until he was commissioned by the Calvinists in Geneva to combat the theology of the Anabaptists.  Through his own studies, Arminius became convinced of the errors of Beza.  He still had high regard for Calvin and even noted this about Calvin’s commentaries:

Next to the study of the Scriptures which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s Commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself [a Dutch divine, 1551–1608]; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent spirit of prophecy. His Institutes ought to be studied after the [Heidelberg] Catechism, as containing a fuller explanation, but with discrimination, like the writings of all men.

Arminius believed that the problem was that Calvinists of his day were preaching the catechism without first regarding what Scripture has to say.  In other words, the final question for doctrine was not “what does the Scriptures teach?” but instead it was, “what does the catechism teach.”  Arminius wanted the Synod of Dort to establish that Scripture was to be the final authority and that if the catechism is found in error, we should be willing to change the catechism to reflect sound doctrine.  Few in his day were able to stand against his knowledge and ability to debate the Scriptures.  His early death prevented him from being able to argue at the Synod of Dort and the rest they say is history.

I do take exception early on in my reading with Grudem however.  He notes in passing that if we begin our systematic theology study of salvation with the sovereignty of God, we will no doubt end up Calvinists.  If we begin our studies with the free will of mankind, we will end up as Arminians.  I disagree.  I believe that this is a typical view of Arminianism, they we hold first and foremost to libertarian free will and thus we end up teaching what we teach about God, Jesus, salvation, and man.  This, I believe, is a wrong view of Arminius.  Arminius noted the following in regard to predestination:

1. The first in order of the divine decrees is not that of predestination, by which God foreordained to supernatural ends, and by which he resolved to save and to condemn, to declare his mercy and his punitive justice, and to illustrate the glory of his saving grace, and of his wisdom and power which correspond with that most free grace.

2. The object of predestination to supernatural ends, to salvation and death, to the demonstration of the mercy and punitive justice, or of the saving grace, the wisdom, and the most free power of God, is not rational creatures indefinitely foreknown, and capable of salvation, of damnation, of creation, of falling, and of reparation or of being recovered.

3. Nor is the subject some particular creatures from among those who are considered in this manner.

4. The difference between the vessels to honour and those to dishonour, that is, of mercy and wrath, does not appertain to the adorning or perfection of the universe or of the house of God.

5. The entrance of sin into the world does not appertain to the beauty of the universe.

6. Creation in the upright state of original righteousness is not a means for executing the decree of predestination, or of election, or of reprobation.

7. It is horrid to affirm, that “the way of reprobation is creation in the upright state of original righteousness;” (Gomarus, in his Theses on Predestination;) and in this very assertion are propounded two contrary volitions of God concerning one and the same thing.

8. It is a horrible affirmation, that “God has predestinated whatsoever men he pleased not only to damnation, but likewise to the causes of damnation.” (Beza, vol. I, fol. 417.)

9. It is a horrible affirmation, that “men are predestinated to eternal death by the naked will or choice of God, without any demerit on their part.” (Calvin, Inst. l. I, c. 2, 3.)

10. This, also, is a horrible affirmation: “Some among men have been created unto life eternal, and others unto death eternal.”

11. It is not a felicitous expression, that “preparation unto destruction is not to be referred to any other thing, than to the secret counsel of God.”

12. Permission for the fall [of Adam] into sin, is not the means of executing the decree of predestination, or of election, or of reprobation.

13. It is an absurd assertion, that “the demerits of the reprobate are the subordinate means of bringing them onward to destined destruction.”

14. It is a false assertion, that “the efficient and sufficient cause and matter of predestination are thus found in those who are reprobated.”

15. The elect are not called “vessels of mercy” in the relation of means to the end, but because mercy is the only moving cause, by which is made the decree itself of predestination to salvation.

16. No small injury is inflicted on Christ as mediator, when he is called “the subordinate cause of destined salvation.”

17. The predestination of angels and of men differ so much from each other, that no property of God can be prefixed to both of them unless it be received in an ambiguous acceptation.

Notice that Arminius did not start this with a view of free will.  He begins with the nature of God.  In his writings, Arminius often would begin with the authority of the Scriptures and then move to the doctrine of God.  It was his view of God that led him to reject the Calvinist view of unconditional election.  I don’t doubt that free will does come into factor in Arminius’ view.  But this is after he has established his view that God is first loving toward all of His creation and from this, the love of God for the world, we find Him granting humans free will.

Arminius then begins his theology with the love of God.  In no way does Arminius reject the sovereignty of God.  He affirms it over and over again.  He states this about the creation of mankind:

God can make of his own whatsoever he wills. But he does not will, neither can he will, to make of that which is his own whatever it is possible for him to make according to his infinite and absolute power.

Concerning the free will issue and God’s sovereignty, Arminius wrote,

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.

So I contend that Arminius doesn’t begin his theology with a focus on the free will of man but instead the doctrine of God.  And I contend further that Arminius doesn’t begin his soteriology with a focus on the free will of man but on the infinite love of God given toward us in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:8-9).

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