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Posts Tagged ‘James Arminius

I’m Reformed

What does Reformed mean?  According to dictionary.reference.com it means:

amended by removal of faults, abuses, etc.

Calvinists often use the term for their branch of theology.  Reformed theology.  The idea is to focus the person back to the Reformation.  In this way, Calvinists often perceive themselves as not just children of the Protestant Reformation but in fact they see themselves as the protectors of the Reformation.  Of course, Lutherans would disagree as would many other Protestants including Arminians.

Arminius was a Reformer.  His theology was clearly Protestant.  Arminius had no love for the Roman Catholic Church despite some who want to believe that Arminius was a secret Catholic or at least he shared sympathy for their theology.  This is clearly not the case.  Arminius differed with Catholicism in many ways especially in the area of justification.  Here Arminius aligned himself clearly with the Protestants as he wrote:

From the premises thus laid down according to the Scriptures, we conclude, that justification, when used for the act of a Judge, is either purely the imputation of righteousness through mercy from the throne of grace in Christ the propitiation made to a sinner, but who is a believer; (Rom. i, 16, 17; Gal. iii, 6, 7;) or that man is justified before God, of debt, according to the rigor of justice without any forgiveness. (Rom. 3, 4.) Because the Papists deny the latter, they ought to concede the former. And this is such a truth, that, how high soever may be the endowments of any one of the Saints in faith, hope and charity, and however numerous and excellent the works of faith, hope and charity may be which he has performed, he will receive no sentence of justification from God the Judge, unless He quit the tribunal of his severe justice and ascend the throne of grace, and from it pronounce a sentence of absolution in his favour, and unless the Lord of his mercy and pity graciously account for righteousness the whole of that good with which the saint appears before Him. For, woe to a life of the utmost innocency, if it be judged without mercy. (Psalm xxxii, 1, 2, 5, 6; cxliii, 2; 1 John i, 7-10; 1 Cor. iv, 4.) This is a confession which even the Papists seem to make when they assert, that the works of the Saints cannot stand before the judgment of God unless they be sprinkled with the blood of Christ.

Arminius loved the catholic church but by this he meant the universal church.  He writes again:

The catholic church is the company of all believers, called out from every language, tribe, people, nation and calling, who have been, are now, and will be, called by the saving vocation of God from a state of corruption to the dignity of the children of God, through the word of the covenant of grace, and engrafted into Christ, as living members to their head through true faith, to the praise of the glory of the grace of God. From this, it appears that the catholic church differs from particular churches in nothing which appertains to the substance of a church, but solely in her amplitude.

And how does one get into this catholic church?  Arminius answers:

The efficient cause of the church, that both produces her by regeneration and preserves her by daily education, and that perfects her by an immediate union of her to himself, is God the Father, in his well beloved Son Jesus Christ, by the Spirit of Christ who is the Redeemer and the Head of the church. (2 Tim. i, 9; 1 Pet. i, 12.) We view the gospel as the instrument, that is, “the incorruptible seed by which the church is born again.” (1 Pet. i, 23, 25.)

When it comes to Arminius’ disagreements with the Calvinists of his day (and bear in mind that Arminius was a student of Reformed theology having studied under Beza in Geneva and was assigned by the Calvinists of his day to debate the Anabaptists), Arminius differed over the issue of creeds.  Arminius believed that creeds and councils and catechisms can err.  He wrote:

The authority of councils is not absolute, but dependent on the authority of God; for this reason, no one is simply bound to assent to those things which have been decreed in a council, unless those persons be present, as members, who cannot err, and who have the undoubted marks and testimonies of the Holy Spirit to this fact. But every one may, nay, he is bound, to examine, by the word of God, those things which have been concluded in the council; and if he finds them to be agreeable to the divine word, then he may approve of them; but if they are not, then he may express his disapprobation. Yet he must be cautious not easily to reject that which has been determined by the unanimous consent of so many pious and learned men; but he ought diligently to consider, whether it has the Scriptures pronouncing in favour of it with sufficient clearness; and when this is the case, he may yield his assent, in the Lord, to their unanimous agreement.

The cry of the Reformation had been: “Reformed and always reforming.”  The Reformation students understood that the church might err yet again as the Roman Catholics had erred.  Arminius understood this point, writing:

It is also allowable for a later ecumenical or general council to call in doubt that which had been decreed by a preceding general council, because it is possible even for general councils to err; nor yet does it follow from these premises that the catholic church errs; that is, that all the faithful universally err.

Apostasy can come to even the best of people.  Why?  Because they are humans (Romans 3:10-18).  People often make mistakes.  This is why Reformation is needed.  There is no denying that the Lord will always have His faithful bride (2 Timothy 2:19).  I see nothing in Scripture to suggest a complete apostasy from the faith but people do err.  We must be careful to examine all things by the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  We are called to test the spirits (1 John 4:1) and this only happens when we take the inerrant and infallible Word of God and test all teachings.

In this sense, I am Reformed.  I am not a Calvinist but I believe that the disciple of Jesus often needs reforming.  Our minds can wander.  Our hearts can grow cold (Revelation 2:4). We can become worldly minded.  The disciple should strive to know God and know His Word (John 17:3; Romans 12:1-2).  The disciple should be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to reform us not just in our theology but in our hearts and actions.  We are new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) let us then live like it (Ephesians 4:17-24; 5:8-21).  The Holy Spirit is always desiring to reform us and make us more like Christ.

Arminius desired this as well.  He desired the church to always be reforming.  We must not grow satisfied with merely having sound doctrine.  We must not be satisfied with merely saying we are not Roman Catholics.  We must go hard after Jesus.  We should strive to love Him more and more, to worship Him who sits on the throne.  We should hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6) knowing that our satisfaction will be found in Jesus our head.

My prayer is to be more like Jesus.  I am so tired of me.  I am tired of trying to reform my ways when my heart is the issue.  I pray that the Lord Jesus will be glorified through me and that He would be Lord of my life completely in every way.  I want to exalt Jesus and not myself.  I want to see Jesus glorified among His saints.

Grant this all Lord Jesus!

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Calvinist Debates (And What We Can Learn From Them)

Over the past year or so Calvinists have been debating one another more frequently.  There has always been some debating going on with both Arminianism and Calvinism among those who agree but disagree over minor points.  As of late, Calvinists have turned it up somewhat in their debating.

Most of their debating has been over theonomy.  Theonomy is the view that the law of God is still applicable to all cultures today and not merely for the Israelites.  Some Calvinists believe that every nation should be under the law as its basic structure and to follow the law as the Bible gives it to us.  This would include men such as the late Greg Bahnsen (whom I respect greatly) or Gary DeMar.  Other Calvinists argue against this and believe that the law of Moses was just for the Israelites and not for all nations under heaven.  They point out that Christ fulfilled the judicial and ceremonial law as well as being our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) for our moral sins.  They point to passages such as Galatians 4:1-6 or Hebrews 10:1-4.

I am not here to settle this issue.  I think we all agree that Jesus saves sinners and this should be the heart of our message and not side issues.  I welcome healthy debates but sadly these debates among Calvinists have turned pretty ugly with some on one side saying the other side is not even saved.  I have experienced these sort of attacks before.  It is not loving nor kind.  I have received e-mails from Calvinists who tell me I am lost, that I am going to hell along with John Wesley, that Arminius is in hell, that God will judge me by the “doctrines of grace” and whether I held to them.  I use to receive almost daily e-mails from a Calvinist from California who told me I was a puppet of Satan, that I was dead in my sins, that I was preaching a false Christ, that I rejected the Word of God, etc.  I would always reply, “Thank you for your love for me” or “Please pray that Jesus would be glorified through me and not through casting me in hell.”  After I starting just replying, “Romans 5:8” he gave up.  I suppose he is still out there praying for us Arminians to be saved.

Another guy on Twitter use to send me tweets almost daily seeking to debate me over every little word that I wrote.  I could post on prayer and I would get a tweet from him wanting to debate the sovereignty of God.  If I posted something about my children he would tweet me and ask me about the doctrine of unconditional election.  I finally blocked him altogether.

In fact, on Twitter there are a group of Calvinists that spend their time watching Twitter for any tweets on Calvinism.  All you have to do is go onto Twitter and hashtag #Calvinism with something negative about the system and watch them come to life.  They will tweet you hundreds of times till you either block them or pull down the tweet.

Then there are the followers of Dr. James White.  Now I will admit up front that I regard Dr. White as a brother in the Lord.  I enjoy his works.  I listen to his podcasts (until he goes off on Arminianism).  His works on Mormonism have been a source of great help to me over the years.  He was one of the first apologists that I ever heard of and read as a young disciple of Christ over 20 years ago.  I was shocked to learn he was a Calvinist but this has not stopped me from loving him and appreciating him.  Yet Dr. White has an army of loyal followers who follow him completely.  If you ever question Dr. White, these folks will come out like ants to defend their man.  Dr. White will occasionally jump in with them but he normally stays out.  They are on Twitter and Facebook but they are out there defending Dr. White as the greatest apologist in the history of Christianity.

I suppose there are Arminians out there like these above.  I don’t know of any.  I am not one for sure.  I would disagree with Calvinists all day on Twitter or other forms of social media but my battle is not against Calvinists. I simply want to exalt Christ, see the gospel go forth, and yes, along the way, promote biblical theology as I see it and that would be Arminianism.  I have been called a raving Arminian only once and I believe this brother go me wrong (he lives in the UK and doesn’t know me).  Most who do know me including my Calvinist friends are often shocked to find out that I am an Arminian.  It is not what I seek to promote.  My agenda is not to exalt Arminius.  In fact, I don’t care if people know who is Arminius is or not.  I appreciate the man but he is not the one who is worth praising.  Jesus alone is!

Paul the Apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 words we need to read and hear:

12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

I ask the same: Is Christ divided?  Was Arminius, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, White, Campbell, Reasoner, Owen, Watson, etc. crucified for you?  Or were you baptized in the name of Bunyon, Ravenhill, Tozer, Lewis?

The reality is that we divide over issues that are not truly related to the gospel.  I know some will contend that Calvinists have the gospel messed up or that Arminians promote works-righteousness but if you stop and ponder these things you will learn that we both get the gospel right but we divide on how we get there and sometimes what takes place after.

I heard Dr. Douglas Wilson say to an atheist who asked him why if you gave five people each a Bible and put them in a room all by themselves and told them to just read the Bible, why would the five people come out with five different views.  Wilson answered that this is not an attack on the Bible nor upon the gospel but upon the sinfulness of man.  The fact is that five people with five different views shows us nothing about God nor His Word but rather it shows us that we should not trust people and their opinions.

I agree.  I am an Arminian in my soteriology but this does not define who I am.  I am much more than just Arminius and his works.  In fact, I don’t agree with all that Arminius wrote.  My Arminianism is not what defines me nor does it dominate me.  I read all sorts of Christian theology and I have hundreds of Calvinist books and commentaries.  One of my favorite study Bibles is The MacArthur Study Bible.  I appreciate many Calvinist theologians and preachers.  I am not blinded by my Arminianism to not appreciate Calvinism nor what they offer to me as a child of God.

The reality is that Jesus Christ is the One that I adore the most.  The sinless Son of God is the One whom I pray to, worship, long to be like, rejoice that He shed His blood for my sins.  I long to go to heaven to just be in His holy presence.  Heaven will be heaven because of Jesus and not because of any theologians who will be there.  When I was lost, Jesus found me!  When I was dead in my sins, Jesus gave me life!  When I was blind, He opened my eyes so I could see!  Jesus is my life (Colossians 3:4).

If people hear about Wesley, they might be smarter when they leave me but still dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).  If they hear about Arminius, they might be impressed with his life but they will not have eternal life (John 5:24).  If they hear me talk about John Calvin, they might agree that he was an exceptional expository preacher but they will walk away still under condemnation from sin (John 3:18).  If I explain to someone theonomy, they might agree that the law of God is good (1 Timothy 1:8-11) but if the law doesn’t show them their sins and lead them to Christ, what is the point (Galatians 3:22-24)?  I can possibly try to explain my view of the millennial reign of Christ but if they don’t know Christ, what is the point?

I am not demeaning the need for sound doctrine nor am I seeking to demean the need for theological debates. We need them (see Acts 15).  Yet at the same time, if Christ is not being preached, if His cross is not being lifted up (John 12:32; 1 Corinthians 2:2), what is the point?  Christ is the One who alone is worthy to be praised and sinners need to hear the truth of the gospel to be saved by His grace (Romans 10:14-17).  Christ is our salvation and not any theologian (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

My earnest prayer is for the Church to exalt Christ.  We have over 35,000 denominations.  This doesn’t disprove the truth of the Bible nor does it disprove the validity of the existence of God (Romans 1:19-20) but it proves that man is fallible and sinful at heart (Jeremiah 17:5-9).  Most denominations started out simply longing to restore the Church back to the centrality of the gospel.  Somewhere along the way they became focused on man and his agenda took over.  This is why we have 35,000+ denominations.  Our hope, nonetheless, must be on Jesus Christ.  No church will save us.  Only Christ will save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  The reality is that Jesus has only one Church and it is those who are His true disciples (John 8:31-32).

Jesus Himself said in Luke 8:19-21:

19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” 21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

Arminianism and Free Will

Arminius is often said to be the theologian of freedom.  One Calvinist theologian said that Arminius was “anthropocentric” in that he placed humanity at the center of his theology and not God.  To this day, Calvinist theologians continue to assert that Arminius and Arminianism is all about human freedom.  Libertarian free will is said a chief focus of Arminian theology.

And yet is this fair?  Is Arminianism focused on free will and humans as its center?

The fact is that those who say that Arminius was first and foremost about human freedom must prove this from his writings.  This cannot be done.  Arminius does not elevate human freedom above God’s sovereignty nor does he ascribe to salvation the basis being free will.  Arminius is clear in his writings that the will of man is free indeed but bound by sin (Romans 8:6-7).  The will of mankind is darkened by our sinfulness.  The will of man, like Jonathan Edwards later, was free but free to sin.  Man could do nothing with their free will to earn salvation.

Arminius was clear that we should uphold free will for three main reasons.  First, sin must be ascribed to free will.  While God can certainly use man’s free will sinful acts for His glory (Genesis 50:20; Acts 2:23-24), the act of sin must be free and not from God lest God be made the author of sin itself which Scripture deplores (James 1:13-15). God is simply too holy to sin (Exodus 15:11; Habakkuk 1:13).  If mankind does not have free will, sin must come from outside of them and that would be from the Creator Himself and Arminius simply would not affirm this.

Secondly, Arminius defended free will in regard to grace.  It was here that Calvinists often attacked Arminius as being Pelagian.  For salvation to be truly gracious and a gift from God (Romans 6:23) then it must be maintained that mankind receives this grace by their own free will albeit by the ministry of the Spirit.  To deny freedom in the work of grace is to make grace not truly grace.  How can one ascribe salvation as a work of grace if in fact man has no choice but to succumb to the irresistible drawing power of God?  Calvinists will insist that this is truly grace when dead sinners are regenerated to believe the gospel but salvation as a gift from God (John 3:16) is not a gift if the person offered the gift has nothing to say about receiving the gift.  Salvation as gracious is gracious in Arminianism since the will of man is freed by the Spirit to believe and receive the gift (John 1:12-13; Romans 11:5-6).

Finally, Arminius affirmed human freedom because it upholds the relationship between God and man as a true relationship.  God is not forcing His will upon people as a Master and they as robotic slaves.  Instead, God is loving, gracious, and reaching out to lost humanity through His Son and through His Word to bring them into a free and loving relationship with Himself.  The consistent theme of the Old Testament is God having relationships with people (and later the nation of Israel) through human freedom.  God allows the free will decisions of Abraham, David, and others to build His relationship with them.  No doubt God is sovereign in His choosing but He continues to allow a man like Abraham or Moses to even sin against Him in the process but nonetheless uses the men and their free will for His glory.  This does not end in the New Testament.  The coming of the Messiah is God still reaching out to humanity.  Yes our will is bent and wicked.  Yes we are sinners but God is consistently holy and pure yet He reaches out to the lost though His Son (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).  God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

The facts are that Arminius is not putting man at the center of his theology nor even free will.  Instead, Arminius affirmed the grace of God as central to his theology.  We are saved by grace and kept by grace.  Pelagianism places the beginning of faith in man but Arminius places salvation as an act of God’s first grace.  It is God who initiates salvation first in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) and ultimately in His Son (John 1:17-18).  The beginning of salvation is not in man.  The beginning of salvation, according to Arminius, is God and His grace.

For more on this I highly recommend the book, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace by Keith Stanglin and Thomas McCall.

Happy Reformation Day!

Happy Reformation Day!  On this day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the church door in Wittenberg in Germany and launched the Protestant Reformation.  As Arminians, we are children of the Reformation!  Arminius comes from a long line of great Reformers in the Church including Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, Knox, and many others.

I pray to God that He raises up more reformers who call the Church back to the Word of God and to the true doctrine of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/31/2014 at 10:00 AM

The FACTS of Arminianism: Freed by God’s Grace

The first point of the five points from FACTS is “freed by God’s grace.”  This has to do with the doctrine of prevenient grace by which the sinner is able to believe the gospel and to be saved and yet the Spirit frees the sinner so that the decision by the sinner is the free will choice of the sinner.

Arminians believe, as Calvinists do, that the sinner is bound in their sins.  We agree with our Calvinist brethren that sinners are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1) and that apart from the grace of God, none could be saved (John 6:44).  Romans 3:10-18 establishes point by point the nature of our depravity.  There is nothing in us that is not effected by our sinfulness.  Our minds, our hearts, our will, our speech – all this is bound in our sins.  We are depraved.  We are sinful.

A better term than “total depravity” would be “total inability.”  The sinner is totally unable to come to salvation apart from the intervention of God.  We do not love God.  We don’t want to serve God.  We don’t even see our need for salvation apart from the grace of God opening our eyes to our sinfulness.  The entire work of salvation is a work of grace.  Regeneration in both Arminianism and Calvinism is a work of God, a monergistic work by God alone (John 3:3; Titus 3:5).

Arminius affirmed total inability.  He wrote:

In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man.

However, despite agreeing that we are dead in our sins, that our wills are held captive by sin and only the grace of God can set the sinner free, Arminius went on to write that God’s grace enables the sinner to believe.  He wrote:

“What then, you ask, does free will do? I reply with brevity, it saves. Take away FREE WILL, and nothing will be left to be saved. Take away GRACE, and nothing will be left as the source of salvation. This work [of salvation] cannot be effected without two parties — one, from whom it may come: the other, to whom or in whom it may be wrought. God is the author of salvation. Free will is only capable of being saved. No one, except God, is able to bestow salvation; and nothing, except free will, is capable of receiving it.”

Certainly the Arminian position is that salvation is all of grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8-9).  Romans 11:6 is clear that salvation is not by works but by grace!  Good works cannot obtain salvation because they are often tainted by our sinfulness (Isaiah 64:6). If good works could save, how many good works must one do to be saved?  If God requires perfection to be in His presence, who can boast that they are ever perfect save the Son of God?  Scripture is clear that we are sinners (Romans 3:23) but Scripture is also clear that Jesus alone is perfect (Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).  2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that Christ shed His blood for us, for our sins, and He bore our sins on the cross.  Jesus was the sinless sacrifice for our sins.  He was the absolutely perfect sacrifice that secures our eternal salvation!

Yet God does not force people to believe.  Because of our sinfulness, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to our need for salvation through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  The Spirit brings conviction of sin (John 16:8) and He exposes our wicked hearts to the gospel truth that Jesus shed His blood for our sins (John 3:16).  The Spirit thus does His work of grace in us so that the freed will of the sinner can believe and be saved.

Arminius wrote about the work of the Spirit in bringing repentance:

Because, after the gate of grace has by the just judgment of God been closed on account of a malicious continuance in sins, no passage is open for the Spirit, who is necessarily the author of repentance. Therefore let these words always resound in our ears, “Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Heb. iii, 7, 8; Psalm xcv, 7, 8.) And this exhortation of the Apostle, “Workout your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” (Phil. ii, 12, 13.) May this be graciously granted to us by God the Father of mercies, in the Son of his love, by the Holy Spirit of both of them. To whom be praise and glory forever. Amen.

Arminius affirmed that the work of salvation is the work of God’s grace through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Arminius wrote about this saving grace:

In reference to Divine Grace, I believe, 1. It is a gratuitous affection by which God is kindly affected towards a miserable sinner, and according to which he, in the first place, gives his Son, “that whosoever believers in him might have eternal life,” and, afterwards, he justifies him in Christ Jesus and for his sake, and adopts him into the right of sons, unto salvation. 2. It is an infusion (both into the human understanding and into the will and affections,) of all those gifts of the Holy Spirit which appertain to the regeneration and renewing of man — such as faith, hope, charity, &c.; for, without these gracious gifts, man is not sufficient to think, will, or do any thing that is good. 3. It is that perpetual assistance and continued aid of the Holy Spirit, according to which He acts upon and excites to good the man who has been already renewed, by infusing into him salutary cogitations, and by inspiring him with good desires, that he may thus actually will whatever is good; and according to which God may then will and work together with man, that man may perform whatever he wills.

The Arminian position then is that we are saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, by the work of Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.  This gospel comes through the preaching of the inerrant, infallible Word of God.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17) and sinners need to hear the gospel to be saved (Romans 10:14-17).  The name of Jesus alone saves (Acts 4:12) and He alone is the meditator before God for sinners (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Sinners are commanded to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15-16; Acts 2:38; 3:19-20; 17:30-31).  This salvation is the work of God from beginning to end.

Short Thoughts on Pastor Worship

One of the reasons that Calvinism has become popular in our day probably has a lot to do with pastor worship above Bible study.  I am convinced that many of the “new” Calvinists (the so-called “young, restless, and Reformed”) are convinced of Calvinism not because they actually read Calvin or Arminius and not because they actually took the time to seriously consider Arminianism but because of pastor worship.  Calvinism has a bunch of “cool” pastors and this has caught the eye of the young.

The names of the pastors that Calvinists worship can be long.  John MacArthur.  John Piper.  RC Sproul.  James White.  Matt Chandler.  Mark Driscoll.  Tim Keller.  CJ Mahaney.  Joshua Harris.  Sam Storms.  Wayne Grudem.  Many of these men are godly men indeed and I am not attacking them.  I am attacking the worship of these men.  I often get asked to name top Arminian preachers and top Arminian theologians and we have had our John Wesley’s, our EM Bound’s, our Leonard Ravenhill’s, our Francis Asbury’s.  We have had our pastors that we elevated and we Arminians have been guilty of lifting up men as well.  Yet modern Arminianism doesn’t have the superstars that Calvinism currently has.  Perhaps that will change but for now, I am grateful that we don’t have superstar pastors.

Scripture does teach us to acknowledge godly men (see 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:7). Biblical leaders are to be servants (Matthew 20:26-27; 1 Peter 5:1-4).  Biblical leaders are not to be superstars.

In Acts 3 Peter the Apostle could have focused the attention on himself after the Lord used him to do a great healing.  Yet Peter cries out in Acts 3:12-16:

12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

The focus was clearly to be on the Lord Jesus.

In 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 Paul the Apostle wrote:

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Who is Apollos?  Who is Paul?  In our day, they would be superstars.  Yet Paul clearly wants the focus to be on God alone.  After all, it is God alone who saves!

I could name many godly men who have spoken into my life.  Some of them are godly Calvinists.  Some of them are godly Arminians.  Yet in the end my focus must be on the Lord.  Flesh will let you down (Jeremiah 17:5).  The closer I have got over the years to other godly men the more I realize that we all need Christ.  Not one of us have arrived.  We all still struggle to be like Christ.  Some of us are further up the road than others and we should rejoice in that but our focus must be on Christ.  Christ must be our gospel.  Pastors and church leaders will never save one soul.  All of them are just like us: sinners redeemed by grace.

If Arminianism does see a future growth, I pray that it will be because we proclaim Christ.  In fact, I don’t even want to make Arminians.  I want to make disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:19).  Arminius needed Jesus just as Calvin did.  Our faith is in Jesus and not in the doctrines of Arminius.  It is saving faith in Jesus that saves (Romans 5:1) and not faith in Arminius.

For my Calvinist friends, I pray that same for you.  I pray that your faith is not in Calvin or Spurgeon or MacArthur but in Jesus alone.  Jesus saves sinners and not Calvinists or Arminians (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 1:15).  Jesus redeems those who call upon His name (Romans 10:13) and not merely those who use the term Calvinist.

Our faith must not be in men for they will fail.  Our faith must be in Christ alone.  He alone is our mediator before a holy God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Christ alone is the one who is praying for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25) and not Arminius.  When I die, it will not be the names of great church leaders who will rescue me from the wrath to come but the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  It is the name of Jesus that alone saves (Acts 4:12).

Let us all pray, both Arminians and Calvinists, for the name of Jesus and His gospel to be proclaimed.  Let us declare that Jesus alone and not Arminius or Calvin or Wesley or Augustine is our Savior.  In the end, every knee will bow to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Psalm 110:1; Philippians 2:5-11).  I will bow my knee now.

Introducing the FACTS of Arminianism

One of the reasons that Calvinism has been effective in their growth is the acronym TULIP.  While some Calvinists contend that the acronym does not embody all that they believe and hold dear, TULIP has long been associated with Calvinism and has helped them to quickly clarify what it is they believe.  The system of Calvinism does seem to stand or fall based on TULIP.  For example, if the Calvinist concept of total depravity is true (T in TULIP) then logically unconditional election would follow (U in TULIP).

When it comes to Arminianism, I admit up front that we have no acronym that defines us.  The five points of Calvinism actually do not come from Calvin but from the Synod of Dort where the early Arminians brought five points to discussion.  The kangaroo court that was the Synod of Dort condemned the five points of the Remonstrants and Calvinism was declared to be the orthodox view.  The five points of Calvinism came out of Dort.

The five points that the Remonstrants brought to Dort are our basis.  In this regard, we Arminians then are not seeking to combat the five points of Calvinism per se but to use the five points originally given to the world at Dort by the Remonstrants.  These are our five points.  In short, Arminianism rather than Calvinism began with five points.

The problem with FACTS is simply that it does not flow like TULIP.  For example, I would rather than total inability be first but the FACTS acronym has freed by God’s grace first (F).  This counters the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace (or effectual calling these days).  Therefore, as we work through FACTS we will have to jump around.  This is okay since Calvinism does the same with TULIP.  Each point hangs on the other.  With regard to both FACTS and TULIP, they both work off the other points.  For example, F with T.  Arminianism declares that mankind is depraved, total unable to repent of their sins apart from the grace of God.  Therefore the Lord Himself frees sinners from the chains of sin by His grace when the gospel is preached unto them so that they may respond and either reject or be saved by the Spirit of God.  We agree with Calvinists that sinners are incapable of being saved apart from the work of the Spirit and God’s grace.  We differ with our Calvinist brethren over whether this grace is resistible.  We believe that God frees sinners to believe but He does not bend their wills so they are merely doing what God wills but rather God convicts the sinner of their sins but He allows the sinner by their own free will (that He has freed by His grace) to either reject His salvation or submit to the Spirit and be saved.  When a sinner does submit, this is the divine work of the Spirit and the sinner’s regeneration is a sovereign act of God (John 3:3; Titus 3:5).

On my next post on this topic, we shall begin to look at the FACTS of Arminianism.  We must bear in mind that Arminius himself was a former Calvinist.  Arminius esteemed Calvinism and held on to many of its tenets.  This was not a rebel working against the church of Christ.  Arminius was a man who truly loved Christ and wanted to see the truth of God go forth.  While he differed with Calvin and Beza here and there, this was a man who wanted to follow the Bible above creeds and confessions.  I pray that this would be my heart as well.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/05/2014 at 11:14 AM

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