Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Moral Government Theology (MGT)

Charles Finney on Original Sin (Introduction)

Many want to place Charles Finney among Arminians.  How often have I heard some Calvinists state that Finney was an Arminian and a poster board for Arminianism.  Finney was not an Arminian.  As far as I know, Finney never claimed Arminianism.  Even a short reading of the works of Arminius in comparison to the works of Finney will show that he is not an Arminian in the sense of the teachings of Arminius.  As I have pointed out before, Arminius affirms original sin.  He holds to the same form of original sin as Calvinists do.  Finney did not.  Finney denied original sin.

The question I have often heard is whether Finney was a heretic.  Many Calvinists believe he was and that he preached a false gospel.  One Calvinist even did a video series attacking Charles Finney as a very dangerous heretic and a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Phil Johnson from Pyromaniacs believes that Finney was a heretic and a false teacher.  I have read most of the works of Finney and if you have never read his book on the gospel, I would encourage you to read it and then ask yourself whether he was preaching another Jesus.  You can find Finney’s book on the gospel here.  I have read Finney’s books on prayer and on the Spirit and on the Lord Jesus and I fail to see how Finney is such an apostate.  I don’t agree with Finney on all issues but I don’t feel that he is an outright heretic worthy of damnation.

I think a couple of thoughts are in order about Finney.  First, Finney was converted while practicing law and this had a great effect upon his views of Scripture.  For Finney, the moral government of God was supreme and the duty of humanity was to obey the divine law of God.  Failure to obey God’s law brought about condemnation and required atonement for our sins.  Finney viewed the entire work of Christ as fulfilling the sinner’s need for salvation because of our violation of the law of God.  Finney believed that the free will was intact and that we are born free to either serve God or not serve God and he viewed 1 John 3:4 as true sinning.

Secondly, Finney was combating intellectual Calvinism that had taken root in New England during his time.  The dryness Finney encountered after his conversion to Jesus Christ led him to deny Calvinism because he saw it as defeating true passion in the heart of the saint.  Finney also witnessed the dry intellectual preaching of his day and he longed for passionate preaching of the Word of God.  Finney fulfilled that.  Thus Finney preached against the dry Calvinism of his day and the lack of conversions among the people living in New England who claimed to be Calvinists.  It seems from reading Finney that almost all of the Calvinists he knew were not passionately living for the glory of God and set out to preach against them and to see people converted to Christ.  In my estimation, Finney preached Jesus and salvation in Him through faith and apart from works (Romans 4:5).  I don’t see evidence that Finney preached another Jesus.

Over the next few days I will be posting articles by Charles Finney on original sin.  Again, Finney does not represent Arminianism but represents Moral Government Theology (MGT) as Winkie Pratney before him.  MGT has its roots from some of Arminius’ teachings but not entirely and differs with Arminius mainly here in original sin.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/01/2012 at 10:00 AM

An Evangelical Reply to Winkie Pratney

I just finished posting over the past several days posts from Winkie Pratney, prominent YWAM teacher, on the doctrine of sin.  Pratney holds to moral government theology views regarding sin and original sin.  His view is similar to those held by MGT teachers such as Charles Finney or Jesse Morrell.  I feel a few statements are in order about the posts.

First, I respect Winkie Pratney much.  He has done much good for the kingdom of Christ.  Pratney was influential to many followers of Christ including the late Keith Green and many of the early Jesus Movement disciples.  Pratney was often found teaching at Keith Green’s Last Days Ministries in Lindale, Texas.  Pratney was also esteemed by such teachers as Leonard Ravenhill and others.  I have never met Pratney but those who have tell me that he is a godly, gentle man who longs for people to love Jesus with all their hearts.  I rejoice in that.

Secondly, I think it would not be fair of Calvinists to say that Pratney or any other MGT teacher is an Arminian.  I agree that their theology is closer to Arminianism than to Calvinism but their views regarding sin is not found in the teachings of Arminius.  Arminius clearly held to original sin and he rejected any notion that man could overcome sin through the will or even that they can free will themselves to salvation.  Arminius held that the will is bound by sin just as Luther and Calvin taught.  Arminius held that salvation is all of grace through faith and while he differed over whether this salvation was conditional or unconditional in regard to divine election, he clearly taught that salvation is a work of the Spirit (John 6:44; Ephesians 1:3-14; Titus 3:5-7).  Therefore, if the writings of Arminius are the deciding point of Arminianism then MGT teachers are not Arminians.

Thirdly, if you are looking for an evangelical reply to MGT and teachers such as Winkie Pratney, I recommend the book Evangelical Heathenism: Examining Contemporary Revivalism by E. Calvin Beisner.  The book is a good theological read.

Ezekiel 18:20 and Original Sin

Most of those who reject original sin will often reject the doctrine based on Ezekiel 18:20.  Moral Government teachers often appeal to Ezekiel 18:20 when seeking to build a case against inherited depravity.  The verse reads,

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

The idea set forth is that God declares clearly here in this passage that He does not hold the son guilty for the father’s sins nor the father for the sin of the children.  The soul that sins shall die.  Therefore, we are not found guilty before God because of Adam’s sin but because of our own sins.  We all must give an account before God who is the judge of all the earth (Romans 14:10-12; Revelation 20:11-15).  The soul that sins shall die (1 John 3:4).  We don’t die because of Adam’s sin nor are people born with the guilt of Adam inherited in our flesh.  We are born into a sinful world but we are not born sinners, guilty of Adam’s transgression.  This is the reasoning.

The answer from those who hold to the doctrine of original sin, as best as I can read, is that Ezekiel 18:20 is not dealing with Adam as the Federal head of the human race.  For instance, it was in fact Eve who sinned first (Genesis 3:6; 1 Timothy 2:14) but Romans 5:12 says that death came through Adam.  Why?  Because Adam was the federal head of our humanity.  He represented all of us in the Garden.  Therefore, we all fell in Adam.  Further, Ezekiel 18 is not dealing with this issue but rather is dealing with the issue of sinning under the Law of Moses.  The context is God answering the Jewish proverb that Ezekiel quotes in verse 2.  The issue here is not salvation but pertaining to the Law and Israel’s misuse of God’s law.

So are we born sinners or are born innocent of sin?  Do we sin because we are sinners or are we sinners because we sin?

We will now turn to toward moral government and some others who oppose original sin.  Does Scripture clearly teach that we are born sinful?  When do we become sinners?  My hope is that we would answer those questions from Scripture and not from our opinions, quotes from Church Fathers, or from our experiences.  It is easy to judge theology based on our own experiences instead of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.  My prayer is that we would always heed Scripture above all else.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/23/2012 at 12:27 PM

Original Sin Study Up To This Point

A brief summary of what I have been learning from my studies on the subject of original sin.  First, there are many Christians who agree with St. Augustine over the doctrine of original sin.  John Calvin, Beza, Arminius, Edwards, Wesley, and even modern theologians such as Robert Picirilli or the late Kenneth Grinder agree with the doctrine.  Wayne Grudem holds to the doctrine though he doesn’t favor the language.  This seems to be the view among modern theologians, that the doctrine is correct but the language, “original sin,” is not the best description of the doctrine.

Secondly, Arminians hold in general that we are born totally depraved and with an inherited sinful nature.  We are not guilty per se of Adam’s sin in that the original act of disobedience is our disobedience (though some Calvinists do hold to this view, that we are guilty of Adam’s sin just as much as he was).  Wesley, for example, taught that none will be condemned for the sin of Adam itself but for our own sins.  This seem to not be the view of Arminius though I will deal with Arminius’ view of original sin coming up in a later post.  Arminius seems to agree with John Calvin who agreed with Augustine over the doctrine.  By the way, all three men taught infant baptism as helping give grace to babies born in Christian families.

My own views seem to still lean toward the standard Arminian view from above.  I do not hold to moral government theology (MGT) which completely rejects original sin.  For more on this, I recommend the book Evangelical Heathenism by E. Calvin Beisner.  The book deals with the view of MGT and shows that MGT is not in line with Arminianism and Calvinism in view of original sin and our sinful nature.  MGT teachers such as Jesse Morrell are prominent on YouTube and other places.  I reject the notion, however, that those who hold to MGT are not Christians.  While I disagree with MGT over certain issues, I do believe that they hold to salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.  This is the foundation that we need to build upon and find unity in (Ephesians 2:19).  I do think that MGT can lead to faulty understanding of human nature.

That said, I believe that we are born depraved and sinful in our nature (Romans 5:12).  Romans 5:19 says that we were made sinners in Adam.  In this way, we sin because we are sinners.  The work of Christ alone can reverse this.  This is one of the main points of Romans 5:12-21; that Christ is the second Adam and His work on the cross enables us to turn from sin and come under His control.  The power of sin can only be broken through Christ and not by our flesh.

Upcoming in the study will be from Dr. Jack Cottrell who rejects original sin.  We will also look at the teachings of Alexander Campbell over original sin and also Restoration theologian F. Lagard Smith over the teaching.  We will look at what Arminius had to say further about original sin along with John Calvin.  We will look at the teaching of original sin from Martin Luther and also from Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon.  We will look at how early Arminians interpreted Arminius and original sin.  It should be a good study so hang with me on this one.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/30/2012 at 10:00 AM

Open Theism and Moral Government Theology

It is not surprising that many proponents of open theism are also supporters of moral government theology.  In fact, prominent MGT teachers the late Gordon Olson and Winkie Pratney also hold to a similar view of an open view of God that is found in the writings of open theists such as Greg Boyd or Clark Pinnock.  A MGT evangelist that I follow in Facebook also often promotes open theism with various posts on Facebook questioning the traditional view of God and the future.

MGT teacher Gordon Olson held that the future is partly open and because MGT requires complete free will of humans, even God does not know our future free will decisions.  Otherwise, how could they be free?  Greg Boyd questions the power of prayer and evangelism if in fact the future is already settled by God.  How could prayer be powerful if God has already determined to do something apart from the free will decisions of men?

Winkie Pratney also follows Olson in that he teaches that free will effects God.  God makes adjustments to His plans based partly on the free will decisions of men.  Pratney points to the example of the sickness of Hezekiah (as does Boyd) in Isaiah 38:1-4 or the case of Jonah.  Both Olson and Boyd point to God’s testing of Abraham in Genesis 22:1 and the angel’s reply to Abraham in Genesis 22:12 as proof that God was seeing what He could not see in the heart of His servant.

Why is open theism so prominent among MGT proponents?  It is because of the MGT insistence that man was created with free will and that after the fall of man, man does not receive a sinful nature and are not totally depraved.  No doubt we are sinners (Romans 3:23) but we are sinners because we choose to sin against God.  Sin is a complete choice that even sinners can make to not sin.  Sinners then do not sin because of their nature to sin but because they choose freely to sin.  Even in our fallen state, we can still choose not to sin.  This radical view of man’s nature leads to the belief that man can thus freely, at any time, choose to reject sin and accept Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for sins.  Jesus’ death on the cross makes our salvation possible but we must freely choose to accept the work of Christ for our sins.

The Arminian view is that we are totally depraved.  Our total depravity means that we are not only sinners by choice but by nature as well.  Fallen humanity can not freely choose, apart from the grace of God, to become Jesus’ disciples.  We need the aid of divine grace to save us.  Where we differ with Calvinism is that we believe that God does not force people to repent of their sins.  He draws them.  He convicts them.  But He does not force people (or drag them) to salvation in His Son (John 1:12-13).  The work of salvation, however, from beginning to end is the work of God.  He saves sinners who believe in His Son (1 Corinthians 1:21).  God sovereignly knows those who will believe (Romans 8:29-30) through His foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:2).  The elect become those who in Jesus (1 Timothy 4:10).

Both Arminianism and Calvinism do not hold to open theism.  While some open theists seek to claim Arminianism they would do so going against the teachings of Arminius.  We shall look more at that at a later time.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/06/2011 at 11:14 PM

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