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Posts Tagged ‘Synergism

Leighton Flowers Rebuttal to Tony Miano

Tony Miano, whom some of you might remember caused a stir back in the summer of 2015 when he basically said that Arminians are not saved if they hold to Arminianism and that Arminians worship a false god.  I called Miano’s hand on this as he had written in years prior to this while he was on staff with Living Waters (Ray Comfort) that Arminians were brothers and that we should not divide over this issue.  Miano had called Mark Cahill, an evangelist whom many in the open air preaching world know of, to repent for his statements that Calvinists worship a false god and that he would not associate with Calvinists.  I urged Miano to apologize to Cahill since he did just what he accused Cahill of. Instead, Miano went on to bash Arminians and even called for Dr. Michael Brown to come to repentance and true salvation (i.e. become a Calvinist).

After this, Miano took a “brief” hiatus from social media and blogging he said to get his thoughts together on this issue.  After a brief blackout, Miano is back on social media but not as aggressive this time it seems (for now).  Yet Miano did release the following podcast in which he attacks “the helpless god of free will religion.”  I have linked the podcast for you to listen to if you desire.  I listened to and sent it to my friend Leighton Flowers who did a podcast in which he offers a rebuttal to Miano and I believe Flowers does an excellent job.  I shared in Flowers assessment of Miano’s podcast, that it was not deep nor did he develop an excellent theological presentation to rebuke those of us who hold to free will.  Miano just builds his case against his own perceptions of what we believe and not does not interact with us nor our scholars.

My point here is not to stir the pot again toward Miano.  I think most Arminians simply ignore him.  I use to appreciate much of what Miano did.  I was an avid listener to his podcast, I supported him with money,  I prayed for him often, purchased his gospel tracts and though I disagreed with Tony here and there, I would have gladly preached the gospel with him in the open air.  That has all changed.  I still regard him as a brother though I don’t listen to him anymore, I don’t watch his videos, and I don’t support him.  I pray for Tony to repent of seeing us Arminians as enemies of the gospel.  We can disagree and still love each other.  I gladly would stand with any and every Calvinist in preaching the gospel to the lost.  I would gladly stand with my Calvinist friends against the enemies of the gospel of God’s grace.  While we can disagree let it be a debate “in house” where we regard the gospel as separate from our isms.  We can disagree how we are in Christ but let us praise the Lord that we are in Christ!

Tony Miano’s podcast.

Leighton Flower’s rebuttal.

Quick Overview of the FACTS of Arminianism

The FACTS of Arminianism are:

Freed by Grace (to Believe)

Atonement for All

Conditional Election

Total Depravity

Security in Christ

The acronym parallels the famous TULIP developed after the Synod of Dort and now known as the five points of Calvinism.  However, not all Calvinists would agree that the five points sum up their theology.  I had a college professor who said he was a 7-point Calvinist and not a 5-pointer.  I have also seen where some even say that they are 10-point Calvinists.

Arminianism is based on the teachings of Arminius as well as the five points that the Remonstrants brought to the Synod of Dort (1618-1619).  Historically, it was Arminianism that had its five points before Calvinism developed its five points however I will acknowledge that the TULIP is the greatest known acronym in theology.  I pray to God that the FACTS of Arminianism will help people better grasp what it is that Arminians (such as myself) truly hold to.  Arminianism has sadly been abused and often twisted by her opponents and not given a fair understanding in theological debates.

In comparison to the five points of Calvinism, we are not as far from each other as it might seem.  Calvinists could read over the five points above and would disagree with atonement for all, conditional election, and possibly with freed by grace but they would accept (I suppose) our view of depravity and security (though some would hold to “once saved, always saved” and we would disagree).  However, while Calvinists will often say that their theology is completely monergistic and view Arminians as synergists, this would not be the case.  Arminianism is full of grace.  The entire notion our theological understanding is that God is the one who first must act.  This is not about man.  This is not about glorifying flesh.  God acted first toward Adam and Eve and their posterity (Genesis 3) and He continues to reach out to lost humanity through the gospel (Romans 10:14-17).  The cross is an act of grace in which the Lord Jesus bore the sins of humanity upon Himself (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2; 4:14).

In reality, Arminianism is monergistic itself.  We hold that God is the one who works.  When a person believes the gospel, they do so by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Faith is not a merit or work (Romans 4:5).  Even Calvinist theologian R.C. Sproul acknowledged that faith is not monergistic.  Sproul instead holds that regeneration is monergistic and I would not disagree.  It is clear that regeneration is the work of the Spirit of God (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:5-7) and not our work.  However, I would disagree with Sproul that regeneration precedes faith since faith produces regeneration (Acts 16:30-34; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:13).

In my next post, I want to begin to work through the FACTS of Arminianism point by point.  Along the way I will interact with Calvinism but my main goal is to show what we Arminians truly believe.

Salvation is the Work (Energeo) of Only One (Mono)

I borrowed my title from a sentence in George Bryson’s book The Dark Side of Calvinism.  This statement reflects the Arminian doctrine of salvation.  Arminianism affirms that salvation is the work (energeo) of only one (mono) and thus we can affirm monergism.

Arminians affirm that Jesus alone saves.  We are not saved by what we do.  We are not saved by our good works (Ephesians 2:8-9), by our being Jewish (Romans 11:5-6), by our being part of a certain denomination or church.  Our only hope for salvation is the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.  This is clear from passages such as 1 Timothy 2:5-6 where Jesus is our only mediator before God.  Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.  Romans 10:4 tells us that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.  Jesus shed His own blood for our salvation (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:14).  Ephesians 1:7 reminds us that in Jesus alone do we have forgiveness of our sins.  Acts 13:38-39 tells us that faith in Christ frees us from the bondage of sin.  Romans 5:1 tells us that we are justified before God through faith in Christ.

It is not then our works that save us.  It is faith in Christ and His works that save us.  The cross stands as the point of our salvation.  Jesus laid down His life for sinners (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9).  1 John 4:14 tells us that Jesus is the Savior of the world but only those in 1 John 4:15 are truly the saved.  The same is true of 1 Timothy 4:10.  It is not enough that Jesus shed His blood but one must place their faith in Jesus alone to save them.  We don’t place our faith in our faith, in our election, or in our goodness.  We place our faith in the Lord Jesus alone to save us by His grace (Romans 4:5).

The notion then that Arminians believe in “works righteousness” to save us is not biblically based.  We affirm over and over again that salvation is the work of God.  We affirm total inability in which no one can earn salvation by their good works (Isaiah 64:6).  We affirm that we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:3) and apart from the gospel and the work of the Spirit in the preaching of the gospel, none could be saved.  The Spirit opens the sinners heart to the gospel (Acts 16:14-15).  Jesus Himself told us in John 6:44 that none can come to Him unless the Father who sent Him draws them.  Jesus promised in John 16:8-11 that the Spirit would do His work in the whole world.  The Spirit works through the preaching of the gospel to bring people to salvation (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47-49; Romans 10:14-17).  This is why missions and evangelism are vital.  People must hear the gospel to be saved.

What then brings condemnation?  Romans 1:18-19 teaches us that people rebel against God because they love their sins.  It doesn’t matter if the person is in a Christian nation, a Muslim nation, a Hindu nation, etc.  People, by nature, rebel against God (Romans 3:10-18).  People love their sins and do not want Christ as Lord over them.  They are thus condemned because of their sins.  Secondly, people are condemned because of their refusal to repent.  We learn this in 2 Thessalonians 2:10 where Paul tells us that people “refused to love the truth and so be saved.”  The just condemnation of God is not based on His part but our part.  We are condemned because of our sins and our refusal to repent (John 3:18).  This is not an issue of divine decrees but our own stubbornness and ignorance.

Our passion then must be to preach the gospel to the lost.  People must hear the gospel to be saved.  This is no salvation apart from Christ (John 14:6).  Salvation is the divine work of God based on His work, His energy (energeo) and is based on one (mono) person only, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Arminians and Synergism

According to one Calvinist theologian, synergism is “the doctrine that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate. This theory accordingly holds that the soul has not lost in the fall all inclination toward holiness, nor all power to seek for it under the influence of ordinary motives.”  Calvinists often boast of being the opposite of this and being monergists who teach that salvation is the entire work of God meaning that God regenerates the lost sinner so that they can respond in faith to the gospel.  In other words, in the words of R.C. Sproul, a person is born again to believe and does not believe to be born again.  This flows from the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity and unconditional election.  In the TULIP acronym it is I for irresistible grace though Calvin used the term “effectual calling.”

However, are Arminians truly synergists?  There is no doubt that Roman Catholic theology embraces synergism and teaches that mankind must cooperate with the various means of grace to be saved.  There is no denying that Roman Catholicism embraces works righteousness and teaches that we are saved by grace and by our good works as well.  They combine for our justification.

Arminianism, on the other hand, embraces the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith.  We agree that we are totally unable to secure our eternal salvation by our good works (Isaiah 64:6).  Because of the nature of sin, even the “good” that we do is often tainted by our own pride.  If good works could inherit eternal life, what was the point of the cross?  Was it not to demonstrate the glory of God and the fact that salvation comes through Jesus alone?

It can be said of reformation Arminianism that we teach that salvation is the work of God.  Through God’s prevenient grace, He prepares the souls of men to hear the gospel and to respond freely.  The Holy Spirit opens the hearts of lost sinners and He also enables the sinner to either believe or reject the gospel.  The sinner is not “working with God” when they embrace the gospel.  In fact, the sinner finds that when they embrace the gospel, they find that Jesus alone saved them by His grace.  They did not earn the salvation of God.  They freely accept it but even this is a gift from God by His prevenient grace.

In Romans 4:1-8 Paul contrasts works with faith.  The text reads:

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Abraham believed God.  In contrast, in verse 4 Paul says that a works mentality is one that says I am owed this.  But, Paul adds in verse 5, the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.

Now I believe, with my Calvinist brethren, that all of this is a gift of God.  While I reject the notion that God does it all for us (I find it hard to fit how God believes for us but I understand that Calvinists would say that He makes us willing to believe to quote Sproul again), I likewise accept the fact that even my believing could not be done apart from the work of the Spirit.  He enables me to believe though this is not irresistible.

The point here is not to protect free will.  The point is that God deals with us as people.  People can reason, can think, can use logic, can act.  People are not robots.  God deals with lost sinners as people.  We should not think that our inability limits the ability of God to save sinners.  He freely saves those who come to Him and the condition that He has placed is faith and repentance but the Spirit aids the sinner in this saving process.  This is not a solo work nor us working with God.  This is us surrendering to the Spirit to save us through Christ (Titus 3:5-7).

In conclusion, I believe that reformation Arminianism is based on the belief that God alone does save sinners.  Sinners do not “aid” God in saving them.  They do surrender to His conviction as part of their freed will but this is a gift from the Spirit (John 6:44).  None of us can earn salvation.  It is impossible.  Jesus alone is our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  Our salvation is found only in Him (John 8:51).  I hope this was a helpful post on showing that we Arminians stress, like our Calvinist brethren, that salvation is the work of the Lord (John 1:12-13).

Inconsistent Monergism

I appreciate much the work of my fellow Calvinist laborers for the kingdom of God.  I appreciate that many of them are taking the gospel to the lost and they are preaching repentance to all.  As Dr. Forlines is quoted as saying, “Calvinists are Arminians until they say something Calvinistic.”  My fellow Calvinist preachers will plead with the lost to be saved, will call all to repent, will preach the cross and the call of God to forsake their sins and come to Christ alone for salvation.  A few (and not all) will even preach that God loves the lost sinner and will point to the cross as proof of this love (Romans 5:8-9; cf John 3:16).  And for all this I am grateful.

Yet Calvinists are monergists.  They will often accuse Arminians as being synergists and will make statements like, “Arminians believe that man must do his part and God does His part” or “God will meet the Arminian half way down the isle to salvation.”  Because Arminians preach that all can be saved who place their faith in Christ alone, we are said to be teaching “works righteousness” and that we are telling people to do their part to be saved and God will do the rest.

I honestly have never heard a true monergist evangelist.  I would love to hear one.  The message would have to be all on God and not on man.  Further, the message of salvation would have to be, “You can do nothing.  You can’t even hear me unless you are regenerate for dead sinners cannot hear the voice of God.  You must just lay there like Lazarus and allow the Holy Spirit to raise you up when Jesus calls you but I can’t do that and you can’t do that.  Only Jesus can do that.”  That is true monergism.

Now let me be fair here.  Calvinists preach the gospel for the same reason that I preach the gospel: because God said to (Matthew 28:19; Romans 10:14-17).  Calvinists preach repentance like I do because God told us to (Luke 24:47).  Calvinists agree that the Lord uses the means of grace to draw sinners to salvation (the preaching of the gospel) and I agree (1 Corinthians 1:18-21).  Calvinists and I agree that the Holy Spirit must work on the sinner to bring them to salvation (John 6:44; 16:8-11).  Calvinists and I even agree that prayer for the lost is biblical and necessary (Romans 10:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-7).

Yet Calvinists believe that nothing and no one but God can save the sinner.  Yet they plead with sinners to be saved.  They pray for sinners to be saved.  Yet nothing and no one aids the sinner but the Spirit in bringing salvation to the lost sinner.  They exhort sinners to call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13) and to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Corinthians 7:10) but none can do that but God alone.  And if they didn’t do any of this: the elect would still be saved somehow by God’s sovereign means.

So why preach?  Why pray?  Why plead?  Why reason?  Why call for repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus?  I agree that God calls us to do this but what role does this play in the saving of sinners?  If you say none then again, why do it at all?  If you say, “Because God has sovereignly chosen to use this to save sinners” (and I agree) then does God use our roles to bring sinners to salvation?  If so, is this monergistic salvation?

The Arminian answer is this: God does save sinners by His own power (John 1:12-13).  I don’t doubt one bit that the work of salvation is accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross (John 19:30) and that His blood alone can save the lost sinner (Luke 19:10; cf. Matthew 26:28).  I don’t doubt that the humble sinner who comes to Christ will find in Him true salvation from their sins (Matthew 1:21; John 6:37).  I don’t doubt that the humble sinner must recognize their own sinfulness to be saved from their sins (Romans 3:23-24) and that Christ alone is able to cleanse them from their sins (Acts 13:38-39).  I don’t deny that the work of the Spirit is to draw the sinner to salvation and that without His aid, none could be saved for none seek after God (Romans 3:10-18).  I don’t doubt that human works play no role in our salvation (Romans 4:5).  Good works flow from our salvation (Titus 2:11-14; James 2:14-26).

Yet the Spirit does not make us believe apart from our own will.  The Spirit frees the bound will so that the sinner hears the gospel and out of their own free will look to Christ alone to save them.  The freed sinner doesn’t look to their own moral goodness (Romans 3:19-20) but to the cross alone to set them free from the wrath of God (Romans 1:16-17).  The Spirit enables the sinner to believe but He doesn’t believe for the sinner. When the sinner repents, they are born again (John 3:3-7; Acts 2:38; 3:19-20; 16:30-34).  When they repent, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).  We receive the promised Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:14) and become children of the living God (Galatians 3:26).  The Spirit works in all of this for the glory of God.

I believe the Lord Jesus has done everything for our salvation.  We add nothing to His work.  The sinner, however, must receive the free gift of salvation (Romans 6:23) and this is accomplished by the means of grace: the preaching of the gospel, the prayers of the saints for the lost sinner, the call to repentance.  We don’t work with Christ to be saved but we trust only in His cross to save us (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  And when a sinner does this they find (just as all true disciples do) that the Spirit of God heard the cries of the saints, opened their eyes, exposed them to the gospel, freed them to believe and receive, and He then seals them.  We find that the work of salvation is not our work but His work alone (Jonah 2:9).

So again, why pray for the lost?  Why preach to the lost?  Why plead with the lost?  Because God is faithful to save those who cry out to Him (Acts 2:21) but the sinner must hear to be saved (Romans 10:17).  God works through the Church to bring sinners to Himself.  This is His plan and His pattern.  We need not change that now.  We need only join in the battle for souls by preaching His gospel to the lost and allow Him to save those who believe.

Adam Heard the Voice of God

Some Calvinists such as R.C. Sproul asserts that one must be regenerated before faith because of the nature of total depravity.  Since mankind is dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1) and unable to please God in such a state (Romans 8:7-8) then God must regenerate people in order for them to come to faith and be saved from sin (John 3:3; 1 John 5:1).  A dead person is simply dead and can do nothing unless God first breathes life into them by His Spirit (Titus 3:5-7) and then they can come to faith and be justified before God (Romans 5:1).  It is reasoned that those elected by God will be regenerated to believe.

One major problem with this is that it is based on an assumption and that being unconditional election combined with the Calvinist view of total depravity.  When Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1 that we are dead in our sins, he is speaking of our status in sin and without the life of God.  No doubt the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23) and we are dead without the Spirit of God living within but I find nothing in the passage to speak of an inability to hear or believe the gospel.  In fact, two examples from the Old Testament that demonstrate that unbelievers can hear the voice of God before regeneration are both found in the early chapters of Genesis.

In Genesis 3 we find the fall of mankind.  If there was a time for the Bible to present the Calvinist view of being “dead in our sins” it would be here.  Surely we should find God having to first regenerate Adam and Eve before He could converse with them since they are dead.  Yet what do we find?  We find Adam hearing from God in Genesis 3:9.  Adam had sinned and was now dead spiritually (Romans 5:12) and he demonstrates this by his actions in Genesis 3:8 yet we find that he could still hear from God?  How is this possible if in fact he is dead in his sins and must be born again to come to faith?

Another example is found in Genesis 4.  Here Cain hears the voice of God yet again like his father Adam.  If anyone was to inherit original sin and be born dead in his sins, it should be Cain.  Yet what do we find?  Again, we find Cain hearing the voice of God in Genesis 4:6.  God even warns this dead sinner to turn from his sins in Genesis 4:7.  How could he possibly do this without regeneration?  How could he hear the voice of God or even obey God without God first causing him to be born again?

Both of these passages run contrary to the Calvinistic assumption that dead in sins must equal dead completely.  To be dead in our sins means that we are without the life of God in us.  We are dead apart from His Spirit abiding in us.  We must be born again to receive the Spirit of God (Galatians 3:14; 4:6-7).  I don’t deny that we are total unable to please God in our flesh but this does not mean that an unbeliever can not hear the gospel and either reject the gospel or receive the gospel (John 1:11-13).  Faith comes by hearing the message of Christ (Romans 10:17).  God saves sinners who believe (Acts 5:32; 15:9-11; 16:30-34; 22:16; 26:20; Romans 3:25-27; 4:24-5:1; 1 Corinthians 1:21).  Those who believe become the elect of God (1 Timothy 4:10).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/25/2012 at 4:28 AM

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