Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Theological Debates

Why Do Arminians Exist?

I was listening to a podcast and the brother quoted a Calvinist as saying that the most difficult question he has about Calvinism is why do Arminians exist?  If Calvinism is true, if it is true that God must open our eyes to the truths of Calvinism and that the truths of Calvinism are something that comes by divine revelation and by the sovereign decree of God, why does God allow Arminians to exist?  Why are there any non-Calvinists?

The answer for Calvinists is that God, for His glory, allows Arminians to exist and to preach false doctrines.  This would also be true of cults, heretics, and all non-Calvinists.  The only way to understand this is to appeal to mystery or to Deuteronomy 29:29.

The answer for Arminians and non-Calvinists is to point to the fallen world that we live in and to free will.  God allows people to read the Bible and to use their minds to interpret His Word.  The gospel is clear.  Even Calvinists would acknowledge that many non-Calvinists are saved albeit by inconsistent theology.  I have heard Dr. James White refer to this view many times.  I believe that Calvinism exists because God has given the world a certain amount of freedom.

In the end, I would pray that non-Calvinists and Calvinists would love each other.  This is the command of Jesus (John 13:34-35).

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Tony Miano’s Apology and My Response

Tony Miano has issued an apology regarding his statements that I wrote about recently in a post here at the blog.  I appreciate Tony’s candor and his honesty.  While I still maintain that he is wrong in his Calvinism and I hold that it is he who is in error here and not us Arminians, I will allow him to be.  I do offer a short response to here from some of the things that he wrote on his blog.

Tony’s Errors on Arminianism and Works Salvation.

First, while Tony does apologize, he still maintains that Arminians hold to a false gospel.  He writes:

The following clarifications should not be seen in any shape or form as a retraction of my position. Again, I am firm in my belief that consistently-held Arminianism is a false gospel.

And he states:

My concern–my heartfelt, loving, compassionate, fearful concern–is for those men and women who fight for Arminianism. Yes. I am concerned for their souls. I believe consistently-held Arminianism is closer to Mormonism (2 Nephi 25:23) and Roman Catholicism (Prevenient Grace, for example) than it is to biblical Christianity. So, of course, my concern for the ardent Arminian is as great as it is for the Mormon and for the Roman Catholic.

For those unfamiliar with the quote from the Book of Mormon, it states that we are saved by grace after all we can do.  Tony believes that this is what Arminians hold to despite never quoting from any Arminian theologians ever.  I have followed Tony for many years now and I have never seen him quote an Arminian, speak of Arminian theologians that he is reading, never quoted from Arminius or Wesley, and I have never seen him interact even once with any Arminian theologians.  The only Arminian I have ever seen him speak of is Dr. Michael Brown and he wrote that Brown needs salvation and that he was praying for Brown to repent and believe the true gospel (Calvinism).  Had Tony read any of Arminius he would see that Arminius is a theologian of grace and he stood against the Roman Catholic Church in both his public ministry and writings.

For example, Arminius wrote this about the grace of God and try to discern from this if he is closer to biblical truth or the errors above that Tony states we align with:

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.

In this manner, I ascribe to grace the commencement, the continuance and the consummation of all good, and to such an extent do I carry its influence, that a man, though already regenerate, can neither conceive, will, nor do any good at all, nor resist any evil temptation, without this preventing and exciting, this following and co-operating grace. From this statement it will clearly appear, that I by no means do injustice to grace, by attributing, as it is reported of me, too much to man’s free-will. For the whole controversy reduces itself to the solution of this question, “is the grace of God a certain irresistible force?” That is, the controversy does not relate to those actions or operations which may be ascribed to grace, (for I acknowledge and inculcate as many of these actions or operations as any man ever did,) but it relates solely to the mode of operation, whether it be irresistible or not. With respect to which, I believe, according to the scriptures, that many persons resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace that is offered.

John Wesley preached this about the grace of God:

So little do they understand that great foundation of the whole Christian building, “By grace are ye saved:” Ye are saved from your sins, from the guilt and power thereof, ye are restored to the favour and image of God, not for any works, merits, or deservings of yours, but by the free grace, the mere mercy of God, through the merits of his well-beloved Son: Ye are thus saved, not by any power, wisdom, or strength, which is in you, or in any other creature; but merely through the grace or power of the Holy Ghost, which worketh all in all.

Is that works salvation as Tony implies?

Tony Still Insists Calvinism is the Gospel.

Many other Calvinists have made his error before him including Charles Spurgeon and his infamous sermon on Calvinism.  Tony, at first, seems to imply in his apology that Calvinism is not the gospel only to turn around and write:

Calvinism (Doctrines of Grace) is not the gospel, but only in this sense. Calvinism is a systematized, biblical representation of the gospel. On the other hand: Arminianism is a systematized, unbiblical representation of the gospel. It is a theological construct that is antithetical to the Doctrines of Grace. Hence, If I believe the Doctrines of Grace rightly represent the gospel, and I believe Arminianism does not, then consistency demands I believe Arminianism is a representation of a false gospel.

In his excellent book, Killing CalvinismGreg Dutcher writes:

The danger is that, while we may begin with Reformed theology as the framework by which we more coherently understand and appreciate our faith, over time it can become the substance of our faith.  At that point, daily living is more about mastering Reformed doctrine that being mastered by Jesus and his total claim over every area of our life.

Dutcher goes on to write how his Reformed theology is his windshield by which he looks out at God and the world but it is not the only windshield.  There are plenty of non-Calvinists (including us dreaded Arminians in Tony’s view) who read the Bible, pray, worship, share our faith, love our families, homeschool our children, etc. but not from a Calvinistic point of view.

Back when Tony was trying to bring some clarity to his “debate” with Mark Cahill over Calvinism, he wrote this:

The theological positions known as Calvinism and Arminianism are “mutually exclusive” in that the two systems oppose each other in debatable issues but not in the essentials. The essentials would include the Trinity, the deity of Christ, Christ’s physical resurrection, salvation by grace through faith, etc. The debatable issues would include pre-trib rapture vs. post-trib rapture, worshipping on Saturday or Sunday, etc.

So in 2010, Miano felt that the debate was over non-essentials but now he holds that Calvinism is the gospel.  What changed?  I suppose he could say that he was wrong in 2010 to write that toward Mark Cahill but remember, he was writing to teach us that Cahill was wrong to say that Calvinists worship a false god.

Miano further wrote in 2010:

Throughout my conversation with Mark, I asserted that I do not believe Calvinists and Arminians worship different gods or believe different gospels. I assured him that so long as we agree that we are saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone (the Jesus of the Scriptures) that we are brothers in Christ. I told Mark I would welcome the opportunity to evangelize the lost with him, and he was welcome atop my box to open-air preach anytime. Sadly, by the end of our phone conversation, Mark would not affirm me as his brother in Christ. I repeatedly asked Mark if I was his brother in Christ. He refused to answer.

Now Tony would say that Mark is not his brother and neither are serious Arminians such as myself, John Wesley, Arminius, Adam Clarke, Richard Watson, Francis Asbury, Samuel Chadwick, Leonard Ravenhill, Vic Reasoner, Thomas Oden, or Michael Brown.  Somewhere Calvinism became the issue when in 2010, it was not.

By the way, Ray Comfort, whom Tony Miano adores and I as well, does not make Arminianism and Calvinism an issue with his ministry.  Why does Ray get a pass?  Ray, from my readings of him and listening to him, does not hold to limited atonement which Tony says if you hold to unlimited atonement you are in error.  So why does Ray get a pass?  Ray pleads with the lost to come to Christ and he sounds very Arminian in his preaching on the atonement as well as his call to repent.  Yet Tony gives Ray a pass?

Tony’s View of Arminians and Arminianism.

Tony builds a straw man here when he writes:

I’ve yet to meet an Arminian who believes asking God to save people is unbiblical. Yet the person who consistently holds to the Arminian doctrine of Resistible Grace should never pray for God to save someone. To pray for God to save someone, to pray for God to in any way infringe upon a person’s will so that He can assert His own, is to ask God to make His grace irresistible to the person who is the subject of the prayer.

Certainly Arminians pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And most Arminians will insist as I do that God is sovereign. Yet the Arminian doctrine of Resistible Grace runs contrary to a prayer for the Lord’s will to be done and contrary to any assertion that God is truly sovereign.

Most Christians who ascribe to Arminianism will assert their confidence that they will one-day spend eternity with Jesus, in heaven. Yet, at the same time, they will assert they can lose their salvation. See the inconsistency? How can one have any hope, let alone confidence, of his salvation if he believes that salvation can be lost by his own doing? More about this toward the end of the article.

These are but a few, simple examples of Arminians who simply aren’t Arminians.

Again, I make a distinction between the confused Arminian described above and the rabid Arminian. While the rabid Arminian is certainly confused, the confused Arminian is not necessarily rabid.

Had Tony even read Arminius or Arminian theologians, he would know the answers to his own straw men.  I could write about how consistent Calvinism destroys evangelism or why should consistent Calvinists pray or even live holy lives but this would be nothing but a straw man since I know the answers to these by reading Calvinists books and listening to my Calvinist brothers and sisters.

Tony goes on:

I believe the Doctrines of Grace are the only accurate systematized representation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I believe consistently-held Arminianism creates unbiblical positions regarding the character of God, the character of man, the atonement of Jesus Christ, and the means and manner of salvation (this is not an exhaustive list).

I believe Arminianism (a theological construct that is the antithesis of the Doctrines of Grace) is diametrically opposed to and a false representation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I would only, in passing, point out that Tony’s view on Reformed theology is not universally held.  Roger Olson, in his wondeful book that I wish Tony would read, Against Calvinismwrites how Reformed theology is not nailed down just by TULIP.  He points out that there are many who call themselves Calvinists who would not agree at all with the “young, restless, Reformed” movement of today.  I point out that men such as Russell Moore (formerly of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and Tommy Nelson (Calvinist pastor in Texas) both reject limited atonement.  Are they wrong?  Tony would say yes!  They are in error and need to repent.

I will also note that you’ll notice Tony offers nothing to show how we Arminians are wrong about our view of the character of God, of man, of the atonement, and the means and manner of salvation.  He simply states that we are wrong and that is that.  No interaction with any Arminian works or theologians.  No quotes from Arminius.  Nothing from Wesley.

I do agree, however, that we Arminians are opposed to Calvinism.  I have never acted otherwise.  That said, I have never held that Calvinist are lost, that they are believing a false gospel (because neither system is the gospel but a way of looking at the gospel), and I would gladly worship, defend, and preach the gospel with my Calvinist friends.  Again, as Tony held in 2010, I believe these are non-essential issues that Christians can disagree over.

Tony’s Closing Remarks (More Straw Men)

“It’s not true! I believe there is goodness in me!” That is pride.

“God didn’t elect me! God simply knew I would make the right decision and choose Christ!” That is pride.

“God is not a cosmic puppeteer, a cosmic rapist! He’s a gentleman! He wouldn’t force me to do anything against my will! Jesus died for my sins, but I had to choose Him! I had to accept Him!” That is pride.

“I must persevere to the end in order to be saved! I can lose my salvation, and I’m determined not to lose it!” That is pride.

Arminianism is a prideful, theological construct. God is opposed to the proud (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

There are no proud people in heaven. The reason? God humbled Himself. He humbled Himself by taking on human flesh and allowing Himself to be crucified for crimes he did not commit (Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 12:2).

Yet God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). God will extend His saving grace to His Elect. Christians will likely be surprised one day when they see who is and who is not in heaven. I’m hopeful the redeemed will include many who call themselves “Arminians.”

Tony believes that the very heart of the Arminian above (which is nothing but a straw man) is pride.  Not one of the statements he writes I have ever seen in any Arminian writings.  Not one.  I have read Arminius and he never writes on the pride of man in “earning” his salvation.  Wesley never preached that we can obtain our salvation by our works.  None of what Tony wrote is true of any Arminian I have ever read or known.  I have known many prideful people (and I have been one of them) but my pride was not in me earning my salvation but in thinking too highly of myself now that Christ has saved me (Philippians 2:3-4).  So many Calvinist attacks on Arminianism do nothing but produce false straw men that are not true and the above are no different.

Arminius wrote:

But justification is attributed to faith, not because it is that very righteousness which can be opposed to the rigid and severe judgment of God, though it is pleasing to God; but because, through the judgment of mercy triumphing over justice, it obtains absolution from sins, and is graciously imputed for righteousness. (Acts xiii, 39.) The cause of this is, not only God who is both just and merciful, but also Christ by his obedience, offering, and intercession according to God through his good pleasure and command. But it may be thus defined, “it is a justification by which a man, who is a sinner, yet a believer, being placed before the throne of grace which is erected in Christ Jesus the Propitiation, is accounted and pronounced by God, the just and merciful Judge, righteous and worthy of the reward of righteousness, not in himself but in Christ, of grace, according to the gospel, to the praise of the righteousness and grace of God, and to the salvation of the justified person himself.” (Rom. iii, 24-26; 3, 4, 5, 10, 11.)

Where is the pride of man in Arminius above?

One final note here before I leave this.  Tony attacks Arminians for holding to the possibility of apostasy but he himself would hold that perseverance of the saints is necessary for final salvation lest the person prove “they were never saved to begin with” (1 John 2:19).  So Tony would teach that we Arminians are wrong for warning people of apostasy but he himself would say that a person who turns away was never saved to begin with.  Both need warnings don’t they?  Whether you believe in apostasy or not, the sinning person needs to repent (1 John 3:4-10).  Again, his straw man is not good.

Conclusion

Will there be Arminians in hell?  Yes!  Will there be Calvinists in hell?  Yes!  We are not saved by our systems.  You can hold to Arminianism or Calvinism and still be lost.  Salvation is Jesus.  Salvation is not a system or a church or a doctrine.  Salvation is found in a PERSON!  I am man-centered in my theology: the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).  I believe Jesus is my hope, my salvation.  My salvation is not found in Arminius (who is dead) or Wesley (who is dead) or in Roger Olson (who will die just as I will).  My salvation is found in Jesus Christ.  He is my passion.  I would gladly stand on the streets of my city and preach the Lordship of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5 NASB).  I would gladly preach that we are justified before God only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:29; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  Our salvation, from beginning to end, must be focused only on Jesus and nothing more lest we be preaching another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/16/2015 at 5:38 PM

Doing Something With Jesus

I have often said that whenever the doctrine of the Trinity is denied, the group that does the denying must do something with Jesus.  The Father is usually not attacked.  The Father is usually held up as the eternal God but groups who deny the doctrine of the Trinity must do something with Jesus and it is Jesus who is usually attacked and demoted.  The Holy Spirit is often altogether ignored.

Consider two groups who are similar in many ways: the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Oneness Pentecostals.  Both are Arians.  Both find the theological heritage in Arius and his condemned teachings.  Arius said that there was a time when the Son was not.  Arius viewed God the Father as the eternal God and the one that we must worship but Jesus is viewed as a created being and less than the Father though still the Son of God.  Arius reasoned that since God is one and the Father is God, the Son cannot be God logically lest there be another god.  Therefore, the Son is a created being though exalted by the Father.

Now consider the Jehovah’s Witness (JW hereafter).  The JW’s teach that Jehovah God alone is God.  Jehovah is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the supreme creation of God and He is Michael in the Old Testament.  JW’s (after 1954) forbid people for worshipping Jesus Christ.  They teach that Jesus is wonderful, our example, our Savior but He is not God.  He is a creation of God and the firstborn of Jehovah’s creation (Colossians 1:15).  The New World Translation follows the JW bias but denying the Lord Jesus His full deity in passages such as John 1:1.  In JW teaching, Jesus is the Son of God but He had a beginning and He has an ending as well when in eternity Jehovah alone will be worshiped as the true and living God (John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 15:24).  The point here is that Jesus is less than the Father (Jehovah) and He is a created being.

Oneness Pentecostals are not much different.  They will declare that Jesus is God which makes them separate from JW’s but Jesus the Son is not eternal.  Only the Father is eternal.  In Oneness teaching, there is only one God (which is biblically true) and since there is only one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are all the same God (true) but not persons but instead are manifestations of the one true God (this is a heresy called Sabellianism).  Jesus is the one true God in Oneness Pentecostal teaching but only Jesus is God.  Thus Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Son, and Jesus is the Holy Ghost.  Jesus the Father alone is eternal.  The Son had a beginning in Oneness teaching.  The Son is not eternal but only came to be in Luke 1:35.  Until Jesus the Son was born in Bethlehem, He did not exist as the Son but only as the Father.  So the Son is not the eternal God but only the Father is the eternal God (Jehovah).

Do you see the link?  The JW’s teach that Jehovah alone is God (the Father) and the Oneness Pentecostals teach that only Jesus the Father is eternal.  Both deny that the Son is eternal.  Both teach that the Son had a beginning and has an ending.  Jesus the Son is not important as much as the Father is.

In Trinitarian theology, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all the one true and living God.  There is only one God and He is revealed in Scripture as three persons in the one Godhead.  While the mystery of the Trinity is not easy to grasp, we must do something with Jesus.  Jesus is called God in the Bible (John 1:1, 14, 18; 20:28; Romans 9:5) and He shares in many aspects of divinity along with the Father and the Spirit.  Jesus spoke of His Father as distant from Him but He never made Himself less than the Father.  Jesus viewed Himself equal to His Father (John 10:30) and yet as the Messiah, He was perfectly obedient to His Father (Hebrews 5:8).  Jesus said He came from heaven (John 3:13) and He said He came from the Father (John 17:5).  Hebrews 1:3 says that the Father created the entire worlds though Jesus Christ the Son.  If Jesus is a created being, how can this be?  Philippians 2:5-11 is clear that Jesus is equal to God and He took upon Himself the form of a servant to do the will of His Father.

Time does not permit me to defend the deity of the Spirit but He too shares in the personality of God.  The Spirit is not a force as in JW teaching or a part of Jesus the Father but instead the Spirit is very much a Person who does the works of God.  The Spirit is co-equal, co-eternal with the Father and with the Son.

Jesus is where we find our problems.  Those who deny the Trinity must denounce and dethrone Jesus.  Jesus has to become less than the Father or less than God.  In Islam, Jesus is a great prophet but certainly not God.  In JW, Jesus is a created being but not the eternal God.  In Oneness Pentecostalism, Jesus is the name of the one true God but Jesus the Son only came to be when the Holy Ghost caused Mary to be impregnated.  In Mormonism, Jesus is a son of God like we all are and in fact He is a son along with Lucifer.  In Arianism, Jesus was a created being who is less than the Father.  In Sabellianism Jesus is part of a manifestation or mode of God but certainly there is no Trinity.

We stumble over Jesus just as Scripture predicts (1 Peter 2:6-8).  We must do something with Jesus.  I choose to worship Him and adore Him and praise Him and preach Him (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/28/2015 at 12:11 AM

Grey Areas of Theology

All of us come to the Bible with our systems.  It’s hard not to.  This happens when reading any book.  We bring our presuppositions to what we read, what we watch, what we hear.  This is part of being made in the image of God.  Animals don’t bring presuppositions.  Animals don’t get new ideas.  Animals can be trained but not reprogrammed to think differently.  People  can.  It often takes time and sometimes involves years of study, trials, etc.

This is true of theology as well.  I have never been a Calvinist.  I was raised in a Pentecostal home where Calvinism was avoided.  That said, I have known many friends of mine who “converted” to Calvinism.  None of them (that I know of) actually took time to study Arminianism or other non-Calvinist approaches to the Bible, they just enjoyed listening to John MacArthur or John Piper and dove into Calvinism.  Most of them were looking (as Austin Fischer points out in his book Young, Restless, No Longer Reformedfor something more in their faith.  They wanted to go deeper in the Lord and found Calvinism to be what they needed.  Of course, I would argue that Arminianism is actually deeper still.  Arminianism goes past Calvinism in my estimation.

What I want to point out here in this blogpost is that all of us have grey areas in our theology.  I don’t know of a perfect system. There are holes in all of our theology.  For honesty sake, I will post just a few holes I see in my own theology.  These are holes that I can’t fully explain but they don’t cause me to turn away from Christ.  I live with them and just seek to know Christ more and more.  My goal is to know God (John 17:3) but I know that I will never fully know Him and I believe that even in eternity, I will never truly grasp God.  He is infinite in His ways (Psalm 145:3).  So let me list a few holes.

1.  The Trinity.

Cults attack the doctrine of the Trinity because they say that it is illogical.  How can three persons be one God?  How can there be one God yet three persons?  I don’t grasp this myself.  I know the Bible teaches there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4) and the Father is called God, the Son is called God, and the Holy Spirit is called God but there is only one God.

Again, the infinite God is beyond my understanding.  I humble myself before His truth and simply worship Him who is true.

2.  Prayer.

How does God answer prayer?  What role does faith play?  Why does God seem to delay?  What causes God to not hear our prayers nor answer us when we call?  Is God moved by our prayers?  All of these are unanswered questions I have about prayer.  No doubt God calls us to prayer (Matthew 6:5) and Paul the Apostle says that we are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) but I don’t begin to fully understand prayer.

3.  The Incarnation of God.

I truly believe that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh (John 1:14) and that this is based on the prophetic promises (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7) but how this is, I don’t know.  How a virgin can be pregnant with the holy one of Israel (Luke 1:35).  When Mary asked how this could be (Luke 1:34), I love Gabriel’s reply (Luke 1:37) and Mary’s response (Luke 1:38).  It was as if Gabriel was saying, “I don’t know how this can be but with God all things are possible.”  God can do whatever He likes and in this case, He becomes a human while not ceasing to be God.  Jesus was not a man on earth while God was in heaven.  Jesus was fully God and fully man.  Jesus was not half man and half God.  While Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus humbled Himself and became a slave, it does not say that Jesus ceased to ever be God.  He can’t.  Jesus was fully God before the manger and He was God after He ascended to the right hand of God.  Jesus has always existed with the Father and the Spirit before time began (John 17:5).  Yet how God became a man is beyond me.

4.  Regeneration.

I accept the biblical truth of being born from above (John 3:3) but I don’t fully grasp this miracle.  Even the good doctor Nicodemus in John 3:4 tried to ask Jesus how can this be.  Let’s give Nicodemus credit here and know that he was not asking about being born physically again.  He is wondering about this miracle of being born from above.  How can this be?  Jesus points to the wind and the mystery of the wind (John 3:5-8).  Again Nicodemus replies, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9).  I agree Nicodemus.  I don’t know.  I preach salvation through Christ alone.  I preach repentance.  I preach being baptized into Christ.  Yet the mystery of the new birth is beyond me.  I know Titus 3:5-7 is true and I preach that salvation is the gracious work of God yet I can’t explain how the God who created all things comes and indwells us.  It is a mystery that I am willing to preach and accept.  I praise God that He saved me!

5.  Free Will.

As an Arminian, I hold to libertarian free will.  I believe all people have the power to choose to either do or refrain from a given action whether sinful or good.  Yet I can’t explain how God allows free will and yet His decreed will is always done.  The cross, for example, was predetermined by God (Acts 2:22-23) yet God did not make the Jews or the Romans kill Jesus.  He permitted them to kill His Son and it was part of His plan but no one believes (even Calvinists) that God made the people kill Jesus.  The people chose to kill Jesus by God’s definite foreknowledge.

The mystery is here is how God in His sovereignty still accomplishes His will while allowing people to make free decisions.  I have no doubt that God knows the free decisions of people but that He knows just means that He knows.  Knows and causes are not the same.  My mystery in free will is that God allows free will people to make free will decisions yet God’s decreed will is done.  However, not everything that happens in this world is the will of God.  Even God said about His people in Jeremiah 7:31 that they did that which He did not plan nor came to His mind.  How can that be?  If God knows all things and He plans all things (according to determinism), how can this be?  Right before Jeremiah 7:31, God says that He had sent prophets to warn His people but they stiffened their necks and became hardened.  This would be later on as well in John 12:40 where God says that He has allowed the Israelites to be hardened for the purpose of the cross.  How can these things be?

6.  The Cross.

Could there not be another way?  Did the cross have to be?  I understand the holiness of God demands a sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 9:22) but could there have been salvation without the cross?  Could God have accomplished redemption of sinners by some other means?  Biblically I know that the cross is a must.  Sinful humanity sinned against a holy God with the fall of Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12) and the cross demonstrates both the love of God for human beings and His holiness at the same time (Romans 3:22-27).  Amazing!  Jesus died for sinners since He never sinned Himself (1 Peter 2:21-24).  Jesus suffered at the hands of sinners to redeem sinners (Luke 19:10).  Simply amazing!

Yet did the cross have to be?  Could the Lord have saved us another way?  I don’t know.  I am thankful for the cross and I praise God that salvation comes through the cross but the mystery of the cross is beyond me.

7.  God Changing His Mind.

Genesis 6:6 is tough.  How could God truly be sorry for making mankind when (according to determinism), He knew what would become of them in the first place?  Is this not true emotions from God?  The typical answer is that such talk from the Lord is only given to show us humans so that we can relate to God who is beyond us.

In Exodus 32 we read of the Israelites and the golden calf.  God declares to Moses that He is going to wipe them out for this sin yet Moses intercedes for the Israelites and God relents (v. 14).  Some say that God did not really relent but He was using this to teach Moses how to be a leader or how to pray.  Yet the text is a mystery.

There are more.  I could go on.  There are texts that suggest that God relents and I don’t know how to answer them.  The open theist points to them as proof that God learns certain things (see for example Genesis 22:12).  I can’t ignore the language but I don’t have clear answers either.  Yet the same God can say of the unborn Cyrus that he will be his servant (Isaiah 45:1).  God could call forth even the city where the Messiah would be born (Micah 5:2) and arrange entire nations for this purpose (Luke 2:1-2).

So on the one hand God is said to relent of things and learn things yet the overwhelming teaching of Scripture is that God is infinite in His wisdom and awesome in all His ways.  This is a mystery to me.

What To Do With Grey Areas?

My advice: keep studying.  Keep praying.  Keep hoping in God.  Grey areas don’t mean that God’s Word has failed nor do they mean that God is not trustworthy.  His promises are sure (2 Peter 1:4).  Grey areas mean that I don’t have God figured out and that He is God.  I am satisfied with that.  I will never grasp God.  His ways are beyond me.  His thoughts are beyond me (Isaiah 55:8-9).  I do know that He loves me (John 3:16) and He has demonstrated that love through the cross (Romans 5:8-9).  I rejoice that this is clear: Jesus died for sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  This is clear: Jesus rose from the dead (Acts 1:3) and salvation comes through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10).  I rejoice that the gospel is simple and clear (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  My prayer is to know Christ more (Philippians 3:10).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/30/2015 at 11:18 AM

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.”

Twelve Myths About Arminianism

This is a post from C. Michael Patton over at the Parchment and Pen blog.  This is from 2013 but still very useful for today.  What we need from both Arminians and Calvinists is to understand the other.  We need to stop building straw men and stay true to the gospel.  The world is in desperate need of the gospel and we spend our time arguing over theological points.  May we wake up from our stupor, preach the gospel to the lost, and debate our theological positions only after the work for souls is done..

You can find the post here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/23/2015 at 5:28 PM

Short Thoughts on the Inclusive/Exclusive Debate

I have been enjoying the lively debate over at the Society of Evangelical Arminians site on the issue of inclusive and exclusive positions of the gospel.  Kevin Jackson from Wesleyan Arminian wrote a good piece defending the inclusive position and the response by Brendan Burnett.  You can find the first post here and the response here.

While I will not rehash the arguments Kevin gives nor the response that Brendan gives, I will add my own two cents worth.

First, I take serious the words of Christ in all four Gospels to take the gospel to all the nations (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; John 20:21).  Acts 1:8 likewise commands the disciples to take the gospel to all nations.  This is a serious command of our Lord and not to be taken lightly.  The fact is that the Church is to take the gospel out.  Sadly, in our day, many want to have the world come to us.  The reality is that the gospel is to be preached to all nations.  This command of Jesus is vital if in fact Jesus is the only way to the Father and the gospel must be heard and believed for people to saved.

Secondly, 1 Timothy 4:10 implies that Christ is the Savior of all men but especially of those who believe.  Adam Clarke writes, “[God] has provided salvation for the whole human race, and has freely offered it to them in His Word and by His Spirit.  What God intends for all He actually gives to them that believe in Christ.”  Christ shed His blood for all men but only those who appropriate His blood through faith are saved (Romans 3:24-25).

Thirdly, Romans 10:14-17 implies the necessity of the preaching of the gospel for people to be saved.  Romans 10:17 specifically calls for saving faith to be acted through the preaching of Christ.  As Clarke again writes, “Preaching the gospel is the ordinary means of salvation; faith in Christ is the result of hearing the word, the doctrine of God preached.”

Fourthly, 1 Timothy 2:4 implies that the will of God is for the salvation of all but 1 Timothy 2:5-6 is clear that Christ alone is our mediator before God.  Paul the Apostle goes on in verse 7 to say that this is why he was appointed to preach the gospel to the Gentiles thus implying that their only hope was Christ.

And lastly, I believe the Bible is serious about the issue of sin.  It is not merely ignorance about God that keeps people from Him.  It is our sins.  In fact, Romans 1:18 says that our sins bring the wrath of God and Romans 1:20 says that people are without excuse.  The fact is that we love our sins and we love our depravity.  Apart from the work of the Spirit, none of us would or could be saved.  We are simply too sinful to seek a holy God.  Instead, humanity seeks false gods of their own creations.  The gospel alone is able to break the power of our sins and bring peace with God (John 6:44).

I know these are short thoughts.  I hope I am not demeaning Kevin in this post.  He is a good brother.  I was pondering this issue this morning and just wanted to jot these downs.  Two books to read on this issue are: Faith Comes by Hearing and Eternity In Their Hearts.

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