Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Total Depravity

Romans 9, Predestination and Total Depravity

Here is a blog link to a great blog where the writer writes about Romans 9, predestination and total depravity.  Overall I am greatly impressed with his logic, exegesis, and his writing in general.  I highly recommend it.

The “Many” and the “All” of Romans 5

Dr. Jack Cottrell holds that the doctrine of original sin as taught since Augustine is not biblical.  He holds that people are born in a state of grace and are not guilty of Adam’s sin and thus are not born sinful.  He holds that all sinners will be judged by God but they will be judged for their own sins and not for the sin of Adam.  Even John Wesley acknowledged that none will be found guilty of Adam’s transgression but their own.

Romans 5 is a debated passage over the doctrine of original sin.  I would say that most orthodox scholars hold that Romans 5 teaches the doctrine of original sin or inherited sinfulness.  While Arminians are not as quick to say that all people inherit Adam’s sin, Arminianism does hold that all people inherit Adam’s sinfulness.  Thus Arminianism has held that people are born dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) because of Adam’s sin but people are not born guilty of Adam’s sin but merely the results of Adam’s sin.  Calvinists hold that people are born both depraved and inherit Adam’s sin and thus babies are guilty of sin at the moment of conception (they also explain the necessity of the virgin birth as such).

Dr. Cottrell’s analysis of Romans 5 is fascinating.  It is very extensive and would take many posts on this blog for me to work through it.  However, I just want to focus in on one issue here and that is the issue of Paul’s use of “many” and “all” in Romans 5.  For example, in Romans 5:12 we read:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.

None deny that “all” here means all.  In Romans 5:15 Paul uses the phrase “many died through one man’s trespass” and none doubt that “many” here means all.  The problem is the end of Romans 5:15.  Let me quote the entire verse:

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

Now if the many at the beginning means all (v. 12) then why does the many at the end of verse 15 mean anything less than all?

The Calvinist answer is that if we make the “many” here become all (as in all) then we must hold to universalism or at best we must deny limited atonement (which cannot be done).  The all in Calvinism is “all” but the “many” in their view is only the elect.  Thus Adam’s sin brings condemnation to “all” but Jesus’ work brings salvation only to the elect or the “many.”

The Arminian answer is that Christ’s sacrifice was provided for all sinners (John 3:16) but only those who place their faith in Christ will be saved.  The only way to escape judgment for your sins is to place your faith in Christ Jesus alone.  Thus the “all” of Adam’s transgression comes to all and the work of Christ has been given for all.  The “many” and the “all” are used interchangeably by Paul the Apostle here in Romans 5.

Dr. Cottrell believes that the only universalism that one can derive from Romans 5:12-21 is that Christ’s saving work on the cross cancels out the work of Adam.  Thus he holds that people are not born in a state of depravity or born sinful but rather that Paul’s point is that Romans 5 is teaching that Jesus cancels out the fall of Adam.  While death is still here with us from Adam, this too, writes Cottrell, will soon be vanquished by the power of the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 15:26; Revelation 20:13-14).

He goes on to write that we now can view sin in four stages.

  1. Original Sin.  The only thing we receive from Adam’s sin now is death.  We are born in a flesh that will die.  The sin of Adam has been canceled out by the work of Christ.
  2. Original Grace.  All infants and young children are here as well as those who mentally never develop (handicapped).  While here people are in a state of salvation through the universal work of Christ until they reach an age of accountability that only God knows.
  3. Personal Sin.  This is the state people are in after reaching the age of accountability and lose the original grace into which they were born.  Those in this stage are lost because they sinned against a holy God and violated His just laws in the same way that Adam and Eve did.  Those who die here are condemned for their own sins.
  4. Personal Grace.  This is a term only for believers.  Those in Christ Jesus through faith are in a state of personal grace and are redeemed from both sin and death (John 5:24-25; 11:25-26).  Both sin and death have no power over the believer (Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57).  However, this applies only to those who believe and is not based merely on past belief.  This is present active relationship with Christ (1 Peter 1:5).

Let me add here in closing that Dr. Cottrell would not label his view as Pelagian.  He would actually label it “pre-Augustinian.”  He holds that his view was held by most of the early Church Fathers before Augustine and his debates with Pelagius.  It was only after Pelagius that the Roman Catholic Church adopted the original sin view and the Western Church began to teach that people are born universally condemned for Adam’s sin.  The problem with the original sin view is that many believe that they can’t turn from their sins (since they are born sinful and this is the best they can hope to do) and thus they continue in their sins despite the preaching of the gospel to them.  Many Christians likewise hold that even if saved by the work of Christ from sin, they still must live a life of sin.  I heard a radio preacher just yesterday describing himself as a “miserable sinner” and he went on to say that this was the best he could do and hope for in this life.

I rejoice that the atonement of Christ is a great work from God!  While I have yet to receive a satisfactory answer from those who hold to Cottrell’s view about why children sin, I do agree that the work of Christ is for all.  Christ shed His blood so that all can be saved.  I also agree that each person will be judged for their sins and not the sin of Adam.

Wesley preached:

Satan has stamped his own image on our heart in self-will also. “I will,” said he, before he was cast out of heaven, “I will sit upon the sides of the north;” I will do my own will and pleasure, independently on that of my Creator. The same does every man born into the world say, and that in a thousand instances; nay, and avow it too, without ever blushing upon the account, without either fear or shame. Ask the man, “Why did you do this?” He answers, “Because I had a mind to it.” What is this but, “Because it was my will;” that is, in effect, because the devil and I agreed; because Satan and I govern our actions by one and the same principle. The will of God, mean time, is not in his thoughts, is not considered in the least degree.

We sin because we want to sin!  We sin because we are children of the devil (John 8:44).  Jesus called people “evil” (Luke 11:13) and He said that out of the heart comes evil (Matthew 15:19).  However, Jesus did say that some people are good and others evil (Matthew 12:35).

In reality, we need Christ.  That is the bottom line.  All sinners need Christ.  All saints need Christ.  We need to exalt the Lord Jesus to every nation and to every sinner.  Jesus is our only hope!

“You’re Turning People Away From Christ”

I was recently listening to a few brothers talking about evangelism and one of them said that he opposed open air preaching because, in his words, “You’re turning people away from Christ.”  I responded, “What makes you think they are coming to Christ in the first place or that people want Christ?”

The problem is that we have a low view of depravity.  We believe the American church lie that people are basically good and can come to Christ anytime they want to.  People genuinely want to follow Christ is what we hear.  Yet my Bible says that people are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).  I read in the Bible that people do not love God but they hate Him (Romans 1:18-32).  I read that people hated Jesus and will hate us who preach the gospel as well (John 15:18-25).  People are not seeking God yet God is seeking people (John 4:23-24) and He does this through the preaching of the gospel (John 6:44).

Romans 3:10-18 is clear that people are not seeking God.  People are seeking after their flesh.  People do not want to hear about Christ.  It takes the work of the Holy Spirit to bring sinners to salvation (John 16:8-11).  Without the work of the Spirit, none could or would be saved.  This is the free grace of God at work in the world wherein the Spirit works through the preaching to draw the lost to salvation.

The fact is that those who are on the college campuses.  Those who are in malls.  Those who are walking the streets outside of the stadium or the bars.  All these people are not seeking after God.  Their lives demonstrate that.  These people are serving their flesh and their god, Satan (John 8:42-47).  The gospel is a violent interruption into their sinful lives.  The gospel opens sinners up to their sins (Romans 3:19-20).  When sinners see their sinfulness before a holy God, they either repent or reject the gospel.  Those who repent do so by the grace of God (John 1:12-13) and all who come to faith in Christ come to faith because of the sovereign work of God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

My point then is clear: people must hear the gospel to be saved (Romans 10:14-17).  Jesus makes this clear in all four Gospels calling the disciples to take the gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21).  The Lord promised His Spirit would endue us with power from on high for this very purpose of preaching the gospel (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all (Romans 1:16-17).  Sinners cannot save themselves because they love their sins and despise the true God.  Sinners must hear the gospel that shows them their guilt and shows them the goodness of God in the giving of His Son (Romans 2:4; 5:8-9).  This alone is the only hope for lost humanity.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/03/2014 at 3:55 PM

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.

Why Total Inability Must Be Studied Before Evangelism

God is love.  God is forgiving.  God is good.  God is merciful.  God wants the best for us.  These are all arguments I have heard from people when out preaching the gospel when I confront them with the reality of their sins and the fact that they will stand before a holy God and give an account for their lives (Romans 14:12; Hebrews 9:27).  Sinners believe that since God is love (1 John 4:8) and since God is good and kind, they will be allowed (despite their sins and rebellion against Him) into His heaven.  I have shown sinners through the Law that they are lost and dead in their sins (Romans 3:19-20; Ephesians 2:1-3) and yet they still think they will go to heaven because they have heard that God is love and therefore He will ignore their sins and give them eternal life.

The fact is that God is loving and kind and Paul the Apostle said that this is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  God is indeed love as 1 John 4:8 states but we must remember that He is also just.  Exodus 34:6-7 reads:

6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Psalm 33:5 says that God loves righteousness and justice.  The Bible says in 1 John 3:7 tells us that whoever practices righteousness is righteous.  It is not enough to claim that we are righteous in Christ by imputation but ignore the fact that we are to be righteous practically.  Scripture is clear that we are to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14) and to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  This holiness comes both by our standing in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 10:10, 14) and in our walking in the Spirit as His grace enables us (Galatians 5:16-17).  Scripture is clear that a disciple can forsake their sins by God’s grace (Titus 2:11-12; cf. 1 Corinthian 10:13).  I admit that I am not able to overcome sin by my power but only by the grace of God (Romans 6:1-14).

When preparing to do evangelism, I believe that one doctrine that is key that we must place in the hearts of disciples is the doctrine of total inability.  Sinners are unable to be saved apart from the work of God (Ephesians 2:4-5).  Sinners love their sins and do not seek God (Romans 3:10-18).  Sinners hate God and want to serve their flesh and not the truth (Romans 1:18-32).

Arminius wrote that the fall of man brought the domination of sin into our beings.  He wrote:

But man was not so confirmed in this state of innocence, as to be incapable of being moved, by the representation presented to him of some good, (whether it was of an inferior kind and relating to this animal life, or of a superior-kind and relating to spiritual life,) inordinately and unlawfully to look upon it and to desire it, and of his own spontaneous as well as free motion, and through a preposterous desire for that good, to decline from the obedience which had been prescribed to him. Nay, having turned away from the light of his own mind and his chief good, which is God, or, at least, having turned towards that chief good not in the manner in which he ought to have done, and besides having turned in mind and heart towards an inferior good, he transgressed the command given to him for life. By this foul deed, he precipitated himself from that noble and elevated condition into a state of the deepest infelicity, which is Under The Dominion of Sin. For “to whom any one yields himself a servant to obey,” (Rom. vi, 16,) and “of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage,” and is his regularly assigned slave. (2 Pet. ii, 19.)

Arminius then went on to write about the free will of mankind by showing that our will is warped by sin:

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.

Anyone then who would claim either that Arminius believed in a pelagian view of free will or that Arminianism is focused on free will would be wrong since Arminius believed that the fall brought corruption to the human race.  Further, anyone claiming to be an Arminian and would deny that we are total unable to come to Christ apart from His grace would not be a true Arminian.  Arminius clearly taught that sinners are incapable of saving themselves or even repenting apart from enabling grace.

However, Arminius was clear that God’s grace enabled sinner’s will to be freed to believe the gospel.  Just as Calvinists would not argue that God forces people to be saved against their wills but He makes them willing to believe, Arminius taught that God’s grace enables sinners to believe and be saved.  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.”

Arminius was absolutely correct here.  Were it not for the grace of God, none could be saved.  Were it not for free will, none could truly receive this gift of salvation.  In fact, salvation could not be called a gift if the willing person is not willing to either receive or reject the offer of eternal life (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

Arminius taught that the grace of God is what enables us to be saved.  This is lengthy but worth reading from Arminius on 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.

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.

Grace is what enables us to be saved.  God’s grace was fully revealed in His Son (John 1:17; Titus 2:11).  God’s grace now reaches out to lost sinners through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17).  The gospel is a gospel of grace.  The gospel points to the reality that while we are unable to save ourselves (Isaiah 64:6), God’s grace was revealed in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthian 15:1-4).  The gospel focuses on the reality of Christ dying to take away our sins (Galatians 1:4).

We must show people that they are incapable of saving themselves.  Their sins condemn them.  The only perfect one is the Lord Jesus (1 Peter 2:22).  Jesus alone is able to save us by His grace (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  In fact, Jesus is the only way to God because of sin (John 14:6).  The Bible is clear in 1 Timothy 2:5-6 that there is one God and one mediator between a holy God and sinful humanity, Jesus Christ the righteous one.  1 John 2:2 says that He is propitiation before a holy God.  In other words, Jesus turns away the wrath of God against sin.  He is the sinners only hope.

By showing sinners (and disciples) that we are unable to come to Christ apart from His grace and that we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), we are teaching people the truth that God alone saves.  John 1:12-13 is absolutely clear on this issue as is John 6:44, 66.  We see this truth also in the conversion of Lydia in Acts 16:14-15.  The Lord opens the hearts of sinners when the gospel is preached.  When sinners believe the gospel (by His grace), He saves sinners by His grace (Romans 1:16-17; 3:22-24; 10:4, 9-10; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

I pray that we would not give in to the spirit of this age that wants to paint humanity as good and upright and capable of saving themselves.  I pray that our evangelism does not come across as an appeal from a desperate God who is just sitting there waiting for sinners to make the first step toward Him.  We must preach the gospel biblically and accurately as this glorifies God and truly saves the lost.

The Arminian Confession of 1621 on Total Inability

The Arminian Confession of 1621 states this about the total inability of the sinner to obtain eternal salvation:

“It was from this [the Fall of Mankind] that the highest necessity and also advantage of divine grace, prepared for us in Christ the Savior before the ages, clearly appeared.  For without it we would neither shake off the miserable yoke of sin, nor do anything truly good in religion, nor finally ever escape eternal death or any true punishment of sin.  Much less could we at any time obtain eternal salvation without it or through ourselves.”

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/15/2014 at 8:28 PM

On the Total Inability of the Sinner

I was listening to a podcast of Dr. John MacArthur speaking at a Bible conference on the subject of total depravity (though he later admitted that total inability is perhaps a better term).  As an Arminian, I was able to listen to this Calvinist brother preach on this subject and agree with him 100%.  The sinner is incapable of salvation apart from the grace of God.  Sinners, by nature, do not seek God (Romans 3:10-11).  Sinners are dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).  I agreed with MacArthur that God alone is the one who must act to bring the sinner to salvation.  I believe this first act was done by God Himself in the garden after the fall (Genesis 3:21) and in His prophesy about the coming Seed who would crush the serpent (Genesis 3:15).  From Genesis to the Gospels, we have the story of God reaching out to lost sinners and ultimately in His Son He showed both His justice and His love for lost sinners (Luke 19:10; John 3:14-18; 1 John 4:14).

MacArthur and I would agree on all this (though he would disagree that Christ came to save all sinners but only the elect).  Arminians agree that Christ is the only hope for lost humanity.  Christ is the only way we can find forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 26:28) and we must preach that salvation comes only through faith in Him and Him alone (Galatians 2:15-16).  We must preach that all sinners are under the wrath of God apart from salvation in Christ Jesus (Romans 1:18) and that the only way for sinners to turn away God’s just wrath is through the sacrifice of Christ (Romans 3:22-27; 5:8-9).

Further, because of the nature of depravity, sinners cannot just choose to be saved when they want.  Sinners must have the Holy Spirit working upon their hearts to be saved.  Jesus promised this work toward sinners in John 16:8-11.  Notice in John 16:8-11 that this would be toward the entire world.  The Spirit is working even now in the world to draw sinners to the Savior (John 6:44).  As we preach the gospel, sinners hear the gospel and the Spirit of God draws sinners to repent of their sins (Acts 2:37-38).  Those sinners who appropriate the work of Christ are the elect of God (1 Timothy 4:10) and are truly saved by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  I have no problem saying that salvation is the work of God (John 1:12-13) and that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, none could be saved.  In our depraved state, sinners simply will not look to Christ for salvation.  We hate the true God and we would rather do it our own way if left to ourselves.  We need the divine aid of the Spirit of God.

And yet in the midst of all these truths that MacArthur said, twice in his lecture he mentioned Arminians.  In both times he was wrong about what Arminians believe.  In his first statement, MacArthur stated that the Western Church was largely Arminian in its approach to evangelism meaning that it is up to the sinner to choose to be saved and so the church must facilitate that belief by making church appealing to the sinner hoping that the sinner will choose Christ.  This is not Arminianism.  This is semi-Pelagianism at best.  Arminius affirmed the depravity of lost sinners.

Concerning the original sin of Adam and Eve, Arminius wrote:

The whole of this sin, however, is not peculiar to our first parents, but is common to the entire race and to all their posterity, who, at the time when this sin was committed, were in their loins, and who have since descended from them by the natural mode of propagation, according to the primitive benediction. For in Adam “all have sinned.” (Rom. v, 12.) Wherefore, whatever punishment was brought down upon our first parents, has likewise pervaded and yet pursues all their posterity. So that all men “are by nature the children of wrath,” (Ephes. ii, 3,) obnoxious to condemnation, and to temporal as well as to eternal death; they are also devoid of that original righteousness and holiness. (Rom. v, 12, 18, 19.) With these evils they would remain oppressed forever, unless they were liberated by Christ Jesus; to whom be glory forever.

Regarding so-called “free will” and whether mankind is capable of just choosing to be saved, Arminius wrote:

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.

In fact, about free will Arminius wrote:

This is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace.

Where in the teachings of Arminius does MacArthur get that Arminians believe in free will to just choose to be saved?  This perhaps is the teaching of the seeker churches in the United States and the Western Churches but it is not the teaching of Arminius.

Secondly, MacArthur states in his lecture on free will that Arminians deny the total inability of the sinner by teaching that there is still something left in man that allows him to choose Christ.  He states that this was the view of the confused Calvinist, John Wesley (to which he received a laugh from the audience).  MacArthur goes on to state that Wesley was right on so many issues but he missed it here on the subject of total inability.

For now I won’t go to Wesley on this (though I feel MacArthur is wrong on that) but to Arminius.  Did Arminius believe in partial depravity or total depravity?  Notice the above quote on free will and ponder Arminius’ answer to the state of free will in man.

Arminius goes on to write about the state of depraved man:

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.

Does Arminius affirm a partial depraved state there?  Arminius continues:

Exactly correspondent to this darkness of the mind, and perverseness of the heart, is the utter weakness of all the powers to perform that which is truly good, and to omit the perpetration of that which is evil, in a due mode and from a due end and cause. The subjoined sayings of Christ serve to describe this impotence. “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. vii, 18.) “How can ye, being evil, speak good things?” (xii, 34.) The following relates to the good which is properly prescribed in the gospel: “No man can come to me, except the Father draw him.” (John vi, 44.) As do likewise the following words of the Apostle: “The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be;” (Rom. viii, 7;)

therefore, that man over whom it has dominion, cannot perform what the law commands. The same Apostle says, “When we were in the flesh, the motions of sins wrought in us,” or flourished energetically. (vii, 5.) To the same purpose are all those passages in which the man existing in this state is said to be under the power of sin and Satan, reduced to the condition of a slave, and “taken captive by the Devil.” (Rom. vi, 20; 2 Tim. ii, 26.)

It seems clear that Arminius affirms the wickedness of mankind.

Arminius wrote later on about the nature of God’s grace after regeneration saying this:

The Second thing to be observed is, that as the very first commencement of every good thing, so likewise the progress, continuance and confirmation, nay, even the perseverance in good, are not from ourselves, but from God through the Holy Spirit. For “he who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Phil. i, 6;) and “we are kept by the power of God through faith.” (1 Pet. i, 5.) “The God of all grace makes us perfect, stablishes, strengthens and settles us.” (i, 10.) But if it happens that persons fall into sin who have been born again, they neither repent nor rise again unless they be raised up again by God through the power of his Spirit, and be renewed to repentance. This is proved in the most satisfactory manner, by the example of David and of Peter. “Every good and perfect gift, therefore, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights,” (James i, 17,) by whose power the dead are animated that they may live, the fallen are raised up that they may recover themselves, the blind are illuminated that they may see, the unwilling are incited that they may become willing, the weak are confirmed that they may stand, the willing are assisted that they may work and may co-operate with God. “To whom be praise and glory in the church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen!”

And I echo Arminius’ “amen” here.  All of salvation is by the grace of God!  We are not saved by works, kept by works but we are wholly saved by the work of Christ alone and kept in Him by His grace alone.  Salvation is indeed the work of God.

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