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Posts Tagged ‘Wayne Grudem

Four Aspects of Christ’s Atonement

Dr. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology text, offers four aspects of Christ’s atonement based on four needs we have as sinners before God:

1.  We deserve to die as the penalty for sin.
2.  We deserve to bear God’s wrath against sin.
3.  We are separated from God by our sins.
4.  We are in bondage to sin and to the kingdom of Satan.

Grudem then gives us the four aspects of Christ’s vicarious atonement that helped with the above needs in us sinners.

1.  Sacrifice (Hebrews 9:26).  Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins.  He is our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).

2.  Propitiation (1 John 4:10).  Christ removes the wrath of God from us by being our propitiation for our sins before God.

3.  Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).  Christ has reconciled us to God by dying for our sins that had separated us from God.

4.  Redemption (Mark 10:45; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 2:15).  While I reject the idea that a price was paid by Christ to Satan or to our sins, it is biblical to say that Jesus redeemed us and brought us to God.  We are saved from Satan and sin!

Is it not exciting to know that Christ is our salvation and He takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)?  He is our peace, our satisfaction, our righteousness, our Lord, our Master, and our King!  He is the One that is worthy to be praised for saving us from sin and its power.  Jesus alone is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2 NIV).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/26/2013 at 12:06 PM

Total Depravity and Human Experience

Dr. Wayne Grudem argues in his Systematic Theology text that total inability is a preferred term above total depravity since the term total depravity seems to be saying that a person is as evil as they can be.  This is not the case with the vast majority of people.  Granted there are people who become pure evil but most do not.  Certainly the Bible says that our hearts are corrupt and wicked before God (Jeremiah 17:9) and our “righteous” deeds are but filthy garments before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).  I doubt few would deny this.

This is why Grudem suggests that total depravity would be better termed total inability as this shows what the theologians are trying to state with the words total depravity, that humans are too vile and our deeds corrupt to obtain the perfect righteousness that God requires (Matthew 5:48).  We are totally unable to be holy.  We are totally unable to work for salvation from the Lord.  We simply cannot do it.  Nothing we can do would be perfect enough to be perfect before God which is what He requires (Psalm 24:3-4).  Because of our sins, God must judge us (Romans 2:7-11).

What I am seeking to point out here in this post is that I often hear people base their belief that all humans are born totally depraved by looking to the experiences such as raising children.  I have heard people say, “I know that people are born totally depraved because you don’t have to look further than infants.  They cry when they don’t get their way.  They are selfish by nature.”  To me, this is a poor basis for theology.  We should never build our theology upon our experiences but instead we should base our theology upon the Word of God.  Human experiences are liable to change or to be misleading.  For instance, we are told to pray about the Book of Mormon by Mormon missionaries based on Moroni 10:4-5.  The problem is that this is a poor basis for determining truth.  As Jeremiah 17:9 says, our hearts can be deceitful.  Further, the Bible never exhorts us to pray about truth.  Truth is found in the Word of God (John 17:17) who is the truth (John 14:6).  We don’t have to pray about our theology.  We need to base our theology upon the Word of God.

This is true of total depravity as well.  We must go to the Scriptures.  If the Scriptures teach total depravity or total inability, then we must embrace the teaching and proclaim it.  However, if found in error we must reject the teaching.  To base our view of human inability upon the experiences we have had with other humans or with infants is poor theology.  It is experiential and not grounded on the Word.  I assure you that if you base your theology upon experience, it will crumble when you face a test to it.  Our theology must be biblically based.

I do believe in total inability.  I deny that we can earn our salvation.  I believe salvation is a work of God’s grace received through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  Paul makes it clear in Romans 4:5 that faith is opposed to works.  James 2:14-26 is not teaching that we are saved by grace and works but James is teaching us that truth faith works (Ephesians 2:10).  True faith demonstrates itself in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 6:46-49; John 14:15; Acts 5:32).  People are corrupt but they are corrupt on many levels.  Some of us are more corrupt than others but all of us are totally unable to obtain salvation.  No doubt because of sin, even our best efforts at being holy are often tainted by sin and pride (Proverbs 16:18).

That said, let us base our theology not upon our experiences but upon the Word of God.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/16/2012 at 9:24 AM

Affirming Original Sin: Introduction

Let us begin our study of original sin by looking first at those who affirm the teaching.  The Roman Catholic Church has long held to the teaching of original sin that, I assert, finds its origins in Augustine.  Augustine was a faithful Catholic when it comes to his views regarding original sin and Augustine held that all are born guilty of Adam’s transgression.  The human race was in Adam when he sinned and thus we all sinned (Romans 5:12).  Later, Reformation teachers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and even Arminius would affirm Augustine’s view of original sin.

Dr. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology text, also affirms the doctrine of original sin.  We shall learn, in this introduction, from him about this teaching.

1.  Inherited Guilt: We are counted guilty because of Adam’s sin.  Romans 5:12 specifically says, “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.”  Dr. Grudem points out that the Greek tense in verse 12 is such that the sinning here is in the past.  We sinned in Adam is Paul’s point observes Dr. Grudem.  He points out further in Romans 5:13-14 that the reason that people died before the Law of Moses was because they had sinned in Adam.  God counted people guilty even before He gave His Law through Moses and we know this because people still died in-between the time of Adam and Moses.

Grudem points out that Romans 5:18 says that Adam’s sin brought condemnation to all men and his disobedience (v. 19) made the many sinners.  Again, he points out that verse 19 is in the aorist indicative indicating a completed past action, “made sinners” meaning we are made sinners in Adam.  We did not even exist yet God saw us in Adam and He also sent His Son even before our existence to die for our sins that we committed in Adam (Romans 5:8).  In this case, God impute’s Adam’s transgression upon all of humanity.  We are all guilty of sin because of Adam.  None of us can escape that reality.  Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen shore of the glory of God.  None are left out.  All have fallen in Adam.  All of us are guilty of sin.

Grudem prefers the term “inherited sin” instead of “original sin.”  Why?  He writes that original sin sounds as if God holds us accountable for Adam’s very first sin.  This is not the teaching.  Grudem states that instead we inherit sin from Adam in the sense that we are born sinful and inherit the following things:

2.   Inherited Corruption: We have a sinful nature because of Adam’s sin.  Psalm 51:5; 58:3; Ephesians 2:3.  Because of our sinful nature we are not able to do that which pleases God.  We can do good things and history records that fallen humans have done much good for others but in relation to God, we cannot please Him.  Why?  Because of our fallen nature.  We are unable in our natures to do spiritual good before God (Romans 7:18; Titus 1:15; cf. Jeremiah 17:9).  We are also unable in our actions to do that which pleases the Lord (Romans 8:8; Ephesians 2:1-2).  We are slaves only to sin (John 8:34) and all our “righteous deeds’ are filthy before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).  Paul sums up who we are in Romans 3:9-20.  We cannot even come to God in our own power apart from His drawing (John 6:44).

Dr. Grudem points out that the Scriptures clearly affirm that we are guilty before God.  All of us.  David said in Psalm 143:2, “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.”  Psalm 14:3 describes all of mankind when the psalmist wrote, “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”  Solomon prayed in 1 Kings 8:46 that “there is no one who does not sin.”  In fact, 1 John 1:8-10 establishes that in order to be saved we must acknowledge our utter sinfulness before God and this sin is universal in nature.  We must confess, says John, that we are all sinners.

So what about infants?  Grudem rejects the notion that there is an “age of responsibility” or “acceptability.”  He acknowledges that many evangelicals hold to that view including Dr. John MacArthur and Dr. Millard Erickson but he rejects the teaching since he believes that the Scriptures simply do not speak of this “age.”  Grudem notes that he believes that babies are born sinners (Psalm 51:5) and he notes that anyone who has children know that it does not take long for infants to show their sinful nature (Psalm 58:3).  If infants die then do they go to heaven or hell?  He answers this first by pointing out that if in fact infants do go to heaven it would not be because they are sinless but because of the work of Christ.  In fact, he points to Luke 1:15 as proof that God can regenerate a baby as He did with John the Baptist who was filled with the Spirit in the womb.  If this was not salvation, what was it?  He believes that since regeneration is a sovereign work of God, He can regenerate a baby and that baby will likely become a believer at a young age.

He goes on to note that he believes that Scripture often speaks of God protecting the children of believers.  He believes that God probably saves infants who die in infancy if the parents were believers.  If they are not believers, only God knows what happens to them.

On a personal note here.  When I was in college in my first year of theology, my professor told us that only elect babies go to heaven.  All other infants go to hell.  He said something to the effect of, “I know you don’t like the thought of an infant being cast into hell but that is God’s sovereign right as King and in light of our sinfulness.”  I have heard other Calvinists use the same logic.

We have sort of touched on the Scriptures that deal with original sin but next time we will dive deeper into the original sin or inherited sin to borrow from Grudem.  We will simply allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves regarding our sinfulness before God.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/29/2012 at 5:32 PM

Posted in Original Sin

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How Should We Study Systematic Theology?

In his Systematic Theology book, Dr. Wayne Grudem offers the following points for disciples when studying systematic theology.  I believe they are worth repeating here.

1.  We Should Study Systematic Theology With Prayer (Psalm 119:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 1:17-19).

2.  We Should Study Systematic Theology With Humility (1 Corinthians 8:1; James 1:19-20; 3:13, 17-18; 1 Peter 5:5).

3.  We Should Study Systematic Theology With Reason (Psalm 119:160; Mark 12:30).

4.  We Should Study Systematic Theology With Help From Others (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-16).

5.  We Should Study Systematic Theology by Collecting and Understanding All the Relevant Passages of Scripture on Any Topic (John 1:1-3).

6.  We Should Study Systematic Theology With Rejoicing and Praise (Deuteronomy 6:5; Psalm 19:14; 119:103, 111, 162; Romans 11:33-36)

Conclusion

I have met disciples who claimed that systematic theology was boring and a waste of time.  They would turn around and teach on prayer or any other subject and use the very methods they deplore by searching the Scriptures to see what God has revealed to us about prayer or the given subject.  We all do systematic theology whether we are a seasoned, educated disciple to the young disciple just baptized.  When you read your Bible and seek to know God’s ways, you are putting together various passages not at random but in order to know God and to hear His voice (Hebrews 12:25).  We should not view theology as boring but as that which sustains us when trials come our way (James 1:2-4).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/17/2012 at 5:00 PM

Posted in Theology

Tagged with ,

The Arminian Springboard

I have been reading Dr. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology text and I must say that I have been enjoying what I read.  Once again I am struck by how much we classical Arminians have in common with our Calvinist brethren when it comes to theology.  We are much closer than we like to realize.  First cousins would surely apply here.  We must remember that Arminius studied under Beza, the successor of Calvin in Geneva and Calvin’s son-in-law.  Arminius was a Calvinist theologian until he was commissioned by the Calvinists in Geneva to combat the theology of the Anabaptists.  Through his own studies, Arminius became convinced of the errors of Beza.  He still had high regard for Calvin and even noted this about Calvin’s commentaries:

Next to the study of the Scriptures which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s Commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself [a Dutch divine, 1551–1608]; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent spirit of prophecy. His Institutes ought to be studied after the [Heidelberg] Catechism, as containing a fuller explanation, but with discrimination, like the writings of all men.

Arminius believed that the problem was that Calvinists of his day were preaching the catechism without first regarding what Scripture has to say.  In other words, the final question for doctrine was not “what does the Scriptures teach?” but instead it was, “what does the catechism teach.”  Arminius wanted the Synod of Dort to establish that Scripture was to be the final authority and that if the catechism is found in error, we should be willing to change the catechism to reflect sound doctrine.  Few in his day were able to stand against his knowledge and ability to debate the Scriptures.  His early death prevented him from being able to argue at the Synod of Dort and the rest they say is history.

I do take exception early on in my reading with Grudem however.  He notes in passing that if we begin our systematic theology study of salvation with the sovereignty of God, we will no doubt end up Calvinists.  If we begin our studies with the free will of mankind, we will end up as Arminians.  I disagree.  I believe that this is a typical view of Arminianism, they we hold first and foremost to libertarian free will and thus we end up teaching what we teach about God, Jesus, salvation, and man.  This, I believe, is a wrong view of Arminius.  Arminius noted the following in regard to predestination:

1. The first in order of the divine decrees is not that of predestination, by which God foreordained to supernatural ends, and by which he resolved to save and to condemn, to declare his mercy and his punitive justice, and to illustrate the glory of his saving grace, and of his wisdom and power which correspond with that most free grace.

2. The object of predestination to supernatural ends, to salvation and death, to the demonstration of the mercy and punitive justice, or of the saving grace, the wisdom, and the most free power of God, is not rational creatures indefinitely foreknown, and capable of salvation, of damnation, of creation, of falling, and of reparation or of being recovered.

3. Nor is the subject some particular creatures from among those who are considered in this manner.

4. The difference between the vessels to honour and those to dishonour, that is, of mercy and wrath, does not appertain to the adorning or perfection of the universe or of the house of God.

5. The entrance of sin into the world does not appertain to the beauty of the universe.

6. Creation in the upright state of original righteousness is not a means for executing the decree of predestination, or of election, or of reprobation.

7. It is horrid to affirm, that “the way of reprobation is creation in the upright state of original righteousness;” (Gomarus, in his Theses on Predestination;) and in this very assertion are propounded two contrary volitions of God concerning one and the same thing.

8. It is a horrible affirmation, that “God has predestinated whatsoever men he pleased not only to damnation, but likewise to the causes of damnation.” (Beza, vol. I, fol. 417.)

9. It is a horrible affirmation, that “men are predestinated to eternal death by the naked will or choice of God, without any demerit on their part.” (Calvin, Inst. l. I, c. 2, 3.)

10. This, also, is a horrible affirmation: “Some among men have been created unto life eternal, and others unto death eternal.”

11. It is not a felicitous expression, that “preparation unto destruction is not to be referred to any other thing, than to the secret counsel of God.”

12. Permission for the fall [of Adam] into sin, is not the means of executing the decree of predestination, or of election, or of reprobation.

13. It is an absurd assertion, that “the demerits of the reprobate are the subordinate means of bringing them onward to destined destruction.”

14. It is a false assertion, that “the efficient and sufficient cause and matter of predestination are thus found in those who are reprobated.”

15. The elect are not called “vessels of mercy” in the relation of means to the end, but because mercy is the only moving cause, by which is made the decree itself of predestination to salvation.

16. No small injury is inflicted on Christ as mediator, when he is called “the subordinate cause of destined salvation.”

17. The predestination of angels and of men differ so much from each other, that no property of God can be prefixed to both of them unless it be received in an ambiguous acceptation.

Notice that Arminius did not start this with a view of free will.  He begins with the nature of God.  In his writings, Arminius often would begin with the authority of the Scriptures and then move to the doctrine of God.  It was his view of God that led him to reject the Calvinist view of unconditional election.  I don’t doubt that free will does come into factor in Arminius’ view.  But this is after he has established his view that God is first loving toward all of His creation and from this, the love of God for the world, we find Him granting humans free will.

Arminius then begins his theology with the love of God.  In no way does Arminius reject the sovereignty of God.  He affirms it over and over again.  He states this about the creation of mankind:

God can make of his own whatsoever he wills. But he does not will, neither can he will, to make of that which is his own whatever it is possible for him to make according to his infinite and absolute power.

Concerning the free will issue and God’s sovereignty, Arminius wrote,

The infinite wisdom and power of God, by which he knows and is able out of darkness to bring light, and to produce good out of evil. (Gen. i, 2, 3; 2 Cor. iv, 6.) God therefore permits that which He does permit, not in ignorance of the powers and the inclination of rational creatures, for he knows them all, not with reluctance, for he could have refrained from producing a creature that might possess freedom of choice, not as being incapable of hindering, for we have already seen by how many methods he is able to hinder both the capability and the will of a rational creature; not as if at ease, indifferent, or negligent of that which is transacted, because before anything is done he already [“has gone through”] has looked over the various actions which concern it, and, as we shall subsequently see, [§ 15-22,] he presents arguments and occasions, determines, directs, punishes and pardons sin. But whatever God permits, He permits it designedly and willingly, His will being immediately occupied about its permission, but His permission itself is occupied about sin; and this order cannot be inverted without great peril.

So I contend that Arminius doesn’t begin his theology with a focus on the free will of man but instead the doctrine of God.  And I contend further that Arminius doesn’t begin his soteriology with a focus on the free will of man but on the infinite love of God given toward us in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:8-9).

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