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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

in defense of arminianism

A blogger who uses the name "The Preacher" has an interesting post entitled Making Jehovah into a Lovesick Girl. He asks, "Can I submit to you, that this is exactly what we do when we preach an Arminian gospel?"

The answer is no. Perhaps that's how it appears to Calvinists. And, truth be told, I think I actually heard the gospel presented like this once or twice by well-intentioned but misguided youth leaders back in my teenage years. But to reduce God to a lovestruck girl hoping to be invited to prom, waiting for us to make the first move -- that's a distortion of genuine Arminian theology.

Part of the problem, I think, is that Arminianism is often defined in opposition to Calvinism. Calvinism, as I understand it, teaches that we have no say in our salvation, that it's completely God's decision. Perhaps a Calvinist might assume, by contrast, that Arminians believe that salvation is entirely in our own hands.

But defining any idea solely in relation to a competing idea is the easiest way to distort it. In fact, Arminianism shares with Calvinism the foundation that human nature is sinful, and that, left to our own devices, we could never achieve righteousness.

Arminians departs with Calvinists on the extent of God's grace. Calvinists believe that God's grace is limited to a predetermined group of people, the elect. Anyone not in this group is doomed.

Arminians believe, along with 1 Timothy 2:4, that God "desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." We believe, along with Titus 2:11, that "the grace of God has appeared to all." We believe, along with Romans 2:4, that "God's kindness is meant to lead [us] to repentance." We believe, along with Philippians 2:12-13 that as we "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling," we recognize that "it is God at work within [us]."

Arminianism is not the opposite of Calvinism. Arminians don't believe we are the authors of our own salvation. We don't believe God's love is merely a product of pubescent hormones running wild. We don't believe God is so helpless as to pine over unrequited love.

Instead, we see God's grace at work in the world. This grace that has appeared to all, not just to a select few, is known as prevenient grace. That's not the grace that saves us, but it does enable us to respond to God. So even though we don't have it within our nature to choose God, we have something within us that is not part of our own nature.

Our very ability to choose God is itself a gift from God.

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At 4/24/2007 1:19 PM, Anonymous Howie Luvzus said...

Nicely put. It does seem that many of our brothers and sisters can't understand the difference between both/and and either/or!

At 4/24/2007 5:58 PM, Blogger truevyne said...

Applause. Well stated, Bruce.

At 4/25/2007 5:33 PM, Blogger A deacon, by the grace of God, said...

Well said indeed!

At 4/25/2007 9:42 PM, Blogger Steve Hayes said...

It's funny you should say that just now. You might find this post on another blog interesting, and my response was to quote one of Charles Wesley's hymns.

At 5/02/2007 1:04 PM, Blogger Bad Alice said...

"Prevenient grace"--now I have a word for it!

At 5/11/2007 11:41 AM, Blogger gymbrall said...

I don't think any Calvinist would argue with you that God's grace is what enables man to choose him. The issue comes down to this: If all men have the power to choose God then might Christ have not been crucified? Might all the things that God said would happen, not have happened? To that, most Arminian's say, "Well God knew before the foundation of time who would be saved. He did not choose who be saved." To which I ask: "Did God know these things before He created the universe? And if He did, and He still chose to make everything the way it was made and to not change things so all men would know Him, then He chose."

This of course does not change the fact that men choose. As Spurgeon says : If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other.

Anyway, thanks for this post,
Maybe we can discuss this further,
Charles Churchill

At 5/13/2007 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I was reading your post I came across

Interesting to see these issues come out.

At 5/13/2007 9:08 PM, Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

What strict Calvinists fail to realize is that Jacob Arminius himself was part of the Dutch Reformed tradition. Of course, after the Synod of Dordt defined itself over against the Remonstrants (Arminius' followers), what counted as "Calvinism" became narrowed.

The brilliance of Wesley was to add the doctrine of prevenient grace so that one could affirm God's Sovereignty and human sinfulness fully (unlike Pelagianism with which Arminianism is often confused) while having an explanation for how the gospel of free grace could truly and effectively be offered to "whosoever will" if human will was bound by sin. Answer: prevenient grace gives humans the ability to respond to the gospel freely.

At 5/20/2007 7:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well said indeed. Thank you for posting this!


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