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Monday, August 15, 2011

"Are We Really Thinking It Through?" (Part 1)

If you’ve been surfing the net for Christian articles lately you’ll see that the Calvinist/Arminian debate has flared up again. I also recently read a post from a friend where he didn’t understand why all this “fuss” has to be made about predestination or Grace, etc., etc. “What difference does it make” is what he ended up saying, let’s just concentrate on the Gospel & sharing Jesus! Now while I wholeheartedly agree with that latter statement, I wanted to take this opportunity to state exactly why it is important to clarify our understanding here based on this most important fact: For within this argument lies our view of who God is at the core! And that understanding/view will then dictate how we live that out! However, I think really what this person had a problem with was not so much the subject, but rather HOW we talk, or in this case do NOT talk civilly about it. In fact, I share his dislike for the serious lack of civilized dialogue between us in discussing such important Theological views which as I already stated, carry a lot of important repercussions which is exactly why we cannot & should not dismiss them.

On the bright side, there has been good dialogue coming out as well. Recently John Piper, a man who has fathered such radical articles as “why Calvinists should not date Arminians” and who last year preached a sermon entitled “Why Jesus doesn’t love everyone the same” (if you understand his neo-Calvinistic view, you’ll understand that sermon regardless of whether you agree) sat down with Rick Warren, the object along with John MacArthur of many of his attacks. And I must confess I was surprised to see him “morph” into this likeable guy who was very respectful of Warren’s Theology. Likewise Rick has been gracious all along to those who have opposed him & he was the same here in this interview. If you have not seen it, you can find a portion of it on utube here:

Now I use the heading “are we thinking it through?”. And the reason I did is because one of the questions we must always ask ourselves in regards to what we believe is: “what are the ramifications of what I believe & how will that apply?”

For instance, when you agree with a statement like the Westminster’s Confession of 1646 in Chapter 3 “Of God’s Decree’s” and articles 5-7 as follows:

V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.
VI. As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.
VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praised of His glorious justice.

The ramifications of those statements are as follows I believe:
1) That at some point in the beginning of things, God said yes to me, no to someone else, yes to another, no to someone else, etc. etc. (you get the picture) This means that God left most of humanity out of His salvation plan! And He did so with full purpose to do such! Think that through friends! And the above statements also say He did so “for His own Glory!”
I recently had a student I am close to tell me he “cringed” when we heard this statement come out of a Pastor’s mouth:
“God would sacrifice all of humanity for the sake of His glory” Needless to say Scriptures such as, but by no means limited to: John 3:16-17, 2 Tim. 2:4 & Rom. 5:5 make it crystal clear that God never had any intention of sending people to eternal damnation according to HIS will! In fact in Matt. 25:41 which is the time of the separation of the righteous & unrighteous. Now when the unrighteous are turned over to destruction, Jesus says to them this:
'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
Friends, notice for whom the eternal fire was prepared…….not mankind, but rather satan & his cohorts! And why? Is it not because God never intended from day ONE that “any should perish?” So as you can see, we have a real dilemma here….. Did God intend to leave humans out of His plan or didn’t He? And if He did & you believe that, how would it effect your view of God? And would it not effect that view mightily?
Now I can hear the yells of those who believe the above statements & they would say I am jumping to what they have coined “double predestination”. In other words, because it would be difficult to say the least to believe that God did leave people out for His glory, they will say that He just “passed over” them, in other words God did not pass them by with purpose or malice, but just as part of His overall plan, so they will argue that point about God leaving people out, but from a logical & practical standpoint, you simply cannot have it both ways! To say out of one side of your face that God only picked an “elect” & then out of the other side say He didn’t leave people out is frankly “double speak” in my humble opinion. I Coached softball for many years & had many people who wanted to play, but I couldn’t accommodate them all, so the hard truth is that I had to “cut” players or just didn’t pick them with full purpose, the purpose of building a better team in this case. There is no other way for me to be honest about that! So what I am saying here is you can’t have one, without the other, cut & dry. If God didn’t elect everyone & only some, then He left out others……….

So this leads me to my next point which is “Election vs. Foreknowledge”. This is what I will discuss in my next post. Arminians believe strongly in the foreknowledge of God, that God knew all things as the Scripture tells us “from the foundations of the World” I submit that when you grasp a hold of understanding God’s intervention from the standpoint of foreknowledge, then things makes much more Biblical sense.
You get a steady & balanced view that God, from the beginning has been trying to reconcile Man & not cast him off! That God intervenes on our behalf for our betterment & not for our damnation. Foreknowledge is the key….at least for this person it is.

Until Next Time,

Monday, August 1, 2011

Arminian Confession of 1621

Arminianism Calling Election Faith
On the benefits and promises of God, and principally of election to grace, or calling to faith.

"1. But that man may not just perform the commandments of God thus far explained, but also willingly want to perform them from the mind, God willed for his part to do everything necessary for effecting both in man(a), that is, he determined to confer such grace to sinful man by which he might be suitable and apt to render everything which is required of him in the gospel, and even more, to promise such good things to him, whose excellence and beauty might far exceed the capacity of human understanding, and that the desire and certain hope of this might kindle and inflame the will of man to render obedience in acts to him.

"Indeed, God habitually both makes known and bestows all these benefits to us by his Holy Spirit(b) (about which we have declared more fully above).

(a) Jer. 31:32-34, Heb. 8:8ff, Ez. 11:19 & 36:22, 2Cor. 7:1, 2Pet. 1:3-4, 1John 3, Col. 1:4-5, 1Pet. 1:3-4. (b) 1Cor. 2:10, 12:3ff, 1John 2:20, 27, Rom. 5:5, 8-9.

"2. Therefore, in the first place, when God calls sinners to himself through the gospel and seriously commands faith and obedience either under the promise of eternal life, or to the contrary, under the threat of eternal death, he not only bestows necessary but also sufficient grace for sinners to render faith and obedience(a).
"This calling is sometimes called election in Scriptures, namely, to grace as the means of salvation, very different from election to glory or to salvation itself(b); more on this below.

"This calling, however, is effected and executed by the preaching of the gospel(c), together with the power of the Spirit, and that certainly with a gracious and serious intention to save and so to bring to faith all those who are called(d), whether they really believe and are saved or not, and so obstinately refuse to believe and be saved.

(a) Matt. 11:20, John 5:34, 40 & 6:44-45, 2Pet. 1:2-3. (b) 1Cor. 1:26, 2Tim. 1:9, 1Pet. 2:9. (c) Matt. 28:18, John 5:34, Rom. 10:14-15, 2Cor. 3:5-6. (d) 1Tim. 2:4ff., Tit. 2:11, 1Pet. 1:23, 25.

"3. For there is one calling that is effective(a), so called because it attains its saving effect from the event rather than from the sole intention of God. Indeed, it [is] not administered by some special and hidden wisdom of God from an absolute intention of saving, so as to fruitfully unite with the will of the one who is called, nor so that by it the will of the one who is called is so efficaciously determined to believe through an irresistible power or some omnipotent force(b) (which is nothing less than creation, or raising from the dead) that he could not but believe and obey, but because it is not resisted by the one who is now called and sufficiently prepared by God, nor is a barrier placed against divine grace which otherwise was able to be placed by him.

"Indeed there is another which is sufficient, but nevertheless ineffective(c), namely, which on man's part is without saving effect and through the will and avoidable fault of man alone it is unfruitful, or does not attain its desired and due effect.

(a) Rom. 8:28-29, 1Cor. 1:24, 26. (b) Acts 2:4, 13, 48, Rom. 6:17, 1Thess. 2:13. (c) Prov. 1:24-25, Ez. 12:1, Is. 5:1ff., Matt. 23:37, Luke 7:30, John 5:40, Acts 7:5 & 13:46, 2Thess. 3:1-2, contrary to the Canons of the Synod of Dort, chs. 3 & 4.

"4. The former, when either joined with its saving effect or already constituted by its exercised act, is sometimes called in Scripture conversion(a), regeneration(b), a spiritual rising from the dead(c) and a new creation(d), clearly because by it we are efficaciously turned from a corrupt style of living(e) to live justly, soberly and godly(f), and are raised on a heavenly account from a death of sin or a deadly custom of sinning to a spiritual life or holy way of living.

"And finally, being reformed by the spiritual effectiveness of the Word according to the image first of the teaching and then of the life of Christ, it is as if we were born again(g) and made new creatures through repentance and true faith(h).

(a) Acts 3:19, 26, 1Thess. 1:9. (b) John 3:5ff., Ja. 1:18. (c) Eph. 2:6. (d) Gal. 4:19, 2Cor. 5:17, Eph. 2:10. (e) Tit. 2:11-12. (f) Rom. 6:2ff. (g) Rom. 6:17. (h) Eph. 2:24, Col. 3:10.

"5. Man therefore does not have saving faith from himself(a), nor is he regenerated or converted by the powers of his own free will, seeing that in the state of sin he cannot of himself or by himself either think or will or do anything that is good enough to be saved(b) (of which first of all is conversion and saving faith), but it is necessary that he be regenerated and totally renewed by God, in Christ, through the word of the gospel joined with the power of the Holy Spirit(c), namely, in his understanding, affections, will and all his strengths, that he may be able to understand, meditate on, will and finish correctly these things that are savingly good.

(a) Matt. 11:17, 13:11, & 16:17ff. (b) Matt. 7:17 & 12:34, John 6:44-45, 65 & 3:5. (c) Phil. 1:5-6 & 2:13, Eph. 2:1ff., Ja. 1:17-18, 1Pet. 1:23.

"6. We think therefore that the grace of God is the beginning(a), progress(b) and completion of all good(c), so that not even a regenerate man himself can, without this preceding or preventing [prevenient], exciting, following and cooperating grace, think, will, or finish any good thing to be saved(d), much less resist any attractions and temptations to evil.

"Thus faith, conversion, and all good works, and all godly and saving actions which are able to be thought, are to be ascribed solidly to the grace of God in Christ as their principal and primary cause.

(a) Eph. 2:5, 18, Titus 2:11-13 & 3:4-5, Phil. 1:6. (b) John 15:5, 1Cor. 1:4ff. (c) 1Thess. 5:23-24, Eph. 6:13. (d) Matt. 26:41, 1Cor. 10:13, 2:4ff.

"7. Yet a man may despise and reject the grace of God(a) and resist its operation, so that when he is divinely called to faith and obedience, he is able to render himself unfit to believe and obey the divine will, and that by his own true and conquerable fault, either by secure carelessness(b), or blind prejudice(c), or thoughtless zeal(d), or an inordinate love of the world(e) or of himself(f), or other inciting causes of that kind.

"For such an irresistible grace or force, which, as to its effectiveness, is no less than creation, nor generation properly called, nor raising from the dead (and causes the very act of faith and obedience in such a way that, being granted, a man cannot not believe or obey) certainly cannot be but ineptly and foolishly applied where free obedience is seriously commanded, and that under the promise of vast reward if performed and the threat of the gravest punishment if neglected.

"For in vain he commands this obedience and requires it of another, and without cause promises to reward the obedience, who himself alone both ought and wills to cause the very act of obedience by such a force as cannot be resisted. And it is silly and irrational to reward someone as truly obedient in whom this very obedience was caused through such an alien power.

"And finally, punishment, especially eternal, is unjustly and cruelly inflicted on him as disobedient by whom this obedience was not performed solely through the absence of that irresistible and truly necessary grace, who really is not disobedient.
"We cannot here state how everywhere in the Scriptures it is affirmed of some, that they resisted the Holy Spirit(g), that they judged, or rather made themselves unworthy of eternal life(h), that they made void the counsel of God concerning themselves(i); that they would not hear(k), come(l), obey(m), that they closed their ears(n) and hardened their hearts(o), etc.

"And of others, that they promptly and freely believed(p), that they obeyed the truth and the faith, that they showed themselves attentive and teachable, that were attentive to the evangelical doctrine(q), that received the Word of God with cheerfulness, and that they were more generous in this than those who rejected the same, and finally, lastly, that obeyed the truth, or the Gospel, from the heart, etc.

"To attribute all this to those who in no way can either believe or obey, or cannot believe and obey when they are called, is very certainly foolish, and plainly ridiculous.

(a) Ez. 12:2, Prov. 1:24-25, Matt. 13:19 & 23:27, Acts 7:51 & 13:46. (b) Matt. 13:19. (c) John 7:3-5, 51. (d) 2Cor. 3:13, Rom. 10:2-3. (e) Luke 14:18. (f) John 5:44. (g) 2Cor. 4:4, 2Thess. 3:2, 2Tim. 3:2ff, 1John 5:4ff. (h) Acts 7:51 (i) Acts 13:46. (k) Luke 7:30. (l) Prov. 1:24-25. (m) John 5:40. (n) Acts 7:39. (o) Zech. 7:11-13, Jer. 5:3. (p) Acts 28:24, Heb. 3:12-13 & 4:2, Ps. 95:7-8. (q) Acts 2:41, 13:47, 6:7 & 17:11, Rom. 6:17, 1Pet. 1:22.

"8. And even if there truly is the greatest disparity of grace(a), clearly according to the most free dispensation of the divine will, still the Holy Spirit confers such grace to all(b), both in general and in particular, to whom the Word of faith is ordinarily preached, as is sufficient for begetting faith in them, and for gradually carrying on their saving conversion.

"And therefore sufficient grace for faith and conversion not only comes to those who actually believe and are converted, but also to those who do not believe and are not really converted(c). For whoever God calls to faith and salvation, he calls them seriously(d), that is, not only by an external show, or in words alone (that is, when his serious commandments and promises are declared to those that are called in general) but also with a sincere and unfeigned intention of saving them and the will of converting them.

"Thus he never willed any prior decree of absolute reprobation or undeserved blinding or hardening concerning them.

(a) Rom. 12:6ff, 1Pet. 4:10. (b) Matt. 11:21, Tit. 3:4ff., 1Pet. 1:23 & 2:9, Ja. 1:18, 2Cor. 3:6, Heb. 4:12. (c) Is. 62:2, Ez. 18:11, Prov. 1:24ff., Matt. 23:37, Luke 8:12. (d) Tit. 2:11-12, 2Tim. 1:9, 2Cor. 5:20 & 6:1ff., Is. 5:2ff., Ps. 85:13-14, John 5:34 & 10:10."

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Thought Experiment about "Cooperative Effort"

A Book was written recently by a Michael Horton entitled "Christless Christianity".

Mr. Horton said some things in the book that in no way represent Arminian Theology. Something I have been talking about off & on for awhile is that many of those who attack this Theological view seem to have little or no "serious" knowledge, which then spreads like wild fire due to the internet!

Anyhow, Roger Olson's response to "cooperative effort" I thought was excellent & hope you appreciate it below too.

Until next time,
Blessings, Al

Posted on January 19, 2011 by Roger
This is a follow up to my earlier response to Michael Horton’s comment about Arminianism in Christless Christianity and to his response here. If you haven’t read those, this post may not make a lot of sense.

Mike (we are on a first name basis) says in his book Christless Christianity that Arminianism holds that salvation is a cooperative effort of God and human beings (p. 44) I objected in my last post here. Arminianism does not hold that; no informed, self-respecting classical Arminian would say that. Those who think so simply don’t know Arminianism well enough.

My complaint is not about the word “cooperative.” Yes, Arminians do believe that God does not save anyone without their cooperation. The issue is whether that cooperation can fairly be called an “effort.” Arminians deny it.

Some here (and no doubt elsewhere) struggle with this. Isn’t every cooperation a joint effort? No; it’s not. There are cooperations that do not involve “effort” by both parties.

My appeal then and now is to ordinary language. (Interestingly, in his responsive comment here Mike did not address my analogy about ordinary language.) Who would ever call the following scenario a “cooperative effort” even though it involves a form of cooperation?

Imagine a man has fallen into the sea from a ship. He is helplessly drowning because he cannot swim and was injured in the fall. (Let’s not divert into a debate about total depravity; this analogy is not about that. It’s only about whether something can be cooperative without involving effort.)

A life saver is thrown down from the deck to the drowning man and the captain of the ship yells “Grab the life safer and hold on as we pull you up!” But the man is too weak to do it. So, the captain, a strong swimmer, jumps into the water and swims to the drowning man and says sternly and authoritatively “Don’t resist me or fight me or we’ll both drown! Just relax and let me rescue you. There’s no other way.” The man finally does relax and allow the strong captain to drag him to the side of the boat and into a life boat that has been lowered for them.

When the rescued man and the captain reach the deck of the ship the first mate slaps the captain on the back and says “Good work, sir! I’ve never seen a better cooperative effort in my life!” Then the first mate turns to the rescued man who is still lying on the deck gasping for air and just beginning to come around: “You, too! Good work! What a great cooperative effort you put forth with the captain! You, too, are to be praised!”

What do you think the captain’s response would be? What about those standing around who watched the rescue? What might they say to the first mate? What SHOULD the rescued man say?

Suppose the rescued man says “Thanks. I do take some of the credit for being rescued. After all, I obeyed the captain and didn’t resist his effort to save me.”

Now put yourself in the shoes of the captain (and onlookers). Wouldn’t you say to both the first mate and the rescued man something like “You’re both crazy! You [to the rescued man] did nothing. You deserve none of the credit. You only made the decision to relax and let me do all the work. All the effort was mine; none of it was yours. And you [to the first mate], you’re just as crazy. He doesn’t deserve any credit; I did all the work, all the effort was mine.”

Then the first mate says “But he did cooperate with you, sir.” Doesn’t that mean he deserves some of the credit?

If you were standing among the bystanding onlookers, wouldn’t you say to the first mate (and perhaps to the rescued man) “What are you talking about? Yes, there was cooperation, but the rescued man didn’t actually put forth any effort. He deserves none of the credit; all the credit goes to the heroic captain!”

I think ordinary language tells us that the captain and onlookers are right. We would all side with them and be profoundly perturbed by the attempt to give some credit to the rescued man. Everyone would agree that, although there was cooperation, there was no effort put forth by the drowning man that would in any way deserve some of the credit for the rescue.

Now, if anyone wants to argue otherwise, then I don’t even know what to say except “That’s just nuts.” I am absolutely confident that every right thinking person would agree that this was cooperation without dual effort or dual deserved credit. The rescued man is to be congratulated but not be praised.

Now, please stick to this with me: This is not meant to be an analogy to salvation as if every aspect of the story fits some aspect of salvation. (I have to say this because I know from experience someone would otherwise jump in and quibble about whether the man in the water should be dead and given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, etc., etc.) The one and ONLY point of the story is this: There are realistic situations where a person cooperates with another person but in which only one of the parties is putting forth effort and deserves credit for the result.

This is the situation with classical Arminianism. Arminianism, contrary to what Mike wrote, does affirm that salvation involves cooperation between God and the human being saved, but it does not hold that salvation involves any “effort” on the part of the person being saved. Merely making a decision to allow oneself to be rescued is not normally considered “effort” and it does not draw praise.