Arminianism

For Fellow Arminians and Quasi-Arminians (Non-Calvinists): Prevenient Grace

"[P]revenient grace (enabling, assisting grace that goes before conversion making it possible) is supernatural and a special work of the Holy Spirit freeing the will of the sinner which is otherwise bound to sin (unbelief). I have presented the alternatives as Calvinism (irresistible grace) and semi-Pelagianism (the initiative in salvation is human)." - Roger Oleson

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Chosen for What?

Few doctrines divide God’s people like the doctrine of election. Since both the word, “election” in its various forms, plus the concept using different words is found repeatedly in the Bible, some explanation must be offered. It cannot simply be ignored.

Although there are various shades of interpretation, in the end, it boils down to two possibilities. Either election means God chose His people without reference to anything He saw in man (unconditional election), or God chose people based upon something He saw or foresaw within them (conditional election).

Since the days of the Protestant Reformation, these two concepts have resulted in two different theologies, Calvinism, which holds to unconditional election, and Arminianism which teaches conditional election. In truth, there are variations within these two camps, and some prefer to avoid either label, but there are really only two positions on election. For brevity’s sake, I will use the commonly accepted historic labels.

In this article, I will examine a text that is often claimed by both sides of the debate.

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Eph. 1:4)

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"Barely Christian" – R.C. Sproul on Arminianism

Image of Willing to Believe: Understanding the Role of the Human Will in Salvation
by R. C. Sproul
Baker Books 2018
Paperback 240

I first encountered the term “High Calvinism” when I read Lewis Chafer’s systematic theology. This term is a bit old-fashioned now, of course. If someone is a “High Calvinist,” it means he’s very Reformed in his soteriology. This surely described R.C. Sproul!

In a book entitled Willing to Believe: Understanding the Role of the Human Will in Salvation, Sproul provided a short historical theology of this topic by examining nine different theologians and their soteriological positions. In this excerpt, Sproul frames one part of this important issue:1

This classic issue between Augustinian theology and all forms of semi-Pelagianism focuses on one aspect of the order of salvation (ordo salutis): What is the relationship between regeneration and faith? Is regeneration a monergistic or synergistic work? Must a person first exercise faith in order to be born again? Or must rebirth occur before a person is able to exercise faith? Another way to state the question is this: Is the grace of regeneration operative or cooperative?

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Why I'm Not a Calvinist . . . or an Arminian, Part 3

Read the series so far.

The Remonstrance of 1610, by followers of Jacobus Arminius, counters five points of doctrine that were understood to be Calvinistic teachings. The Remonstrance first denies the five Calvinistic tenets, and then positively asserts five articles of doctrine that present a completely different idea of God’s character.

The Remonstrance on Conditional Predestination

God has immutably decreed, from eternity, to save those men who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus Christ, and by the same grace persevere in the obedience of faith to the end; and, on the other hand, to condemn the unbelievers and unconverted (John iii. 36).

Election and condemnation are thus conditioned by foreknowledge, and made dependent on the foreseen faith or unbelief of men. (Remonstrance, Article I)

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Why I'm Not a Calvinist . . . or an Arminian, Part 2

Read the series so far.)

Canons of Dort on Limited Atonement

The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world (Second Head, Article 3).

For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which, together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them, free from every spot and blemish, to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever (Second Head, Article 8).

That God the Father has ordained His Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness, and worth of what Christ merited by His death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect, and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person (Rejection of Errors 2:1).

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Why I'm Not a Calvinist . . . or an Arminian, Part 1

I am often asked whether I am a Calvinist or an Arminian. Honestly, it is not a simple question because these are not simply-defined theological categories that can be chosen as one would choose from a menu at a restaurant. I certainly understand the importance of the question, as our answer reveals much about our understanding of God’s character and how He works with humanity. But neither label—Calvinism nor Arminianism—is adequate in explaining the biblical position. In fact, the labels aren’t even adequate in explaining the positions of the men they supposedly represent.

For example, Calvin himself had nothing to do with the formal five points of Calvinism, and in reading Calvin over the years, I am convinced he would not have been a good Calvinist. The five points were really developed through the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) in response to the teachings of followers of Jacobus Arminius. These followers were called Remonstrants, after the document published in 1610 called the Remonstrance, which challenged the Belgic Confession (1562-1566) and some of John Calvin’s and Theodore Beza’s teaching. So when we engage this question, we need to understand that we are dealing with decades (and now centuries) of intense theological controversy over theological perspectives and statements.

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