Thomas R. Edgar’s THE MEANING OF PROGINWSKW (“FOREKNOWLEDGE”) is a word study on ‘foreknow’ and ‘foreknowledge’. Edgar first notes that “In secular Greek, proginwskw meant “to foreknow, to know beforehand.” Scholars do not seriously dispute this definition.” He then contends that “due to strong evidence for the meaning “know beforehand,” those who argue otherwise face the burden of proof for establishing the exegetical necessity for their proposed meaning. The theoretical possibility or the interpreter’s theological propensity is not sufficient. If “to know beforehand” fits the meaning in a New Testament passage, then this must be the preferred interpretation.”
Monthly Archives For July 2009
R. C. Sproul, in his Willing to Believe, notes:
- Repeatedly the Synod of Dort charges the Remonstrants with teaching the doctrines of Pelagianism. Is not this charge overly severe and unfair? Both Arminius and the Remonstrants sought to distance themselves from pure Pelagianism.
Arminianism is often said to be semi-Pelagian, but not, strictly speaking, Pelagian. What the fathers of Dort probably had in mind is the link between semi-Pelagianism and Pelagianism that renders the semi-Pelagian unable to escape the fundamental thesis of Pelagianism.1
But are the “fathers of Dort” right in their estimation? Is there a link between semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism? Though we agree with the Dortians that the “link between semi-Pelagianism and Pelagianism . . . renders the semi-Pelagian unable to escape the fundamental thesis of Pelagianism,” we will witness a rather glaring, broken link between semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism below.
In the (1973) preface of his book Knowing God, J. I. Packer writes, “For more than three centuries the naturalistic leaven in the Renaissance outlook has been working like a cancer in Western thought. Seventeenth-century Arminians and deists, like sixteenth-century Socinians, came to deny, as against Reformation theology, that God’s control of his world was either direct or complete, and theology, philosophy and science have for the most part combined to maintain that denial ever since.”1
In one fell swoop Packer has lumped Arminians with the heresies of the Deists and Socinians. Is Packer right in doing this? That “seventeenth-century Arminians” denied Reformation theology of God’s sovereignty is only part of the story. They did not deny God’s sovereignty, they denied the Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty.
Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987), in his The Defense of the Faith writes, “since the whole debate between the Christian and the non-Christian positions revolves about the question of the relation of the eternal to the temporal or of God to man, it will be apparent that we must hold that Arminianism can offer no effective apologetic for Christianity.”1
Apologetics is the defense of one’s faith. What might one suppose was the cause of Van Til’s conclusion? He continued, “It is up to the Arminian to show, if he can, that his view offers a better apologetic for Christianity than that offered by the Calvinist.”2 His reason will be discussed below.
British Calvinist Peter Masters criticizes the new American Calvinism. “The new Calvinism is not a resurgence but an entirely novel formula which strips the doctrine of its historic practice, and unites it with the world.” Masters is the current pastor of Charles Spurgeon’s church.
God in the Hands of Angry Calvinists. Describing the angry behavior of some Calvinists, William Birch writes that “How we view God affects how we think and act.”
Because this is all one sentence in the Greek, I wanted to go back and treat it the way it deserves: as one thought.
[It is in the Beloved that] we have redemption through His blood: the excusing of sins according to the abundance of His grace which He teemed into us in all wisdom and understanding having revealed to us the secret of His will, according to His good judgment, which, through Christ, was preplanned for managing the fulfillment of times in order to coalesce all things in Christ throughout the heavens and the earth.
In James Morison’s commentary on Romans 9, he makes the three helpful points about God’s promise that the greater shall serve the lesser. First, it was not said of Rebecca but to her, second it should be translated greater/lesser, not elder/younger, and third it’s a prediction. He also makes the point that Jacob and Esau should be considered as Nations, not individuals and that God’s hating Esau means He loved and blessed Esau less than Jacob. Morison understands the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart to mean giving Pharaoh boldness to do what he already wanted to do by removing Pharaoh’s fear of the consequences.
Here’s Morison’s high level summary of the Romans 9-11:
To some Calvinists, the very mention of an Arminian exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:4, in an effort to defend the biblical notion that God desires the salvation of every individual on earth, is insulting, both logically and theologically.
As Alan Kurschner, from the Triablogue blog, stated, “Arminians start with the human-centered assumption that if God does not love all people undifferentiated, then he would be unjust to love some more than others. The Calvinist begins with the Biblical principle that because man is unworthy of grace and deserving only of death, God in his holiness, wisdom, and freedom chooses to love and elect any creature he desires.”
To follow up on Roger Olson’s essay recently posted here, perhaps it would be appropriate to post an excerpt from John Wesley’s famous sermon, “Free Grace”, in which he made a very similar charge about Calvinism as Olson, but more passionately and more forcefully. Whereas Olson states that Calvinism’s consistent divine determinism makes it difficult for him to tell the difference between God and the devil in the system, Wesley says that the system makes God worse than the devil and so is blasphemous (and he explains why). Now Wesley accepted Calvinists as brothers in Christ, so he surely did not mean that Calvinists are blasphemers or that they worship a false god or anything of the sort. I take him to mean that the logical implications of Calvinism are blasphemous, which Calvinists themselves might not really see, and which Wesley labored to help them see to bring them to the more bibilical position of Arminianism.
The Albert Mohler program interviews Matt Pinson (Arminian) and Mark Dever (Calvinist) on Calvin’s 500 year legacy. They amicably address their theological differences.
Were the 18th century (largely Arminian) revival movements based on Enlightenment thought? A book entitled “Advent of Evangelicalism” argues that they were, and that this was bad. Colin Hansen at Christianity Today gives a critical review of the book. Scot McKnight gives his thoughts here.
As I said last time, 7-10 is one sentence, so it is important to have 7-8 in mind as we read 9-10. I intend to recapitulate this section next week, but for now, we’ll just…
Some well-meaning Christians make the mistake of using proof texts to prove a theological point without considering the context of the larger passage that the proof text comes from. It is important to keep in mind not only the larger point of the passage, but also the historical context that the author dealt with.
In one of our private discussions, one of our members was wondering about the influence background may play in nudging some toward acceptance of Calvinism. He noted that he knows someone whose family background resulted in legalism and feelings of “not fitting in” to his family, and that these caused a spiritual struggle within him that led him to study the Calvinist branch of Christianity. It was explained to him by a Calvinist evangelist that God “chose” him by “electing him unto salvation.” This was the hook that his friend needed to accept Calvinism as his frame of reference. Another member responded with the following interesting analysis (some of the material quoted in this post has been slightly edited even though enclosed in quotes):
Central to the debate over inevitable perseverance are the the numerous warnings in scripture cautioning the saints against falling away. A prominent explanation offered as to why the scriptures would say such things, if falling away is not truly possible for a believer, is that God uses such warnings as a means to spur Christians on to perseverance. Despite these efforts, the scriptural warnings addressed to genuine believers, some of which pronounce eternal destruction for violating certain commandments of God, constitute an airtight argument against the Calvinist teaching of inevitable perseverance of the saints, in that teaching that what the scriptures warn against could not truly occur strips the divine warnings of all relevance, making them of no effect.
What typically denominates an individual as controversial is not necessarily the truth which he or she promotes but the manner in which one argues against an established dogma. The reason why Arminius was so controversial in his time was because the truth which he proclaimed was at variance with an established form of Calvinism in Holland. John Calvin was not controversial due to the “hard truth” which he proclaimed. Nearly everyone within his theological circle (Reformed) agreed with his teachings. What kind of controversy could possibly be caused by someone whose teachings are nearly unanimously agreed upon by a majority of people?
Both last week and this week I made the mistake of trying to handle Pauls whole sentence from 7 to 10. However, the content is just too full, and there are too many things to consider. So consider this kind of like a two parter.
[It is in the Beloved]that we have redemption through His blood: the excusing of sins according to the abundance of His grace which He teemed into us in all wisdom and understanding…
The most important element of the atonement is that it was completely accomplished by Christ’s sacrifice. We do not add to it, nor can we subtract from it. It is from that graceful act of death that our sins are cast away from us. We do not have redemption through our works, nor through our heritage (which is probably more Paul’s point in this letter). Redemption is strictly a divine activity.
[Disclaimer: the following is tongue-in-cheek. It is the opinion of the author, and does not necessarily represent the view of SEA, which is generally true of SEA blog posts, but perhaps deserves special mention for this post, which is so bold as to suggest on SEA's own blog ways that Calvin is actually better than Arminius!]
Today is the big 5-0-0 for Mr. John Calvin. Although he isn’t our favorite theologian, he deserves special recognition in honor of his big day. So we humbly offer six ways that Calvin is better than Arminius.
In Joseph Benson’s commentary on Romans 9, he explains that Paul’s refutation of the Jews’ argument that God’s word failed is twofold. Paul deals with national election and also with justification by faith. Benson explains the allegorical sense and justification by faith: “In quoting these words, in Isaac shall thy seed be called, and inferring therefrom that the children of the promise shall be counted for the seed, the apostle does not intend to give the literal sense of the words, but the typical only; and by his interpretation signifies that they were spoken by God in a typical and allegorical, as well as in a literal sense, and that God there declared his counsel concerning those persons whom he purposed to own as his children, and make partakers of the blessings of righteousness and salvation.
Prevenient grace is grace that God gives to begin the process of drawing a person to Himself. Its purpose is to prepare the heart of the non believer to respond to the good news of…
I am shocked at how easily, even in my most rational moments, I can sometimes walk willingly into sin. Even when I know a dozen good reasons why I shouldn’t do it, I can be overwhelmed. Sin has a powerful magnetism if we allow ourselves under its spell. Why?
I think a big part of the answer is hinted at in the following two passages:
Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. . .
But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit. . .