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Monthly Archives For October 2009
“Why do you love me?” This question from the beloved strikes terror in the hearts of the unprepared lover, for the answer will be taken with more seriousness than the response to “what movie will we go to tonight?” This is because the answer also answers questions like “How much do you know me? Do you value the same personal qualities that I do? What are you after? What is it that you truly admire in a person, and what does that say about you? Have you been paying attention to the ‘deep me’ that determines what I reveal of myself?” Wise is the lover who has previously asked the beloved the question “Tell me about yourself!”, for in the beloved’s answer is the mine from which the lover digs out the answer to this most significant of “why” questions!
In Exodus 33, Moses asks God to show him His glory. His request is answered in Exodus 34:5-7.
How does one define God? For both Arminians and Calvinists, God is defined by how he saves. Calvinists emphasize God’s sovereignty by way of his power and right to save and damn, while Arminians emphasize God’s mercy and good will in extending the offer of salvation to everyone. Put another way, Calvinists define God in terms of His power while Arminians define Him in terms of His generosity.
We just wanted to alert you to the fact that we now have Brian Abasciano’s doctoral dissertation available on our site: “Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9:1-9: An Intertextual and Theological Exegesis” (link).
This is the author’s doctoral dissertation, which has been published in a shortened form under the same title by T & T Clark in its Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement series and in its Library of New Testament Studies series: Brian J. Abasciano, Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9.1-9: An Intertextual and Theological Exegesis (JSNTSup/LNTS, 301; London: T & T Clark, 2005).
Jerry McCant’s Interpretation of Romans 5-8 is in response to a request to provide a Wesleyan view of Romans 6-8. He expands the scope to cover chapter 5, since he finds a close connection between 5 and 6. While I personally didn’t like McCant’s not finding original sin in Romans 5 or his saying Paul’s analogies in Romans 6 & 7 have problems, McCant does make some interesting points. Overall, McCant does not find a Wesleyan ‘second work of grace’ in the passage.
Doug Wilson, Mark Talbot, and Sam Storms are three speakers at the upcoming Desiring God conference, and each answer the question, “Why was Calvin controversial?”
I’ll admit, I was stunned by these three interviews. I think that the problem is that they were each presented with a complex question, and simply shot from the hip. The result was quite astounding.
Doug Wilson posits: “Calvin is associated with so much controversy because he was a good man and a faithful servant.”
If you asked the current Watchtower, Mormon or Seventh Day Adventist leadership about why their cult leaders were controversial, would you expect them to answer differently?
Some problems with Calvinism based on the book, The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism by Calvinist Craig. R. Brown:
First, the chapter on Responsibility emphasizes that God decrees everything, controls everything and is the primary cause of everything. Brown says that God “pre-determines all human actions.” (p. 43) Then, in his chapter on Evil he says that God “allows” sinful men to do evil deeds. How do those assertions fit together? Given what Brown said before, must not Calvinism say that God not only “allows” but also “pre-determines” men’s evil deeds? It would seem so. Why slip back into Arminian language of God “allowing” something when he had already said (together with all Calvinists generally) that God decrees and pre-determines them? Is this a failure of nerve?
(From the Euangelion blog. August 16,2009)
According to Ben Witherington (Asbury Theological Seminary):
The apostle Paul instructs us to render to all what is due them: honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 12:7). This day, October 19, 2009, we honor the life of Jacob Arminius, who died four hundred years ago. This third-generation Reformer was a gift to God’s Church ~ respected by many, even by his theological opponents. What follows is a little recorded history of the year prior to Arminius’s death, and testimonies concerning Arminius’s life, legacy and godliness.
First, a little history is in order. It would appear as though God, nine years before Arminius’s death, was preparing his successor, as He had done with Theodore Beza respecting John Calvin. Carl Bangs records:
Pastor George Zeller writes about the danger of teaching that Christ died only for the elect.
In Arminius’ “Apology” he tackles several charges that have been brought against him by his critics and addresses them by both demonstrating the inaccuracy of the chargers and bringing clarity to his own thoughts on various theological questions. In the following article Arminius explains the proper understanding of faith and salvation as gifts from God and the true nature of Biblical grace, while reminding his critics that the issue is not one of the need for God’s grace, but whether or not this grace should be seen as irresistible. It contains the wonderful and oft repeated analogy of a beggar receiving alms to the sinner receiving the free gift of salvation.
- ARTICLE 27 (7.)
Faith is not the pure gift of God, but depends partly on the grace of God, and partly on the powers of Free Will; that, if a man will, he may believe or not believe.
I’m frustrated with how so many treat Arminianism today. Many Calvinists have so poisoned the well that most people have no idea what Arminianism is. When they enter the debate, they allow the likes of J. I. Packer and John Piper to define what the Arminian stance is, who had gone to Spurgeon, Owen, and Van Til, who in turn were describing Finney’s beliefs instead of actual Arminianism. But no one seems to go to Arminians to find out what Arminianism is, and so everyone seems to have the wrong idea. Even those who truly are Arminian think that they are something in the middle because they have such a poor understanding of what we stand for.
Let me explain a few things real quick about what Arminianism is:
But, being rich with mercy, God, through His great love with which He has loved us though we were dead in trespasses, has made us alive with Christ (by grace you have been saved)
The point of Paul telling us where we have come from in the past couple of verses is to make clear to us the boundless mercy and grace that has been giving to us. The point of the concepts of mercy and grace is that we do not deserve them.
And that is one of the principle differences between Christianity and any other faith (at least that I am aware of). In man-made religions, humans achieve a particular end, by some means. In Christianity, we are rescued from our own nature.
Lord, Thank you for the marvelous salvation that you have bestowed upon us! Thank You for Your unending grace to us. I can never fully understand it Lord. I can never fully grasp why You would sacrifice so much for us, who are so little. We praise Your name!
In Jack Cottrell’s article, Sovereignty and Free Will, he discusses the question: is there a logical incompatibility between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man? He points out that every detail may be included in God’s decree without everything’s being determined or effectuated by God. God decided to give man freedom; God has sovereignly and absolutely determined man’s freedom, but not man’s free acts. This is the way he planned it, decreed it, created it. God is in control, in that he is the creator and sustainer of all and that God controls the external circumstances of a man through his divine providence and he works within the heart through the Holy Spirit, but not to the point that man is left without choice.
A fond apologetic argument of Calvinists is that if Arminianism is true in regard to universal atonement (i.e., Jesus died for everyone, and not just for the elite few), then he has failed miserably. Here is the argument as one Calvinist wrote to me, “If you believe that Christ was sent into the world to save every single man, Christ has failed… and not only slightly failed, He has failed miserably, for more men than will be saved, will be damned….”
If God’s purpose was to save believers, then he is 100% successful. If God’s purpose is to save a people who choose to believe in him without him throwing on the all powerful, irresistible and automatic faith switch, then God is 100% successful.
What is pursuing righteousness by faith? In Romans 9, Paul speaks of pursuing righteousness by faith rather than works:
What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone. -Romans 9:30-32 ESV
Some time ago a Calvinist made a parody of the song “Amazing Grace,” called “Arminian grace,” where the Calvinist confuses Arminianism with Pelagianism. It can be found here:
Here is an attempt to parody the Calvinist view of justice using the same song. I believe that this does more justice to the Calvinist positition than the above does to the Arminian position. If it seems at all dark, its because it’s a reflection of Calvinism. It is written in the eyes of the “reprobate”.
1 Cor 10:13 (ESV) says: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
While not all Calvinists adhere to exhaustive determinism, I think it is worth while to see if exhaustive determinism is biblical. I believe this verse shows us that we (Christians) are free (in the non-Calvinist sense of the word) to choose not to sin.
All Arminius, all month! William Birch will be recognizing the work of Arminius on his blog Classical Arminianism. October 19, 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Jacob Arminius.
Calvinist Joshua is becoming increasingly appalled at the behavior of Calvinists on the web.
On the same note, Ryan D. McConnell writes a letter to his Reformed brothers. “Be familiar with the work of Classical Arminians…how can you accurately discuss theology with an opposing theological camp if you don’t know what they actually believe?”
Along with them, we all once lived by the passions of our flesh, doing the desires of the body and of the mind. Like the rest of them, we were children of wrath.
What do you think when you see a non-Christian? One of the problems of American Christianity is that most Christians do not understand the difference between the Church and America. This has caused a few problems. One, we don’t tend to trust non-American Christian bodies. Two, we except someone to behave like a Christian simply because they are an American.
However, the world is worldly. We need to remember this. We do not look down at those in the world and see how far beneath us they are. We look at them and recognize that of ourselves, we are no better. We are the same. Any good aspect of ourselves comes strictly from God’s grace!