Sovereignty typically means authority or right. Both Calvinists and Arminians agree that God is sovereign in all He does, so He has the authority to do what He does. Period. The End.
Monthly Archives For August 2011
Many who call themselves “Arminian” also hold to the doctrine of Eternal Security, even though this has not historically been the case. This fact has recently granted that Arminianism no longer stands or falls with the doctrine of Perseverance. Arminius himself notes that “at no period have I asserted that believers do finally decline or fall away from faith or salvation,”1 though he left open the possibility for such. The charge against him to the contrary, he writes, is “another offense against historical veracity.”2
What I have witnessed from recent Arminius and Arminian scholarship, at least among those who are self-identified as being Arminian, differs, I think, from what was known as Arminian fifty to hundred years ago, with very few exceptions.1
by Roger Olson
Okay, so I used that title to get your attention. No, I don’t really think we need an Arminian Defense League (although sometimes I feel like the only person doing anything to defend Arminianism from its enemies and could use some help!).
Earlier, here, I talked about a video on Youtube.com (it might also exist on DVD or something, but I’ve only seen it on Youtube.com) that viciously attacks Arminianism. It’s a slick video — well produced (not a home-made talking head video like so many). I understand it is part of a longer series on Reformed theology.
“There lived in Holland a man, whom they that did not know him could not sufficiently esteem; whom they who did not esteem him had never sufficiently known,”1 said Peter Bertius (1565-1629), friend to Arminius in his youth, at the funeral of James Arminius, October 1609. When most people think of James Arminius, they tend to think of free will or the notion that one can lose his or her salvation. That is unfortunate, since Arminius did not champion the cause of free will, nor was he the poster-child for the doctrine of Apostasy.
John Calvin’s successor and son-in-law, Theodore Beza (1519-1605), in a letter written to the Rev. Martin Lydius in 1583, a professor who belonged to the Church of Amsterdam (where Arminius would later become pastor for fifteen years), writes:
God, being free from necessity to establish the world in which we exist, freely entered into a covenant with the man and woman He created subsequent to their disobedience of the one command which He gave them (Gen. 3:14-19). God, being in essence and by nature a free Being, could have left them naked (Gen. 3:21), but clothed them. He could have taken their breath from them (Gen. 2:7), but He sustained their life. He could have let them eat of the tree of life and be eternally ruined (Gen. 3:22), but He lovingly drove them out of the Garden, placing the cherubim with flaming sword to guard the tree (Gen. 3:24).
God also could have fashioned Adam and Eve in such a way that they would always obey His commands. Arminius comments:
The Reformed Assertion:“God can determine a specific outcome, a person can have no other option but to do the outcome, and that person can be held up to moral judgment while God is blameless.”
Now, one objection to Calvinism that keeps coming up consistently over the years is the objection that it makes God the author of sin. Now, when it comes right down to it, Calvinists will generally teach that God did, in fact, decree sin before ever there was sin, and makes sin happen.
Dutch Reformed pastor and theologian James Arminius wrote a letter to an ex-priest named Gellius Snecanus regarding the latter’s publication of several commentaries on the subject of Unconditional Election and Reprobation from Romans 9. Arminius’s response to Snecanus, Analysis of Romans 9, is now available in PDF format, thanks to Nick Norelli‘s assistance.
Gnosticism, according to Patheos, refers to “a philosophical and religious movement in the Greco-Roman world that claimed that the path to salvation is through secret knowledge.” Gnostic tendencies among some professing believers began in the late first century but began to flourish in the second and third centuries. Gnosticism is often referred to as a Christian heresy.
For those who frequent my site (both of you), I am sure that you noticed that I disagree with Calvinism. Indeed I have a lot of negative things to say about Calvinism, mostly because I find much of the recent push for it to be bad for the Church in general (otherwise it would just be one of those things I disagree with but don’t say much about, like Open-theism, Mormonism or Nicolas Cage). I am not alone with my opinion on this.
However, I do want to make the point that I am not a non-Calvinist. Well, to some degree I am, in the sense that I am indeed not a Calvinist, but I don’t define my soteriology based off of my opinion of Calvinism.
“Now to the one who works,” writes the apostle Paul, “wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom. 4:4-5 NIV). Q. According to the apostle Paul, for what does his subject work? A. The person, taken contextually, is attempting to work for (or earn) his or her salvation. But Paul is proclaiming that the gospel of Jesus excludes one’s works, vying instead for complete trust in the righteous merit of Christ alone. In the gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17 NASB).
Many Calvinists have attempted to argue that Arminianism falls short of this passage by making faith something to boast about. I believe this argument is based off at least one of four problems:
Evidently, Calvinists believe in another Christ, and their god is not the God of the Bible, but merely Satan, according to one anti-Calvinist preacher (link). What I find utterly bizarre about the snippet of this preacher’s sermon is that Calvinists do not deny any single passage of Scripture from which he quotes in an effort to prove his case. Calvinists may interpret those passages differently than does he, but they do not deny that Christ died for sin, etc.; their God does not differ from that of the non-Calvinist or Arminian — both Calvinists and Arminians worship the same God. Each may vary in its perspective of how God has chosen to carry out history, etc., but the God of Calvinism is the God of Arminianism, which is the God of the Bible.
What should occur if the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism supports not supralapsarian Calvinism but Arminius’s theology? Both works have always been viewed as Calvinistic, with the assumption that the inherent predestinatory language opposes Reformed Arminianism. In truth, even the more explicit statements regarding election unto salvation in the Confession and Catechism supports Arminius’s doctrine of election. A national synod was not called prior to Arminius’s death in 1609, so we will never know what might have been.
Noted Arminius scholar Carl Bangs writes the following regarding Arminius’s practical theology: “So Arminius finished his three orations. They were polished productions, noncontroversial, and widely applauded. He was launched on his teaching career, and the storm clouds were for the moment not visible.”1 Those storm clouds, however, were worth weathering because theology matters immensely.