[Editor’s note: This post is a follow-up to a previous post by the author (Christopher Cole) concerning a discussion he had with Leighton Flowers, now in light of a response from Flowers to the previous post. Please note that Chris is not representing SEA in the exchange and does not necessarily represent SEA’s views. We include a variety of Arminian views on our site; see here for more on that.]
First I will apologize to you if I misunderstood and/or misrepresented your position. I really do strive to understand, but I will admit that I did not then nor do I now see that what you say about confession is THE Biblical definition of it. I see it as A Biblical definition of it if what is being confessed by the person is that Jesus Christ is Lord. Such a confession then, I believe, assumes that repentance has taken place. But I also believe that the Bible speaks of people confessing without being repentant. The bottom line, just saying that it is THE Biblical definition of confession did not fully settle the issue for me. Hence, the source of my misunderstanding on that point. Saying though that simply saying “oops, I’m sorry” as though that was what you were saying was a jerk move on my part, and for that I do apologize.
The reason I wrote the article that I did was due to being asked if I would just write up my thoughts about the conversation. So that’s what I did. It wasn’t an attempt to “be mean”, but it was my thoughts, and I was frustrated. I think it could have been from any number of things, but I do want to assure you I was not trying to be mean. My apologies if it came across that way, I intended that it simply represent my thoughts on the conversation.
I also want to clarify for you that I stand by my statement that scripture is sufficient for salvation. What I didn’t do, and what I should have done then (and this was pointed out to me) was clarify that while I do see scripture as being sufficient, we are flawed human beings who have an understanding that is marred by sin, so it is we who are insufficient on our own to grasp what scripture is saying. What must happen then is that the Holy Spirit must illuminate what scripture says, and bring our understanding closer in line to God’s understanding. We see in the case of the Ethiopian whom Philip came alongside, and Philip explained to him what he was reading. That was the Holy Spirit at work. We see this in the case of Cornelius, whom Peter went to. We see this with Apollos whom Aquilla and Priscilla ministered to. In those cases it wasn’t that scripture was somehow insufficient. It wasn’t even that those who received the instruction were opposed to God. But of their faculties they were lacking in understanding, so the insufficiency was on their part, not on scripture’s. And God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, led others to them to help them understand so that they would be saved. Even in his own way, Saul was loving God immensely out of his own thinking and in his own strength, until he was knocked down and he heard Jesus say to him “Why are you persecuting Me?” And Romans 7, I believe, is a confession of sorts that when we try to please God on our own, and earn salvation, we might only end up in despair, thinking that there is no point if the conclusion we come to is that the closer we follow the Law and try to do what’s right, the more our sin bears on us. These, along with other examples I could mention, I believe show that in our sin nature we cannot come under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ without God working in us and helping us understand. So, I hope I have given clarity to my position on those two points.
I will finish up by saying this: I may not be like the majority of the Arminians you have come across, who might be professionals with advanced degrees in theology and teaching at a seminary somewhere, and maybe spend more time debating theology than I do. I’ll likely never be a guest lecturer or speaker at a convention. I may never be published or have any papers that I’ve written submitted for peer review and put forward in a prestigious magazine. I am but a simple pastor who is currently appointed as an ordained elder in the Free Methodist Church serving two congregations, one in South Central Kentucky, the other in North Central Tennessee. Most of my days are spent writing sermons, visiting the sick and those who are shut in, and helping my wife through her own ordination process. The people I come into contact with on a day-to-day basis don’t know what Soteriology is, but they know they have a relationship with Jesus and want to have a deeper relationship with Him. I know the terms, but rarely use them because they’d confuse my congregations more than they would help. I participate in things such as this in order to be stretched and expand my understanding, but I’m certainly not polished, maybe even not politically correct. But I don’t pretend to be. So if I seem a bit rough, I likely am. I don’t begrudge the theologians who teach classes and write papers and books. In fact I think they’re necessary. I believe many of them do some very good work. There are days when I would love to be locked away in the ivory tower. But that’s not where I’m supposed to be at this point. Maybe you question my Arminian-ness because you haven’t interacted with too many like me. I am fully an Arminian, though with a more Wesleyan understanding of it. You’ll find the majority of us in churches as pastors, Sunday School teachers, evangelists, missionaries. Even the majority of my religion professors at Houghton College (pronounced Ho Tun by the way) served as pastors as well as educators. Find some of them, have coffee with them (most I know are ravenous coffee drinkers, myself included). I hope this helps rather than hurts.