For the rest of the series, see 5/6/2008-5/9/288, 5/12/2008-5/16/2008, 6/16/2008, 7/23/2008 Having examined the primary passages that teach apostasy we now examine the passages that the advocates of unconditional eternal security believe clearly support their…
On the heels of my recent post, I am still vying for the universality of the love of God for all people. Again, Fritz Guy writes, “If the preeminent characteristic of God is love, and if God is the source of all reality, there can be little doubt about the universal scope of God’s love. It is unthinkable that the divine love is restricted to a fortunate part of creation and that another (perhaps even larger) part is excluded.”1
We believe this because (1) God is love (1 John 4:8). The Bible teaches that God’s nature is love, not that He merely possesses love. And (2) God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34). The Calvinists’ view of election is partial, particular, and based not on union with Christ, but on a decree founded in the vault of eternity. And while this portrait of election expresses God’s love for some, it excludes God’s love for others, since electing a person to hell falls short of any viable definition of “love.”
The third verse of the hymn The Love of God reads as follows:
Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above, Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky.
I seriously doubt that any Christian could overstate the love of God for His creatures. While some Calvinists, such as James White, tend to focus on God’s love solely for His elect (a notion contradicted by Jesus at Mark 10:21), most Arminians tend to laud Him for His love for all people. And why not? We believe that He loved the world in such a manner as that which motivated Him to send His only Son into the world to die for their sins, so that whoever would trust Him would be saved from sin and hell. Is that not, after all, what the Bible teaches? Oh, what a Savior!
One of the questions we invariably get from Determinists is “But HOW does God know the future??” Determinists often seize upon the difficulty of understanding God’s knowledge, and insist that if God didn’t cause the future, then He could not have known it. Besides being a rather silly stretch, this claim requires several unfounded assumptions about the nature of God.
The Basic Views
Now before I jump in any deeper, let’s define what the major views of God’s knowledge in relation to free will are (this is just a basic list, variations of these views exist):
1. Determinism: God determines absolutely all that will be, making absolute foreknowledge trivial. There is no such things as libertarian free will, and our choices cannot be otherwise.
Affirms foreknowledge, but has the very unfortunate side-effect of making absolutely everything that occurs the will of God, and possibly essential to His nature, as we’ll touch on below.
I found this mockery at a Calvinist’s blog, who will remain nameless:
“Arminian ‘grace!’ How strange the sound, Salvation hinged on me. I once was lost, then turned around, Was blind, then chose to see.
“What ‘grace’ is it that calls for choice, Made from some good within? That part that wills to heed God’s voice, Proved stronger than my sin.
“Thru many ardent gospel pleas, I sat with heart of stone. But then some hidden good in me, Propelled me toward my home.
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Because of what we’ve done. We’ve no less days to sing our praise, Than when we first begun.”
I’d like to hear Chris Tomlin do something with that one! John Newton would have been proud of our Calvinist “friend.” Actually, I think Newton would have been disgusted. I think every Christian should be disgusted with the heresy mentioned in that re-working of a classic hymn. And if that encapsulated Arminian theology, I would never adhere to such nonsense.
“Consider the words of Christ to the church at Thyatria [sic.] concerning the prominent woman referred to as ‘Jezebel’ and His servants, who were practicing immorality and pagan customs, doubtless in a religious context after the manner of the cults:
“I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not. Behold I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. (Rev. 2:20-22)”
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
Here John speaks of us being confident for the day of judgment. The Greek word for confidence here is parresia which comes from pas (all) and reo (to utter or pour out). The essential word picture here is that all pours out of you; you hold nothing back. This idea makes you bold and unrelenting, especially in your speach. But what makes us bold? Love.
Today, 449 years ago, on October 10, 1559, Jacobus Arminius was born. At least, this is the date given by most critical scholars. Donald M. Lake wrote an excellent article entitled, “Jacob Arminius’ Contribution to a Theology of Grace,” in the book Grace Unlimited, edited by Clark Pinnock. The following is a small excerpt from that article, in honor of Arminius’ birthday.
“Few leaders in the Christian Church have been more neglected than this 16th century theologian and pastor . . . In the light of two recent studies on Arminius and his contribution to theology and after a reexamination of his major writings, I want to suggest that his importance for Christians living in the last half of the 20th century lies in three major areas.
James M. Leonard
[Editor's note: Please remember that individual posts do not necessarily represent SEA's official position, but represent the views of the individual author of the post. With regard to this excellent and informative post, please note that the author was careful to qualify many of his comments about Welseyanism as applying to "some" Wesleyans (rather than all).]
For those well acquainted with the Calvinist-Arminian debate, Reformation Arminianism (or Classic Arminianism) is a theological system which emphasizes universal atonement within a framework of Calvinistic total depravity and the penal satisfaction view of the atonement (explained in the paragraphs below).
by James M. Leonard
Roger Olson has written a helpful volume entitled, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Basically, he sets the record straight on a number of issues where Calvinist polemic has falsely depicted Arminian theology. He does this in a consistent and systematic way, first by detailing the false and extreme allegations made by mainstream Calvinists, and then refuting them by examining the theological trajectory on the given topic beginning with Arminius and passing through his earliest followers, then Wesley, and then the 19th century Wesleyan theologians, and then concluding with contemporary Arminian theologians.*
Have you ever….
Been tempted? (Matt. 4:1-11)
Been misunderstood? (Matt. 13:53-57; Jn. 6:52-66; 7:35, 36; Mark 8:31-33; 9:30-32)
Been ridiculed and mocked? (Matt. 27:27-31, 38-44)
Faced a difficult decision? (Matt. 26:36-46)
Been laughed at? (Matt. 9:23, 24)
Been angry? (Jn. 2:13-17)
Been envied? (Jn. 11:45-48; Matt. 27:18, 19)
Been falsely accused? (Matt. 26:59-63)
Been treated unfairly? (Jn. 19:4-16)
Felt alone? (Matt. 27:46; Mark 14:32-42)
Felt afraid? (Luke 22:39-46)
Been abandoned? (Jn. 16:32; Matt. 26:31; Mark 14:50)
Suffered unjustly? (Luke 23:13-25)
Been abused? (Matt. 26:67-68; 27:26-31)
Loved someone without being loved in return? (Luke 13:34; Mark 10:17-22)
Been frustrated? (Matt. 9:1-8; 12:22-29; 15:16; 16:21-23)
Gone hungry? (Matt. 4:2)
Been ignored? (Mark 1:40-45)
Been homeless? (Matt. 8:18-20)
Been unappreciated? (Luke 17:12-19)
Been wounded by a close friend? (Luke 22:54-62; Matt. 26:47-50)
On the benefits and promises of God, and principally of election to grace, or calling to faith.
“1. But that man may not just perform the commandments of God thus far explained, but also willingly want to perform them from the mind, God willed for his part to do everything necessary for effecting both in man(a), that is, he determined to confer such grace to sinful man by which he might be suitable and apt to render everything which is required of him in the gospel, and even more, to promise such good things to him, whose excellence and beauty might far exceed the capacity of human understanding, and that the desire and certain hope of this might kindle and inflame the will of man to render obedience in acts to him.
“Indeed, God habitually both makes known and bestows all these benefits to us by his Holy Spirit(b) (about which we have declared more fully above).
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
John is furthering his command for us to love one another. The verb tense of the second love in verse 11 is actually the infinitive, meaning that the verse should probably be “So we ought to be loving one another.” There is a clear sense of present action here, saying that this should already be happening, and if it isn’t, it must start now.
Loving one another is truly important. We cannot see God. We cannot touch Him. I believe we can feel Him in our spirits, but at the present time, our interaction with Him is still pretty limited. So how do we know God is real? How do we feel God in our hearts? According to John, it is by loving one another!
(Disclaimer: the following is an attempt at satire on the issue of the universality of the atonement)
In this post we will take look at the extent of the atonement. By using proper exegesis of scripture it can be proven with certainty that Jesus died to effectually secure salvation for Paul of Tarsus. And for Paul alone.
First, let’s take a look at Galatians 2:20. This is the most important verse in the Bible, because it explicitly states the extent of the atonement (bold mine): “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.“
This post completes our series on Ralston’s defense of the Arminian belief in self-determinism. This is the grand finale where Ralston tackles the favorite argument against free-will, the doctrine of motives as presented primarily by Jonathan Edwards. This is especially relevant since Calvinists continue to argue along these same lines today and often hold up Mr. Edwards’ work as un-refuted and irrefutable. The following treatment by Thomas Ralston would suggest otherwise. I will not be interrupting his treatment with my comments so as to preserve the flow of his thought in this important critique. Enjoy.
III. We will now consider the objection to the view taken of free agency, which is founded upon the doctrine of motives.
Thomas Ralston now tackles the necessitarian objection that God’s foreknowledge of our actions renders the power of self-determination impossible. My comments are in bold print.
II. The next grand objection to the doctrine of free agency is, that it is supposed to be irreconcilable with the Scripture account of the divine prescience.
Necessitarians argue that free agency, in the proper sense, implies contingency; and that contingency cannot be reconciled with the divine foreknowledge. It is admitted by Arminians, and the advocates of free agency generally, that the foreknowledge of God extends to all things great and small, whether necessary or contingent – that it is perfect and certain.
Thomas Ralston now begins to examine and respond to various objections posed by “necessitarians” against the Arminian view of self-determinism. My comments are in bold print.
WE propose in this chapter, to examine some of the principal objections which have been urged against the view taken in the preceding chapter of the freedom of the will. Those most worthy of notice are the following, viz.:
I. It is said to be absurd in itself.
II. It is said to be irreconcilable with the Scripture account of the divine prescience.
III. It is said to conflict with the doctrine of motives.
We propose a respectful attention to each of these grand objections.
I. It is alleged that the view we have taken of the proper freedom of the will is absurd in itself.
Thomas Ralston now concludes his positive arguments in favor of self-determinism. My comments are in bold print.
(4) In conclusion, upon this part of the subject, we think it proper briefly to notice the absurdity of attempting to reconcile the doctrines of necessity with the proper freedom and accountability of man.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
Ralston continues with his defense of free moral agency from Scripture. My comments are in bold print.
(2) In the next place, the Scriptures everywhere address man as a being capable of choosing; as possessing a control over his own volitions, and as being held responsible for the proper exercise of that control.
In Deuteronomy 30:19, we read: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” And in Joshua 24:15: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Now, to choose is to determine or fix the will; but men are here called upon to choose for themselves, which, upon the supposition that their will is, in all cases, fixed necessarily by antecedent causes beyond their control, is nothing better than solemn mockery.