The Biblical Doctrines of Grace (Part Two)

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For the Calvinist, the “doctrines of grace” is a synonym for TULIP theology. So, do the Biblical Doctrines of Grace of Arminianism also follow a system, such as TULIP? Arminianism proper has not historically employed an acronym as the one used for nearly four centuries by Calvinists.

Let it be stated, however, that if it had not been for the followers of Arminius (the Remonstrants) presenting their five arguments to the state to be approved as orthodox consent, then the TULIP would have never been constructed. And the original order of the Remonstrants was Conditional Election (to those in Christ), Unlimited Atonement, Total Depravity, Resistible Grace, and Conditional Perseverance.

If the Calvinists had strictly followed the Arminian system, it would have spelled ULTIP, which is a bad acronym, considering Ultip is not a word. Worse off, the Arminian acronym would have been CUTRC. The best sense which we could make out of that construct is TRUCC, also not a word.

In more recent times, Arminians have constructed the FACTS acronym. It stands for Freed to believe by God’s grace, Atonement for all (applied to believers), Conditional Election, Total depravity, and Security in Christ.

FREED TO BELIEVE.

Because humans have fallen into sin by the fall of Adam and Eve, and are born with a depraved nature, they have no will that is free to choose Christ Jesus in and of themselves. They must be freed to believe by the grace of God. It may come as quite a shock to many people that we are not defenders of free will when it comes to believing in Christ Jesus. We believe and teach, as did Arminius, that no one can believe in Him apart from the grace of God. This sets us completely at variance with semi-Pelagianism!

ATONEMENT FOR ALL.

This is merely clear biblical teaching. There is no escaping the Scriptures which teach that Christ Jesus came to take “away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 TNIV), that He is the Savior “of all people, and especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:10 TNIV), and that He is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 TNIV). These verses are plain and simple and need no further philosophical interpretation. His atonement was intended to take away the sin of the world, yet only believers will actually be atoned.

CONDITIONAL ELECTION.

That God genuinely desires the salvation of all people can hardly be denied, since we find those expressions in both the Old and New Testaments (Ezek. 18:32; 33:11; Jonah 3:9-10; 4:11; John 3:16-18; Acts 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:21; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Thus to suggest that God has unconditionally elected to save this person but refuses to save another person, based on an eternal decree, is contrary to what the Bible teaches. It is (I think) a serious error.

Christ said that He sent Paul to “open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18 TNIV, emphasis mine). Who is it that God has chosen or elected to save? The Bible teaches that “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21, emphasis mine).

TOTAL DEPRAVITY.

That people are depraved can hardly be denied. One need only look into his or her own heart to bear witness to the truth. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure,” wrote Jeremiah. “Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9 TNIV) Both Calvinists and Arminians hold that people are totally depraved (total meaning in all of their capacities there is no part within the human heart/psyche that has not been affected by sin ~ yet people are still not as bad as they could be).

We deny the Calvinist’s claim, however, that the unregenerate cannot understand the gospel aside from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (or worse yet, that Christ Jesus taught in parables in order to confuse the non-Elect). The Calvinist holds this view in an effort to promote the false idea that regeneration must precede faith. The unregenerate may not naturally desire the gospel, nor are capable of keeping God’s law (Rom. 8:7), nor of understanding the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:6-16). But the unregenerate do have the capacity for understanding the gospel and reasoning its implications.

SECURITY IN CHRIST.

Arminians maintain that those who remain in Christ Jesus (John 15) can have assurance of salvation. In my own estimation, I believe that classical Reformed Arminians are split 50/50 as to whether or not a person can lose his or her salvation. That may just be my opinion. Many believe that one must remain in Christ by working out his or her salvation (Phil. 2:12-13) as God does His work within the inner being of the believer. But if a person chooses to walk away from faith in Jesus Christ, then he or she loses that salvation. For a person is only justified by faith in Christ.

Others believe that Christians will not walk away from faith in Christ Jesus because they are being kept by or for Christ Jesus Himself (Jude v. 2). This post is not intended to argue for one of the two views but just to mention them. Both views maintain, however, that one’s security for salvation is found only by union with Christ Jesus, which not even a Calvinist should deny.

THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINES OF GRACE.

Thus the FACTS could be said to comprise our core Doctrines of Grace. I could not but say that these core beliefs contain far more grace than does the Calvinist caste system. Though we do not believe in Unlimited Grace, we certainly do believe that God’s desire is to grace all sinners by convicting the world “to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8 TNIV).

This is accomplished through the instrument of the powerful gospel (Rom. 1:16). We find no power in the Calvinist’s gospel or claim that regeneration must precede faith. If that were so, then there is no power in that gospel, since it is regeneration, in their view, and not the gospel, which inspires faith in a person!

Moreover, to restrict God’s grace solely to some alleged pre-selected few does serious damage to the doctrine of grace itself. The Bible claims that “the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people” (Titus 2:11 TNIV, emphasis mine). Is this true? The Bible teaches that God’s grace “is intended to lead” sinners “to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). Is this true? One thing is for certain. Either Calvinism is right, or the Bible is right.

We believe that Arminianism best reflects what the Bible teaches concerning the Grace of God in Salvation, His intention in sending His Son into the world to save sinners, the Atonement offered to all by Christ Jesus through faith in Him, and the mission of the Holy Spirit in convicting the hearts and minds of sinners. Inherent in Arminianism is the Biblical Doctrines of Grace.