Thinking Through Arminianism

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blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
During the "break", I visited a website called [u:519049d831]BaptistFire[/u:519049d831], which as many of you probably know is very down on Calvinism, to say the least. An advertisements for one of their books that (claims to) just destroys Calvinism referred to Calvinism as heresy. Very strong language.

With Calvinism, and as I read it in the scriptures, God sovereignly saves sinners from start to finish. I was just wondering, according to Arminianism, what exactly does God do to convert a sinner. It seems like any action taken by God to convert me would be an invasion of my "free will".

What exactly does Arminianism teach in this regard and how do they justify it by the scriptures?

Any thoughts?

Bob
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
[quote:9613a72a54]
What exactly does Arminianism teach in this regard and how do they justify it by the scriptures?
[/quote:9613a72a54]
He kinda sashays across the singles bar...gives you googly eyes, then a come hither stare. That's about all the arminian god can do.

I'm not trying to be stupid here...when you listen to an arminian call someone to "have faith"; it's usually "give Jesus a chance"...or something equally or even more silly.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Oh yeah, two more questions.

One of the links at that site discussed the tactics used by the Founders group to bring about reform in the non-Calvinistic SBC churches. The tactics were described as being deceptive. The claim was made that if a preacher started preaching Calvinism in one of the pulpits, they'd be thrown out of the church. Founders recommends teaching the doctrines of grace, but just without using the standard Calvinistic terminologies. Does anybody have any thoughts about these tactics? Is this kind of reform the right thing, or would it be best to leave the denomination?

Secondly, I read this verse yesterday and I was wondering if anybody had any thoughts about how to best interpret it:

Rom 10:21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

At first glance, it sounds like God has been frustrated in his attempts to reach these people. Any thoughts?

Bob

[Edited on 7-17-2004 by blhowes]
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Bob,
Arminianism is like a theological soup one makes. It is salvation via ingredients; a synergy of sorts. Men express faith, repent from their sins and trust in Christ. The biblical idea is solely monergistic. God gives men faith, the gift of repentance and are then able to trust in Christ.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
[b:3594d41999]Scott wrote:[/b:3594d41999]
Arminianism is like a theological soup one makes. It is salvation via ingredients; a synergy of sorts. Men express faith, repent from their sins and trust in Christ.

In the process of (if I might use me as an example) my making the decision to trust Jesus, do they teach that God did anything in my heart previous to me making the decision? Not to dwell on anecdotal experiences, but its difficult to reconcile my experience with their teaching. I was an athiest prior to being saved, and I still didn't even believe in the existence of Jesus or God until after I had done business with God. All I knew at the time was that something or someone that I didn't believe in had convicted me of my sin and was drawing me to himself. It wasn't until immediately afterwards that my mind caught up with my heart and, like a light going off in my mind, I believed.

Its difficult to follow their theology, scripturally or experientially.

Bob


[Edited on 7-17-2004 by blhowes]
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
[b:26c0307bce]Craig wrote:[/b:26c0307bce]
I'm not trying to be stupid here...when you listen to an arminian call someone to "have faith"; it's usually "give Jesus a chance"...or something equally or even more silly.

Reminds me of that picture of Jesus knocking at the door, politely waiting outside until he's given permission to enter.

Bob
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Bob,
To tell you the truth, God is faithful where mens misunderstanding of theology falters. So, even where the preaching is erred, God is faithful, i.e you and me, as I was saved under erred preaching.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
[b:4928e46bcb]Scott wrote:[/b:4928e46bcb]
To tell you the truth, God is faithful where mens misunderstanding of theology falters. So, even where the preaching is erred, God is faithful, i.e you and me, as I was saved under erred preaching.

I agree 100%. It's a neat and amazing thing about the scriptures. Doesn't matter where you are or who says it, but there is power in God's word.

My interest in the Arminian teaching is so that someday I might be able to talk intelligently with somebody who holds some or all of these teachings, who has never thought through the ramifications of it (like I never have until now). Granted, God can and does work inspite of the teaching, but it'd be nice to be able to help somebody think through the belief and see how different the teaching is from what's revealed in the scriptures.

Bob
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Bob:

You asked:
[quote:764497b4a2]The claim was made that if a preacher started preaching Calvinism in one of the pulpits, they'd be thrown out of the church. Founders recommends teaching the doctrines of grace, but just without using the standard Calvinistic terminologies. Does anybody have any thoughts about these tactics? Is this kind of reform the right thing, or would it be best to leave the denomination? [/quote:764497b4a2]
I've been in various situations in the churches I've been in. It has given me a view of church that the Continental Reformed had, a view of church within church, sort of. I can see the invisible church working in the visible church. So even though the minister may be preaching his own gospel, the truth speaks louder to me than his fabrications. So a person can be saved through poor preaching, but it is not because of the preacher, but because of the Word.

One must have a respect for the church and for the ordained people in it. When they leave sound reason and equity behind to favour their own ends, then you know that they are not trying to be true to Scripture, but to their opinions. They may be wrong, but yet be sincerely trying to be true to the Word, struggling against deep traditions. But their traditions cannot keep them from being fair and just. So if they refuse to do at least that, then it is the responsibility of each person to stand for the truth and for justice within their church, to the point of being tossed out. It is not the person that is being tossed out, for he did not do anything to deserve it. Rather, it is the witness of the Spirit that is being tossed out.

So I think that one must comply with the regulations set out in such a denomination, but that no rule could exist that would regulate out preaching from the Word. That would mean that Calvinism would have to be preached, one way or the other. If one were to pick up and leave, because the denomination did not agree with him, then our witness on behalf of the Spirit would cease with our personal theological tastes, and that would be wrong.

So I think it is not right to leave such a situation, but that it is a duty to pick up the challenge and to preach Christ even in such a setting. Let them toss me for preaching Christ, but not for stubbornly sticking to my opinions. So preaching Christ is only half of it: showing Christ-likeness is the other half of it. One has to preach where he is first; he should not set his sights on other places according to his comforts.
 

dado6

Puritan Board Freshman
Speaking in terms of proper historical perspective, Arminianism does indeed teach that salvation involves an initial, unilateral act of God. Jacob Arminius used the term 'Preventing (often referred to nowadays as 'prevenient') Grace' to describe this initial action of the Holy Spirit upon a man's heart. The third Point of Remonstrance also states this position. Arminius then describes 'Following Grace' that grows along side of man's willing cooperation. Both are needed to achieve salvation. Arminius departs from reformed (and biblical) thought in the area of man's ability to resist this initial Grace...."But when he feels grace affecting or inclining his mind and heart, he freely assents to it, so at the same time is free to with-hold his assent". This is covered in the fourth Point of Remonstrance. Because man is able to resist the call of the Spirit, it is then assumed by extension that faith is an internal, volitional faculty possessed by all men and not, strictly speaking, a gift from God to his elect. This, in turn, redefines the elect as those who voluntarily exercise faith and further makes the cause of election man's foreseen faith (the first Point of Remonstrance), not solely the Father's good pleasure.

Arminians have no solid biblical documentation for their point of departure. Their arguments are ultimately philosophical and highly presumptive ("How could a good God do that?"..."That would make man a robot"...."The ability to love means we have a free will"...etc.) As far as a biblical defense goes, they all follow in Arminius' footsteps by referring to passages that, atextually, may seem to imply that faith is a universally available option to all men or that God's will can be thwarted by man (John 3:16, Matthew 23:37 and 2 Peter 3:9 are the ones used most). However all of these references must stretch the context of the passages in order to fit Arminian ideas. Contrast this with the use of Ephesians 1:4-5 and Romans 9 by Calvinists. These passages talk directly about election and God's unilateral decision regarding it.

Modern day American protestantism is so thoroughly Arminian that, by and large, most folks are unaware that it is a unique, defined theological system much less that it is in conflict with much of the body of reformational thought. Unless you are dialoging with a pretty savvy churchgoer, they will not likely be able to define their ideas as Arminian in the first place.

Hope this helps a bit,

Rob

[Edited on 7-18-2004 by dado6]
 

calgal

Puritan Board Graduate
[quote:dc6bc5e714][i:dc6bc5e714]Originally posted by Craig[/i:dc6bc5e714]
[quote:dc6bc5e714]
What exactly does Arminianism teach in this regard and how do they justify it by the scriptures?
[/quote:dc6bc5e714]
He kinda sashays across the singles bar...gives you googly eyes, then a come hither stare. That's about all the arminian god can do.

I'm not trying to be stupid here...when you listen to an arminian call someone to "have faith"; it's usually "give Jesus a chance"...or something equally or even more silly. [/quote:dc6bc5e714]:lol::lol::lol: They also spend a lot of time begging with folks to come on up and pray the sinners prayer with our "prayer team" aka Altar Call. :rolleyes: One of the most awesome things about my furst Reformed church service was the lack of an altar call and the non manipulative folks there. Coming out of an Arminian SBC it was a relief to be devoid of Powerpoint. The Founders SBC I attended once was very similar to my church (overslept and the Baptists started at 11am):wink: There was NO altar call there.
 

SmokingFlax

Puritan Board Sophomore
dado6 wrote:

"Modern day American protestantism is so thoroughly Arminian that, by and large, most folks are unaware that it is a unique, defined theological system much less that it is in conflict with much of the body of reformational thought. Unless you are dialoging with a pretty savvy churchgoer, they will not likely be able to define their ideas as Arminian in the first place. "

You said it!

That's the boat I was in for way too long...and I read a great deal at that and so,was more informed than many...yet I still had NO CLUE about the historical differences and controversies stemming from the reformation. I only knew that I had a very deep discontent with my church experience and didn't know why.

I don't think that it is an accident that the reformed doctrines are, by and large, obscured or outright censored in in most church circles. The great bulk of church-goers are practically completely ignorant of both doctrine and especially basic church history...(which is what led me to the reformers). I personally think that most arminians MUST be ignorant of the inherent weaknesses in their theology. I've never seen (except for Dave Hunt) a side by side, point by point comparison of the two systems...yet it is the norm when reading reformed books that you get a dose of history and side by side doctrinal comparisons.

I think that there is a studied and deliberate ignorance in the arminian camp which feeds the whole anti-intellectual subcurrent that is so prevalent in many quarters of American Christianity.
 

Scot

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:3dc09677e0]
Reminds me of that picture of Jesus knocking at the door, politely waiting outside until he's given permission to enter.
[/quote:3dc09677e0]

That picture really annoys me. Poor Jesus, there's no door knob on the door so all he can do is stand there helplessly waiting for the person inside to open it. My wife's grandmother has that picture hanging in her living room (it's rather large to). Every time that I'm there, I want to rip it down.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I was in a Reformed church one time where the pastor, in his Thursday night pastor classes, was going through a side-by-side comparison of the five points of Calvinism and the articles of the Remonstrance. To our surprise there were a few who piped up that they believed in the Remonstance views, that they always had, and that they did not know that this church taught any different. They were members we all knew.

Now we knew that it was not as they said. They only said it that way to put us off our feelings of being secure withoin our own settings. They overstated their case so as to be more convincing, that's all.

Yet, it made me think. How many churches slide into Arminianism through laxness in teaching? How many Arminian churches are there that have to make sure they continually teach the articles of the Remonstrance so that the congregation doesn't slide into Calvinism through laxness and indolence?

Makes you think, doesn't it?:think:
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
Sort of back to the topic...Bob asked:
[quote:0ddce8af2e]
What exactly does Arminianism teach in this regard and how do they justify it by the scriptures?
[/quote:0ddce8af2e]
Perhaps others will have a different opinion than my own. I never heard an "outline" of sorts from ANY arminian preacher showing from scripture how they are justified in their understanding. When I have tried to argue from Scriptures, the Arminian will have me jump all around the Bible looking at bits and pieces of verses to justify their stance. The problem I've run into is that they don't work through things exegetically or systematically. They find something that appears [i:0ddce8af2e]in their own mind [/i:0ddce8af2e]to be "arminian", and read the obvious scriptures with the idea "[i:0ddce8af2e]well, it can't mean what it's saying because [/i:0ddce8af2e][b:0ddce8af2e]'For God so loved the world'[/b:0ddce8af2e]"

You will be hard pressed to find any systematic approach. You may want to try Norman Geisler's horrible book "Chosen But Free"...but you just might get too upset.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Thanks for all the excellent responses.

One thing that's hard to understand is why they feel that free will is actually protected in their theology more than with Calvinism. It seems like, to satisfy the idea of free will, that when the decision is made, the person must be free to choose to accept or reject Jesus. Since God foreknew before time began that person A would reject Jesus, when the time came for the decision to be made, that person must reject Jesus. They don't have the freedom to change their mind, otherwise God's foreknowledge is compromised. If I were promoting the idea of man's free will with regard to salvation, I don't think the Arminian model would serve the purpose.

[b:785ebac7c4]Rob wrote:[/b:785ebac7c4]
Speaking in terms of proper historical perspective, Arminianism does indeed teach that salvation involves an initial, unilateral act of God. Jacob Arminius used the term 'Preventing (often referred to nowadays as 'prevenient') Grace' to describe this initial action of the Holy Spirit upon a man's heart. The third Point of Remonstrance also states this position...Hope this helps a bit,

Yes, that does help. I'm trying to decide where the greater misunderstanding lies. Is it in the low view of God's grace when the Holy Spirit acts upon the heart, or is it too high of a view of man's ability to resist the Spirits "attempts" to save?

BTW, how lengthy is the Remonstance? Being a slow reader, if its a short work, I wouldn't mind reading it. If its fairly lengthy, it'll have to wait.

[b:785ebac7c4]Josh wrote:[/b:785ebac7c4]
I don't think it's a matter of frustration, but condemnation. Look at what it says directly before v. 21. "I was found by those who did not seek Me..." They did not seek God, He sought them.

Good thoughts. Even those who found him weren't seeking him, much less those who didn't find him.

I'm still stuck on the phrase "I have stretched forth my hands...". It may be from preaching I've heard in the past, but the idea given is illustrated by a man in a ship in the midst of a dangerous storm, reaching out to those who have fallen overboard and are about to perish in the sea. The man reaches out his hands, desperately trying to save his friends, but they don't grab onto his hand.

This illustration is flawed based on the testimony of the rest of scripture, but I still wonder in what way (or for what purpose) God can be said to be stretching forth his hands. When an unsaved person comes to church and hears the Gospel preached, but doesn't believe, is this an example of God stretching forth his hands to a sinner? God reaches out, yet doesn't do for that person what's necessary for the person to get saved.

[b:785ebac7c4]Craig wrote:[/b:785ebac7c4]
You will be hard pressed to find any systematic approach. You may want to try Norman Geisler's horrible book "Chosen But Free"...but you just might get too upset.

I think I'll wait for it to come out on DVD. I'm working on improving my reading speed, but right now I have to be fairly selective what I read.

[b:785ebac7c4]John wrote:[/b:785ebac7c4]
So I think it is not right to leave such a situation, but that it is a duty to pick up the challenge and to preach Christ even in such a setting. Let them toss me for preaching Christ, but not for stubbornly sticking to my opinions.

I agree. And I don't think its being deceptive at all not to use the theological terms commonly used by Calvinists. The truth of the doctrines can be expressed very well right from the scriptures without using the terms. It might be easier to use the terms, but I would think that a preacher who understands the doctrines well can express them in "everyday" language. Later, someone who embraces the teachings may come up to the preacher and say, "Did you know that they have a fancy name for those things you've been teaching us. Its called the limited atonement (or whatever)"

Bob

[Edited on 7-18-2004 by blhowes]
 

panicbird

Puritan Board Freshman
I once belonged to a church where the pastor was reformed and the rest of the congregation was not. He simply preached the truth of Scripture, without using the Calvinistic terms. He did not try to completely reform the church within the first six months. In fact, he did little more than preach Scripture for about three years. People loved it. They believed what he preached. Then, someone found out that he was a Calvinist. They then spread rumors about him being a Calvinist. In the end, a bunch of people left the church over it. It was funny (yet sad), though, because everyone loved his preaching and even said they agree with what he preached, but said they would not sit under a Calvinist preacher.

Now, that church is thriving. After all those folks left, it was like a weight was lifted off that church.

Lon
 

dado6

Puritan Board Freshman
Bob,


[quote:8700eaf7ad]
Yes, that does help. I'm trying to decide where the greater misunderstanding lies. Is it in the low view of God's grace when the Holy Spirit acts upon the heart, or is it too high of a view of man's ability to resist the Spirits "attempts" to save?
[/quote:8700eaf7ad]

Two sides of the same coin really. The fact that it is argued that God's grace is resistible points to both a demeaning of God's power and an elevation of man's ability. The way of getting around this notion's obvious conflict with the revealed truth is to resort to philosophical argumentation. Arminians usually argue from the idea that a loving God would not violate the free will of his creatures and/or that a only a free choice on the part of the creature could be considered a loving response. Aside from the fact that these notions are not to be found anywhere in the bible, they are presumptive in that they assume certain definitions for the concepts of free will and love at the start. Resorting to this type of argument just shows the unscriptural nature of the Arminian position. In the end it is a man centered system that places romantic concepts of love and freedom of the will above the Word of God.


[quote:8700eaf7ad]
BTW, how lengthy is the Remonstrance? Being a slow reader, if its a short work, I wouldn't mind reading it. If its fairly lengthy, it'll have to wait.
[/quote:8700eaf7ad]

It is very short and available on this site:

Articles of Remonstrance


The reformed response is found in the Canons of Dort, one of the Three Forms of Unity that make up the creedal statements of the continental reformed churches. Also right here at Puritan's Mind:

Canons of Dort

Happy reading,
Rob

[Edited on 7-18-2004 by dado6]
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Regarding that 'famous' picture of Christ standing at the door, my dear friend (at the very liberal Beloit College) has a better explanation of what you are seeing in the picture.

http://beloit.edu/~heesendr/heartdoo.htm

Pray for my friend Dave, he is the lone reformed voice on campus and in his church but he is definitely "salt that has not lost its savor". :pray2:

[Edited on 7-18-2004 by maxdetail]
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
[b:10508a9cbb]Rob wrote:[/b:10508a9cbb]
Happy reading,

Thanks for the links. I read the Articles of Remonstrance and about half (will finish later) of the Canons of Dort. Very interesting reading.

I liked how Romans 3:23 is translated from the Latin Vulgate in the Canons of Dort.

"All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23)

That's certainly a different way of looking at the verse. Its off topic, but I wonder if "deprived of" is closer to the original meaning than "fall short of"? Translating it deprived of sure takes away any hope of measuring up to God's standard.

[b:10508a9cbb]Bob wrote:[/b:10508a9cbb]
Regarding that 'famous' picture of Christ standing at the door, my dear friend (at the very liberal Beloit College) has a better explanation of what you are seeing in the picture.

I liked Dave's explanation. I also liked the article that his explanation linked to. This excerpt from the article was particularly good - sometimes comments from those less educated are more profound.
[quote:10508a9cbb]
The doctrine in question is "irresistible grace," a truth found in many of the confessions in church history, though sadly forgotten, misunderstood, or not believed today.

I am reminded of my former pastor who was preaching against the notion of a man being dragged to heaven kicking and screaming, which was what he imagined the doctrine of irresistible grace to be. All of a sudden a man in a wheelchair interrupted the sermon. This man, as far as I know, was not highly educated (he had previously demonstrated to me that he had never heard of Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress). Yet he uttered something so profound and true:

I don't look at it like that. I like to think of it like a banana split. That's what irresistible means. You don't drag a man kicking and screaming down to the ice cream parlor for a banana split. He wants that banana split. He has an appetite for it. It is irresistible. [paraphrase][/quote:10508a9cbb]

Bob


[Edited on 7-18-2004 by blhowes]
 

FrozenChosen

Puritan Board Freshman
If I was an artist and wanted to paint images of Christ, I'd have to paint him kicking the door in, or perhaps in full S.W.A.T. gear with one of those battering rams.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
[quote:04431c129a=";;FrozenChosen";;]If I was an artist and wanted to paint images of Christ, I'd have to paint him kicking the door in, or perhaps in full S.W.A.T. gear with one of those battering rams.[/quote:04431c129a]

I was thinking those exact thoughts yesterday, but failed to post them. I agree with you totally.
 
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