PROTESTANT THOUGHT: CALVINISM & ARMINIANISM IN THE LIGHT OF THE BIBLE
Daniel W. Petty
HISTORICAL AND DOCTRINAL BACKGROUND
I. The controversy between Augustine and Pelagius (5th century) focused on the issues of free will, predestination, original sin, and inherited guilt. By AD 396, Augustine of Hippo was writing that mankind was a "mass of sin", unable to make any move to save itself apart from God's grace. Around the same time, Pelagius, an austere British monk, was emphasizing man's unconditional free will and responsibility.
A. Pelagius (ca. 383-410)
1. Pelagius was a moralist who was concerned for right conduct and appalled by what he considered to be pessimistic views of human nature. He found especially offensive Augustine's petition, "Grant what you command, and command what you will" (Confessions, X, 29, 40). This seemed to suggest that man was wholly unable on his own account to obey God's laws.
2. A fundamental theme in Pelagius' thought was the freedom of the will, which distinguishes man from the rest of creation. Pelagius denied that man has inherited any bias to sin and affirmed that man has the natural ability to "both sin and not to sin, so that we confess ourselves to have always free will." Man is completely responsible for his sins.
3. Adam's sin, though the first, did not affect the whole human race but only Adam himself. Adam introduced physical and spiritual death, and initiated a habit of disobedience. But the habit of sinning is propogated, not by physical descent, but by custom, example, and imitation.
4. Pelagius believed in the benefits of divine grace, but not in the sense of any interior action of God upon the soul. By grace he meant free will, the possibility of not sinning, the revelation of God's word, and the remission of sins in baptism and penance.
B. Augustine (354-430)
1. Augustine agreed that originally man was created completely upright and free. His will was good in the sense of being inclined to carrying out God's commands (City of God XIV. 11), yet he possessed the possibility for sinning as well as of not sinning.
2. Adam sinned through the wrongful exercise of his freedom.
3. The sin of Adam brought guilt and corruption to the race. In Augustine's words, "All nature was vitiated by sin: our nature, there transformed for the worse, not only became a sinner, but also begets sinners" (On Marriage and Concupiscence II. 34, 37).
4. The essence of original sin consists in our own personal participation in, and co-responsibility for, Adam's sin. Since we were one with him when he made the perverse choice, it follows that we willed in and with him.
5. As a result of original sin, man is totally depraved. We are enslaved to ignorance, concupiscence, and death. So complete is our enslavement to sin that we have lost the freedom of being able to avoid sin and do good. While our will is still intact, we are free only to do wrong. Augustine said man can "not avail for good and pious living, unless the will itself of man should be made free by God's grace, and assisted to every good movement of action, of speech, of thought" (Against Two Letters of the Pelagians II. 9, 20).
6. Sin is universal, not by imitation as Pelagius taught, but by procreation. Sin is passed from parents to children, just as a defective seed cannot produce good plants. Indeed, the taint of original sin is propogated from parent to child by the carnali inherent in the sexual act. Once Adam introduced a defective seed, "whatever comes into being by natural birth is bound by original sin" (On Marriage and Concupiscence I. 27).
7. In Augustine's view enabling divine grace is needed to heal and prepare the will to desire and choose the good. Since the divine will is omnipotent and grace is irresistible, the doctrine of predestination naturally follows. Grace takes the initiative and apart from it all men are corrupt; thus it is for God to determine who shall receive grace and who shall not.
|Adam's freedom lost by sin||All have free will|
|Sinful nature of all men||It is possible not to sin|
|Sin is inherited||Sin is not inherited, but imitated|
|Infants are born sinful, need grace||Infants are not born sinful|
|Enabling grace is extended to the elect (predestination); is irresistible||Grace given to all through revelation|
II. Pelagius' views were condemed by the Council of Carthage in 418 and the Council of Ephesus in 431. Afterwards the controversy continued as many rejected or modified certain aspects of Augustine's views.
A. Semi-Pelagianism is a term used since the seventeenth century to refer to some who accepted his doctrine of original sin, but rejected his views on predestination and the bondage of the will. The grace of God and the will of man work together in salvation. Man has the free will to take the initiative in salvation, upon which the Spirit assists.
B. Semi-Augustinianism describes the moderate form of Augustianism that prevailed. This included the belief in original sin but the rejection of predestination. Divine grace comes to all and enables a person to choose and perform what is necessary for salvation. This was upheld by the Council of Orange in 529, and formed the core of Roman Catholic doctrine. Saving grace was viewed as a "superadded gift" of God to restore original righteousness, mediated through the church and its sacraments.
Brown, Peter, Augustine of Hippo, 340-375
Cairns, Earl E., Christianity Through the Centuries, 137-138
Kelly, J. N.D., Early Christian Doctrines, 344-374
Petty, Daniel, "Sin and the Nature of Man", The Biblical Doctrine of Sin, The 1997 Florida College Annual Lectures, 37-42
Steele & Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, 13-23
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I. Most of the Protestant Reformers followed Augustinian theology.
A. Martin Luther became embroiled in a controversy with Erasmus of Rotterdam when the latter challenged Luther in his work, On the Free Will. Luther's answer in his On the Bondage of the Will shows that he agreed with Augustine that the freedom of the human will was lost through original sin, and is now corrupted and bound to sin. The Augsburg Confession of 1530, still followed by Lutherans, declares that "all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin" (Leith 68).
B. It was John Calvin who, following Augustine, defined the Reformed doctrine.
II. John Calvin's life (1509-1564)
A. Calvin was born in Noyon, France, 1509.
B. He studied in Paris, becoming aquainted with humanism, and hoped for an ecclesiastical career. Became familiar with the doctrines of Wycliffe, Huss, and Luther. Received Master of Arts in 1528.
C. He followed father's wishes, abandoning theology and pursuing a law career. He received a doctorate in civil law in 1532.
D. He was converted to Protestantism through study of Scripture and early Christianity and influence of humanist friends, between 1532 and 1534.
E. In 1535 Calvin was forced into exile in Basel, Switzerland, due to pressure from Francis I.
F. He wrote and published in Basel the first edition of Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536. The first edition was in Latin and had only six chapters. The work grew through subsequent editions, until the editions of 1559 and 1560, which consisted of four books with 80 chapters:
1. Book 1: God and revelation; creation and man.
2. Book 2: God as redeemer and how He was made known in the OT and in Christ.
3. Book 3: How we share in divine grace through the Spirit.
4. Book 4: Church and sacraments.
G. Calvin came to Geneva in 1536. Except for 1538-41, he spent the rest of his life in Geneva. There he served as pastor of the church, wrote extensively, and served as the theological leader of the city. He founded the Genevan Academy, which educated the youth of Geneva in Calvinistic principles. Many came from all over Europe to learn; they took Calvin's doctrines with them.
III. Calvin's views on man and redemption as taught in the Institutes.
A. Sovereignty of God. Calvin begins with man's need to know God. It is only in this way that we come to know ourselves. God has revealed Himself both in creation and in Scripture. Scripture shows Him to be the redeemer. True knowledge of God emphasizes the demands of His justice and His abhorrence of man's sin.
B. Original sin. Calvin agrees with Augustine that "Adam, by sinning, not only took upon himself misfortune and ruin but also plunged our nature into like destruction" (II. 1. 6). He defines original sin as "hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God's wrath" (II. 1. 8). He denies the Pelagian view that Adam's sin was propogated by imitation: "All of us, who have descended from impure seed, are born infected with the contagion of sin" (II. 1. 5).
C. Total depravity. As a consequence of Adam's sin, we stand guilty, "justly condemned and convicted before God" (II. 1. 8). For Calvin, as for Augustine, we are completely guilty of Adam's sin because his sin was our sin. In addition to guilt and just condemnation, original sin also brought the corruption and depravity of our nature. Like Augustine, Calvin describes depravity, which he also calls "concupiscence," as a perversity of the whole man (II. 2. 8). This is what is meant by "total depravity."
D. Bondage of the will. Calvin says the will of man remains, but being in bondage, "it cannot move toward good, much less apply itself thereto" and it is "with the most eager inclination disposed and hastening to sin" (II. 3. 5).
E. Predestination and election. Calvin taught that by God's eternal decree, eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others (III. 21.5). Since man is utterly depraved and salvation is by God's decree, it is entirely the work of God.
IV. All of the major creeds in the Reformed Churches in the 16th century were influenced, to varying degrees, by Calvinism.
A. The Second Helvetic Confession, 1566 (Swiss churches)
B. The Heidelberg Catechism, 1563 (German or Palatinate churches)
C. The Gallican Confession, 1559 (French churches)
D. The Belgic Confession, 1561 (Flemish and Dutch churches)
E. The First and Second Scotch Confessions, 1560, 1581 (Scottish churches)
F. The Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, 1563, 1571
G. The Lambeth Articles, 1595 (Irish churches)
Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion
McNeill, John T., The History and Character of Calvinism
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) in Creeds of Christendom, III:600-73
Wendel, François, Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought
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THE ARMINIAN CONTROVERSY AND THE FIVE POINTS OF CALVINISM
I. Life of James Arminius (1560-1609)
A. Born Jakob Hermanszoon near Utrecht, in Holland
B. Educated at Leyden, Basel, and Geneva. At Geneva he studied under Theodore Beza, Calvin's successor.
C. Pastor of the Reformed church in Amsterdam 1588-1603.
D. While at Amsterdam Arminius was influenced in his views by Coornhert [(alternatively spelled Koornheert)], who in 1578 had engaged in a discussion with two Calvinist ministers. Coornhert attacked Calvin's views on predestination and justification, and later published his views. Coornhert's pamphlet was attacked by ministers at Delft in 1589, but their work defended the sublapsarian view of predestination instead of Calvin's supralapsarianism.
E. Arminius was asked to defend the supralapsarian position against these ministers. His study of the matter in the light of scripture led him to accept the sublapsarian view. Further study led to his views on predestination.
F. In 1591 Arminius set forth his exegesis of Romans 7 and in 1593 he expounded on Romans 9. His provided a non-Calvinistic interpretation.
G. In 1602 he accepted the position of professor of divinity at Leyden. Though protested by ultra-Calvinists, he received degree of Doctor of Divinity and began the work in 1603.
H. At Leyden he became embroiled in controversy with Calvinist colleagues, especially Francis Gomarus. The strict Calvinists were called "Gomarists." He delivered a series of lectures on predestination. The controversy divided the student body and Dutch ministers.
I. In 1608 he defended himself in writing.
1. Letter to Hippolytus
2. "Apology against thirty-one articles, etc."
3. "Declaration of Sentiments"
J. Arminius died in 1609.
II. The Remonstrance of 1610
A. The followers of Arminius, soon after his death, set forth their views in five articles, before the representatives of Holland in 1610. The Arminian controversy is also called the quinquarticular (five points) controversy (see Creeds of Christendom I: 508-519).
B. The Remonstrance consisted first of five negative points or denials of five key Calvinistic propositions. They denied:
1. The supralapsarian view. That God, before the fall or even the creation, unconditionally decreed and foreordained some to eternal life and others to eternal damnation.
2. The sublapsarian view. That God, in view of the fall and as a result of the sin of Adam, unconditionally ordained some to be saved from the consequences of sin, and others to be left to their condemnation. (Moderate Calvinists took this view.)
3. Limited atonement. That Christ died, not for all men, but only for the elect. (Not held by the moderate, sublapsarian Calvinists.)
4. Irresistible grace. That the Holy Spirit works in the elect so that they must be converted and be saved.
5. Perseverance. That those who have received this grace can never lose it.
C. The Remonstrance then set forth five positive articles which formed the basis of the system known as Arminianism (see Creeds of Christendom III: 545-549):
1. Conditional predestination. The divine decree to salvation applies to all who believe in Christ and persevere in faith and obedience.
2. Universal atonement. Christ died for all men.
3. Saving faith. Sinful man needs the divine grace and help of the Holy Spirit in order to respond to God with saving faith and do good.
4. Resistible grace. Divine grace is needed and is efficacious, but is not irresistible.
5. The uncertainty of perseverance. Though Christians through the assisting Holy Spirit have the power to persevere, it is possible for them to fall from grace.
III. The Synod of Dort, 1618-1619
A. The Calvinists called for a synod. They were helped by Prince Maurice of Nassau, who favored it for political reasons.
B. The synod passed a point-by-point refutation of the Remonstrance. They confirmed the orthodoxy of the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism. Arminius was condemned.
C. Until about 1625, many Arminian ministers were ousted from pulpits, imprisoned, or banished.
IV. The Canons of Dort set forth five points or "Heads of Doctrine". These five points became the well-known "five points of Calvinism" (see Creeds of Christendom III: 581-597 for the English text; see Creeds I: 519-523 for summary).
A. Divine predestination. God has eternally decreed some to election and others to reprobation. Election is absolute and unconditional.
B. The death of Christ or limited atonement. Christ died for the elect alone.
C. The corruption of man. Because of original sin, all men are conceived in sin and are totally corrupt and depraved, incapable of any saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto. Without grace all are unable and unwilling to turn to God.
D. The conversion of man. Sinful man is regenerated and converted by the power and influence of God alone. Grace is thus irresistible.
E. Perseverance of the saints. God preserves the elect to salvation. They cannot fall from grace.
V. These five points are generally re-ordered to form the popular acronym TULIP:
A. Total hereditary depravity.
B. Unconditional election.
C. Limited atonement.
D. Irresistible grace.
E. Perseverance of the saints.
VI. The Westminster Confession of Faith, adopted in England by the Westminster Assembly of 1647, sets forth the Calvinistic system. It has been one of the most influential statements of faith among Calvinists to modern times. See Creeds of Christendom III: 600-703.
Bangs, Carl Oliver, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation
Creeds of Christendom, I:508-519; III:545-549, 660-703
Nichols, James, ed., The Writings of James Arminius, I:9-15
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ORIGINAL SIN AND INHERITED DEPRAVITY
I. Theories of the origin of the soul
A. Theory of Pre-existence of souls (held by Plato, Philo, and Origen)
B. Creation Theory (held by Aristotle, Jerome, Pelagius, and most Catholic and Reformed scholars).
1. The theory states that each human soul is immediately created by God and joined to the body at conception or birth, or at some point in between.
2. Passages cited: Eccl. 12:7; Isa. 57:16; Zech. 12:1; Heb. 12:9; et al.
3. Charles Hodge, for instance, emphasizes this theory as necessary to preserve the sinlessness of Christ in the incarnation, in view of the doctrine of original sin (II: 65-76).
C. The Traducian Theory (held by Tertullian, Augustine, A. H. Strong; G. T. Shedd)
1. The theory states that both body and soul were propogated from Adam by natural generation.
2. Passages cited: Gen. 1:27; 2:7; 46:26; Heb. 7:10; Psa. 139:13-14; et al.
3. A. H. Strong opposes the Creation Theory because of the belief in depravity. If the soul is originally depraved, then God is responsible for moral evil. If the soul is created pure, then God placed it into a corrupt, depraved body that will corrupt it (II: 493).
D. Calvin seems to reject traducianism in favor of creationism (II.1.7).
II. Man's original state in God's image
A. Roman Catholics, drawing from a tradition beginning as early as Irenaeus (AD 180), made a distinction between "image" and "likeness" in Genesis 1:26.
1. "Image" -- man's original natural capacity for religion, his personality and rationality; not lost when Adam sinned
2. "Likeness" -- this is man's original righteousness; a product of man's obedience plus a superadded gift of grace which endowed him with ethical qualities and original righteousness; that which was lost as a result of original sin
B. Reformation scholars, including Luther and Calvin, correctly noted that the tradition distinction was artificial. The terms in Genesis 1:26 are basically synonymous.
C. The image of God seems to include attributes of personality such as the will, freedom of choice, self-consciousness, self-determination, rationality; and attributes of holiness such as moral discernment, and the ability to know and love God.
III. Major theories of the imputation of sin to Adam's posterity; i.e., how to account for the universality of sin
A. Pelagianism -- Man's natural innocence
1. Every soul is created immediately by God, innocent, free, and able to obey, just like Adam.
2. The effect of Adam's sin on posterity: evil example. Human nature is corrupt by imitation and habit.
3. Adam's sin only affected himself.
4. Romans 5:12 is interpreted as all incurring death by sinning after Adam's example ("because all sinned").
B. Arminianism -- The genetic mode of transmission (held by H. Orton Wiley; John Miley)
1. All men, as a divinely appointed sequence of Adam's sin, are, by natural heredity, destitute of original righteousness, suffering misery and death.
2. Man is unable to obey perfectly or to attain eternal life without divine help. Man has free will, but he is morally weak.
3. God, as a matter of justice (for man to be held accountable for his sins), bestows on each individual from the first dawn of consciousness a special influence of the Holy Spirit, to counteract the effect of inherited depravity. As a result, the human will can and must cooperate with God.
4. John Wesley took the view that man has no power to cooperate with God without the Holy Spirit, who is given universally as an influence upon mankind solely as a matter of grace, "an ability conferred through the free gift of prevenient grace, given to all men as a first benefit of the universal atonement made by Christ for all men" (Wiley II: 108).
5. Romans 5:12 is interpreted as physical and spiritual death inflicted upon all men, not as the penalty of a common sin in Adam, but because, by divine decree, all suffer the consequences of that sin, and because all personally consent to their inborn sinfulness by acts of transgression.
C. Federal Theory -- Theory of condemnation by covenant (held by Charles Hodge; James Oliver Buswell; Louis Berkhof)
1. Adam was constituted the representative of the human race.
2. God entered into a covenant with the race through Adam. Obedience would result in eternal life; disobedience would result in corruption and death of Adam's posterity.
3. Since Adam sinned, God accounts all descendants of Adam as sinners under condemnation.
4. Each soul is created with a corrupt and depraved nature, which leads to actual sin.
5. According to this theory, the immediated imputation of sin is the cause of universal depravity.
6. Romans 5:12 is interpreted in the sense that physical, spiritual and eternal death came to all, because all were regarded and treated as sinners.
D. Realistic Theory -- Adam's natural headship (held by Tertullian, Ambrose, Augustine; all Reformers except Zwingli; William G. T. Shedd; A. H. Strong)
1. God imputes the sin of Adam immediately to all posterity because of the organic unity of mankind by which the whole race existed seminally, not individually, in Adam as its head. Note the following from Calvin: "Therefore all of us, who have descended from impure seed, are born infected with the contagion of sin" (II.1.5).
2. When Adam freely sinned, the whole race sinned. Thus Calvin: "We must surely hold that Adam was not only the progenitor but, as it were, the root of human nature; and that therefore in his corruption mankind deserved to be vitiated" (II.1.6).
3. The nature of the race corrupted itself. Our nature is the same as Adam's after the fall.
4. Romans 5:12 is interpreted that death physical, spiritual and eternal passed to all men, because all sinned in Adam as their natural head.
IV. Consequences of Adam's sin for posterity
1. Calvin distinguished between inherited guilt and inherited depravity.
a. "First, we are so vitiated and perverted in every part of our nature that by this great corruption we stand justly condemned and convicted before God, to whom nothing is acceptable but righteousness, innocence, and purity...a contagion imparted by him resides in us, which justly deserves punishment" (II.1.8).
b. "Then comes the second consideration: that this perversity never ceases in us, but continually bears new fruits--the works of the flesh that we have already described--just as a burning furnace gives forth flame and sparks, or water ceaselessly bubbles up from a spring" (II.1.8).
2. Thus Calvinism views the consequences of original sin to consist in :
a. Total depravity (loss of original righteousness; corruption of the moral nature, tendency to evil; total inability to turn to God)
b. Guilt (deserving punishment; obligated to render satisfaction)
c. Penalty (physical and spiritual death)
3. The Calvinistic position on the will of man is that, while man continues to possess free will in certain "intermediate" areas (reason, conscience, choice), still he has lost his ability to choose the highest (spiritual) good; "man has by nature an irrestible bias for evil" (Berkhof, 248; cf. Calvin, Institutes II.2.1-11).
B. Arminianism teaches that original sin resulted in
1. Total depravity (forfeiture of the Holy Spirit and thus the loss or privation of original righteousness) "The whole race, descending by ordinary generation from the fallen first progenitors, inherit from them a morally tainted and vitiated nature; a nature in which there is no inclination to do anything truly good, but which, as soon as its dispositions or tendencies begin to unfold themselves, shows itself evil in the production of evil thoughts, words and actions" (Watson; cited in Wiley II:125-126). Depravity is total in that...
a. It affects the entire being of man.
b. Man is destitute of all positive good.
c. The powers of man's being, apart from divine grace, are employed with evil continually. Arminius taught that man's will remains free, though it is tainted and weakened to the point that it is disposed to evil. He said: "Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace.... I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good" (Writings II: 472; I: 252, 523-531).
2. The Arminian concept of universal grace and sanctification (Arminius, Writings I: 253). Over against Calvinism's doctrine of unconditional predestination, Arminians teach there is a "free gift" of righteousness, unconditionally bestowed upon all men through Christ. The effects of this gift of grace are...
a. To preserve mankind from sinking below the possibility of redemption.
b. Reversal of condemnation; no child of Adam is condemned eternally, either for the original offense, or its consequences; man is condemned solely for his own depravity and his own transgressions.
c. The restoration of the Holy Spirit to the race, in the sense of awakening and quickening.
V. The salvation of infants
A. The approach taken by Calvinists is summarized here from A. H. Strong (II: 660-664):
1. Infants are in a state of sin, need to be regenerated, and can be saved only through Christ.
2. But since they are possessed of a relative innocence, and are incapable of personal sin or personal faith, they are the objects of special divine compassion and care, and through the grace of Christ are certain of salvation (cf. Calvin, Institutes IV.15.20; IV. 16.17).
3. Strong rejected infant baptism; other Calvinists such as Buswell defend it as a sign or seal of the covenant of grace, like circumcision in the OT.
B. Arminianists such as Miley state that all children, by virtue of the unconditional and universal grace of the atonement, are members of the kingdom of God, and therefore entitled to baptism (Miley II: 409).
VI. Prooftexts for original sin and inherited depravity considered
A. Through one man sin entered (Romans 5:12)
1. This has been called the locus classicus of the doctrine of original sin and inherited depravity.
2. George Eldon Ladd stated, "Grammatically, this can mean that men died because they have personally sinned, or it can mean that in Adam, all men sinned" (A Theology of the New Testament 403-404).
3. There is nothing to suggest anything more than that death passed to all men because or inasmuch as they imitated Adam's sinfulness. Since all have sinned (Rom. 3:23), "death spread to all men."
4. Christ, by contrast, came to bring spiritual life, through His one obedient act of righteousness (vs. 18-19; cf. Heb. 5:8-9). If verse 12 teaches that all men inherit Adam's sin unconditionally, then verses 18 and 19 would teach that all men are saved unconditionally through Christ.
B. By nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3)
1. The assumption is that "nature" refers to the natural state at birth.
2. It is true the word phusis (nature) sometimes means the constitution or physical origin of something, but it also sometimes refers to one's acquired nature or way of feeling and acting which has come about by habitual, regular practice (Thayer 660).
3. The context clearly shows the latter to be the meaning here. They lived according to the world, its values, and desires, so that such feeling and acting became their nature. Their nature resulted from their persistent behavior, not from original sin.
C. Conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5)
1. Calvin used this verse to support the idea that "we were born in sin, and that it exists within us as a disease fixed in our nature" (Commentary 2: 290).
2. But the theory does not fit the thought of the rest of the psalm. David takes full blame for his wrongs (vss. 1-4), and never suggests that he was powerless to resist sin. Nor is he necessarily saying that his mother was sinful when she conceived him.
3. David is clearly referring to his own sin. "The best explanation is that the poet is using an ancient Near Eastern idiom meaning that he, like all human beings, was prone or inclined to sin from his youth up, because he was constantly surrounded by sin and temptation" (John T. Willis, The Psalms II: 60).
D. They go astray from birth (Psalm 58:3)
1. This is a poetic way of saying that a certain class of wicked men start sinning very early in life. The verse has no reference to the whole human race.
2. Similarly, Isaiah 48:8b charges the house of Jacob with transgressing God's laws all their lives. These verses do not support inherited sin and depravity.
E. Uncleanness (Job 14:4)
1. The Calvinist argument demands that "unclean" means "totally depraved."
2. But what about Jesus who was born of woman (Gal. 4:4; Heb. 2:14)? Was He totally depraved? Are infants thus born sinful and therefore lost (Eph. 5:5)? Verse simply means no one is without sin (1 Jn. 1:8, 10; cf. Job 25:4).
F. Righteousness as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6, 7)
1. The context refers to God's people who had turned to sin.
2. There is no reference to inherited depravity.
G. Depravity of man (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Prov. 22:15; Eccl. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Mk. 7:21; et al.)
1. Calvinists cite numerous passages that refer to evil in the hearts of men to justify total depravity.
2. One problem with appealing to these passages to prove total depravity is that they prove what no one denies. Men are depraved in the sense of being "very crooked."
3. But, as Charles G. Finney observes, the depravity of man is not to be taken "in the sense of original or constitutional crookedness, but in the sense of having become crooked. The term does not imply original malconformation, but lapsed, fallen, departed from right or straight" (Systematic Theology 164). Sin leaves the heart deceitful and sick, and such a corrupt heart becomes the source of more sin.
4. None of these passages affirms anything about man's inborn, corrupt nature.
H. Children of the devil
1. Several passages refer to "children of the devil" (1 Jn. 3:8-10), "sons of the evil one" (Mt. 13:37-39), "your father the devil" (Jn. 8:44), or "in the snare of the devil" (2 Tim. 2:25, 26).
2. Calvinists assume that since Adam imitated the devil, we all--the entire race--are born sinners.
3. John's answer should suffice: "the one who practices sin is of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8).
4. One must assume what is not taught in these passages in order to find original sin.
I. The natural man (1 Cor. 2:14)
1. The context deals with the necessity of a divine revelation of God's things in order for man to know the mind of God.
2. The "natural" man refers simply to the uninspiried, or to man without divine revelation.
3. We now have "spiritual things" made known -- formerly they were unknown -- by "spiritual words." Man without the revealed words of the Spirit did not know the things of God; but man with that revelation made through Paul and other "spiritual" men does know the things of God.
4. This passage has nothing to do with inherited depravity of man.
J. The carnal mind (Rom. 8:7, 8)
1. The carnal (fleshly) mind is putting the mind upon things other than the things of the Spirit.
2. This has to do with the way one "walks" (orders his life) and not with anything inherited. One who minds the flesh cannot please God. Man has control over how he walks (cf. Rom. 6:12-13, 16-18).
K. The universality of sin (Rom. 3:9-20; Eccl. 7:20)
1. These passages simply affirm that all men commit sin, that all have gone out of the way, have become unprofitable, etc.
2. There is no reference here to inherited depravity.
VII. Biblical evidence for the freedom of the human will
A. The fact that God has always dealt with man on the basis of law
1. Law in the garden (Gen. 2:15-17; 3:3-4)
2. Law from Adam to Moses (Rom. 4:15; 5:13)
3. Law of Moses (Jn. 1:17; Heb. 10:28)
4. Law to Christ (1 Cor. 9:21)
B. The conditional nature of God's blessings
1. Moses at Sinai (Exo. 19:3-8)
2. Moses in Moab (Deut. 8:1-13; 11:13-17)
3. Blessings and curses at Gerazim and Ebal (Deut. 28-30, esp. 30:15-20)
4. Joshua's farewell (Josh. 23:11-16); at Shechem (24:15)
5. God's covenant with Solomon (1 Kings 9:6, 7)
6. Conditions of forgiveness (Mk. 16:15, 16; etc.)
7. Consequences of obedience and disobedience (Heb. 5:8, 9; 1 Thess. 1:7-9)
C. The necessity of making choices
1. Abraham (Heb. 11:8, 17)
2. Moses (Heb. 11:24, 25)
3. Ninevites (Jonah 3:1f)
4. The call to repent and obey (Mk. 16:15, 16; Acts 2:36-41; etc)
D. Individual responsibility for sin (Ezek. 18:4, 20, 23, 30-32)
E. Man's accountability in judgment (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12)
F. God's desire and will for the salvation of all men (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4), even though many will be lost (Matt. 7:21)
VIII. Biblical descriptions of the nature of sin as opposed to inherited sin
A. Transgression of law (1 Jn. 3:4)
B. Unrighteousness (1 Jn. 5:17)
1. Righteousness is defined by God's commandments (Psa. 119:172). Righteousness is what one practices or does (1 Jn. 3:7, 8).
2. Unrighteousness, or sin, is therefore the doing of that which is contrary to God's commandments.
C. The performance of that which is contrary to one's faith or conviction (Rom. 14:21-23).
D. Failure to do what one knows to be right (James 4:17)
1. The ancient pagan world sinned against knowledge (Rom. 1:21, 28, 32).
2. Some people turn from the way of righteousness after having known it (2 Pet. 2:20-22).
3. Some people hear, but do not obey (Jas. 1:22-25; Matt. 7:24-27).
IX. Further Biblical arguments against inherited sin and inherited depravity
A. Jesus used children to exemplify what we must become to enter the kingdom (Matt. 18:1-6; 19:14; Lk. 18:15-17). How can proponents of inherited depravity consistently explain this?
B. Christ Himself partook of human nature (Heb. 2:16, 17; Lk. 3:38; Gal. 4:4). Yet He was without sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:21-24). How do Catholics explain this? How do Calvinists handle it?
C. Neither sin nor the guilt of sin can be transmitted or imputed to another (Ezek. 18:20).
D. The Bible speaks of man as made in the image of God long after Adam's sin in Eden.
1. Murder and cursing are forbidden because man is made in God's image (Gen. 9:6; Jas. 3:9).
2. Sin defaces that image, but we are to put on the "new self" created in His image and likeness (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).
3. We are to be holy in all our conduct as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
Arminius, Writings, II:472; I:252-253, 523-531
Buswell, J. Oliver, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, I:231-320
Calvin, John, Institutes, II.1.1-11; III.3.12-13
Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, 490-514
Steele & Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, 24-30
Strong, A. H., Systematic Theology, II:465-664
Wiley, H. Orton, Christian Theology, II:96-140
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PREDESTINATION AND ELECTION
A. John Calvin set forth his view of predestination as follows: "We call predestination God's eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death" (III.21.5).
B. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, God has unchangeably ordained whatever comes to pass (III.1-3).
1. This includes the particular and unchangeable number predestinated to everlasting life and the particular and unchangeable number foreordained to damnation (III.4-5).
2. God has elected or chosen these particular individuals without any conditions whatsoever on the part of those being saved or lost (III.5).
C. Predestination refers to "the counsel of God concerning fallen men, including the sovereign election of some and the righteous reprobation of the rest" (Berkhof 109). There are two parts to predestination:
a. "Election is that eternal act of God, by which in his sovereign pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, he chooses certain out of the number of sinful men to be the recipients of the special grace of his Spirit, and so to be made partakers of Christ's salvation" (Strong III: 779).
b. Characteristics of election according to Calvinism (Berkhof 114-115):
(1) It is an expression of the sovereign will of God, His divine good pleasure (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Jn. 4:9).
(2) It is immutable, and therefore renders the salvation of the elect certain (Rom. 8:29, 30; 11:29; 2 Tim. 2:19).
(3) It is eternal, that is, from eternity (Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:4, 5).
(4) It is unconditional (Rom. 9:11; Acts 13:48; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 2:8, 10; 2 Tim. 2:21).
(5) It is irresistible (Psa. 110:3; Phil. 2:13).
(6) It is not chargeable with injustice (Matt. 20:14, 15; Rom. 9:14, 15).
(7) While its proximate purpose is the salvation of the elect, the final aim is the glory of God (Rom. 11:7-11; 2 Thess. 2:13; Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
a. Reprobation is "that eternal decree of God whereby He has determined to pass some men by with the operations of His special grace, and to punish them for their sins, to the manifestation of His justice" (Berkhof 116).
b. Reprobation is usually represented as comprising two elements: preterition (the determination to pass by some men in the bestowal of regenerating and saving grace) and condemnation (the determination to punish those who are passed by for their sins).
(1) Preterition is viewed as a sovereign act of God based solely on His good pleasure; its reason is not known to anyone but God.
(2) Condemnation is a judicial act, the punishment justly deserved by sinners.
c. Reprobation is argued solely "from the logic of the situation" (Berkhof 117). In other words, if election of some is assumed, then reprobation of the rest is implied.
D. The question of the order of God's decrees has been debated among Calvinists since the Arminian controversy. The issue centers on the question of whether the fall of man was also included in the divine decree. Was the first sin of man, the fall, predestinated, or was this merely the object of divine foreknowledge. There are basically two positions:
1. Supralapsarianism includes in the decree of predestination the decree to create and to permit the fall. Man was predestined as certain to be created and to fall. According to the view, the logical order of the decrees is:
a. The decree of God to demonstrate His grace and justice in the salvation of some and the perdition of the rest.
b. The decree to create both those who are to be saved and those who are to be reprobated.
c. The decree to permit them to fall.
d. The decree to provide salvation to the elect, and to condemn the rest.
2. Sublapsarianism refers the decree to create and to permit the fall to the decree of God in general, but not to the special decree of predestination. Man was already created and fallen when God predestinated salvation for some. The logical order is thus:
a. The decree to create man in holiness and blessedness.
b. The decree to permit man to fall.
c. The decree to provide salvation in Christ sufficient for all.
d. The decree to secure the actual acceptance of salvation by some, ie, election.
3. This issue arises as a result of attempts to press the logical implications of the doctrine of predestination.
A. Arminius, in "Declaration of Sentiments" (Writings I: 247f) defined predestination in terms of four divine decrees, given in a logical order (see Bangs, Arminius 350-355):
1. Election of Jesus Christ. The foundation of the decree is Christological. All election is "in Christ."
2. Election of the Church. The purpose was "to receive in favor those who repent and believe..." No one is in Christ except by faith. Predestination is thus viewed as the class of believers. Repentance is a characteristic of the elect.
3. The appointment of means. God predetermined repentance and faith to be the necessary, sufficient and powerful means of election, produced by the preaching of the gospel and God's mercy and justice.
4. The election of individuals. This rests upon the foreknowledge of God, and is subordinate to the Christological basis of election. The gospel teaches "what kind of men God has chosen to life".
B. Thus Arminianism holds "that predestination is the gracious purpose of God to save mankind from utter ruin. It is not an arbitrary, indiscriminate act of God intended to secure the salvation of so many and no more. In includes provisionally, all men in its scope, and is conditioned solely on faith in Jesus Christ" (Wiley II: 337).
C. According to Wiley, "Election differs from predestination in this, that election implies a choice, whereas predestination does not" (II: 337).
1. Predestination refers to the gracious plan of saving men (Jn. 3:16).
2. Election pertains to the chosen ones who are holy and blameless before Him in love (Eph. 1:4, 5, 11-13). The elect are known through the visible fruits of holiness. They are chosen, not by absolute decree, but by acceptance of the conditions of the call.
D. Objections that Arminian theologians have levelled against Augustinian/Calvinistic predestination include the following from Wesley in a pamphlet, "Serious Considerations on Absolute Predestination" (qtd. in Wiley II: 338). Similar objections may be found in the writings of Arminius himself.
1. It is injurious to God, because it makes Him the author of sin.
2. It is injurious to God, because it represents Him as delighting in the death of sinners, contrary to His own declaration (Ezek. 33:11; 1 Tim. 2:4).
3. It is injurious to Christ in that it makes His mediation to be of no effect with regard to most of mankind.
4. It makes the preaching of the gospel a mockery and delusion.
5. It makes the coming of Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, instead of an act of love, a severe act of divine indignation against mankind, since only a few are ordained to salvation.
6. It is injurious to mankind, since most are destined for eternal torment and unhappiness.
III. The Bible doctrine of predestination and election
A. The New Testament speaks of God's eternal purpose which was "for ages" hidden in the mind of God, but has now been revealed in the gospel of Christ (Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Eph. 3:1-11).
B. The election of men is comprehended only "in Christ" (Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Tim. 1:9).
1. Christ is pictured in prophecy as God's elect or chosen one (Isa. 42:1-7; 49:1-13).
2. Christ in the New Testament is the One chosen, foreordained, and sanctified before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 2:4; 1:20; Jn. 10:36).
3. The election of men is through the mediatorial and atoning work of Christ on the cross (2 Tim. 2:5; Matt. 20:28; Jn. 3:16; 12:32; 2 Cor. 5:19-21).
4. The election to salvation is only in union with Christ (Eph. 1:4, 6, 7, etc.).
5. "The certainty of election and perseverance is with respect, not to particular individual men unconditionally, but rather with respect to the ekklesia, the corporate body of all who, through living faith, are in union with Christ, the true Elect and the Living Covenant between God and all who trust in His righteous Servant" (Robert Shank, Elect in the Son 49). This means that in Christ God has chosen a certain group or kind of people (Eph. 1:4; 5:27; Col. 1:22-23).
C. The "election of grace" embraces "all men" potentially (Rom. 11:5; Tit. 2:11).
1. "Whosoever shall call..." in the "last days" (Acts 2:17-21; Rom. 10:12-14).
2. God does not will that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9).
3. God desires that all men be saved (1 Tim. 2:4).
4. God desires mercy on all (Rom. 11:32).
5. God sent His Son into the world that the world through Him might be saved (Jn. 3:16f).
6. The gospel call is to be preached to all men (Mk. 16:15; Matt. 18:19).
D. Election is not unconditional.
1. The provision for the reconciliation of all men is limited in its application by the one factor of the personal response of individual men (2 Cor. 5:19-20).
2. God's provision of salvation is appropriated by man's faith (Eph. 2:8).
3. God chose us through sanctification and belief in the truth (2 Thess. 2:13-14).
4. Man chooses to make God's calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:5-11).
5. Various scriptures teach that God's provisions are appropriated by man's response (Jn. 1:11f; 3:16f; 6:33, 35, 51; Mk. 16:15-16; 1 Tim. 4:10).
6. Romans 9:6-29 does not teach unconditional election. (See Shank's excellent discussion of this passage in Elect in the Son 133ff.)
a. When studied in its context, the passage clearly is seen to deal with the question of the circumstance of Israel, rather than the personal salvation of the individual. Paul's argument affirms only that God as sovereign Creator is free to order all things as He pleases and to bestow or deny favors as He chooses without becoming answerable to men. This was especially needful for the Jewish Christians who were disturbed over the circumstance of Israel and coming close to denying God's wisdom and righteousness (Shank 118-119).
b. The extended passage shows that the basis of Israel's fall (and thus of election of some and hardening of others) is unbelief; but that the fall is not final, that there is a remnant, that they are not beyond recovery if they will turn from unbelief (9:30-11:36).
7. Romans 8:28-30 is used by Calvinists to argue unconditional election.
a. There is nothing the passage to suggest that the election is unconditional.
b. Note that God's predestinating plan was that those whom He foreknew would become conformed to the image of Christ. Those whom He foreknew are simply those called according to His purpose.
8. Many passages teach that election is not of works but of grace (Rom. 4:1-5, 16; 11:5-6; Eph. 2:8; 2 Tim. 1:9).
a. No one can be justified by works of law, for no one has done all (Rom. 3:20, 23; Gal. 2:16; 3:10-11).
b. None of these passages, however, suggest that election is not conditioned on faith. In other words, faith itself is a condition of election and salvation.
c. This important principle in no way mitigates against the teaching that man must obey the gospel (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Heb. 5:9).
E. Unconditional election is not demanded by the sovereignty of God.
1. The sovereignty of God is in no way contingent or dependent on the fact or mode or extent of election (Shank 144). Nor is it affected by the fact that some men reject the purpose of God (Lk. 7:30).
2. The fact that God's election is potentially for all men, is comprehended only in Christ, and is conditional upon man's faith and obedience in no way impinges on His sovereignty (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; Tit. 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9).
F. Calvinists often cite numerous Bible passages stating that God has people who are called the chosen or elect (see Steele and Thomas 31-33). None of them teaches about individuals being personally and unconditionally elected unto salvation before the foundation of the world. The Calvinistic assumptions are read into these passages.
IV. Consequences of unconditional election in light of the Bible
A. It makes God ultimately responsible for sin. But see James 1:13-17.
B. It make the free moral agency of man an impossibility, although men are instructed in the Bible to make choices (Josh. 24:15; Lk. 13:3; Jn. 8:24; Heb. 11:24-25).
C. It makes a mockery of the Biblical teaching about a judgment in which God holds men responsible for their deeds (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12; Rev. 20:12-15).
D. It renders meaningless the Biblical emphasis on preaching the gospel to all men (Rom. 10:13-17).
Arminius, Writings I:211-251
Bangs, Carl, Arminius, 350-355
Berkhof, Louis, Systematic Theology, 109-125
Buswell, J. Oliver, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, II:133-215
Calvin, Institutes, III.21-24.5
Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, 669-691
Shank, Robert, Elect in the Son
Steele & Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, 30-38
Strong, A. H., Systematic Theology, III:777-790
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THE EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST
I. The Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement follows logically from the doctrine of particular, unconditional election. The position is variously stated by the following representative Calvinists.
A. The Westminster Confession of Faith at several points states that Christ's redemptive, atoning work on the cross was only for the elect.
1. "The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself...hath full satisfied the justice of his Father, and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance...for all those whom the Father hath given unto him" (VIII.5).
2. "...the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof [the work of redemption] were communicated unto the elect..." (VIII.6).
3. "God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins..." (XI.4).
B. "Historical or main line Calvinism has consistently maintained that Christ's redeeming work was definite in design and accomplishment--that it was intended to render complete satisfaction for these individuals and for no one else" (Steele and Thomas 39).
C. A. H. Strong says, "The Scriptures represent the atonement as having been made for all men, and as sufficient for the salvation of all. Not the atonement therefore is limited, but the application of the atonement through the work of the Holy Spirit." It is "a universal atonement, but a special application of it to the elect..." (II: 771-773).
D. J. Oliver Buswell (II: 141-144) states that the atonement of Christ is universal in three respects:
1. It is sufficient for all.
2. It is applicable to all.
3. It is offered to all.
He then says that the atonement is particular in two points:
4. In its ultimate results.
5. In its design and intention. "Within the decrees of God, the atonement was intended to accomplish precisely what it does accomplish. It accomplishes the salvation for the elect of God..." (II: 142).
E. "The Reformed position is that Christ died for the purpose of actually and certainly saving the elect, and the elect only. This is equivalent to saying that He died for the purpose of saving only those to whom He actually applies the benefits of His redemptive work" (Berkhof 394).
F. "Whether the expression 'limited atonement' is good or not, we must reckon with the fact that unless we believe in the final restoration of all men we cannot have an unlimited atonement. If we universalise the extent we limit the efficacy. If some of those for whom atonement was made and redemption wrought perish eternally, then the atonement is not itself efficacious" (John Murray, Redemption--Accomplished and Applied 74, qtd. in Shank, Elect 71).
II. It is apparent from these statements that not all Calvinists express the same views regarding the extent of the atonement (see Shank 70f).
A. Some, following Calvin, acknowledge the provisional universality of the atonement, but limit its application to the elect. They follow the Augustinian formula, "Sufficient for all, efficient for the elect."
B. Others, following the doctrine set forth in the Westminster Confession, limit the atonement both provisionally and in its application to the elect.
C. Either way it is stated the end result is the same.
III. The Arminian position is summarized well by H. Orton Wiley: "The atonement is universal. This does not mean that all mankind will be unconditionally saved, but that the sacrificial offering of Christ so far satisfied the claims of the divine law as to make salvation a possibility for all. Redemption is therefore universal or general in the provisional sense, but special or conditional in its application to the individual. It is for this reason that the universal aspect is sometimes known as the sufficiency of the atonement" (II: 295).
IV. The Scriptures affirm the universality of the atonement.
A. Christ "gave Himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:4-6).
B. "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29).
C. "The bread which I also shall give for the life of the world is My flesh" (Jn. 6:51).
D. Christ tasted death "for every man" (Heb. 2:9).
E. He is the "propitiation for our sins...also for those of the whole world" (1 Jn. 2:2).
F. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19).
G. The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of "all men" (Tit. 2:11).
H. See also Jn. 3:16f; 12:32f; 1 Jn. 4:14.
V. Calvinists argue that the passages that speak of Christ's dying for all men or for the world are simply stating that Christ died not only for Jews but also for Gentiles (Steele and Thomas 46). However, the context of each passage will show this to be a false assumption.
VI. The doctrine of limited atonement in Calvinist thought results from the following assumptions. The various passages that speak of Christ's redemptive work are interpreted to fit what has been assumed:
A. It is a logical necessity dictated by the doctrine of unconditional, particular election.
B. It is assumed that we are confronted with the necessity of choosing between an atonement unlimited in extent but limited in efficacy, and an atonement limited in extent but unlimited in efficacy. (The summary of the Biblical position given by Shank (85-86) suggests a third alternative: "The atonement is efficacious for all men potentially, for no man unconditionally, and for the Israel of God efficiently.")
C. It is assumed that a limited or particular atonement is necessary to preserve the sovereignty of God.
VII. The universal extent of the atonement is necessarily implied in the Great Commission (Matt. 18:19; Mk. 16:15, 16; Lk. 24:47). Why preach the gospel to "every creature" if Christ's death was only for certain ones?
VIII. The only limitation of the atonement is in the fact that not all accept it. Consider 2 Peter 2:1, where it is stated that some even "deny the Lord who bought them."
Arminius, Writings, III:451-474
Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, 568-607
Steele & Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, 38-47
Wiley, H. Orton, Christian Theology, II:270-300
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REGENERATION, EFFECTUAL CALLING, INFALLIBLE GRACE
I. The Westminster Confession of Faith sets forth the Calvinistic doctrine of irresistible or efficacious or infallible grace as follows: "All those whom God hath predestined unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace (X.1).
A. Calvin, appealing to Augustine, stated that when God is pleased to save, there is no free will in man to resist. "It is not, then, to be doubted that the will of God...cannot be resisted by human wills so as to prevent his doing what he wills, since he does with the very wills of men what he wills" (Institutes III.23.14).
B. The following quote shows how this part of Calvinistic doctrine is a logical consequence of the doctrine of unconditional election and the sovereignty of God: "The doctrine of infallible grace is analytically implied in what has been said of the doctrines of unconditional election and particular atonement. If God has elected to save a people, and has provided for the certainty of their salvation, it follows that He will infallibly accomplish that salvation. To approach the matter from another angle, if one denies that the elect of God will, infallibly, be saved, he denies the efficacy of the atonement, and he denies the doctrine of election. Moreover, if God had elected to save some who would not actually be saved, the entire structure of God's decrees would be demolished. God's government of the world would be uncertain and God's sovereignty denied" (Buswell II: 144-145).
II. Calvinists distinguish between the external calling and the internal calling (Berkhof 459-464, 469-470):
A. External calling or common grace refers to a general calling that is universal, that presents the facts of the gospel and the doctrine of redemption, that invites man to accept Christ in repentance and faith, and that promises forgiveness and salvation. It is presupposed in the Great Commission. This external calling, however, is not efficacious, evidence of which is the fact that the gospel is often rejected (Matt. 22:2-14; Lk. 14:16-24).
B. Internal calling or special grace is a calling of the elect by the Word, "savingly applied by the operation of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 1:23-24; 1 Pet. 2:9); a powerful calling, that is, a calling that is effectual to salvation (Acts 13:48); and it is a call that is not subject to change and is never withdrawn (Rom. 11:29).
III. Regeneration is defined by Berkhof as "that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy" (469).
IV. Effectual calling and regeneration are described as being related to each other as follows:
A. There is the external call through the preaching of the Word, that precedes or coincides with the operation of the Holy Spirit.
B. Man is regenerated, that is, he is begotten again. This is enabling grace by which man is enabled to hear the call of God to salvation. Man is wholly passive in this act of God. "There is no co-operation of the sinner in this work whatsoever" (Berkhof 473). Passages cited include Ezek. 11:19; Jn. 1:13; Acts 16:14; Rom. 9:16; Phil. 2:13.
C. Man now receives the effectual, inner calling "through the instrumentality of the word of preaching, effectively applied by the Spirit of God" (Berkhof 471). As a result, "the desire to resist has been changed to a desire to obey, and the sinner yields to the persuasive influence of the Word through the operation of the Holy Spirit" (Berkhof 471).
D. The new life begins to manifest itself. Man is born again, or converted.
V. Arminian theology (as summarized by Wiley II: 340f)
A. The gracious call of God is God's offer of salvation to all men through Christ. It is universal and includes the proclamation of the gospel, the terms of salvation, and the command to submit to Christ.
B. "Awakening" refers to the operation of the Holy Spirit by which men's minds are quickened to a consciousness of their lost estate. This is both through the Word and through direct operation.
C. "Conviction" is produced when the Spirit creates a sense of guilt and condemnation because of sin.
D. Arminianism rejects the Calvinistic concept of effectual calling as an interior grace or compelling power by which the mind is led to accept the gospel and yield to the Spirit. They reject "that God gives a universal call to all men, and then secretly withholds the power to believe or accept the call from all those He has not especially chosen to salvation" (Wiley II: 344).
E. "Prevenient grace...is that grace which 'goes before' or prepares the soul for entrance into the initial state of salvation. It is the preparatory grace of the Holy Spirit exercised toward man helpless in sin. As it respects the guilty, it may be considered mercy; as it respects the impotent, it is enabling power" (Wiley II: 345). Arminius said, "I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good" (II: 472). The assumption is man's depravity, or loss of the moral image of God, wherein they agree with Calvinism.
F. Arminianism, however, insists upon synergism, or the cooperation of divine grace and the human will. Prevenient grace becomes saving grace when man's will cooperates with the Spirit and is led to repentance, saving faith, and conversion.
VI. What is the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion?
A. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would "convict the world concerning sin..." (Jn. 16:8-11).
B. The Holy Spirit revealed the will of God through inspired men (Jn. 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:9-13).
C. Saving faith is produced by the word which the Spirit revealed (Rom. 10:17; Acts 15:7; 18:8; Jn. 17:20; 20:30-31).
D. The word has sufficient power to accomplish conversion.
1. Able to produce the new birth (1 Pet. 1:23, 25).
2. Able to save (Jas. 1:21; Acts 11:14; Rom. 1:16).
3. Able to prick hearts and lead to repentance and obedience (Acts 2:37-41).
4. Able to draw men to Christ (John 6:44-45).
E. The Holy Spirit uses agents, or means, in His work of reaching and convicting the hearts of men.
1. Sword -- the word of God (Eph. 6:17).
2. Seed -- the word of God (Lk. 8:11).
3. Law -- His revealed word (Rom. 8:2).
F. All cases of conversion in the New Testament took place through the preaching of the word and not by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit.
1. Jews on Pentecost (Acts 2:36-41).
2. Samaritans (Acts 8:5-12),
3. Ethiopian (Acts 8:25-29).
4. Philippian jailor (Acts 16:29-34).
5. Corinthians (Acts 18:4-8).
G. Things accomplished by the Spirit are also attributed to the word.
1. Born again by the Spirit (Jn. 3:5); by the word (1 Pet. 1:23).
2. Saved by the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11); by the word (Acts 11:14).
3. Sanctified by the Spirit (1 Pet. 1:2); by the word (Jn. 17:17).
4. Washed by the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11); by the word (Eph. 5:26).
VII. Scriptural considerations concerning the grace of God.
A. The Calvinist doctrine of effectual calling and regeneration is based in part upon a faulty concept of grace.
1. They view grace as a quantitative entity, power or instrumentality to be used by God as He pleases.
2. Grace (charis) in the Bible is primarily an attribute or disposition: "good-will, lovingkindness, favor...kindness which bestows on one what he has not deserved" (Thayer). At times it is used of the gifts bestowed as a result of this kindly disposition.
B. Grace is not "irresistible". Consider the following:
1. It is possible to frustrate the grace of God (Gal. 2:21).
2. Receive not the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).
3. It is possible to insult the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29).
4. Some have resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51).
5. "My spirit shall not strive with man forever" (Gen. 6:3).
Berkhof, Louis, Systematic Theology, 454-479
Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, 692-721
Strong, A. H., Systematic Theology, III:790-849
Wiley, H. Orton, Christian Theology, II:340f
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JUSTIFICATION, SANCTIFICATION, & PERSEVERANCE
A. In the New Testament, the doctrine of justification is set forth by the verb dikaioo, to declare a person to be just, or "to render righteous or such as he ought to be"; by the adjective dikaios, righteous, or "such as he ought to be" in relation to the law; the noun dikaiosis, justification or "the act of declaring men free from guilt and acceptable to him"; and dikaiosune, righteousness or "the state of one who is such as he ought to be" (Thayer). See Romans 3:20-28; 4:5-7, 11-13; 5:1, 16-18; 6:13-20 Galatians 2:16; 3:11; 5:4; et al.
B. Calvinist definition of justification and imputation of Christ's righteousness
1. "Justification is a judicial act of God, in which He declares, on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that all the claims of the law are satisfied with respect to the sinner" (Berkhof 513).
2. The Westminster Confession of Faith teaches that God justifies those he effectually calls "not by infusing righteousness into them [the Catholic position], but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous...nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing [the Arminian position], or any other evangelical obedience to them...but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them" (XI.1).
3. "The sinner is declared righteous in view of the fact that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him. In this transaction God appears, not as an absolute Sovereign who simply sets the law aside, but as a righteous Judge, who acknowledges the infinite merits of Christ as a sufficient basis of justification, and as a gracious Father, who freely forgives and accepts the sinner" (Berkhof 517).
4. These quotes illustrate that a prominent feature of the Calvinist's understanding of justification is the personal active obedience or righteousness of Christ is imputed to the elect, rendering them legally as righteous is if they themselves had perfectly obeyed the law of God.
C. Arminian definition of justification and imputation
1. "Justification is that judicial or declarative act of God, by which He pronounces those who believingly accept the propitiatory offering of Christ, as absolved from their sins, released from their penalty, and accepted as righteous before Him" (Wiley II: 381).
2. The Calvinist doctrine that the personal righteousness of Christ is imputed for righteousness is rejected by most Arminian theologians. It is "faith itself, as a personal act of the believer, and not the object of that faith that is imputed for righteousness" (Wiley II: 400).
D. The Biblical doctrine of imputation
1. The word impute, account, or reckon (logizomai) is found several times in Romans 4 and 5. It means to "put to one's account" (Vine) or "pass to one's account" (Thayer).
2. The sinner is saved by the death of Christ, not His "active obedience" of perfectly keeping the law. Jesus was sent to be a sacrifice for us (Rom. 5:6-8; Gal. 3:11-14; Heb. 10:1-14; Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 1:7; Rev. 1:5; etc.).
3. Jesus' sinless life prepared Him to be the perfect sacrifice (Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:14-16; Heb. 9:18; 5:8, 9).
4. The sinner is justified or counted righteous in that his sins have been blotted out or forgiven (Rom. 4:6, 7). This is not a case of "legal fiction"--God pretending man is righteous. The justified man is righteous, for all his sins have been taken away.
5. It is man's faith in Christ that is "reckoned [imputed] as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5; etc.), not Christ's righteousness.
A. The doctrine of sanctification is set forth in the New Testament by the word hagiasmos, separation to God or the course of life befitting those so separated; hagiazo, to sanctify, consecrate or set apart; hagios, holy, saint, holy one, or one who is set apart. See Rom. 6:19, 22; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Thess. 2:13; 4:3, 4, 7; 1 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:2; et al.
B. The Calvinist position
1. "Sanctification may be defined as that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spirit, by which He delivers the justified sinner from the pollution of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God, and enables him to perform good works" (Berkhof 532).
2. Whereas justification is a legal act that affects the judicial status of man, sanctification is viewed as a moral or recreative work that changes the inner nature of man. In the Calvinist view, justification is followed immediately by sanctification, God sending the Spirit into the heart of the justified. It is a supernatural and gracious work of the Holy Spirit.
C. The Arminian position
1. Arminius defined holiness as follows: "Sanctification is a gracious act of God by which He purifies man, who is a sinner, and yet a believer, from ignorance, from indwelling sin, with its lusts and desires, and imbues him with the spirit of knowldege, righteousness, and holiness...It consists of the death of the old man, and the quickening of the new man" (qtd. in Wiley II: 454).
2. The Wesleyan movement especially emphasized and gave impetus to the development of the doctrine of perfection or entire sanctification or second work of grace.
a. Sanctification means, not only a setting apart, but also a cleansing from all sin (Wiley II: 466). "Sanctification is an act of cleansing, and unless inbred sin be removed, there can be no fullness of life, no perfection in love" (Wiley II: 476).
b. It is an act of God, "subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made free from original sin, or depravity, and brought into a state of entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love made perfect. It is wrought by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and comprehends in one experience the cleansing of the heart from sin and the abiding, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, empowering the believer for life and service" (Wiley II: 466-467).
c. The concept taught here is that the Christian can become so free from the desire to commit sin that willful transgression would never occur.
D. The Bible and sanctification (see Martin Pickup, "Sanctified in Christ", Christ and Culture at Corinth, 1996 Florida College Lectures, 27-43.)
1. Sanctification is something that occurs at conversion, a state into which one enters when his sins are forgiven (1 Cor. 6:11).
2. Sanctification also refers a Christian's conduct and to the process of separating himself from sin.
a. Christians are called to holy living, i.e., sanctification (1 Pet. 1:14-16; Eph. 1:4; 2 Cor. 7:1; 2 Tim. 2:19-22; 1 Thess. 4:3-7).
b. It is an ongoing pursuit (Rom. 6:19).
c. It is the purfifying action of God as He cleases the Christian who is continually turning from his sins (1 Jn. 1:7, 9; 1 Pet. 1:2).
3. The Holy Spirit sanctifies, but not through some means other than the gospel (see previous section on how the Holy Spirit operates).
4. Sanctification is not automatic or unconditional. It involves man's willful participation (Phil. 2:12-13).
5. The rigid separation between justification and sanctification made by Protestants leads to the view that sanctification is only the product of salvation and not something requisite for salvation. But see 2 Thess. 2:13.
6. The Bible does not teach that a Christian will attain to a state of complete sinlessness in this life; the sinless perfection of Jesus is our standard, calling us to be conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29). Anyone claiming not to commit sin is a liar (1 Jn. 1:8-10; the context of this passage is not just talking about unwitting sins).
7. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 is not talking about attaining in this life a spiritual state devoid of all willful sin; but that they will turn from sin, be cleansed of guilt, and stand purified in the judgment (3:12-13).
III. Security of the believer
A. The Calvinistic position
1. The Westminster Confession of Faith states the Calvinistic view of the perseverance of the saints: "They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved" (XVII.1).
2. Buswell explains why the doctrine logically follows unconditional election: "Here again we have a necessary implication of what has previously been said. If God has unconditionally elected to save a people, and if He has provided atonement which makes their salvation certain, it follows by inevitable logic that those whom God has elected to eternal salvation will go on to eternal salvation. In other words, a denial of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is a denial of the sovereign grace of God in unconditional election" (II: 145).
3. Calvinists do not deny that a regenerate child of God may fall into carnality (cf. Westminster Confession XVII.3). They may do so "for a time" and thus incur God's displeasure and "be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts."
4. But this does not mean they, if truly regenerate, will be lost. As Buswell explains, "so long as a professing Christian is in the state of carnality, no pastor, no Christian friend, has the slightest ground for holding that this carnal person has ever been regenerated" (II: 147).
B. The Arminian position
1. Arminius emphasized that the Biblical teaching on the security of believers is that it is conditional--"as long as they remain believers" (Bangs 348-349).
2. John Miley stated the same, in commenting on 1 Peter 1:5 and other texts: "Yes, every trusting soul is so kept. But the faith is conditional to the keeping; and as it involves a free personal agency there is here no doctrine of an absolute perseverance" (II: 269, emphasis mine, dwp).
C. The Bible view of security of believers
1. There are many passages (often cited by Calvinists) that emphasize the security of believers, but the question is whether such assurances are conditional or unconditional.
2. Numerous passages indicate either the possibility of falling from grace or the actual fact having occurred. Note that the contexts refer to people described as actually having been saved, not merely to those professing such.
a. The Ephesians (Rev. 2:1-7)
b. The Galatians (Gal. 5:1-4)
c. Christians in Asia Minor (2 Pet. 1:3-11)
d. Simon (Acts 8:13-24)
3. God's promises of security and eternal life are to those who believe. Can a believer cease to be a believer?
a. Shipwreck of faith (1 Tim. 1:19)
b. Faith overthrown (2 Tim. 2:18, 19)
c. Denying the faith (1 Tim. 5:8)
d. Believe then fall away (Lk. 8:13)
e. Led astray from the faith (1 Tim. 6:10)
4. Other passages that teach the consequences of believers who fall away:
a. Branches cast forth and burned (Jn. 15:3-6)
b. Fallen--impossible to renew to repentance (Heb. 6:4-6)
c. Worse state than before (2 Pet. 2:20-22)
d. Punishment in store for apostates (Heb. 10:26-31)
e. Believers "cut off" (Rom. 11:20-23)
f. Erring need to be converted (Jas. 5:19, 20)
5. Various passages refer to "eternal life" as something Christians presently have. Calvinists say this means it can never be lost (Jn. 3:36; 5:24; 1 Jn. 5:11, 12).
a. Robert Shank shows the basic misunderstanding of the Calvinist: "Eternal life is eternal. But the Bible declares that eternal life--the very life of God Himself--can only be shared with men. It cannot be possessed by men apart from the living union with Christ, in and through whom that life is available to men.... If we fail to abide in Him, the eternal life continues, but our participation in that life ceases. We share that life only as we continue to abide in Him 'who is our life'" (Life in the Son 52, 54).
b. Thus, the possession or participation of eternal life, as well as the promise of future enjoyment of life beyond, are clearly conditional upon one's faith (1 Jn. 2:24, 25).
c. The sheep who hear Christ's voice and follow Him are those who have eternal life (Jn. 10:27-30).
d. The one who hears and believes has eternal life and "does not come into judgment" or condemnation (Jn. 5:24). But John 3:36 states the unbeliever shall not see life. Both statements are conditional.
6. 1 John 3:8, 9 does not teach the absolute impossibility of a child of God committing sin (see 1 Jn. 1:8-10). The habitual practice of sin, which is not characteristic of a child of God, is under consideration.
Arminius, Writings, I:254-257; II:472-73
Calvin, Institutes, III.2.33-37; III.24.6-11
Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, 722-735, 746-762, 788-809
Pickup, Martin, "Sanctified in Christ", Christ and Culture at Corinth, 1996 Florida College Lectures, 27-43.
Shanks, Robert, Life in the Son
Steele & Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, 48-60
Strong, A. H., Systematic Theology, III:849-886
Wiley, H. Orton, Christian Theology, II:440-517
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