Why do most Christians call grace (that saves) amazing? They can’t see that it is they who are

 

When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.

The good news of the Bible, writes Steve Lawson, is that God saves sinners, God the Father chose His elect, gave them to the Son, commissioned the Son to redeem them, and sends the Spirit to regenerate them, God the Son laid down His life for the sheep, securing their salvation, God the Spirit gives repentance, faith, and eternal life to these chosen ones. Salvation is a great Work of the triune God’s amazing grace.” (The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon (Long Line of Godly Men Profiles).

Calvinism and Arminianism both agree with all the points in the above paragraph, so what is the difference?

Arminians maintain that the “elect” are sinners that God selected on the basis of God foreseeing from eternity that they would decide to choose to permit God to raise them from (spiritual) death. They love singing the song “Amazing grace (that saved a wretch like me).”

Would it make sense to tell the Arminian that the ultimate reason why people are not saved is because there is something bad in them (in their wills) that causes them to reject the Gospel, and so deserve damnation? Of course it would make sense; it’s clear as day. What about people who are saved? What is the final clincher in God’s decision to save them. For the Arminian – there is no escaping it – the clincher is their decision, something in them, something good in them.

Most Arminians will vehemently deny that the reason why God saved them was because there was something good in them (a good will). In sum, those who say no to Christ deserve to go to hell, and those who say yes to Christ deserve to go to heaven. Rare is the Arminian who says he deserves to go to heaven. He knows deep down in his confused or stubborn soul that there would be nothing amazing about grace if the reason why he was ultimately saved (the final step in his salvation/justification/ reconciliation with God/regeneration) was something he did, not what grace did. I know of one Arminian who. I suggest, tried to wriggle out of the logical conclusion by stating that although he deserved to be saved/justified/made right(eous), this righteousness does not come from himself but from the imputed righteousness of Christ. He was probably thinking of 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The question, however, still remains: why did this person deserve that God impute Christ’s righteousness to him?

If only Arminians could understand or accept 1. the different contexts of “all” and “world” in the New Testament, 2. there is no contradiction between human responsibility and God’s decrees, and 3. God chooses the means as well as the ends of salvation.

Here is and example of each of the three:

  1. All” and “world.”

All

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

“Any” and “all” refer to any, all of “us” (believers). If God wills someone not to perish, he won’t perish. Yet many do perish.

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Romans 9

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.

(See The Apostle Peter takes a leaf off Mr Bean: My bodee is my toooooool).

World

Here is the NIV translation of John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Who(so)ever” (NIV) has the deceptive connotation of “whoever decides to believe in him.” The Greek says (Young’s Literal Translation – YLT) “every one who is believing in him may not perish.”

Contrast verse 16 (NIV) with verse 18 (NIV) “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” more correctly “he who is believing in him is not judged, but he who is not believing has been judged already, because he hathnot believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (YLT).

How to reconcile “God so loved the world” (verse 16) with “he who is not believing is judged already?” (YLT) This is where Arminianism splits and splutters. In Reformed theology (“Calvinist” if you like), it’s quite simple. “World” in verse 16 does not mean everyone in the world. There are several texts in the Bible that explain why it can’t mean everyone in the world. Verse 18 is one of them. I ask the Arminian: “Does Jesus love the unbelieving ones whom he is going to judge – send to hell, and whom he “knows from the beginning” (John 6:64) – from eternity?” Of course not; he hates them, as he hated all mankind before he chose to have mercy on some and save some as in Romans 9 above.

(See God loves you, he loves you, he loves you. “Since when?).

  1. There is no contradiction between human responsibility and God’s decrees.

Acts 2:23

“This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

God foreknows because he decreed it. If he didn’t decree it then he was up in heaven saying – from eternity: “Look what those meany Romans AND Jews are going to do to my Son. Oh, well, I am not, as Clive Staples Lewis says, a God of risks for nothing”

Calvinists have no problem with this verse because they love divinely inspired scripture to bits. Of course, it is difficult to wrap this verse round your head. Don’t you know that you and I are and always will remain blockheads when it comes to understanding all the counsel of God. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29) – and all (without exception) the words of scripture.

  1. God chooses the means as well as the ends.

One of the silliest – we’re all blockheads, some more than others – utterances popular with many Arminian preachers is that if salvation is 100% of the Lord – God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy – then there is no point to evangelising. God choose the ends as well as the means.

The ends

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day…44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

The means

Romans 10

13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Logical Arminians say that you can lose your salvation: if you choose to follow Christ, then it follows, as in the blogosphere, that they can choose to unfollow Christ. You might as well be Mohammed whose followers, every time mention his name, has to say “Peace be upon him,” that is, “I pray that he is no in hell.” Or a Jew, who is never sure whether he has done enough to merit salvation. A bad death.

This evening, when I thought about it seriously, the tears came to my eyes. I imagined myself on that sick bed [of someone he knew] and I wondered how it would go with me if I were to be judged in this very moment. I should deserve to go to hell, but I hope I shall not be sent there. In any case I am sure I ought to be sent to purgatory. Yet the mere thought of purgatory makes me shudder. What then will become of me? Oh poor me, how wretched I am!” (See here).

When R. Yochanan ben Zakkai fell ill, his disciples came in to pay a call on him. When he saw them, he began to cry. His disciples said to him, “Light of Israel! Pillar at the right hand! Mighty hammer! On what account are you crying?” He said to them, “If I were going to be brought before a mortal king, who is here today and tomorrow gone to the grave, who, should he be angry with me, will not be angry forever; and if he should imprison me, will not imprison me forever, and if he should put me to death, whose sentence of death is not for eternity, and whom I can appease with the right words or bribe with money, even so, I should weep. “But now that I am being brought before the King of kings of kings [ben Zakkai says “kings” three times], the Holy One, blessed be He, who endures forever and ever, who, should he be angry with me, will be angry forever, and if he should imprison me, will imprison me forever, and if he should put me to death, whose sentence of death is for eternity, and whom I cannot appease with the right words or bribe with money, “1and not only so, but before me are two paths, one to the Garden of Eden and the other to Gehenna, and I do not know by which path I shall be brought, and should I not weep?” (See Ben Zakkai: Judaism, humilty and the good death).

To repeat Steve Lawson at the beginning of this article, this is what the Bible teaches:

God the Father chose His elect, gave them to the Son, commissioned the Son to redeem them, and sends the Spirit to regenerate them, God the Son laid down His life for the sheep, securing their salvation, God the Spirit gives repentance, faith, and eternal life to these chosen ones. Salvation is a great Work of the triune God’s amazing grace.”

The logical progression is: election (predestined to salvation; those the father gives to the Son from eternity, and for who Jesus prays in John 17) – regeneratIon (born again) – faith – repentance – eternal life. Regeneration, faith and repentance occur at the same time.

Amazing grace…that saved a wretch like me.”  Indeed. Christ’s deed – alone

On snobbish felines and the will to believe in Christ

On Snobbish Felines and the Freedom of the Human Will
POSTED BY AARON DENLINGER

Our local veterinary clinic — where our dog, for reasons I’d rather not relate, is not welcome — has a letter board on their grounds which typically displays humorous messages about animals. The message on display earlier this week caught my attention as I was driving to work. It read: “If cats could talk, they wouldn’t.” I must confess, this made me smirk — which is generally as close as I come to laughing. I’m no despiser of cats in principle, but they do strike me as the kind of creatures that, were they suddenly endowed with the ability to speak in human language, wouldn’t condescend to actually say anything to anyone. The sign made me wonder, in fact, if cats might not actually have the ability to speak, and simply don’t because they can’t be bothered communicating their thoughts to human beings, creatures so clearly inferior to them in every conceivable way. Can we really be sure they cannot speak if, regardless, they will not speak?
– See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/01/on-snobbish-felines-and-the-fr.php#.dpuf

Yes, Christ came to save the lost. But which ones?

I was telling a fellow Christian of my visit to an elderly man, a frequent church-goer, whom we both knew, who had collapsed twice in the last month, and was recovering at home. He was doing well and walking about. I spoke to him about such things as this world was not our home, and about judgment. My fellow Christian said to me he’s a simple person and wouldn’t understand. My fellow Christian does not understand who Christ came to seek. Yes, we know it was the “lost” but then everyone is lost, and Christ only came to seek those whom his Father gave him before the world began, and those whom the Father enabled to believe. Not so?

John 6

37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”… 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

Who were the ones given to the Son? They were the fools, the weak, the lowly, the despised, the nothings of this world. Unless you felt like this before you believed, and continue to feel so, it is certain that you’re not one of the lost Christ came to seek and died to save.

1 Corinthians 1

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

“God loves you. He loves you. He loves you.” Since when?

I learn much about both Islam and the Bible from Pastor Joseph’s Aramaic Broadcasting Network and his support staff David Wood and Sam Shamoun. It’s also great fun. There’s one thing, though, that gets my Reformed (Calvinist) goat: when he tells Muslim callers that Jesus loves them, which reminds me of a church on a hill near my home where a big red stone (not stony) heart with the words below it, also in red, “Jesus loves you” festoons the green slope of the lawn visible to passing traffic.

In one of his videos (Pastor Joseph schools a confused muslim, minute 18.15 ff), he says “God loves you, he loves you so much…It (God’s love) is in Islam a little bit. In Christianity it is so much emphasised. God loves you, he loves you so much that he gave his most precious thing; what is the most precious thing he could give? His son…In the Bible it says God is love…”

The problem here is two-fold:

First, the overemphasis on love, which pervades the majority of Christian movements, at the expense of God’s holiness, manifested in his “wrath” against sinners.

Second, God wants to save everybody without exception if only they will let God do what he, through his Son, died to do. This is the Arminian view of salvation, the majority Christian view. (See definition of Arminianism).

I focus on the second problem.

The allusion in Pastor Joseph’s “he gave his most precious thing” is among the most well-known verses in the Bible; John 3:16 (NIV) “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Who(so)ever” (NIV) has the deceptive connotation of “whoever decides to believe in him.” The Greek says (Young’s Literal Translation – YLT) “every one who is believing in him may not perish.”

Contrast verse 16 (NIV) with verse 18 (NIV) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” more correctly he who is believing in him is not judged, but he who is not believing hath been judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (YLT).

How to reconcile “God so loved the world” (verse 16) with “he who is not believing is judged already?” (YLT) This is where Arminianism splits and splutters. In Reformed theology (“Calvinist” if you like), it’s quite simple. “World” in verse 16 does not mean everyone in the world. There are several texts in the Bible that explain why it can’t mean everyone in the world. Verse 18 is one of them. I ask the Arminian: “Does Jesus love the unbelieving ones whom he is going to judge – send to hell, and whom he “knows from the beginning” (John 6:64) – from eternity?” Of course not; he hates them, as he hated all mankind before he chose to have mercy on some and save some as in Romans 9:

Romans 9

13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
 and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[h] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”

No “hated Esau” definitely does not mean “loved Esau less.” I hate a lot of noise, that is, I love it less than quiet!

Christ saves those whom the Father draws:

John 6

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day…64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

I once asked the pastor of a Methodist Church I attended for two years why he never preached on sin, or mentioned the word. He replied “Those were the harsh old days.” People need buttering up. All you need is love.

Here are a few excerpts from Gerhardus Vos’s “The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God”.



1. “There can be little doubt that in this manner the one-sidedness and exclusiveness with which the love of God has been preached to the present generation is largely responsible for that universal weakening of the sense of sin, and the consequent decline of interest in the doctrines of atonement and justification, which even in 
orthodox and evangelical circles we all see and deplore. But this by no means reveals the full extent of the danger to which the tendency we are speaking of 
has exposed us….There is, however, still another  serious defect to be noticed in this modern exploitation of the love of God, touching not the distinction of love from the other attributes, but the internal distinction between the various kinds  and degrees of affection, which in the case of a relationship so infinitely varied as that of God to 
the world are subsumed under the comprehensive term of love. The old theology was exceedingly careful in marking off these kinds and degrees from one another, and in assigning to each the group  of objects upon which it operates.

2 Elective love

To Pharaoh God speaks of Israel as His firstborn, i.e.His dearly beloved son (Ex. 4:22). Immediately before the making of the Sinaitic covenant and the promulgation of the Decalogue,  all Jehovah’s gracious dealings with His people connected with the Exodus are summed up in the  beautiful words: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:4-6). In the four classical statements, where  the Torah rises to the height of a description of the character of God, His benevolent attributes, such as lovingkindness (Chesed), mercy, grace, longsuffering, faithfulness, are strongly emphasized (Ex. 20:5, 6; 34:6, 7; Num. 14:8; Deut. 7:9, 10)… in thus bringing forward the thought of Jehovah’s  love for Israel, Deuteronomy throws special emphasis upon the elective character of this love. It is not so much the general fact that Jehovah now loves the people, but rather the special consideration that in the past at a definite moment He set His love upon them, to the exclusion of all other nations, upon which the book dwells.

3. Who are the children of God?

The extreme form of the modern theory, according to which all men as such, indiscriminately, are the children of God, certainly cannot claim our Lord’s authority in its favor. But even the less extreme form of this theory, according to which God is absolutely and equally the  Father of all mankind, whilst men may become partially and relatively His children by spiritual transformation after His image, is not in harmony with the facts. Not merely the sonship, also the fatherhood is given an exclusive reference to the disciples. Jesus always speaks of your Father, their Father, never of the Father absolutely, except where the altogether unique trinitarian relation between Himself and God is meant.

4. Love and wrath of God

So far as the actual manifestation of the love of God in human consciousness is concerned, a fundamental difference lies in this, that the enjoyment of the common love of God outside of the kingdom does not exempt man from being subject at the same time to the divine wrath on account of sin. Love and wrath here are not mutually exclusive. Within the circle of redemption, on the other hand, the enjoyment of the paternal love of God  means absolute forgiveness and deliverance from all wrath. Even this, however, is not sufficient clearly to mark the distinction between these two kinds of love, the wider and the narrower. For, previously to the  moment of believing, those who are appointed for salvation, no less than the others, are subject in their consciousness to the experience of the wrath of God. It would seem, therefore, that in his pre-Christian state the one who will later become a child of God is not differentiated from the one who never will, 

inasmuch as both are in an equal sense the objects of the general benevolence of God and of His wrath in their experience. Thus a representation would result as if the line of God’s general love ran singly up to the point of conversion, there to pass over into the line of His special love. The general love of God [without exception] would then be the only factor to be reckoned with outside of the  sphere of the kingdom; and a special love of God could be spoken of only with reference to those who have actually become His children.

5. Meaning of “all”

In the well-known passage of Romans (5:12-21), where a parallel is drawn between the first and second Adam and the spread of sin and  righteousness in the world through the transgression of the one and the obedience of the other, Paul speaks of the operation not merely of the former principle, but also of the latter as extending to all. But if this were to be interpreted in a distributive sense, as applying to every man individually, then plainly not the loving desire of God to save all, but the actual salvation of all would be affirmed, for the apostle  expressly declares that by the righteousness of the one the free gift has come upon all men unto justification of life. We are thus forced to assume that the “all” covers the totality of those who belong to the new human race  which springs from the second Adam. To find in the word “many” alternating with “all” in the context a reminder of the particularism of grace would be surely unwarranted, for this “many” is also used where the consequences of Adam’s sin are spoken of; but it would be equally unwarranted to conclude, as others have done, from the use of “all” that Paul advocated a doctrine of absolute universalism. Another instructive example of the manner in which the apostle’s wide outlook upon the cosmical reach of the grace of God influences his mode of expression is found in Romans 11:32, where, speaking of Jews and  Gentiles in their mutual relation to the gospel, he declares: “God has concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” On the same principle we must also interpret the statement in the first epistle to the Corinthians (15:22) that “as all die in Adam, so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

In the Pastoral Epistles, however, a more pronounced form of universalism seems to find expression. Here we read not only that Christ gave Himself a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:6), but also that God quickens all things (or keeps alive all things (1 Tim 6:13), that God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), that the living God is the Savior of all men especially of those that believe (1 Tim. 4:10), that in Christ the kindness of God our Savior toward men appeared (Titus 3:4). In the case of these passages the context clearly indicates that a reference of God’s saving grace or Christ’s saving work to all classes of men rather than to all men numerically considered, is  meant to be affirmed. When the apostle first exhorts that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, then specializes this as including kings and all that are in authority, and finally assigns as the ground for this duty the fact that God will have all men to be saved, it is not only allowed but demanded by the principles of sound exegesis to interpret the second “all men” in the same sense as the first. This also applies to the passage in Titus 2:11, 12, where in succession the classes of old men, old women, young women, young men, and servants are named and the manner of life appropriate to each described, whereupon the apostle adduces as the most forcible and comprehensive motive for obedience to this exhortation the fact that the grace of God which brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly,  righteously, and godly in this present world.”

I return to the Muslims that Pastor Joseph longs convert by contrasting the scarcity of love in Allah with the overabundance of love in Yahweh. Here’s Vos at the end of his book”

It (the Bible) clearly teaches that the love of God, which it makes the center of His revealed character, belongs in its highest sense to believers only: “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (3:1). If God were nothing but love, to the exclusion of all other modes of being, no difference would be possible between His attitude toward the world and His attitude toward His own…That there is something which on sound biblico-theological grounds may be so designated, our inquiry has shown. But even more clearly than this it has, we believe, brought out two other facts. In the first place, that that form of love which the Bible everywhere emphasizes and magnifies, so as to be truly called one great revelation of love, is not God’s general benevolence, but His special affection for His people. This distribution of emphasis ought to be preserved in every creedal statement which professes  to reflect biblical proportions of truth. And in the second place, we have had occasion to observe that the  Scriptures do not leave room for the opinion that at any point, either in the eternal decree or in its historical unfolding, God’s love for those intended to become His people has been undifferentiated from His love for wider groups of humanity. Every formula which would efface or even tend to obscure this fundamental distinction ought to be at the outset rejected as unbiblical. The divine love for the elect is different not only in degree but specifically from all the other forms of love, because it involves a purpose to save, of which all the other forms fall short.”

Judge to Calvinist murderer: “We don’t hang robots”

Wesleyan (Arminian) criminal before judge – A musing grace

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty. Are you willing to accept the decision?

Criminal – Your Grace, let me muse over it. Say, an hour?

Judge – This court is in recess for one hour.

Calvinist criminal before same judge.

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty.

Calvinist – Amazing, your grace. Thank you, thank you.

Judge – We don’t hang robots.

Background : Wesley and Pelagius: Kissing cousins

Wesley and Pelagius: Kissing cousins?

Here is a post on “Wesley and Pelagius” by Lee Gatiss

For century after century, one man has been the bogeyman of Western theology. He’s the bad guy. The one no. For centuries the malign influence of his worksy free will religion has been resisted. Bede narrates in his history of the English church how persistently both Celtic and Catholic Christians opposed in these fair Isles the poison of Pelagianism, which the great Augustine of Hippo had refuted so clearly, and which was condemned by an early church council at Carthage (418) and excommunicated.

In the East, they are not such fans of Augustine. But in the West, he the man, and so his enemy is our enemy, so to speak. Identification with Pelagius has been “a bad thing” throughout our history.

Which makes it so strange that the great and famous John Wesley was actually a fan of Pelagius. Am I being nasty now? Am I being offensive: “a cynic, a bear, a Toplady” (to use Wesley’s own sour put down)? Not at all.

See more here.

Here is Thomas McCall’s riposte to Gatiss:

Pelagianism’ calmly considered: A Response to Lee Gatiss.”

I have always found Lee Gatiss to be a fine historian, so I was disappointed to see his claims in the recent “Wesley and Pelagius”. He points out that Pelagius has been universally reviled and rejected in orthodox (Western) Christian theology, and then he also points out that John Wesley was openly sympathetic to the heretic. Indeed, he says that he “was actually a fan of Pelagius.” But Gatiss goes much further. For Gatiss concludes that Pelagius “taught – well, what do you know! – the same things as John Wesley himself, regarding free will and perfectionism.” This latter claim – that Wesley and Pelagius taught the “same things” about “free will and perfectionism” – is problematic indeed; it is deeply mistaken and very misleading.

Here is another part of Thomas McCall’s riposte to Gatiss:

Wesley on Original Sin

But while Gatiss’s discussion of Wesley’s sympathy might be misleading, there are bigger problems with Gatiss’s essay. For he is simply mistaken when he says that Wesley and Pelagius “taught the same things.” They didn’t. Consider what Wesley says about the doctrine of original sin. The Methodist Articles of Religion clearly affirm the doctrine, with Article II affirming that Christ’s sacrifice atones for “original guilt” as well as actual sins. But Wesley himself goes further. His treatise on original sin is the longest and densest work in his theological corpus; it is written soon before the more famous work of Jonathan Edwards, it engages in sharp polemics against many of the same debate partners (especially John Taylor), and it employs many similar arguments… For instance, he asks

“Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Is… ‘every imagination of the thoughts of his heart evil continually?’ Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but a heathen still (“Original Sin,” p. 456).

Wesley is convinced that any denial of the doctrine of original sin “saps the very foundation of all revealed religion” (“Original Sin,” p. 194). Thus such a denial “contradicts the main design of the Gospel, which is to humble vain man, and to ascribe to God’s free grace, not man’s free will, the whole of his salvation” (“Original Sin,” p. 429). Subsequent Methodist theologians… insist that we are “totally depraved.” I cannot see how anyone might view this evidence – which flows from Wesley’s most sustained theological treatment of any issue through his sermons into the major confessional documents and indeed through the major nineteenth-century Methodist theologians – and conclude that Wesley and Pelagius taught “the same things.”

III. Wesley on “Free Will” and the prevenience of grace

As we have seen, Wesley is absolutely certain that we must “ascribe to God’s free grace, not man’s free will, the whole of his salvation.” His doctrine of human sinfulness is not, he insists, even a “hairs-breadth” different than that of John Calvin. If that amounts to Pelagianism, then one might be excused for thinking that this is pretty good company in which to be Pelagian.

End of McCall.

Here is a counter thrust by Gatiss. http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/12/more-work-for-the-wesleyans.php. Here is an excerpt regarding “original sin.”

“Wesley’s sermon on Philippians 2:12: “allowing that all the souls of men are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing there is no man that is in a state of mere nature”. I’m struggling to relate this to his supposed belief in original sin. Doesn’t he think all that Old Testament stuff about everyone being born in sin has been cancelled out now that Christ has enlightened every man (see e.g. his sermon on Philippians 3:12)?”

And here is an excerpt from John Whitefield’s letter to Wesley, in response to the latter’s sermon on “free grace.”

Free grace or free-will

Dear Sir, for Jesus Christ’s sake, consider how you dishonour God by denying election. You plainly make salvation depend not on God’s free grace, but on man’s free-will; and if thus, it is more than probable, Jesus Christ would not have had the satisfaction of seeing the fruit of His death in the eternal salvation of one soul. Our preaching would then be vain, and all invitations for people to believe in Him would also be in vain. But, blessed be God, our Lord knew for whom He died. There was an eternal compact between the Father and the Son. A certain number was then given Him, as the purchase and reward of His obedience and death. For these He prayed (Joh 17), and not for the world. For these, and these only, He is now interceding, and with their salvation He will be fully satisfied.

Wesley says that salvation is all of grace, and nothing to do with free will. That’s odd. Here is the famous Ephesians 2:8 – “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”

The Wesleyan/Arminian says (the gift of) Salvation and Grace are both all of the Lord, but when it comes to the gift of faith you, in your totally depraved nature and hatred of God, have to exercise your free will to accept it – otherwise, they say, you’re a robot.

Wesleyan (Arminian) criminal before judge – A musing grace

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty. Are you willing to accept the decision?

Criminal – Your Grace, let me muse over it. Say, an hour?

Judge – This court is in recess for one hour.

Calvinist criminal before same judge.

Judge – You deserve death but it is the decision of this court to grant you amnesty.

Calvinist – Amazing, your grace. Thank you, thank you.

Judge – We don’t hang robots.

The Arminian and Calvinist understanding of “Salvation is (totally) of the Lord.”

“Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly… Salvation is of the LORD.” —Jonah 2:9

jonah_on_dry_ground

The Word of Faith movement (Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer) teaches that if God is going to do anything good in your life – better health, more cash, increase your divine power, save you (from your mistakes) – you have to grant him the opportunity to do so. If you do nothing, guess what God’s gonna do? Or rather, not do? Keep your cold, your bad back, your Ebola; no better house-car-job. Dry bones.

When it comes to salvation, Word of Faith people are Arminians, as are the majority of Christians. Unless Christians are into apologetics or theology, terms like Arminianism and Calvinism make them giddy. When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, which he finds irresistible (Lazarus didn’t complain when he was raised from the dead). in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation.

Our understanding of how we come to faith shimmers through our whole understanding of the sovereignty, holiness and love of God, and consequently impacts greatly on our Christian life. I deal briefly with the following aspects of the Christian life:

God’s will and purposes

Prayer

Witnessing

Assurance

God’s will and purposes

Isaiah 46:9-10

9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.

 If you believe that, you, an unregenerate person, can/has come to Christ (ultimately) on your own steam (you get to make the final decision), you could find yourself in hot heavenly water, for you are the person that must also say that Christ is begging people to come to him but in most cases fails. But how can God fail when it is clear that “I will do all my pleasure.”

Two more scriptures: “The Lord does whatever pleases him,
 in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths” (Psalm 135:6). “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Job knows that, but do Arminians know that? If God tries to save but fails, then it must please him fail. Do you really believe that God gets a kick out of failure? That’s what you must think but  will not to.

Prayer

Arminian on his Calvinist knees praying for someone’s conversion: “Lord please change his heart, open his eyes that he may see.”

Witnessing

Arminian on his feet with the same person he prayed for: “God respects your will. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He won’t force you to believe. The greatest gift you have is your freedom to chose salvation. You need to change your heart.”

I am reminded of the Arminian song “Change my heart oh God, make it ever true.” What do they mean? If they mean “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,” then this is impossible for the Christian, because when you became a Christian (born again), God changed your natural heart (of stone) – dead heart, for a spiritual heart (of flesh) – living heart. What the Arminian means is “make my new heart more devoted to you (ever true), increase my faith.” All Christians should pray for this kind of renewal. If, however, Arminians were biblical, they would not water down – “make my heart ever true” – the pivotal biblical description of God – unilaterally – changing hearts, as in Ezekiel 36:26) above, to mean “make my heart ever true.”

Assurance

Arminian: “I’ve decided to follow Jesus, I’ve decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

Calvinist: Why are you so sure you won’t turn your back on Jesus?

Arminian: Jesus said that he won’t cast me out.

Calvinist: What if, after you decided to follow Jesus, you decided to unfollow him? Didn’t you decide on your own bat to follow Jesus? If so, then surely if you’re free, you can decide not to follow him anymore.

Arminian: I won’t allow that to happen. I will never forsake Christ.

Calvinist: I have a good title for a song you could write: “Greater is the me in me, than the me who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Consider the concept of the “gift” of faith. Ephesians 2:5-9 [My square brackets and capitals]:

Even when we were dead in sins, [he] hath quickened [regenerated] us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

By “dead” in sins, the Arminian means “deadish,” that is, there remains in every sinner enough ability and desire to receive the gift of faith. But this (grace and) faith – “THAT not of yourselves,” means that you had nothing to do with the planting of faith in you. There is nothing in Ephesian 2:8 about faith being a possible faith. If that were so, then faith would not be God’s gift to you but your gift to God. And that is exactly how Arminians interpret Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” They say – for example, William Lane Craig – that “that [gift] is not of yourselves” in the above verse refers only to grace, not to faith. because “that” is grammatically neuter while “faith” is feminine. Craig’s argument falls flat because grace is also feminine. The Greek grammar rule is this: “In the case of concrete nouns, for example, the mother, the ship, the way, the house, the relative pronoun that follows is ordinarily feminine; but what the president did not know is that abstract nouns like faith, hope, and charity use the neuter of the relative pronoun. As a matter of fact, even a feminine thing, a concrete noun, may take a neuter relative (see Godwin’s Greek Grammar). (Gordon Clark in Is Faith the Gift of God in Ephesians 2:8? By Jack Kettler).

All Calvinists hold that both grace and faith are gifts from God whereas the Arminian says grace (“prevenient” grace) is God’s gift to man, and faith is man’s gift to God. (See The Calvinist robot and the Arminian zombie: Grammars of coming to faith).

Jesus is a saviour, not a possible saviour. “Possible” means possible failure, a miserable failure. “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able … There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:23-24 and 28). “”Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13).

Jesus died for his sheep; they hear his voice. Those who reject Jesus are not – will never be – of his sheep:

John 10:

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

The causal connection in 10:27 is not “hear his voice and then become his sheep” but “if you are a sheep you will – certainly – hear his voice.” This becomes crystal clear (one would think!) in John 6:35-44, specifically verses 40 and 44.

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” 41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Arminians confuse or refuse the grammar.

Here is something that I read, which could be said by both an Arminian and a Calvinist.

“Well, if you say Arminianism or Calvinism my mind starts to spin. But I do know what I believe. I believe we are dead in our sins apart from Christ. I believe that is only by grace that are saved, not anything that we do although there is a response required on our part however that works exactly, I couldn’t really tell you. Somethings are mystery. It’s totally, completely all God Who chooses us and saves us, yet he allows us to respond with faith.”

Yes, salvation is “totally all of God.” But “what about free will?” is the predictable cry. What do we make of “salvation is TOTALLY/ALL all of God” in the above paragraph? If salvation is all of the Lord, then instead of saying “yet” he allows us to respond, which implies a (“mysterious”) contradiction, we should rather, and indeed can logically and joyfully say “and” he allows us to respond. How is this so? As scripture says, all unbelievers are dead in sin, and so hate (the true) God. Another way of speaking is that our wills are in bondage to sin. We are slaves, in chains.

There are two ways in which Christians explain salvation:

1. The Arminian view (the label comes from Jacob Arminius).

God comes to all the slaves in the world, who love more than anything their slavery to sin – indeed reject the very idea of sin. Now God through his powerful mercy (grace) makes it possible for all to see that they are sinners and in bondage, and need to be saved from their sin. He then offers to set them free. YET (the Arminian is speaking) most refuse. Those that accept he sets free.

The salvation process on this view is: we are deadISH in sin, aliveISH to God. God, through his grace, gives us the possibility to become much more alive than we were, to make us a newISH creature (I would then be Jewish newish). He offers (the “gift” of) faith. Some take the gift. They believe. Next, God regenerates them (they are born again). This is back to front because if you believe, this can only occur if God had previously regenerated you, and granted you the desire to believe and repent. According to the Arminian view, the reason why you were saved is because there is something better – they will deny this vehemently – in you than in the person that is damned. Jesus the possible saviour becomes – because of you opening your dead heart – a real saviour.

2. The Biblical view (Calvinist, after John Calvin)

The salvation process on this view is: we are not deadish but dead, dead, in sin. God, through his grace makes some alive, that is, completely alive, transforming them into new creatures. He raises us (regenerates us – born again) from the dead and plants in our renewed souls the gift of faith, which we receive/accept with joy. We repent of our sin. The reason why you were saved is not because there was something in you that decided to “give God a chance” but because after he regenerated you from death to life, he freed you from the bondage to your sin. As a result, you were overcome with gratitude and joyfully received the new life he gave you.

Upshot: it is impossible to accept God – believe and repent – BEFORE God has raised you from the dead, before he has broken your chains. So then, God first births you anew (regenerates you) AND – consequently – you are drawn irresistibly to him. The dead cannot refuse or hate to be resurrected (Lazarus didn’t complain). Result: they are made free, which they accept with great joy. In a nutshell, “Salvation is of the Lord” where words such as “totally” and “all” (of the Lord) add nothing to the meaning but serve as emphasis, as in “I don’t REALLY want to be rude.”

But, but that is not fair! What’s unfair about a judge deciding to not be merciful to a criminal who deserves punishment? How we come to faith and God’s purposes in salvation is encapsulated in Romans 9.

10… when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,2 but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Here is Jonah Calvin’s prayer in the belly of the whale:

“Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” —Jonah 2:1-10.

Beware of the vanities of Arminianism.

Related – Free willy: Amazing grace and the grammar of Bible interpretation: Inspired by James White and Michael Brown