Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I do not agree with this position...

But I was required to write a defense of Arminianism from the perspective of one of the Remonstrants from the time of Dort. I was surprised at how well my defense came out (not that any defense of synergism can truly be exegetically valid). I thought some might find it interesting to read a monergist attempt to defend Arminian theology.

"The men who call themselves “Calvinists” have introduced five points in response to our proposals of a more Biblical reformed theology. They claim that they have both St. Augustine and the father of our own church John Calvin on their side. This may be, however, Calvin is not an infallible interpreter of scripture. Calvin was great because he pointed us back to scripture, not because he formulated the perfect system of interpreting it. Therefore I claim that we are the true heirs of Calvin, not because we agree with all of his decisions, but because we test all things by scripture.
The first point that the so-called Calvinists have put up against up is total depravity. They claim that man has been so corrupted by the fall that he has the utter inability to obey God. Man cannot even come to faith and repentance in this state. We agree that in Adam all men have been corrupted in both will and intellect. We reject all Pelagian error which says that man can achieve salvation by his own power. However, God has not left our will in a state of total despair. Our will has been healed to such an extent that we have the ability to respond or reject the free gift of salvation. This is implied through out scripture in passages which command us to believe. As Joshua said to the Israelites before his death, “choose this day who you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Would God offer salvation merely to tease us? It is as if he is holding a gift above our heads. He asks us to receive it but it is held to high that we cannot even reach it. Thus God is saying, “Choose salvation! It is free! Yet you cannot because I have not given you freedom of choice.” Man cannot be held accountable for a decision he cannot help but make. If we ought to do something, then we can do that thing.
The second point they put against us is unconditional election. This doctrine says that God elects man apart from any choice he makes. He also predestines man apart from evil. This makes God to be a tyrant who simply waves his hand declaring arbitrarily that one man is saved and another one damned. This is not the picture of the merciful loving God of scripture. How is election viewed in the New Testament? “For those he foreknew he also predestined.”(Romans 8:29) A similar statement comes from the apostle Peter, “To those who are elect exiles…according to the foreknowledge of God the father”(1 Peter 1:1). Notice that in these passages, predestination is not founded within God’s eternal decree but within his foreknowledge. God has knowledge of future events. Thus He sees who will accept his free offer and who will not. Thus, on this basis he chooses one man over another. Why one is elect and another reprobate is not to be found in God, but in man.
The third point is to us the most offensive to all true religion. This is the doctrine of limited atonement. According to these men, Christ came into the world not to die for all men alike, but for a select few. This doctrine is so absurd, so utterly foreign to all forms of Christianity whether Reformed, Romanist, or Lutheran that it hardly needs to be refuted. A few selections from Holy Scripture will suffice to refute this doctrine of demons. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”(2 Peter 3:9) “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) These passages among others teach the exact opposite of the articles of the so-called Calvinists! There is not one sentence in scripture that defends this doctrine. There is not even a sentence in Augustine of Calvin which teaches what the perverters of their doctrine have proposed. This takes away all comfort in the Christian life. How can I have assurance if I never know if Christ indeed truly died for me! This then drives me back to the despair that we once had under the yolk of Rome.
The next point has been labeled “irresistible grace”. This horrible doctrine teaches that man does not freely come to Christ in faith in order to be regenerated and saved. Rather, God forces whom he will to come to faith and does not allow the repentance of others. God offers this grace, rather forces this grace, only upon a select few and gives no grace to the majority of mankind. Thus God creates men only to damn them! That men cannot resist the Holy Spirit is refuted by the words of the first martyr of the Christian church, “You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 7:51) Thus grace is by no means irresistible. That all men have the freedom to accept or reject grace is proven through the words of Peter, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out”. (Acts 3:19) Would the apostle ask men to make the choice to repent if they had no choice in the matter? God does not act in such an illogical way.
Now we come to the final point which is argued against us. This is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Arminius himself, whose theology is nearly impeccable, was unsure of this doctrine. He allowed for the possibility of a Christian falling away but admitted that his opponents defended themselves well on this particular point. After much more thorough study of scripture, it has become clear that this doctrine is not in accordance with the teaching of the apostles. Several places in the New Testament state that a man may fall from grace. When Paul proclaims salvation through Christ to the Colossians, he puts a condition upon it, “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard”. (Colossians 2:23) Though God’s grace preserves us, it requires our cooperation. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews speaks of those who have “tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 6:4) being able to fall away from grace. Nowhere in scripture is an unbeliever said to share in the Spirit. These and several other verses are sufficient to prove our point.
Thus, tested by both the words of scripture and human reason, our position is superior. We are simply trying to continue the Reformation in constantly looking to the word of God for all truth. The reformation is not about treating its founders as infallible, but taking their exegesis and theology as a guide to future theological study whose only authority is the word of God. Even Martin Luther’s successor Melancthon came to disagree with his teacher on some of these points. Thus, rather than reverting back to Rome as some claim, we are going further into the word of God and away from our traditions."

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