Only Paul

I never get tired of this one.  This is a slightly updated version of Kevin’s classic “Sola Paul.”  Both funny and devastating to one of the main Calvinist arguments for limited atonement.

Only Paul [Satire]

Can Calvinism Offer Any Real Hope to Parents Struggling With The Possibility of Their Children Being Non-Elect?

Roger Olson, Can A Calvinist Pray For His Child to be Elect?

The Calvinist Non-Answer Highlighted: What if My Children Are Not Elect?

Does Erwin Lutzer Offer False Hope to Calvinist Parents?

The F.A.C.T.S. of Salvation vs. The T.U.L.I.P. of Calvinism

While Calvinists like to play with flowers (or MUPPETS?), Arminians prefer to deal with the FACTS.  For an excellent and detailed summary of what Arminians believe and why, be sure to check out The FACTS of Salvation: A summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace!!

I just wanted to share some brief notes about my article, “The FACTS of Salvation: A Summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace,” recently published here at the website of the Society of Evangelical Arminians. It comes to about 25 pages and is a summary of Arminian theology with substantial scriptural support using the acronym FACTS. It is meant to be a positive presentation of the Arminian position and so does not typically get into debate over the various Scriptures appealed to, but mostly assumes a particular interpretation of them.

We occasionally get requests for Scripture citations to support our statement of faith. We have never felt it necessary to add Scripture references to our statement of faith since the website is largely dedicated to giving scriptural support for the distinctive elements of Arminian theology. But this FACTS article now provides that in a substantial way in one article. May the Lord use it to bless his church and advance his truth. [link]

The Calvinist Non-Answer Highlighted: What if my Children are Not Elect?

(See Updated material at bottom)

Someone named Tim Kimberley wrote a post at Credo House asking, “What if my Children are not Elect?”   The post is a response to an inquirer who is struggling with the horrific implications of Calvinist determinism with regards to the predetermined destiny of his or her children.  Kimberley offers an answer, but it evades the heart of the problem.  In the comments we see the same thing: Calvinist after Calvinist evading the heart of the problem and side stepping numerous straightforward questions being asked by those who are not convinced by the claims of Calvinism.  Just reading the comments and the responses by Calvinists is really instructive and highlights what an impossible problem this creates for them in counseling parents who are struggling with such questions.  The following comment  highlights this problem well:

An honest question deserves a straightforward answer.

First, Kimberly’s “step back” is not only irrelevant but also deflects from the real issue, which the question evokes, and is misleading.

Although it is true that both Calvinist and Arminians agree that “each individual must come to Jesus on their own”, Kimberly fails to mention the Calvinist view portrays the individual as responding due solely to the divine predetermination regarding how this or that particular person will respond to the Gospel; that is, in reality, no response – positive or negative – is ultimately an act of one’s own free will but God’s predetermined act to effect the desired response from each individual based on nothing but God’s unrevealed will. This view is in stark contrast to Arminian soteriology and renders the similarity as Kimberly suggests as merely superficial.

Second, when “getting back to the issue at hand”, there remains an (unconscious? conscious?) attempt to evade the real answer which the inquirer seeks.

The question is not, “What if my kids do not love Jesus?” but “What if my kids aren’t elect?” There is a big difference between the two questions and, as such, his answer does not at all deal directly to the query.

The more accurate answer, logically following Calvinist teaching, is simply: if your child is not elect, there is nothing at all you can do about it. The only comfort that one may afford is that at present you do not know whether or not your child is elect. Praying will not change God’s mind if your child is not elect. As a Calvinist, all that seems left to do is cross your fingers and hope for the best; and, yes, the idea that one’s child is not of the elect should cause a parent to be sick and have “a hard time” – a very hard time – seeing it as conducive to God’s glory.

For more on this thorny problem for Calvinism, see my post: Does Erwin Lutzer Offer False Hope to Calvinist Parents? 

Update: 

I got into a little back and forth with some Calvinists in the comments thread of Kimberley’s post. I posted as “arminianperspectives” rather than “kangaroodort”. Unfortunately, it looks like they decided to shut down comments before I could respond further to these Calvinists or answer their questions. So I will leave my responses here (click on the comments section of this post to see my responses). If you want to follow that discussion, it starts here: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2013/10/what-if-my-children-are-not-elect/#comment-107855

It isn’t directly related to the content of the post, but my responses were for the purpose of clearing up confusion and misrepresentations of what Arminians believe (though I did try to get clarification on an “answer” that one of them gave here: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2013/10/what-if-my-children-are-not-elect/#comment-107860). It progressed from there.

However, the writer of the comment I highlighted here responded further, keeping the focus on the topic at hand.  He wrote:

I’m disappointed that this conversation continues wide of the mark of the specific point that the question addresses. Here’s a blog that addresses the specific issue with, from my perspective, greater relevancy than either Kimerly’s reponse or everyone’s comments thus far. I would ask the Calvinist to please take time (it is not long at all) to read it:

http://classicalarminian.blogspot.com/2013/10/what-if-my-children-are-not-elect-love.html

Unfortunately, his comment was essentially met with snide remarks from these two Calvinists and another disturbing non-answer at the bottom of  the thread,

Truth isn’t always comforting and, in this case, it definitely is not. Again unbelievers are without hope, without God. Parents can only surrender their children to the sovereignty of God and accept that whatever He has chosen to do with those children is right and glorifies Him – to do anything less is idolatry because it is putting those children ahead of God. (http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2013/10/what-if-my-children-are-not-elect/#comment-108016)

The Arminian Magazine: Getting Acquainted With Arminius, Part 2 (by John S. Knox)

In the years preceding the Declaration of Sentiments’ creation, Arminius frequently defended his position as a minister and theologian in the Reformed church and as a supporter of Calvin. His Declaration is the summary compilation of that defensive effort against the Supralapsarians and high Calvinists. As such, each section of the Declaration will be inspected as to its topic(s), thesis statement, and supportive assertions.

The Declaration consists of ten chapters on a variety of topics, but Arminius did not dwell equally in consideration on each of them. With clear purposes in mind, he gave appropriate attention to the aspects of doctrine crucial for a better awareness of his position, and in order to obtain a fuller understanding of the relationship between humanity and God. As such, he hoped his presentation would serve a dual purpose in his endeavors for biblical truth and in his defense of Supralapsarian charges.

SECTION I – “ON PREDESTINATION”

This is by far the most complex part of the Declaration. Nearly 15,000 words long, this exposition has three purposes. First, Arminius describes the Supralapsarian understanding of predestination and explains how it is harmful and wrong. Second, he presents other views of predestination with their finer points of understanding and benefit. Lastly, Arminius presents his own views on predestination.

Arminius’ depiction of the Supralapsarian understanding regarding this topic is unflattering, to say the least. He begins his examination with a blunt statement of dismissal of their assertion that God has predestined some to salvation and others to damnation. He points out the fact that it is a belief “… espoused by those [Supralapsarians] who assume the very highest ground of this Predestination.” So begins his condemnation of their extremist doctrinal interpretation of Calvin and the Bible.

He then goes on to detail their arguments and later provides the grounds for his rejection of these theological opinions. The main reasons for his denunciation of the Supralapsarian position are: (1) “it is not the foundation of Christianity, of Salvation, or of its certainty,” (2) it “comprises within it neither the whole nor any part of the Gospel,” and (3) it “was never admitted, decreed, or approved in any Council, either general or particular, for the first six hundred years after Christ.” Supplementing this, he adds, it “neither agrees nor corresponds with the Harmony of those Confessions which were printed and published together in one Volume at Geneva, in the name of the Reformed and Protestant Churches,” it is “repugnant to the Nature of God,” it is “opposed to the Act of Creation,” it is “injurious to the Glory of God,” it is “hurtful to the salvation of men,” and it “is in open hostility to the Ministry of the Gospel.”

Apparently, Arminius has little trouble pointing out the defects of the Supralapsarian approach to predestination. He backs up each of these criticisms with proof of their flawed foundations. This long list is a testament to his personal disdain for the doctrine promoted by these high Calvinists.

Arminius then goes on to describe two other incorrect ways of conceptualizing predestination other than that of the Supralapsarians. First, God irreversibly decided in eternity,

to make (according to his own good pleasure,) the smaller portion out of the general mass of mankind partakers of his grace and glory, to the praise of his own glorious grace. But according to his pleasure he also passed by the greater portion of men, and left them in their own nature, which is incapable of every thing supernatural, [or beyond itself,] and did not communicate to them that saving and supernatural grace by which their nature, (if it still retained its integrity,) might be strengthened, or by which, if it were corrupted, it might be restored – for a demonstration of his own liberty. Yet after God had made these men sinners and guilty of death, he punished them with death eternal–for a demonstration of his own justice.

The crux of this complex passage is the suggestion that Arminius finds no logic or love in God predestining some people to salvation and others to damnation whether it is before or after the Fall of Adam–both seem incongruous considering God’s expressed plan in Scripture for humanity.

Arminius rejects this understanding because it makes God the author of sin, which he cannot and will not affirm. Furthermore, this concept suggests an understanding of predestination that is “a palpable and absurd self-contradiction.” It does not fit into any logical understanding of the nature of humanity nor does it accommodate God’s biblical plan of redemption.

Arminius describes a third understanding of predestination in which, “God acts without the least consideration of repentance and faith in those whom he elects, or of impenitence and unbelief in those whom he reprobates.” Arminius condemns this third understanding of predestination because it suggests that God does not care about the moral behavior or authentic faith of His followers-a concept not found in Scripture. This concept conflicts with the image of the God of justice accepted by early church fathers. God carefully judges the world and all its inhabitants, suggesting that He would not arbitrarily send certain people to heaven and hell, regardless of their good or bad faith in Him.

Finally, Arminius presents his own understanding of predestination. Rather than the lengthy exercise used earlier to invalidate the Supralapsarian view, Arminius offers a short and concise argument for his beliefs in this matter. He points to four decrees of God as evidence for his standpoint.

First, God “decreed to appoint his Son, Jesus Christ, for a Mediator, Redeemer, Savior, Priest and King, who might destroy sin by his own death, might by his obedience obtain the salvation which had been lost, and might communicate it by his own virtue.” Jesus Christ is the ultimate sin offering used to appropriate the complete salvation of all humanity. Second, God “decreed to receive into favor those who repent and believe, and, in Christ, for his sake and through Him, to effect the salvation of such penitents and Believers as persevered to the end.” Remaining in a sinful state only leads to death and to eternal damnation, but turning from sin leads to personal salvation. Third, “God decreed to administer in a sufficient and efficacious manner the means which were necessary for repentance and faith.” The resources for finding one’s salvation are always available to everyone because God is ultimately wise, merciful, and just. Fourth,

He knew from all eternity those individuals who would, through his preventing grace, believe, and, through his subsequent grace would persevere, according to the before described administration of those means which are suitable and proper for conversion and faith; and, by which foreknowledge, he likewise knew those who would not believe and persevere.

This is not the same as ordaining some to salvation and others to perdition. Rather, it is a supernatural ability to see into all possibilities of humanity and the future. It speaks of the power of God, which, conveniently, Arminius discusses in the next section in his Declaration. Predestination was perhaps the most serious misjudgment of the Supralapsarians according to Arminius, but his high Calvinist peers also embraced other extreme distortions of biblical interpretation and application, dangerously manifest in their rigid doctrinal positions not explicitly found nor supported in Holy Scriptures.

From: The Arminian Magazine, Issue 1. Spring 2011. Volume 29

An Important Admission on Salvation Assurance from Prominent Calvinist C. Michael Patton

Excerpt:

It may surprise you to know that just about every contact I have had with people who are doubting their salvation are Calvinistic in their theology. In other words, they believe in unconditional election. These are the ones who believe in perseverance of the saints. These are the ones that believe that we cannot lose our salvation! Yet these are the ones who are doubting their faith the most…Isn’t this ironic? I have never had a call from an Arminian (or any other believer in conditional election) about this. In my experience, it is only Calvinists who doubt their faith in such a way with such traumatic devastation. Why? (Doubting Calvinists)

This article is interesting in a lot of ways and should be carefully considered by all Calvinists.  I have always maintained that Calvinist doctrine undercuts Biblical Assurance.  Patton finds assurance in his present belief (though he admits that assurance is not total).  However, Calvinist doctrine makes present assurance impossible, while Arminian doctrine fully comports with that possibility:

Perseverance of the Saints Part 13: Salvation Assurance

An Ironic And Telling Tweet by John Piper on Waking up in The Morning as a Believer 

Does Erwin Lutzer Offer False Hope to Calvinist Parents?

Does Believing Apostasy is Possible Lead to Insecurity, Lack of Assurance, and Anxiety?

[some of the material below was recently added]

Not only that, but the Calvinist cannot even have assurance of final salvation as he cannot be certain that his faith will endure to the end until it in fact endures to the end.  Only when his faith endures to the end will it prove to be a genuine saving faith.  Since the Calvinist cannot know that his faith is genuine till he endures in that faith till the end, he cannot have even present assurance of salvation as mentioned above.  But the Arminian has a strong basis for present salvation assurance.  Not only that, in knowing that God desires his salvation and will give him all the power he needs to continue to trust in Him, the Arminian has a strong basis for assurance in final salvation as well.  A commenter in one of the posts linked to above, put the matter well when he wrote,

But I would add that Arminians do have substantial assurance of future final salvation, simply not absolute or unconditional whereas Calvinists, as you point out, can have no present assurance and therefore no future assurance whatsoever and be consistent with their own doctrine. In everyday life, people have substantial assurance of future benefit which is nonetheless conditional on their continuing to meet the condition for that future benefit, for example continuing to consent to receive it. So Arminians can have solid assurance of present salvation, and substantial assurance of future final salvation, which is contingent on them continuing to meet the condition, which is faith. Put another way concerning future salvation, we have full assurance of future salvation on the condition of faith. And wonderfully, God promises true believers the ability to persevere in faith and that nothing can tear them away from him. So with present salvation we have the absolute assurance that God will enable us to persevere unto final salvation and that God is for us. He simply does not gaurantee that he will *make* us persevere. Arminian theology gives far more assurance than Calvinism: In Arminianism, full assurance of present salvation, and substantial assurance of future final salvation (i.e. full assurance on the condition of faith) vs. in Calvinism no assurance period.

Now it is important to note that many Calvinists have assurance *despite* their theology. But the important point is that it is despite their theology, which puts their theology at odds with Scripture, which teaches that we can know that we are saved….let me restate one of my points in stronger language: in everyday life, assurance of a future benefit is almost always conditional on at least the continuing free consent of the receiver of the benefit. Hardly anyone ever thinks of such assurance as minimal or meaningless. It is simply a given that receiving a future promised benefit remains contingent on consenting to it. Here’s an illustration: if one is on a train that the company assures will get you to your destination (and it has never failed a customer), one can have assurance that one will arrive at the destination (and assurance is accordingly greater with the reliability of the one promising the result; in salvation it is God, so assurance is certain). But that does not mean that one cannot decide to jump off the train. The company’s assurance to take you to the destination does not include forcing you to stay on the train. So saying Arminians don’t have absolute, unconditional assurance for final salvation verges on being a red herring or perhaps irrelevant instead. It is not the type of assurance people ever normally have with respect to future promised benefits. We have seen that Calvinists don’t have such assurance from their theology anyway. But it is good to underscore the very real and profound assurance of future salvation that Arminian theology gives in harmony with biblical teaching from which it is draw and that Calvinistic theology can never deliver. [link to comments]

As noted above, a believing Calvinist could still have salvation assurance based on the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, despite the fact that their fundamental doctrines negate the Biblical basis for salvation assurance.  But as Patton’s post reveals, it can serve to put the knowledgeable Calvinist in great tension between what the Holy Spirit might be communicating to him and what are the unavoidable implications of the Calvinist doctrine of inevitable perseverance.

Renowned Commentator Albert Barnes on the Extent of the Atonement

Excerpt:

It is no use here to say that the preacher does not know who the elect are, and that he is obliged to make the offer to all in order that the elect may be reached. For it is not the preacher only who offers the gospel. It is God who does it, and he knows who the elect are, and yet he offers salvation to all. And if there is no salvation provided for all, and no possibility that all to who the offer comes should be saved, then God is insincere; and there is no way possible of vindicating his character. (See the full article at SEA here)

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