Grace For All: The Arminian Dynamics of Salvation (Book Review)

John D. Wagner has produced  an updated and expanded version of “Grace Unlimited”, originally edited by the late Clark H. Pinnock.  This updated version is called “Grace For All: The Arminian Dynamics of Salvation.”  This newer version contains several new essays along with some changes and heavy editing of  a few essays that appeared in the original version.

Essays that remain from the original version include: “God’s Universal Salvific Grace” by Vernon Grounds; “Conditional Election” by Jack Cottrell; “The Spirit of Grace (Heb. 10:27)” by William G. McDonald, updated and expanded by editor John D. Wagner; “Predestination in the Old Testament” by David A. Clines; “Predestination in the New Testament” by I. Howard Marshall; “Exegetical Notes on Calvinist Texts” and “Soteriology: Perseverance and Apostasy in the Epistle to the Hebrews,” both by Grant Osborne, and “God’s Promise and Universal History: The Theology of Romans 9” by James D. Strauss, updated and expanded by editor John D. Wagner.

For the purposes of this review I will focus on the new material and make some closing comments that will address some of the older material as well.

The first essay in this new volume is “Arminianism is God Centered Theology”, written by Roger Olson.  In this section Olson clears up many misconceptions and misrepresentations of Arminian Theology commonly propagated by Calvinist authors and those who simply have not carefully studied the subject.  In doing so, Olson convincingly demonstrates that Arminian Theology is thoroughly Evangelical and grace oriented.

Another new essay in the volume is “Calvinism and Problematic Readings of the New Testament Texts Or, Why I Am Not a Calvinist” by Glenn Shellrude.  This is an excellent essay which looks at numerous Biblical texts and the overall tenor of Scripture against the backdrop of Calvinist determinism.  Shellrude succeeds in showing that one cannot read or understand Scripture in any coherent manner when the fundamental presuppositions of Calvinist determinism are in view.

Picirilli’s contribution on “The Intent and Extent of Christ’s atonement” focuses on the exegesis of the many key texts that point towards an unlimited provisional atonement in accordance with God’s love for the world and desire to save all.  Picirilli does an  excellent job showing how these texts support the Arminian view and are simply incompatible with the Calvinist “limited atonement” claims.

The next new essay in the volume is J. Matthew Pinson’s “Jacob Arminius: Reformed and Always Reforming” which looks at Arminius and his Theology in historical context and how his Theology is thoroughly “reformed” despite being at odds with Calvinism on many crucial points.  Like Olson’s essay, this essay serves as an important corrective to so many false views and claims about Arminius and his Theology.

Another new contribution comes from Fundamental Wesleyan scholar Vic Reasoner which focuses on John Wesley’s attention to  grace in his own articulation of Arminian Theology called: “John Wesley’s Doctrines of the Theology of Grace.”  Not surprisingly, Dr. Reasoner spends a good deal of time describing Wesley’s view of entire sanctification and it’s relation to God’s powerful working of grace in the hearts and lives of believers.

The final essay that is new to this updated volume is Steve Witzki’s “Saving Faith: The Act of a Moment or the Attitude of a Life Time?” which argues strongly for the need of continuance in faith to reach final salvation.  While Witzki’s essay argues against  any Theology that would deny the possibility of apostasy, he especially takes aim at the popular and very dangerous version of “Once Saved, Always Saved” that would deny the need for perseverance in faith at all, claiming that an initial moment of genuine faith is all that is needed to guarantee one’s eternal place in heaven regardless of any subsequent eventuality, including loss of faith and rejection of Christ.  Witzki’s exegetical work is devastating to this dangerous  and surprisingly popular “saved regardless” view of eternal security.

Overall, this is a great effort by editor and contributor John D. Wagner,  pulling solid essays from the original “Grace Unlimited” and many newer essays of several contemporary and important Arminian writers together in order to take this work to a whole new level.  My only complaint would be that the corporate election view as articulated by such notable scholars as Brian Abasciano and William Klein was not represented in this new volume.  However, Wagner does incorporate some minor elements of this view in his contribution to the essay on Romans 9, while still not fully capturing the essence of this view as articulated by the best proponents of the view like Abasciano, Klein and Shank.

I also found it disappointing to see Dr. Jack Cottrell representing the Arminian election view in his essay since, despite the name of the new volume referencing “The Arminian Dynamics of Salvation”, Cottrell is not, himself, an Arminian, as he denies two key features of Arminianism: total depravity and the need for enabling grace to overcome that depravity in order to make a faith response possible.  For those reasons, Cottrell’s soteriology is more  properly classified as semi-Pelagian  and not “Arminian.”  And while Cottrell does  a good job describing the classical Arminian “election by foreknowledge”  view in his essay, he also unfairly dismisses the corporate election view and demonstrates that he does not fully understand the view he is rejecting in his brief interactions with Robert Shank’s work “Elect in the Son.”

Despite Cottrell’s misunderstanding of the corporate view and the fact that a key contributor to this volume on Arminian Theology is not even Arminian,  this updated volume is a huge improvement over the original publication and is a valuable resource for anyone who is interested in the topic of Arminian Theology.

A Concise and Powerful Refutation of Theistic Determinism

“The Dilemma of Theistic Determinism” by Dr. Günther H. Juncker from the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry


In the popular tradition of William James’s classic “The Dilemma of Determinism” and Sir Karl Popper’s “Indeterminism and Human Freedom,” I offer up the following sound bite as food for philosophical and theological thought.

If determinism is true then either God is evil and the author of evil or all talk of good and evil, of praise and blame, of moral responsibility, and of justice is meaningless and incomprehensible with reference to God. That is, if God can cause or determine evil and yet remain good, and if God can punish those who do exactly and only what He has meticulously caused and determined them to do and yet remain just, then we have no idea who God is or what He might or might not do or what Scripture could possibly mean when it calls Him “good” and “just.”

These are strong claims; nevertheless, it seems to me that theistic determinism is committed to the conjunction of several theses that lead to precisely such a dilemma.

HT: Dale Wayman


Calvinism on the Horns: The Problem of Divine Foreknowledge in Calvinism And Why You Should Be An Arminian

The Reality of Choice And The Testimony of Scripture

John Piper on God Ordaining All Sin And Evil Part 1: An Arminian Response to Piper’s “First Question”

Great Quotes: Richard Watson on John 17

It has been urged, indeed, that our Lord himself says, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” (John xvii 9). But will they here interpret “the world” to be the world of the elect? If so, they cut even them off from the prayers of Christ. But if by “the world” they would have us understand the world of the non-elect, they they will find that all the prayers which our Lord puts up for those whom “the Father hath given him,” had this end, “that they,” the non-elect “world,” “may believe that thou hast sent me:” (verse 21) let them choose either side of the alternative. The meaning of this passage is, however, made obvious by the context. Christ, in the former part of his intercession, as recorded in this chapter, prays exclusively, not for his church in all ages, but for his disciples then present with him; as appears plain from verse 12: “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in they name.” But he was only with his first disciples, and for them he exclusively prays in the first instance; then, in verse 20, he prays for all who, in future, should believe on him through their words; and he does this in order that “the world,” in its largest sense, is not cut off, but expressly included in the benefits of this prayer.

Related: Great Follow-up Comments by David Martinez on the Recent Conversation Between James White and Austin Fischer

Great Quotes: Dr. Craig Keener

Many beliefs today are popular because they appeal to our weakness rather than because they are biblical. Such beliefs include spiritual justifications for materialism, theological exemptions from suffering tribulation, and even justifications for not sharing our faith with others. The idea that someone who professes conversion will share eternal life even if they do not persevere as believers in Christ is another belief that is comforting—and dangerously false.

From: Once-Saved-Always-Saved?  Maybe Not

Interesting Comments From John MacArthur on the Nature of Preveninet Grace and the Ordo Salutis

A Concise Description of Prevenient Grace From a Surprising Source (spoiler: It’s John MacArthur)


I don’t think…particularly I don’t think that regeneration precedes anything except the fruit of regeneration which is a righteous life. I do not think that regeneration precedes saving faith.

Now I know that that’s becoming a…that’s a strongly Calvinistic…I shouldn’t even say Calvinistic, it’s a bit of a hard line Calvinistic viewpoint, I’m hearing it quite a bit nowadays. I had a two and a half hour discussion last week with a man who tried to convince me that regeneration occurs first and after you’re regenerate, then you can believe. So I said to him, “Show me the verse….just show it to me.” Well, he wanted to argue logic but he couldn’t find a verse. I do not find anywhere in the Scripture that the Bible says you will be saved and somewhere along the line you’ll come to realize it. When you separate saving faith from the regenerating act of God, you have put yourself in a non-biblical frame of reference and you have also created a new kind of dynamic in salvation where God is saving people completely independent of anything they do and then they’re just waking up to realize it and putting faith which they’re given by Him in regeneration into action.


Does Regeneration Precede Faith?

Does Jesus Teach That Regeneration Precedes Faith in John 3:3, 6?

Is The New Heart of Ezekiel 36:26-27 A Reference to Regeneration Preceding Faith?

The Arminian and Calvinist Ordo Salutis: A Brief Comparative Study

A Preliminary Defense of Prevenient Grace

No Real Choice in Calvinism

Here is a good post that looks at some of the major difficulties in Calvinist accounting of free will and choice (below),  It also does a good job concisely pointing out how Irresistible Grace is indeed coercive, even on some Calvinist definitions:

The “C” in Calvinism?


The Coercion Problem

First, the Sproul-Edwards account of choice implies that God’s giving irresistible grace to the elect is coercive. To be sure, Sproul does say that it is a “misconception of irresistible grace” (122) to think it involves people being coerced “kicking and screaming against their wills.” Rather, they desire Christ because God “plants a desire for Christ” (123) in them.

Unfortunately, that’s not Sproul’s definition of ‘coercion’. For him, coercion involves “imposing choices upon people that, if left to themselves, they would not choose” (57). And in fact God does that to the elect. For God imposes an irresistible desire on the elect (for Christ), and as Sproul says “our choices are determined by our desires” (54). Therefore, God imposes choices on the elect by imposing irresistible desires on them. Moreover, these choices are ones they wouldn’t otherwise have made, since apart from irresistible grace no one can choose Christ.

So both the elect and non-elect are coerced in their “decisions.” And if we know anything at all about free choices, it’s this: they’re not coerced. Caused, perhaps; but a free coerced choice is a contradiction in terms.


Edwards’ Doctrine of Necessity by Strongest Motive Force Cannot be Proved

The Necessitarian Calvinist Argument From Strongest Motive Force is Based on Circular Reasoning

Thomas Ralston on Freedom of the Will Part 9: The Doctrine of Motives

The Reality of Choice and the Testimony of Scripture

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #5: Choices Apart From Intent?

More From Dr. Brian Abasciano on Acts 13:48

Brian Abasciano, “on the Translation of Acts 13:48”


Of course, the main translation issue has to do with the translation of tetagmenoi, which the NIV translates (together with esan) as “were appointed”. This is such an important text theologically because it gives the impression that the people referred to believed because God first appointed them to eternal life. Some consider this a slam dunk proof for Calvinism/unconditional election. Indeed, some consider this to be the most powerful text in favor of Calvinism.


Brian Abasciano, James White’s Faulty Treatment of the Greek and Context of Acts 13:48

Brian Abasciano, A Reply to James White Concerning His Faulty Treatment of the Greek and Context of Acts 13:48

Acts 13:48: Two Non-Calvinist Views


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