What then? Shall we try to put another meaning into the text than that which it fairly bears? I trow not. You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. “All men,” say they,—”that is, some men”: as if the Holy Ghost could not have said “some men” if he had meant some men. “All men,” say they; “that is, some of all sorts of men”: as if the Lord could not have said “all sorts of men” if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written “all men,” and unquestionably he means all men. I know how to get rid of the force of the “alls” according to that critical method which some time ago was very current, but I do not see how it can be applied here with due regard to truth. I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor who explains the text so as to explain it away; he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it. I thought when I read his exposition that it would have been a very capital comment upon the text if it had read, “Who will not have all men to be saved, nor come to a knowledge of the truth.” […] My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. […] So runs the text, and so we must read it, “God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”Does not the text mean that it is the wish of God that men should be saved? The word “wish” gives as much force to the original as it really requires, and the passage should run thus—”whose wish it is that all men should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” As it is my wish that it should be so, as it is your wish that it might be so, so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, he is not less benevolent than we are.
Because the Bible teaches about sinners being dead, some therefore claim that a person is dead. He is unable to think, to help himself, to reason or to want to do right. He cannot make up his mind to do right or repent. He is unable to do anything until he has been regenerated by a sovereign arbitrary act of God. Then he repents, believes and turns to God only after he has been regenerated. That is taking the passage of Scripture “dead in sin” and making it simply ridiculous. (Tozer, Experiencing the Presence of God)
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.
Filed under: apostasy, Arminian books, Book Reviews, Calvinism, determinism, election, eternal security, foreknowledge, free will, John D. Wagner, perseverance, predestination, prevenient grace, Robert Picirilli, secret decrees, sovereignty, total depravity | 3 Comments »
“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
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.
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.
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.