Short Vacation (Woohoo!!)

I will be taking a short vacation and will be away from the computer until next Wednesday.  I hope to respond to some recent comments and questions then.  Have a great weekend everyone!

God Bless,


Once A Son Always A Son?

It is a popular teaching today that once someone becomes a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, he or she will never cease to be God’s child regardless of behavior and continuance in saving faith.

In order to express this teaching, it is reasoned from human experience to that which is spiritual and a strong distinction is made between “fellowship” and “relationship”.  It is said that a believer can harm and even sever one’s fellowship with God while somehow maintaining a saving relationship.  The only way to express this concept is through human analogy.

Neil T. Anderson gives us the basis of this argumentation in Stomping Out the Darkness, co-authored by Dave Park.  Under the heading: There’s A Difference Between Relationship and Fellowship, Anderson writes…

Doesn’t our sin block God’s acceptance of us?  No, as the following story illustrates.  When I (Neil) was born physically I had a father.  His name was Marvin Anderson.  As his son, I not only have Marvin Anderson’s last name, but I have Marvin Anderson’s blood flowing through my veins.  Marvin Anderson and Neil Anderson are blood- related.  Is there anything that I could possibly do which would change my blood relationship with my father?  What if I ran away from home and changed my name?  What if he kicked me out of the house?  What if he disowned me?  Would I still be his son?  Of course!  We’re related by blood and nothing can change that…In the spiritual realm, when I was born again I became a member of God’s family…As a son of God, is there anything I can do which will change my relationship with him?  No!  I’m related to God by spiritual birth and nothing can change that blood relationship (pp 55, 56- emphasis his).

Anderson, like so many others, gives very little scriptural support for his contention that once we become a child of God, we inevitably remain one forever.  He later quotes a portion of Jn. 10:27, 28 and cites Rom. 8:35, but does not consider them in their proper context and ignores many other related Scriptures, as will soon be demonstrated.  Anderson relies primarily on a “story” to make his case and try to demonstrate that sin and apostasy can only affect our fellowship with God, but never our relationship.

Let us consider some of his statements from this portion of his book, “I’m related to God by spiritual birth and nothing can change that blood relationship (emphasis mine).”  Please notice that Anderson first calls our relationship spiritual, but then in the same sentence calls it a blood relationship.  Since a blood relationship is physical, it can never be spiritual.  Consider the following Scriptures:  “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent (literally: “of bloods”)…but born of God”(Jn. 1:12, 13- emphasis mine).  “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (Jn. 3:5, 6- emphasis mine).  It is clear from these two scriptures that the new birth is entirely spiritual and has no physical element to it.  To say that we enter into an unbreakable blood relationship with God is to contradict the testimony of his word.

To make matters worse, once we are “born again” (Jn. 3:3), we become a part of God’s family through “adoption” (Rom. 8:23-25) and cannot properly be compared to natural born children with a “blood relationship”.  Even Israel, whom Paul called the “natural branches” (Rom. 11:21), are children only through “adoption” (Rom. 9:3, 4).

To compare our relationship with God to our blood relationship with our natural parents is to draw an analogy that Scripture does not support and flatly contradicts.  Paul warned against such dangerous reasoning, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8- emphasis mine).

What of Anderson’s contention that we can in no way jeopardize our relationship with our heavenly Father, but only our fellowship?  Anderson responds categorically with a “No!” saying nothing can change that “blood relationship” (which we have shown to be an unscriptural concept), and that continued sinning, or even walking away, cannot jeopardize our relationship with God.  Again, Scripture is not on his side.

Therefore brothers, we have an obligation– but it is not to the sinful nature to walk according to it.  For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Rom. 8:12-14 (emphasis mine)

There are several important truths to be gleaned from this passage of Scripture.  First, we see that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  Second, those that are called “sons of God” are those that live by the Spirit by putting “to death the misdeeds of the body.”  Third, if we continue to “live according to the sinful nature” we will die spiritually.  What if we experience the new birth and later fall back into a lifestyle controlled by the sinful nature?  We would cease to be “sons of God”, because only those led by God’s Spirit are his children, and those led by God’s Spirit are those who “put to death the misdeeds of the body” and no longer “live according to the sinful nature.”  Fourth, Paul tells us that we are obligated to live by God’s Spirit.  For those who want to be God’s children, such a Spirit led life is not optional- “we have an obligation”.

Anderson wants us to believe otherwise.  He writes,

Our freedom in Christ is one of the most precious gifts we have received from God.  You no longer have to walk according to the flesh as you did before you received Christ.  You are not even forced to walk according to the Spirit.  You can choose to walk according to the Sprit or to walk according to the flesh (pg. 89- emphasis mine).

Notice how Anderson says we can be a child of God and still walk according to the flesh, while Paul says we are not free to walk according to the flesh but obligated to walk according to the Spirit!  The consequence of walking according to the flesh is spiritual death according to Paul, but only a shaky fellowship according to Anderson.  Paul gave a similar teaching in Gal. 6:7, 8,

Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

To claim that we can sow “to please the sinful nature” and still reap eternal life, is to mock God’s word.  Only those that sow “to please the Spirit” will reap eternal life and avoid spiritual “destruction”.  It is impossible for a child of God to return to a lifestyle controlled by sin, and still remain a child of God (Rom. 8:9-14).  A child of God is recognized by his or her behavior,

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning…This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother (1 Jn. 3:7, 8, 10 emphasis mine).

According to these Scriptures, and numerous others, there is far more than our “fellowship” at stake.  Our saving relationship with Jesus Christ (the only source of eternal life- 1 Jn. 1:2; 5:11; Jn. 1:4; 5:26; 6:35; 11:25; 14:6; Heb. 5:9; Col. 3:4) is at stake when we walk away from God, or live a life that is not in accord with his life giving Spirit.  We are in danger of “grieving” (Eph. 4:30), and finally “insulting” the Spirit that seals us (which constitutes apostasy- Heb. 10:26-31), for God’s Spirit belongs only to those that continue to obey him (Acts 5:32; Jn. 14:15-17).  If we cease to have God’s Spirit, we no longer belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9).

We are truly children of God the moment we believe, but there is an aspect of our adoption that we have not yet attained (Phil. 3:10-14; Rom. 8:23-25).  Only those that “overcome” will inherit God’s kingdom, be called God’s “son”, and escape eternal punishment (Rev. 2:11; 21:7, 8). We have not yet arrived, and we face the real danger of apostasy if we take sin lightly or falsely believe that we can live according to the sinful nature and remain God’s children.  Paul says we are free, but only from sin (and the requirements of the ceremonial law), and to be free from sin is to be a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:15-18).  There is no middle ground.

The fatal flaw in Anderson’s thinking is that of comparing the natural to the spiritual.  Our spiritual birth and adoption is contingent on us remaining in the new relationship that the new birth creates.  While one may be disowned in the natural and still remain a biological child, we cannot remain God’s child if he disowns us, for there is no biological relationship that ties us together (Matt. 10:32, 33).

The Scriptures know no such distinction between relationship and fellowship.  To have fellowship with God is to be cleansed by Christ’s blood (1 Jn. 1:7).  The security described in Jn. 10:27-29 is contingent on our listening and following Jesus (vs. 27).  Anyone who would cease to follow Jesus, by allowing the sinful nature to again take control of his or her life, can no longer be secure in Christ’s arms.  The Lord will protect the true believer from outside forces, but we can still walk away of our own free will.  The same is true of Rom. 8:35-39.  This promise is only for those that “love [God]” (vs. 28) and are considered his “sheep” who endure persecution for Christ’s sake (vs. 36).

Again, the true believer is protected from outside forces, but is responsible to “remain” in Christ’s love (Jn. 15:9; Jude 21).  We can still walk away of our own will, or fall away through sin or persecution (Matt. 10:22, 28, 32-33; Luke 8:13).  We are safe and belong to God only as long as we choose to remain in him, and unless we remain, we can no longer belong to God’s family (Jn. 15:5, 6; 1 Jn. 2:24, 25; 2 Jn. 9; Rom. 11:17-22; Col. 1:21-23).  Even Anderson cannot remain consistent with his unbiblical relationship and fellowship dichotomy.  He later writes, “If you hold onto a secret, lustful thought or proud attitude without hurting anyone else, you need only confess it to God.  The only relationship affected is the one between you and Him (page 92-emphasis mine).”

 Anderson is also inconsistent in regards to which sins were forgiven at the point of conversion.  He writes, “When you step off the path of the Spirit, confess your sin to God and anyone you may have offended, receive forgiveness and return to walking the right path (pp. 91, 92- emphasis added).”  Here Anderson gives us good counsel.  When we sin we are to confess our sin to receive forgiveness and cleansing from God (1 Jn. 1:8, 9).  Jesus admonished us that asking forgiveness for our sins should be a part of our daily prayer life (Matt. 6:9-13).  He also told us that we would not receive forgiveness if we harbor un-forgiveness in our hearts towards others (Matt. 6:14, 15; Mark 11:25).  He even went so far as to say that our entire debt of sin would be charged back against us if we refused to forgive our fellow man (Matt. 18:21-35).

If it is true that we need to continually come to God for cleansing and forgiveness when we sin, then it must also be true that only our “past sins” were forgiven at the point of conversion (2 Pet. 1:9).  Any sins committed after conversion must be confessed in order to receive forgiveness (which is part of our walk of faith- Jn. 1:7-9).  Anderson seems to understand this, but later writes, “He has cancelled the debt of your sins past, present, and future (pg. 107- emphasis mine).”  If God has already forgiven my future sins then the previous Scriptures are senseless.  Why would Jesus and John tell us to ask forgiveness for sins that are already forgiven before we even commit them? 

When Anderson contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture, and even his own writing, he proves that he is in error.  This is especially disturbing considering his book is written to youth and promises to give them the tools they need to overcome sin and bondage in their lives.  When we teach that nothing we can possibly do will affect our relationship with God, that we are free as Christians to live according to the flesh (if we so desire), and that our future sins are forgiven before we even commit them, we are giving license to new Christians to return to a lifestyle that will lead to spiritual death and destruction (Rom. 8:9, 12-14; Gal. 6:7, 8; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 2 Pet. 2:18-22; Rev. 21:7-8).  We are also giving a much distorted view of Scripture regarding our place in God’s family.

Calvinism And Deuteronomy 29:29

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Calvinists often appeal to Deut. 29:29 when caught in a theological dilemma.  Ask a Calvinist how God can exhaustively determine all things and yet not be the author of sin and you might get an appeal to mystery and a quick reference to Deut. 29:29.  Ask a Calvinist how God’s unconditional election doesn’t make His choice of some over others for salvation arbitrary and you will likely get more of the same.  Yes, Calvinists love Deut 29:29 as it provides such a convenient theological escape hatch when they are called on to explain aspects of their doctrinal system which appear to be hopelessly contradictory.  But have they carefully thought about the teaching of Deut. 29:29 and the problem it poses for their peculiar hermeneutic?

Doesn’t the passage teach us that the “secret things” belong to the Lord?  Doesn’t this suggest that the secret things do not belong to us?  If they do not belong to us then doesn’t that suggest that we should certainly not attempt to build our entire theology on those things which are “secret?”  But isn’t that exactly what Calvinism does?  Isn’t their entire theological system built on the foundation of eternal “secret decrees” which are nowhere to be found in the pages of Scripture?

It seems to me that Calvinists have put the “secret things” that do not belong to them before the “things revealed.”  This is exactly the opposite of the message of Deut. 29:29.  For this reason the things revealed (God’s love for the world and desire to save all, the warnings against apostasy, and God’s plain declaration that he does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, etc.) are discarded, rendered essentially meaningless, and made to undergo tortured exegesis for the sake of the “secret things” that Calvinists claim to know so much about.

Walls and Dongell highlight this reality well in Why I Am Not A Calvinist,

Pressing this understanding [of God’s secret decree of unconditional election] through the whole of Scripture seems a prohibitively costly project, since at every turn, the words of Scripture must then be read in ways most readers would never imagine. Take, for example, the word of God through Jeremiah to Judah:

‘Hear and pay attention, do not be arrogant, for the Lord has spoken.  Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings the darkness…But if you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride, my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the LORD’s flock will be taken captive. (Jer. 13:15-17)’

Knowing that Judah did not turn and listen, the Calvinist concludes that God had already chosen to withhold his transforming grace from them, though he could easily have granted it.  So while the text appears to identify Judah’s pride as the root cause of punishment, the Calvinist instead concludes that Judah’s ability to repent depends on God’s eternally fixed plan.  Again, although the text seems to identify salvation as God’s deepest desire, the Calvinist must conclude that at a deeper level God never intended to bestow transforming grace on Jeremiah’s hearers.  In other words, the true intentions of God cannot be discerned from his words.

Somewhere along the way, the burden of reading myriad passages throughout the Bible in such a counterintuitive fashion should anxiously bring us to this sort of question: since the Calvinist view of divine sovereignty routinely requires such an awkward ‘decoding’ of biblical texts, should not we re-examine the Calvinist view of divine sovereignty itself? (pp. 56, 57, emphasis theirs)

The teaching of Deut. 29:29 has primary reference to the commands of God but it also establishes an important principle.  The one who wants to know and obey God need look no further than what He has revealed of His character, intentions and desires in the pages of Scripture.  Likewise, in the New Testament, we are admonished not to go “beyond what is written.” (1 Cor. 4:6)

Calvinists, of course, believe that they have gained insight into these secret eternal decrees by what the Bible reveals in passages which discuss depravity, election, and predestination.  The obvious problem is that their understanding of these passages leads them to embrace a theology that makes “secret decrees” and “hidden” contrary intentions lurk behind so much that God has revealed (as in Jer. 13:15-17 above).  Wouldn’t it be wise for them to carefully re-evaluate whether the secret should determine the revealed or whether the revealed should determine and control their theology? If we take the Lord’s words in Deut. 29:29 seriously the answer should be obvious.  But perhaps there is some “secret” meaning hidden behind that passage as well.  If that is the case we will need to wait until Calvinists reveal the secret to us, for it would seem that the “secret things” belong not only to “the LORD our God”, but to Calvinists as well.

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

This post completes our series on Ralston’s defense of the Arminian belief in self-determinism.  This is the grand finale where Ralston tackles the favorite argument against free-will, the doctrine of motives as presented primarily by Jonathan Edwards.  This is especially relevant since Calvinists continue to argue along these same lines today and often hold up Mr. Edwards’ work as un-refuted and irrefutable.  The following treatment by Thomas Ralston would suggest otherwise. I will not be interrupting his treatment with my comments so as to preserve the flow of his thought in this important critique.  Enjoy.  

III. We will now consider the objection to the view taken of free agency, which is founded upon the doctrine of motives.

Necessitarians have relied with great confidence on their arguments from this source. In illustrating their views of the doctrine of motives, they have chosen different figures, all amounting substantially to the same thing -leading necessarily to the same conclusion.

Dr. Hartley has represented the thoughts and feelings of the soul as resulting from the various vibrations of the brain, produced by the influence of motives, or surrounding circumstances. He admits frankly that his scheme implies “the necessity of human actions;” but he says, “I am sorry for it, but I cannot help it.”

Lord Kames represents the universe as “one vast machine composed of innumerable wheels, all closely linked together, and moving as they are moved.” Man he considers as “one wheel fixed in the middle of the vast automaton, moving just as necessarily as the sun, moon, or earth.”

President Edwards has represented “motives and surrounding objects as reaching through the senses to a finely-wrought nervous system, and, by the impressions made there, necessarily producing thought, volition, and action, according to the fixed laws of cause and effect.”

According to all these three general systems, the conclusion in reference to the influence of motives, etc., is the same – that is, it appears that the mind is like a machine or a pair of scales, only a passive substance, moving as it is acted upon by force applied to the wheel, or weight to the scale. Here is the leading principle in the systems of all the advocates of philosophical necessity; and upon this grand point the advocates of free agency join issue.

That we may see distinctly the point upon which the issue is made, we may here observe that advocates on both sides have very frequently mistaken or misrepresented the views of their opponents. First, then, let it be understood that necessitarians, by motives as influencing the will, do not maintain that the strongest motive, considered in reference to its real and proper weight, always prevails; but, by the strongest motive they understand the motive having the greatest influence over the individual at the time, and under all the circumstances of the case. This is the same as saying that the prevailing motive always prevails; which is only the assertion of a simple truism, which no one can dispute.

The point, therefore, in which the matter of controversy is involved, is not whether the strongest motive, considered in reference to its real weight, always prevails. This, necessitarians are misrepresented, if they are charged with holding. Nor is it in dispute whether the strongest motive, considered in reference to its influence over the individual at the time and under the circumstances, always prevails. This the advocates of free agency do not deny, for that would be the same as to deny that the prevailing motive is the prevailing motive. Nor is it a matter of dispute whether motives and surrounding circumstances have any influence in determining the will. That they do have a powerful influence, metaphorically speaking, none can deny.

What, then, we ask, is the real point of dispute? It is simply this: Do motives presented to the mind, and surrounding circumstances, have an efficient, absolute, and irresistible influence over the will, so as in all cases to make it necessarily what it is? This is the real and the only point in the doctrine of motives on which the controversy turns. Necessitarians affirm on this question, and the advocates of free agency deny. We will endeavor impartially to examine the question.

That we may understand the true doctrine concerning the influence of motives on the will, we observe,

1. God the Creator must have possessed within himself the power of action, otherwise creation never could have taken place; for, previous to creation, nothing existed but God, and consequently if he could only act as acted upon by something external to himself, as there was nothing in the universe but himself, he must have remained forever in a state of inaction, and creation could not have originated. Now it must be admitted, either that God has created beings capable of acting without being necessarily acted upon by something external to themselves, or he has not. If he has not, then it will follow that there is but one agent in the universe, and that is God; and angels and men are only patients, no more capable of self-motion than a clod or a stone. This theory at once destroys the distinction between matter and mind, is directly repugnant to the whole tenor of Scripture, and most recklessly subversive of the plainest dictates of common sense! And yet it will appear that it is the only theory consistent with the views of necessitarians on the subject of motives.

Now let us take the opposite position, and suppose, according to common sense and Scripture, that two distinct classes of substances have been created – material and immaterial. In other words, that God has not only created dead, inanimate matter, capable only of moving as it is moved, but that he has also created intelligent beings, endued with self-moving energy, capable, not of themselves, but in the exercise of their derived powers, of voluntary action, independent of external and necessary force, and it will be at once apparent that there is a radical and essential distinction in nature between lifeless matter and these intelligent beings. If this distinction be admitted, which cannot possibly be denied while the voice of common sense or Scripture is allowed to be heard, then it will follow that lifeless matter and intelligent beings are regulated by laws as different as are their essential natures.

Here we find the origin of the grand metaphysical blunder of necessitarians of every school, and of every age. They have made no distinction between matter and mind. The ancient Manichees, the Stoics, the atheistic and deistic philosophers, Spinoza, Hobbes, Voltaire, Hume, and others, have been followed, in this confounding of matter and mind, by many learned and excellent men, such as President Edwards of Princeton, and President Day of Yale College.

Indeed, the whole treatise of Edwards, in which he has written three hundred pages on the human will, is based upon this blunder. His almost interminable chain of metaphysical lore, when clearly seen in all its links, is most palpably an argument in a circle. He assumes that the mind is similar to matter, in order to prove that it can only act as acted upon; and then, because it can only act as acted upon, he infers that, in this respect, the mind, like matter, is governed by necessity. Although he turns the subject over and over, and presents it in an almost endless variety of shape, it all, so far as we can see, amounts to this: The mind, in its volitions, can only act as it is acted upon; therefore the will is necessarily determined. And what is this but to say that the will is necessarily determined, because it is necessarily determined? Can any real distinction be pointed out between the labored argument of Edwards and this proposition? But we shall soon see that this assumed position – that the mind can only act as it is acted upon – is philosophically false, This grand pillar upon which the huge metaphysical edifice has been reared, may be shown to be rotten throughout, yea, it may be snapped asunder by a gentle stroke from the hammer of reason and common sense; and then the edifice, left without foundation, must fall to the ground.

Let us now contemplate these motives which are said to act upon the mind so as necessarily to influence the will. Let us look them full in the face, and ask the question, What are they? Are they intelligent beings, capable of locomotion? Are they endued with a self-moving energy? Yea, more: Are they capable of not only moving themselves, but also of imparting their force to something external to themselves, so as to coerce action in that which could not act without them? If these questions be answered in the negative, then it will follow that motives, considered in themselves, can no more act on the mind so as necessarily to determine the will, than a world can be created by something without existence. If these questions be answered in the affirmative, then it will follow that motives at least are free agents – capable of acting without being acted upon, and endued with self-controlling and self-determining energy. Necessitarians may fall upon either horn of the dilemma; but upon which horn soever they fall, their system must perish.

If the attempt be made to evade this by saying that motives do not act themselves, but God is the agent acting upon man, and determining his will through the instrumentality of motives – if this be the meaning, then I demand, why not call things by their right names? Why attribute the determination of the will to the influence of motives, and at the same time declare that motives are perfectly inefficient, capable of exercising no influence whatever? Is not this fairly giving up the question, and casting “to the moles and to the bats” the revered argument for necessity, founded upon the influence of motives?

Again, to say that motives exercise no active influence, but are only passive instruments in the hands of God by which he determines the will by an immediate energy exerted at the time, is the same as to say that God is the only agent in the universe; that he wills and acts for man; and, by his own direct energy, performs every physical and moral act in the universe, as really and properly as he created the worlds; and then that he will condemn and punish men everlastingly for his own proper acts! Is this the doctrine of philosophical necessity? Truly it is. And well may we say this is fatalism! This is absurdity!

Now, let us turn from the absurdities of the necessitarian scheme, and see if we can perceive the true doctrine on the subject of motives. Suppose, as I pass the street, I perceive in the shop on my right the choicest liquors most invitingly displayed. I am tempted to drink to excess. I parley with the temptation. I long for the delicious wines. I think of the dreadful consequences of inebriety; but then returns my love of strong drink, and I determine in my will to yield myself up to intoxication. Here we perceive an act has been performed by which the will is fixed in a particular way; but the question is, Who is the agent in this act? Necessitarians would say the motive to intoxication has been the active agent, and man has been the passive instrument. But we ask, What motive, or what surrounding circumstance, in this case, has put forth active energy, so as not only to move itself without being acted upon, but also to communicate an irresistible impulse to something external to itself? Can the wines in the bottles exhibit their eloquent tongues, and plead with the passer-by to quaff them? Surely not. They are themselves as passive as the bricks in the wall. Can the love for strong drink assert a separate and independent existence, and rise up as an active agent, independent of the man, and use arguments with the understanding, and coercively determine the will? This is so far from being the case, that these motives have no existence itself, independent of the man. They only derive their existence through the exercise of the active powers of man; and shall it be said that they necessarily control those powers, and even that those powers cannot be exerted except as they are necessarily impelled by motives? Can motives be the cause and the effect in the same sense, at the same time?

The plain truth is, motives do not act themselves at all. It is the mind that acts upon them. They are passive, and only move as they are moved. The mind of man is the active agent that picks the motive up, turns it about, and estimates its weight. This will be rendered somewhat plainer when we reflect that two objects both passive can never act upon each other: some active power must first move the one, or it can never move the other.

Suppose two blocks of marble placed near together in the same room: can the one arise up and impart a direct and resistless influence to the other, so as to cause it necessarily to change its place? Certainly not. And why? Simply because they are both passive. Now, as motives, arguments, and surrounding circumstances, are obviously passive in their nature, incapable of moving themselves, it necessarily follows that if the mind is also passive, the one cannot act upon the other – neither motives upon the mind, nor the mind upon motives. Hence, agreeably to the assertion of necessitarians, that the mind is passive, the will cannot be influenced by motives at all.

The fallacy of the reasoning of Edwards and others on this subject consists in their considering the influence attributed to motives as an independent and active influence, whereas motives are all the time passive, and are really acted upon by the mind, soul, or feelings of man. So far from motives actively determining the will, through the mind or soul, it is the mind or soul that determines the will, and, by its own active energy, gives to motives all the influence they possess.

This is evident from the very nature of motives. What are they? Are they not arguments, reasons, or persuasions? Now, if the mind can exercise no free agency of its own, in attending to arguments, examining reasons, or yielding to persuasions, why address them to man, and exhort him to give them their due weight? The very fact that they are motives, arguments, reasons, or persuasions, is proof sufficient that they are designed to influence the will, not necessarily and irresistibly, but only through the agency of man. So that when we admit that the motive having the greatest influence, at the time and under the circumstances, always prevails – or, in other words, that the prevailing motive always prevails – the question is still before us, Why does it prevail? What gives it the greatest influence? Does it exercise this influence of itself independently? We have already shown that it cannot. What, then, gives it this prevailing influence? It is the free and uncoerced agency of the man himself which determines the influence of the motive, which gives it that influence, and thereby determines the will.

If it still be asked why the mind determines to give to a particular motive a certain influence, and to fix the will accordingly, we reply, the reason is in the mind itself. God has endued us with this power. Without it we could not be moral agents; we could not be accountable; we could no more be rewarded or punished than the earth on which we tread.

We think we have said enough to show that the argument against free agency from the doctrine of motives is fallacious, and alike repugnant to reason, common sense, and Scripture. And whether, in this chapter, we have successfully vindicated the doctrine of free agency from the objections that it is absurd in itself, and inconsistent with the divine prescience, and with the doctrine of motives, we submit to the decision of the reader. (Elements of Divinity, pp. 203-209, Wesleyan Heritage Collection)

Go to Part 1 of This Series


Arminian Articles

If you have not paid attention to the side bar in awhile you may have missed the increase in quality Arminian resources.  A new section has been added called Arminian Articles and many articles have been recently added.  These articles deal with a wide variety of topics from an Arminian perspective.   Several have been added which deal with the extant of the atonement, perseverance, foreknowledge/ free will, and various Arminian views of Romans 9.  Below are a few (but not all) of the newer links that have been added in the last month or two.

Defending Unlimited Atonement (some are written by 4-point Calvinists)

D.A. Waite, “Calvin’s Error of Limited Atonement” 

Samuel Telloyan, “Did Christ Die For All?”

Marshall, I. Howard. “For All, for All My Saviour Died”

Robert Lightner, “Problems with a Limited View of the Atonement”

Picirilli, Robert. “The Extent of the Atonement”

Ron Rhodes, “The Extent of the Atonement” : Limited Atonement Versus Unlimited Atonement

Marshall, I. Howard. “The Theology of the Atonement”

Foreknowledge and Free Will

Robert Picirilli, “Foreknowledge, Freedom, And The Future”

Richard Watson, On Omniscience

Andrew Telford, “Foreknowledge”




Romans 9


Hamilton, Robert.  “Election in RomansChapter Nine”

Clarke, Adam. “Commentary on Romans 9”

Schooley, Keith. “Romans 9: An Arminian/New Perspective Reading”

Goodwin, John. Exposition of Romans Nine


McKnight, Scot. “Post-Calvinism”

Picirilli, Robert. “The Possibility of Apostasy”

Marshall, I. Howard. “The Problem of Apostasy in the New Testament Theology”

The Warning Passages in Hebrews (McKnight)

What Say You Calvinist?

Kyle over at Preach Faith has written some very engaging posts at his blog lately and is not afraid to challenge Calvinists to defend their views in light of Scripture.  He has written three open challenges to Calvinism in the last several weeks.  Personally, I think he makes some very strong points concerning problems that have plagued Calvinism since its inception.  These points highlight the reasons why the majority of Christendom still rejects Calvinism.  Check em’ out when you get the chance.

A Challenge to Calvinists Everywhere

God is Not Obligated to Love Anybody

An Even Simpler Challenge to Calvinists Everywhere

And here is another very intriguing post which looks carefully at the nature of God’s love and some of the logical consequences of a theology which holds to unconditional election:

Biblical Love and Calvinism


The Most Powerful Argument For Limited Atonement Yet: The Pizza Man Delivers Another Winner

Hard to argue with this one.  Unless you’re a heretic of course!  Go Pizza Man!