J.I. Packer Calls Arminianism “an intellectual sin of infirmity”

In other words, Arminians are just stupid Christians who refuse to mature intellectually.  Here is the quote:

Calvinism is the natural theology written on the heart of the new man in Christ, whereas Arminianism is an intellectual sin of infirmity, natural only in the sense in which all such sins are natural, even to the regenerate. Calvinistic thinking is the Christian being himself on the intellectual level; Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh. Calvinism is what the Christian church has always held and taught when its mind has not been distracted by controversy and false traditions from attending to what Scripture actually says. (taken from: J.I. Packer and Arminianism)

Roger Olson rightly concludes, “So, to him, Arminianism is sin.”  And we are told that Calvinism is supposed to promote humility in its adherents!?  However, it seems to me, again and again, that Calvinism’s “natural” effect is to promote pride and smugness in those who come to embrace it.  And of course, Packer’s last sentence is demonstrably Historically false (see here for several posts on the subject).  What is truly sad and alarming is that this comes not from misguided internet Neo-Reformed types, but from a mainstream Calvinist scholar.

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10 Responses

  1. Who gives a hoot what Packer thinks–about anything? If he wants to call the Scriptures sin, that is up to him, because the Arminian Theology is 100 percent biblically based, as opposed to Calvinism, which isn’t.

    Not only does Calvinism promote pride and smugness, as Roger Olson rightly points out, but I go even further than that. It promotes absolute arrogance and the frustrating thing is, Calvinists have nothing to be arrogant, prideful or smug about. it is quite to the contrary.

    Having been the target of Calvinists because I abandoned their theology/philosophy, I know of what I speak.

    I’m still laughing over the Calvinist response I received on John 1:29. “That does not mean he took away the sin of the world.” Like I told this fellow, “sure enough, friend. Behold!! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world means that he didn’t take away the sin of the world. I get it now. Thanks.”

    And Calvinists are prideful of their intellectual ability? Go figure!!

  2. Well that’s a shame to read, Ben! I thought J. I. Packer was one of those moderate types who is an okay Calvinists doing his thing but not out to bite Arminians. Obviously not. It’s hard to blame these these “Young, Restless, Reformed” folks for the way they act when they have role-models like that.

  3. Uh.. wow, just wow. This is either the funniest or saddest thing I have ever read. Calvinism allows for no free will and thus, no decisions, no logic and no ability to come to Christ based on the facts. I agree that the Holy Spirit must convict a sinner if they are to be saved, but the Calvinist ignores verses like the one that says the Holy Spirit is convicting the WORLD, and the ones that clearly show men chose to serve falsehood, rather than God. Calvinism promotes hatred of sinners, yet many Calvinists do not know which sinners to hate, so they hate all of them.

  4. I agree, Matt. And it also does not allow a PERSON, created in the image of God, to be related to as a person. The phrase “personal relationship with Christ,” doesn’t apply to Calvinists. They would have to use the phrase “a mechanical relationship with Christ,” if they are going to be consistent to their twisted theology.

  5. It is the ignorance and arrogance of this mainline teachers that makes dealing with Calvinists so frustrating.

  6. Packer nowhere called Arminians stupid Christians nor that they refuse to mature intelectually. Assuring that he did might be affirming more than what he wrote. JML states that Calvinism promotes pride and smugness while categorically declaring that Arminianism is 100% biblical as opposed to Calvinism, which is not (let’s be satisfied). Laughing at length over other’s interpretations is of little humility (yet Calvinists are the arrogant devils). John Wesley encouraged some to pray that God would stop the “plague” (How should Calvinists feel being regarded as a “contagious bacterial disease”?). Wesley should not be crucified for that. No need to make a post in order to riddle him with ease. We know that he was true a man of God, who blessed and led to salvation to many, as probably Packer has – surely more than us. After all, perfect role-models do not exist (bad news for the young reformed). Finally, saying that Calvinism promotes hatred of sinners is quite a simplistic statement. Only the sin of the man’s heart promotes hatred against others and Calvinism is not free from being sinfully understood and applied. Through Calvinist theology God has produced much love for the lost in the heart of many men so the problem is not the reformed view but how this is understood and applied (a problem very commonly seen in this site). What is truly sad and alarming is that this comes not from misguided internet Neo-Reformed types, but from mainstream moderate Arminians.

  7. I did make those comments you referred to and I figured anyone would understand the hyperbole involved.

    My reference to Calvinism in those comments are based on the reaction I have received from them after junking their system and adopting the Arminian Theology.

    It was vicious, to say the least. I’ve been called just about ever name in the book by these former “friends.”

    They certainly haven’t shown “love, one for another.” That’s fine, though. Life goes on.

  8. Patrick,

    You write:

    Packer nowhere called Arminians stupid Christians nor that they refuse to mature intelectually. Assuring that he did might be affirming more than what he wrote.

    It “might” be, but I think that is highly unlikely. If he didn’t mean to imply such things, he should have used very different language. Look at what he said,

    “Arminianism is an intellectual sin of infirmity, natural only in the sense in which all such sins are natural, even to the regenerate.”

    How can you read that and not conclude that to hold to Arminianism is to sin intellectually?

    “Calvinistic thinking is the Christian being himself on the intellectual level; Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh.”

    Will you really say that such things do not suggest that Arminians are simply refusing to mature intellectually into the true Calvinist way of thinking, and that only true Calvinist thinking represents a Christian “being himself” (i.e. a true and natural, or mature Christian). The belief in Arminianism is therefore the result of the Christian sinning intellectually in such a way that he or she is not being “himself” (i.e. what a Christian should be) and falling short of true intellectual Christian thinking.

    “Calvinism is what the Christian church has always held and taught when its mind has not been distracted by controversy and false traditions from attending to what Scripture actually says.”

    Therefore, Arminianism is born of a distraction from what Scripture “actually says.” So Arminians are in a state of intellectual sin “failing” to “be [themselves]” (i.e. what a true mature Christian who is not sinning intellectually ought to be) and are distracted from “attending” to what “Scripture actually says” due to “controversy and false traditions.”

    Does it really need to be spelled out to you in such a manner? Are you really trying to defend such statements? Do you think that J.I. Packer really meant to say that Arminians are intelligent Christians, just as Calvinists are? Does it really seem like a misrepresentation to say that Packer is essentially calling Arminians stupid Christians who refuse to mature intellectually?

    John Wesley encouraged some to pray that God would stop the “plague” (How should Calvinists feel being regarded as a “contagious bacterial disease”?).

    Wesley witnessed firsthand some of the unfortunate spiritual consequences of the Calvinism of his day and was referring to that specifically (antinomianism). Still, saying that a belief system is harmful to the church and to spirituality is a far cry from saying that those who hold to it are guilty of an intellectual sin of infirmity and failing to be truly Christian in holding to it due to the weakness of the flesh.

    Finally, saying that Calvinism promotes hatred of sinners is quite a simplistic statement. Only the sin of the man’s heart promotes hatred against others and Calvinism is not free from being sinfully understood and applied.

    I think you are missing the point in that in Calvinism God hates the reprobate, hated them from eternity, and necessitated their unbelief and rebellion as well as their destruction by way of an irresistible eternal decree. If that is one’s view of God, one can see how one who believes that might feel more justified in hating those who disagree with them (though not necessarily so), especially if they see them as reprobates, etc. Likewise, in Calvinism God determines everything by way of an irresistible eternal decree, including “hatred of sinners” and the condition of the heart from which that hatred comes. Therefore, if Calvinism is true such statements as yours make little sense. Perhaps that is what that commenter was referring to (you may want to ask for clarification, since perhaps you are guilty of the same sort of “misunderstanding” that you believe me to be guilty of in my assessment of Packer’s comments).

    Through Calvinist theology God has produced much love for the lost in the heart of many men so the problem is not the reformed view but how this is understood and applied (a problem very commonly seen in this site).

    Care to clarify that last statement in the parentheses?

    What is truly sad and alarming is that this comes not from misguided internet Neo-Reformed types, but from mainstream moderate Arminians.

    Are you saying that the commenters here are such “mainstream moderate Arminians”, or did you have someone else in mind (someone comparable to Packer, perhaps?)

    You are entitled to your opinion and no one ever said that Arminians cannot be guilty of arrogance or any number of sins, but it is not wrong to point out that Packer is wrong to say that Arminainism is an intellectual sin of infirmity. Unless you want to defend his statements, I am not sure why you are so bothered by this post. It is also commonly admitted by many Calvinists arrogance and smugness tends to be a problem among Calvinists, so I am not saying anything new here.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  9. It seems to me that, if you believe you are chosen, and that you cannot fall away, a natural consequence of this is pride and arrogance and I have certainly noticed these things in my dealings with Calvinists. As soon as I say that I am Arminian I get deluged with emails and tracts and so on from Calvinist acquaintances, determined to convert me to Calvinism, as if I hadn’t given a lot of thought to what I believe. Hence my possibly rather defensive blog name!

  10. […] [1]  Craig Brown and other Calvinists will actually take this a step further and say that Arminians embrace Arminianism and reject Calvinism, not just because Arminians are influenced by “western thought” or “American common sense”, but because Arminianism so strongly appeals to our sinful nature!  See the following posts to see such wild claims for yourself: The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism Part 1 and J.I. Packer Calls Arminianism “An Intellectual Sin of Infirmity”   […]

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