Does Arminianism Imply That we Can Boast in Our Salvation Over Those Who do Not Believe?

Out of all the arguments for Calvinism, this is the one that I probably hear the most. It comes in a variety of forms but usually imagines two people under the influence of prevenient grace, suggesting that the one who responds positively should have some reason to boast over the one who did not. It is meant to imply that in Arminianism (which holds that God desires all to be saved and makes it possible for anyone who hears the Gospel to believe it and receive salvation) we can boast in our salvation, that we contribute something to our salvation, or that we must be better than others because of the choice we made that they did not (or something similar). Several posts and articles have been written here and elsewhere that address the various implications of this argument and I thought it would be good to gather them together in one post for easy reference since this argument continues to make the rounds:

Addressing the Calvinist Challenge: Why Did You Believe And Your Neighbor Did Not? (Brian Abasciano)

Is Faith a Work Created by Man?

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #9: Faith is Some Reason to Boast?

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #2: Arminianism Entails Salvation by “Inherent Ability”

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #1: “If we have libertarian free will, what makes us choose one way or the other?”

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #10: Wait, Now Faith is a Work?

Does Arminian Theology Suggest That We Depend on Ourselves Instead of Christ for Salvation?

Synergism as a Model for God’s Glory

Does Paul Support Calvinism’s View of Irresistible Grace in 1 Corinthians 4:7?

3 thoughts on “Does Arminianism Imply That we Can Boast in Our Salvation Over Those Who do Not Believe?

  1. So, let me reason this way, If previnient grace is given to everyone, and my neighbors resist it, so they are not brought to salvation (regeneration), and I don’t resist it, so I AM brought to salvation, then they merit (deserve) their condemnation, while I do not merit my salvation, even 00000.1% or so, by my not resisting. Right?

    Well, is it really so? Am I not sure, honestly. Something still comes from me: my non-resistance. Both my neighbors and I were given grace that enables us not to resist – they chose to resist, I chose not to resist. How can we say that my choosing not to resist God’s grace that leads to salvation is not meritorious, even if 0.000001%? What made the difference between condemnation and salvation, in the end, IS my choice. So, how can we say that I did not contribute to my salvation, when I did: by my choice?

    Would you please respond to these very words, because that is the crux of the matter? Thank you. (And once again, I am not a Calvinist. One can be a monergist (and not an Arminian synergist) without being a Calvinist (example: Lutherans).

  2. So, let me reason this way, If previnient grace is given to everyone, and my neighbors resist it, so they are not brought to salvation (regeneration), and I don’t resist it, so I AM brought to salvation, then they merit (deserve) their condemnation, while I do not merit my salvation, even 00000.1% or so, by my not resisting. Right?

    Yes, that is exactly right as the first article I pointed you too well established.

    Well, is it really so?

    Yes it is, because you have only freely received a gift you did not deserve and were powerless to earn. If someone else rejects it that in no way means you suddenly deserve it. That would be absurd.

    Am I not sure, honestly. Something still comes from me: my non-resistance.

    So if you receive a gift from someone with full power of rejecting that gift (resisting) does that mean you earned the gift? Of course not. That would, again, be absurd.

    Both my neighbors and I were given grace that enables us not to resist – they chose to resist, I chose not to resist. How can we say that my choosing not to resist God’s grace that leads to salvation is not meritorious, even if 0.000001%?

    I just explained it. The fact that someone else rejects the gift doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t all of a sudden make you worthy of the gift since you still did nothing to earn it. You just freely received it.

    What made the difference between condemnation and salvation, in the end, IS my choice.

    Not really. The gift of salvation made the difference in the end. All that Christ did on your behalf made the difference in the end. All you did was receive what Christ did. Imagine how dishonoring and ridiculous it would be for you to tell someone who gave you a gift that by just freely receiving it the gift was really all of you and not of the gift giver? Or that you deserve some credit for the gift because you received it? That is essentially what you are doing here. Or imagine telling the person that because someone else rejected the gift that you therefore deserved it, bought it, contributed to it, or you gave it to yourself? Again, that would be both absurd and extremely dishonoring to the giver.

    So, how can we say that I did not contribute to my salvation, when I did: by my choice?

    See above. It is absurd to suggest that we contribute to a gift by simply choosing to receive it.

    Would you please respond to these very words, because that is the crux of the matter? Thank you. (And once again, I am not a Calvinist. One can be a monergist (and not an Arminian synergist) without being a Calvinist (example: Lutherans).

    Just did. Hope it helps.

    BTW, some Arminians call themselves monergists as well. I personally don’t think either term really fits Arminianism. Arminianism only holds to synergism with regards to faith, and only in the sense that we must freely respond to God’s enabling (even monergists agree that God does not believe for us, so really, Monergism is a misnomer in any theological tradition). But God still does the actual saving. I cannot atone for my own sins. I cannot regenerate myself. In short, I cannot save myself. Only God can save me, which is exactly why I need to put my trust in Him. I went over this quite clearly in one of the posts I linked to. Did you read any of those yet?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  3. Hi Ben,

    I wonder if part of the disconnect here lies in the use of the term “merit”? It is certainly a good thing to receive a gift offered and it is a bad thing to reject a gift offered. So receiving a gift is in some sense meritorious or praiseworthy as it reveals right thinking (wisdom) and good character (humility). A wise man receives a gift offered. A humble man admits he does not deserve the gift and receives it gratefully. But as you correctly note, receiving a gift in no way makes you meritorious of the gift itself. It is commendable to receive a gift but that doesn’t mean we deserve the gift in any sense.

    God doesn’t give salvation based on merit to those who prove themselves wise enough and humble enough. God offers salvation to all and gives grace to all so that anyone can be saved. Certainly part of God’s wisdom in establishing salvation by faith rather than works is to rule out boasting but I think it is also intended to prepare us for our kingdom vocation. Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3-4) Of course we recognize that the change to child-like humility is a prevenient work of grace. The fact that this grace is resistible does not give us legitimate cause to boast that we in any way earned the gift by our non-resistance.

    When a sinner receives the gift of salvation by faith in Christ, we can rejoice and commend them for their wise choice without implying their wise choice earned them the gift itself. Yet even our commendation of their wise choice is qualified by the understanding that this wisdom is itself enabled by God’s grace. A wise person will not boast in the wisdom of their decision but in the grace of God that made that decision possible. As it is written, “let him who boasts, boast in the LORD!”

    Dana

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