Dr. David Allen Reviews and Critiques “From Heaven He Came And Sought Her”, The Latest Calvinist Defense of Limited (Definite) Atonement

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Excerpt from conclusion:

While the book [From Heaven He Came And Sought Her] will likely be too much for some laypeople to digest, I would encourage all theological students, pastors, and scholars to take the time to read it and digest it. It is probably the most comprehensive defense of definite atonement available. On the surface, it looks formidable, but it has a soft underbelly and is vulnerable to a number of criticisms.

It only takes one clear statement in Scripture that Christ died for the sins of all people to confirm unlimited atonement no matter how many statements indicate Christ died for a specific group of people. Likewise, it would only take one clear statement in Scripture that Christ died only for the sins of the elect to confirm definite atonement. There is not one single statement in Scripture that overtly states Christ died only for the sins of the elect. There are easily a dozen New Testament Scriptures overtly stating Christ died for all people.

The burden is on the authors of this book to prove that a simple positive statement can entail a universal negation. This is the book’s claim. The hill which the authors must climb is to prove, exegetically from Scripture, that Christ died only for some people’s sins (a limited imputation of sin). If exegetically, DA fails, then no amount of theological flying buttresses will support it.

We are also told that Dr. David Allen is himself presently working on a new book on atonement.  We will be sure to promote it when it comes out.

Related posts and articles:

I. Howard Marshall: The Theology of Atonement

I. Howard Marshall: For All, For All My Savior Died

Robert Picirilli: The Extent of the Atonement

Robert Picirilli: Salvation by Faith, Applied

Albert Barnes on the Extent of the Atonement

The F.A.C.T.S. of Salvation “A”: Atonement For All 

3 Part Series on Provisional Atonement

Muppet Calvinism

A puppet representing Calvinist thought seems about right to me…

MUPPET

Better than TULIP?

Only Paul

I never get tired of this one.  This is a slightly updated version of Kevin’s classic “Sola Paul.”  Both funny and devastating to one of the main Calvinist arguments for limited atonement.

Only Paul [Satire]

The F.A.C.T.S. of Salvation vs. The T.U.L.I.P. of Calvinism

While Calvinists like to play with flowers (or MUPPETS?), Arminians prefer to deal with the FACTS.  For an excellent and detailed summary of what Arminians believe and why, be sure to check out The FACTS of Salvation: A summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace!!

I just wanted to share some brief notes about my article, “The FACTS of Salvation: A Summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace,” recently published here at the website of the Society of Evangelical Arminians. It comes to about 25 pages and is a summary of Arminian theology with substantial scriptural support using the acronym FACTS. It is meant to be a positive presentation of the Arminian position and so does not typically get into debate over the various Scriptures appealed to, but mostly assumes a particular interpretation of them.

We occasionally get requests for Scripture citations to support our statement of faith. We have never felt it necessary to add Scripture references to our statement of faith since the website is largely dedicated to giving scriptural support for the distinctive elements of Arminian theology. But this FACTS article now provides that in a substantial way in one article. May the Lord use it to bless his church and advance his truth. [link]

Renowned Commentator Albert Barnes on the Extent of the Atonement

Excerpt:

It is no use here to say that the preacher does not know who the elect are, and that he is obliged to make the offer to all in order that the elect may be reached. For it is not the preacher only who offers the gospel. It is God who does it, and he knows who the elect are, and yet he offers salvation to all. And if there is no salvation provided for all, and no possibility that all to who the offer comes should be saved, then God is insincere; and there is no way possible of vindicating his character. (See the full article at SEA here)

1 Corinthians 15 and the Claims of Calvinism

Calvinism as a system claims that God reprobated a large segment of mankind so that they can never be saved. [1] It further claims that the atonement is for this reason limited only to the elect who alone will benefit from the atonement and be saved (with no possibility of falling away).  In such a system Jesus died only for the sins of the elect.  If this is the case it seems that many passages of Scripture are disingenuous in commanding all people everywhere to repent and believe on Christ when repentance is impossible for reprobates and Christ did not die for them anyway (For more on that see here).

If Calvinism is to be consistent in these claims it cannot allow for a person to rightly tell someone that Christ died for them.  The best one can do is say that if they repent and believe, Christ died for them [2] or that Christ died for sinners (meaning “some sinners” but not necessarily the sinner they are presently speaking to) or that Christ might have died for them, or something similar [3].  Therefore, consistent Calvinists say it is wrong to tell the unsaved that Christ died for them [4].  This may seem shocking enough to most Christians, but Calvinists today are often claiming further that the Bible never gives us an example of anyone telling unbelievers that Christ died for them.  It is with this claim in mind that we turn to our text:

 1CO 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,

1CO 15:2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

1CO 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

1CO 15:4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (NASB, emphasis mine)

Paul is recounting to the Corinthians the content of the gospel message as Paul first preached it to them.  The need for this reminder is made clearer later in the chapter where we discover that some are denying the resurrection and by extension are denying the gospel that Paul preached.  Paul makes it clear that the message as he describes it here is the message he first brought to them “of first importance”.  This gospel message includes three main components.  The first is that “Christ died for our sins” followed by the fact that Christ was buried and then rose again on the third day, all of which happened “according to the Scriptures”.  This is the specific content of the gospel message as Paul first delivered it to these Corinthians.  They “received” this gospel by faith and are currently standing on these truths delivered to them by Paul when he first preached this specific gospel message to them.

We can draw several conclusions from what Paul says to the Corinthians in this passage.  The one that most concerns us at present is that the initial message of the gospel to the Corinthians prior to their receiving (by faith) the message Paul preached is that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”.  The rest of the gospel message about the resurrection reinforces this central truth.  We know this because Paul later explains to them that if Christ is not raised then their faith is worthless and they are “still in [their] sins” as a result.  Therefore, the central message of the gospel, according to Paul, is that “Christ died for our sins”.  The resurrection is no less important in that it gives ultimate verification to the primary message of the gospel, Christ’s death for the forgiveness of sins.

But does Paul say that Christ died only for the sins of the elect?  To the contrary, Paul’s initial message to these unsaved Corinthians was that “Christ died for our sins.”  The natural way to understand Paul’s language here is that Christ died not only for Paul’s sins, but for all of their sins as well.  This is the message they needed to receive in order to be saved.  In accepting the truth by faith that Christ died for their sins, they received the forgiveness that results from Christ’s death to all that believe.  So here we have a clear example of the gospel message being preached to unbelievers and the central message of that gospel being not that Christ died for the elect, or that Christ died for sinners (meaning “some” sinners), but that Christ died for “our” (everyone’s) sins.  This is, according to Paul’s own words, the content of the gospel message delivered to them “as first importance.”  Paul is now admonishing them to remember that message that they received (that Christ died for them) and to continue to stand on that message, less their faith prove to be “in vain”.  But if it is unclear whether Christ died for them, how then can they be called on to stand firm on that truth?

Suppose we take Paul’s words to mean Christ died for “our” (the elect’s) sins [5].  That would be a most unnatural way to read the text.  Beyond that, it is hard to imagine how they would appropriate that message.  Is it by believing that Christ died for the elect alone that they are saved?  Surely not.  They could believe that Christ died for Paul and others that at least appeared to be elect (see note #3 below) without believing that Christ died for them in particular.  Indeed, according to Calvinism there is no way to know if Christ died for us until we repent and believe (and even then we cannot know for sure that Christ died for our sins until we persevere to the end [death or Christ’s return] in faith, see note #4 below).

But believe what?  According to Paul it is that Christ died for our sins.  That is the preeminent message of the gospel and it is a message that is grossly at odds with the claims of Calvinism [6].  We can’t trust Christ to save us if Christ did not die for our sins [7].  We can only trust that Christ might have died for us, though the odds are against it (see note #1 below)

We will now take a moment to examine the first part of Paul’s message as it has further relevance for Calvinism in that it seems to plainly contradict the Calvinist doctrine of inevitable perseverance:

1CO 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,

1CO 15:2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  (NASB, emphasis mine)

In verse one Paul makes it clear that he is addressing those who received his initial gospel message that Christ died for their sins and was buried and raised again.  Not only did they receive this message, but they are presently standing on that message and as a result will be finally saved, with one important qualifier: they must continue to hold on to that truth in the faith that they initially received that truth in.  In other words, if they turn from the truth of that initial message that they received and deny the resurrection, they would in turn be denying the very truth that will ultimately save them.  In such a case their initial faith in the death and resurrection of Christ will prove to have been in vain, since it did not continue.

This is problematic for Calvinism in two important ways.  First, Calvinism asserts that true faith will always endure because God will preserve that faith and cause the believer to persevere in that faith Himself.  So if one receives the truth of the gospel and stands on that truth he will certainly continue to stand on that truth to the end.  If one does not continue he never really stood on that truth to begin with and never truly received that truth to begin with.  But this is at odds with the way Paul speaks of the matter.  Paul does not doubt they received the message; nor does Paul doubt their present commitment to the message.  Paul only questions whether they will continue in that message or turn aside to deny the resurrection, an indispensable part of the message initially received.

If Paul believed that those who fall away never believed in the first place we would expect him to end with “unless (otherwise) you never really believed to begin with” or something similar.  But instead Paul simply points to the fact that in abandoning the faith one will not attain to the object and hope of that faith once exercised since he has turned away from the very message that will ultimately save him.  Therefore, their faith, while it truly existed for a time, will prove to be “in vain” since it does not continue to the point of fully receiving the promise of the gospel- final salvation.

We see similar language in Romans 11:16-24.  After describing election in the context of the ancient olive tree (which represents God’s covenant people beginning with their identity with the patriarchs and ending with their identity with Christ, the final and supreme Head of the covenant), Paul goes on to warn the Gentiles who have entered the new covenant through faith in Christ and have been grafted into the people of God as a result, that they must be careful not to be arrogant over the Jews who have been broken off from the olive tree as a result of their rejection of Christ, the final and supreme Head of the covenant.  The problem for Calvinism is that Paul describes these Gentiles as believers who have been grafted into God’s chosen people and who are presently standing by faith.  There can therefore be no doubt that Paul is speaking to saved individuals who are presently enjoying the blessing of the new covenant through faith union with Christ.  The specific language makes this indisputable,

Ro 11:17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,

Ro 11:18 do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.

Ro 11:19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”

Ro 11:20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.

Ro 11:21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

Ro 11:22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Just as in 1 Corinthians 15 we find Paul telling those that he describes as presently saved and enjoying the benefits of salvation that they can yet be “broken off” from the people of God and the salvation that belongs to them alone if they do not “continue” in God’s kindness through faith.  Again, if the Calvinist accounting of perseverance were true, we would expect to find Paul telling them that they would have never been in the olive tree and have never believed in the first place.  However, Paul says exactly the opposite; describing them as true believers who can be broken off from a tree they are presently attached to, enjoying all the benefits of God’s elect people in Christ Jesus. [8]

Conclusion:  We have found that Calvinist claims about limited atonement and inevitable perseverance are severely challenged by the language of 1 Corinthians 15.  We have also found that the Calvinist claim that it is unscriptural to tell sinners that Christ died for their sins is inaccurate, as we have Biblical precedent in Paul’s initial gospel proclamation to the Corinthians that “Christ died for our sins.”  We have also examined a few possible counter arguments and found them to be severely problematic given the context and specific language employed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.

____________________________________________

[1] If Jesus is correct that “few” in contrast to “many” enter through the narrow gate unto salvation (and I assume Calvinists would agree that He is correct), then we must conclude that God has reprobated the vast majority of humanity “for His glory” (Matthew 7:13, 14).  Somehow, it would then seem that reprobation must bring God more glory than election unto salvation.  It should also be noted that when I speak of God reprobating people, it could be conceived as a direct action of God or as a more indirect action, as in “passing over” the many that will as a result be left reprobate.  I agree with Wesley and many others that this amounts to a distinction without a difference, or as John Wesley notes after carefully dissecting the claims that passing over is very different and less offensive than direct reprobation, it is “the self same thing.” (See Wesley’s famous sermons, Predestination Calmly Considered and On Predestination).

[2] This would probably seem to most to be the inverse of what the Bible claims and what we should tell unbelievers about the Gospel- that because Christ died for them, they should repent and believe.  Peter actually says exactly that in his second sermon in the book of Acts (For a more detailed study of that passage see here).

[3] In such a scheme Calvinist parents can have no real assurance that Christ died for any of their children or that God even loves their children in a saving way (God may instead “hate” them in reprobation as He did Esau).  Nor can a Calvinist parent tell their children that Christ died for them or that God loves them in any meaningful way.  Calvinist Erwin Lutzer tries to claim that Calvinists can have strong assurance that their children are elect, but that claim is easily refuted given the fundamental premises of Calvinism (for more on that see here).

[4] But really it is unclear how a Calvinist could even tell someone who appears to be a saved believer that Christ died for them as they may yet fall away and, by Calvinist assumptions, prove that they were never saved or elect to begin with.  Calvinism severely undercuts Biblical assurance in many ways (for more on that see here).

[5] Another possible Calvinist explanation would be to claim that Paul was speaking of them as they presently were in saying that Christ died for “our sins” since upon their believing Paul could now say that Christ had in fact died for them.  But this would be an extremely awkward way to understand the text since Paul is recounting his initial message to them and admonishing them to continue to believe it as they first received it.  Not only that, but as noted above, even if they appeared to believe, Paul could not say with confidence, according to Calvinism, that Christ died for them until they demonstrated their faith was genuine and saving by persevering to the end.  But isn’t it true that even in Arminianism many might not have genuine saving faith?  Indeed it is, but that would not change the fact that Christ died for them since in Arminianism Christ died for all, even those who will never believe.  So Arminianism would still be fully in harmony with Paul’s gospel message.

[6] Again, we find the same basic gospel message in Peter’s second sermon recorded in Acts 3.  For details concerning that message see my post, Provisional Atonement Part 3: The Integrity and Justice of God in the Gospel Offer.  But even if the Bible nowhere showed anyone preaching the message that “Christ died for your sins” it is everywhere implied, especially in those passages which command all to repent and believe on the message on the basis of Christ’s death along with those passages which use universal language in describing the extent of the atonement, of God’s love or desire for all to be saved.  There are many things that believers speak about in ways that the Bible never directly does.  For example, the Bible nowhere describes the Trinity as we often explain it to those who have questions about the Trinity (as God in three persons, or One eternal Being existing in three persons, etc.).  However, we can confidently say such things based on what the Bible does say, even if the Bible does not use that specific language.

Furthermore, the Bible only records a few accounts of the gospel message being preached to sinners and we should not assume that there were not many other ways the message was articulated in the hundreds or thousands of other times the gospel was preached to unbelievers.  And thankfully, we have in 1 Cor. 15 clear evidence that Paul indeed preached to unbelievers that Christ died for their sins (since, in that context, “ours” naturally includes “yours” as well as “mine”).

[7] A Calvinist could possibly answer this by pointing out that in Calvinism God must cause us to have faith irresistibly and would only cause those that Christ died for to believe that Christ died for them.  But this still does not address the resulting disingenuous nature of the offer of salvation throughout Scripture or the specific language that Paul used in presenting the gospel message to the Corinthians as recounted in 1 Corinthians 15; neither does it address the difficulty inherent in the fact that only a faith which perseveres to the end can be considered genuine in Calvinism (see note #4 above).  There again, the Calvinist has no solid grounds for believing that Christ died for them at all since he may yet fall away and prove that his faith was not genuine after all and that Christ did not die for him, though he thought he did.  Only the Arminian view allows for us to accept the straightforward language in Scripture concerning the gospel offer and the nature of the gospel to be received, that Christ died for all and there is therefore forgiveness of sins available for all (Acts 3:19-26).

[8] We should further point out that if Paul’s warning to these believers can never attain or actually happen since God will inevitably preserve them in the faith, then it is nonsense for Paul to tell them to “be afraid” lest they are broken off as a result of not continuing in the faith.  Paul speaks to them as true believers joined to God’s elect people and for that reason, according to Calvinism, they have nothing to fear since it is impossible for true believers to fall away. Everything in Paul’s language points us towards the real possibility of apostasy and away from the Calvinist doctrine of inevitable perseverance.  For a detailed study of several Scriptures which contradict the Calvinist doctrine of inevitable perseverance, see my series here.

Q&A on 2 Timothy 2:25, 26

Question: I am wondering if you can provide, or point me to, an Arminian exegesis of 2 Tim. 2.25-6? This scripture is often used by Calvinists as a counter to 1 Tim. 2.3, as well as to advance the idea that God has two wills, one of universal love to mankind, another more narrow in which He controls who will and won’t repent unto salvation (the latter underscored by 2 Tim. 2.25-26). I am looking for a good Arminian analysis here.

Answer:  I don’t see anything in these verses that should lead one to the conclusion that the repentance spoken of here is irresistibly “given” or “granted”, nor that this is meant to convey the idea that God arbitrarily decides to cause some to repent while denying repentance to others (which would, as you point out, contradict Paul’s statement in 1 Tim. 2:4 that God desires all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth).

Rather, the natural reading seems to simply be that through Timothy’s careful and gentle correction, those who oppose Timothy and sound teaching may find the ability and opportunity to “come to their senses” (literally, wake up as from a slumber or drunkenness) and repent as God empowers them through Timothy’s efforts. The idea is that through Timothy’s obedience in trying to reach these deluded individuals with the truth, they might come to repentance as God grants them the power and ability through Timothy’s words and the working of the Spirit that would accompany these words (as is always the case when men turn from error and turn towards God in faith). God’s use of Timothy and his gentle corrective teaching may lead them back to God in turning them from their false beliefs towards embracing again the saving “knowledge of the truth.”

The technique Paul advocates seems to be tailored towards reaching these specific individuals. They are described as oppositional and “quarrelsome”, people who enjoy contesting the claims of others. Such people would likely respond to a strong rebuke with great resistance, but it may be that if they are approached in a gentle, careful and loving manner, that they will let down their guard long enough to actually consider a different view and possibly receive the saving instruction that they need (much like the old adage of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar- a lesson we would all do well to remember). Timothy’s gentle approach may also serve to shame them with regards to the very behavior that is causing them problems and creating a barrier for them to receive vital instruction and truth.

Paul’s instruction to Timothy concerning the way he approaches them also underscores Paul’s desire for them to be saved, rather than just put in their place. This concern parallels God’s concern for all to be saved as Paul made clear in 1 Timothy 2:4. Any uncertainty with regards to God granting them repentance primarily lies in their potential response to Timothy’s corrective efforts, whether they will receive his correction (and as a result be led by God to repent) or resist his correction (thereby effectively shutting themselves off from this God given opportunity to rethink their situation and repent).

It would really be no different than saying something like, “If you go and speak to that person, lovingly correcting her false perceptions of God and His word, God may use that to lead her to repentance.” However, we would never assume from this that God would lead her to repentance through that correction in an irresistible manner, nor would we assume that this means that God only desires to lead some to repentance, or causes some to repent irresistibly, while purposely denying this ability or opportunity to others. Rather, God’s desire is for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). So there is no inconsistency between 2 Timothy 2:25, 26 and the plain declaration of God’s desire for all to be saved through the Mediator who gave Himself as a ransom for all men (1 Tim. 2:1-6, cf. 4:10). The teachings of these passages are perfectly harmonious.

https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/questions/#comment-5735

“Saved by Grace”- Through Faith

Not surprisingly, a Calvinist has taken issue with my recent critique of Paul Washer’s arguments for unconditional election.  This Calvinist, who goes by the moniker, “Saved by Grace” (SBG), left a very lengthy and detailed comment after reading my post, rebuking me for misrepresenting Calvinism and for failing to rightly interpret numerous passages of Scripture.  Since SBG’s comments were very long, and a careful and detailed response will go a long ways towards dealing with common Calvinist proof texts, as well as clearing up charges of misrepresentation, I thought it best to make a post out of it.  SBG’s comments are designated by “SBG” in block quotes.  My responses are in between these block quotes.

SBG: Your first problem that you approach Mr Washer’s teaching from an unbiblical position of election by works.

This could not be more inaccurate.  No Arminian believes in election by works.

SBG: You first combat unconditional election:
When you say: “So rather than look to what the Bible actually says about election, Paul Washer wants to take the student on a philosophical journey of the Calvinist conception of inability in order to “teach” this student why he should hold to the Calvinist unconditional election view.”

More specifically, I was arguing against Washer’s approach to establishing unconditional election via the claim that inability logically necessitates an unconditional election view.

SBG: Election is not conditioned on faith:
John 6:29: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one whom He sent.”

We can see that the work God requires is faith. Either you accept from this verse that belief is God’s work into a man (the calvinist position) or belief is the work God requires from man for not only for initial salvation but also continued salvation.

Not really.  Jesus is just explaining that what God requires of them is faith (i.e. faith is the God ordained condition for receiving eternal life).  He is not speaking of “working” in the Pauline sense of faith vs. works.  You say that the Calvinist position is that this means not that man works, but that God “works [faith] into a man”.  But this contradicts the way Christ uses the word in verse 27 when He introduces the concept.  The idea of God “working” faith into man cannot make sense of the way Christ uses the concept in verse 27.  So the Calvinist interpretation (though I don’t think that many Calvinists interpret this as you do) is highly unlikely.  But it is important to add that Arminians do not necessarily object to the idea that God works faith into people.  They only object that God does so irresistibly.

I think the main idea here is simply for Christ to re-direct their focus to what matters most.  These men actually “worked” (labored) to find Jesus after He fed them (John 6:22-24).  Jesus doesn’t want to discourage their effort in coming to Him and seeking Him out.  Rather, Jesus wants to discourage them from coming to Him for the wrong reasons. The end result of their effort should be to believe in Jesus and receive from Him the bread that will create spiritual life in them.  Christ’s words might possibly have secondary application to be understood in the sense that in order to do the “works” God requires, these works can only be done in the context of a relationship with Christ, through which we gain the life and power to truly “work” for God (i.e. the work of God can only be done through faith, cf. Rom. 8:3-17).  Therefore, Christ points them to the need for faith, since this must be the beginning of any opportunity to do the works that please God.  There is work to be done, but this work must be the result of faith in God and a desire to serve Him, not just a desire  for God to take care of our physical needs (cf. John 4:4-38, esp. verses 31-38). It is also interesting to note that Jesus is clearly reaching out to them here, which contradicts the typical Calvinist understanding that these Jews were reprobates without any hope of truly coming to Christ in faith (more on that below).

However, since you seem to equate receiving eternal life with election (in your use of this passage as a counter to conditional election), you have essentially conceded that election is by faith as the Gospel of John repeatedly testifies that eternal life is received by faith.

SBG: Romans 9:11-12: “(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”

Why should this passage contradict election by faith?  It only says that election is not of works.  It isn’t even addressing individual election unto salvation, but God’s choice of the covenant head through which the covenant people will be named and thereby receive the covenant blessings, which ultimately include salvation.  That God is speaking of the covenant people as a corporate entity through the choice of the covenant head (Jacob) over Esau, is plain from what God said to Rebecca while they were in the womb,

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

The quote from Malachi (Rom. 9:13, Malachi 1:2, 3) also makes this very clear (along with the fact that the individual Esau never personally served Jacob). If you want to better understand the corporate view and why these passages actually support conditional election, see the articles I linked to by Dr. Abasciano in the endnotes.  You can find those articles as well as links to several other good articles on corporate election here.

SBG: 2 Tim 1:9: “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,”

Again, election is expressly not by works. But Christ clearly says that belief is a work. The basis of your view of election is therefore not Scriptural.

Again, no Arminian would ever say that election is by works.  Also, if Christ meant that belief is a work in the way you seem to want to describe it, then your “Calvinist” interpretation of John 6:29 given above must be false.  As I said before, Jesus did not mean that faith is a work in the Pauline sense, only that it is the God ordained condition for receiving the free gift of eternal life (and possibly, in a secondary sense, that the works of God can only be done through faith).  When Paul speaks of works vs. faith he is speaking of the difference between trying to earn or merit salvation (by works), and receiving salvation as a free and undeserved gift from God (by faith).  This is very clearly explained in Rom. 4.  That is not what Jesus is speaking of in John 6.  Jesus also makes it very clear that salvation is a free gift from God, received by faith, throughout John’s Gospel (and John 6, cf. verses 32-35, 51, etc.).

SBG: Next you say:
“The student seems to rightly recognize that inability alone cannot really decide the matter in favor of unconditional election since God could draw all to Himself (John 12:32), enabling all to believe and become the elect if that were how God sovereignly chose to do things (John 16:7-11; Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:1-6;).”

Firstly John 12:32 needs to be addressed: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
The word “draw” needs to be understood before a person can understand what this text is saying. Draw is from the greek word “Helkuse” which means to drag, or draw in the sense of drawing water from a well first, It denotes force. First example:

Surely, you understand the difference between using a word to describe purely physical interactions with inanimate objects (as in most of your examples) like swords or nets (or even people who are being physically overpowered), and interactions between persons in reference to their emotions, wills, and other spiritual components?  You can see this in normal English usage just as well as in Greek.  In English, if I say that water was “drawn” from the well, it would be obvious that this would be in the sense of forceful pulling with the bucket having no power to resist that pulling force.  However, if I said that someone was “drawn” to strong drink, that would not mean that the person could not possibly resist that drawing.  It would be nonsense for me to use the example of drawing water to argue that if someone is drawn to alcohol it must likewise mean that the drawing is irresistible.  People immediately and quite naturally understand the difference based simply on the fact that the first example deals with purely physical interactions, while the second takes into account the human element that goes far beyond just physical components.  That is why no translation has “drag” in John 6 or 12, since “drag” does not fit the context.  L. Leroy Forlines makes this point well when he writes,

“I have no problem with the idea that the drawing spoken of in John 6:44 is a “strong drawing.”  But I do have a problem with speaking of it as a “forceful attraction” [quoting Calvinist Robert Yarbrough].  A word used literally may have a causal force when dealing with physical relationships.  However, we cannot require that that word have the same causal force when it is used metaphorically with reference to an influence and response relationship.  John 6:44 [and 12:32] speaks of a personal influence and response relationship.

For John 6:44 to aid the cause of unconditional election, it must be understood in terms of cause and effect.  The verse plainly says that no one can come to Christ without being drawn by the Father.  But there is nothing in the word helkou that would require that it be interpreted with a causal force.  In fact, if we keep in mind that the relationship between God and man is a personal relationship, the use of helkou in this verse is better understood in terms of influence and response rather than cause and effect.” (Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation, ed. J. Matthew Pinson)

SBG: John 6:44 uses the same word and we see that, just as in ever other use of the word (examples given), irresistibility is depicted.
“No one can come to Me unless to the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

So now you know from the word “Draw” that it is not a simple wooing, because that is never how the Holy Spirit uses this word in the Bible.

Sure He does, in John 6 and 12 where the word is not being used to describe purely physical interactions, but interpersonal interactions between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man.

It is especially important to note that the LXX uses the same Greek word in Nehemiah in the context of God working to bring Israel back to Him, and Israel resisting that work (drawing),

“And many times You rescued them according to Your compassion,
29 And admonished them in order to turn them back to Your law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances, By which if a man observes them he shall live. And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen.

30 “However, You bore with them (literally, “drew” them, the same Greek word used in John 6 and 12) for many years, And admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets, Yet they would not give ear (which proves that this drawing was not irresistible). Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.

31 “Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them, For You are a gracious and compassionate God.

This really destroys your entire argument as it is clear from this passage that the Greek word for “draw” does not always convey the idea of irresistible drawing or dragging (I am indebted to a New Testament scholar for pointing this out to me).

SBG: Further, the pronoun “him” being used twice reveals that ever “him” that is “draw[n]” is also the same “him” that is “raise[d]… up” I have never heard a convincing argument to why a person should separate the obvious connection in this verse between the two uses of the pronoun “him.” Everyone drawn is also raised up. This is why Jesus says “All that the Father gives Me will come to me… This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given me, I should loose nothing, but I should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:37,39).

I think you meant to quote verse 44.  The verses you quoted use the plural in verse 37 and neuter singular pan (denoting the whole of all that are given) in verse 39.  Those verses are focused on the whole of those given.

In John 6:44 it is clear from the language that no one can come unless drawn (i.e. drawing is necessary for coming) and that the one who “comes” as a result of that drawing will be raised up.  That is all that the language dictates and that is the most natural reading.  The problem for your claim is that the passage does not say that the drawing guarantees the “coming”.  That is something that you must read into the passage.  All it says is that no one can come unless drawn.  It then says that the one who comes (as a result of this drawing, since the necessity of drawing is clearly implied) will be raised up.  It nowhere says that all who are drawn also come. The one who is “raised up” is the one who is both drawn and comes, but since the passage never says that all who are drawn come, your interpretation is a very forced and unnatural reading of the text.  So the burden really is on you to do the “convincing”.

SBG: Your use of John 16:7-11 is questionable not only becuase it is unraveled by the exposure of the error in John 12:32, but also from the very next chapter (John 17:9-10), “I pray for them, I do not pray for the world, but for those whom you have given Me, for they are yours, and all mine are yours and yours are mine and I am glorified in them.” Further, all those who are given receive eternal life from Christ, this is why He has been given authority over all flesh. (John 17:2-3).

First, you have exposed no error in John 12 except the error that you have made in wrongly assuming that “draw” must mean irresistible “dragging”.  Second, John 16 is in no way “unraveled” by John 17:9-10 as those passages are a specific reference to Christ’s disciples.  This is clear from the language of verses 7-18.  It is especially clear from verse 12, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave Me.”  This is clearly a specific reference to the disciples alone.

But it gets worse for your interpretation in the second part of the verse, “None have been lost [of those you gave Me] except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.”  Here we clearly have Jesus saying that one “given” Him by the Father was lost. But it even gets worse as later Jesus does pray for the world, that the world would be saved through the disciples and their teaching (vss. 20, 21).  This is in perfect harmony with the Spirit’s universal work of convicting the world of sin and unbelief (John 16:7-11).  So my interpretation is confirmed and strengthened by John 17 rather than “unraveled” by it.  This illustrates the potential problem with stringing together lists of proof texts.  All one has to do is examine the language and context to see that these passages are being misused by you.

SBG: Further the Apostle in Hebrews 2:13: “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me”

This says nothing about whether or not such were given conditionally or unconditionally.  Faith as a condition for belonging to Christ (and remaining in Him) is all over Hebrews, and it is only through being “In Him” that we are “elect” (Eph. 1:4 cf. Hebrews 3:3-6, 14).

SBG: Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men”

A couple things to remember is that in the first century a major problem was the Jews arguing that Gentiles could not receive salvation without being a Jew first. This was the argument of the Judaizers (Gal) and the overarching sediment of non-christian jews. The greek word “All” can either mean all as in head for head or all as in some of all types.

Rev 5:9: ” You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,”

I am sorry, but I don’t see the word “all” in your quote of Revelation.  You are going to need to do better than that to prove that “all” in Titus 2:11 actually only means “some of all types.”  Do you really think that Paul meant, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to some of all types”?  It is telling that you need to draw from a passage in Revelation to try to make your point, since there is nothing in the context of the Titus passages that would restrict “all” to “some of all types”.  If there were, we probably wouldn’t see you jumping to an unrelated passage in Revelation to try to make your case.

SBG: If it is not all in the collective sense, then it would have to be head for head, which is an impossibility because millions of people even today have never heard the gospel so that they could believe.

Neither have “some of all types” or “all tribes” heard the gospel so they can believe it (in accordance with the typical Calvinist claim that unreached tribes serve as support for unconditional election against Arminianism).  A better interpretation is to see that God’s gracious revelation is given to all, though the extent and function of that revelation leading people to Christ depends on certain factors.  Not all are immediately presented with the gospel (for a variety of reasons), but this does not mean that God is not at work to lead everyone to the possibility of receiving and responding to the gospel.  If they respond positively to whatever measure of grace they are exposed to (whether through natural revelation or otherwise), God will continue to work in them, drawing them closer still, even ultimately leading them to an encounter with the gospel by which they might be saved (through missionary work, visions, etc.).

Part of this also entails God working through the example and testimony of those whose lives have already come to fully share in God’s grace through faith (Rom. 5:1, 2).  For this reason, Paul focuses on God’s grace being revealed to all to remind Timothy and those he will teach that the grace of God that has been revealed and that believers have received should result in a holy life (vs. 12).  Those who have received God’s grace must live in harmony with the revelation of God’s grace to all, so that none that God is reaching out to with His universal grace will be made to stumble by our example (Titus 2:10, 12-15).

SBG: Romans 10:14-15: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?…” I have heard that Wesley because of his errant views of Scripture thought that God would draw people through general revelation, but such an idea is severely foreign to Scripture. (Also see Ecc 8:16-17 clearly teaches that general revelation will never lead a person to a true knowledge of the God of the Bible. But rather only enough to condemn: Rom 1:20)

Rom. 1:20 doesn’t say “only enough to condemn”.  Rather, it says that because of God’s universal revelation, those who reject it are “without excuse”.  Why are they without excuse?  Because they could have accepted it instead and potentially been led to repentance as a result (Rom. 2:4-16 cf. Acts 17:26-28).  Rom.2:4 is another powerful testimony to God’s resistible prevenient grace since it is clear that the kindness of God described there is for the express purpose of leading to repentance.  However, this grace can be finally resisted by showing contempt for this grace and coming under the ultimate wrath of God in divine judgment (vs. 5).

SBG: Further, the passage you display in from Titus actually teaches the effectual work of Christ, which contradicts your view grace and potential atonement.
Titus 2:14: “who did give himself for us, that he might ransom us from all lawlessness, and might purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; ”

There is nothing here about atonement being made only for some and nothing that contradicts the universal provisional nature of the atonement that is expressed in 1 Tim. 2:1-6.  It is perfectly natural to move from the universal to the particular.  This in no way implies that the particular limits the universal (forcing the universal language to be understood in extremely strained ways that are contrary to the natural reading).  The grace of God (in the specific provision of atonement) that has appeared to all has special application for us who have received this grace by faith (as I explained above).  Likewise, in 1 Tim. 4:10, God is the Savior of all men (provisionally), but “especially of believers” who have had this universal provision applied to them through faith.  It is the simple difference between provision and application, an important distinction that seems so obvious and yet is so difficult for Calvinists to recognize.

SBG: Not only does the passage you quote denote the work of Christ on the cross as a “ransom” which is a full payment for a slave to be free. It also displays Christ’s intent, to purify a peculiar people. The book of Hebrews and the correct doctrine of atonement, (which starts with His office of High Priest not proof texts that use the world “all” and “world”)

Are you really suggesting that when trying to determine the scope and extent of the atonement, we should not look to passages which specifically address the scope and extent of the atonement?  The passages that specifically address the extent of the atonement all use universal language, yet you are saying that we should discount that due to passages that do not even address the scope and extent of the atonement, but rather focus on the application of the atonement to believers. Surely you see what a backwards hermeneutic that is?

SBG: The work of the High Priest in Leviticus is composed of two parts, oblation (propitiation) and intercession. This is when the high priest would slay the animal (oblation) and then sprinkle the blood before God at the Mercy Seat (intercession). We see from the true doctrine of atonement, which is the office of High Priest that intercession is no more than a display of the oblation. Therefore the intercession bestows the gifts of the oblation cannot be of greater scope than the intercession and vice versa.

This conclusion here doesn’t follow.  Neither the oblation nor the intercession was effective for those who were outside of a covenant relationship with God (through faith).  But this doesn’t mean that nobody outside of the covenant community could join the covenant community and thereby come to enjoy the benefits of the atonement.  Indeed, foreigners could join God’s people and come to enjoy all the benefits promised only to God’s covenant people (e.g. Isaiah 56:3-6, which, by the way, further shows that election is primarily corporate and individuals only become “elect” by being joined to the “elect” body, which is only by faith in the new covenant.  Likewise, those who are members of the elect body can be cut off from that body and become “non-elect”, cf. Rom. 11: 16-25).

Again, it is simply the difference between application and provision (and even in the OT, there was a universal aspect to the atonement, since it was possible for non-Israelites to “become” Israelites, as explained above).  You conflate the two aspects of atonement while Scripture recognizes the difference.  Hebrews specifically addresses Christ’s atonement in the context of His ministry as a high priest, and yet Hebrews has no problem describing Christ’s provision of atonement in universal language (Hebrews 2:9).   That is because there is no conflict between Christ’s high priestly work and the universal provision of atonement, despite your attempts to create one.

For the record, I don’t have a problem with the nature of atonement being primarily penal-satisfaction either (I hold to the penal-satisfaction view).  As you point out, these passages have to do with the benefits of the atonement for those who are partakers of the new covenant; yet, we become partakers of the new covenant by faith.  So again, you have confused passages that speak of the application to those who are in the covenant, with passages that speak of the universal provision of that atonement.  It is the universal provisional nature of the atonement that makes it possible for anyone (and everyone) to enjoy the benefits of the atonement by becoming the covenant people of God (the elect) through faith.  For more on this see my series on Provisional Atonement .

SBG: Last text you presented was 1 Tim 2:1-6 has the same problems. The same problem is displayed. A lack of context and a view of atonement that is not based on Christ’s office as High Priest as presented in Hebrews and Leviticus 16, but instead based on proof texts and the word pas, pamos, pan. The High Priesthood of Christ establishes the doctrine, not the word “all” because “all” has an ambiguous meaning and has nothing to do with any of Christ’s offices.

This is just another example of your backwards hermeneutic in action as explained above.  “All” does not have an “ambiguous” meaning in those passages which specifically address the extent of the atonement.  Rather, its meaning is very clearly universal.  Any ambiguity would seem to lie squarely in your reluctance to accept what these passages are plainly implying, due to your prior commitment to unconditional election.  God’s intent and desire to save all is also clearly expressed in passages like 1 Tim. 2:1-6 (this is why even many who call themselves Calvinists reject limited atonement).  John 12:47 is especially damaging to your claims,

“As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him.  For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.”

Here Christ plainly says he came to save the world and that those who do not keep His word and reject Him (verse 48) are among those He came to save (i.e. they are specifically identified with the world He came to save).  Big, big trouble for Calvinism!

SBG: In the next section I think this is worth responding to:
“It is if Calvinism is true. If Calvinism is true then God irresistibly caused these people to hate Him. Now, Calvinists may not want to own such blunt language, but the above statement is in perfect harmony with traditional Calvinist thought [1]. In Calvinism, everything is controlled by God.”

First, God irresistibly makes people hate him, is certainly not representative of the calvinist position. I think you make a straw man with the hyper view, their are differing views among Calvinist about this issue, you should not be so general and then present it as fact.
The Bible teaches that Natural men are haters of God because the are children of the devil after the fall in the garden. (Psa 51:5)

This is not the hyper view.  The traditional Calvinist view holds to exhaustive determinism and bases foreknowledge entirely on God’s irresistible decree.  I explained this in the post. Those who reject this are not rejecting hyper Calvinism, but traditional Calvinism.  Did God decree the “fall in the garden” or not?

SBG: John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil and the desires of your Father you want to do…”

(Also I would just say as a tangent thought John 8:47 clearly refutes prevenient grace. “He who is of God hear’s God’s word, therefore you do not hear, because you are no of God.”

“Not of God” simply means that these Jews were not in right covenant relationship with the Father when they encountered Christ and His claims.  Since they didn’t know the Father they naturally would not recognize the perfect expression of the Father in the Son, nor would they recognize the Father’s teaching in the Son’s words (John 8:19, 20, 42, 54, 55, cf. John 5:37-40; 7:16, 17 12:44, 45).  As long as they reject the Father and refuse His teaching, they will reject the Son and His teaching (which is also the Father’s teaching, John 12:49, 50) and will not be given to the Son (John 6:37, 44, 45).  None of these passages say anything about an unconditional eternal election being behind the description of these Jews as “not of God.”  Such an idea is only read into these passages by Calvinists.  For a detailed exegesis of these various passages in John against the typical Calvinist view, see Robert Hamilton’s essay, The Order of Faith and Election in John’s Gospel: You Do Not Believe Because You Are Not My Sheep

SBG: The prevenient grace view says they should have been able to hear and then decide because prevenient grace frees them from their natural ignorance of spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14), but the reality is that they where still “of their father the devil” which is the reason why they are not “able to hear” (John 8:43). Jesus says they are not able to hear even though Jesus is preaching and the Spirit is working.

First, 1 Cor. 2:14 is addressing infants in Christ (3:1) who are acting worldly because they are resisting the Spirit’s work that would bring them to spiritual maturity so that they might understand the deeper spiritual teachings that Paul wanted them to receive.  Instead, they were caught up in quarreling over who their favorite apostle was (3:1-4).  It is not describing the inability of depraved unbelievers.  They are already saved.  However, it does highlight that God’s gracious efforts can always be resisted, even by believers.  It is also wrong to assume that being free from ignorance means that one cannot still resist that thing that has been revealed.  Many persist in using alcohol, drugs, and tobacco with full knowledge of the harmful and potentially dangerous consequences.

Second, as mentioned above, their inability to hear was not because God wasn’t working, but because they were resisting that working.  Clearly, Jesus is still trying to reach them (8:27-31, 36, cf. John 5:44; 10:37, 38), which would be senseless if He viewed them as hopeless reprobates. This is especially evident in Christ’s statement to the same sort of resistant Jews in John 5 where Christ both declares their inability and yet tells them, “…not that I accept human testimony, but I mention it that you may be saved”, vs. 34.  This is especially relevant to my point since the “testimony” Christ refers to is the prior testimony of John the Baptist. Christ then points them to other “testimonies” like His miracles, the Scriptures in general, and Moses, obviously implying that through the acceptance of these testimonies they may yet be enabled to “come to” Him and be “saved”, cf. vss. 39, 40.

Jesus’ method of discourse is actually a rather common teaching technique used for the purpose of admonishment in order for the “students” to fully realize their situation with the hope that in realizing it (coming to grips with this important revelation) they will be spurred on to change (i.e. repentance).  I work in schools daily and see this type of teaching technique used all the time.  It is similar to a Math teacher saying, “how can you expect to do division when you haven’t even learned your times tables?  You can’t do division while you remain ignorant of multiplication.”  Such instruction is not meant to highlight a hopeless state.  It is not meant to express that the student can never do division.  Rather, it is intended to get the student to re-examine the reality of their current state and how it makes further progress impossible, with the hope that they will learn what is required in order to move forward (e.g. John 5:41-45).

Likewise, Jesus is actually using much of what He says for the purpose of getting those who are listening to re-examine their present relationship to the Father and thereby realize that they are not in a proper position to be making such judgments about Christ and His claims, with the hope that they will yet “learn” from the Father so that they can come to a place where acceptance of Christ and His words is possible (e.g. John 5:33-47; 10:34-39, cf. John 6:45, etc).  Had they already learned from the Father (been receptive to God’s grace and leading through the Scriptures, the prophets, the ministry of John the Baptist, the miracles of Christ, etc.), they would have immediately recognized that Jesus was the Son of God, the promised Messiah, Shepherd and King of God’s people, and been given to Him.  Yet, not all hope is gone, for they may yet learn if they stop resisting the Father’s leading.

Christ’s teaching on drawing in John 6:44, 45, therefore, is not just descriptive, but for the purpose of admonishment, that they might be careful not to spurn and resist this drawing and miss eternal life and the promise of resurrection.  God’s working in prevenient grace and drawing can be complex and operate in different ways depending on the person and the situation.  God approaches us from a variety of angles.  These passages illustrate that.  Yet, we dare not assume that because the operation of prevenient grace on the human heart and mind doesn’t necessarily reduce to a simple equation or formula, God is not still working.  Indeed, God is always working (John 5:17). There is much more that could be said on this, but this alone is sufficient to overturn your objection to prevenient grace based on these various passages in John.

SBG: Again you say: “So God caused Adam to sin and then punished Adam for perfectly fulfilling the decree of God in such a way that Adam had absolutely no power to resist. ”

But this is unscholarly rant and a poor representation of the view you are trying to refute. Again, your refute a straw man and not the real thing. Most Calvinist believe that Adam had ability to either sin or not sin.

Sorry, but this is simply false.  Are you really suggesting that most Calvinists believe that Adam had libertarian free will?  John Calvin sure didn’t and he had no problem saying that the fall was decreed by God, calling foolish anyone who disagreed.  Was John Calvin a hyper Calvinist?  Likewise, the traditional Calvinist position has always been that God’s foreknowledge is based on His eternal decree so that God can only foreknow because He decreed it.  This was also Calvin’s position.  So if Adam could have “not sinned” (as you claim) then, according to traditional Calvinism (and John Calvin), God could not have foreknown Adam’s sin since God cannot foreknow libertarian free will choices, but only what He has decreed to happen.  So the traditional Calvinist accounting of foreknowledge means that God could only foreknow the fall because He decreed it.

Surely, you are not suggesting that Adam could have acted contrary to the eternal decree of God, are you? If not, then your defense and rebuke is groundless and all that I have said necessarily follows. If you don’t think that God decreed the fall then you are not a traditional Calvinist.  That’s fine, but you can’t fault me for slandering or misrepresenting Calvinism just because you personally disagree with a major traditional tenet of Calvinism.

SBG: Adam’s sin was not caused by God, this is just blasphemous and a lie / misrepresentation.

Again, if God decreed the fall, and foreknew the fall only because He decreed it, then the cause of Adam’s sin was certainly God’s decree, which Adam was powerless to resist.  If you don’t like it, maybe you should not be a Calvinist.

SBG: God was not involved in the fall, He left Adam to himself, surely God could have applied grace and protected Adam, but He did not see that as fit.

Are you suggesting that God denied Adam the grace to resist temptation, making it impossible for Adam to keep from sinning?  If that is the case, then how can you say that Adam had the power to “not sin”?  He had the power to resist a temptation that he was powerless to resist?  What?

SBG: But while you kick against the goads of Scripture, I suggest one text that clearly presents God’s sovereignty:
Eph 1:11: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will”

I never denied God’s sovereignty.  Rather, I fully affirm it.  I affirm that God has the sovereign right to give His creatures a measure of free will and to hold them accountable for the choices they make.  I affirm that God has the right to make salvation and election conditioned on faith, and I affirm that this is exactly what Scripture teaches.  If you want to deny God these sovereign freedoms and divine rights, that’s on you.  Just because I deny the false Calvinist claim that sovereignty = exhaustive divine determinism, doesn’t mean that I deny God’s sovereignty.  I only deny the bizarre Calvinist definition of sovereignty.

Your quote of Eph. 1:11 does nothing to help your case.  Eph. 1:11 is big trouble for Calvinism.  Calvinism says that we are predestined to faith, but Eph. 1:11 locates predestination “In Him” and Eph. 1:13 says that we come to be “in Him” through faith.  Likewise, Eph. 1:4 locates election “In Him”.  Since election is “In Him” (since through identification and union with Christ we share in His election) and since predestination is “In Him” (since through identification and union with Christ we share in His predestined inheritance), and since we come to be joined to Christ by faith (Eph. 1:13), then it follows that one becomes elect and predestined by faith, the Arminian view exactly!

SBG: Again you say: “When the exhaustive decretal determinism of Calvinism is in view, questions like, “Is that God’s fault?” should be answered with “Yes”.”

This is again a baseless suggestion and a straw man. Most Calvinists believe in a soft determinism called compatiblism. This is clearly taught in Gen 50:20:
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

Compatibilism is still determinism.  It simply means that free will is supposedly “compatible” with determinism.  So it is still true that God predetermined everything, including every sin that would ever be committed in such a way that those sins could not have possibly been avoided.  Appeals to compatibilism do nothing to solve the difficulty.  I actually addressed compatibilism in the post, since in compatibilism the will is still controlled by God.  All compatibilism does is redefine free will so that it means the freedom to do what we want or desire.  But since our wants and desires are still controlled by God (even according to compatibilism), it doesn’t solve anything.  The will is still completely determined by desires that the person has no control over.  So I wasn’t fighting any straw men and my claims were not baseless.

To say that God purposes to bring good out of evil, or that God can use even behaviors that do not please Him to accomplish His ultimate purposes (which is all that Gen 50:20 is expressing) does nothing to prove “compatibilism”.  Passages like this can just as easily be understood from the view point of libertarian free will.  One must read the concept of compatibilism into these texts.  Therefore, while they may not necessarily contradict a compatibilist view, they cannot be used to prove it.  In other words, compatibilism is not “clearly taught” in such passages, despite your assertions.

SBG: And very strongly in Isaiah 10:5-16 when God first raises up Assyria to punish Israel and then punishes the nation that He uses to punish another because of what is in their heart. Here is the text:

““ Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.
6 I will send him against an ungodly nation,
And against the people of My wrath
I will give him charge,
To seize the spoil, to take the prey,
And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
7 Yet he does not mean so,
Nor does his heart think so;
But it is in his heart to destroy,
And cut off not a few nations.
8 For he says,

‘ Are not my princes altogether kings?
9 Is not Calno like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad?
Is not Samaria like Damascus?
10 As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols,
Whose carved images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
11 As I have done to Samaria and her idols,
Shall I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols?’”

12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on MountZionand on Jerusalem, that He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.”
13 For he says:

“ By the strength of my hand I have done it,
And by my wisdom, for I am prudent;
Also I have removed the boundaries of the people,
And have robbed their treasuries;
So I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man.
14 My hand has found like a nest the riches of the people,
And as one gathers eggs that are left,
I have gathered all the earth;
And there was no one who moved his wing,
Nor opened his mouth with even a peep.”
15 Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it?
Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it?
As if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up,
Or as if a staff could lift up, as if it were not wood!
16 Therefore the Lord, the Lord[a] of hosts,
Will send leanness among his fat ones;
And under his glory
He will kindle a burning
Like the burning of a fire. ”

Several things to point out. First, there is no autonomy in this passage. There is a compatibalism between the will of the Assyrians as wicked sinners with evil hearts (Gen 6:5 & 8:21) and the righteous justice of God with His sovereign decrees.

I can basically agree with the second sentence in your conclusion here, but this does not mean that the Assyrians had no free will in a non-compatibilist (libertarian) sense.  In other words, just as with your other quote, passages like this are just as “compatible” with the Arminian view (and I would argue, more compatible).  See below.

SBG: Particularly notice verses 5-7 and then 13-15. The point is clear that God is absolutely sovereign and man is full responsible.

Again, all these verses show is that God can use the intentions of others to accomplish His purposes.  Arminians wholly agree with this.  It is not even contrary to Arminianism to say that God sometimes controls the wills of people to accomplish His purpose or to execute judgment (surely, it was not Nebuchadnezzar’s will to lose his mind and act like an animal, Daniel 4:28-37).  Arminians only hold that God gives man a measure of free will.  Man’s will is not unlimited, nor does it operate in a vacuum.  Free will, when rightly understood, operates within a framework of possibilities.  See this post for a good description of the limits of free will from an Arminian perspective.

However, this passage does not address the idea of God controlling someone’s thoughts, desires and actions and then holding that person accountable for the desires, thoughts and actions that God irresistibly controlled.  The passage actually teaches the opposite.  The Assyrians became an instrument of wrath in God’s hands against Israel because they were already bent on conquest.  Therefore, they were already perfectly suited to be the rod of God’s wrath and correction.  God used them to punish His people, but He had no need to irresistibly cause them to.  He did not control their desires and wills to go against Israel.  There desire was already to conquer other nations (verse 7).  God simply directed the Assyrian’s attention towards His people, a people that God had, up to that point, protected from such a devastating conquest.  But God did not control their desires.  Indeed, their intentions in attacking Israel are displeasing to God (verse 7-11)

Their intentions are especially sinful because they attack in arrogance, not even believing that YHWH is a true God.  So God will punish His people through the Assyrian invasion, but also punish Assyria for their arrogance in thinking that their conquest was due only to their superior strength in believing that the God of Israel was no different than the false gods of the other nations they had conquered.

Now why should any of this contradict the idea that man has libertarian free will and yet this in no way prevents God from accomplishing all that He plans?  God is not threatened by free will.  He isn’t so small that He cannot be sovereign over a world where there are wills that He does not directly control. Nothing in this passage suggests that God irresistibly controlled the wills of the Assyrian people and then held them accountable for what He caused them to do.  Rather, God punishes them because their wills are not in harmony with God’s ultimate purpose (to punish His people).  Instead, their wills are bent on mocking God in their arrogance, believing that the success of their conquest was because there was no God inIsrael (verses 8-11).   It is for that reason alone that God punishes them.  So again, there is nothing in these passages that force a compatibilist interpretation.  Therefore, they do nothing to prove compatibilism.  Indeed, they make more sense from a libertarian viewpoint.

SBG: You say: “Rather, he just assumes throughout his discourse that God cannot enable all depraved God haters to turn to Christ without needing to do so in an irresistible manner. ”

But the problem you don’t seem to understand is the Mr. Washer starts and ends with the Bible. He doesn’t start with imported philosophical values and doctrine that makes the Bible contradict itself. God could enable all men to come to Christ, He could have even used resistible saving grace. But the problem is that the Bible does teach this, that’s why Washer doesn’t teach it.

Well, obviously I disagree.  All you have done here is made an assertion.  I counter assert that Paul Washer’s understanding of election and Scripture was indeed influenced by imported philosophies (just as I repeatedly pointed out in my post).  I further assert that he did not start and end with the Bible, but with unfortunate theological assumptions that the Bible doesn’t really support at all.

SBG: In the next section you say: “What kind of glory would that be exactly? Those who hate God do so only because God caused them to, and those who love God do so only because God caused them to. ”

But again you are just ranting.

No.  I am just pointing out the obvious given fundamental Calvinist assumptions.

SBG: You are battling the same straw man that has no weight. God doesn’t need to make anyone hate Him, natural men are already very good at that. (Romans 8:7-9, Col 1:20-21. etc, etc.)

But you are just parroting Washer here and ignoring the fact that I already addressed this very argument.  It is not enough to just lay the blame on “natural man” without considering how this became man’s natural state in the first place.  As I repeatedly pointed out (even in the sections you have already quoted of my argument), if decretal determinism is true, then man never had any control over his state or over his thoughts, desires, wills, or actions.  At some point you need to deal with the heart of the problem and the heart of the problem lies in the ultimate fundamental Calvinist assumption: Exhaustive determinism.

SBG: Your battle is against a straw man of “hard determinism” which is referred to many calvinists as the hyper view. Your whole argument against calvinists here is based on a straw man fallacy.

As I already pointed out, so called “soft” determinism is no less deterministic than so called “hard” determinism.  Calling it “soft” doesn’t change the fact that God still exhaustively determines everything.  The only difference between “hard” and “soft” determinism is that hard determinism realizes that the compatibilist redefinition of “free will” is a ruse and embraces the obvious: there can be no real free will in a universe that is exhaustively determined by God.

SBG: You say: “Again, Paul Washer can’t help talking like an Arminian in order to defend his Calvinism. He seems to quickly forget that at the heart of Calvinism is the fundamental assumption that God sovereignly controls everything, creating serious problems for his claims of personal accountability for hating God.”

Again, this is your straw man. A hard determinist position and Infralapsarianism versus Supralapsarianism. This is a debate in house, but you are not fair to the audience in the way you beat up straw men instead of speaking honesty in love.

What is really “not fair” is how Calvinists try to hide the reality of their views behind “softer” language.  But when pressed, even “soft” determinists admit that God has determined everything.  Exhaustive determinism in Calvinism isn’t an “in house debate” at all.  It also isn’t fair that you bring in “supra” verses “infra” as relevant to the point.  It isn’t.  Both supralapsarians and infralapsarians hold to exhaustive determinism (determinism is not the point of contention between them, but the “order of decrees”).  Both supralapsarians and infralapsarians believe that God “sovereignly controls everything”, so they are both in the same boat when it comes to the points I am making.  I have in no way been dishonest, nor have I beat up any straw men.

SBG: Your idea about the “heart of Calvinism” is just silly and proves my point. Please see Isaiah 10 for help that you may better understand the biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

Please see my response to your use of Isaiah 10 above.  I don’t even disagree that it presents the biblical teaching on God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, but that is only because it actually supports the Arminian view, rather than the Calvinist view.  But you are wrong if you are truly claiming that exhaustive determinism is not at the heart of Calvinism, for it surely is.

SBG: You say: “Again, why did they hate him? Because God decreed this for them from all eternity.” referring to Joseph and his brothers. Here it becomes obvious that your rant is mainly emotional rather than logical and Biblical.

Look at Genesis 50:20: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
We can see that God sovereignly decreed it but the brothers are judged for what is in their heart. This is the same as what is clearly taught in isaiah 10:5-19.

I already addressed this above.  This passage can be understood from an Arminian perspective in the same way that Isaiah 10 can.  The Arminian view is not “incompatible” with these passages and these passages do not prove Calvinist compatibilism (they don’t even imply it).

SBG: You say: ““Choice” doesn’t even make sense in Calvinism.”

This is your straw man again. To you it doesn’t make sense. That is why you seem so hot in your approach to this rant. But the Bible clearly teaches compatibilism as already shown. Calvinists do say people don’t make choices, you build up the hyper view and then destroy it. But even Calvinists hate the hyper view…

I did not deny that Calvinists claim we make choices (I assume you meant “Calvinists don’t say”…, rather than “…do say…”).  I only claimed that the language of choice doesn’t make sense in Calvinism, despite their using the word.  If God controls our thoughts and wills, then we never have any real options to “choose” from.  Therefore, we never have any choices (and again, even “compatibilists” admit that God controls our desires and wills.  They locate “freedom” only in the power to act in accordance with our desires, without ever denying that God controls these desires.  That is why compatibilism solves nothing.  It makes fee will “compatible” with determinism by redefining “free will” in a deterministic sense.  In the end, compatibilism means only that determinism is compatible with determinism- brilliant!).  If you are still confused about why “choice” doesn’t make sense in Calvinism, see my post The Reality of Choice and the Testimony of Scripture.

SBG: You continue: “Again, the student nails it. God must draw us, but there is no reason to assume that this drawing cannot be resistible, rather than irresistible. There is likewise no reason to assume it cannot enable all who hear to believe.”

I have already shown why your view of grace is not Biblical.

See above for why your claims against my “view of grace” have not been successful.

SBG: But again. Jesus says in John 8:43 that the reason they do not hear is because they are not “able” to listen to His words. If prevenient grace as you hold diligently to was true Jesus would not have said this. If your view is true, prevenient grace would have enabled them to believe and Christ would have said something about their refusal to believe out of their own autonomy. But, this is not what jesus says. Instead, although the preaching was present and the Spirit working, they were still not “able.” Your whole argument is based on an imported idea that is not only foreign to the Bible but also not supported by the texts where you would expect it to be supported.

Likewise, I already dealt with this above.

SBG: You say: “And there it is, the unbiblical attempt to make “dead in sin” mean “the inability of a physical corpse.”

A person actually doesn’t need to go to Eph 2 to describe inability. Mr. Washer chose this passage, but there are many other passages that say the same thing. Not only John 8:43-47, which reveals that its not about prevenient grace because even with preaching they were not “able.” instead it is because they are still natural and in the flesh, “You are of your father the devil…” (v. 44) and then verse 47:

1. He who is of God hears God’s words
1. You do not hear
2. Therefore, you are not of God.

Again, I already dealt with this above.  I also showed in the post that Jesus plainly says the spiritually “dead” will “hear” unto salvation, which completely undermines Washer’s argument.  Also, I never claimed that inability was not a Biblical concept.  I never claimed that it was not taught elsewhere in Scripture.  What I denied (and Scripture denies) is that this inability is comparable to the inability of a corpse so that only regeneration can make faith possible.  That is a conclusion wrongly drawn from the Biblical concept of being “dead in sins.” I made this very clear in my post.

SBG: It’s not about prevenient grace and a man rejection even though they had the ability. Jesus clearly teaches that this has nothing to do with it. Therefore He says… again… “because you are not able to hear…” this is denoting ability not the decision of the human will. 1 Cor 2:14 is also helpful.

Again, please see my comments on the John passages above (as well asHamilton’s excellent essay).  Please see my treatment of 1 Cor. 2:14 above as well.

SBG: You say: ” Paul Washer says that one must become a child of God (be born again) before one can put faith in Christ, the exact opposite of what John and the apostle Paul taught!”

Your problem is a lack of distinction between regeneration and adoption.

The burden of proof is on you to show a distinction between becoming “children of God” and becoming “sons of God.”  Are you saying that one can be a child of God and yet not be a part of God’s family?  Or are you saying that one can be adopted into the family of God without becoming God’s child?  Both are by faith and becoming a child of God is no different than becoming His son (or daughter).  If there is some important distinction to be made here, you haven’t shown what that is.  Regardless, John 1:12 is definitive by itself,

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,”

The right to “become children of God’” is given only to believers who have received Christ by faith.  The passage could not be any clearer in teaching that faith precedes “becoming” a child of God, and even Calvinists admit that becoming a child of God in this passage refers to the new birth/regeneration (as verse 13 makes clear).  But you think that verse 13 contradicts this when you write,

SBG: You make becoming a child of God depending of the decision and will of man but John clearly says
John 1:13: “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

How can it be that they were born not of human decision but your say that its all about God enabling men to make a decision? this is hopelessly contradictory.

Let’s look at the entire passage:

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name (which simply clarifies how we receive Him, i.e. by faith), he gave the right to become the children of God- children not born of human descent (literally, “of bloods”), nor of human decision or a husbands will, but born of God.”

Verse 13 makes it clear that how one becomes a child of God is based on God’s prerogative alone.  It is not the automatic result of Jewish heritage or ancestry. Rather, the new birth is a supernatural act of God (rather than the result of a natural birth, by the “will of the husband”) given only to those who believe in His Son. If the Jews were left to decide the condition of salvation, they would leave it in their heritage (which is proven by the fact that most Jews refused to “receive Him”, verse 11) but the decision as to how one becomes God’s children is God’s alone, and God has decided that only those who receive His Son by faith will become His children.  God is the one who decides and has made the condition faith in His Son.  Being a Jew is not enough (which, by the way, is the same basic issue being discussed inRom. 9, esp. see verse 16)

So there is nothing in verse 13 that would undermine my interpretation of verse 12, nor anything that would force us to understand verse 12 in a way that would make nonsense of the specific and deliberate language being used (that one becomes a child of God through faith).  Verse 13 isn’t saying that there is no decision involved in the condition for receiving Christ (faith).  Rather, it is saying that God alone is sovereign over the decision regarding who will become His children, and He has sovereignly decided to that only believers will be His children, without regard to heritage or ancestry.

SBG: Also, it should be said that in the Greek “tekna” which means “children” does not appear in John 1:13. Instead it uses a pronoun to describe why the people received Him.

This isn’t really relevant.  “Children” is supplied by some translations because it is obvious that the pronoun refers back to “children” in verse 12.

SBG: John 8 is very clear. But also in John 10:26:

“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.”
Jesus says the reason people do not believe is the result of them not being His sheep. He does not say they are not sheep as a result of their unbelief. Your position is the exact opposite of what Christ said not only hear but also in John 8.

Again, see my comments above and Hamilton’s essay on the order of election in John’s gospel.

SBG: You say: “In fact, the Bible clearly puts faith before regeneration.”

Not only does John 1:13 contradict you because faith is a decision it is the will. John clearly says people are not born of the will.
John 3:3: “Unless one is born again he is not able to see thekingdom ofGod.” How can a man choose and put saving faith into an object if he can’t even see it…

John 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
First notice that the flesh only ever brings forth flesh. But you seem to think that the flesh can be the factor that brings forth spiritual life… Further it is the Spirit who brings forth a man’s spirit.

On John 3:3, 6 see my post, Does John 3:3, 6 Teach that Regeneration Precedes Faith?  As far as the flesh and the spirit, no one ever claimed that it is not God alone who regenerates by His Spirit.  We meet the God ordained condition of faith to receive life, but God alone is the one who gives us life in response to our faith.  We cannot regenerate ourselves.  Faith is total dependence on God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  That is why faith doesn’t “earn” anything and is the perfect condition for receiving the free and undeserved gift of life and salvation from God (Rom. 4:4-8).

SBG: John 6:63: “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing…”
But if two people are brought forth by prevenient grace then still in their flesh and one chooses and another refuses…. it is actually that man’s flesh that profited everything.

I think you are missing the point of this passage as well. Just as in John 3, John 6:63 is simply saying that God alone can give life by His Spirit. Jesus goes on to say that His words are spirit and life (i.e. they spiritual and life giving).  Therefore, only by receiving His words can we attain life.  It was the Jews’ misguided focus on the natural that prevented them from seeing the spiritual implications of what Jesus was teaching them (about eating His flesh and drinking His blood).  This is why Christ directed them to the fact that His words are spiritual and give life.  He is trying to get them to refocus (rather than seeing His words in purely physical ways- literally eating His flesh, etc.) so that they can learn the spiritual implications of what He has been teaching them.  As mentioned before, this is just another example of Christ continuing to reach out to those that Calvinism would have us believe were hopeless reprobates.

SBG: 1 Cor 2:14: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

Your whole argument is bases on imported views, ie prevenient grace which has already been refuted. John 8, though the Spirit was present and Christ was preaching the people were not “able” to listen… John 8:43… the implications are obvious.

You say: “Rather, God’s drawing is what enables a faith response and thereby makes a “choice” possible.”

But the Bible says; “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Not of the will of the flesh (NKJV).

Just like Washer, you seem to think that just repeating the same thing over and over is somehow sufficient to prove your point.

SBG: I didn’t mean for this to be so long,

Well, now we are even.  If we discuss this further, let’s stick to one or two points and dramatically shorten our comments.  I would also suggest starting your own blog where you can make long responses like this outside of the confines of a discussion thread and just leave a link to your comments that people could follow if interested.

 SBG: …but its not right for people to read something like this and not sympathize for those who may be misled by the saturation of errors.

This is exactly why I felt I needed to respond to Washer’s misguided teaching on election.  It bothers me how many have potentially been led astray by his erroneous arguments.

SBG: Also, your problem with evil is refuted by the Book of Job.

How so?

SBG: Job’s friends’ rebuke is your rebuke.

Not at all.

SBG: When God appeared what did He say? He didn’t even tell them why bad things were happening to Job, He simply declared His sovereignty and made them repent.

True, but irrelevant.

SBG: Further Chapter one clears up that satan was on God’s leash

Satan was on “God’s leash” only so far as God set limits on what he could do to Job.  This is a far cry from what is implied by Calvinist determinism, which would force us to see God controlling even Satan’s desire and will to attack Job and challenge God in the first place.  It is the difference between “being on a leash” (which is far more in line with the Arminian view) and being a hand puppet (which is essentially the Calvinist view based on the unavoidable implications of the doctrine of exhaustive determinism).  You may also be interested in this post I wrote on Job a while back.

So while I appreciate your zeal for truth, I don’t see that your comments and objections to my interactions with Washer’s discussion on election really hold up.  In fact, it seems that many of the points you have made actually serve to further undermine the Calvinist view of election and support the Arminian view instead.  Of course, I will not be surprised if you continue to disagree.  I respect your opinion; I just think it is wrong.  However, I am proud to consider you a brother in Christ and I trust that God will continue to lead you into truth as you seek Him.  May we both be very careful in how we approach Scripture so that we do not find ourselves missing what the Spirit of God is trying to communicate to us.  All of us have misperceptions and none of us have perfect theology.  That is all the more reason to rely on His Spirit in allowing Him to correct those misperceptions, whatever they may be.

Nelson’s Dictionary of Christianity Gets it Wrong: Examining the So Called “15 Major Tenets of Arminianism”

About a year ago I engaged in a conversation with someone who kept misrepresenting Arminian and Wesleyan teaching while insisting that his claims were “historical facts”.  This person kept making reference to the “15 Major Tenets of Arminianism” to back up his claims.  I had no idea what this could be a reference to since I was not familiar with any document written by Arminius or the Remonstrants that went by such a name.  As it turns out, the so called “15 Major Tenets of Arminianism” is a sub-title given under the heading “Arminianism” in Nelson’s Dictionary of Christianity.  Below is a critique proving that these 15 tenets are far from representative of Arminian theology.  

The 15 Major Tenets of Arminianism are:

1. Human beings are free agents and human events are mediated by the foreknowledge of God.

I suppose this might be considered a feature of Arminianism, but the wording is hard to follow.  What does it mean that “human events are mediated by the foreknowledge of God?”  Arminians certainly affirm that some human actions are truly free.  Arminians also affirm that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of all things, including truly free human choices and actions.  If that is what is meant, then the point is accurate; but it is worded very poorly and could be easily misconstrued.

2. God’s decrees are conditional, not absolute.

I don’t think this accurately reflects Arminianism at all.  One would first need to define “God’s decrees”.  Are we speaking of eternal decrees?  If not, then there are certainly decrees in Scripture that prove to be conditional (e.g., the decree that the priesthood would continue forever through Eli’s line, which was revoked due to Eli’s disobedience and failure to deal with his rebellious sons, 1 Samuel 2:30-33).  If the decrees in view have reference to eternal decrees, then the Arminian could say that God’s decrees are absolute while also affirming that they encompass conditions.

For example, the Arminian could say that God decreed from all eternity to endow His creatures with the power of free will and to hold them accountable for their choices and actions [1].  That would still be an “absolute” decree.  If an “absolute” decree has reference to an unchangeable and irresistible eternal decree that determines everything that will ever happen (including every human choice, sinful or otherwise), then Arminians do indeed reject such an “absolute” view of God’s decrees.  Still, the “conditional” aspect of #2 is imprecise and does not necessarily comport with any standard Arminian view of God’s decrees.  I can’t imagine that any Arminian would consider #2, as worded, to be anything even close to a “major tenet of Arminianism.”

3. God created Adam as innocent.

True.  Is this supposed to be in contrast to Calvinism?  Did God create Adam guilty in Calvinism?  I would say this is a major tenet of theology in general and not just Arminianism.

4. Sin consists in acts of the will.

Correct.  James 1:13-15 establish that well enough.  However, if this is meant to say that Arminians do not believe that we have a corrupt (sinful) nature, then this is entirely false.  All Arminians fully affirm man’s depravity and some (though not all) even affirm racial guilt (which is not the same as affirming total depravity).

5. Only the pollution, not the sin of Adam, is imputed to his
descendants.

As above, this is true of some Arminians, but not all.  Personally, I do not believe that God holds Adam’s descendents responsible for Adam’s sin.  However, I agree with all Arminians that Adam’s sinful nature is passed on to all of his descendents (though I am not sure “imputed” is the best way to express this).

6. Man’s depravity is not total, and his will is inclined toward God and good.

This is entirely false.  Such a claim has never been a feature of Arminianism.  Man’s depravity is total in Arminianism so that the will is not inclined towards God and good.  Point #6 is the opposite of what Arminianism teaches. [2]

7. The Atonement was not necessary but once offered is available to all.

This is worded so awkwardly it is difficult to grasp what is being asserted (just as many of these so called “tenets” so far).  However, the Arminian would certainly object to the idea that the atonement “was not necessary.” I suppose this might be a description of the governmental view of atonement which some Arminians have held.  But even then, I doubt that many (if any) of those who hold the governmental view would say that the atonement was “not necessary”.  At any rate, Arminius held to penal-satisfaction (and for that reason saw the atonement as wholly necessary) as did Wesley and numerous other Arminians throughout history.  Therefore, if this is a reference to the governmental view of atonement (accurate or not), it cannot be rightly called a “major tenet of Arminianism”.   As far as the atonement being a provision available for all, this would indeed be a “major tenet” of Arminianism.

8. The Atonement does not actually effect the salvation of human beings but merely makes it possible.

False again.  The atonement makes salvation possible for all and “effects the salvation” of those who repent and believe the gospel.

9. Salvation becomes effectual only when accepted voluntarily by penitent sinners.

Here #8 is contradicted by #9.  If the atonement “does not actually effect salvation” (as #8 claims), then it cannot even “effect” salvation on the condition of voluntary acceptance.  Again, I do not care for the wording of #9.  I would prefer to say that the free gift of salvation is received by the God enabled exercise of faith in the person.  Still, there is nothing in #9 that the Arminian need object to.

10. Regeneration is determined by the human will, not divine decree.

Arminians believe that regeneration is received by faith, but caused by God.  Faith precedes regeneration in Arminianism as it receives the free gift of new life from God and enjoys this life as the result of being joined to Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit through faith.  If “determined by the human will” is meant to say that man regenerates himself, then the statement is false and misrepresents Arminianism. Only God can regenerate just as God alone can justify.  To say that justification and regeneration are by faith does not mean that the one who trusts God is doing these things to himself, any more than it can be said that the one who receives a gift also gives the gift to himself or provided the gift in the first place. 

Does this mean that regeneration is not determined by “divine decree?”  Not at all.  The Arminian affirms that God decreed from all eternity to justify and regenerate sinners on the condition of faith in His Son.  Therefore, regeneration is determined by “divine decree.”

11. Faith itself is a good work.

It is ridiculous to claim that this is a feature of Arminianism, let alone a “major tenet” of Arminianism.  The Arminian agrees with Paul that faith is not a work and in no way merits salvation.  Rather, faith receives the free and undeserved gift of salvation (Romans 4:4-8).  For this reason salvation by faith is salvation by grace (Rom. 4:16).  The Arminian also acknowledges that faith is impossible if not for the gracious enabling work of God in the sinner.  For this reason, even faith can be considered a gift from God.

12. There is no distinction between common grace and special grace.

This is hardly a major tenet of Arminianism.  Many Arminians do make such distinctions, but understand “special grace” differently than Calvinists and, apparently, the misinformed architect of these so-called “15 Major Tenets of Arminianism.”  The Arminian would likely understand “special grace” as that special working of God that makes faith possible while the Calvinist would see this same working as irresistible.  The typical Arminian understanding of “common grace” is roughly the same as the Calvinist view (i.e. as that grace which restrains evil in this world, etc.).

 13. Grace may be resisted.

Yes, this could be rightly classified as a “major tenet” or Arminianism.

14. The righteousness of Christ is never imputed to the believer.

This is false.  Arminius affirmed the imputation of Christ’s righteousness on the condition of faith as have many (if not most) Arminians since.  Some Arminians deny that Christ’s so called “active” obedience is imputed to the believer, while still maintaining that Christ’s “passive” obedience is imputed for righteousness.  Other Arminians affirm that both Christ’s active and passive obedience is imputed to the believer (e.g. Free Will Baptists). 

There are some from the Wesleyan tradition who would add “imparted righteousness” while still holding to a form of “imputed righteousness” as well.  It seems to me that there are some from the Wesleyan tradition who might deny that the imputation of righteousness can rightly be called “the righteousness of Christ”, though from my readings of Wesley, I am confident that while Wesley denied the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in the “active” sense, he affirmed it in the “passive” sense.  Regardless, it can hardly be accurate to say the rejection of Christ’s imputed righteousness is a “major tenet” of Arminianism when its founder and so many of his theological heirs fully affirm that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer.  It would be far more accurate to say that Christ’s imputed righteousness to the believer is a “major tenet” of Arminianism.

15. A believer may attain full conformity to divine will in this life, but may also fall from grace and be lost eternally.

Again, this is worded very strangely.  If this is meant to say that true believers can yet abandon faith and be eternally lost, then this might be considered to be a major tenet of Arminianism.  Unfortunately, Arminius never took a stand on the issue (though Arminius seemed to believe that apostasy was both theoretically and scripturally possible and argued against the contrary view [of inevitable perseverance] in his response to Calvinist William Perkins- see pp. 272-289 in Arminius Speaks). [4]  Likewise, Arminius’ first followers (the Remonstrants) initially left the question of apostasy open to debate, though they eventually took a stand on the issue against the Calvinist doctrine of inevitable perseverance. 

If “full conformity to divine will in this life” has reference to entire sanctification, then this could only be rightly called a feature of Arminianism rooted in the teachings of Wesley.  Many Arminians hold to progressive sanctification and Arminius did not take a stand on the issue (though he did not deny the possibility of entire sanctification for the regenerated believer so long as it was emphasized that such could only be possible through total dependence on the empowering grace of God). [5]

Therefore, it doesn’t seem quite accurate to say that either claim in #15 is a “major tenet” of Arminianism.  For this reason The Society of Evangelical Arminians does not prevent Arminians who hold to inevitable perseverance from holding membership in the society, nor does it take a stand on the possibility of entire sanctification.

[This unfortunate and inaccurate listing of “major tenets” is found under “Arminianism” in Nelson’s Dictionary of Christianity (Nashville,TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 47]

________________________________________________________

[1] A. W. Tozer expressed this view of divine decree very well in the following quote:

God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God)

In Arminius’ descriptions of the divine decrees he twice uses the word “absolute” to define these decrees:

“The first absolute decree of God concerning the salvation of sinful man, is that by which he decreed to appoint his Son, Jesus Christ, as Mediator, Redeemer, Savior, Priest and King, who might destroy sin by his own death, might by his obedience obtain the salvation which had been lost, and might communicate it by his own virtue.”

“The second precise and absolute decree of God, is that in which he decreed to receive into favor those who repent and believe, and, in Christ, for His sake and through Him, to effect the salvation of such penitents and believers as persevered to the end; but to leave in sin, and under wrath, all impenitent persons and unbelievers, and to damn them as aliens from Christ.” (From “A Declaration of the Sentiments of James Arminius Part 2” in Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will, and the Nature of God, pg. 63).

[2] James Arminius wrote:

“In this [depraved] state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but imprisoned, destroyed, and lost.  And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they are excited by Divine grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.  For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing”…..The mind of man, in  this [depraved] state, is dark, destitute of the saving knowledge of God, and, according to the Apostle, incapable of those things which belong to the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14),…” (From “Public Disputation” in Arminius Speaks, pp. 3, 4, brackets mine).

[3] James Arminius wrote:

“I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law…” (From “A Declaration…Part 2” in Arminius Speaks, pg. 78)

[4] James Arminius wrote:

“But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual.”

“Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish.  Yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of Scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them [the passages that seem to teach the possibility of apostasy] which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding.  On the other hand, certain passages are produced [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration.” (From “A Declaration…Part 2” in Arminius Speaks, pp. 69, 70, first brackets in second paragraph mine.  Unfortunately, Arminius did not live to participate in such a “convention”, and the “Synod of Dort” that his followers participated in proved to be nothing less than a kangaroo court.)

[5] James Arminius wrote:

“But while I never asserted that a believer could perfectly keep the precepts of Christ in this life, I never denied it, but always left it as a matter which has still to be decided.” (From “A Declaration…Part 2” in Arminius Speaks, pg. 71)

Calvinism’s Bad Check

or: The 5-Pointer’s Impossibility of a Sincere Gospel Offer to All Men

The doctrine of Limited Atonement (Christ dying for the salvation of only God’s elect) is perhaps the most controversial of all Calvinist doctrines. Besides having no scriptural foundation to speak of (evidenced by the fact that not a word of scripture implies anyone being excluded from the atonement, whereas its universality is repeatedly proclaimed therein), it’s come under fire for, among other things, making the offer of the gospel insincere where the non-elect are concerned. Reformed scholars and apologists have put forth much effort to deflect this charge (see for instance Dr. Roger Nicole’s Covenant, Universal Call And Definite Atonement). The standard defense that’s usually mounted is declaring that the offer is genuine, but that the non-elect (or reprobates) are simply unable to fulfill its stipulation of faith without being regenerated, and thus never collect on what is genuinely offered to them.

While this defense may seem sound upon first glance, a crucial aspect it glosses over is the essential relationship between Christ’s atonement and the salvation that is being offered. This produces an apparently irreconcilable inconsistency as the syllogisms below should succinctly prove.

Premise 1: An “offer” made to one that he[a] cannot collect on, even should he meet its stipulations, is not a genuine or sincere offer to that man.

Premise 2: The gospel offer that God extends to all men[b] everywhere is that if anyone truly believes in Jesus Christ, he shall be saved from eternal condemnation (Romans 10:9-11, John 5:24).

Conclusion 1: Therefore if any man could not be saved even if he truly believed in Christ, then the gospel offer to that man is not genuine or sincere.

The second syllogism’s first premise is what I believe most Calvinists miss when they declare the gospel offer to be genuine in their view.

Premise 1a: Without the benefit of Christ’s sacrificial death as the atonement for one’s sins[c], then even if he truly believed in Christ, he could not be saved.

Premise 2a: The doctrine of Limited Atonement is that Christ’s death as the atonement for sins, such that one may be saved from eternal condemnation if one believes, is only applicable to the elect. It does not and cannot ever apply in this way to the non-elect.[d]

Conclusion 2: Therefore if the doctrine of Limited Atonement is true, a man who is non-elect (and therefore does not have his sins atoned for at the cross), even if he were to truly believe in Christ, could not be saved.[e]

Some Calvinists may contest premise 1a, but its truth should be fairly evident. To contend otherwise, that faith in and of itself could save one from sin without Christ dying for him, is patently absurd.

Premise 1b (from Conclusion 1): If any man could not be saved even if he truly believed in Christ, then the gospel offer to that man is not genuine or sincere.

Premise 2b (from Conclusion 2): If the doctrine of Limited Atonement is true, a man who is non-elect, even if he were to truly believe in Christ, could not be saved.

Conclusion 3: If the doctrine of Limited Atonement is true, then the gospel offer to the non-elect is not genuine or sincere.

As can be readily seen, telling a person that he will be saved if he trusts in Christ cannot be true if Christ has not died for him. Even if he hypothetically were to believe, there’s nothing to back the offer made to him. Telling a non-elect person for whom Christ didn’t die that he would be saved through faith if he did believe is tantamount to saying that his belief in Christ could save him apart from any atoning work by Christ!

The mainstream Calvinist view of the atonement and the gospel offer amounts to the equivalent of God waving bad checks payable from an empty account to entice so many wretched and beggarly souls, then charging them all the more for their disinterest in the worthless scrap. It portrays Him as tempting those who are dying of starvation with invitations to an exquisite feast big enough for all -after having given the chef explicit orders to never prepare anything for them. If you find that such duplicity and insincerity isn’t sounding like the self-revelation of the God of scripture, you’re not alone.

Footnotes:

[a] Non-specific masculine gender conveys gender inclusiveness here and throughout.

[b] John 3:16-17, Acts 17:30, Luke 24:46-47, Titus 2:11-13, Revelation 22:17; though proof for this premise is hardly necessary, since only hyper and fringe Calvinists reject the universal offer of the gospel.

[c] Those who do have this benefit in this context include those for whom it had not yet been made but were looking forward to it, e.g. the Old Testament saints. The ones without it as described here are the ones for whom it is never made per the Calvinist perspective.

[d] That is to say, only those who are elect (chosen by God) can receive any benefit from Christ’s death at all where forgiveness of their sins and eternal salvation are concerned. While 5-point Calvinists may acknowledge that the atonement does something with regards to the non-elect in their view, its power to save from sin is strictly reserved for the elect to the exclusion of all others. Any view to the contrary is forcefully denounced by Charles Spurgeon in his sermon, “The Mission of the Son of Man”: “That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities.”

[e] The validity of the reasoning here should be apparent: faith of any sort wouldn’t be able to save him since Christ’s sacrificial atonement for sins doesn’t apply to him. In penal substitutionary terms, even if such a non-elect sinner met the gospel’s stipulation of faith in Christ, there is no substitute, no payment prepared for his sins upon his believing, nor can there ever be. He would of necessity bear them himself and still suffer condemnation despite believing.

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