The Whole Controversy: Arminius on the Nature of God’s Grace in Salvation

The representations of grace that the scriptures contain, are such as describe it capable of “being resisted,” (Acts 7:51) and “received in vain” (2 Cor 6:1), and that it is possible for man to avoid yielding his assent to it and refuse all cooperation with it (Heb 12:15, Matt 23:37, Luke 7:30).  While, on the contrary, this [Calvinist] Predestination affirms that grace is a certain irresistible force and operation.

************

In this manner, I ascribe to grace the commencement, the continuance and the consummation of all good.  To such an extent do I carry its influence that a man, though already regenerate, can neither conceive, will, or do any good at all, nor resist any evil temptation , without this preventing [i.e. preceding] and exciting, this following and co-operating grace.

From this statement it will clearly appear, that I by no means do injustice to grace, by attributing, as it is reported of me, too much to man’s free will.  For the whole controversy reduces itself to the solution of this question, “Is the grace of God a certain irresistible force?’  That is, the controversy does not relate to those actions or operations which may be ascribed to grace (for I acknowledge and inculcate as many of these actions or operations as any man ever did), but it relates solely to the mode of operation, whether it be irresistible or not.  With respect to which, I believe, according to the scriptures, that many persons resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace that is offered. (From Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will and the Nature of God, ed. John Wagner, pp. 45, 69)

The Necessitarian Calvinist Argument From Strongest Motive Force is Based on Circular Reasoning

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

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

The affirmation, that the greatest motive invariably governs, is a mere assumption, incapable of proof. We ask, how does any one know that he is governed by the greatest motive? The answer, and the only answer possible, is, that he is thus influenced. But, how does he know that he is thus influenced? Because the greatest motive governs. And thus the assumption is the proof, and the proof the assumption, and finally they are both assumptions, incapable of any proof. This is reasoning in a circle with a short curve. It is simply saying that we know how man is influenced, because we know the nature of the cause; and we know the nature of the cause, because we know how he is influenced.

From: Ransom Dunn: A Discourse on the Freedom of the Will 

Also, the Calvinist (at least those who follow Edwards) begs the question with regards to choosing according to our greatest desires. Well, how does the Calvinist know this? How do they know we never make choices according to an inferior motive or desire? The answer: the choice always reflects the greatest desire, or else the choice would not be made, since we choose according to our greatest desire (which is circular and reveals a tautology, “the prevailing desire always prevails” or “the prevailing desire is the prevailing desire”, etc.- which isn’t saying much).

It reduces to a bare assertion. It is our greatest desire because we choose it, and we choose it because it is our greatest desire. Therefore, “choice” and “greatest desire/strongest motive” become conflated so that the claim is simply “we choose because we choose”, or “we choose according to our choice”. And yet Calvinists try to paint Arminians as illogical because they believe the Arminian position amounts to “we choose because we choose”. That is not an accurate description of the Arminian view, while it is essentially what the Calvinist, who lodges the objection, actually believes.

It is also interesting that many Calvinists complain that Arminians base their arguments for free will on intuition, while appealing to intuition concerning the belief that we always choose according to our greatest desire…

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

Richard Watson on “Who maketh thee to differ from another?” as an Argument for Calvinism

1 Corinthians 4:7, “For who maketh thee to differ from another?”

The context shows that the apostle was here endeavouring to repress that ostentation which had arisen among many persons in the Church of Corinth, on account of their spiritual gifts and endowments. This he does by referring those gifts to God, as the sole giver, — “for who maketh thee to differ?” or who confers superiority upon thee? as the sense obviously is; “and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” Mr. Scott acknowledges that “the apostle is here speaking more immediately of natural abilities, and spiritual gifts; and not of special and efficacious grace.” If so, then the passage has nothing to do with this controversy. The argument he however affirms, concludes equally in one case, as in the other; and in his sermon on election he thus applies it: “Let the blessings of the Gospel be fairly proposed, with solemn warnings and pressing invitations, to two men of exactly the same character and disposition: if they are left to themselves in entirely similar circumstances, the effect must be precisely the same. But, behold, while one proudly scorns and resents the gracious offer, the other trembles, weeps, prays, repents, believes! Who maketh this man to differ from the other? or what hath he that he hath not received? The Scriptural answer to this question, when properly understood, decides the whole controversy.”

As this is a favourite argument, and a popular dilemma in the hands of the

Calvinists, and so much is supposed to depend upon its solution, we may somewhat particularly examine it.

Instead of supposing the case of two men “of exactly the same character and disposition,” why not suppose the same man in two moral states? For one man who “proudly scorns the Gospel” does not more differ from another who penitently receives it, than the same man who has once scoffingly rejected, and afterward meekly submitted to it, differs from himself; as for instance, Saul the Pharisee from Paul the apostle. Now, to account for the case of two men, one receiving the Gospel, and the other rejecting it, the theory of election is brought in; but in the case of the one man in two different states, this theory cannot be resorted to. The man was elect from eternity; he is no outcast from the mercy of his God, and the redemption of his Saviour, and yet, in one period of his life, he proudly scorns the offered mercy of Christ, at another he accepts it. It is clear, then, that the doctrine of election, simply considered in itself, will not solve the latter case; and by consequence it will not solve the former: for the mere fact, that one man rejects the Gospel while another receives it, is no more a proof of the non-election of the non-recipient, than the fact of a man now rejecting it, who shall afterward receive it, is a proof of his non-election.

The solution, then, must be sought for in some communication of the grace of God, in some inward operation upon the heart, which is supposed to be a consequence of election; but this leads to another and distinct question.

This question is not, however, the vincibility or invincibility of the grace of God, at least not in the first instance. It is, in truth, whether there is any operation of the grace of God in man at all tending to salvation, in cases where we see the Gospel rejected. Is the man who rejects perseveringly, and he who rejects but for a time, perhaps a long period of his life, left without any good motions or assisting influence from the grace of GOD, or not? This question seems to admit of but one of three answers. Either he has no gracious assistance at all, to dispose him to receive the Gospel; or he has a sufficient influence of grace so to dispose him; or that gracious influence is dispensed in an insufficient measure. If the first answer be given, then not only are the non-elect left without any visitations of grace throughout life; but the elect also are left without them, until the moment of their effectual calling. If the second be offered as the answer, then both in the case of the non-elect man who finally rejects Christ, and that of the elect man, who rejects him for a great part of his life, the saving grace of God must be allowed so to work as to be capable of counteraction, and effectual resistance. If this be denied, then the third answer must be adopted, and the grace of God must be allowed so to influence as to be designedly insufficient for the ends for which it is given; that is, it is given for no saving end at all, either as to the non-elect, or as to the elect all the time they remain in a state of actual alienation from Christ. For if an insufficient degree of grace is bestowed, when a sufficient degree might have been imparted, then there must have been a reason for restraining the degree of grace to an insufficient measure; which reason could only be, that it might be insufficient, and therefore not saving. Now, two of the three of these positions are manifestly contrary to the word of GOD. To say that no gracious influence of the Holy Spirit operates upon the unconverted, is to take away their guilt; since they cannot be guilty of rejecting the Gospel if they have no power to embrace it, either from themselves, or by impartation, while yet the Scripture represents this as the highest guilt of men. All the exhortations, and reproofs, and invitations of Scripture, are, also, by this doctrine, turned into mockery and delusion; and, finally, there can be no such thing in this case, as “resisting the Holy Ghost;” as “grieving and quenching the Spirit;” as “doing despite to the Spirit of grace,” either in the case of the non-elect, who are never converted, or of the elect, before conversion: so that the latter have never been guilty of stubbornness, and obstinacy, and rebellion, and resistance of grace; though these are, by them, afterward, always acknowledged among their sins. Nor did they ever feel any good motion, or drawing from the Spirit of God, before what they term their effectual calling; though, it is presumed, that few, if any of them, will deny this in fact.

If the doctrine, that no grace is imparted before conversion, is then contradicted both by Scripture and experience, how will the case stand, as to the intentional restriction of that grace to a degree which is insufficient to dispose the subject to the acceptance of the Gospel? If this view be held, it must be maintained equally as to the elect before their conversion, and as to the non-elect. In that case, then, we have equal difficulty in accounting for the guilt of man, as when it is supposed that no grace at all is imparted; and for the reproofs, calls, and invitations, and threatenings of the word of God. For where lies the difference between the absolute non-impartation of grace, and grace so imparted as to be designedly insufficient for salvation? Plainly there is none, except that we can see no end at all for giving insufficient grace; a circumstance which would only serve to render still more perplexing the principles and practice of the Divine administration. It has no end of mercy, and none of justice; nor, as far as can be perceived, of wisdom. Not of mercy, for it effects nothing merciful, and designs not to effect it; not of justice, for it places no man under equitable responsibility; not of wisdom, for it has no assignable end. The Scripture treats all men to whom the Gospel is preached as endowed with power, not indeed from themselves, but from the grace of God, to “turn at his reproof;” to come at his “call;” to embrace his “grace;” but they have no capacity for any of these acts, if either of these opinions be true: and thus the word of GOD is contradicted. So also is experience, in both cases; for there could be no sense of guilt for having rejected Christ, and grieved the Holy Spirit, either in the non-elect never converted, or in the elect before conversion, if either they had no visitations of grace at all; or if these were designedly granted in an insufficient degree.

It follows, then, that the doctrine of the impartation of grace to the unconverted, in a sufficient degree to enable them to embrace the Gospel, must be admitted; and with this doctrine comes in that of a power in man to use, or to spurn this heavenly gift and gracious assistance: in other words, a power of willing to come to Christ, even when men do not come; a power of considering their ways, and turning to the Lord, when they do not consider them, and turn to him; a power of praying, when they do not pray; and a power of believing, when they do not believe: powers all of grace; all the results of the work of the Spirit in the heart; but powers to be exerted by man, since it is man, and not God, who wills, and turns, and prays, and believes, while the influence under which this is done is from the grace of GOD alone. This is the doctrine which is clearly contained in the words of St. Paul, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure;” where, not only the operation of God, but the co-operation of man, are distinctly marked; and are both held up as necessary to the production of the grand result — “salvation.”

It will appear, then, from these observations, that the question, “Who maketh thee to differ?” as urged by Mr. Scott and others from the time of Calvin, is a very inapposite one to their purpose, for,

First, it is a question which the apostle asks with no reference to a difference in religious state, but only with respect to gifts and endowments. Secondly, the Holy Ghost gives no authority for such an application of his words, as is thus made, in any other part of Scripture. Thirdly, it cannot be employed for the purpose for which it is dragged forth so often from its context and meaning; for, in the use thus made of it, it is falsely assumed, that the two men instanced, the one who rejects, and the other who embraces the Gospel, are not each endowed with sufficient grace to enable them to receive God’s gracious offer. Now this, we may again say, must either be denied or affirmed. If it be affirmed, then the difference between the two men consists, not where they place it, in the destitution or deficiency on the one hand, or in the plenitude on the other, of the grace of GOD; but in the use of grace: and when they say, “it is God which maketh them to differ,” they say in fact, that it is God that not only gives sufficient grace to each; but uses that grace for them. For if it be allowed that sufficient grace for repentance and faith is given to each, then the true difference between them is, that one repents, and the other does not repent; the one believes, and the other does not believe: if, therefore, this difference is to be attributed to God directly, then the act of repenting, and the act of believing, are both the acts of GOD. If they hesitate to avow this, for it is an absurdity, then either they must give up the question as totally useless to them, or else take the other side of the alternative, that to all who reject the Gospel, sufficient grace to receive it is not given. How then will that serve them? They may say, it is true, when they take the man who embraces the Gospel, “Who maketh him to differ but God, who gives this sufficient grace to him?” but then we have an equal right to take the man who rejects the Gospel, and ask, “Who maketh him to differ” from the man that embraces it? To this they cannot reply that he maketh himself to differ; for that which they here lay down is, that he has either no grace at all imparted to him to enable him to act as the other; or, what amounts to the same thing, no sufficient degree of it to produce a true faith; that he never had that grace; that he is, and always must remain, as destitute of it as when he was born. He does not, therefore, make himself to differ from the man who embraces the Gospel; for he has no power to imitate his example, and to make himself equal with him; and the only answer to our question is, “that it is God who maketh him to differ from the other,” by withholding that grace by which alone he could be prevented from rejecting the Gospel; and this, so far from “settling the whole controversy,” is the very point in debate.

This dilemma, then, will prove, when examined, but inconvenient to themselves; for if sufficiency of grace be allowed to the unconverted then the Calvinists make the acts of grace, as well as the gift of grace itself to be the work of God in the elect: if sufficiency of grace is denied, then the unbelief and condemnation of the wicked are not from themselves, but from God. The fact is, that this supposed puzzle has been always used

ad captandum; and is unworthy so grave a controversy; and as to the pretence, that the admission of a power in man to use or to abuse the grace of GOD involves some merit or ground of glorying in man himself, this is equally fallacious. The power “to will and to do,” is the sole result of the working of God in man. All is of grace: “By the grace of God,” must every one say, “I am what I am.” Here is no dispute; every good thought, desire, and tendency of the heart, and all its power to turn these to practical account by prayer, by faith, by the use of the means of grace, through which new power “to will and to do,” new power to use grace, as well as new grace, is communicated, is of GOD. Every good act, therefore, is the use of a communicated power which is given of grace, as the stretching out of the withered hand of the healed man was the use of the power communicated to his imbecility, and still working with the act, though not the act itself; and to attempt to lay a ground of boasting and self sufficiency in the assisted acceptance of the grace of God by us; and the empowered submission of our hearts to it, is as manifestly absurd as it would be to say, that the man, whose arm was withered, had great reason to congratulate himself on his share in the glory of the miracle, because he himself stretched out the invigorated member at the command of Christ; and because it was not, in fact, lifted up by the hand of him who, in that act of faith and obedience, had healed him. (From: Watson’s Theological Institutes, Volume 2)

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

Dr. Brian Abasciano on the Conditionality Implied in Romans 9:16 and its Connection to John 1:12-13

“So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”  Romans 9:16 (ESV)

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13 (ESV).

Piper’s further, detailed argument for 9.16 as speaking of unconditional bestowal of divine mercy founders on both fundamental presupposition and its particulars. For the former, Piper assumes that the language of 9.16 is incompatible with God bestowing his mercy on a condition sovereignly determined by himself. But our exegesis has found this to be a false assumption. As for the particulars, appeals to 9.11-12 and Exod. 33.19 are contradicted by our exegesis of these texts as well as of 9.16, and the reader is directed to the relevant portions of the present volume. Curiously, Piper’s final main argument invokes Phil. 2.13 (because of the somewhat similar language of ‘willing’ (τὸ θέλειν) and ‘working’ (τὸ ἐνεργεῖν)) as somehow ruling out any condition for the bestowal of God’s mercy. But that text does not particularly talk about God’s mercy (except insofar as any blessing of God can be considered mercy) and it does not indicate anything about God’s bestowal of mercy, or any divine action, being unconditional. Piper seems to be overreaching here, and we conclude that Phil. 2.13 is largely irrelevant to Rom. 9.16 and the question of the conditionality of the mercy it mentions.

Piper, 154 n. 3, notes one further reference, cited by Sanday/Headlam as an analogy to 9.16 (though Piper mistakenly refers to 9.6): Jn 1.12-13. This reference actually works against Piper because the regenerating act of God there, performed by God alone, is presented as the divine response to human faith (cf. justification in Paul’s thought, which is performed by God alone in response to human faith). John 1.12 indicates that people become children of God by faith. That is, upon believing, God gives them the right to become something that they were not prior to believing – children of God. John 1.13 then clarifies that they become children of God not from human ancestry (that is the significance of ‘not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh [which equates to sexual desire that might lead to procreation], nor of the will of a husband [who was thought to be in charge of sexual/procreative activity]’), but from God, describing their becoming children of God as being born of God. ‘Becoming children of God’ and ‘being born of God’ are parallel expressions referring to the same phenomenon (it would be special pleading, and a desperate expedient at that, to argue that becoming God’s child and being born of him are distinct in the Johannine context or that the text would allow that a person could be born of God and yet not be his child), so that God’s act of regenerating believers, making them his own children, is a response to their faith.

The parallel with Rom. 9.16 is significant and quite supportive of our exegesis. Both contexts make the point that elect status (which equates to sonship; cf. Rom. 9.8) is not bestowed by human ancestry, but by God, whose will is to choose as his own those who believe in Christ. Even if one were to deny that reference to θελήματος σαρκός or θελήματος ἀνδρός is to human ancestry specifically and insist that it refers to human willing in general, it would not make the divine action of regeneration any less a response to human faith and hence any less conditional on it. Nor would this be inconsistent with Jn 1.13’s attribution of the act of regeneration to God. The text indicates that God is the one who grants the right to become children of God and the one who regenerates. His doing so in response to faith is a matter of his discretion and would not somehow make the human choice to believe the source of regeneration instead of God any more than it makes it the source of justification. (Excerpt from footnote #153 on page 191 of Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9.10-18: An Intertextual and Theological Exegesis, by Dr. Brian Abasciano, paragraph breaks added for easier reading)

Great Quotes: James Arminius on Acts 2:23; 4:28

Acts 2:23 teaches not that God willed that the Jews should slay Christ, but, that he was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” into the power of those who wished to slay him.  Nothing more can be inferred from Acts 4:28.  For God predetermined to deliver his Son into the hands of his enemies, that He might suffer from them that which God had laid upon him, and which the Jews, of their own wickedness and hatred against Christ, had determined to inflict upon him.

God, indeed, “determined before” that death should be inflicted on Christ by them.  But in what character did God consider them when He “determined before” that this should be done by them?  In that character, surely, which they had at the time when they inflicted death upon Christ, that is, in the character of sworn enemies of Christ, of obstinate enemies and despisers of God and the truth, who could be led to repentance by no admonitions, prayers, threats or miracles; who wished to inflict every evil on Christ, if they could only obtain the power over him, which they often sought in vain.

It is evident, then, that there was here no other action of God in this case that that He delivered His own Son into their hands, and permitted them to do their pleasure in reference to him.  Yet he determined the limit to which He pleased that they should go, regulating and governing their wickedness, in such a manner, yet very gently, that they should inflict on him only that which God had willed that His own Son should suffer, and nothing more.

This is clearly seen in the manner of the punishment, in preventing the breaking of his legs, in the piercing of his side, in the inscription of the title, and the like.  But there appears here no action of God by which they were impelled or moved to will and to do what they willed and did.  But He used those who wished, of their own malice and envy, to put Christ to death, in a mode, which, He knew, would conduce to His own glory and the salvation of men.

But the reason that it cannot be said, with truth, that God and Christ, in the delivery of Christ to the Jews sinned, does not consist only or chiefly, in the fact that they were led to this delivery by various motives.

What if Judas had done the same thing [betrayed Christ] with the design that Christ, by his own death, should reconcile the world unto God, would his sin have been less heinous?  By no means.  It was not lawful for him to do evil that good might come.  But the chief reason of the difference is that God had the right to deliver His Son, and Christ also had the right to deliver his own soul to death, and consequently, in doing this, they could not sin.  But Judas had no power in this case, and he, therefore sinned.  There is a distinction in actions not only as to their end, but as to their principle and form.  Saul was not acquitted of sin because he preserved the herds of the Amalekites for sacrifice (1 Sam 15:9-22).

From  An Examination of Predestination and Grace in Perkin’s Pamphlet, Part 1, quoted in Arminius Speaks,  pp. 181, 182, ed. John Wagner

Some Excellent and Concise Comments on Free Will, the Bondage of Sin, and Prevenient Grace

Overall, the following comments by F. Leroy Forlines are an excellent representation of the Arminian viewpoint:

“Freedom of will is a freedom within a framework of possibilities.  It is not absolute freedom.  Man cannot be God.  He cannot be an angel.  The freedom of a human being is in the framework of the possibilities provided by human nature.  Also, influences brought to bear on the will have a bearing on the framework of possibilities.

Before Adam and Eve sinned, it was in the framework of possibilities within which they operated to remain in the practice of complete righteousness, or to commit sin.  After they sinned, it no longer remained within the framework of possibilities for them to practice uninterrupted righteousness.  The same is true of fallen man now (Rom. 8:7, 8).  If anyone [takes] freedom of the will to mean that an unconverted person could practice righteousness and not sin, he misunderstands the meaning of freedom of will for fallen human beings.  Romans 8:7, 8 makes it clear that Scripture does not teach this.

Jesus makes it clear that it does not fall within the framework of possibilities for a sinner to respond to the gospel unless he is drawn by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 6:44).  The influence of the Holy Spirit working in the heart of the person who hears the gospel brings about a framework of possibilities in which a person can say yes or no to the gospel.  If he says yes, it is his choice.  If he says no, it is his choice.  To say less than that is to raise serious questions about the existence of real personhood after the fall.  If a human being is not in some sense a self-directed being, he or she is not a person.  The self-direction may have a degree of dependence at times, but it is still self-direction.  As has already been made clear, I am not suggesting that fallen man can choose Christ without the aid of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, I strongly reject such an idea.  I am saying, however, that no matter how much or how strong the aid of the Holy Spirit may be, the ‘yes’ decision is still a decision that can rightly be called the person’s decision.  After all, one can say no….”

“Faith can be called a gift in the sense that it would not have been possible without divine aid.  It is not a gift in the sense that it exists outside the person and is given to him, nor is it a gift in the sense that God believes for the person.  The person himself does the believing by divine aid.

I think Calvinism errs in its understanding of ‘dead in trespasses.’  Cornelius Van Til explains the Calvinist interpretation:

It was only as a creature of God, made in his image, that man could sin.  So, when a sinner, and as such ‘dead in trespasses,’ unable of himself even to stretch forth his hand to receive salvation, Scripture continues to deal with him as a responsible being.  He is called to faith and repentance.  Yet faith is the gift of God.  Lazarus lay in the tomb.  He was dead.  Yet Jesus told him to come forth.  And he did come forth.

The above interpretation interprets ‘dead’ in ‘dead in trespasses’ (Eph. 2:1) as meaning lifeless.  The dead body of Lazarus had no life in it.  It was capable of no action until it was made alive by Jesus.  If ‘dead in trespasses’ means dead in the same way, the logic of Calvinism follows.  The sinner would be both deaf and speechless.  He would know nothing about God, sin, and salvation until God made him alive through the new birth.  Then and only then would he be able to hear and to speak.

I think that ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ or spiritual death means that man is separated from God, dead in relationship to God.  There is no communion and no fellowship with God.  The principle is similar to that spoken of by Paul when he said, ‘By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world’ (Gal. 6:14).  Both Paul and the world were alive in the sense that they were not lifeless.  They were not alive so far as a functioning relationship between them was concerned.

Spiritual death, if this be the correct interpretation, refers to the fact that the sinner is cut off from communion and fellowship with God.  This is true both because a holy God demands that it be so until sin is taken care of, and also because the bias of the sinner’s heart is against God.  The fact the sinner is not in communion with God does not mean he is totally deaf to God’s communication.  If that were the case, the sinner could not even distort the message of God. You cannot distort that to which you are totally deaf.  That a person is a sinner does mean he does not hear well.  He tends to resist and oppose the Truth and distort the Truth.  The gospel has to go forth against great opposition.  The Holy Spirit must work before there can be a successful communication of the gospel to the sinner and before there will be conviction and response from the sinner.  This approach recognizes the seriousness of sin, the necessity of the enlightening and drawing power of the Holy Spirit, and the personhood of the sinner.

I believe that saving faith is a gift of God in the sense that the Holy Spirit gives divine enablement without which faith in Christ would be impossible (Jn. 6:44).  The difference between the Calvinistic concept of faith and my concept of faith cannot be that theirs is monergistic and mine is synergistic.  In both cases it is synergistic.  Active participation in faith by the believer means it must be synergistic.  Human response cannot be ruled out of faith.  Justification and regeneration are monergistic.  Each is an act of God, not man.  Faith is a human act by divine enablement and therefore cannot be monergistic.”

F. Leroy Forlines, The Quest For Truth: Answering Life’s Inescapable Questions, pp. 158-160 (emphasis his)

Related posts: 

What Can the Dead in Sin do?

The Arminian and Calvinist Ordo Salutis: A Brief Comparative Study

A Simple Biblical Perspective on the Relationship Between Faith and Salvation

Faith is not the cause of salvation but the condition of receiving it.  Our faith does not save us, but we are saved only by Christ, in whom we have faith. (Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology, Mildred Bangs Wynkoop)

Jack Cottrell’s Critique of Bruce Ware’s Infralapsarian Calvinism

SEA has linked to a few PDF s of Jack Cottrell’s various responses to others from the Perspectives on Election: Five Views book.  Cottrell argues for the Classical Arminian view of individual conditional election based on foreseen faith.  He sees many of the election passages in Scripture as corporate but only as corporate election to service or the fulfilling of a certain purpose, and not to salvation.  Passages dealing with election to salvation he sees as election based on foreseen faith.  While I disagree with Cottrell in that I see corporate election passages as including election to salvation and reject the Classical “election based on foreseen faith” view, I do regard him as one of the strongest and most well argued proponents of the Classical view.  Below is a link to his critique of Bruce Ware’s infralapsarian Calvinist position.  Here is an excerpt from the essay:

One last claim draws my attention, namely, that God has two wills in reference to the salvation of individuals, namely, his “universal saving will” (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) and his “specific and inviolable will” to save only some of those whom he desires to save (23-4).  According to Ware, God does in fact will not to save some people whom he could save and actually wants to save. Why does he will not to save them? Because his own glory and his greater values and higher purposes require him to send them to hell anyway (25). This horrible idea is based almost solely on Romans 9:22-24, a text horribly distorted to draw the conclusion that the “glorious display” of God’s just wrath against deserving sinners all the more glorifies the grace of God in saving the elect. And only when God thus displays both his wrath and his grace will “the fullness of his matchless glory” be manifest. And surely “the glory of God is the supreme value of God” (25). Thus in effect God’s very nature requires him to do something that is contrary to his own will.

I should think that if one is proceeding through his interpretation of Romans 9, 7 using the Calvinist template of unconditional election and reprobation of individuals as his guide, by the time he gets to 9:22-24 and finds himself forced to draw such conclusions as the above, he would immediately say, “Something is wrong with this picture! Something is wrong with this concept! Something is wrong with this system!” Indeed there is. That “something” is Calvinism. [source]

Other critiques by Cottrell in the same book:

Response to Universalist  Thomas Talbott

Response to Supralapsarian Calvinist Robert L. Reymond

Daniel Whedon on John 6

37. All—It is remarkable that this word is in the Greek neuter. It expresses not so much a person as a nature, a thing, a character: The whole sort that the Father giveth me. These gross men did not belong to those given, because, entertaining nothing but hopes of mercenary gain from Christ and his miracles, they truly believed not, as in the last verse is said. See note on verse 26. So in verse 45 it is more fully explained; it is only every one that hath learned of the Father that cometh unto me. The Father, finding the willing soul, teaches by his law; attracts, convinces, and convicts by his Spirit; but when the soul has perfectly obeyed all their influences with a living faith, the Father does not himself save, but He draws and hands him over to Christ. Thither coming, and embracing Christ with a full faith, the man is not cast out but accepted and redeemed. But the Father giveth none to Christ who reject his teachings and drawings; none who do not freely consent to be given and go to his Son. Such is the great scheme of salvation.

Shall come unto me—Will come unto me. It is the simple future; the shall expresses no authority or securement of the coming. Every one who freely yields to the teachings and drawings of the Father, is, by the Father, given, and comes to Christ. Such a person coming to Christ will be accepted. For the Father gives none but such as will freely come. The giving by the Father is consequent upon the obedient learning; not the learning upon the giving. See notes on verses 44, 45, and 65.

38. Not to do mine own will—Not to separate myself by personal self-will from the Father, but perfectly to cooperate and carry out his scheme of redeeming mercy.

39. Of all which he hath given me—Namely, all who fully obey the Father’s drawings and come to Christ. I should lose nothing—There will be no erratic self-will in Christ, darting off from the divine plan; no remissness, no oversight, no failure. All who perseveringly believe in him, he will as faithfully and powerfully save as the will of the Father can require. Raise it up—From the dead. At the last day—The day that closes the series of human history and inaugurates the final judgment.

40. Believeth on him—So long as he performs the condition, so long is he heir of the salvation. When he ceases to be a believer he loses all claim to the divine promise, and all interest in eternal life. That he has once believed no longer secures him heaven, any more than the fact that he has once disbelieved secures eternal death.

41. The Jews—Used in an adverse sense, as opposers of Christ. Murmured—The character and destiny he has assigned them (36-40) now elicit their hostility. Down from heaven—The popular view of the coming of the Son of man from heaven, was doubtless modeled on the scene described in Daniel 7.

42. Whose father and mother we know—These Jews therefore were familiar with Nazareth. Their terms are not now, as before, Rabbi and Lord. They have discarded from their memory the miraculous feeding, and so, doubtless, they carefully forget the Davidic descent of his parents, and all reference to his miraculous birth. They scout the idea of his having come down from heaven.

43. Murmur not—There is the stern authority of a future judge in this supreme silencing of the mutter of these unhappy men. He hushes them as reprobates condemned already.

44. No man can come to me—Men are by nature so depraved and lost that they have no power to attain salvation, but for a gracious ability bestowed. (John 1:4, 5.) That ability consists in a great degree of those special drawings purchased for them by the atonement. Except the Father… draw him—That is, attract him; shed drawing influences upon him, and inwardly empower him to a full obedience; but not obliging or securing that obedience. Nor will that drawing avail unless the man freely use his natural and grace-given power to obey.

45. The prophets—That section of the Old Testament popularly styled the prophets. The quotation is probably from Isaiah 54:13: All thy children shall be taught of Jehovah. This teaching is part of the great system of the Father’s drawing to Christ. Hath heard Hath willingly listened. Hath learned—Hath applied his powers to know. Such a man has complied with the Father’s drawings. Cometh unto me—He is assigned by the Father to the Son for salvation. He exercises repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. To this class belonged not these Jews.

***

65. No man can come… except—Men, apart from the guidance and aid of the Father, furnished by the Spirit and the various means of grace, are hemmed into sin. They can neither will nor do acceptably to God. The Father first enables, but not obliges. For grace used, he adds more grace. For drawings obeyed, he adds more drawings. And when they so obey his drawings as to be ready for Christ, he gives and they come. But unless they use his grace and obey his drawings both will be withdrawn. But none ever missed the drawing of God who has not misused it. Given… of my Father—And it was not given in consequence of their not having obediently learned and accepted previous grace, and having sunk themselves into gross hardness. So that because of their primary willfulness the drawing could not reach them, and for want of those drawings it was not given them to come. See notes on verses 26, 37, 38, 39, 44, and 45.

Whedon pp. 324-326, 330, 331, Wesleyan Heritage Collection CD

Daniel Whedon on John 10:27-28

27. My sheep hear my voice—As the blind-born did. Those who are bent on holiness and salvation show it by listening to Christ and his Gospel. It is very illogical to infer from all this the doctrine that no man will lose or abandon the character of a sheep of Christ, that is, of a true believer. Qualities or conduct ascribed to persons as possessed of a certain character, do not imply that the character itself may not change. A hireling fleeth because he is a hireling; but that does not prove but that the man may cease to be a hireling. A thief and a robber will kill and destroy; but that does not prove that a thief or robber may not, like Saul of Tarsus, cease to be a thief and robber. So a sheep will follow Christ; but that does not imply but that the man may cease to be a sheep and even become a goat. For a man may as truly from a sheep become a goat, as from a goat become a sheep.

28. Shall never perish—No sheep of Christ can ever perish. The unbeliever and the apostate will perish, but neither the unbeliever or the apostate is a sheep of Christ. Perish… pluck—The literal sheep of the human shepherd may perish by the robber, or be plucked away by the thief; but the spiritual sheep of the true Shepherd no robber can kill, no thief can steal. He must by his own free act abandon or forfeit his spiritual character before he can lose his eternal privilege. (Daniel Whedon, Commentary, pg. 376, Wesley Heritage Collection CD)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 199 other followers