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.


Bashing Calvinism

For those of you who checked out the Arminian article under the post “God is not obligated to love anyone,” I have a question. Now, I know there are people from both sides who just love to prove their pet doctrines right and paint the other side as wrong and God-hating, but what’s the deal? Do the people from that site and his buddy from here https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/ do nothing but bash Calvinism? Do these people have any concern that while we waste time arguing our side against other Christians, many people are sinking into hell? And they’re the ones who say that it’s up to human free will! You’d think they’d labor harder than a Calvinist instead of trying to disprove the doctrines of grace. Just a thought…

This comes from Gene Brode and you can find it here.

Mr. Brode showed up on one of Kyle’s threads at Preach Faith here, and interacted some with both Kyle and myself.  I suspect that interaction prompted Gene’s comments above.  I have had no interactions with Gene at my site but he apparently found my site and decided to offer his opinion about what I am doing here.

I can’t help but find Mr. Brode’s comments to be very puzzling.  He admonishes me to spend my time more wisely.  He tells me that I should be concerned about the lost who are on their way to hell.  I agree.  What could be more important?  I don’t generally talk about what I do but I will say that evangelism and discipleship is part of my everyday routine.  It is my full time job.  I take it very seriously.  Discussing soteriology is a hobby of mine, but I also believe that right doctrine is extremely important as well.  I think that all Christians would (or at least should) agree that sound doctrine is extremely important (1 Tim. 4:15-16; Titus 2:1).

What really puzzles me is that Gene’s words in the combox at Kyle’s site do not seem to be in harmony with his words above.  In that thread Gene tells us,

Perhaps you would spend your time more wisely by restudying the topic as taught by a Calvinist himself so that you can hear your objections plainly explained, unless of course you care nothing at all to truly understand Calvinism and prefer instead to just bash its doctrines with your presuppositions. I suggest you read Sproul’s “Chosen by God” and listen to Curt Daniel’s lectures on Calvinism (particularly the ones on God’s Sovereinty, Foreknowledge, Predestination, Objections to Predestination, The Origin of Sin, and all those from Total Depravity through Objections to Election). Even if you still disagree, these resources explain it quite clearly. You can listen here: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/histtheocalvin.html

So Gene recommends that we should spend our time reaching the lost above but in the thread tells us that we should spend our time more wisely and read tons of Calvinistic material.  He references monergism.com.  This site is very concerned with “bashing” Arminianism.  I wonder if Gene has rebuked John Hendryx for wasting so much time bashing Arminians.  JCT interacts with some of Hendryx’ Arminian bashing here and here.  I wonder if Gene has ever written to R.C. Sproul and told him what a waste of valuable time it was for him to write Chosen By God (never mind the other “Arminian bashing” books and projects Sproul has devoted countless hours to), which Gene apparently wasted valuable time reading when he should have been using that time to save the lost?

In the thread at Kyle’s site Gene said,

Since you have all the answers you want already, why wasn’t this post instead called, “A challenge to Arminians everywhere: let’s bash Calvinism!

To which I responded,

Maybe you haven’t noticed but Calvinism is dominating the internet. If you type Arminianism into a search engine you will find numerous links to Calvinist web-sites which call Arminianism heretical. Do we not have the right to challenge your system? And if we find your arguments unsatisfying can we not say so? It is not as if we have said, “I just can’t accept that because I don’t like that.” What we have said is that the answers we are getting do not really address the question and we have pointed this out and asked you to clarify, to explain yourself more. When you refuse or just repeat the same things over and over and we say you are evading the question, we are not trying to prove anything other than the fact that the question has still not been answered.

This gets to the heart of things for me and is the primary reason for the existence of this site.  Arminianism is under attack and that attack is increasing in intensity, especially on the internet.  I believe that Arminianism most closely represents Biblical truth and should therefore be defended.  I believe that Calvinism, when fully embraced, leads to unfortunate practical implications.  One of these implications is a lack of desire for evangelism (the very thing Gene seems so concerned about).  Gene even alludes to this tendency above when he says,

And they’re the ones who say that it’s up to human free will! You’d think they’d labor harder than a Calvinist instead of trying to disprove the doctrines of grace. Just a thought…

Thankfully, many Calvinists live inconsistently with the implications of their doctrines but the doctrines themselves can still lead to Christian apathy (since whatever we do is ordained by God, whether we witness or not, etc.).

Some Calvinists have complained about my screen name, “kangaroodort”, because it expresses my belief that the Synod of Dort has no real historical significance with regards to the truth of Arminianism.  It doesn’t matter to me that a bunch of Calvinists condemned Arminianism because Arminianism didn’t line up with their Calvinistic creeds and confessions (surprise, surprise!), any more than it matters to me that Catholics condemned all protestants at the Council of Trent.  Yet, some Calvinists hold up Dort as a clear testimony to the heretical nature of Arminianism.  My screen name is defensive against those who would wrongly call me a heretic.  It is not meant to be offensive in the sense of “bashing Calvinists.”  The fact is that if Calvinists want to claim that Calvinism is just a “nickname” for the gospel and that anything short of Calvinism is therefore not the gospel, then there is a need for addressing such bold attacks on Non-Calvinists.

Calvinism should then be carefully examined against the truth of Scripture to see if it truly is synonymous with the gospel.  If you want to call that “bashing” Calvinism, then so be it.  In either case, if we take time to discuss this matter and educate ourselves concerning it (as Gene has certainly done), then we need to be careful in rebuking those who also devote their time to the controversy.  We need to be very careful that we first remove the plank from our own eye before complaining about the speck in our brother’s eye, and we need to be very careful not to assume we know whether or not our brothers and sisters in the Lord are active in evangelism simply because they also devote time to defending sound doctrine.  Both are important and both ultimately benefit the kingdom of God.

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