According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pushing up DAISY: Arminianism in Brief

by Aaron
with observations by R.E. Slater
August 2010

Arminianism actually developed from an attempt to defend Calvinism. Joseph [Jacobus] Arminius studied in [John] Calvin's theological school and was troubled by people attacking what would later be known as Reformed theology. He set out to study Scripture to rebuff those attacks. He was surprised to find his reading of the Bible did not match his Calvinist theology, so he began to develop a theological framework of his own.

After his death, his followers, the Remonstrants, developed and published five points to serve as the basis for their theology. It was in response to these five points that the Calvinist Synod of Dort developed what became the Calvinism TULIP.

It was not until John Wesley began his preaching ministry during the Great Awakening that Arminian theology was fully developed and began to have a truly mass appeal. Throughout history, most Baptists had been Calvinistic in their theology. However, from the time of Wesley forward Baptists had a much more Arminian influence and not just in the Free Will Baptist denominations.

So what does it mean to be an Arminian?

The following DAISY is developed from a Calvinistic perspective. It starts from a Reformed understanding of the terms and then points out the differences that way. That is a bit unfair, so while I will use the acrostic at the beginning, I will also include another version that seems more fair and will also bring up the actual five Remonstrant points that started it all.

ARMINIANISM: DAISY [from a TULIP perspective]

D: Diminished depravity - Humanity is depraved, but God uses prevenient grace to restore man's ability to respond to Him.
A: Abrogated election - God bases His election on His foreknowledge of those who freely choose Him.
I: Impersonal atonement - Christ died for everyone, making salvation possible for everyone.
S: Sedentary grace - God calls everyone to salvation, but many freely reject it.
Y: Yieldable justification - The saved can fall from grace and lose their salvation.
ARMINIANISM: DAISY [from a Remonstrant's perspective]
D: Deliberate sin - Humans choose to sin based on their own will, not their sinful nature.
A: All-encompassing call- Salvation is available to everyone who seeks or desires it.
I: Infinite love - God desires for everyone to be saved, not just the “elect."
S: Spontaneous faith - Faith, while a gift of God, is brought about by a human choice.
Y: Yieldedness of the Saints - It is possible for someone who is "saved" to lose their salvation.
The actual five points, though similar, have some distinctions from the modern ideas about Arminianism.
  • The divine decree of predestination is conditional, not absolute.
  • The atonement is in intention universal.
  • Man cannot of himself exercise a saving faith.
  • Though the grace of God is a necessary condition of human effort it does not act irresistibly.
  • Believers are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from grace.

From these five points let's look at:
Conditional Election - God chooses the elect based on His foreknowledge of their decision. Some Arminians would say that God corporately elects the Church and then individuals can become part of that election through accepting the Gospel. Others would say that God elects individuals but it is based on their foreseen faith.
The strengths of this idea are that it affirms human free will and personal responsibility. It fits with our experience that we do actually have free will and it seems more fair and just to say that a person's eternal destiny is based on the actions they willfully chose.
Universal Atonement - Jesus died for everyone. His death opened the door for salvation. It provided access for "whosoever will" to come to Him and receive eternal life. This does not mean, as we will see later, that Christ's death is applied to everyone, therefore making everyone "saved." It simply means that Jesus' sacrificial death made a relationship with God available.
Saving Faith - This is where too many Calvinist caricature the Arminian position. Classical Arminianism does not say that man can come to God whenever and however he wants. The version developed by Wesley does not say that either. Both views hold that man is depraved and cannot come to God apart from His grace working in their life.
Wesley fully developed how this worked with his idea of prevenient grace. God knows that everyone is dead in sin and cannot respond to His call in their current status, so He extends prevenient grace to everyone enabling them to make a free will decision on the Gospel. God provides the way and the sinner is responsible for recognizing his condition and committing himself to Christ.
Resistible Grace - Because prevenient grace is extended to all, we know that it can be resisted because not everyone accepts the Gospel. Again, this idea places the blame for rejecting salvation all on the human. It is not that they were not chosen by God. It is that they were offered grace, had the ability to respond and freely chose to ignore Christ and live in their sin instead.
Falling Away [conditional security of the saints] - Since believers have the free choice to accept Christ, they also have the free choice to leave Christ and go back to their sin. Classical Arminianism holds that those who do so have no other chances. They have sealed their fate. Wesleyan Arminiansim says that believers may fall away and come back numerous times.

* * * * * *

[A mixed form of both positions, known as Cal-minism, says that believers who are saved are always saved though sin is always a reality in this life we live. Thus, one's salvation is sure in Christ but one's practice of faith, love, etc, are conflicted by sin's ever-present reality. Hence, the falling away is in one's practice, not in one's position in Christ. For in Christ our faith is made sure but in ourselves we bear sin's ravages which the NT calls "the old man" re the Apostle Paul.

Reversely, if one's Christian life has a pattern of unfaithfulness to Christ it is quite possible that Christ's salvation was never known until at this moment when a believing man or woman may submit to Christ and ask for atonement's appropriation into their life. For those with a sensitive conscience or a pre-disposition for continual introspection, the practicality of Christ's atonement in one's life must be continually acknowledged as sure despite one's head and heart arguing otherwise.

Since I don't believe Christ's work can be undone in our lives, than I would hold to this modified form of both branches of soteriological theology - Positional security with a Practicing faith. One where Christ is my Savior who is becoming my Lord.

Moreover, rather than affirming the supposed-biblical idea of apostasy I would affirm the idea of never receiving, having, obtaining, or knowing, the atoning work of Christ as applied by the Spirit to one's heart and life (Romans 8.1-14). Thus, I would deny this theological idea as being untrue and unbiblical against the sincere beliefs of many others. And where apostasy is mentioned in Scripture I would aver that it is rightfully mentioned of men and women who never knew Christ as Savior and Lord, having deceived themselves, and others (1 Jn 1.5-9) into thinking their where part of Christ's brotherhood bonded by the Spirit.

 - R.E. Slater]

* * * * * *
As with Calvinism, some objections have true merit, others are merely pointless digs from the other perspective.
Arminianism is the same as Open Theism. This charge is absurd for obvious reasons. Open Theism denies God's foreknowledge, saying that God cannot know what will happen in the future. Contrast that with Arminian theology which finds much of its basis in God foreknowing those whom would choose Him.
* * * * * *

[This assertion is not correct because Open Theism does admit to the ontological reality of God's foreknowledge, otherwise the process of redemption would not have been planned even as creation was being planned. This would make of God a blundering builder and architect having to implement Plan B of Redemption after discovering sin to have ruined His Plan A of original creation. So in terms of ontological reality God did both plan for, purposed, and foreknew, His involvement in creational redemption.
But what was not decreed by God is His exacted foreknowledge upon His indeterminate creation and free-willed mankind. Even as sin reduces man's freedom, so by divine fiat of redemption would God purposely enhance man's freedom leaving to both creation and humanity an open future. A future as much open to sin and destruction as it is to holiness and redemption. Though God foreknows His plans for redemption He leaves it open to ourselves to submit to His plans. But not without the provision of His Spirit who woos all towards God's will - and not just some (elect) as Calvinism would teach. To the Arminian, the "elect of God" are those men and women who obey God's call of redemption - not by God's foreknowledge, but by their own Spirit-driven calling founded upon God's (prevenient) grace.
Lastly, Arminiainists could not, at the time, have known of Open Theism as a 20th-century doctrinal idea 400 years later. However, it might be conjectured that if Open Theism had been extant at that time, then Jacobus Arminius - and perhaps John Wesley himself -  may have advocated for various forms of this doctrine as related to the Scriptural ideas of foreknowledge and predestination.
- R.E. Slater]
* * * * * *
It promotes works based salvation. Someone should really inform Paul that he is wrong to contrast faith with works, then. The Bible constantly portrays faith as the antithesis of works. Arminian theology does not require works for salvation, but says that man must exercise faith. Those are two very distinct things.

[Further, the Bible is strong in its declaration that without consistency in faith works/walk one might never have been of the faith they supposed. This does not mean that one cannot doubt, or fail, just that the Christian life is a series of ups-and-downs, of spiritual challenges and successes, when bearing the Spirit's calling, burden, and empowerment. - R.E. Slater]
It elevates man above God. This appears to have substance on the surface, but their is not much depth to the charge. Yes, Arminian theology does say that the final choice of whether to accept salvation or not lies in the hands of man [his free willed acceptance of God's salvation - res]. However, man only has that choice because of the work of Christ on the cross, the drawing of the Holy Spirit and the Father dispensing prevenient grace.
Arminianism empties "election" of all its meaning. This has much more merit. If Calvinism has to redefine free will to allow for the existence of the term in its theology, Arminianism has to do much the same with election. Scripture is clear about God's election. Arminian theology takes that concept and simply makes it God affirming our choice. You can call that election, but it means something much different than what the word would obviously mean.
Universal atonement makes Jesus our possibility, not our Savior. If Jesus did die for everyone, then his death does not provide salvation for the saved. It provides the opportunity to be saved. If it actually provided salvation, then everyone would be saved and neither orthodox Calvinism or Arminianism holds to that.
Falling away from grace eliminates the existence of eternal life. Upon our conversion, God gives us eternal life. If we can fall away, then the "eternal life" is not so eternal. How can eternal life be something that starts, then stops and, for some Arminians, starts again. Something cannot by definition be "eternal" if it ends.

[This then goes back to the concept of what the doctrine of salvation, known as soteriology, means and portends. However, it is my position that "once saved always saved," - but if so, Christian faith and works should follow, however imperfectly, from the day of one's conversion to the calling home to one's God in death. If not one's salvation was never in Christ but in one's self or in something else not of Christ. - R.E. Slater]
Arminianism, despite many claims to the contrary by some Calvinists, is well within orthodox Christianity. As a Christian position it has much to offer Christianity. It provides a logical motive to evangelism and to loving mankind through good works.

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