Monday, November 06, 2006

Debating Calvinism--Is it important?

Today I received an email from a pastor asking for my thoughts on why the ongoing debate over Calvinism and Arminianism is practically important. Is it "much ado about nothing," that will inevitably lead to a split among Baptists the way that it split the General and Particular Baptists in the past? Besides the fact that these two systems of thought are actually different worldviews I offered the following observations.

The debate/dialogue over Calvinism and Arminianism is important for several reasons. These two views represent the two most cogent (I would argue, the only two) perspectives on the Bible's teaching about the nature of salvation and how the Gospel works. Baptists have cared very passionately about these things throughout our history. They should care about them today.

It is not quite accurate to say that Calvinism and Arminianism split early Baptists. The Arminian Baptists emerged first in the early 17th century. A few years later the Calvinistic Baptists emerged. Though they both came out of English Separatism they did not actually split into these two different groups. The Arminian (General) Baptists drifted into Socinianism and universalism in the 18th century. Many of the Calvinistic (Particular) Baptists tended toward hyper-Calvinism in the 18th century.

The development of the modern mission movement occurred among the Particular Baptists in the late 18th century. [EDIT:] Andrew [not Richard!] Fuller helped establish the theological foundations for such work and William Carey put that theology into practice by leaving England for India where he gave his life preaching Christ so that God might be glorified in the salvation of "the heathen."

Southern Baptists were rocked in the cradle of this kind of evangelical Calvinism--the very same theology that was held by Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Adnoiram Judson, the first Baptist missionary from America.

Understanding the issues involved in these two theological perspectives will help Baptists study their Bibles more carefully and appreciate their heritage more deeply. Though Baptists worship the sepulchers of no man we do recognize that if what our forefathers believed was true then, it is true now, because God has not changed, the Bible has not changed and truth has not changed.

Far better to be discussing the doctrine of salvation--even debating it--than arguing over whether or not we should be ordaining homosexuals to the Gospel ministry. Such discussions will spur the sincere believer to look again at what the Bible teaches concerning the salvation that we have in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that is a great thing.

Two resources that I recommend for a quick take on these things are From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist Convention and also the Mission 150 Founders Journal.

43 comments:

Bart Barber said...

I agree—the debate is important and worthwhile, especially if it can occur in a similar spirit to that which we witnessed between Drs. Mohler and Patterson in Greensboro. I'm not a Calvinist, but I think we can all learn from a healthy, careful, and Christian debate of these serious biblical questions.

Highland Host said...

You mean Andrew Fuller, surely?

Tom said...

Highland host:

You are correct. I have edited my original post and given Andrew his rightful credit!

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Ascol,

Thank you for your post, my Brother Tom. I read your paper you've linked. I especially note one statement you made in it. You write: "Arminian theology was in essence a rationalizing of Calvinism."

Two things come immediately to mind. First, I am not so sure that Arminians would describe their position in such delightful non-Biblical categories. I have a feeling they would object.

In addition, from my elementary understanding of Arminius, his disputations--both public and private--stemmed, for the most part, from exegetical conclusions he came to from his study of Romans 7 and Romams 9. The backlash began, thus, out of Biblical concerns, not philosophical ones.

Consequently, I am unsure how one can proceed on "level" ground in dialog when one position is defined as Biblical and the other as philosophical. With so many "philosophers" in SBC pulpits, I see that potentially as an insurmountable obstacle to geniune dialog :)

I trust you are well. Grace always. With that, I am...

Peter

Biblically Reforming said...

Brother Tom, with Calvinism and Arminianism being two separate (and fairly distinct) worldviews, where do you believe the point is where either leave the theological (and by extension philosophical) confines of the Biblical Gospel?

I've heard other "young, restless, reformed" guys talk about arminianism (as a system) being anti-Gospel. If that is so, is there a point where the system leaves Christian Orthodoxy, and if it does indeed leave Christian Orthodoxy, is there a point where Calvinists have a duty to respond to Arminians as to the lost? Likewise, I've heard arminian friends claim that calvinism is anti-gospel, and so where would they claim is the point where they should respond to calvinists as though to the lost?

DoGLover said...

Tom

The discussion is indeed important, but I'm not so sure about the effectiveness of the tradional debate model. I live on a tiny reformed island in an Arminian ocean. Most of the people (especially pastors) around me think Falwell's an angel & the Caners are beatified saints. In reality, though, they only know the quips & sound bites they've heard from the Liberty Mecca (sic). I do not debate anyone, but I love to examine the Scriptures with them. That approach seems to win more than it alienates, but it doesn't make the news. Mind you, I'm not debating the merits of what others may do.

Tom Bryant said...

I agree that the issue and debate are important. I would enjoy hearing and seeing the debate in a less charged and more Christian atmosphere than was possible with the Caners.

I appreciate the spirit in which Dr. Ascol talks about this.

Tom said...

Peter:

Thanks for your comments. I know my statement is offensive to my Arminian brothers. Maybe you or others can help me say what I mean in less offensive words. By "rationalizing" what I am trying to explain is what I see as unhelpful presuppositions that are brought to the text. The point of difference originates at the hermeneutical level, as I see it.

Again, at the risk of coming across as unkind or condescending, I see this as an error that is similar to that of Arianism. Our Jehovah's Witness friends make their arguments against Christ's full deity exegetically. That is, they use Bible verses. But there is a rationalism that governs their exegesis, namely this presupposition: "A being cannot be both fully divine and fully human at the same time." Using the canons of reasonableness (which is what I mean by rationalism) JWs allow verses about God's otherness and oneness and Jesus' humanity to trump verses about God's plurality and Jesus' deity. Thus, as I see it, they rationalize orthodox Christology.

This is what I see in both Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism. Neither gives full weight to a certain set of verses because doing so pushes them to a conclusion that does not fit their identical canons of rationalism. In other words, they do not see how the Bible can teach both absolute predestination and absolute human responsibility. In laymen's terms, "It makes no sense." Thus they opt for opposite conclusions to satisfy shared rationalistic presuppositions.

In the dialogues and discussions that are taking place, it seems obvious that we often talk past one another. I don't want to be guilty of that nor to contribute to a climate that condones that. So, if I am seeing this wrong or being unfair in my assessments, or if I could say it better and more helpfully, please help me. I think the dialogue is important.

Thanks again for your candid observations. Grace and peace,
tom

Tom said...

Andrew (biblically reforming);

Good question. Obviously I don't think Calvinism leaves the confines of the biblcal Gospel at any point. :-) Arminianism hinders the Gospel in two ways. First to foster an enviroment where salvation is reduced to a decision and faith to mental assent. True Arminianism does not teach this, but where the tension is eased because of the dimunition of divine sovereignty this is often the result. Secondly, when rationalism is allowed to keep driving the train of Arminianism, open theism results and, as was evidenced by the General Baptists of the 18th century, full-blown Socinianism and universalism follow closely behind.

Blessings,
tom

Andrew Wheatley said...

*cough* "much (not must) ado about nothing" :D

Tom said...

Andrew:

Thanks! ;-)

G. Alford said...

biblically reforming said:

is there a point where Calvinists have a duty to respond to Arminians as to the lost?

Dear Brothers,

Calvinism and Arminianism are both systems of theology which attempt to define for our understanding the glorious mystery of salvation.

Regardless if one is a Calvinist, Arminian, or some where in the muddy middle, it should be carefully noted with great caution that knowledge of a system of theology does not equate salvation and that lack of knowledge of a system of theology does not mean that the person is necessarily lost.

Salvation is a sovereign act of the Spirit of God, it “is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. – (BFM2000)” and is never acquired by knowledge.

In our quest (and it is good that we do so) to understand this glorious mystery of salvation we must always be very careful never to point to one group or the other and say they cannot be of the redeemed and we should separate ourselves from them because they have not correctly understood the mystery of salvation…

Did any of us correctly understand the mystery of our own salvation at the very moment of our conversion? If not, and we believe that Calvinist and Arminianians should never be allowed to live in harmony within the same denomination, then should not our church have put us out as soon as we were converted because we did not correctly understand? Of course I speak in hyperbole here, but the principle is the same.

Just as salvation is a sovereign work of the Spirit of God, so is it a sovereign work of the same Spirit of God “to lead you into all truth”. God’s love is patient with his little children, and coming from someone who was a full blown Arminian long before I became a Five Point Calvinist… I am very grateful!

Grace and Peace,

chadwick said...

Brother Ascol,

The 2000 BF&M states,
"Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners."

The "Traditional" SBC (even in the year 2000, if the BF&M is to be taken seriously)view of salvation involves, the 5 links in the golden chain of salvation found in Romans 8:29-30: election, regeneration (effectual calling), justification, sanctification, and glorification of the redeemed sinner.

Therefore our Arminian SBC brethren, who deny God's sovereignty in salvation, should seek to can the 2000 BF&M and seek to rename the SBC to the Southern Free-Will Baptist Convention . . . .because you cannot ride the fence on election, regeneration, justification, and glorification. These well-meaning Arminian SBC brethren have more in common with John Wesley than the do the SCB BF&M of 2000.

Especially for Sanctication to mesh with their thought: there are only two ways to go . . .either Wesley's system of perfectionism. Brother Ascol, you are indeed correct when you said that "Arminian theology was in essence a rationalizing of Calvinism."

Keep up the Good work and continue to be a Radical Interpretter of the Holy Writ,

Chadwick

Greg Welty said...

Hi Peter,

You wrote:

Thank you for your post, my Brother Tom. I read your paper you've linked. I especially note one statement you made in it. You write: "Arminian theology was in essence a rationalizing of Calvinism."

Two things come immediately to mind. First, I am not so sure that Arminians would describe their position in such delightful non-Biblical categories. I have a feeling they would object.

No doubt, but why is this relevant? If someone is going to argue against a viewpoint, in order to conclude that it is unscriptural, then they are bound to put it in "non-Biblical categories." Since those who take the viewpoint believe it to be biblical, *of course* "they would object" when someone claims it isn't. Isn't that par for the course?

Consider Arminius himself. When it came time for him to analyze the supralapsarian view of predestination adhered to by some of his fellow Christians, Arminius had no problem describing that view *in the most loathsome terms*, terms which were no doubt extremely offensive to the Christians who took the view in question. According to Arminius himself, the view he was rejecting "does not comprise within it... any part of the gospel," "is repugnant to the Nature of God" (including, specifically, God's wisdom, justice, and goodness), "is contrary to the nature of man," "is inconsistent with the Divine image," "is inconsistent with the freedom of the will," "is diametrically opposed to the Act of Creation," "is at open hostility with the Nature of Eternal Life," "is also opposed to the Nature of Eternal Death," "is inconsistent with the Nature and Properties of Sin," "is likewise repugnant to the Nature of Divine Grace, and as far as its powers permit, it effects its destruction," "is Injurious to the Glory of God," and allows us to "deduce, as a further conclusion, that God really sins" and "that sin is not sin."

Arminius claims "this doctrine inflicts a deep wound on the honour of God," "is highly dishonourable to Jesus Christ our saviour," "is also hurtful to the salvation of men," "it prevents that saving and godly sorrow for sins that have been committed," "it removes all pious solicitude about being converted from sin unto God," "it restrains, in persons that are converted, all zeal and studious regard for good works," "it extinguishes the zeal for prayer," "it takes away all that most salutary fear and trembling with which we are commanded to work out our own salvation," and "it produces within men a despair both of performing that which their duty requires and of obtaining that towards which their desires are directed."

If all this weren't enough, Arminius claims that "this doctrine inverts the order of the Gospel of Jesus," "is in open hostility to the ministry of the Gospel," and "completely subverts the foundation of religion in general, and of the Christian Religion in particular."

Now, one doesn't have to be a supralapsarian to suspect that supralapsarian Christians would not, as you put it, "describe their position in such delightful non-Biblical categories." Indeed, "I have a feeling they would object." But again, how is that relevant? If Tom is to be chided for a mild comment about rationalism, what about Arminius? :-)

You say:

In addition, from my elementary understanding of Arminius, his disputations--both public and private--stemmed, for the most part, from exegetical conclusions he came to from his study of Romans 7 and Romams 9. The backlash began, thus, out of Biblical concerns, not philosophical ones.

Sure. But merely citing Bible verses doesn't ensure there's no rationalism going on. Every rationalist in church history has cited Bible verses, including Arius. Beyond this, in the sentence you cite Tom wasn't talking about where "the backlash began," but where it *ended*: the Arminian theology of the Remonstrants.

You say:

Consequently, I am unsure how one can proceed on "level" ground in dialog when one position is defined as Biblical and the other as philosophical. With so many "philosophers" in SBC pulpits, I see that potentially as an insurmountable obstacle to geniune dialog :)

Doesn't your posted comment presuppose the opposite of this? After all, you have identified what you take to be an erroneous definition of Arminianism in Tom's article. In response, you didn't say to yourself, "Well, here's an insurmountable obstacle, so I won't dialogue with Tom." Rather, you *offered an argument* (however brief) that Tom was mistaken. If "level ground" means that everyone starts with the same definitions, and all genuine dialogue presupposes "level ground," then there is probably no genuine dialogue to be had. But no one believes this, for it is possible to argue that someone is mistaken in their view of someone's theology. Didn't you just do it? :-)

Greg Welty said...

BTW, I would highly encourage everyone to read Peter's interview with Roger Olson. Olson makes some very good points about the difference between genuine Arminianism and semi-Pelagianism, and considers which is actually more prevalent today. Peter's questions to Dr. Olson are very thoughtful.

In his collected works, Arminius argues that because of the fall, the free will of man is "lost" and "destroyed." By the fall, man is "Under The Dominion of Sin," and "in this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost." And yet this is a view that is routinely ascribed to the Calvinists alone.

On the other hand, Arminius had a robust doctrine of "prevenient grace" that is largely absent from so-called "Arminian" pulpits of our day.

So I agree with Peter's general point in his initial comment here: it is quite possible to radically misunderstand an historical system of doctrine, and to perpetuate that misunderstanding through your polemics.

Biblically Reforming said...

g. alford:

I really appreciate your words.

Personally, I am right in line with what you said, but I have run across other guys around my age (mid twenties) who at least suggest that if Calvinism is the Biblical Gospel, and if Arminianism is anti-calvinism, then Arminianism is anti-gospel and thus if one is to believe in arminianism, then he/she is in direct contrast with the Gospel, and as such the Christ that they say they believe in is no Christ at all, and is in fact a byproduct of their own self-perceived ability to save themselves.

This view concerns me because sooner or later these guys might very well be the leaders of the Church and at the forefront of any Reformation movement (in the SBC or elsewhere).

ClemsonCalvinist said...

I read Emir Caner's FAQ section on his blog. It broke my heart that he wrote that Calvinists were worse than Muslims. If he meant that we understand depravity more than muslims ,ok...but that was not the context. He comes off like a middle linebacker turned pastor.

GUNNY said...

Great post, Tom. This is a huge issue and impacts thinking and doing.

One of my boys, Jay Bennett, asked and answered a similar question about Limited Atonement in our Sunday night service.

Is the L important? Worthy of debate and discussion.

These matters are not issues like the number of angels that could dance on the head of a needle. These issues are addressed in Scripture and impact how we view our God, our bad selves, and others.

Q. A. Jones said...

Hey Tom,

Thanks for your post and responding comments - they have been very beneficial.

Could you speak to the "how we should debate" - and what biblical principles we should be applying as we approach (particularly us Calvinists) the discussion in a manner that brings honor the Lord.

E.g., there was some discussion recently on FIDE-O re a parody on "the debate that never happened" that was made (you may have seen) and whether or not the parody was beneficial to the overall situation. Not asking you to speak to the parody perse - but more so general principles to help us all think through what would be a most God honoring approach to discussing this issue within Baptist life?

Thanks.

Quincy

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Ascol,

Thank you for your warm response. I sense with you many times we "speak past each other".

In addition, I think the presence of "offense" may always be present, especially with such passionate theological positions. Though I still feel an obligation to speak, where possible, with unnecessary offense. I believe you do too.

For me, I stand quite sure that, no matter how many pastors/preachers in the SBC exist who do not embrace the Doctrines of Grace as do the Founders Community, they would surely not describe themselves as Arminian. I realize fully that Founders friendly folk, from their understanding of Arminianism, nevertheless so label them. Most guys are content to be called non-Calvinist. I personally feel that accomodating the label itself would gain a couple of yards toward a first down.

Understand: I realize you, my Brother Tom, have no control over how others speak, label, critisize, etc. I guess my point is a play on Jesus' words about doing unto others...

Have a great evening. With that, I am...

Peter

P.S. What happened to Ms. K. Harris? Looks like she lost...

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Welty,

Good evening. I do not think I have had the privilege. And, thank you for taking the time to respond to my little note to our Dr. Ascol.

I almost didn't respond to you after I read your last line in your second post to me. It was quite confusing, to be honest. You write: "So I agree with Peter's general point in his initial comment here..." If that is the case, I am wondering what the rather thorough commentary about my initial note to Dr. Ascol was all about. Nevertheless, I decided to post a few thoughts since you took the time to respond.

First, Dr. Welty, I am unsure I follow your logic in the first question to me about relevance. You write: "No doubt, but why is this relevant? If someone is going to argue against a viewpoint, in order to conclude that it is unscriptural, then they are bound to put it in "non-Biblical categories."

To the contrary, my good Dr. Welty, I think it is extremely relevant when in conversation over two supposed Biblical visions of salvation that one position is framed philosophical and the other is framed Scriptural.

For me, it would be like discussing who makes the best automobiles, Chevrolet or John Deer? Philosophy offers no Biblical view of salvation--at least that I have read lately--any more than John Deer offers sedans. Indeed, as you are well aware, one of the standard criticisms Founders-friendly Calvinists make toward Arminianism is that it is rooted in humanistic philosophy, not Scripture.

Even more significantly, Dr. Welty, you appear to wrongly assume--at least from my vantage point--that if one is going to "argue against a viewpoint, in order to conclude that it is unscriptural, then they are bound to put it in "non-Biblical categories."

I simply have to disagree, my Brother. Why would I desire to put say, “falling from grace” in non-biblical categories in order to refute it? My understanding of dialog may be different from yours, I grant. But I try—though not always succeeding, I confess—to place the others’ position in a way that they could accept and then attempt to refute it. Why do I need non-biblical categories for that?

To this precise point, Professor Nicole has a splendid article at Founders. Here is an excerpt of Dr. Nicole who states better than I the point I was making:: “One method that I have found helpful in making sure that I have dealt fairly with a position that I could not espouse was to assume that a person endorsing that view was present in my audience (or was reading what I had written). Then my aim is to represent the view faithfully and fully without mingling the criticism with factual statements. In fact, I try to represent them so faithfully and fully that an adherent to that position might comment, "This man certainly does understand our view!" It would be a special boon if one could say, "I never heard it stated better!" Thus I have earned the right to criticize. But before I proceed to do this, it is only proper that I should have demonstrated that I have a correct understanding of the position I desire to contest"

For the entire post, readers can find Professor Nicole's splendid essay here:
http://www.founders.org/FJ33/article3.htm

Toward the end of your response, you ask: "If Tom is to be chided for a mild comment about rationalism, what about Arminius? I am baffled by your terms, Dr. Welty. Frankly, while “chiding” has some positive features to it, I am unsure that in the context it is used here if those not-so-positive nuances the term "chide" carries do not fit much better: scolding, harassing, nagging, reproaching. I honestly did not realize my little note could be classified as a bonafide chide.

Nor indeed is Jacob Arminius off limits when it comes to critiquing his approach to dialog. Yet I am positive you are aware that during the 16-19c, no one--The Good, The Bad, The Ugly--could be our ideal model for theological dialog today. That's only my opinion though, and mine alone, so it IS relevant :)

You also write, Dr. Welty: "Sure. But merely citing Bible verses doesn't ensure there's no rationalism going on. Every rationalist in church history has cited Bible verses..." While I do not dispute this, I am under the impression you may be squeezing for more juice than my little post to Dr. Ascol can produce. Obviously we can RATIONALIZE Scripture. Nevertheless, it is still rationalizing SCRIPTURE.

"Beyond this, in the sentence you cite Tom wasn't talking about where "the backlash began,” you asserted, "but where it *ended*: the Arminian theology of the Remonstrants." Dr Welty, Dr Ascol very well could have been referring to where it ended but unfortunately he does not say that, you assume that. There are only three sentences in the paragraph from where the quote is found. I simply would not press that point. But my statement was about where it began. That was my point, Dr. Welty. Arminius' trouble began in the pulpit...not in philosophical speculation, rather in exegetical issues in Romans 7 & 9.

Finally, Dr. Welty, if you neither like nor agree with my "level-ground" approach to dialog, I simply say "Cool". I trust our Lord will lead you to better ways to dialog, to gain better understanding of your theological neighbor. As for me, by His grace, I will attempt to find that level ground such that no one may perhaps possess an unfair advantage. After all, for me, Truth has absolutely nothing to fear of truth no matter where it's found.

Have a gracious evening, Dr. Welty. With that, I am...

Peter

p.s. thanks for the kudos on the interview with Dr. Olson. Part 3 will be posted tomorrow...

Chessmann said...

I first learned about Reformed Theology by listening to James White's radio response to Norman Geisler's book.

That knowledge led to a desire for greater knowledge, which led to listening/reading to many debates and books on a variety of subjects that have equipped me to better engage the views of others and better represent the faith that I hold to.

Speaking personally, none of this would have happened if the prevailing attitudes of White and Geisler (and others) had been, "It is not worth the effort," or, "We should be focused on more important things."

Mark

Tom said...

Quincy:

Good questions. I have written about this in the past. This article, "Contending for Truth in Love," and this one, "Reformation and Controversy," might be of some use in thinking about the issue you raise. Also, the article by Roger Nicole that Peter refered to earlier is excellent on this subject.

Tom said...

Peter:

I agree that we should try to state the arguments and positions of those with whom we disagree as accurately as possible. Nor should we use labels pejoratively. I agree that there are many non-Calvinists who object to and should not be categorized as Arminians, although I do believe that the Calvinism/Arminianism debate is an unavoidable great divide in theology and that one will tend to come down on one side of it or the other. The continuation of this debate is due to living east of Eden.

Blessings,
tom
PS. K. Harris, and many others who campaigned as social conservatives got sidelined. Interesting days....

Greg Welty said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your comments. BTW, there's no need to call me "Dr." Though (as of last month) I am one, that title is a nicety reserved for my students alone. Feel free to call me "Greg" or "Welty" or even "Dude!" :-)

When I said I agreed with your general point in your initial comment, I meant, as I explained, that "it is quite possible to radically misunderstand an historical system of doctrine, and to perpetuate that misunderstanding through your polemics." This was (at least part of) the point you were making, as I understood it: Tom's polemical description of Arminian theology as "in essence a rationalizing of Calvinism" was (in your view) inaccurate. Although I'm not sure I join you in rejecting Tom's assessment specifically, I agree with you more generally that we ought to be careful how we describe opposing views. And I think that point comes out quite nicely in your interview with Olson, and was indeed a point made by him. So I agreed with your general concern, though I don't think it was instanced in the example you cite.

That's all I meant.

Now, I said:

"No doubt, but why is this relevant? If someone is going to argue against a viewpoint, in order to conclude that it is unscriptural, then they are bound to put it in "non-Biblical categories."

And you replied:

To the contrary, my good Dr. Welty, I think it is extremely relevant when in conversation over two supposed Biblical visions of salvation that one position is framed philosophical and the other is framed Scriptural.

No, it's not. Here's all you have to do: "I see here Tom that you think that Arminianism is a bunch of philosophical rationalizing, rather than genuine theologizing. Well, I disagree, and here's why. To begin with, Arminius' concerns grew out of his engagement with *Scripture*..." And off you go. Genuine dialogue isn't paralyzed or -- as you put it -- faces an "insurmountable obstacle" simply because one side starts off badly, in the view of the other side. For instance, one can intelligently rebut not only specific lines of reasoning from initial definitions, but those initial definitions themselves. (And he can do this in a variety of ways: historical philological, assessment of overall coherence, etc.) So all is not lost, for the sake of genuine dialogue, *even if* one and the same position is framed by one side as philosophical and by the other side as theological. No doubt someone here is wrong, but the conversation can easily continue, if the spirit is right.

I think, in essence, I don't share your pessimism about the ease with which genuine dialogue can be derailed. An unbeliever may come to me and claim that the book of Genesis is, as Richard Dawkins puts it, "a local origin myth of a tribe of Middle-Eastern camel-herders." That doesn't mean the conversation must stop. I'm interested in why he's so confident of this assessment, how he got there, and what he thinks of rival understandings of Genesis and their support. As I said before, simply starting off with different definitions does not mean the dialogue is ill-fated no matter what. As a Calvinist, I refuse to be a fatalist about these matters ;-)

You say:

Even more significantly, Dr. Welty, you appear to wrongly assume--at least from my vantage point--that if one is going to "argue against a viewpoint, in order to conclude that it is unscriptural, then they are bound to put it in "non-Biblical categories."

Sorry, I was using "unscriptural" and "non-Biblical" interchangeably. I'm sorry if you have a different usage. Do you? From my vantage point, it seems clear that if a position is unscriptural then it *is* unbiblical. No doubt the Arminian would resist this description of their system. But again, why is that relevant?

You say:

I simply have to disagree, my Brother. Why would I desire to put say, "falling from grace" in non-biblical categories in order to refute it? My understanding of dialog may be different from yours, I grant. But I try—though not always succeeding, I confess—to place the others' position in a way that they could accept and then attempt to refute it. Why do I need non-biblical categories for that?

I think we're getting things backwards here. No doubt we ought to describe a view in a way that the view will be recognized by its proponents. But that doesn't mean that's *all* we can say about the view. We can go on, and give our *assessment* of the view. And isn't that what was going on in Tom's article? Tom explicitly provided a summary of the five points of Arminianism, a summary that no Arminian could claim was inaccurate. That's more than enough agreement for the sake of dialogue. Of course, Tom said *other* things in the article as well, such as the statement about Arminian theology being "in essence a rationalizing of Calvinism." But what's wrong with that? Doesn't the man have a right to give us his *assessment* of Arminianism? Do you really expect the Calvinist's assessment of Arminianism to be identical to the Arminian's assessment of Arminianism, such that the Calvinist at no point offers an evaluation of Arminianism with which the Arminian would disagree? Isn't that a bit much to expect? :-)

Besides all this, Tom isn't (absurdly) claiming that a biblical phrase like "falling from grace" is unscriptural, rationalistic, philosophical, etc. He's making claims about an entire theological system. The five points of Arminianism (like the five points of Calvinism) are not set out nicely in some particular pericope of Scripture. They depend -- at the very least -- upon inference, and upon a particular claim about how Scripture interprets Scripture. (One doesn't find, for instance, Arminius' fairly complex fourfold decree of God in any text of Scripture.) Given this, one would be well within his rights in claiming one *system* or another is unscriptural, rationalistic, etc. (as long as he's prepared to give an argument for this, of course).

I agree with all of your material from Roger Nicole. He's one of my heroes. I agree entirely that we ought to describe someone's position in a way that he can recognize it. Nevertheless, it's quite right to do other things as well, including divulging our assessment of that position, even if others would disagree with that assessment. What more could be expected, really?

Here's the bottom line: a non-Calvinist has every right to claim, on the basis of sincere argument, that Calvinism is unbiblical. This is obviously an assessment with which the Calvinist himself would disagree. But the fact of this disagreement gives the Calvinist no right to claim that the non-Calvinist has set forth "an insurmountable obstacle" to genuine dialogue. And I think this sentiment is equally applicable if the parties were to switch places.

I'm sorry if my use of "chided" was excessive. I did mean it in the fairly innocuous sense of "expressing disapproval." And it seemed to me that you disapproved of Tom's description of Arminianism, did you not?

You write:

Yet I am positive you are aware that during the 16-19c, no one--The Good, The Bad, The Ugly--could be our ideal model for theological dialog today.

No, I'm not aware of this :-)

If only we could return to the days when such treatises were written, when robust disagreement was articulated by principled and extensive argument, instead of the superficiality, invective, and innuendo that characterizes so much "dialogue" today :-)

That's only my opinion though, and mine alone, so it IS relevant :)

LOL; point taken.

Obviously we can RATIONALIZE Scripture. Nevertheless, it is still rationalizing SCRIPTURE.

I think if you put the question to Tom, he'd indicate that the latter does not exclude the former.

"Beyond this, in the sentence you cite Tom wasn't talking about where "the backlash began," you asserted, "but where it *ended*: the Arminian theology of the Remonstrants." Dr Welty, Dr Ascol very well could have been referring to where it ended but unfortunately he does not say that, you assume that.

No, I think my point is pretty well supported by abundant contextual factors. The entire paragraph is not about Arminius himself but about "his followers, called the Remonstrants, [who] drew up five statements setting forth the views of Arminianism." Tom makes his (disputed) claim immediately after that, and then proceeds to summarize the five points of the Arminians. I have little doubt, then, that he is speaking of the Arminian theology of the Remonstrants.

But my statement was about where it began. That was my point, Dr. Welty. Arminius' trouble began in the pulpit...not in philosophical speculation, rather in exegetical issues in Romans 7 & 9.

Whether or not that was true of Arminius himself, that's not (in my view, argued above) what Tom was talking about.

As for me, by His grace, I will attempt to find that level ground such that no one may perhaps possess an unfair advantage. After all, for me, Truth has absolutely nothing to fear of truth no matter where it's found.

It's precisely because your second sentence is true that I reject your first sentence. I submit it is impossible for someone to "possess an unfair advantage" over me because he starts his argument with faulty definitions. Indeed, the fact that his definitions *are* faulty only exposes him all the more to principled critique. If the truth is on your side, no one has an "advantage" over you, for you can always speak the truth in love, as a way of correction.

johnthebaptist2007 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SelahV said...

Johnjaxthebaptist: I like you and think only you and God know for certain whether or not you are saved. Falling on one side of the other in this little (long) dialog between Peter and Welty, is simply falling in mud as I understand Dr. Ascol. Personally, I rather like mud. From what I read of your testimony...(testimony? what is that?), I think you are a follower of Jesus and love Him. But I'm just one other lay-person on the outside peeking in...SelahV

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Welty,

Thank you for the long and winding rejoinder. Unfortunately for me, I am missing the entire point of our supposed conversation, which began, as I recall, with a cyber-post-it note to Dr. Ascol.

For my part, you are welcome, Dr. Welty, to engage others as you seem led. You have my express permission :)

And, I trust I may exeprience the same. Grace to you. With that, I am...

Peter

Greg Welty said...

Hi JohnJaxtheBaptist,

Thinking that one is a Calvinist or an Arminian is not required for salvation.

Indeed, *being* either a Calvinist or an Arminian is not required for salvation.

Perish the thought!

We are justified by faith alone, not by faith plus our progress in theological self-awareness.

I am sorry that my communication skills are so poor that I gave the impression that my previous posts on this thread were even remotely related to the above topics. They were not.

And no, trying to figure out what is needed for genuine dialogue to occur is not a question only capable of being discussed by philosophers or Bible college graduates :-)

I praise God that you are one of Christ's sheep.

Blessings in Christ,

--GW

peter lumpkins said...

Dear Johnjaxthebaptist,

Thank you for your question and the confirmation that you perceived what I saw in the supposed dialog between my self and Dr. Welty--lots of words exchanged but no real communication between us or others. In those situations, from my standpoint, it's simply better to concede and move on.

As for wondering whether you are a Calvinist or Arminian, personally, my Brother, I think that is an insignificant question when viewed overall in your relationship with our Lord.

You appear to possess a solid grip on the Gospel, Johnjaxthebaptist. My question would be, is that not enough? Not that we do not spiritually progress in our relationship with Christ or in knowledge of His Word.

Rather, knowing one's in right relationship with our Redeemer would, in my understanding, trump all other concerns about the Calvinist/Arminian debate.

Study and read? Surely. And, if I may humbly add, I certainly would encourage reading the best from both Calvinist and Arminian perspectives on salvation. And, as best one can, being grounded in Scripture, I simply do not know how one can go wrong with that type of strategy.

And, know, my Johnthejaxbaptist, I am sorry for the confusion I caused in the prior posts.

I trust your night filled with peace. With that, I am...

Peter

SelahV said...

Peter and Welty...so glad to see we all think alike. Praise the Lord! selahV

tsimoncini said...

I don't know if anyone is stil interested in this blog or not, but my question is, at what point do we point to the word and what it teaches rather than Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Arminius, etc. I want to know what you think about subjects and why, not direct qoutes from these guys. The truth is their culture and the theological debates of the times clouded and influenced what they believed just like it does for us today! Most of these guys made a stance on some issue of their theology and systems of thought emerged becasue of some type of heresy or so they perceived it as such! The church as a whole had some serious issues and these men took a stance to combat those issues. However, they all have some serious fault sin them in my opinion, and I'm tired of hearing hyper-calvinists, and other reformed guys and gals qoute what Luther, Calvin and Augustine says rather than giving clear biblical information. It seems to me the "church fathers" are used and philosophy seems to take over, not clear biblical interpretation. Case in point, God dies for all sins, therefore if he didn't die for the elect, and he died for all people, then what to say of unbelief? We must assume he died for that sin as well, therefore he must have died for an select few only, or His power to cover sin fails us. This is a qoute from some calvinist friends, and this seems to me a whole lot of if, then, and philosophy rather than bible. As I studied on my own over the years, I do know that all of the people mentioned in their debate had heavy philosophy backgrounds, and this type of reason trickels into their faith.

To commend my calvinist brothers, I love the God centered and off the me, me, me type of church preaching we hear today. But to label all of don't claim calvinist roots are fallen arminiasts is not biblical of logical at all. I can bet, most people who follow Jesus couldn't even tell you about Arminias and what he taught, which in my opinion is good, becasue I want to know what Jesus taught, plain and simple!

Peace to all, I hope someone is still looking out here, becasue I really want to be in this debate and get somewhere to better understand everyone's stance in this friendly exchange:)
Tony

tsimoncini said...

I don't know if anyone is still interested in this blog or not, but my question is, at what point do we point to the word and what it teaches rather than Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Arminius, etc. I want to know what you think about subjects and why, not direct quotes from these guys. The truth is their culture and the theological debates of the times clouded and influenced what they believed just like it does for us today! Most of these guys made a stance on some issue of their theology and systems of thought emerged because of some type of heresy or so they perceived it as such! The church as a whole had some serious issues and these men took a stance to combat those issues. However, they all have some serious fault sin them in my opinion, and I'm tired of hearing hyper-Calvinists, and other reformed guys and gals quote what Luther, Calvin and Augustine says rather than giving clear biblical information. It seems to me the "church fathers" are used and philosophy seems to take over, not clear biblical interpretation. Case in point, God dies for all sins, therefore if he didn't die for the elect, and he died for all people, then what to say of unbelief? We must assume he died for that sin as well, therefore he must have died for a select few only, or His power to cover sin fails us. This is a quote from some Calvinist friends, and this seems to me a whole lot of if, then, and philosophy rather than bible. As I studied on my own over the years, I do know that all of the people mentioned in their debate had heavy philosophy backgrounds, and this type of reason trickles into their faith.

To commend my Calvinist brothers, I love the God centered message and getting off of the me, me, me type of church preaching we hear today. But to label all of don't claim Calvinist roots are fallen harmonists is not biblical of logical at all. I can bet, most people who follow Jesus couldn't even tell you about Arminias and what he taught, which in my opinion is good, because I want to know what Jesus taught, plain and simple!

Peace to all, I hope someone is still looking out here, because I really want to be in this debate and get somewhere to better understand everyone's stance in this friendly exchange:)

Tony

thomas4881 said...

I never knew what Calvinism was until after having read my entire Bible 7 times. For years I was studying doctrine. Then one day I stumbled across Calvinism. I was somewhat irritated that so many had a problem with T-U-L-I-P. I mean these people take sound doctrine and dismiss the Bible entirely because they say “it’s Calvinism and Calvinism isn’t Biblical”. Where do they get that from? I know they diden’t get that Idea from actually reading the entire Bible. There hasen’t been one person in the Bible who God has given a “choice” of justification. God diden’t give Abraham a choice to be justified. God diden’t give Moses a choice to be justified. God diden’t give Saul a choice to be justified. God diden’t give David a choice to be justified. God diden’t give solomon a choice to be justified. God diden’t give any of his prophets a choice to be justified. God diden’t give the 12 apostles a choice to be justified. God diden’t give Paul a choice to be justified. The only choice God ever gave to people God justified is a choice of sanctification. Moses and Joshua said to the Israelites to choose to be obedient. They diden’t tell the Israelites to choose to become God’s chosen people. God already chose them through Abraham. The Israelites were given a choice to be obedient. They weren’t given a choice to be justified.

Another matter is free will. Man’s free will is limited. When people claim “If I don’t have free will then God’s a tyrant and I’m a robot” they’er making a relativist claim that lacks any context. That claim implys the person could possibly think they have unlimited free will. For free will to be unlimited it has to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. That means people make the ideology of free will into a deity, and that’s idolotry. That makse sense since those people claiming that are being greedy for soverignty, and greed is idolotry. Not to mention the pride and jealousy of the person who makes such an absurd claim.

Another point is that Calvinism is a driving factor in the reformation. To be anti-Calvinist is to be counter-reformation. You might as well be a catholic if you’re anti-Calvinist. Also, to deny calvinism is only a demonstration of your inability to reason. If a person was truly interested in finding the truth they woulden’t reject Calvinism. They woulden’t lie and decieve every time they’er confronted with strong Biblical doctrine against their heresy. They woulden’t twist and turn to dodge the truth(the light). They woulden’t take pleasure in trying to qurrel based on such a shakey foundation they place themself on. They woulden’t be showing such bad fruit. Anti-Calvinist, counter-reformation claims only lead people into the pit of despair.

I have seen many false teachers claiming T-U-L-I-P points. Such as this guy in florida claiming to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. This guy claims God is soverign and predestined people, etc… This is where temperance and discernment comes into play. Instead of following the words of some pastor blindly people need to open their Bible, read it, meditate on it, read it again, meditate on it some more, pray for wisdom, pray for temperance, pray for patience, discuss the issue with a sincere desire for truth, meditate more. Then if in error God will grant repentance to those who humble themself and hunger for righteousness, are poor in spirit, gentle.

tsimoncini said...

In the case of Adam and Eve, were they given by God clear instructions of the Garden and how it all worked, and then some bad choices by Adam and Eve ruined it all

Romans 5:17
For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

(We are given a free gift, but you have to unwrap it, take it, however you want to put it!)

If so, then why would a perfect sovereign in all things God, create two people only to Make them break His command, and then have it lead to the fall of all his perfect man-kind. This is not consistant to an all-knowing, all-powerful, God.

These are questions I have, and as for the clear biblical teaching of doctrine, I think there clear teachings of Jesus that speak of God and His desire to save ALL men. Not just a select few.

Also, I don't think of rejecting Calvinism is to reject the reformation. Am I to abide by every theological practice of Luther, because he was a key figure in the reformation? History would tell us that there were plenty of folks who disagreed with Luther on subject of theology, but they agreed on getting away from the Catholic Church because of the obvious hypocrisy and non-biblical practices of indulgences, praying through saints and priests, purgatory, etc. Not to mention, much of Luther's beliefs came from a renewal in reading Saint Augustine, a 4th century Monk in the Catholic Church, and even then He had his opponents to his theology of a divine predestination.
Peace
Tony

FreedfromBondage said...

"Never was there a CALVINIST, who read ONLY Scripture."

Calvinism must be passed on through books, blogs, opinions, etc. You will never find a Christian who claims "Calvinism" after having only read the Bible. So where does that leave a Calvinist?

tsimoncini said...

my point exactly, Calvinism does not seem to be solely supported by scripture alone, and most of the proponents of this doctrine past and present, are heavily involved in philosophy. If...then statements that are not black and white one way or the other in scripture, therefore the bible is taken and twisted a bit in my opinion to fit the theology. And all I hear about is the false doctrine taught by all other protestants, unless they are teaching from T-U-L-I-P points, but in my opinion this twisting and moving around of the word is just as dangerously flirting with false doctrine as the claims for false doctrine within every other form of protestanism. I know the calvinist will not agree with that, but they are not supposed to.

I just want some respect as a fellow believer in Christ from my Calvinist brothers and sisters without being told I'm following a false doctrine and going to Hell for it. They don't put it in those words most of the time, but if I'm following the wrong Christ there is only one place that will take me.
Tony

tsimoncini said...

This is my point exactly. Philosophy of if...then statements are constantly used to back the Calvinist doctrine based on certain scriptures that are just not clear enough one way or the other, or there needs to be a marriage of all the scriptures used on both, sides becasue if one is the word of God then the other is as well!

I just want some respect as a follower of Christ from the calvinist, rather than being told I'm following the false doctrine and going to hell. After all, hell is the place that false prophets and their doctrines will take us all if we follow them.

I think the philosophy of the calvinist is in as much danger of being a false doctrine according tho their definition as any other protestant doctrine if using their (calvinist) litmus test!
Peace
Tony

Bydlo said...

I have my own problems with Calvinism. I see them as Neo-Gnostis. I also see the Armenians as Fence-Sitters. My perspecive is the Eastern Orthodox perspecive, whose focus is the VALIDITY OF THE SCRIPTURES.

If the Bible is such an importand Book, it is important to know how it was compiled. Before the Council of Carthage, 397 AD, THERE WAS NO BIBLE. It was a bunch of scattered documents. Worse yet, the Gnostics were trying to intrude their own scriptures into the mix of scattered docments.

Enter St. Irenaeus. His solution was to examint the candidat scriptures and separate the Wheat from the Chaff by certain tests. There must be a connection from a book to an Apostle. The next must be among the most frequently used text off the oldest churches which had the strongest connection to the Apostles. The Scriptures must be consistant. The work of the COuncil of Carthage was cut out for them.

The books were sorted. The Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John went into the Canon, and the Gospels of Philip, Judas, and Thomas went into the discard pile. However, there were other piles of books. There were Histories like the Maccabeees and Josephus'es work. There were Training Manuals like the Didache. There were Commentaries.

By what Authority did the Council of Carthage accomplish their work? When I viewed this work through the prism of Calvinism, especially the Doctrine of Total Depravity, as well as Chapter XXXI, Article vi of the Westminster Confession, I found that there was no such authority; never mind that Chapter I of the Westminster Confession accepted the Council's Decision without going to the trouble of legitimizing them outside the framework of the Council. This was Intellectual Dishonesty to me. Calvinism, if accepted, thus provide grounds for any Neo-Gnostic to reintroduce and reinsinuate previously rejected "scripture" into the Canon.

I find it no accident that Calvinists destroyed the remains of St. Irenaeus.

Melanchthon said...

Orthodoxy and heresy is a matter of perspective. For example Calvinist because they were a part of the early reformers (second to Luther), but perhaps in the long run more influential see Arminians as having heretical doctrine, careful never to call them heretics; but it is the same when implying this as close they can. Pelagius a Catholic monk in short came up with the idea that children are born perfect like Adam and they just learn to do wrong through the modeling of their parents. If they could learn to do right they could be perfect. This was a great idea if you were monastic and wanted to somehow have perfection as a goal in your life. However it does not help in the Salvation department for works will not justify anyone. Truly a heretical doctrine.

What I resent in these debates is that the Calvinist will always open up with Pelagius and then move into Semi-Pelagianism. They will give a short history on Pelagius and then talk about Semi-Pelagianism with no explanation. You get the impression that wow these Arminians are so deceived and it is so subtle. From what I have read in the original debates with Augustine, Augustine rightfully showed the fallacy of Pelagianism. However, those learning from the error of Pelagius tried to salvage some points. For me I would start clean and dissociate myself with heretics, but they did not and were called Semi-Pelagianists. The Catholic church deemed these also as having heretical doctrine. However when I read these historical documents and judge it by what the scriptures teach I find less error then I do with Calvinism. Calvinist point out that the error was “free will.” Whereas what the Catholic church really was concern with is that Semi-Pelagius were promoting that man did not need the grace of God as it relates to his will. Augustine himself believed in freewill and then he recanted. The Catholic church is very proud of him being in their ranks as a theologian. And I will agree he is great. However I believe he was right the first time with free will. The Catholic church goes on to say that Augustine remained believing in freewill and that he has just been misinterpreted. I don’t see it. I do understand, because they are very proud of his contributions so they excuse him countering Catholic doctrine on freewill. That is my explanation and I am open to enlightenment.

As I said it is a matter of perspective of what is heresy and what is orthodox. The Calvinist because they don’t have history much beyond 500 years are dependent upon the Catholics and Reformation doctrine is based on Augustinian doctrine. No surprise that Luther was an Augustinian monk. James Arminian comes along a little later a doctor of theology and figures a balance. As compared to Calvin a lawyer and a drop out of theology who came up with the idea of “Biblical Law” personifying the word legalism that is much of the time projected on Arminians. James Arminian was actually coming from a Calvinistic early reformed background. It is also interesting that the right hand man of Luther another doctor in theology Phillip Melanchthon adjusted his views on works and began advocating freewill elaborating the proper connection biblically. In comparison to this man Calvin was just a Luther groupie. While the Calvinist are quick to use Catholic history to prove that Arminian doctrine is heresy. The Catholics view of Calvinism is that it is heresy and nothing in Protestantism is orthodox.

I do not agree with the Catholics in their obvious errors, but I am not so unwise to think that for almost 1000 years they were completely in error. I do not believe that a person is saved by works. You know what? Augustine was a Catholic and he did not believe this either. Oh you know what? Neither has the Catholic church ever believed this theologically. However, since they kept their doctrines only for the clergy with their responsibility to teach the laity with no admonition or access for the laity to read for themselves; a works understanding of salvation resulted in laity. This still happens today, although they have greatly improved on educating their people. It was Catholic loss to keep the bible from the people. Therefore God in his justice and wisdom in having the Church “grow in the knowledge of his son” (Eph 4) moved on people for the Reformation. I also believe that God moved on James Arminian for some tweeking of the reformed doctrine. John Wesley seemed to think so and no one today ever accuses him of being a heretic. The Calvinist themselves go on about the “real” revivals he had and pray we have the same.

The body of Christ is suppose to grow into the unity of the faith and the “knowledge of the son”. I don’t see Calvinism in the area of predestination and election as being too fruitful a results. Everything else for the most part is fine. When they find one of their group demonstrates to be a reprobate they say “well it is questionable whether they were saved in the first place”. Or “they are false converts”. Or “they may have believed, but they did not have “true believing or saving faith” which is a gift, discriminated and distributed to the chosen elect. The Arminians simply recognizes they are apostate, warn them, love them and hope they come back as the prodical son and that they don’t die in their sins. There is no mystery and the person has the option to repent.

The trouble with Arminian doctrine is that it is under developed. Partly because it was originally dismissed as heresy. There are few books on the subject. I have read most of them. The best I can recommend was from a Southern Baptist who does great exegesis with history and Greek named Robert Shank. His first volume was Life in the Son. The second volume was Elect in the Son. By the time he wrote the second volume he was persecuted by his Baptist brothers. How could a Baptist theologian come to an Arminian conclusion if there was not some truth to it?

I want to inform and not to argue. But help me with this circular logic. Calvinist believes that even free will is considered a work. That any effort from man would not be grace. Hence even man’s will is a work. That God chooses by His Sovereignty some to be save and some to be dammed before the foundations of the world and this is why they are eternally secure not by their will to choose God, but by God’s will to choose them. Those saved are totally passive in the process. How then does the elect know that they are the elect? Here is the Calvinist answer: They know that they are elect because they persevere and are obedient. Sorry that is works. So the Calvinist will say God has put His will in me to do good works and be obedient. Really, do you know that for sure? How? Well it is a witness in my spirit. Now Calvinist are great advocates of standing on the word of God and not an emotional experience and I say Amen. However this sounds emotional to me and a little Pentecostal for Calvinist who advocate the cessation theory. I think to anyone else that has not been indoctrinated would agree. My point is it is circular logic. They emphasize assurance. But in reality they can never be assured, because the harder they try to be obedient to convince themselves they are the elect the more unconvinced they become, because if they are honest they will recognize these are works they are using to validate their election. And you know what that’s ok, because this is all an Arminian is doing. They are not saying they are saving themselves by works, they are only validating their faith in Christ as the elect by their works. By the same token if they follow after what the King James version calls dead works they are validating apostasy. The extra bonus with Arminianism which somehow is an insult to the Sovereignty of God is that God makes salvation available to all men. The latter also being recognized by the early reformers as heresy. At this point someone will ask. Well how far do you have to go with sin before you are lost? My question would be “would a real Christian ever be wanting to know that”? Or would they be rather concerned with how far could they go with righteousness, before they sin as an expression of their love for God. “Those that love me obey my commandments”. I John 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
I John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

Hope this helps

Melanchthon said...

Orthodoxy and heresy is a matter of perspective. For example Calvinist because they were a part of the early reformers (second to Luther), but perhaps in the long run more influential see Arminians as having heretical doctrine, careful never to call them heretics; but it is the same when implying this as close they can. Pelagius a Catholic monk in short came up with the idea that children are born perfect like Adam and they just learn to do wrong through the modeling of their parents. If they could learn to do right they could be perfect. This was a great idea if you were monastic and wanted to somehow have perfection as a goal in your life. However it does not help in the Salvation department for works will not justify anyone. Truly a heretical doctrine.

What I resent in these debates is that the Calvinist will always open up with Pelagius and then move into Semi-Pelagianism. They will give a short history on Pelagius and then talk about Semi-Pelagianism with no explanation. You get the impression that wow these Arminians are so deceived and it is so subtle. From what I have read in the original debates with Augustine, Augustine rightfully showed the fallacy of Pelagianism. However, those learning from the error of Pelagius tried to salvage some points. For me I would start clean and dissociate myself with heretics, but they did not and were called Semi-Pelagianists. The Catholic church deemed these also as having heretical doctrine. However when I read these historical documents and judge it by what the scriptures teach I find less error then I do with Calvinism. Calvinist point out that the error was “free will.” Whereas what the Catholic church really was concern with is that Semi-Pelagius were promoting that man did not need the grace of God as it relates to his will. Augustine himself believed in freewill and then he recanted. The Catholic church is very proud of him being in their ranks as a theologian. And I will agree he is great. However I believe he was right the first time with free will. The Catholic church goes on to say that Augustine remained believing in freewill and that he has just been misinterpreted. I don’t see it. I do understand, because they are very proud of his contributions so they excuse him countering Catholic doctrine on freewill. That is my explanation and I am open to enlightenment.

As I said it is a matter of perspective of what is heresy and what is orthodox. The Calvinist because they don’t have history much beyond 500 years are dependent upon the Catholics and Reformation doctrine is based on Augustinian doctrine. No surprise that Luther was an Augustinian monk. James Arminian comes along a little later a doctor of theology and figures a balance. As compared to Calvin a lawyer and a drop out of theology who came up with the idea of “Biblical Law” personifying the word legalism that is much of the time projected on Arminians. James Arminian was actually coming from a Calvinistic early reformed background. It is also interesting that the right hand man of Luther another doctor in theology Phillip Melanchthon adjusted his views on works and began advocating freewill elaborating the proper connection biblically. In comparison to this man Calvin was just a Luther groupie. While the Calvinist are quick to use Catholic history to prove that Arminian doctrine is heresy. The Catholics view of Calvinism is that it is heresy and nothing in Protestantism is orthodox.

I do not agree with the Catholics in their obvious errors, but I am not so unwise to think that for almost 1000 years they were completely in error. I do not believe that a person is saved by works. You know what? Augustine was a Catholic and he did not believe this either. Oh you know what? Neither has the Catholic church ever believed this theologically. However, since they kept their doctrines only for the clergy with their responsibility to teach the laity with no admonition or access for the laity to read for themselves; a works understanding of salvation resulted in laity. This still happens today, although they have greatly improved on educating their people. It was Catholic loss to keep the bible from the people. Therefore God in his justice and wisdom in having the Church “grow in the knowledge of his son” (Eph 4) moved on people for the Reformation. I also believe that God moved on James Arminian for some tweeking of the reformed doctrine. John Wesley seemed to think so and no one today ever accuses him of being a heretic. The Calvinist themselves go on about the “real” revivals he had and pray we have the same.

The body of Christ is suppose to grow into the unity of the faith and the “knowledge of the son”. I don’t see Calvinism in the area of predestination and election as being too fruitful a results. Everything else for the most part is fine. When they find one of their group demonstrates to be a reprobate they say “well it is questionable whether they were saved in the first place”. Or “they are false converts”. Or “they may have believed, but they did not have “true believing or saving faith” which is a gift, discriminated and distributed to the chosen elect. The Arminians simply recognizes they are apostate, warn them, love them and hope they come back as the prodical son and that they don’t die in their sins. There is no mystery and the person has the option to repent.

The trouble with Arminian doctrine is that it is under developed. Partly because it was originally dismissed as heresy. There are few books on the subject. I have read most of them. The best I can recommend was from a Southern Baptist who does great exegesis with history and Greek named Robert Shank. His first volume was Life in the Son. The second volume was Elect in the Son. By the time he wrote the second volume he was persecuted by his Baptist brothers. How could a Baptist theologian come to an Arminian conclusion if there was not some truth to it?

I want to inform and not to argue. But help me with this circular logic. Calvinist believes that even free will is considered a work. That any effort from man would not be grace. Hence even man’s will is a work. That God chooses by His Sovereignty some to be save and some to be dammed before the foundations of the world and this is why they are eternally secure not by their will to choose God, but by God’s will to choose them. Those saved are totally passive in the process. How then does the elect know that they are the elect? Here is the Calvinist answer: They know that they are elect because they persevere and are obedient. Sorry that is works. So the Calvinist will say God has put His will in me to do good works and be obedient. Really, do you know that for sure? How? Well it is a witness in my spirit. Now Calvinist are great advocates of standing on the word of God and not an emotional experience and I say Amen. However this sounds emotional to me and a little Pentecostal for Calvinist who advocate the cessation theory. I think to anyone else that has not been indoctrinated would agree. My point is it is circular logic. They emphasize assurance. But in reality they can never be assured, because the harder they try to be obedient to convince themselves they are the elect the more unconvinced they become, because if they are honest they will recognize these are works they are using to validate their election. And you know what that’s ok, because this is all an Arminian is doing. They are not saying they are saving themselves by works, they are only validating their faith in Christ as the elect by their works. By the same token if they follow after what the King James version calls dead works they are validating apostasy. The extra bonus with Arminianism which somehow is an insult to the Sovereignty of God is that God makes salvation available to all men. The latter also being recognized by the early reformers as heresy. At this point someone will ask. Well how far do you have to go with sin before you are lost? My question would be “would a real Christian ever be wanting to know that”? Or would they be rather concerned with how far could they go with righteousness, before they sin as an expression of their love for God. “Those that love me obey my commandments”. I John 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
I John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

Hope this helps

Melanchthon said...

Orthodoxy and heresy is a matter of perspective. For example Calvinist because they were a part of the early reformers (second to Luther), but perhaps in the long run more influential see Arminians as having heretical doctrine, careful never to call them heretics; but it is the same when implying this as close they can. Pelagius a Catholic monk in short came up with the idea that children are born perfect like Adam and they just learn to do wrong through the modeling of their parents. If they could learn to do right they could be perfect. This was a great idea if you were monastic and wanted to somehow have perfection as a goal in your life. However it does not help in the Salvation department for works will not justify anyone. Truly a heretical doctrine.

What I resent in these debates is that the Calvinist will always open up with Pelagius and then move into Semi-Pelagianism. They will give a short history on Pelagius and then talk about Semi-Pelagianism with no explanation. You get the impression that wow these Arminians are so deceived and it is so subtle. From what I have read in the original debates with Augustine, Augustine rightfully showed the fallacy of Pelagianism. However, those learning from the error of Pelagius tried to salvage some points. For me I would start clean and dissociate myself with heretics, but they did not and were called Semi-Pelagianists. The Catholic church deemed these also as having heretical doctrine. However when I read these historical documents and judge it by what the scriptures teach I find less error then I do with Calvinism. Calvinist point out that the error was “free will.” Whereas what the Catholic church really was concern with is that Semi-Pelagius were promoting that man did not need the grace of God as it relates to his will. Augustine himself believed in freewill and then he recanted. The Catholic church is very proud of him being in their ranks as a theologian. And I will agree he is great. However I believe he was right the first time with free will. The Catholic church goes on to say that Augustine remained believing in freewill and that he has just been misinterpreted. I don’t see it. I do understand, because they are very proud of his contributions so they excuse him countering Catholic doctrine on freewill. That is my explanation and I am open to enlightenment.

As I said it is a matter of perspective of what is heresy and what is orthodox. The Calvinist because they don’t have history much beyond 500 years are dependent upon the Catholics and Reformation doctrine is based on Augustinian doctrine. No surprise that Luther was an Augustinian monk. James Arminian comes along a little later a doctor of theology and figures a balance. As compared to Calvin a lawyer and a drop out of theology who came up with the idea of “Biblical Law” personifying the word legalism that is much of the time projected on Arminians. James Arminian was actually coming from a Calvinistic early reformed background. It is also interesting that the right hand man of Luther another doctor in theology Phillip Melanchthon adjusted his views on works and began advocating freewill elaborating the proper connection biblically. In comparison to this man Calvin was just a Luther groupie. While the Calvinist are quick to use Catholic history to prove that Arminian doctrine is heresy. The Catholics view of Calvinism is that it is heresy and nothing in Protestantism is orthodox.

I do not agree with the Catholics in their obvious errors, but I am not so unwise to think that for almost 1000 years they were completely in error. I do not believe that a person is saved by works. You know what? Augustine was a Catholic and he did not believe this either. Oh you know what? Neither has the Catholic church ever believed this theologically. However, since they kept their doctrines only for the clergy with their responsibility to teach the laity with no admonition or access for the laity to read for themselves; a works understanding of salvation resulted in laity. This still happens today, although they have greatly improved on educating their people. It was Catholic loss to keep the bible from the people. Therefore God in his justice and wisdom in having the Church “grow in the knowledge of his son” (Eph 4) moved on people for the Reformation. I also believe that God moved on James Arminian for some tweeking of the reformed doctrine. John Wesley seemed to think so and no one today ever accuses him of being a heretic. The Calvinist themselves go on about the “real” revivals he had and pray we have the same.

The body of Christ is suppose to grow into the unity of the faith and the “knowledge of the son”. I don’t see Calvinism in the area of predestination and election as being too fruitful a results. Everything else for the most part is fine. When they find one of their group demonstrates to be a reprobate they say “well it is questionable whether they were saved in the first place”. Or “they are false converts”. Or “they may have believed, but they did not have “true believing or saving faith” which is a gift, discriminated and distributed to the chosen elect. The Arminians simply recognizes they are apostate, warn them, love them and hope they come back as the prodical son and that they don’t die in their sins. There is no mystery and the person has the option to repent.

The trouble with Arminian doctrine is that it is under developed. Partly because it was originally dismissed as heresy. There are few books on the subject. I have read most of them. The best I can recommend was from a Southern Baptist who does great exegesis with history and Greek named Robert Shank. His first volume was Life in the Son. The second volume was Elect in the Son. By the time he wrote the second volume he was persecuted by his Baptist brothers. How could a Baptist theologian come to an Arminian conclusion if there was not some truth to it?

I want to inform and not to argue. But help me with this circular logic. Calvinist believes that even free will is considered a work. That any effort from man would not be grace. Hence even man’s will is a work. That God chooses by His Sovereignty some to be save and some to be dammed before the foundations of the world and this is why they are eternally secure not by their will to choose God, but by God’s will to choose them. Those saved are totally passive in the process. How then does the elect know that they are the elect? Here is the Calvinist answer: They know that they are elect because they persevere and are obedient. Sorry that is works. So the Calvinist will say God has put His will in me to do good works and be obedient. Really, do you know that for sure? How? Well it is a witness in my spirit. Now Calvinist are great advocates of standing on the word of God and not an emotional experience and I say Amen. However this sounds emotional to me and a little Pentecostal for Calvinist who advocate the cessation theory. I think to anyone else that has not been indoctrinated would agree. My point is it is circular logic. They emphasize assurance. But in reality they can never be assured, because the harder they try to be obedient to convince themselves they are the elect the more unconvinced they become, because if they are honest they will recognize these are works they are using to validate their election. And you know what that’s ok, because this is all an Arminian is doing. They are not saying they are saving themselves by works, they are only validating their faith in Christ as the elect by their works. By the same token if they follow after what the King James version calls dead works they are validating apostasy. The extra bonus with Arminianism which somehow is an insult to the Sovereignty of God is that God makes salvation available to all men. The latter also being recognized by the early reformers as heresy. At this point someone will ask. Well how far do you have to go with sin before you are lost? My question would be “would a real Christian ever be wanting to know that”? Or would they be rather concerned with how far could they go with righteousness, before they sin as an expression of their love for God. “Those that love me obey my commandments”. I John 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
I John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

Hope this helps

Melanchthon said...

I am sorry. I did not know this was posting over and over. This is my first time on a blog. I copied from my word processor and I see quotation marks did not take. So it wipes out the clarity. I knew it was long, but I did not mean for it to be a repeat. Please delete if possible. If you wish a clean copy without the quotation marks I will be glad to post it.