Eternal Security ~ Part 18

Arminian Theology ~ Part 4

In my last post, we continued to drill down into Arminian Theology.  In this post, we will conclude our presentation of Arminian Theology.  As a reminder, in order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Calvinistic Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.

Terms of Salvation

Human responsibility in salvation involves knowledge of sin, turning from sin, turning toward God, and faith in Christ. Repentance has the idea of change. To repent means that sin must be forsaken; change has taken place. Repentance, therefore, involves action; moreover, repentance, comes before faith.

John Wesley (an Arminian) defined saving faith in three terms: (1) to put one’s trust in the mercy and forgiveness of God; (2) to receive assurance in the Believer’s life for instance, that Jesus is the Son of God; (3) to express reliance upon Christ, turning one’s life over to Christ as Lord. For Wesley, belief is ultimately expressed in obedience. This is in agreement with Arminians today who also emphasize the importance of works as a condition or result of salvation.

Meaning of the Atonement

Arminians generally hold to the governmental view of the death of Christ, which, as taught by Grotius, teaches that Christ did not die a substitutionary death for sinners. Christ suffered to satisfy the justice or government of God. Instead of dying for mankind, Christ made a “token payment” that satisfied the government of God. God therefore sets aside the requirement of the law and forgives sinners on the basis that His government has been upheld and honored.

Extent of the Atonement

Arminians teach that the atonement of Christ was universal. “This does not mean that all mankind will be unconditionally saved, but that the sacrificial offering of Christ so far satisfied the claims of the divine law as to make salvation a possibility for all.” The provision of Christ in His atonement is for everyone; it is sufficient for everyone to be saved (although not all are). The Scriptures emphasize universal provision (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8, 18; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:4; 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; 10:29; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:2; 4:14). Since Christ made provision for all, the proclamation of the Gospel is to all (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47).

Arminians also teach that the benefit of the atonement includes the following:

(1) The continued existence of the race. It is hardly conceivable that the race would have been allowed to multiply in its sin and depravity, had no provision been made for its salvation.

(2) The restoration of all men to a state of solvability. The atonement provided for all men unconditionally, the free gift of grace. This included the restoration of the Holy Spirit to the race as the Spirit of enlightenment, striving and conviction. Thus man is not only given the capacity for a proper probation, but is granted the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit.

(3) The salvation of those who die in infancy. We must regard the atonement as accomplishing the actual salvation of those who die in infancy.

Salvation May Be Lost

Arminians have adhered to the doctrine that believers can lose their salvation. Although Arminius himself did not clearly state that Believers could be lost, his conclusions pointed in that direction. Arminius taught that man is saved by grace but not apart from his free will. The will remains free. Arminius emphasized that the free will had to concur in perseverance, otherwise the Believer could be lost.

John Wesley also taught that the believer may “make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, that he may fall, not only foully, but finally, so as to perish forever.” The basis for losing one’s salvation is found in passages like Luke 13:14; Colossians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 6:4-6; and 1 Peter 1:10.

Summary Evaluation of Arminian Theology

Arminianism stresses a number of important features. The emphasis on man’s responsibility is surely a Biblical factor: man must believe to be saved (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). If man refuses to believe, he is lost (John 5:40; 7:17). Arminianism’s emphasis on the universality of the atonement is also biblical (1 Timothy 4:10; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:2).

Several features within Arminianism should be evaluated:

(1) Arminianism denies the imputation of sin; no one is condemned eternally because of original sin. Man is condemned because of his own sins. This appears at variance with Romans 5:12-21.

(2) Though variously interpreted, Arminians generally teach that the effects of the Fall were erased through prevenient grace bestowed on all men, enabling individuals to cooperate with God in salvation. There is, however, no clear indication of this kind of prevenient grace in Scripture.

(3) Arminians teach that the Fall did not destroy man’s free will; furthermore, they teach that prevenient grace moves upon the heart of the unbeliever, enabling him to cooperate with God in salvation by an act of the will. While it is true that man must bear responsibility in responding to the gospel (John 5:40), man’s will has been affected because of the Fall (Romans 3:11-12; Ephesians 2:1); man needs God’s grace in order to be saved (Ephesians 2:8; Acts 13:48; 16:14).

(4) Arminians relate predestination to God’s foreknowledge of man’s actions. They stress that God knew beforehand who would believe, and He elected those. In Arminianism, election and predestination are conditioned by faith. The word foreknowledge (Gk. prognosis), however, is basically equivalent to election (cf. Romans 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20). The data of God’s foreknowledge originates in advanced planning, not in advanced information.

(5) Arminianism stresses human participation and responsibility in salvation: recognition of sin, turning from sin, repentance, confession, and faith. For Arminianism, repentance involves change of actions, forsaking sins, whereas the biblical word repentance (Gk. metanoia) means “change of mind.” Although the stress on human responsibilities is significant, if it involves multiple conditions for salvation, this stress becomes a serious matter because the purity of salvation-by-grace-alone is then at stake. The sole condition of salvation stressed in scores of Scriptures is faith in Christ (John 3:16, 36; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9).

(6) Arminianism teaches that Believers may lose their salvation because the human will remains free and so may rescind its earlier faith in Christ by choosing sin. Frequently this view is based on controversial passages like Hebrews 6:4-6 and 2 Peter 2:20-22. The clear emphasis of Scripture, however, is that the Believer has eternal life as a present possession (John 3:16; 1 John 5:11-13) and is kept secure by Christ (John 10:28) because of what He has done (Romans 5:1; 8:1).

In my next post, I want to go back to the topic of Election which we briefly defined in Eternal Security ~ Part 2 as it applies to the Calvinistic and Arminian Theology.

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Eternal Security ~ Part 17

Arminian Theology ~ Part 3

In my last post, we took a brief look at Arminian Theology.  In this post, we continue to explore Doctrinal Affirmations of Arminian Theology and The Remonstrance. As a reminder, in order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Calvinistic Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.

Original Sin

Arminians teach the doctrine of original sin; it affects the entire being of man; man is destitute of all positive good, and apart from God’s grace, man commits evil continually. Through Adam’s sin, sin and death entered the world. The penalty of death came upon all mankind because of a state of the human heart (not imputation). In addition, all people inherited a corrupted human nature as offsprings of Adam. This is not to suggest a legal imputation of sin, however. The Apology of the Remonstrants declares, “There is no ground for the assertion that the sin of Adam was imputed to his posterity in the sense that God actually judged the posterity of Adam to be guilty of and chargeable with the same sin and crime that Adam had committed.”

 

ARMINIAN DOCTRINE (THE REMONSTRANCE)

Doctrine

Explanation

Election Based on Knowledge God elected those whom He knew would of their own free will believe in Christ and persevere in the faith.
Unlimited Atonement In His atonement, Christ provided redemption for all mankind, making all mankind saveable. Christ’s atonement becomes effective only in those who believe.
Natural Inability Man cannot save himself; the Holy Spirit must affect the new birth.
Prevenient Grace Preparatory work of the Holy Spirit enables the Believer to respond to the Gospel and cooperate with God in salvation.
Conditional Perseverance Believers have been empowered to live a victorious life, but they are capable of turning from grace and losing their salvation.

While Arminianism recognizes original sin and depravity, it also teaches that the effects of original sin are erased and reversed in everyone through the grace of God, enabling the sinner to respond actively to God, or cooperate with God in salvation. No one is condemned because of imputed sin from Adam or because of a depraved nature, but only because of individual sins.

Election and Predestination

Arminius related the doctrine of predestination (God appointing certain people to salvation) to the foreknowledge of God (emphasis added). God knew who would choose Him and those are the ones God predestined. He also related his doctrine of predestination to those whom God knew would not only believe but also persevere. Concerning the election of individuals Arminius states “(the) decree rests upon the foreknowledge of God, by which He has known from eternity which persons should believe according to such an administration of the means serving to repentance and faith through His preceding grace and which should persevere through subsequent grace, and also who should not believe and persevere.”

Arminianism includes all mankind in its definition of predestination, which may be defined as “the gracious purpose of God to save mankind from utter ruin. It is not an arbitrary, indiscriminate act of God intended to secure the salvation of so many and no more. It includes provisionally, all men in its scope, and is conditioned solely on faith in Jesus Christ.”

Arminians have always regarded election to eternal life as conditional upon faith in Christ. It is not an arbitrary choice of God; instead it is based on man’s faith response to the gospel.

Prevenient Grace

Prevenient grace is the “preparing” grace of God that is dispensed to all, enabling a person to respond to the invitation of the Gospel. Prevenient grace may be defined as “that grace which ‘goes before’ or prepares the soul for entrance into the initial state of salvation. It is the preparatory grace of the Holy Spirit exercised toward man helpless in sin. As it respects the guilty, it may be considered mercy; as it respects the impotent, it is enabling power. It may be defined, therefore, as that manifestation of the divine influence which precedes the full regenerate life.”

This leads to a belief in synergism, “working together” or a “cooperative action” between man and God with regard to salvation. Because God dispenses prevenient grace, the effects of Adam’s sin are reversed, enabling the person to respond in faith to the Gospel. Man may accept or reject the Gospel and the grace of God of his own free will. “Through this awakening from original sin, one becomes open to the grace freely offered in Jesus Christ. Restoration to close and uncorrupted relationship with God is there by made possible.”

The Arminian system of grace may be summarized as follows; “(1) the inability of man as totally depraved; (2) the state of nature as in some sense state of grace through the unconditional benefit of the atonement; (3) the continuity of grace as excluding the Calvinistic distinction between common and efficacious grace; (4) synergism, or the co-operation of grace and free will; and (5) the power of man to finally resist the grace of God freely bestowed upon him.”

Freewill

It becomes apparent that there is a relationship between prevenient grace and free will. Wiley cites four propositions in relating prevenient grace to freedom of the will.

(1) Prevenient grace is exercised upon the natural man, or man in his condition subsequent to the fall. This grace is exercised upon his entire being, and not upon any particular element or power of his being.
(2) Prevenient grace has to do with man as a free and responsible agent. The fall did not efface the natural image of God in man, nor destroy any of the powers of his being. It did not destroy the power of thought which belongs to the intellect, nor the power of affection which pertains to the feelings. So, also, it did not destroy the power of volition which belongs to the will.
(3) Prevenient grace has to do further, with the person as enslaved by sin…This slavery is not absolute, for the soul is conscious of its bondage and rebels against it…Thus grace is needed…to awaken the soul to the truth…and to move upon the affections by enlisting the heart upon the side of truth.
(4) The continuous co-operation of the human will with the originating grace of the Spirit, merges prevenient grace directly into saving grace…Arminianism maintains that through the prevenient grace of the Spirit, unconditionally bestowed upon all men, the power and responsibility of free agency exist from the first dawn of the moral life.

In summation, Arminianism teaches that the fall of man did not destroy the power of the choice. Prevenient grace thus moves the person to see his spiritual need, enabling him to choose salvation. But grace, Wiley emphasizes, is prominent in the transaction.

In my next post, we will continue to drill down into Arminian Theology.

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