Friday, February 29, 2008

Don't Shoot Me - Part 2

You can see Part 1 of this post here.


I don't really want to work back and forth defending my Arminianism vs. someone else's Calvinism. Rarely are minds changed. Again, this is the problem - we spend too much time on this vs. fighting the fight of faith together. But I do want to highlight some of my thoughts as I worked my way through Piper's Message How I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels. I think this will help others determine if Arminians/Wesleyans are close to promoting a "false" gospel.

We don’t usually think about Arminianism as a threat to the atonement. It usually comes in at the point of the accomplishment of the gospel and the offer of the gospel, not the point of the plan of the events of the gospel. But here we see that there is an intrinsic incompatibility between the basic Arminian presupposition and the gospel as including a set of planned sins against the Son of God. That presupposition is that for humans to be morally accountable agents they must have the ultimate power of self-determination at all those points where they are found blameworthy or praiseworthy.

That presupposition pushes people away from believing that God has the right and power in righteousness and wisdom to infallibly plan the death of his Son through the sinful acts of morally accountable men...
I'm not exactly sure how the fact that we have a choice to choose or reject Christ means that for some reason we can't accept that God used "sinful acts of morally accountable men" to crucify His son. I don't have a problem with God orchestrating the cross and using sinful men to do this. Maybe I'm just missing something.

The death and resurrection of Christ really accomplished these things decisively and once for all.

The right title of this teaching would be successful atonement or definitive atonement or triumphantly effective atonement.

Problem: 1 John 2:2, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

Solution: John 11:51-52, "He prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad."



I must say, I like the idea of Definitive Atonement much better than Limited Atonement. Limited Atonement says to me that Jesus only died for some. But the scripture is clear that he died for all. Piper says as much in this message:
We say yes, that is true in the sense that you mean it: What Christ did is proclaimed to all and offered to all. Absolutely, without distinction. And any who believe will be saved by this accomplishment. Christ died for all in the sense that all who believe may be saved and the salvation is offered freely to all.
See the "Problem" passage above. To me that passage pretty much ends all discussion on "Limited Atonement." I'm not so sure that Piper's "Solution" passage really answers his "Problem" passage. I think "whole world" in 1 John 2 does not mean "all kinds of the children of God scattered abroad." He could have said as much. I think it means what it says - Jesus is the propitiation, the atoning sacrifice, for the whole world. Not just believers. And I think that really is a problem for those holding to a limited atonement.

The point Piper wishes to make is that Jesus atonement was effective. It wasn't just an offer of redemption. It was redemption.
...3. The atonement accomplishes potential salvation for all but accomplishes definitive salvation for none. This is typical Arminian teaching. It diminishes the glory of the cross and encourages people to take into their own hands what belongs to the work of the cross, namely the purchase of their own rescue from unbelief. God is allowed to rescue them from the guilt of sin by the cross, but not from the bondage of unbelief by the cross. The cross does not obtain or accomplish that. I must provide the decisive impetus for overcoming my unbelief, the cross did not accomplish that. In that way part of the gospel is undone.
Jesus death secured redemption for all who will believe in Him. Isn't this definitive? I believe Jesus did purchase my rescue, but he doesn't force me to faith. How does Jesus' passion force my belief? And since when is that a core component to the gospel?

Distortions and Denials of the Gospel as an Application

1. Arminianism

Arminianism (Wesleyanism) teaches that God helps all people overcome their deadness of soul and leaves to the decisive will of man whether to follow that grace and trust Christ and as a consequence be born again. In other words regeneration does not cause faith; faith, in an act of ultimate self-termination, chooses to agree with God’s grace and believe and thus be born again.

How serious is this? Must one believe that faith is decisively caused by God through regeneration? Or can one be saved believing that faith causes regeneration?

I don't think that Arminians - at least the ones I know - believe that faith causes regeneration. Regeneration is the work of God's Spirit. We believe this work follows the cry of faith, but in no way does faith change the heart. God does that.

I think this probably is a key issue, but again we are trying to look at things from God's perspective. My Calvinist friend believes Regeneration-Repentance-Faith. I believe the Bible teaches Repentance-Faith-Regeneration. Only God knows for sure. I don't believe that because you teach one or the other of these progressions that you are promoting a "false" gospel.

The issue comes down to this: Is the heart relationship to God one of utter reliance on God’s grace in Spirit-wrought humility, such that God gets the glory for all of my salvation, both accomplishment and application?

Can the heart be truly humble and reliant in this way while the mind espouses a theology that claims that the human will is taking credit for what the humble heart is really depending on God to provide?

Answer: There are those who totally rely on God in their heart but who fail to see with their minds that total reliance on God includes reliance on God for their reliance on God. Their hearts are better than their heads. They humility echoes the truth while their theology is out of sync with it. God is willing to look at their heart for the truth.

Here is the humility of John Piper. Instead of condemning all Arminians as heretics as some Calvinists would, he reminds us all that God looks at the heart for truth. This is one of the reasons why I like Piper so much. But I'll also remind you that God does the same (looks at the heart even if their theology is out of sync) for the Calvinist.

There are more and less virulent forms of articulated non-reliance on God for the gift of faith.

Pelagianism says that our will is free to will our faith and not so enslaved that we need any divine assistance to do so.

If I remember correctly, Pelagianism doesn't believe that man is born in sin. It truly is heresy, but the Calvinist likes to promote heresy by identification here.

Arminianism in its popular form (most of evangelicalism) says we are unable without divine assistance to believe, because we are dead in trespasses and sins, but God gives assistance to all, making it possible for us to believe but not bringing us to believe. That is left for our decisive determination. At that point we are ultimately self-determining.

Pelagianism has historically been regarded as such a virulent form of self-reliance and such a virulent assault on grace that it is considered heresy in the sense that to truly hold it damns. That is, it stretches charitable judgment to the breaking point if one attempts to say that the heart is truly reliant on God in salvation when the mind is saying that there is no need of divine grace in the use of the will to believe.

Arminianism/Wesleyanism recognizes more truth about our sinful and helpless condition apart from grace, and gives more credit to grace, but stumbles intellectually over the implications of sovereign grace. It cannot bring itself to embrace the apparent implications of faith as a gift of God, namely, unconditional election. It appears to them unjust and unloving. Historically charitable view of a good heart behind this mistaken theology have been encouraged.

I'm not sure about the phrase "stumbles intellectually." Something I have noticed about many of my Calvinist Friends - they are brilliant. I mean that. They are incredibly bright, smart and gifted. But if these truths about sovereign grace - as they define them - are so obvious, why is most of the evangelical world Arminian? Would not the Spirit make these things known to more of the church? Just thinking out loud here. I'm sure there is a flaw in my reasoning, but it has often troubled me that it's only the "gifted" ones who seem to "get" this system.

Unconditional Election to me does appear as unjust and unloving, but more importantly it appears to be un-biblical. Again, I don't think this is a core component to the gospel.

I am appreciative of the "charitable view" of a good heart and I hope that Arminians will extend the same to their Calvinist Brethren.

This is where it gets tough...

But how should we regard these errors in relationship to the teaching office of the church and other institutions?

Here’s my rule of thumb: the more responsible a person is to shape the thoughts of others about God, the less Arminianism should be tolerated. Therefore church members should not be excommunicated for this view but elders and pastors and seminary and college teachers should be expected to hold the more fully biblical view of grace.

Do you separate from a denomination that allows pastors and seminary teachers to believe and teach this error? You can. We do. Oh, how we need discernment concerning how helpful you might be to the cause of Christ and his truth.

What exactly is this error. Is this a misunderstanding of a non-fundamental issue. Or is this preaching and teaching a false gospel? I hope my Calvinist friends see it as the former. To say that Arminians are teaching a false gospel is to fight your family. Please cease the friendly fire.

I heartily agree with the end of Piper's message. And I want to say that I believe that an Arminian can be a Christian Hedonist too!

Here anything can be a denial of the gospel if you put anything as the treasure that Christ died to bring you above God himself. Christ died to give you Christ, ultimately.

Not ultimately prosperity, health, wealth, self-esteem, family, successful church, reunion with deceased loved ones, lawful behavior, forgiveness of sins, removal of wrath, removal of guilt, escape from hell or anything else.

He died so that you might see and be everlastingly and increasingly satisfied in all that God is for us in Christ.

This is where we must take people. Anything short of this goal is falling short of the gospel, and the reason Christ died and rose again.

My disclaimer: I am not one of the brilliant, gifted ones. No false humility here, my gifts and desires are of a much more practical nature. But if you are interested in further understanding the modern Arminian position by some brilliant, gifted men, you will want to read after people like Robert Picirilli, F. Leroy Forlines and Matthew J. Pinson. You can check out the "Further Reading" Section on Arminianism from Wikipedia.

2 comments:

Christina M said...

I liked reading both of the "Don't Shoot Me" posts. Going to a traditional Baptist school, I find myself to be one of the few arminians. It is defintely a great experience, though, because I can see more where Calvinists come from and why think as they do Although they still haven't "converted" me to their beliefs ;) I would type more here, but I think I have too much to say about this issue. Although, I will say this: you are right, we should band together as believers.

Travis Penn said...

I'm sorry about the length of this post, but as you can see, I have a lot to say about this issue too.

:)

I really enjoyed going to Mid America Seminary. I found some good friends there, and one of my better friends from there is a strong Calvinist. He helped remind me to keep God at the center, not man. I think I reminded him that maybe everything wasn't as cut and dry as some made their "system" out to be.

I would just encourage you to always be thoroughly biblical and to work hard at doing as much "living-out" as thinking about the gospel.