Calvinism and Arminianism 14

One of the greatest differences between the evangelical Calvinists and those they deride as “Hyper-calvinists,” is the evangelical Calvinists believe Arminians and Pelagians are otherwise sound “Christians,” and refer to them as their brothers and sisters. The Hyper-calvinists believe that as long as one is unconverted from his natural freewill state by the operation of the Spirit of God, and converted to the free grace of God by the Gospel of the grace of God, there is insufficient evidence to consider such as a “Christian,” or a “brother or sister.” This is not to say that they consign them to hell–that is not their desire, for by their own experience they understand that before that gracious divine call out of darkness, they, too, were “vessels of wrath even as others.” Arminians and Pelagians are as much in need for the gospel as any “heathen” or pagan. Calvinists would do well to “evangelize” their Arminian or Pelagian “brothers and sisters.”
To the Reformers, the crucial question was not simply, whether God justifies believers without works of Law. It was the broader question, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith. Here was the crucial issue; whether God is the author, not merely of justification, but also of faith; whether, in the last analysis, Christianity is a religion of utter reliance on God for salvation and all things necessary to it, or of self-reliance and self-effort. ‘Justification by faith only’ is a truth that needs interpretation. The principle of sola fide is not rightly understood till it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia (Johnson & Packer’s intro to Luther’s Bondage of the Will).

What we must come to grips with is that the Gospel is not primarily about man, but is almost exclusively about the glory of God. While man receives great benefit from the Gospel, the Gospel is all about the wonder and glory of God’s grace in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit. As long as people focus on what they can do and focus on what they think that God has left for them to do, they will not be focused on grace alone, Christ alone, and the glory of God alone in the true Gospel of faith alone. The state of the autonomous will or the self-sufficient will or the free-will is one that man is saved from as opposed to using it to be saved. There may indeed be, and in fact certainly appears to actually be, something that tends to be Hyper-Calvinism. But that is quite a different thing than saying that all those (most?) accused of that are other than historical Calvinists who hold to the fact that the Gospel is monergistic (one worker) and are stridently opposed to the synergism (working together) of the vast majority today. The Gospel of grace alone is under attack at this very vital point.

Most in the modern day (within conservative Christianity) would agree that justification is by faith alone, or would agree that sinners are justified by faith alone. Most in the modern day (within conservative Christianity) would also agree that sinners are justified by grace alone and Christ alone. However, without knowing it or perhaps meaning to, it seems that virtually all are either adding one work or a few works to the Gospel and few are objecting to that. Monergism teaches that not only does God justify sinners apart from their works, but that the entire and whole work is His. Arminian teaching may not specifically deny that in theory or in words, but in reality the Arminian theology is built around a free-will that is free of depravity (to some degree) and free from grace. It has to be free from those or it could not be free at all and the choice would then be God’s.

The justification of sinners has to be without and apart from all works of the sinner in fact and not just in words. So when the Arminian position says that man has free-will and must exercise that free-will to make a free-choice so that God will save him, that is adding the work of faith and the work of the will to salvation and as such they have made faith out to be a work and mixed it with the Gospel. This is to say that their position demands them to look to self for faith which then makes faith a work of self as opposed to being the work of the grace of God. As the quote by Packer and Johnson point out above, this is utterly crucial. It is at the point of the will where we can see whether people really believe that man is dead in sins and trespasses and by nature is a child of wrath. It is at the point of the will where we can see whether men believe that God saves sinners by His grace alone and that to do so He is sovereign in that and He gives faith to the soul. This is the point where we see whether men will side with the supposed ability and freedom of man or with the freedom and ability of God. This is the point where we see whether men will adore free and sovereign grace or whether they will fight to retain some power for men who are dead in sins and trespasses. This is vital and eternally serious.

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