Calvinism and Arminianism 40

“This false idea of ‘free-will’ is a real threat to salvation, and a delusion fraught with the most perilous consequences” (Luther).

A modern editor of Luther’s great work underscores this fact: ‘Whoever puts this book down without having realized that evangelical theology stands or falls with the doctrine of the bondage of the will has read it in vain.’

The subject of free-will is, as it were, the connecting link between the doctrines of original sin and of divine grace—between man’s natural condition as fallen, involved in guilt and depravity, and the way in which they are restored to favor, to holiness, and happiness… And regarding the subject in this light, they [the Reformers] were unanimous in asserting it as a doctrine of Scripture, that the will of man is in entire bondage with respect to spiritual things, because of his depravity,—that fallen man, antecedently to the operation of divine grace, while perfectly free to will and to do evil, has no freedom of will by which he can do anything really good, or dispose or prepare himself for turning from sin and for receiving the grace of God. This was the doctrine of all the Reformers,–it is embodied in all the Reformed Confessions,–and is fully and explicitly set forth in the Confession of our own Church; and this, and this alone, is what the Reformers and the Reformed Confessions mean when, upon scriptural grounds, they deny to men, as they are, all freedom or liberty of will,–when they assert the entire servitude or bondage of the will of unrenewed men in reference to anything spiritually good.          William Cunningham

The effort in this series of postings was to set forth what men believed about free-will at the time of the Reformation and among those who followed them shortly after. We live in a day where things have changed, but not just changed but are virtually in a direct contradiction to what the Reformers believed. At some point those in the modern day must wake up and realize that despite the fact that they may think of themselves as Reformed and even have the Reformed creeds, they don’t follow the Reformers in this crucial and even critical area. The Reformers thought of the bound will as at the heart of biblical Christianity and a belief in free-will was to be something other than a biblical Christian. That has changed.

In the past grace was thought of as sovereign because God was and is sovereign as opposed to being something that man could obtain by an act of his own will. Today, it appears that as long as people preach Christ in some way that they are thought to be orthodox enough. But can one preach the true Christ without preaching Him as King over His people and as One who rescues them from the dominion of darkness by His power and will alone? Can the true Christ be preached without preaching that true faith must come from Him rather than the person’s own will and power? Can the true Christ be preached apart from teaching that regeneration is His sovereign work rather than God’s response to an act of man’s free-will? Can the true Christ be preached apart from declaring that His blood alone (apart from an act of the free-will) is what cleanses from sin? Can the true Christ be preached apart from declaring that all true love comes through Him and cannot be an act of the free-will?

The state of Christianity, if it can be put that way, is far removed from the strong preaching of Christ and the sovereign grace of God as was preached during the Reformation. There is a different Gospel being preached today since the older Gospel depended on the sovereign grace of God to do all and change man from a free-will state to a state of grace. The gospel (so-called) today is one that looks to man to make a choice as if all depends on what man does. In our day we have techniques and methods of evangelism in order to get results. In the old days men preached the Gospel of God knowing that the Gospel was the power of God for salvation. Oh how things have changed from a powerful God-centeredness to a weak and inept man-centeredness.

While it seems mean to focus on Arminianism and free-will to many people today, it is actually cruel not to take a stand on the issue. If Luther was correct on the Gospel, then Arminianism is at best a serious threat to the Gospel. If Luther was not correct on the Gospel, then let us denounce him and say that he was in error. But if we are not willing to say that Luther was wrong on what the Gospel was and is, then we must be prepared to stand up by grace against the modern trends of Arminianism (if not outright Pelagianism) as wrong and even as opposed to the true Gospel of grace alone. Those who are comfortable with a blending of Reformed thought and Arminianism have yet to realize that they would be denounced by Luther as returning to the foundation of Rome. It is really that simple and it is really that clear. Many must take a stand at some point or the true Gospel that has virtually disappeared in our land in this day (as God’s judgment) will indeed disappear as the judgment of God continues.

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