Archive for the ‘Calvinism and Arminianism’ Category

Calvinism and Arminianism 30

January 8, 2015

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

Is our salvation wholly of God, or does it ultimately depend on something that we do for ourselves? Those who deny the latter (as the Arminians later did) thereby deny man’s utter helplessness in sin, and affirm that a form of semi-Pelagianism is true after all. It is no wonder, then, that later Reformed theology condemned Arminianism as being in principle a return to Rome (because in effect it turned faith into a meritorious work) and a betrayal of the Reformation (because it denied the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, which was the deepest religious and theological principle of the Reformer’s thought). Arminianism was, indeed, in Reformed eyes a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favour of New Testament Judaism; for to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle from relying on oneself for works, and the one is as un-Christian and anti-Christian as the other (Johnson and Packer’s introduction to Luther’s Bondage of the Will).

If the Arminian position is true, then God has done all He can and salvation ultimately depends on something we do (make a choice, pray a prayer), then salvation does not ultimately depend on the sovereign grace of God and so is a work. If one understands that salvation depends on the will of God and is all to the glory of His grace, then one will turn from salvation as ultimately depending on the will of man as poison to the Gospel of grace alone. It is only when one sees it in this light, however, that one can understand that Reformed theologians and pastors just shortly after the Reformation say that Arminianism was essentially a return to Rome. This is hard, but it is something that people must come to grips with in the depths of their souls.

The reason that the Reformed theologians and pastors thought that Arminianism was a return to Rome was because it turns faith into a meritorious work in a sense. As stated in previous posts on this subject, the doctrine of free-will is like the tip of the iceberg. People only see the tip and they don’t see the massive amount of ice below the surface. The doctrine of “free-will” was seen as part and parcel of adding works to salvation, a denial of justification by grace alone, and in direct conflict with the sovereign grace of God. While it may not seem like such a big deal to the professing Reformed in the modern day, but the sovereignty of grace was a vital part of the Reformation and cutting it out of its supreme place is to cut the heart out of justification by faith alone as set out by the Luther and the Reformers. Packer and Johnson set out that the sovereignty of God in salvation was “the deepest religious and theological principle of the Reformer’s thought.” If that is correct, and I am not sure how it could be denied, it should be clear that the setting out of “free-will” is an idea that is in direct conflict (and contradictory) with the deepest religious and theological principle of the Reformation.

The doctrine of the sovereign grace of God in the salvation of sinners is under girded and supported with links that cannot be broken to a massive theology. As Jesus Christ is the manifestation and revelation of God, so the Gospel of grace alone is the brightest point at which Christ is the revelation of God. The Gospel is not just some little message that a person must intellectually agree to, but instead the whole weight of the character of God and of the Messiah Himself are displayed in this. The teaching of free-will, when it is seen as the tip of an iceberg with a massive theology under it, will be seen as two icebergs of thought and theology colliding. It is not just that free-will contradicts free and sovereign grace, but the teachings that support them and that they are connected to cannot be reconciled either.

If the Reformers were correct in believing and saying that sovereign grace was the heart of New Testament Christianity, then we can see how they saw that a belief in free-will was nothing more than a renunciation of New Testament Christianity and a return to New Testament Judaism which was what Roman Catholicism was and is. The doctrine of free-will is not just some little bit of difference between the Arminian and historical Calvinism, it is a direct contradiction upon the most essential points. Not just the doctrine alone either, but the massive amount of theology below the water is also at odds with historical Calvinism as well. To put in bluntly, Arminianism is a direct attack on the Gospel of grace alone which is built on God showing mercy to whom He would show mercy and His being gracious to whom He would be gracious to. It is man deciding who God will have mercy on and man deciding whom God will be gracious to. In other words, it really destroys the biblical teaching on grace.

Calvinism and Arminianism 29

January 7, 2015

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

Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God (A.W. Tozer).

In the last post (Calvinism and Arminianism 28), one of the main points that was made was that what is called or thought to be Arminianism today is really a form of if not actual Pelagianism. It was also said that much that appears Reformed or Calvinistic today is closer to historical Arminianism than the teaching of the Reformers. But again, the real issue has to do what the Bible really teaches. Going along with what the Bible really teaches regarding the depravity of man and as such man’s inclination to deceive himself, the quote from Tozer is like an arrow to the heart of the situation at hand. Regardless of our creed and what we profess to believe, our hearts may have an enmity against the real God and try to hide that enmity toward Him with creedal statements.

This is not a post on the evils of creeds since I would assert that creeds can be helpful and in some ways necessary. However, there are dangers that come with holding any creed. As with anything religious, it can be used to comfort our hearts in self-righteousness and a spur to the pride that we are all born with and never fully escape. The human heart is so full of pride and self that it takes the actual working of grace and not just the teaching about grace to escape it. The proud heart of man can take anything and make it a matter of pride and self. Apart from the humility that grace works in the soul of a converted human being, there is nothing that can overcome the avalanche of pride in a person’s heart. But even after conversion, there is still pride in the human heart and it is always something that the soul will battle with.

The human soul has a deeply seated set of beliefs or at least feelings that are the deepest parts of the soul and from which the thoughts, desires, motives, intents, and actions come from. The heart of man has many twists and deep labyrinths that deceive the person as to what his or her actual beliefs and loves are. This shows us, at least to some degree, that the human soul can take a creedal statement and want to believe it for the wrong reasons. We can believe a creed, though we may interpret it wrongly. We can believe a creed in an intellectual sense and yet not believe it from the depths of our heart.

If we believe that the human heart is as depraved and helpless to self and pride as the historical creeds assert, then we should know that we can have a profession of faith in accordance with the creed and yet our hearts hate the truths of God that the creed actually teaches. This is to say that our real battle is for our hearts and not just for a set of intellectual beliefs. The real issue is the deepest beliefs and loves of our hearts which is the real “us.” It is not as simple as professing a creed, but it does take a lot of prayer and searching of the heart to get to the real root of our beliefs and loves since the deepest aspect of us is hidden from our casual looks at self. Pride makes us look at self and find what we want to find. Self will make us look at self and defend self at all times and all ways.

In the context of the discussion concerning Calvinism and Arminianism, Tozer’s statement is very helpful. Not all who think of themselves as Calvinists are really Calvinists and not all who think of themselves as Arminian are really Arminian. In our day of shallow theology and skin-deep religion, a person’s words may not mean much in terms of accuracy in the modern day. People can hold to the most orthodox creeds in word and yet hate the God that the creed actually teaches.

While true and historic Calvinism may be professed in creed, a person may hate the God that historic Calvinism proclaimed. Even more, one can hold to a creed or a historical position as a doctrinal position and yet reject that position in the heart and as such have a practice that contradicts the theological position. This is where many problems are located. One can have an intellectual position and yet want to be part of a group or denomination in the deepest part of the heart and so will have a practical position that contradicts the theological one. The Arminian position is dangerous (if not more so) in the practical position and not just the theory. It is the practical position of the Arminian when applied to evangelism that is so destructive. It is also the practical position of the Arminian that seems to have swallowed up historic Calvinism and that is also true of the professing Reformed today. Our hearts and practice must bow to God and His sovereignty and not just the head.

Calvinism and Arminianism 28

January 6, 2015

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

“Till you feel yourself in this extremity of weakness, you are not in a condition (if I may say so) to receive the heavenly help. Your idea of remaining ability is the very thing that repels the help of the Spirit, just as any idea of remaining goodness thrusts away the propitiation of the Savior. It is your not seeing that you have no strength that is keeping you from believing” (Pink).

The issues involved in the differences between historical Calvinism and historical Arminianism get to the real issues at hand and show that this should not be a matter of party spirit. The deepest issue has to do with God and His glory in Christ Jesus, and the next issue is very related and that is the Gospel of grace itself. More than some historical war over words and theology, we are dealing with issues what is it that undermines the Gospel of grace alone. For example, Roger Olson, in his book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, says that he is a historical Arminian and wants to correct what people are saying about it. The quote that follows is from his book.

“One of the most prevalent myths spread by some Calvinists about Arminianism is that it is the most popular type of theology in evangelical pulpits and pews. My experience contradicts this belief. Much depends on how we regard Arminian theology. The Calvinist critics would be correct if Arminianism were semi-Pelagianism. But it is not, as I hope to show. The gospel preached and the doctrine of salvation taught in most evangelical pulpits and lecterns, and believed in most evangelical pews, is not classical Arminianism but semi-Pelagianism if not outright Pelagianism. What is the difference? Nazarene theological Wiley correctly defines semi-Pelagianism by saying, “It held that there was sufficient power remaining in the depraved will to initiate or set in motion the beginnings of salvation but not enough to bring it to completion. This must be done by divine grace.””…“Arminianism is almost totally unknown, let alone believed, in popular evangelical Christianity. One purpose of this book is to overcome this deficit.

This quote should be read across our land. Olson says that Arminianism is almost totally unknown in what we think of as popular evangelical Christianity. Instead of Arminianism being proclaimed, it is Pelagianism of some variety. This is vitally important. It would appear, from other places in Olson’s book, that he would agree with the quotes of Luther and Pink above. It is vital to note that the vast majority of what passes as Arminianism in our day is really Pelagianism. When the professing Reformed of our day want to extend the hand of fellowship to modern evangelicals that are identified as Arminian, most likely they are taking the hands of Pelagians. This requires a lot of discernment, seeking the Lord wisely, and seeking the wisdom of the Lord in prayer.

This is not to say that Olson is the standard of orthodoxy, but simply to note that historical Arminianism may not be the same brand or content of modern Arminianism. Modern Arminianism is, as Olson notes, a form of Pelagianism, yet we don’t have the discernment to notice that. It may also be the case that since modern Arminianism is really Pelagianism, that a lot of modern Calvinism could be little more than a practical historical Arminianism. If a person could truly be a historical Arminian and think of himself as a Calvinist, then it is no wonder that he would think of historical Calvinists as Hyper-Calvinists.

Whatever the historical and honored tag we put on a position, we must realize that God and His glory are the real issues. We must never let go of the sovereign grace of God and we must never let go of the deadness and inability of man in spiritual things. It is true that a party spirit can grab our proud hearts and we will fight for our side (so to speak), but that must not be where we ultimately come down. The Gospel of the glory of God by grace alone is what we must hold to and fight for. Regardless of what people call themselves, they may be deceived about that. Men must really have the real God and they must be saved by the real Gospel of the real God regardless of what they call themselves. As those who have been regenerated by grace alone and becoming temples of the living God by grace alone, we must learn to be careful with those around us and not just go by the titles people use. While Marx said that religion was the opiate of the masses and meant that in one sense, it is true in some ways. People do use religion to make feel good about themselves and they are deceived by religious trappings. Being brought to God by grace alone is the only way to come to Him and the only way to know Him and His presence is by a real grace and not one that is diluted by human efforts and works.

Calvinism and Arminianism 27

January 5, 2015

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

“Till you feel yourself in this extremity of weakness, you are not in a condition (if I may say so) to receive the heavenly help. Your idea of remaining ability is the very thing that repels the help of the Spirit, just as any idea of remaining goodness thrusts away the propitiation of the Savior. It is your not seeing that you have no strength that is keeping you from believing” (Pink).

In the quotes above, Luther, Pink, and the top quote get at the real issue. If it is true that a person that believes in the free-will regarding salvation is in a “natural freewill state” and the opposite of that is a state of grace, then we must see that the doctrine of “free-will” is not just a slight error, but instead is at the heart of the Gospel. If Luther was correct about the false idea of “free-will” being a real threat to salvation, then we must not be so squeamish about standing for the Gospel being a change from free-will to free-grace. If it is true that our idea of remaining ability is the very think that repels the work of the Spirit, then we must wake up and realize that those who teach free-will and those who do not openly and strongly oppose it are not teaching the Gospel of grace alone in truth. One cannot teach the Gospel of grace alone in truth apart from teaching the inability of man in all things spiritual and the Spirit as regenerating dead sinners as He pleases apart from anything they can do to assist.

The doctrine of man’s inability is not just some creedal statement that can be safely ignored, but instead it is at the heart of the Gospel of grace alone. To the degree that man has ability in the spiritual realm is the degree that the Gospel is not of grace alone. Romans 11:6 speaks to this with great clarity. “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” Grace must stand alone or it is no longer grace. Anything the will can do (apart from grace) as a response to an invitation or command is an act in obedience to the Law and as such is a work. But we are told that the souls are justified apart from works of the Law and by grace alone. The doctrine of justification by grace alone will not stand with the action of a free-will that operates in its own strength and is moved to act by a command or God to believe. That is, without a real question, a work of the flesh/Law.

The teaching of free-will is a real threat to the Gospel precisely because it keeps men from being humbled beyond all their own powers and looking to grace alone. Instead of that, it keeps men looking to themselves for an act that God will respond to in order to save the soul. This is very dangerous to the Gospel of grace alone. When men think that Arminian teaching on free-will does not at the least have a danger of perilous consequences, it may be the case that they don’t understand that the Gospel of grace alone does not allow for a person to exercise a free-will because that is a work of the flesh. The act or choice of the will that is free of grace, which the will must be in order to be free, is an act or choice of the flesh and as such it depends on an act of the flesh rather than grace. That is not a Gospel of grace alone.

The error of teaching that depends on free-will does indeed have perilous consequences. We must see these differences and instead of trying to be gracious and winsome to those who differ from us on things we don’t see as a necessity, we must try to show them that their depending on the free-will is a deviation from the Gospel of grace alone. Scripture sets out for us so clearly that sinners are saved by grace alone and yet the free-will position (either actual position or tolerance for it) will not allow for a Gospel of grace alone. The Scripture is so clear that God saves sinners to the glory of His grace and not the glory of His grace and man’s free-will. God will not share His glory with another and He will not share the glory of the Gospel of grace alone with the supposed free-will of men. Modern preachers (whether professing Reformed or Arminian) point men to make choices when they should point men to God and His grace alone. Men must receive all from God and not trust in themselves at all.

Calvinism and Arminianism 26

December 29, 2014

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

“Till you feel yourself in this extremity of weakness, you are not in a condition (if I may say so) to receive the heavenly help. Your idea of remaining ability is the very thing that repels the help of the Spirit, just as any idea of remaining goodness thrusts away the propitiation of the Savior. It is your not seeing that you have no strength that is keeping you from believing” (Pink).

If the three quotes from above are taken as accurately representing the state of man in his depravity and inability and the absolute need for the grace of God to work alone and unaided, we can see that Luther is correct and that idea of ‘free-will’ is indeed a threat to salvation and is a delusion (deception of the devil) that has the most perilous of consequences. Each soul hangs upon a slender thread over the pit of hell and it cannot look to its own will for help in the matter, but instead it must look to grace alone for help.

As long as people look to their ‘free-will’ for help, they are not looking to anything that can help. Instead of looking to Christ alone by grace alone for the only true help for the soul, the attention of these people is diverted by looking to themselves and the ability of their own wills. This is a great danger. It is looking from the only real power (Christ and His grace) that can help to that which has no power or ability to help at all. Not only does the will not have any ability or power or life to help, by looking to it and trusting in the delusion of help it offers one is trusting in something that keeps them from looking to what can bring real help.

The doctrine of ‘free-will’ is not just a doctrine as such, but when people believe that they have such a will that has power to believe in Christ, they will wait until the last moment or a moment of their own choosing to be saved. Instead of seeking the Lord who gives grace as He pleases and to whom He pleases, they look to themselves to be saved as they please and when they are pleased. This is as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and free-grace alone as one can get. The soul that looks to its own will is in reality looking to its own will to apply grace to itself instead of looking to God alone who can give grace. This should show us that the ‘free-will’ teaching is in reality opposed to the truth of ‘free-grace’ and that there is no ground at all in the middle between the two. It is either ‘free-will’ alone or it is free-grace alone. It is either the sovereignty of the will or the sovereignty of God.

The two beliefs are really like the tips of icebergs that have a lot below the surface. The two tips cannot come together because of a lot of other things below the surface. These two systems of belief cannot be reconciled and it is simply and plainly one or the other. The glorious reality of justification by grace alone will not allow one single act of the “free-will” as that would be a work and a “free-will” cannot admit of a free-grace which saves as it pleases apart from any and all works of men. But again, these two are as opposite to each other as fire and water. You cannot have a large amount of both in the same place at the same time.

It is true that we live in a day where people are always trying to reconcile beliefs and belief systems, and for some reason many are trying to reconcile ‘free-will’ and free-grace. While the efforts of many nice, gracious, and winsome people are aimed at doing this very thing, the only reconciliation with God is when a person is translated from a ‘free-will’ (based on the work of self) system to free-grace (based on the work of God). But again, the two beliefs are at the heads (so to speak) of two belief systems and the two beliefs cannot be reconciled to each other without demolishing the belief systems that they are built on. Both cannot be true despite all the efforts of modern Erasmus’ to do so. It is when people prefer a unity built on a house of cards rather than truth that these things are thought to be accomplished. How we need a new Reformation in our day!

Calvinism and Arminianism 25

December 28, 2014

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.”

“Till you feel yourself in this extremity of weakness, you are not in a condition (if I may say so) to receive the heavenly help. Your idea of remaining ability is the very thing that repels the help of the Spirit, just as any idea of remaining goodness thrusts away the propitiation of the Savior. It is your not seeing that you have no strength that is keeping you from believing” (Pink).

The idea of “free-will” sounds so attractive to the natural man and it seems to relieve the tension of many problems, but that is only apparent. Why does this sound or appear so attractive to the natural man? Because it makes it appear that men are not totally dead in sin and that the time and the final choice of salvation is left up to them. The natural man cannot seem to reconcile that the Bible has many commands to man with the teaching that man has no ability to keep the commands. But the natural man wants to be in control and to decide things for himself. The natural man wants to do things according to his own reason and power. However, as Pink shows in the quote above, until a person comes to see just how weak s/he is, which is to say that we have no strength at all, the idea of having ability repels the work of the Holy Spirit and of the Great Physician. The idea that man has even just a little goodness will keep Christ away and when Christ is kept away His propitiatory work is kept away.

Luther was so clear that until a man arrived at the point of utter helplessness and gave up any hope in his own will he was not ready for salvation. Pink makes the same point when he says that it is man’s not seeing that he has no strength at all that keeps him from believing. The idea of man’s utter inability is not attractive to unregenerate sinners, but it is an important teaching that the true teaching of justification by faith alone is built on. It is what proud sinners need to come to an understanding of and to arrive at a “felt” awareness of it. This is not to say that they must have high and exalted feelings about it, but that their awareness must move beyond a simple intellectual awareness of the teaching. It is only when sinners come to a deeper awareness of their inability and know that they can do nothing in the spiritual realm that they will begin to look to Christ to do it all. When the Gospel of Christ alone teaches us that Christ alone saves, this should make us know that true faith must come from Christ and it must rest in Christ alone.

Surely the great problem with Pelagian/Arminian teaching at this point should come into light. By definition the Pelagian/Arminian teaching does not teach men that they are utterly helpless, but that it remains up to them to make that final choice and that they make that choice of their own “free-will.” It seems that the vast majority of the Reformed today don’t see that as a problem and so they simply see Pelagian/Arminian teaching as an error, but they don’t see it as a deadly error. They see it as something of a problem, but they don’t see it as an error of another gospel. But the truth of the matter is that this is a vital point of distinction that shows how far the Reformed in our day is from the Reformed of older times.

If a crucial issue is the will, then it is crucial to make people aware of their sin and of their inability in order for them to see the true nature of the Gospel. The Pelagian/Arminian may instruct men to some degree that they are sinners, but they will not instruct men about sin enough to show them that they are dead in sin and must look to Christ alone. Instead, they will instruct men enough to show them that they need a Savior and yet tell men that the final choice is to made of their own “free-will.”

The older Reformed method was to teach men that they were dead and had no ability to save themselves but that they needed to look to God to give them life in their soul so that they could believe in Christ alone. The modern Reformed practice is more like the Arminian in that they seem to simply try to get men to believe and to pray a prayer. This practice, regardless of what a person may profess to believe, is simply nothing more than what the Pelagian/Arminian view and is in accordance with the Pelagian/Arminian doctrine of free-will. When those with the Pelagian/Arminian view accuse those with the historical Calvinist view of being a Hyper-Calvinist, the real issue is that the professing Reformed person is evangelizing according to the Pelagian/Arminian doctrine and is not Reformed at that point. It seems as if the older Reformed view on the issue has been virtually lost.

Calvinism and Arminianism 24

December 27, 2014

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.”

So it is not irreligious, idle, or superfluous, but in the highest degree wholesome and necessary, for a Christian to know whether of not his will has anything to do in matters pertaining to salvation. Indeed, let me tell you, this is the hinge on which our discussion turns, the crucial issue between us; our aim is, simply, to investigate what ability ‘free-will’ has, in what respect it is the subject of Divine action and how it stands related to the grace of God. If we know nothing of these things, we shall know nothing whatsoever of Christianity, and shall be in worse case than any people on earth…That God’s mercy works everything, and our will works nothing, but is rather the object of Divine working, else all will not be ascribed to God. (Luther’s Reply to Erasmus)

It is impossible to get around the thought of Luther as to how vital the doctrine of man’s inability and bondage was to him and his formulation of justification by faith alone. One simply has to conclude that Luther was incorrect or that our squeamishness about preaching and teaching on the inability of man was wrong. Corresponding to that, we would also have to conclude that Luther’s formulation of justification by faith alone was wrong as well. But if we arrive at those conclusions, it has major ramifications for the modern day. If Luther was indeed wrong, then the heart of the Reformation was wrong. But if Luther was right, we have deviated from his teaching so much that we would be condemned by him for virtually returning to Rome. But again, to repeat the point that has been stated in multiple recent BLOGS, Luther said that “if we know nothing of these things, we shall know nothing whatsoever of Christianity.” This should resound in our ears. Even more, however, Luther said that if we know nothing of these things we “shall be in worse case than any people on earth.” This should get our attention.

Are we truly missing the vital point or the crucial issue of the Gospel in our day? Are those who stress the inability of man and teach others that as an important part of understanding the Gospel of grace alone right instead of being Hyper-Calvinists? Could it be possible that the teachings and doctrines of Arminianism in our day should not be embraced as a version of Christianity but instead viewed as a deadly error? These are serious, serious issues and they should be viewed as if the weight of eternity rested upon them (in a sense).

While the teaching of the inability of man is seen as unimportant in evangelism today, it was vital to Luther and his views of the Gospel of grace alone. Luther thought it was vital to investigate what ability “free-will” had and how it was related to the Divine action and the grace of God. We must discover that once again if we are going to understand the Gospel as taught by Luther and the Gospel that swept through Europe and other parts of the world as well. It was that Gospel that change hearts, the Church, nations, and perhaps the world in that day. It was either the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ or it was not. Does God’s mercy work everything and our will work nothing as Luther said? Is our will the object of the Divine working or does God respond to our “free-will” as Luther taught? If our answer is less than it is the Divine working that does all, then all cannot be ascribed to God alone.

Luther took great pains in his life, writings, and preaching to protect and stress the sovereign grace of God because that is the only kind of grace there is. Sinners are saved by sovereign grace and that grace alone and we must fight and do all we do to protect the Gospel of grace alone because it alone declares this sovereign grace. Luther was like Paul when he said “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). The Gospel that is not of grace alone is not the Gospel of the grace of Christ and is a different gospel. If we preach, teach, and evangelize with a Gospel that is not by grace alone we have a different gospel. We have to wake up to this.

The Church needs a true reformation and revival in our day as well. It needs to be rescued and delivered from the Pelagian/Arminian teaching of “free-will” as badly as the Church needed to be rescued from Rome in Luther’s day. Unless God is pleased to open our eyes and hearts to the vital issue of the will and how it relates to the Gospel of grace alone, we will plod along arguing about our Confessions, the sacraments, and other things, but we will have no power and no light. We will continue to have many who are Reformed in word and creed but Pelagian in heart and practice. We will have many who will continue to espouse sovereignty in teaching but refuse it in practice. That is what we will have until people are awakened to what they give up when they accept “free-will” as anything other than dangerous to the Gospel of grace alone.

Calvinism and Arminianism 23

December 26, 2014

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.”

So it is not irreligious, idle, or superfluous, but in the highest degree wholesome and necessary, for a Christian to know whether of not his will has anything to do in matters pertaining to salvation. Indeed, let me tell you, this is the hinge on which our discussion turns, the crucial issue between us; our aim is, simply, to investigate what ability ‘free-will’ has, in what respect it is the subject of Divine action and how it stands related to the grace of God. If we know nothing of these things, we shall know nothing whatsoever of Christianity, and shall be in worse case than any people on earth…That God’s mercy works everything, and our will works nothing, but is rather the object of Divine working, else all will not be ascribed to God. (Luther’s Reply to Erasmus)

What follows below is from Ian Murray’s work on conversion in the writing of Thomas Hooker (http://www.the-highway.com/Hooker-on-Conversion_Murray.html)

Hooker saw the above as essential features in evangelistic preaching .and yet these truths alone by no means say everything which needs to be said about conversion. There are profounder elements still to be introduced and to these we now turn.

One, In conversion the human will is unswervingly hostile to Christ until it is renewed by the secret power of God. The will of the unregenerate man can turn in any direction except to Christ and to holiness. Certainly the man willing to believe the promises of God shall be saved but since the Fall such willingness was never found in any natural man:

The will of a natural man is the worst part about him. The worst thing he has, the greatest enemy he has, is his own heart and will. It is the corrupt will of a man that keeps him under the power of his sins, and keeps him off the power of an ordinance that would procure his everlasting good. I speak it the rather to dash that dream of wicked men, when they do ill, and speak ill, yet (say they), ‘my heart is good’. No, truly, if thy life be naught, thy heart is worse. It is the worst thing thou hast about thee … the deceitfulness of the heart is above all; the masterfulness of the heart is beyond all that we can conceive. A man may discern a man’s life, ‘but the heart is desperate deceitful, who can know it?’ The will of man is uncontrollable, it will stand out against all reasons and arguments, and nothing can move the will except God work upon it.

It has often been argued that to preach inability can be no part of evangelism as it must effectually paralyse any endeavour on the part of those who hear the message. But for Hooker anyone who so reasoned was displaying a seriously defective view of what, the gospel is intended to accomplish. If man only needed a change of status in the sight of God only needed to receive forgiveness—then silence about the real condition of the human will might be permissible but this is not all that man needs. To be saved his nature also must be renewed, his heart must be changed, and the sinful state of man’s will is one chief evidence of that necessity. To hide the real condition of man’s will is to ignore the foremost reason why regeneration is indispensable.

Hooker believed that the Scripture is clear in asserting what regeneration does. It is the act of God which, implanting a new principle of spiritual life, produces a new understanding and a new will, so that the person who is the subject of this act may truly be called ‘a new creature’. It is also an act of sovereign and almighty power, ‘wrought irresistibly, not issuing from the liberty of our choice, and therefore it is brought about by the irresistible impression of the work of the Spirit’. In regeneration ‘the soul behaves itself merely passively, and is wrought upon by an over-ruling power’.

Calvinism and Arminianism 22

December 25, 2014

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.”
So it is not irreligious, idle, or superfluous, but in the highest degree wholesome and necessary, for a Christian to know whether of not his will has anything to do in matters pertaining to salvation. Indeed, let me tell you, this is the hinge on which our discussion turns, the crucial issue between us; our aim is, simply, to investigate what ability ‘free-will’ has, in what respect it is the subject of Divine action and how it stands related to the grace of God. If we know nothing of these things, we shall know nothing whatsoever of Christianity, and shall be in worse case than any people on earth…That God’s mercy works everything, and our will works nothing, but is rather the object of Divine working, else all will not be ascribed to God. (Luther’s Reply to Erasmus)

Luther says that it is in the highest degree wholesome and necessary to know about the things of our will in matters pertaining to salvation. Yet in the modern day it is thought to be idle and superfluous to bring up matters of the will. So clearly we have Luther and the magisterial reformers standing strongly for teaching about the will in matters of salvation while those in the modern day think that it is idle or superfluous. The evangelism of our day simply teaches men to know a few things and then to make a decision or pray a prayer. But if we don’t teach people about the nature of the will, then those people will be making decisions and praying prayers from the flesh and there is nothing in the flesh that can please God. That leaves people thinking that they are converted when in fact they are still children of the devil on their way to hell, though just a bit more religious.
Modern evangelism, since it does not instruct people about the bondage of the will, leads people into thinking that salvation has little to do with God’s actions now. It leads people to thinking that God has done all He can or at least all He is going to do and it is up to them now. The way that the Puritan fathers practiced evangelism was to tell people that they could not believe unless God granted it to them by grace. They were instructed to seek the Lord asking Him to give them new hearts which would be hearts that believed. The differences between these ways are enormous, yet one relies on man and his so-called “free-will” and the other relied upon God and His sovereign will and pleasure. To repeat, yet a very necessary emphasis, Luther said that a person that did not know of these things (the ability of God and the inability of man in the matters of the will) knew nothing whatsoever of Christianity. This should be a bomb going off in the “evangelical” and “Reformed” world of today which seemingly refuses to teach people of these things.
Putting the first quote at the top of this page together with the thoughts of Luther, we should be concerned that professing Arminians (who are most likely Pelagians in reality) know nothing of Christianity since they are apparently unconcerned and not taught regarding things of the will. In our day we are far more concerned with being gracious and winsome so we can convince people to make a decision than we are to instruct them in the things that Luther tells us are the “highest degree wholesome and necessary to know about.” Could it be that the modern day Reformed folks have also gotten away from the heart of the biblical teaching of justification by faith alone with has to do with the bondage of the will? Could it be, that despite having more and more people becoming confessional, that more and more people are ignoring what is the “highest degree wholesome and necessary to know about” according to Luther? Can we really believe justification by faith alone as Luther taught it if we ignore what he thought was in the highest degree necessary to knowing true Christianity? I fear we are in a day of great darkness and judgment as indeed books from scholars with great learning in many things pour from the presses.

Calvinism and Arminianism 21

December 24, 2014

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.”
So it is not irreligious, idle, or superfluous, but in the highest degree wholesome and necessary, for a Christian to know whether of not his will has anything to do in matters pertaining to salvation. Indeed, let me tell you, this is the hinge on which our discussion turns, the crucial issue between us; our aim is, simply, to investigate what ability ‘free-will’ has, in what respect it is the subject of Divine action and how it stands related to the grace of God. If we know nothing of these things, we shall know nothing whatsoever of Christianity, and shall be in worse case than any people on earth…That God’s mercy works everything, and our will works nothing, but is rather the object of Divine working, else all will not be ascribed to God. (Luther’s Reply to Erasmus)

How important is it for souls to know about the bondage of the will and whether God works faith in the sinner or waits for the sinner to obtain faith by self? According to Luther, it is in the highest degree necessary. While it appears that the vast majority of “Reformed” people want this great doctrine hidden as if they are ashamed of it, Luther thought it was not only necessary, but necessary in the highest degree. While “Reformed” people just urge people to believe in our day, that is not what Luther would urge people to do. If we just urge people to believe, we are not telling them that if their belief of faith comes from themselves and is worked up by themselves, then that is not true faith. There is nothing that the flesh can do that is acceptable to God and a faith worked up by the flesh is certainly not acceptable to God. The Arminian needs to know that just because s/he believes from his or he supposed free-will is not just a sign that the person is wrong about theology, but is unconverted.
Well, some will say, that is mighty arrogant and judgmental. I would respond that the statement is either true or false regardless of my level of arrogance. As far as arrogance goes, however, when God says that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy and He will be gracious to whom He will be gracious, it is arrogant to say in word or theology that God will be gracious to me because I have decided that I want grace. The Scriptures are very, very clear that man is born dead in sins and trespasses and by nature is a child of wrath. The Scriptures are also clear that God must draw a person to Himself to be converted rather than a person just deciding to be saved. The Scriptures are quite clear that salvation is only by Christ and as such it is not just a choice of a fleshly will. The Scriptures are clear that regeneration and the new birth are an act of the Holy Spirit which He does as He pleases and not just an act of a fleshly will.
It is to the highest degree necessary for men and women to know that they have no ability to save themselves and their wills have no ability just to make a choice or say a prayer which moves God to save them. But if Luther thought it was to the highest degree necessary for people to know about the nature of their bound will and that it was a necessary teaching to understand justification by faith alone, then why are so many “Reformed” people in our day virtually ashamed of it? Luther said that if a person did not know about these things the person would not know about Christianity. Luther was either right or wrong about this and he was either right or wrong about justification by faith alone as he set it out. His view on justification was that it required men to see their helplessness in sin and of the sovereignty of God in showing grace. It is not enough to know a few doctrinal facts about justification, one must actually repent of trusting in self and actually look to God and His grace alone for faith and all things regarding salvation. We cannot look to self for faith and then to God for other things and say with any degree of consistency that we are justified by grace alone. Perhaps Luther was right about this being necessary to the highest degree. But if so, we are in a day of great darkness.