A Classical Arminian Doctrine of Sin: Select Bibliography

In recent times, Arminianism has been typically caricatured by the Reformed as a form of Semi-Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagians have an optimistic view of fallen human nature. Humans beings retain some moral or spiritual good in them, and they have the power to make the first move towards God on their own. God then responds to our faith by his grace and draws us in the rest of the way.

Not so with Arminianism! Even a cursory reading of the primary sources for classical Arminianism will yield quite a different, pessimistic, and Reformed view of fallen human nature. For Arminians, human beings, in their lapsed and sinful state, are not even able to think the true and saving good, much less have the power actually to will and to do the good. Everyone is hopelessly lost, and in total need of God taking the first move; everyone needs the empowering, prevenient grace of the Spirit through the Gospel to quicken their hardened hearts and draw each one personally to faith in Christ.

But what are these “primary sources”? To help those who want to look into this topic, I have compiled, below, a brief bibliography of some of the major readings for a classical Arminian doctrine of sin and depravity. Especially recommended is the chapter by Stanglin and McCall (2012), which treats the relevant primary source material found in Arminius particularly well.

All the best!

PDF: Arminianism-doctrine-of-sin-readings


Extreme Love: Jesus’ Death on the Cross

The death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of Christianity.

Throughout Easter, Christians remember the sacrifice and passion of the Lord Jesus Christ when he died for our sins and rose again for us.

In reflecting on the Lord’s death, I came across this post, below, describing the physiological elements of Christ’s death.

Frankly, I was shocked to silenced as I read through it. My Lord did the ultimate for me.

I’ll let Dr C. Truman Davis’ account speak for itself:

1. List of anatomical and physiological details by Davis.

2. Extended written explanation by Dr Davis.

3. Video by physician Dr David Acuna on the physiology and significance of the Crucifixion. 

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The Meaning of Christmas

[We believe in]…one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God,
Light of Light,
Very God of very God,
Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the Father,
By whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven,
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary…
~ The Nicene Creed, excerpt.

We Christians believe that there is one God. This God never had a beginning and he will have no end. This God made the whole world and therefore owns the world. God made us to live with him and each other in love.

But each one of us, by saying ‘No’ to God and living for ourselves, has rejected God’s loving plan and has thus placed ourselves outside of relationship with God. This is what the Bible calls ‘sin’. Today, all people stand under God’s righteous judgement, which is death. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Have you ever been sold a bad car? Have you ever been ripped off? Sin is expensive! It costs each one of us our lives. For God is good, and he will never tolerate sin. And he calls us to account for our actions.

And even though God would be fully within his rights to let us sinners die just like we deserve, nevertheless God so loved us that he did not wish to leave us to ourselves.

At Christmas time, Christians remember the true story of how God sent Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, into our world to show us what God is really like by his own living example and by his teaching.

But most of all, we remember how this Jesus—though he was God’s perfect Son who was undeserving of death—went to the cross, and died the horrible death we each deserve, so that we would not have to die for our sins, but rather that we might be healed and restored to right relationship with God to live with him forever and ever.

As proof that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was enough to bring us back to himself, God raised Jesus physically back from the dead. Jesus Christ lives today. And God has set a time when Jesus will return judge all people in line with God’s perfect Law. God doesn’t judge us by our standard; God judges us by his standard.

Here’s how the Bible puts it:

                   “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever trusts in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16)

The Bible further explains how everyone who trusts in God’s Son, Jesus, will live forever. But everyone who rejects Jesus’ sacrifice for them and tries to get in God’s good books by their own way–such as trusting in one’s own goodness or personal spirituality for example—they will most surely die and perish in a place the Bible calls hell: completely cut off from God and every good thing forever and ever. Even self-styled atheists and agnostics, who claim not to believe in God, will face God’s judgement for rejecting Jesus.

Let me give you an example of how this works. Say a stranger walks up to your house and says, “Hey, let me in! I’m a good person; everybody likes me! You should let me in to eat your food, use your toilet, sleep on your couch…” And so on. Will such a person ever be permitted into your house? If you’re honest with yourself, probably not. Why? Because the person does not have a relationship with you. Who here would seriously let just any stranger into your home, to play with your children and to take your stuff?

Because trusting in God and entering into Heaven is not based upon how good we think we are. It is based upon whether or not we have entered into a saving, personal relationship with God. And the Bible says that we can only have such a relationship with God through Jesus. We each individually have to admit that we are sinners, trust that Jesus died the death we deserve, and then rose again to physical life three days later. This is what the Bible calls ‘faith’. Then, we must turn away from our sinful lifestyles and back to God. This is what the Bible calls ‘repentance’. There can be no faith without repentance, and there can be no repentance without faith. And most of all, there can be no forgiveness without both faith and repentance.

God wants to forgive us. God wants to save us, God wants to be in a personal, saving relationship with each one of us. And he has made all this possible through Jesus. This is what Christians call ‘the Gospel’, which means, ‘the Good News’. But as long as we choose to harden our hearts and keep on saying ‘No’ to him, God will respect our free will and let us go our own way. But the end of that life is not joy and peace. The end of that life is death and hell. The Bible says, “There is a way that feels right to us. But in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25)

So I hope you will think about what I have shared with you today. As a Christian. I believe what I just said is not imaginary but is real and every person in this room will have to give an account for their lives to God one day. And I hope that on that Great Day, each one of you will be found trusting in Jesus, having a righteousness not of your own, but from him who died for you and rose again.

God bless you.

The Lord is our Lion

Recently, I was watching a documentary about lions narrated by Sir David Attenborough on YouTube.

One of the most interesting parts of the documentary was when it talked about when outsider nomadic male lions try to take over a pride by force (see 44:15 to 46:40 of the video, below.*)

Apparently, when nomadic male lions from the outside want to join the pride, they will first challenge and attempt to kill the current pride leader, and then they will kill all the male offspring of that pride leader and begin anew.

What the pride leader therefore has to do is to defend his pride and send these outsider nomadic challengers packing.

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 As a Christian, this had me reflecting on two passages of the Bible, both of which describe both Jesus and the Devil as lions:

Revelation 5:5. “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.”

1 Peter 5:8. “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”

In the first passage, Jesus is said to be the victorious Lion from the tribe of Jesse, David’s father’s line. In the second, Satan is said to be prowling around like a lion seeking to devour believers.

Thinking about how nomadic lions challenge the leaders of the pride, we can imagine an analogy where Jesus is the leader of our pride and Satan is a nomadic lion from the outside prowling around the wilderness trying to seek to take over Jesus’ pride, the Church, and devour its young, the believers.

But just as the leader of the lion pride will fight for his pride and fend of the adversaries in the animal kingdom, so too will Jesus fight for us against the Devil when he comes to challenge Jesus’ leadership in the heavenly kingdom.

The one point of dis-analogy would be that sometimes the leader of a pride in the animal world can be defeated by the challengers from the outside.

But Jesus never fails us.

So I hope you take encouragement from this today. The Devil may prowl around seeking whom he may devour. But the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has triumphed.

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*Video (see 44:15 to 46:40): 

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Divine Sovereignty and Determinism: Response Series Part 6

In our previous discussion, we talked about the profoundly philosophical nature of Calvinistic determinism as a way of understanding divine sovereignty and control. We also talked about how libertarian free will is similarly philosophical. See here for that discussion. Now, we will talk about a sixth objection to the original argument.

A. Complaint. Here’s Blake’s sixth issue:

6. God is so Powerful and Humble that He Makes Himself Powerless

“Why not rather think that divine sovereignty does not require metaphysical predeterminism, and simply say that God has the freedom, the power, the right, the wisdom and (dare I say) the humility to create free creatures to reflect his own image and likeness? That is my inclination.”

Calvinist theology holds that God’s sovereignty is based upon divine determinism because Calvinists believe the Bible teaches it. Once again, if Brendan wants his argument to be compelling he ought to provide a positive case for his Arminian position from scripture while also refuting common texts that are quoted in support of Calvinism.

As for God possessing “freedom” and “humility” to create creatures that thwart his will, these are weasel words designed to conceal a contradiction. The Arminians [sic] position is that God has eternally purposed that his purposes will be thwarted by the free decisions of his creatures, or, rather, his supposed antecedent will is thwarted. Such a position is a glaring contradiction. Unfortunately, saying that God possessed “humility” in creation is another way of saying that God has eternally submitted to the purposes of his creation and not the other way around. It is my opinion that this borders on blasphemy. As Gisbertus Voetius once stated, “We do not go for such a concord which subjects God to man, creator to creation.”

B. Response. For starters, I’d just like to point out (from Blake subtitle in bold) that I never said God “makes himself powerless” to allow for libertarian free will. So let’s ignore that (mis)characterisation of my suggestion. What I am suggesting (quoted accurately in italics) is that it is at least possible for God to create libertarian free agents. Whether that be according to God’s own sovereign “freedom” to create as he likes, his “power” as omnipotent creator, his “right” as creating authority, his intelligent “wisdom” in being able to design a being who is free, or in his simple “humility” in choosing to limit himself for some other purpose (such as love and real relationship) it doesn’t matter. I just mean to say that it is possible for God if he wants to to create free beings.

Now since any two propositions (A) and (B) are logically incompatible or contradictory if and only if there is not even one scenario in which both are be true at the same time, it follows that if there is even one possible scenario in which both (A) and (B) are true, then it follows that (A) and (B) are not, in fact, logically contradictory. And what I am suggesting is that there is a possible world where it is true that both “God is sovereign” and “man is free” is true, and this proves that divine sovereignty and libertarian human freedom are mutually compatible, and are not contradictory.

Now this is philosophically undermines Calvinism in that it shows how an assumption that many Calvinists hold is false; namely, that divine sovereignty and libertarian human freedom are logically incompatible. For Calvinism holds that sovereignty implies predeterminism, and predeterminism implies humans are not possibly free in a libertarian sense. But if it is possible that human beings are free in a libertarian sense, then that implies that divine sovereignty does not necessarily imply predeterminism. Why, then, think that predeterminism is true after all?

Now, Blake seems tacitly to admit this in his first paragraph. He seems to have the intuition that libertarian free will and divine sovereignty are at least logically compatible. All he asserts is that determinism is scriptural and free will is not. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that free will is logically possible. In that case, my argument will still follow that it is perfectly logical that a sovereign God creates and coexists with beings who are free in a libertarian sense. In that case, I feel perfectly rational and responsible in believing in libertarian free will and divine sovereignty. Now of course I know there are scriptural issues. But I was not dealing with that so we shall leave them aside for now. All we want is logical compatibility. Once we have that, we can move away from distractions such as assertions of logical incompatibility and on to more pressing matters of interest, such as analysis of scripture, church history and philosophical theology.

So we already have what we want. Good! But Blake also decides (freely) to blindside us with a weighty accusations of near-blasphemy in his second paragraph!

What is this accusation? Well, it’s not quite clear. Blake seems to think that God’s own decision to allowing for free will on part of his creatures implies some sort of “glaring contradiction” about God’s will. Just what is this “glaring contradiction”? Well, he never explains it. I think what he means to talk about universal salvation; the idea that God could will something, but then will this his will is not fulfilled. For although God, according to his antecedent will, wills universal salvation, his consequent will implies not everyone is saved, since not everyone believes, and only he who believes is saved. Bake seems to think this means God has eternally willed that God’s own will be “thwarted.”

But that clearly doesn’t follow. All that follows in the decree of creation (with creaturely freedom) is that it is possible for God’s antecedent will to be “thwarted.” But it does not follow from this that the divine will simpliciter be possibly thwarted. Blake clearly equivocates on at least three terms: “will”, “antecedent will” and “purposes”. Just because creation with freedom makes it possible that the antecedent will is not fulfilled does not make it possible that the will of God itself not come to fruition. For the will of God includes as differentiated parts the antecedent and the consequent aspects such that the divine will itself counts as having been fulfilled only if either one or the other is fulfilled, and there is always at least one part of the will, antecedent or consequent, such that is is fulfilled. (Jeremiah 18:7-10 serves as one illustration of this distinction: one will in two antecedent an consequent conditional parts.) What follows is that God’s will is always perfectly done even when creatures disobey what is really his fundamental antecedent will and intention for their lives. In fact, under a classical understanding of the conditional nature of God’s purposes and will on the whole as it is related individually to every creature, it always turns out that God’s will is perfectly fulfilled, even given human freedom to resist and reject God’s purpose for themselves in individual instances. For if it is the will of God that creatures (such as the Pharisees — Luke 7:30) can do some things contrary to God’s purpose for their lives and then suffer the consequences (or reap the rewards). And certainly it is God who makes it possible that creatures behave in ways that displease him. And yet this accords with his own sovereign freedom to create the possibility that this occur, and, when it actually occurs t allow it for his own purposes and ends — even to work through it for an ultimately good outcome in every case.

So I am not impressed by this accusation. It equivocates terms and confuses issues. It’s not that “God has eternally submitted to the purposes of his creation” but that God submits to his own purposes and plan for human freedom in his creation which he will work (and is working!) for the ultimate good. And, as we saw, this is not illogical.

Next time, we will talk about Blake’s seventh objection to the original.

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Original article.

Original response. 

Beginning of response series.

On Family

Tonight my father had his 50th birthday. It was a nice occasion, full of food and family.

And I got to thinking. How important it is to spend time with family.

I personally don’t have a very good relationship with much of my family. Heaps has gone on in our lives, and many relationships that should now be stronger than ever are quite fragile. I actually tend to spend a lot more time with friends than with my family.

But I think God has given us our families for a reason. In Acts 17 it says that God has placed each one of us in the time sand the circumstances we are in.

Furthermore, the commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12.)

No matter how we get along with them, and regardless of how we like them, we are called to honour our parents. Why? For our own benefit. “That your days may be long in the land,” says the LORD.

So I would like to bless the Lord for my family today. I want to invest more time in them and not take them for granted.

What about your family? Are you thankful for what you have? How might you express your love and thanks for them?

God bless.

Prayer Journal Devotional Idea

I’ve been listening to Leonard Ravenhill for some time now and his exhortation to pray has convicted me about my inconsistent and irregular prayer life. So I have started a journal. Each day I add an entry that is short and sweet. This helps me to focus my thoughts in on one particular thing I feel I should pray for that day.

So far I have written entries about:
– keeping a consistent prayer-life;
– thanks for a couple of good Christian brothers;
– fear for a friend who has fallen (or is close to falling) from the faith; and
– purification from foul speech and being quick-to-judge.

I find this to be a really helpful way to focus prayer and to be mindful of the need for God’s help everyday.

So I’d encourage you to pick up a blank book from the shop and try starting a daily prayer journal. It may help you like it is helping me.

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a page from my prayer journal

a page from my prayer journal