Sunday, December 04, 2005


Sidetracked Again (again)

Also on the Challies Forum

[quote="b frank and RobeFRe"]I am always amazed at the way Calvinists go at
Armenians with a full tilt while Armenians seem to stand there and take it.

I think that you have noticed one aspect of this debate which "by-standers"
can hardly fail to spot.

In general, I think Arminians do not choose to attack their Brethren.
Wesley disagreed with his Calvinist friends, but never went to war with
them on this issue. He was far too busy preaching the Word of God (the
Bible, which in practice if not in terminology he regarded as "inerrant").
he was far too busy preaching a Gospel which saw people convicted of
sin, pointed to the Saviour dying on the Cross, brought to
faith in Him, born again, and brought into living holy lives
as a fruit of having been saved.

It has not been part of my study, by choice, to look at this debate with
calvinism. And if you look at the original 5 points of Fundamentalism
(about 80 years ago), you find no argument on this issue. They are 5
foundational truths which any true Christian ought to be able to accept
without debate. And they were put forward so that Christians may
fellowship together in spite of disagreements on other issues.

Now what I see from posts on web sites which are supposed to be about
"discernment" issues such as the apostasy facing us, is shocking. I see an
ungracious "full tilt" assault on those who do not accept that salvation is
forced on people regardless of their choice; who believe that the scope of
the Atonement (the work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary,
and all that involves) is unlimited; who believe that, having been saved by
faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we are called and destined to holiness of

I see people eager to stick the knives in those who do not dot every T and
cross every I of TULIP. I see people condemning them to burn in hell
because anything other than full-blown calvinism is an abominable false
gospel which is far more satanic than anything the new-age movement, than
anything that roman-catholicism, has ever produced.

Now it is not my calling to attack calvinism. And I don't need to. The
total lack of any "fruit of the Holy Spirit" shown by the propponents of
calvinism attacks it far more eloquently than I ever could. And if you want
to find a starting point for Biblical analysis of calvinism, try . Dave Hunt's book, "What Love is This?" is
very long because it includes a meticulous statement of what calvinism
teaches. And Dave Hunt submitted his findings to calvinist teachers so that
they could confirm or correct that he had got it right. By contrast, I find
in this debate all sorts of things falsely attributed to Arminianism without
any effort to check the facts. So I have tried to restrict my contributions
to showing something of what Arminian thinking actually is, rather than
commenting on calvinism.

This post is too long, but I must add a footnote. I have found on another
web site the name of Rick Warren included amongst "Arminians". But Warren's
obvious theology of predestination in for example "Purpose Driven
Life" is definitely not Arminian. No way is Warren Arminian, and his
bringing-in-the-kingdom programmes shows it.


Yet another side-track

my reply on the Challies Forum

[quote="voiceofthesheep"][quote]But the gift offered is not the gift received until the person to whom it is offered has chosen to accept it.[/quote]
Robert H,
Where is your Scriptural support for this?

Do you have Scriptural evidence that salvation is a gift that is "offered"?

I'm not looking for a John 3:16 reply, because that verse says nothing of how the person comes to believe, and in its context in John 3, there has to be a new birth before the person can see (understand/perceive) the kingdom.

What is the biblical basis for the theology that salvation is a standing offer just waiting to be activated by man?


I am not going to be drawn on this which is couched in calvinistic language because it gets back to the point of terminology being understood by pre-suppositions. But an illustration. Something which is given to you as a birthday present, may exist in thousands in the shops. Someone pays the price, and gift-wraps it, puts your name on the package, and then sees you face to face and offers it to you. Then you have the choice. You can have the rudeness to reject the gift - some people do. An offended girl-friend may throw the offered bunch of flowers stright into the rubbish bin, in front of her wooer's face. You can accept the gift, unwrap it, use / wear / eat it depending on what the gift is.

Now what I left out from the hymns I quoted at length, is 2 points.

They are from a section of the hymn book headed "[i]For Mourners Convinced of Sin[/i]". That is, people who have heard the preaching of the Word of God, and in whom God has awakened the conviction that they are hell-deserving sinners. Now this was one of the "Fundamentals" of Methodist theology, whatever you may have seen in the 21st century. The essential initiative of God. One reason why we have so few genuine conversions in the 21st century is because preaching from (out of) the Bible is so rare. When the Bible is preached in all its fullness, this includes the Law by which is knowledge of sin. Another essential factor in (original) Methodist preaching was to point people to the one and only Saviour from sin, our Lord Jesus Christ, to point to the Cross, His sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, glorification, High Priesthood at the Father's right hand, and His coming again to set up His kingdom.

I left out of hymn No. 126 the first verse which reads,
"Too strong was I to conquer sin,
When 'gainst it first I turned my face;
Nor knew my want of power within,
Nor knew the omnipotence of grace.

the rest of the hymn reads
In nature's strength I sought in vain
For what my God refused to give:
I could not then the mastery gain,
Or lord of all my passions live.

But, for the glory of thy name,
Vouchsafe me now the victory:
Weakness itself thou knowest I am,
And cannot share the praise with thee.

Because I now can nothing do,
Jesus, do all the work alone;
And bring my soul triumphant through,
To wave its palm before thy throne.

Great God, unknown, invisible,
Appear, my confidence to abase;
To make me all my vileness feel,
And blush at my own righteousness.

Thy glorious face in Christ display,
That, silenced by thy mercy's power,
My mouth I in the dust may lay,
And never boast or murmur more.

I hesitated to place before people unfamiliar with Wesley's hymns the concept he portrays of our total inability to accomplish anything in our own strength, and our total dependence upon God to work in us.

This theme is more famously found in the hymn "Come, O thou traveller unknown" (commonly called "Wrestling Jacob"), with lines like
"The Son of righteousness on me
Has risen with healing in his wings,
Withered my nature's strength, from Thee
My soul its life and succour brings"
And, having had our natural strength destroyed by God's touch, and all our dependence being upon Him and Him alone, the lines
"Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Sin, hell and death with ease o'ercome."

Wesleyan theology (the source of Arminianism I am most familiar with) is crammed full of this concept that God has to destroy any and every hope of doing anything (in the spiritual realm) in our own strength, by human unaided effort. Only when our human ability has been utterly and completely put to death, then can God's strength be perfected in our weakness.

This is a foundational concept of Arminian theology - our total inability to save ourselves, our total dependence upon God. But it seems to be a concept which is so strange and unfamiliar to people discussing Arminianism that I hesitated to mention it.


"Proof texts" - The first way of handling Scripture is exegetical. That is, we read (study) the Bible to see what God has to say to us. Expository preaching takes a Bible passage and looks to see what God has to say to us, whether or not it is what we want to find.
In the reverse direction is the eisegetical - we have an idea, and look to see what Bible verse can be added to our idea to support it. And the dangerous third step is "suppository preaching" where we do not accept what the Bible says, but suppose it to mean something else.

Now I was for a time pastor at a General Baptist church which originated when the calvinism of Particular Baptist minister, Jabez Tunnicliffe, was challenged by a Scripture he read during a sermon in 1833. Acts 8:22 was such a shock to his calvinism, that the elders thought he had been taken ill during the sermon.

The Bible should be allowed to speak to us, not taken as a source of proofs to prop up our speaking to it. That said, (John) Wesley's Sermons are full of Scripture, applying the principle that everything must be proved by Scripture. (Charles) Wesley's hymns, likewise, are packed with Scripture.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Sidetracked again

Another comment on the Challies website moved me to posting this reply. I think a part of the problem comes from people who do not take the trouble to find out what authentic Arminian theology really teaches. The attacks on supposed "Arminianism" are almost always attacks on misunderstandings, and on Pelagian "Aunt Sallys", without ensuring that the points they are making are comments on genuine Arminianism. But to allow them an excuse, a lot of woolly theology is heard these days, from people who don't have the knowledge of either the Bible nor of what "founding fathers" like the Wesleys actually taught. In my early days as a Methodist Local Preacher, I frequently found that I was drawn to the Wesley hymns in the Methodist Hymn Book when choosing hymns for a service. I had to make an effort to chose non-Wesley hymns as a balance. These days, so few Wesley hymns are sung - certainly not a great range of them - that probably only 3 of them are known.

Posted to Challies web site blog.

[quote="blakelaw"]The minute (but massive) distinction I've heard Arminians make is that 'grace is free, but you have to ask for it'.
Of course, I believe a grace like that is no grace at all, but cheap and ineffective. Nevertheless, Arminians insist you have to ask for it, and that choice is ultimately yours.
To that, I say (quoted from my blog):
[quote]Well why would Jesus die on the cross at all? Nobody asked him to--I mean, except for God. And except that he laid it down of his own accord (not of yours, or mine, or any man's). Arminian grace would need for us to ask Jesus to die before he even died.[/quote]
Arminian brothers, do you see what I mean? Do you think this is a correct understanding of Arminian grace?




A total misunderstanding of Arminian theology.

Did you not read the Wesley hymns I posted? (And these are one form of a "credal" statement because John Wesley compiled the hymn book, of which his brother's hymns formed a majority but NOT to the exclusion of others including the more calvinistic Isaac Watts, with the intention of a body of teaching which illiterate poor people could remember.) They are all about what God has done because we are unable in any way to save ourselves.

Arminianism teaches that we cannot initiate our own salvation - only respond to it. It is a ridiculous false presentation of Arminian thinking to suggest as you do that we would have to ask Jesus to die on the cross.

"Prevenient grace" is the Arminian teaching that God initiates our salvation in all respects, including that He seeks us out, and that we respond to His work. We do not have it in ourselves to initiate any of our salvation. It is all of God. But I must admit, having said that, that Luke ch. 15 very clearly teaches what some calvinists think Arminianism teaches, which is that we can initiate our search for God, our getting up and going to look for Him. (I think it also balances this with the Arminian concept of the seeking God, porttrayed by the Father who looked daily for his son to return home.)

Now to your other point, "Grace is free".

Mercy is help given to those who can't help themselves. Gk. Eleos. It is used in the NT both of almsgiving on the human level, and of God's mercy in salvation.

Grace, gk. charis, is mercy shown to those who don't deserve it. It is not earned. It is the gift offered. And it is free. It is not an entitlement nor is it a wage. (Sin pays a wage, but thecharis of God is life.) But charis may also be costly to the giver. That charis is free to the recipient tells us nothing at all about the cost to the giver. For that we need additional information.

But the gift offered is not the gift received until the person to whom it is offered has chosen to accept it. Here is the "bottom-line". The very idea of charis depends upon both a free offer and a willing acceptance. Otherwise it is not charis.

So now we come to the main issue. Arminian theology tells us that, totally consistent with the intrinsic nature of charis, the recipient is not a robot who is forced to receive the gift. He (she) is a human being, with full moral responsibility, and able to choose willingly to accept this costly gift which God freely offers us.

To sum up, in Arminianism, Salvation is : -
Totally the work of God;
Totally provided by God;
Totally initiated by God;
Totally paid for by God;
Mercy shown to those who are totally unable to do anything to save themselves;
A gift offered freely to those who don't deserve it;
A gift received in response to God's prior action;
A gift which is not forced upon anyone, but is willingly and thankfully received by someone who is free to reject it.

All this is totally Biblical.

There are other points, but this will have to do for now.

Friday, December 02, 2005


More on Sidetracks

This is another comment about a mis-understanding of Arminianism. The original was a comment by "Steve D", the blogger of which he posted on Slice of Laodicea.

Please note that these comments on Arminianism arise only because there seems to be such a lot of mis-understanding and mis-representation going on. It is not a controversy I have started. It is only my desire to see the truth being known. And all the more so because we have other battles to fight, and also because authentic Arminianism along with Believer's Baptism is the most Biblical theology in this area of Christian doctrine.

I have now posted the hymn and some more on this Blog (Rewlach). Here is my comment to Steve D.

Robert at Rewlach said...

I posted this comment on Slice of Laodicea and am copying it here just to make sure that you don't miss it. (I will probably also post it on with some more material to illustrate the Wesley Hymns side. Like the hymn,
"Where with, O Go, shall I draw near?"

Steve D.

One could argue that the Arminiast view doesn't believe that God saves, but man's choice saves. I don't know any Arminians who really believe they save themselves (although their theology tells me so.)

I don't know where you got this rubbish from as a representation of supposedly "Arminian" theology. Certainly not from anyone who truly knows Arminianism.

I was brought up in rural Methodism which followed what Wesley and others taught. And the original 18th century title for "The Wesleyan Magazine" was
"The Arminian Magazine". (The oldest copy in my collection is 1794.) And I am studying Methodist history from the oldest materials I can get.

Granted that in the 19th century, Methodism drifted from its original Biblical foundations, and is now mostly apostate, your notion of Arminianism ("their theology tells me so") is not supported by the facts.

Read, for example, Wesley's Sermons (the standard volume is The 44) or Wesley's hymns.

They are full of the sinfulness of man, of the need of the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing conviction of sin and repentance, of the need of the work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, of the Blood of Christ, of holy living, etc. There are few better examples of what the Gospel really is.

There is not a hint of a suggestion that "free choice saves" in any authentic Arminian theology. We are saved only by what God has done for us.

Authentic Arminian theology is all based on what God has said in His Word, the Bible. You will find, though he does not normally use the word "inerrant", that Wesley's view of Scripture is founded upon that concept. And you will find plenty of examples, as articles in The Wesleyan Magazine show, of attacking the errors of "Popery".

(BTW, the early volumes of Wesley's Hymns, more properly, Hymns for the use of the People called Methodists, do not give any writer's names, and include hymns by a range of writers including Isaac Watts. Wesley did not waste time criticising fellow Christians with whome he had some difference of opinion. But Wesley did attack the teachings of those he found to be in serious error, like Swedenborg.)


Sidetracks - Comments on Arminianism

On some of the various web sites which it is useful to read, there appear from time to time comments which mis-represent Arminian theology.

By the end of the 18th century, Methodists had reached different conclusions over the Arminian / Calvinist debate. Hywll Harris in Wales, and George Whitfield in England, had become calvinists. Wesley and most other Methodists remained Arminian.

A topic on the Blog section of on the subject of "Arminian Grace"

Wherever this "parody" came from, it is bordering on the blasphemous. And it is in no way an accurate reflection of Arminianism. It is typical of the pot-shots of bored so-called calvinists who like to attack other Christians and waste their efforts instead of contending for the truth.

Whoever wrote this "parody" is totally ignorant of authentic Arminianism, and is probably not a born-again Christian at all.

One of my interests is Methodist history, based originally on North Staffordshire. (which happens to be where most of my ancestors on my father's side came from, including one of my 4-gt. grandfathers, William Orpe, who was a Travelling Preacher in the time of John Wesley, whose letters addressed him as "Dear Billy". And one of my 4-gt aunts features in an article by Hugh Bourne where he says that hers was the first funeral service he ever preached.) My studies in early Methodist writings confirm the authentic doctrine I was brought up in, which is totally Bible-based.

For a more accurate snap-shot of Arminianism, here is a Wesley hymn.

1 WHEREWITH, O God, shall I draw near.
And bow myself before thy face ?
How in thy purer eyes appear ?
What shall I bring to gain thy grace ?

2 Will gifts delight the Lord Most High ?
Will multiplied oblations please ?
Thousands of gifts his favour buy,
And slaughtered hecatombs appease ?

3 Can these avert the wrath of God ?
Can these wash out my guilty stain ?
Rivers of oil, and seas of blood,
Alas! they all must flow in vain.

4 Whoe'er to thee themselves approve,
Must take the path thy word hath show'd;
Justice pursue, and mercy love,
And humbly walk by faith with God.

5 But though my life henceforth be thine,
Present for past can ne'er atone :
Though I to thee the whole resign,
I only give thee back thine own.

6 What have I then wherein to trust ?
I nothing have, I nothing am ;
Excluded is my every boast,
My glory swallow’d up in shame.

7 Guilty I stand before thy face ;
On me I feel thy wrath abide ;
'Tis just the sentence should take place;
'Tis just ; — but, O, thy Son hath died!

8 Jesus, the Lamb of God, hath bled;
He bore our sins upon the tree ;
Beneath our curse he bow'd his head;
'Tis finish'd! he hath died for me!

9 See where before the throne he stands,
And pours the all-prevailing prayer !
Points to his side, and lifts his hands,
And shows that I am graven there !

10 He ever lives for me to pray;
He prays that I with him may reign;
Amen to what my Lord doth say!
Jesus, thou canst not pray in vain.
C. Wesley
Note – v.2 original last line –
“Hecatomb” – classical Greece, sacrifice of 100 cattle arranged around the altar.

No. 127 in Wesley's Hymns (edition with 1831 supplement)

Or No. 123
Let the redeemed give thanks and praise
To a forgiving God!
My feeble voice I cannot raise,
'Till washed in Jesu's blood:

Or 126
In nature's strength I sought in vain
For what my God refused to give:
I could not then the mastery gain,
Or lord of all my passions live.

But, for the glory of thy name,
Vouchsafe me now the victory:
Weakness itself thou knowest I am,
And cannot share the praise with thee.

Because I now can nothing do,
Jesus, do all the work alone;
And bring my soul triumphant through,
To wave its palm before thy throne.

Great God, unknown, invisible,
Appear, my confidence to abase;
To make me all my vileness feel,
And blush at my own righteousness.

Thy glorious face in Christ display,
That, silenced by thy mercy's power,
My mouth I in the dust may lay,
And never boast or murmur more.

Or 125
O that I could my Lord receive,
Who did the world redeem;
Who gave his life, that I might live
A life concealed in him!

O that I could the blessing prove,
My heart's extreme desire;
Live happy in my Saviour's love,
And in his arms expire!

Mercy I ask to seal my peace,
That, kept by mercy’s power,
I may from every evil cease,
And never grieve thee more!

Now, if thy gracious will it be,
Even now, my sins remove;
And set my soul at liberty,
By thy victorious love.

In answer to ten thousand prayers,
Thou, pardoning God, descend!
Number me with salvation’s heirs,
My sins and troubles end!

Nothing I ask or want beside,
Of all in earth or heaven,
But let me feel thy blood applied,
And live and die forgiven.

I could give other examples. These are the voice of authentic Arminianism, not that offensive and blashphemous "parody".

Do you see in Wesley's hymns any grounds for self praise? No! only self-abasement, and giving all the glory to God.

I do, however, see two points which some calvinists may disgree with.

"Who did the world redeem" - in contrast to calvinistic teaching of limited atonement, which says that the work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, our infinite God, is sufficient for only the exact number of people that God determined should be saved, and also only sufficient for the exact number of sins that a Holy God ordained that they should commit.

And secondly, that holiness of heart and life of the Christian is one of the non-negotiable teachings of Methodism. Are you a Christian? Then your life should be holy, not to earn salvation, but because this is the calling of all who are truly believers. It is also taught in the Thirty-Nine Articles as well as the Bible in both Old and New Testaments. In this, Methodism (authentic, not the apostate version we too often see today) contrasts with a case I read of in my studies of Baptist history. A young Christian got into trouble for rebuking an Elder who was drunk. He was told that, if the elder was drunk, it was because God had predestined that he should be drunk on that occasion; and this sin was included amongst that exact number of sins the atoning work of Christ on the Cross had covered.

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