Friday, December 02, 2005

 

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 http://www.challies.com/ 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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