- The thoughts of a 21st century Remonstrant

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Condemnation for Unbelief and the Atonement

From John 3:18 (ESV)
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
In this post I intend to show that Limited Atonement is not compatible with this passage from scripture. I will lay out my case logically.

P1. If Jesus did not die for the condemned, then unbelief in him is not the cause of their condemnation
P2. Unbelief is the cause of their condemnation
C1. Therefore Jesus died for the condemned

As there are just two groups, condemned and not condemned, and both Calvinists and Arminians will agree Jesus died for those not condemned - and this argument shows that Jesus died for the condemned, we can conclude that Jesus died for all.

First it is important to note that this argument is logically valid. That is, if the premises are true then the conclusion it also true. It follows the form of modus tollens. Having valid form, we need to support the truth of the two premises in order to establish that the argument is logically sound.

In defence of P1

If Jesus did not die for a man, then he is condemned - regardless as to whether he believes or not. Now a Calvinist might be tempted to argue that because of the facts that Jesus did not die for them and that they did not believe - these are both causes of their condemnation. That both Jesus' payment for the person, and the person's belief are necessary conditions for avoiding condemnation, but only together are they sufficient conditions for avoiding condemnation. So then the Calvinist might conclude that the removal of either condition would be the cause of their condemnation, and hence be sufficient reason to reject P1.

While it may be true that the removal of either one of these necessary conditions on their own would be the cause of condemnation, I am arguing that men's lack of belief is not the cause of their condemnation if Jesus did not die for him. This is because there is a logical order in the two conditions. For example: you wouldn't say the reason a man doesn't become a lawyer in a law firm is because he didn't he didn't accept the job, if it turns out he didn't have the qualifications and hence wasn't offered a job so he didn't have a job to accept. Or you wouldn't say the reason a person drowned was because he chose not to grab hold of a life buoy, if there was no life buoy for him to grab hold of. Likewise you wouldn't say the reason a person was condemned was because he didn't believe in Jesus, If Jesus didn't die for him and so he had no one to believe in. So we can see that when there is a logical order of requirement in necessary conditions, that the logically latter conditions are only causal if the logically prior conditions are fulfilled. This gives us more than adequate reason to think that Premise 1 is true.

In defence of P2

Calvinists may dismiss passages that link condemnation to unbelief as mere correlation. The strength of John 3:18 is that it clearly states that there is more than simple correlation, but a causal relation between unbelief and condemnation. Thus Premise 2 is established from scripture - from John 3:18, which unambiguously tells us that condemnation is the result of unbelief.


In conclusion it seems the argument is sound, having both valid form and demonstrably true premises. This is just one more argument from scripture against the faulty doctrine of Limited Atonement as espoused by five-point Calvinists, and gives us one more reason to favour the Arminian view of Unlimited Provisional Atonement over the false Limited Atonement of Calvinism.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Calvinistic Depravity vs Arminian Depravity?

Both Calvinists and Arminians believe that as a result of sinful nature inherited from Adam, man left to his own devices lacks the will or ability to repent and turn to God. Both believe that God must first act in order for man to respond. Both believe in the doctrine of Total Depravity and inability.

Some Calvinists such as John MacArthur have misrepresented Arminians in saying that Arminians believe that "the sinner unaided by the Holy Spirit must make the first move". Fortunately there are still some Calvinists out there who make the effort to accurately portray those who have opinions different to their own.

Where the two systems part is in the remedy to this problem of inability. Arminians teach that God works through Prevenient Grace in order to enable sinners to respond. Calvinists teach that God first makes a sinner born again, and then the sinner can only choose to repent, and in fact cannot choose not to repent. The difference is in whether God allows his grace to be resistible or not.

Calvinists such as John Piper have said that Arminians don't believe in Total Depravity as Calvinists do. A quote from Piper (which can be found at 4:45 in this video) says "Calvinism says people are so depraved and rebellious that they're unable to trust God without a special work of grace to change their hearts so that they necessarily and willingly believe. In other words if this grace doesn't compel them to believe they won't believe." (As a side note, I do appreciate Piper's honesty in saying that Arminians believe in the necessity of grace to believe, given that misrepresentation in this area is so rampant by many.)

If the above is how the Calvinists specifically define Total Depravity, then there is a difference between the two camps (not that Calvinism should be the benchmark for the term in the first place). To the Arminian, the difference isn't in the Depravity. It's not that we believe we are "less totally depraved" than Calvinists do. The difference is in God's power. Does God have the ability to enable a sinner to repent who is totally depraved, without having to do so irresistibly? Arminians such as myself say God could act irresistibly, (though he decides to do otherwise.) It seems the real difference between the views is that Calvinists limit God's power in saying that God is unable to enable a sinner without acting irresistibly.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Roger Olson Joins the Blogging World

I am pleased to announce the new blog of renowned Arminian theologian Dr. Roger E. Olson.
Dr. Olson's blog can be found at http://www.rogereolson.com/

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Does Atonement for all lead to Universalism?

A common question that Calvinists pose to the Arminian is "If Jesus died for all, then why aren't all saved?" John Owen popularised this argument with his "triple dilemma" or "triple choice" where he said [paraphrased] that "Jesus died for either all sins of all men, all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men."

Some non-Calvinists (in taking Owens third choice) have tried to defend their view by saying that Jesus died for all sins of all men, except for the sin of [continual] unbelief. While I respect their attempts to reconcile the facts that Jesus died for all, and that not all will be saved, I reject way in which they try to harmonise theses two truths.

Universalists (in taking Owens first choice) generally appeal to the same passages that Arminians appeal to in support of unlimited atonement. They however, like the Calvinist make the mistake of thinking that not having all saved and having atonement for all poses some sort of contradiction.

Calvinists (in taking Owens second choice) believe that Jesus died for all the sins of some men. In doing so they jump through many hoops to avoid the implications of the countless passages that Jesus died for everyone, and those passages which say God would rather that those who perish would repent. At the same time they point to verses which say Jesus died for "his people" or "his sheep" etc. (Note that these verses don't exclude the rest of the world. Their logic here is flawed, and is akin to me saying that "I love my mother" and then deducing that I don't love anyone else.)

Arminians, including myself (and also Amyraldians) argue that the atonement is provisional. That is, Jesus died for all, but the benefits of the atonement are applied to those who are in Christ. In fact some Calvinists now accept that the atonement is provisional (although say it is only provided for the elect.) In doing so these Calvinists concede that unlimited atonement doesn't lead to universalism.

But those Calvinists who follow Owen and refuse to admit that the atonement is provisional (whether for all or just the elect) walk into a problem of their own. If they deny that the benefits of the atonement are applied only once a person exercises saving faith (Such Calvinists typically claim "You believe God is your potential saviour, where I believe Jesus actually saved me at the cross.") then they must believe that they were then never under God's wrath (as opposed to scripture e.g. Ephesians 2:1-3). They must believe that they were born saved (as there is apparently nothing remaining that is required to make them a beneficiary of the atonement). So then to these people, faith cannot be the means by which they access grace (Romans 5:1-2), but rather a revelation that they are already saved!

Daniel Nebauer

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Recommended Resources

This post will be updated on an ongoing basis and there will be a permanent link to this on the sidebar. Note that recommended resources are resources I have read and found helpful, but may not necessarily agree with 100%.

On John
On Acts
On Romans
On Ephesians