- The thoughts of a 21st century Remonstrant

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

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Article Review: The Order of Faith and Election in John's Gospel: You Do Not Believe Because You Are Not My Sheep

I will give a brief review of an article, written by Robert L. Hamilton that I found particularly helpful.

In his article, Hamilton does an excellent job of biblically refuting the major Calvinist arguments from the Gospel of John, in particularly John 8:47 and 10:26. He answers the question in context of what it means "to be a child of God, to belong to the Father, and to be one of Christ's Sheep". Hamilton points out that in the Old Testament, that "belonging to God" etc. is used to mean the nation of Israel, but more importantly that it can more specifically refer to the Jews who were repentant and living in right covenant relationship with the Father.

It then makes sense that Jesus' Jewish audience did not believe him, because they did not believe the Father. Jesus' point is that there would not be any Jews still living rightly in the old covenant once the new covenant had been established. People would either accept or reject Jesus, so that there would not be any "third option". All the Jews who were truly repentant would believe Jesus, and God would ensure that none would be lost during this transition.

Hamilton also deals with Calvinist objections and other arguments used by Calvinists from the Gospel of John.

Hamiltons article can be found here or here.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Roger Olson's Biggest Problem with Calvin/Calvinism

Dr Olson wrote this upon request of an evangelical publication. The assignment was to write a 600 word essay on "My Biggest Problem with Calvin/Calvinism", which is what he did but was rejected. Olson has now kindly made this essay available and this will also be appearing on SEA's official website.

My Biggest Problem with Calvin/Calvinism
Roger E. Olson
Professor of Theology
George W. Truett Theological Seminary
Baylor University

Above all I want to make clear that I admire and respect my Calvinist friends and colleagues. We disagree strongly about some points of theology, but I hold them in high esteem for their commitment to the authority of God’s Word and their obvious love for Jesus Christ and his church as well as for evangelism.

However, I do not admire or respect John Calvin. I have been told that he should not be held responsible for the burning of the heretic Servetus because, after all, he warned the Spanish doctor and theologian not to come to Geneva and he urged the city council to behead him rather than burn him. And, after all, Calvin was a child of his times and everyone was doing the same. Nevertheless, I still struggle with placing a man complicit in murder on a pedestal.

Furthermore, I find Calvin’s doctrine of God repulsive. It elevates God’s sovereignty over his love, leaving God’s reputation in question. What I mean is that Calvin’s all-determining, predestining deity is at best morally ambiguous and at worst morally repugnant.

Much to the chagrin of some contemporary Calvinists, Calvin clearly taught that God foreordained the fall and rendered it certain. (Institutes of the Christian Religion III:XXIII.8) He also affirmed double predestination (III:XXI.5) and displayed callous disregard for the reprobate who he admitted God compelled to obedience (disobedience). (I:XVIII.2) Calvin distinguished between two modes of God’s will—what later Calvinists have called God’s decretive and preceptive wills. (III:XXIV.17) God decrees that the sinner shall sin while at the same time commanding him not to sin and condemning him for doing what he was determined by God to do. To Calvin this all lies in the secret purposes of God into which we should not peer too deeply, but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of anyone who regards God as above all love.

John Wesley commented on the Calvinists’ claim that God loves even the reprobate in some way. As one contemporary Calvinist put it, “God loves all people in some ways but only some people in all ways.” Wesley said that this is a love such as makes the blood run cold.

Calvin’s successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza, commented that those who find themselves suffering in the flames of hell for eternity can at least take comfort in the fact that they are there for the greater glory of God. To paraphrase Wesley, that is a glory such as sends chills down the spine. God foreordains some of his own creatures, created in his own image, to eternal hell for his own glory? Calvin may not have put it quite that bluntly, but many Calvinists have and it is a necessary extrapolation of the inner logic of consistent Calvinism. (Institutes III:XXII.11)

I have been heavily criticized by some of my Calvinist friends for saying that my biggest problem with Calvinism (by which I mean consistent divine determinism) is that it makes it difficult for me to tell the difference between God and the devil. (I am not saying Calvinists worship the devil!)

For me nothing about the Christian worldview is more important than regarding God and the devil as absolute competitors in this universe and its tragic history. God is good and desires the good of every creature. As church father Irenaeus said “The glory of God is man fully alive.” The devil is bad and desires harm for every creature. To view the devil as God’s instrument makes a mockery of the entire biblical narrative.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Technical Terms

This post is to help clarify some of the technical terms and acronyms that are commonly used in the Arminian/Calvinist debate. There will be a permanent link to this on the side bar, and this post will be updated on an on-going basis.

Amyraldianism - Commonly known as 4 point Calvinism, is a belief system that accepts the doctrines of Calvinism, except for the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

Compatibalism - The belief (held by the majority of Calvinists) that Determinism and free will can co-exist. Compatibilistic free will is different to the more common understanding of free will (i.e. Libertarian Free Will). Under Compatibilistic Free Will, we are only as free as our nature, so that when confronted with a choice, we are only able to "choose" the predetermined choice.

Determinism - The belief that all events are predetermined with no possible alternative outcome [determined by God in the A/C debate]. Sometimes referred to as Exhaustive Determinism (ED) to clarify that it refers to all events.

Election - God's choosing of who will be saved. Arminians believe that God's election is conditional with the condition being faith. Calvinists believe that election is unconditional.

Infralapsarianism - Is the view held by the majority of Calvinists regarding the order of God's eternal decrees. The order is as follows:

  1. Decree to create man

  2. Decree to "allow" fall

  3. Election and Reprobation

  4. Atonement and Salvation for the elect

Libertarian Free Will (LFW) - The belief that man has the ability to make some choices which are not predetermined by God. [In the A/C debate, men are only able to do so by God's grace.] Commonly referred to as just "free will", "Libertarian" to distinguish it from the determined free will of the compatibilist.

OSAS - Once Saved Always Saved

PoE - Problem of Evil

Prevenient Grace - The Arminian doctrine of grace, where God acts graciously on men, which enables men to repent and believe.

Regeneration - The doctrine of being born again. Arminians generally believe that one becomes born again when they repent and believe. Calvinists generally believe that one must first be regenerated (sometimes called "quickened") in order to repent and believe.

Reprobation - The Calvinist doctrine, where God before the foundation of the world chooses who will be eternally condemned.

Supralapsarianism - Is the view held by a minority of Calvinists regarding the order of God's eternal decrees. The order is as follows:

  1. Election and Reprobation

  2. Decree to "allow" fall

  3. Atonement for the elect

  4. Decree to create man

Total Depravity - A doctrine shared by both Arminians and Calvinists, where man left to his own devices lacks the ability to repent and believe, as a result of original sin.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Setting the Record Straight

This short post is to set the record straight, to stop ignorant Calvinists accuse Arminianism of being semi-Pelagian, a straw man that is easier to knock down that Arminianism itself. Some of you might remember John MacAthur's misrepresentation of Arminianism where he said [1]"So that the sinner unaided by the Holy Spirit must make the first move. That is essentially Arminian theology. The sinner unaided must make the first move, and God will then respond when the sinner makes the first move." It can be found here (3rd Audio File down), and the quote occurs about 33 minutes into the Audio File.

It's no wonder that Calvinists often know so little about Arminian doctrine, with Calvinist leaders who are apparently ignorant themselves. I'll give John MacAthur the benefit of the doubt that he is just ignorant of Arminian theology, rather than purposefully misleading, though there is really no excuse for such ignorance for a man in his position. In addition to his ignorance of Arminian theology is apparently his ignorance of theologians (note that about 32 minutes into the Audio File he calls John Wesley a "messed up Calvinist", even though Wesley was Arminian through and through!)

Many Arminian blogs have already posted on this, but it is a straw man that keeps popping up. So together, let's set the record straight, and try to put an end to this straw man.

Pelagianism: Under Pelagianism man has the natural ability to do right including choosing God, and that human nature is unaffected by original sin. Pelagius taught that man is born into the same state that Adam was created, with an untainted will.

semi-Pelagianism: Under semi-Pelagianism, mans nature has been affected by original sin so that he is depraved, but not totally depraved. Under semi-Pelagianism, man has the ability to make the first move towards God, but God must finish the process.

Arminianism: affirms the doctrine of total depravity and original sin. Man is naturally unable to make any move towards God. As you likely already know, it is one of the 5 main points of Arminianism (the T in FACTS.) If MacArthur read Arminius himself or even took 2 minutes to look up Wikipedia, he would know that [2] "No system of Arminianism founded on Arminius or Wesley denies original sin or total depravity; both Arminius and Wesley strongly affirmed that man's basic condition is one in which he cannot be righteous, understand God, or seek God".

The Society of Evangelical Arminians Statement of Faith affirms [3]"We believe that humanity was created in the image of God but fell from its original sinless state through willful disobedience and Satan's deception, resulting in eternal condemnation and separation from God. In and of themselves and apart from the grace of God human beings can neither think, will, nor do anything good, including believe. But the prevenient grace of God prepares and enables sinners to receive the free gift of salvation offered in Christ and his gospel. Only through the grace of God can sinners believe and so be regenerated by the Holy Spirit unto salvation and spiritual life. It is also the grace of God that enables believers to continue in faith as well as good in thought, will, and deed, so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God."

Arminius himself wrote [4] "This is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace."

Article III of the Remonstrants says [5] "That man does not posses saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is necessary that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, and will, and all his faculties, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, “Without me you can do nothing.”"

Anyone who does not affirm original sin or total depravity is not a true Arminian. Perhaps more would be willing to accept the doctrines of Arminianism if they actually knew what the doctrines were.

Daniel Nebauer


Thursday, 21 May 2009

1 Cor 10:13 - Free because God is Sovereign

1 Cor 10:13 (ESV) says: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

While not all Calvinists adhere to exhaustive determinism, I think it is worth while to see if exhaustive determinism is biblical. I believe this verse shows us that we are free (in the non-Calvinist sense of the word) to choose not to sin.

Determinists often like to claim that humans will always "choose" whatever we most desire, and that desire is a result of our nature and our environment at that point in time. So then what does it mean to be tempted? Temptation is the influence that causes us to desire sin. Now logically, according to the determinist, when we sin, it is because our desire to sin is greater than our desire not to sin. In other words, we sin when the temptation becomes too great for out nature to deal with.

But what does the above verse say with regards to temptation? "God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability..."
God will never let us be tempted beyond our ability. In other words, it's always possible to resist the temptation. So the times we have sinned - it was possible for us to choose not to sin. But according to the determinist, it is only possible to "choose" what we have been determined to choose. And there lies the determinist's inconsistency.

And there lies one of the strengths of the Arminian position. If God doesn't determine us to sin, and we have the freedom not to sin, then the blame for sin can only lie with us. We are responsible for our own sins, and God is not the author of sin. God didn't decree for us to sin, just as it is evident he didn't decree the sins in Jer 19:5.

But why is it that we have this freedom not to sin? Is it because God is powerless and must let us have this freedom? Of course not! It is in His Sovereignty that God grants us this freedom. "...but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." It is by God's graciousness that we are able to not sin. But at the same time we know we still choose to sin. God doesn't force us to not sin, - as we know we still sin, - this is His permissive will. As in God's grace He has granted us the ability to not sin, I also believe He has done so in regards to our ability to repent and believe, - but that is a post for another day.

Daniel Nebauer

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Calvinist Justice

Some time ago a Calvinist made a parody of the song "Amazing Grace" called "Arminian grace" where the Calvinist confuses Arminianism with Pelagianism. It can be found here.

Here is an attempt to parody the Calvinist view of justice using the same song. I believe that this does more justice to the Calvinist positition than the above does to the Arminian position. If it seems at all dark, its because it's a reflection of Calvinism. It is written in the eyes of the 'reprobate'.

Calvinist “justice!” How dark the sound,
Condemned not because of me.
God made me lost and would not find,
Made blind, but won't help me see.

What “justice” is this from secret decrees,
Made from this God within?
Created unable to hear God’s voice,
Condemned before I sinned.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have gone through alone.
God tempted me more than I could bear,
To justify my place in my home.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Because of what God’s done.
We’ve no less days to scream in pain,
Than when we first begun.

Daniel Nebauer

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Calvinist Witnessing Video

I found this funny and thought I'd share it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Consistent Calvinism FAQ (Satire)

This is a post I added to the Society of Evangelical Arminians prior to creating this blog.

Disclaimer: The following is a light-hearted satire on Calvinism and not an attack on Calvinists. :-)

Q. How should I approach evangelism?

A. You should evangelise if you believe that you are included in the command of the Great Commission. It is important, however, to know what the right motivation for evangelism is. Your motivation should be to obey God’s command. People’s salvation is not a legitimate motivation for evangelism, for you cannot change their elected status.
When you evangelise, be careful not to tell people that “Jesus died for their sins”. Also note, that since grace is irresistible, there is no need to be persuasive, (for you cannot change people’s elected status). The corollary of this is that there is no harm in being non-persuasive. Once people have heard the ‘good news’, there is no need to continue preaching to them.
Remember that statistically speaking, those you are evangelising to are probably part of the reprobate. There is, however, no need to seek out the elect, or any need to reach as many people as possible. This is because God will ensure one way or another, that those who are included in the elect will hear the gospel by some means.
Take comfort in that, if you are not spreading the ‘good news’, it’s not your fault, because it just means that at this time God is not using you.

Q. What should I do if it looks like someone is in danger of falling away?

A. Nothing. It is impossible for someone to fall away. If someone does fall away, you must conclude that they were never saved in the first place. In which case, it is legitimate (though not necessary since they have already heard the ‘good news’) to evangelise to them. (See “How should I approach evangelism?”)

Q. How should I approach prayer?

A. The purpose of prayer is to build your relationship with God. Asking God for anything won’t have an impact, for God has already decided. There is no need to ask for people to be saved because God’s mind is already made up, and can’t be changed.

Q. What should my attitude be of hell?

A. It is impossible to know who is part of the elect, and who is part of the reprobate. On one level, it should grieve you that people are damned, (because God does desire all men to be saved). However, in perspective, it is a greater desire of God to have His glory revealed. More than anything, you should rejoice in the fact that God’s will is done. You should rejoice in that God’s glory will be made known, through the condemnation and eternal damnation of the majority of humanity.

Q. Should I have children?

A. Some people are worried that if they have children, God will reprobate them to hell. It is true that there is a chance, that should you ‘choose’ to have children, that they will be reprobated to eternal condemnation, and that even raising them up in a Christian home will not influence your children’s decision in following Christ. However, this should not deter you from having children, for should God choose to reprobate them, it will help make God’s glory known. (See “What should my attitude be of hell?”)

Q. How do I best convince Arminians and other non-Calvinists that Calvinism is the true Gospel?

A. You shouldn’t. Those who are deceived are deceived because God wants them to be deceived. To do so would make you fighting against God.

Q. What about sin?

A. Just because God determines everything doesn’t mean that He determines sin. This apparent contradiction can be resolved with “compatiblism”. Remember, Calvinism is thoroughly consistent, and any ‘apparent contradictions’ can be resolved with Deut. 29:29.
As Calvinists we must recognise (somehow) that we are responsible for our sins, otherwise we could end up like those prideful Arminians.

By Daniel Nebauer


Here you will be able to see some of my thoughts, particularly regarding Calvinism and Arminianism. As the blog title suggests, I am now an Arminian, though I readily accept Calvinists as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As time permits, I will hopefully be able to post more often. Welcome to my blog, and God bless!

Daniel Nebauer