- The thoughts of a 21st century Remonstrant

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


1 comment:

  1. Excellent post here my friend. The heart breaking thing to me is, these are supposedly learned, objective men, expositors even, but they ignore simple truths like 1 Timothy 2:4.

    And a standard is to throw the Arminian under the bus, without understanding the Arminian position.


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