Friday, December 31, 2010

Blogging on Catholicism in 2011

The past few years I have blogged mostly on Calvinism/Arminianism and while I may post more on that topic in 2011, God willing, I would like to discuss Protestant/Roman Catholic topics in the coming year. They have been on my mind as of late and it will just give me a chance to dig into other areas of scripture.

My initial impressions is that while my differences with Calvinists are mostly theoretical with little practical implications (i.e. I have worshiped God alongside Calvinists my whole life) my differences with Catholicism are the reverse.  We probably generally share the same view of God but I would not feel at home in a Catholic Church. The Pope, the Mass, Mary, the Saints, Icons, Purgatory, Confession, Indulgences, the Apocrypha... these are large, in your face, real world differences.  The heart of the difference to me seems not so much in the understanding of the God who is revealing things, but rather in what He has revealed.  We will see how my impressions change as the year goes by. 

God be with you in the new year.  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wiki page on Molinism

I upated the wikipedia page on Molinism.  This is my first time working on wikipedia so I will be interested to see if it stay's updated as the prior version seem to have been written by a Calvinist then updated by an Open Theist.  Anyways, I hope you enjoy it! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Respond to John Byle's luck objection

The issue is whether the circumstances and constitution of the self fully determine its decisions. Will the same self, under the same conditions, always make the same decision? Libertarians answer ‘no’. But then we must ask: what is the decisive factor in making a choice, if not the internal constitution of the self and its external circumstances? What other cause can there be? The inevitable implication of libertarianism is that the self’s decisions are, at least to some extent, uncaused….

How can I make any practical plans, if I do not have control over my choices? Imagine that I set out to fly an aircraft from London to Vancouver. Keeping the aircraft safely aloft and on course will keep me very busy. It will require many quick decisions. How can I hope to arrive at my planned destination, if all my actions involve an element of chance? In that case I cannot predict how I shall act. I may do things that will astonish, not only my passengers, but even myself. (link)

The strongest response to the luck objection to freewill is of course the counter-example of God’s freedom. Clearly God’s actions were not predetermined and equally clearly He was in control. I do find it odd that the very source of control and irreducible meaning of control is criticized as being out of control.

However, Dr. Byle makes two other mistakes in analyzing the repeatability and predictability of choices. He says libertarians answer ‘no’ to the question “Will the same self, under the same conditions, always make the same decision?” Answering ‘no’ does make it sound as if man’s actions involve randomness, chance, luck and are generally out of control. But libertarians don’t have to answer ‘no’ to this sort of question although open theists typically do. Byle's question is not about possibilities or what we can do, but rather about counterfactuals of freedom or what we would do. All that is required for libertarian freedom is the idea the same self under the same conditions could choose otherwise, not that we would choose otherwise. Thus we are not like a coin flip coming up heads one time and tails another; rather we might have a great deal of predictability based on past experience.

Dr. Byle’s second mistake, which grew out of his first, involves planning and predictability. Can we plan for and predict our own choices? Sure, we have the ability to project ourselves into various circumstances, think things through and predict what we would do. It’s almost like a pre-choice that we simply activate when the time comes. When I was first learning to drive, I had to actively concentrate on turning: turn signal, rear view, side view, head check turn. Now I just decide to turn and I execute the familiar sequence without much further thought. Voting is another example – I have already decided who to vote for before I enter the booth. Now perhaps just before I vote I receive new information to consider. Perhaps I may change my mind, but that just indicates my prior planning was inadequate, not that I cannot plan at all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Angels - Is Infra Better than Surpa?

Angels had a one shot deal - unlike man, they don’t have plan of salvation. Mankind on the other hand had two chances to be with God forever – the garden and the gospel. Infra-lapsarians place a lot of weight on Adam’s fall – the fall is the reason any man is reprobated1. Thus infra-lapsarians see God as a just judge in reprobating sinners. But what carries this weight in the case of reprobate Angels? It would seem justice cannot play the vital role in their reprobation that it does in the case of mankind, if it can play any role at all. And thus with respect to God’s character, they lose whatever ground they might have gained via going with infra-lapsarianism over supra-lapsarianism.

1 Reprobation may be understood as either passed over and not elected or actively reprobated. Infra-lapsarians tend to describe reprobation in terms of being passed over, but some infras do hold to double predestination. Infra-lapsarians say the reason anyone is reprobated at all is due to their fallen sinful state while the reason this person is reprobated and not that person is simply due to God’s will.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is monergistic regeneration synonymous with irresistible grace?

B.B. Warfield seemed to think so when he said: "Thus it comes about that the doctrine of monergistic regeneration -- or as it was phrased by the older theologians, of "irresistible grace" or "effectual calling" -- is the hinge of the Calvinistic soteriology, and lies much more deeply embedded in the system than the doctrine of predestination itself which is popularly looked upon as its hall-mark.  Indeed, the soteriological significance of predestination to the Calvinist consists in the safeguard it affords to monergistic regeneration - to purely supernatural salvation. What lies at the heart of his soteriology is the absolute exclusion of the creaturely element in the initiation of the saving process, that so the pure grace of God may be magnified. Only so could he express his sense of man's complete dependence as sinner on the free mercy of a saving God; or extrude the evil leaven of Synergism (q.v.) by which, as he clearly sees, God is robbed of His glory and man is encouraged to think that he owes to some power, some act of choice, some initiative of his own, his participation in that salvation which is in reality all of grace.” (link)

I disagree with Warfield or at least have some doubts that the terms are equivalent.  Setting aside the fact that regeneration is more specific than grace, it just appears that that irresistible is broader than monergism and relates to more parts of the conversion process.  Per the Calvinist order of salvation, God regenerates, then calls then man repents and believes.  God’s regenerating and calling guaranties a response.   It’s the aspect of guaranteeing repentance and faith that is included in irresistible grace, but missing from monergistic regeneration. 

Does this seem like hair splitting?  Maybe it is, but the term monergistic regeneration has lead to a good deal of confusion.  For example, do I hold to monergistic regeneration since I think God alone regenerates man, even though I think regeneration happens after faith, not before?  Many Arminians do view themselves as monergists on this account.  But if Calvinists insist that repentance and faith in response is regeneration is a vital aspect, then are Calvinists synergists because man is active in repentance and faith?  But perhaps monergistic regeneration must be a regeneration that takes place at the initiation of the saving process.   Well, in that case do Arminians hold to monergistic previenient grace and they therefore are also monergists?  After all, it’s Pelagians and Semi-Pleagians, not Arminians who deny that God alone initiates the saving process. 

On this account some Calvinists drop regeneration and just speak of monergism.  And there is a sense in which all Calvinists are monergists and no Arminians are: God determines the salvation of certain individuals.  But the practical problem with this definition is that not all Calvinists use it and use it consistently and monergism is often still brought up in reference to regeneration and the order of salvation. 

So in short, I think that the term monergistic regeneration is a poor improvement on the term irresistible grace.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Arminius and Middle Knowledge in his Review of Perkins

Several years ago, when Dr. Olson first published Arminian Theology and I noted his objection to the idea that Arminius held to middle knowledge1 (the idea that God knows what we would freely do under any circumstance), I wrote a brief post quoting Arminius’ use of middle knowledge. (link) At the time I thought it was a simple matter of pointing out the people that Arminius used the concept of middle knowledge. Surprisingly, this has not been the case; some Arminians are still reluctant to agree that Arminius held to middle knowledge. This, I think, is to their loss, since according to William Lane Craig, middle knowledge is one of the most fruitful theological concepts he has come across and according to Eef Dekker, Arminius introduced middle knowledge into protestant theology.


I recently went through Arminius’ response to Perkins again, which I really enjoyed. Below is a list of eleven quotes from just Arminius response to Perkins where he uses the concept of middle knowledge. Here are the quotes:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

God has nothing to do with anything in time?

James White recently spoke about middle knowledge and William Lane Craig on ‘Radio Free Geneva’. Some of the program repeated past mistakes James White has made about middle knowledge, but he provided some fresh mistakes as well; the most notable of which was his statement around 42 minutes in that “the best the Molinist can say is that God has nothing to do with anything that takes place in time because He is a huge divine cosmic computer that ran all the possible scenarios based upon what free creatures would do and actuated a scenario” and again two minutes latter, James White says “[per Molinism] the freedom of God’s choice is limited to one decision, that’s it.”

In Molinism, just as in Calvinism, God’s one decision is all comprehensive and has multiple aspects. His decision impacts (either directly or via permission) all points in time, so it’s fundamentally wrong to say God has nothing to do with anything that takes place in time. Just because God planned for the flood from eternity past does not mean He didn’t send it in time.

I think that one of the reasons why Calvinists dislike middle knowledge so much is that it’s too close to their own view. They would rather have their opponents be Open Theists and Pelagians, because this gives their own view some wiggle room. The contrast between Calvinism and middle knowledge focus our attention like a laser on causal determinism, which is an uncomfortable topic for many Calvinists who would rather just go back to championing God’s grace and omniscience against Open Theists and Pelagians.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Francis Turretin's Mystical Sense of Romans 9

How does Francis Turretin respond to the fact that in Romans 9:11 Paul quotes from Genesis 25:23 wherein the election of Jacob and Esau related to national blessings, rather than individual salvation? "The answer is although that announcement may be extended to the posterity also (Gen. 25:23; Mal. 1:3) and, in the historical sense, may be referred to the blessing or external appointment to dominion or servitude, still this does not hinder it from being referred (in a mystical sense) properly to election and reprobation with respect to the fathers themselves."
I agree that Paul was using the OT examples of Jacob and Esau to teach more than national election. But I think pointing out that in the OT the passages were national does a lot to blunt the idea that Romans 9 is obviously Calvinistic. Turretin has to retreat to a mystical sense, which inherently seems more prone to be open to a range of interpretations. If Jacob and Esau were just types, how do we know they were types of unconditional individual election and reprobation rather than types of God's promise vs. works? After all, the lead in context seems to strongly indicate that God planned to save via God's promise, not nationality or works.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Novatian on Free Will

And after these things He also placed man at the head of the world, and man, too, made in the image of God, to whom He imparted mind, and reason, and foresight, that he might imitate God; and although the first elements of his body were earthly, yet the substance was inspired by a heavenly and divine breathing. And when He had given him all things for his service, He willed that he alone should be free. And lest, again, an unbounded freedom should fall into peril, He laid down a command, in which man was taught that there was no evil in the fruit of the tree; but he was forewarned that evil would arise if perchance he should exercise his free will, in the contempt of the law that was given. For, on the one hand, it had behoved him to be free, lest the image of God should, unfittingly be in bondage; and on the other, the law was to be added, so that an unbridled liberty might not break forth even to a contempt of the Giver. So that he might receive as a consequence both worthy rewards and a deserved punishment, having in his own power that which he might choose to do, by the tendency of his mind in either direction: whence, therefore, by envy, mortality comes back upon him; seeing that, although he might escape it by obedience, he rushes into it by hurrying to be God under the influence of perverse counsel. (link)

Clement of Alexandria on John 6:45

Everything, then, which falls under a name, is originated, whether they will or not. Whether, then, the Father Himself draws to Himself everyone who has led a pure life, and has reached the conception of the blessed and incorruptible nature; or whether the free-will which is in us, by reaching the knowledge of the good, leaps and bounds over the barriers, as the gymnasts say; yet it is not without eminent grace that the soul is winged, and soars, and is raised above the higher spheres, laying aside all that is heavy, and surrendering itself to its kindred element. (The Stromata Book V)

Aristotelian Causality and the Pointlessness of Atheism

Aristotle places great emphasis on understanding causes. "For Aristotle, a firm grasp of what a cause is, and how many kinds of causes there are, is essential for a successful investigation of the world around us."  Aristotle uses the famous four causes to explain why questions:

•The material cause: “that out of which”, e.g., the bronze of a statue.
•The formal cause: “the form”, “the account of what-it-is-to-be”, e.g., the shape of a statue.
•The efficient cause: “the primary source of the change or rest”, e.g., the artisan, the art of bronze-casting the statue, the man who gives advice, the father of the child.
•The final cause: “the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done”, e.g., health is the end of walking, losing weight, purging, drugs, and surgical tools.

Understanding these four causes is vital: an explanation which fails to invoke all four causes is no explanation at all.  Many causal analyses today look mainly to efficient causes and see final causes as above and beyond causal analysis.  Aristotle would see this approach as deficient, not only did he include final causes, but he gave explanatory priority of the final cause over the efficient cause.  He did not limit his search of final causes or the goal to the effects of rational agents; even natural causes show design and understanding that design is vital to understanding "the why". 

For example, why cannot it be merely a coincidence that the front teeth grow sharp and suitable for tearing the food and the molars grow broad and useful for grinding the food (Phys. 198 b 23-27)? When the teeth grow in just this way, then the animal survives. When they do not, then the animal dies...


Aristotle's reply is that the opponent is expected to explain why the teeth regularly grow in the way they do: sharp teeth in the front and broad molars in the back of the mouth. Moreover, since this dental arrangement is suitable for biting and chewing the food that the animal takes in, the opponent is expected to explain the regular connection between the needs of the animal and the formation of its teeth. Either there is a real causal connection between the formation of the teeth and the needs of the animal, or there is no real causal connection and it just so happens that the way the teeth grow is good for the animal. In this second case it is just a coincidence that the teeth grow in a way that it is good for the animal. But this does not explain the regularity of the connection. Where there is regularity there is also a call for an explanation, and coincidence is no explanation at all.

All quotations are from Andrea Falcon's fine article on Aristotelian Causality.
Darwinism responds with survival of the fittest - animals (and their predecessors) with broad teeth in the front died off because they are unsuited to survival.  When we cannot find dental records of such animals, Darwin refers us to the mystery of countless past ages.  But at bottom there is no answer to the why; no design.  As for atheism, this lack of explanation of "the why" runs deep; to the core really.  According to Bertrand Russell "The universe is just there, and that's all."  No design in nature, no point to the universe, no afterlife or ultimate goal for man; everything remains ultimately unexplained with regard to final causality.  How sad in contrast to the fullness of life Christ offers us.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Justin Martyr on Free Will

“But that you may not have a pretext for saying that Christ must have been crucified, and that those who transgressed must have been among your nation, and that the matter could not have been otherwise, I said briefly by anticipation, that God, wishing men and angels to follow His will, resolved to create them free to do righteousness; possessing reason, that they may know by whom they are created, and through whom they, not existing formerly, do now exist; and with a law that they should be judged by Him, if they do anything contrary to right reason: and of ourselves we, men and angels, shall be convicted of having acted sinfully, unless we repent beforehand. But if the word of God foretells that some angels and men shall be certainly punished, it did so because it foreknew that they would be unchangeably [wicked], but not because God had created them so. (Dialogue with Trypho)

Is Sola Scriptura Biblical?

Not really, there are no passages teaching that doctrine. In fact, scripture gives us several examples of infallible oral teachings, including the Prophets, Christ’s earthly ministry, and even the Apostles. But sola scriptura is about the post-apostolic age! Well there are yet future examples as well, such as the two witnesses in Revelations and Christ Himself when He returns.

Now don’t get me wrong, the bible declares itself to be authoritative and sufficient for salvation. The bible says “Scriptura”; it’s the “sola” part that it doesn’t say.

So why then, do I believe in the Sola of Sola-Scripture? For the same reasons Luther gave at the Diet of Worms: "Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason "I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe." Popes and councils have contradicted themselves and scriptures, so they cannot have the same authority as scripture, let alone the authority to interpret scripture, which at a practical level is a greater authority than scripture.

This is of course in opposition to Roman Catholicism, but it also is in opposition to presuppostional apologetics, which presupposes sola scriptura as one of its most fundamental axioms, rather than accepting it based on evidence.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Justin Martyr against Fate

But neither do we affirm that it is by fate that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer, but that each man by free choice acts rightly or sins.... The Stoics, not observing this, maintained that all things take place according to the necessity of fate. But since God in the beginning made the race of angels and men with free-will, they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed. And this is the nature of all that is made, to be capable of vice and virtue. For neither would any of them be praiseworthy unless there were power to turn to both [virtue and vice]. (The Second Apology)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Irenaeus on Matthew 23:37

This expression [of our Lord], “How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not,”set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man, as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves....

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oecumenius on 1 Peter 2:8

1 Peter 2:8(b) They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

God is not to be held responsible for this, for no cause of damnation can come from him who wants everyone to be saved. It is they who have made themselves into vessels of wrath, and unbelief has followed naturally from that. Therefore they have been established in the order for which they have prepared themselves. For if a human being is made with free will, that free will cannot be forced, nor can anyone accuse him who has decreed their fate of having done anything to them which they did not fully deserve as a result of their own actions. (Oecumenius. Commentary on 1 Peter. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. New Testament XI. Oden.)

Arminius handles Plancius

Here's a good post on how Arminius dealt with some of the wild accusations brought against him written by Derek Ouellette at Covenant of Love.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hodge against the Eternality of the World

Surprisingly, despite Genesis 1:1, some Christian theologians hold that the world is eternal. An example today would be someone like Calvinist philosopher Paul Helm. While I disagree with Hodge on soteriology, I did enjoy his brief summary of the arguments from Christians in favor of an eternal world and his responses to those arguments.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chrysostom on Philipians 1:29

Ver. 29. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer in his behalf.”

Again does he teach them moderation of spirit by referring all to God, and saying that sufferings in behalf of Christ are of grace, the gift of grace, a free gift. Be not then ashamed of the gift of grace, for it is more wonderful than the power of raising the dead, or working miracles; for there I am a debtor, but here I have Christ for my debtor. Wherefore ought we not only not to be ashamed, but even to rejoice, in that we have this gift. Virtues he calls gifts, yet not in like sort as other things, for those are entirely of God, but in these we have a share. But since even here the greatest part is of God, he ascribes it entirely to Him, not to overturn our free will, but to make us humble and rightly disposed. (link)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Arminian Timeline


Date

Remonstrant

Anglican/Methodist

Baptist

1600’s

James
Arminius (1560-1609) Theologian and leader of the opposition of Calvinism
in Amsterdam and Leiden

Jan Uytenbogaert remonstrant led the meeting that produced
the
5
Points of the Remonstrants - 1610

Simon Episcopius
(1583-1643) - Arminius' greatest student and leader of the Remonstrants at Dort - Opra Theologica.

Hugo Grotius (1583
–1645) Imprisoned as a result of Dort.
First to articulate the Governmental Theory of the Atonement in A Defense of the Catholic Faith
Concerning the Satisfaction of Christ
. Commentaries.

Johannes
Arnoldi Corvinus
(1582-1650) – Response
to Peter Molina

Gerardus Vossius (1577-1649) - History
of the Pelagian Controversy

1618
OPINIONS OF THE REMONSTRANTS

The
Arminian Confession 1621

Philip van Limborch
(1633-1712) (A
Complete System, or Body of Divinity
)

Peter Baro (1534-1599)

Daniel Tilenus (1563–1633) Bridge
between the Remonstrants and Early English Arminianism.
Convinced of Arminianism by Corvinus and passed that influence to Womock

Laurence Womock (1612–1686) – Author
of the Calvinist Cabinet Unlocked and
The
Result of False Principles: or, Error Convicted by its Own Evidence
John Goodwin (1593-1665) Author of Redemption
Redeemed
, An
Exposition Romans 9
and a
Christian Theology

Lancelot Andrews (1555-1626) - Sermons


John
Smyth (1570-1612) & Thomas Helwys (1550-1616)– Cofounders
of Baptist Church
The
First Baptist Confession 1611


Thomas
Grantham (1634-1692) General Baptist (Works)

Henry
Denne – General Baptist (d 1661)


1700’s




Daniel Whitby
(1638-1726) - His classic work Discourses on the 5 Points
drew famous responses from Calvinists John Gill (The Cause of God and Truth)
and Jonathan Edwards (Inquiry into the Will).

John
Wesley
(1703-1791)
Founder of Methodism

Charles
Wesley (1707 –1788)

John Fletcher (1729-1782)Works: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3,

Volume 4
Thomas Coke
(1747-1814)

Joseph Benson (1748-1821)


Dan
Taylor – General Baptist (1738-1816) (Works)



Benjamin
Randall – General Baptist (1749-1808) (Works)

1800’s



Adam Clarke (1762-1832)-
Commentaries

Joseph Sutcliffe
(1762-1856) -Commentaries

Richard Watson
(1781-1833)
- His
Theological Institutes
is perhaps
the best Methodist Systematic Theology

Thomas William JenkynExtent of the Atonement (1835)
S.G. Burney Atonement (1888)

Willbur Fisk (1792 – 1839) - Calvinistic Controversy

Samuel Wakefied (1799-1895) -Christian Theology

Amos Binney (1802-1878) System
of Divinity

Daniel Whedon (1808-1885) The Freedom of the Will. Commentaries.


Miner Raymond
(1811-1897)- Systemtaic Theology,
Volume
1
, Volume
2
and Volume
3



Thomas O. Summers
(1812-1882)-
Commentary
Matthew,
Mark,
Luke

John Miley (1813-1895)

Randolph S. Foster
(1820-1903)
Objections to
CALVINISM as it is

William Burt Pope
(1822-1903)
Volume
1
and Volume
2
of his Systematic Theology
Daniel Steele (1824-1914) Commentaries on Leviticus,
Numbers, and Deuteronomy
, Joshua - 2 Samuel, and John's Epistles
Benjamin Field
(1827-1869)-

Albert Nash, Perseverance and Apostasy (1871)


Frédéric Louis Godet
(1812 -1900) Not a Methodist. Commentaries on
John
Volume 1
, John Volume 2, and Romans


Joseph Beet
(1840-1924)
Commentary on Romans


Ransom
Dunn – General Baptist - A
Discourse on the Freedom of the Will (1850)

A. D.
Williams – General Baptist (1825 - 1894)

David
Marks – General Baptist (1805-1845)

Jabez Burns - General Baptist
(1805-1876) (Works)



E. Y.
Mullins (1860-1928) wrote Baptist Beliefs and W. T. Conner (1877-1952) – wrote
Christian Doctrine and The Gospel of Redemption. Mullins and Conner did not call themselves Arminians, but they were instrumental in the decline of
Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Through Sanctification of the Spirit

Arminians typically emphasize the foreknowledge aspect of 1 Peter 1:2, but there is another aspect that's even more supportive of conditional election. Infra-lapsarian Calvinists typically view election as among the unsanctified but the passage teaches us that we are chosen through (or 'by' or 'in') sanctification of the Spirit. Here's the passage:

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, to obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you, and peace, be multiplied.

The phrase 'through sanctification of the Spirit' modifies 'elect'. Sanctification is the means, not the goal of election (i.e. we are not chosen to become sanctified, rather we are chosen through sanctification). The Holy Spirit produces obedient faith in us and through His work we become the elect.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Paul’s Calminian Objector

Calvinist sometimes see Paul’s objector in Romans 9:19 as an Arminian. After all, wouldn’t Arminius ask Calvin why does He yet find fault?


But on the other hand, Arminius doesn’t believe God’s will is irresistible. It’s Calvin who asks Arminius who has resisted His will?



But wait, Calvin is OK with finding fault men even though their actions are predetermined by God and wouldn't aks why God still finds fault. So the objector was half Calvinist, half Arminian.  Was he a Calminian?


No, Paul’s Jewish objector impiously asked for exemption from blame since God had the authority to save via works of the law rather than faith.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Accord­ing to the Good Pleasure of His Will

Calvinist find a hint of unconditionally in the phrase "accord­ing to the good pleasure of His will". If God is calling the shots, with respect to us it must be random. Arminians need not understand the phrase along those lines. This just means God's plans are wise and good and in accordance with His Holiness, Justice and Goodness.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Was Augustine a Determinist?

Many years ago this statement by Arminius about Augustine caught my eye and I have been passively looking for it ever since:

Are those who are thus the reprobate necessarily damned, because either no grace at all, or not sufficient, has been destined to them, that they may assent to it and believe, Or rather, according to St. Augustine, Are those who are thus the elect assuredly saved, because God decreed to employ grace on them as he knew was suitable and congruous that they might be persuaded and saved; though if regard be had to the internal efficacy of grace, they may not be advanced or benefited by it (link)

This sounds like congruism - a variant of Molinism that holds to both unconditional election libertarian free will (advocated by Suarez and the Jesuits).  (info on Congruism) Early in life Augustine strongly advocated libertarian freedom. Latter in life, Augustine sounded more like a Calvinist, but was he really a proto-congruist?

Baptist vs. Reformed

Turretinfan's recent post on the separation of Church and State reminded me of this quote from John Calvin:

Compel them to come in. This expression means, that the master of the house would give orders to make use, as it were, of violence for compelling the attendance of the poor, and to leave out none of the lowest dregs of the people. By these words Christ declares that he would rake together all the offscourings of the world, rather than he would ever admit such ungrateful persons to his table. The allusion appears to be to the manner in which the Gospel invites us; for the grace of God is not merely offered to us, but doctrine is accompanied by exhortations fitted to arouse our minds. This is a display of the astonishing goodness of God, who, after freely inviting us, and perceiving that we give ourselves up to sleep, addresses our slothfulness by earnest entreaties, and not only arouses us by exhortations, but even compels us by threatenings to draw near to him. At the same time, I do not disapprove of the use which Augustine frequently made of this passage against the Donatists, to prove that godly princes may lawfully issue edicts, for compelling obstinate and rebellious persons to worship the true God, and to maintain the unity of the faith; for, though faith is voluntary, yet we see that such methods are useful for subduing the obstinacy of those who will not yield until they are compelled. (link)

That's a bit scary.  Baptists have some loose ties back to Ana-Baptists, who understood the separation of church and state issue better than the reformed churches. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Classical Arminianism?

I am not talking about Billy's blog, but the name itself. Lately people are using the term Classical Arminianism, Reformed Arminianism, Arminianism of the heart...  Do these terms do Arminians a disservice?

I think the point of these terms is to get back in touch with our roots and point out that Arminius himself was completely orthodox. But what are we distinguishing areselves from? Is there a type of Arminianism other than Classical Arminianism? Are these other Arminians open theists, anti-trinitarians, liberals and Pelagians?  Have the Calvinists been right all along about Arminianism and Classical Arminians only represent a small subset of Arminianism?

I think not. Arminianism is Classical Arminianism.

Friday, September 10, 2010

For the SBC, Arminianism = Falling from Grace?

Following up on my Baptist Chronicles post, here's a quote from David Docery in Calvinims: A Southern Baptist Dialogue:

We must recognize that there is a need for boundaries to say that some things do not fit in Baptist life.  We need to say that hyper-Calvinims (involving the rejection or neglect of evangelism and missions) does not fit.  We need to say that consistent Arminianism (involving the rejection of eternal security) does not fit.  Pelagianism, open theism and process theology do not belong.  (p. 42)

Docery does not like the label Arminianism because of its association with the rejection of eternal security providing another example of why non-Calvinist Southern Baptists don't call themselves Arminian.   

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Altar Calls

Billy and Roy were discussing altar calls so I thought I would throw my 2 cents in.

Some Calvinists object to altar calls. I can understand objections based on fears of easy-believism or false conversions. This is a serious objection because altar calls have been terribly abused; but altar calls can be and in my experience usually are done right. I could understand objections based on the regulative principles of worship. Just as a preacher wiping his nose when he sneezes during a sermon is not formally worship, so also altar calls may happen in church but not be considered formal worship. I could understand objections based on the idea that preaching is the only means God appointed to save through. Altar calls simply open the door for one-on-one evangelism and sinner’s prayers are simply concise gospel presentations. All these objections are understandable even though I ultimately disagree with them.

But I am not OK with objections to altar calls based on soteriology. Fatalism ignores means in light of an inevitable end. The idea that I don’t have to think about or put effort into my evangelistic methods, because of God’s unconditional election and irresistible grace is fatalistic. It’s hyper-Calvinism.

Baptist Chronicles?

I recently enjoyed the article “Neither Calvinist nor Arminians but Baptists” by the authors of Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism. To an extent, I see myself in this category as well. The authors teach Eternal Security and reject Open Theism and therefore distance themselves with Arminianism. I also hold to Eternal Security and Molinism and I think Arminianism is perfectly consistent with these views, but to the extent Arminianism is associated with falling from grace, my accepting the label Arminian could confuse people. But I think this just gives me the opportunity to clarify Arminianism, rather than just reject an otherwise helpful label. Besides, I suspect the authors of the article represent a broad group in which some of the members do truly fall outside the Arminian camp, but are still not 5-point Calvinists, so the motivations for the group may be different for me as an individual.

I also like the point that the Calvinism/Arminianism issue should not divide fellowship or take our focus off evangelism. I am perfectly happy serving under a moderate Calvinist pastor or witnessing alongside Calvinist church members and I have been doing so for most of my life.

HT: Peter Lumpkins

Monday, September 6, 2010

Original Sin - But I Didn't Eat the Fruit!

One of the more common objections to the doctrine of original sin is that it's unjust. I didn't eat the fruit, why do I have to suffer?  We of course did not eat the fruit, nor does God look at us as if we did. Rather, we are closely associated with Adam and in Adam all die.

This idea or federal headship is similar to the idea of families or nations suffering together for something their leader did and the bible gives us plenty of examples of this happening.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Adios Patrick Crayton

Thanks for all you did for Dallas over the years!  It's sad to see you go.  All the best with your next adventure; except when you play Dallas.

Fantasy Football Draft

The QBs were flying off the board early, so I had to pick from the best of the rest in that area.  Once Big Ben gets to play, I should be OK, but for the first four games I am going to have to go with match-ups and use the best of the rest. The league is standard scoring and is QB, RB, RB, Flex, TE, DEF, K.  Here are my picks.

Blogging Face Lift

I gave Arminian Chronicles a new look.  I hope you like it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

James White on Matthew 23:37



James White recently discussed Matthew 23:37 on Radio Free Geneva in response to Dr. Norman Geisler's book Chosen but Free. Here's the passage.

Matthew 23:37-39 states: 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”

James White uses the difference between 'Jerusalem' and 'your children' to argue that Jerusalem represents the Jewish leadership while Jerusalem's children are the Jewish people.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tertullian On Free Will

Tertullian, in his Exhortation to Chastity, addresses the subject of remarriage. He deals with the objection that remarriage is part of God's will because everything that happens is part of God's will, by saying we should not understand God's will in a way that removes our free will.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trials and Theodicy

The bible often speaks of God trying or testing us. For example, Exodus 16:4 says: 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.(All Scriptural Quotes from New King James Version) Such passages are strong evidence that God has given us the ability to choose between alternatives since the"or not" seems to be up to us. But such passages seem to imply something more than the ability to choose otherwise, they imply that at least in some circumstances we are able to choose good or evil. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Clement of Alexandria on Faith and Freewill

Here's what Clement of Alexandria (died around 215 AD) had to say about faith and freewill. While he was combating Gnosticism, not Calvinism, there are some parallels.

Further, the followers of Basilides say that faith as well as choice is proper according to every interval; and that in consequence of the supramundane selection mundane faith accompanies all nature, and that the free gift of faith is comformable to the hope of each. Faith, then, is no longer the direct result of free choice, if it is a natural advantage.

Monday, August 2, 2010

WLC on Does Creation Benefit the Lost

I enjoyed Dr. Craig's question of the week on "Does Creation Benefit the Lost?" I liked his point that not only did God intend to benefit the lost via salvation, but they actually benefit from having the opportunity even if they reject God's gift.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hays on Idealism

Steve Hays responded to my comment on idealism.

One needs to distinguish between epistemological idealism (e.g. Blanshard) and metaphysical idealism (e.g. Berkeley, McTaggart).
Yes, epistemological idealism isn't as problematic.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Steve Hays on Presuppositionalism

Steve Hays responded to my post on Van Til.

This is Van Til’s way of indicating that if you take the unbeliever’s position to its logical extreme, the unbeliever negates his knowledge of God (or anything else). In principle, the unbeliever knows nothing. ...Van Til does think that unbelievers retain some true knowledge

"Common ground" could stand for common beliefs. What believers and unbelievers both know about God, at a conscious or subconscious level. Or it could stand for common standards. Do believers and unbelievers share the same methods and assumptions?


If this is what Van Til meant, then I don't have a problem with it. But at lest in this respect, his view doesn't seem different than Clark's.

RazorsKiss on Presuppostional Apologetics

RazorsKiss at Choosinghats was kind enough to respond to my post on James White and Presuppostionalism. While I will respond to his other points as well, my main concern was to respond to his use of certain passages of scripture.

Friday, July 9, 2010

James Anderson's Defense of Van Til

James Anderson responded to my post on James White and Presuppositionalism by providing a link to an article he wrote defending Van Til. (link) Before getting into specifics on Anderson's article, I wanted to make some general comments. Undoubtedly, Van Til stated what I said he stated: 1) unbelievers don’t have true knowledge, 2: Christians and non-Christians have no common ground, 3) we should embrace apparent contradiction and circular reasoning and 4) our knowledge doesn't conincide with God's (i.e. scepticism). I will document this below. But it's also true, as Anderson's article points out, that Van Til at times said the opposite of these points or claimed to be misunderstood. Van Til's harshest critics (Clark & Robbins) simply accuse Van Til of contradiction himself. On the other hand, James Anderson (and other Van Til advocates such as Frame) seem to indicate that Van Til was not contradicting himself but rather had some deep, insightful meaning. However, they spend the bulk of there defense on explaining what Van Til did not mean rather then sharing what exactly Van Til's deep meaning was. Of course, if Van Til was irrational, then one could fill volumes with what Van Til didn't mean, because ultimately he didn't mean anything. So at best, Van Til is too confusing to be of any use and at worst he is an open advocate of contradiction.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

James White on Presuppositionalism

James White recently argued for presuppositional apologetics and against evidential apologetics. (link) He starts out with an analysis of Colossians 1:16-18, and Colossians 2:2-9, which focus on the Lordship of Christ. James White points out that the gospel is a radical claim, which unbelievers reject.

What caught my attention was James White's denial that unbelievers can have 'true knowledge' and his objection to the approach of starting from common ground between believers and unbelievers to show the reasonableness of believing in the God of the Bible and other Christian doctrines.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Index to Review of John Owen's the Death of Death in the Death of Christ

Part 1- Review of Owen’s Atonement Theory

In this section I review Owen’s view of the Atonement. In particular, I argue that Owen’s conflation of offering and intercession leads him to undermine justification by faith. I caution the reader to not attempt of “fix Owen’s argument for him”, or demand of me explanations of other aspects of passages quoted, or ask “how does this thought fit into an overall atonement theory”. Instead, just focus on understanding what Owen had to say, and if he was correct or not. There will be time explaining the atonement, when I give a positive defense of my own views. Owen’s view of the atonement lead him to unusual interpretations of certain “unlimited atonement” passages, so it’s well worth it to examine what he said about the atonement.

Part 2 – Top 10 Reasons to believe Christ Died for all

This section discusses the reasons to believe the atonement is unlimited. If Owen made some counter-arguments, they are included and addressed. The reasons are primarily based on exegesis, but some are based on systematic theology or even consistency within the Calvinist position. One key argument is that the Calvinist definition of the word “world” is a special pleading. They give “world” a definition that is alien to the New Testament, existing only to get Calvinists off the hook.

Part 3- Refutation of Owen’s arguments against Unlimited Atonement

Owen makes 24 arguments against unlimited Atonement, each of which is dealt with in turn. This section surveys a broad range of passages and scriptural arguments. It gives partial but not full explanations of the atonement. Owen’s key arguments are based on justice and satisfaction, which conflict with justification by faith.

Part 4- Atonement Theory

This section explains the atonement and contrasts an Arminian explanation with Owen’s. Both Owen’s explanation and this one are penal substitution, but whereas Owen’s atonement theory is one step, this one’s two step. The Lamb has been slain and the blood is applied.

Part 5 – Are Arminians Semi-Pelagian?

This section covers J. I. Packer’s misrepresentation of Arminianism and charge of semi-Pelagianism in his introduction to Owen’s book. The Council of Orange condemned semi-Pelagianism and this section demonstrates Arminius’ compliance with the 25 Cannons of Orange.