Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Theological Foundations, Part 4 -- The Arminian Remonstrance


Article 3

That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, 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 needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, 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 ye can do nothing.”

Article 4

That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. but respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible; inasmuch as it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Ghost. Acts 7, and else­where in many places.

Often, Reformation Arminianism is labeled by its critics (usually Calvinists) as "Semi-Pelagianism." I will discuss Pelagius and the beliefs he originated at some point in the future -- right now, let me explain briefly this false charge, and how they differ -- rather distinctly.

Semi-Pelagianism does not deny the necessity of God's grace for salvation, but it does insist that the first efforts or initial steps toward salvation are taken by the human will, and that God's supernatural grace supervenes only to "seal the deal."

The result of Semi-Pelagianism is the denial of the necessity of God's unmerited, supernatural, gracious empowering of man's will to come to salvation through faith. In short, Reformation Arminianism differs strikingly from Semi-Pelagianism in this point -- Reformation Arminianism affirms the Biblical --and incidentally the Reformed [even Calvinist] -- concept of Total Depravity. Read Article 3 again..."Man has not saving grace of himself, nor the energy of his free will...can of and by himself neither think, will nor do anything that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is)..."

In other words, man, in the strictest sense, has a "Freed Will," not a "free will." Man cannot of himself come to faith in Christ. Rather, it is "through His Holy Spirit" that He renews our "understanding, inclination or order that he [man] may rightly understand, think, will and effect what is truly good..." Calvinists insist that this is actual "regeneration," which would mean that the event of the new birth must precede the actual exercise of faith. That is not the Biblical Ordo Salutis. Scripture clearly teaches it is "by grace, through faith." We enter His grace through a faith that God produces in us. How does God do that? Prevenient Grace.

If man is unable to come to faith, to believe, to do any good, how then can he believe? "No one can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). That process of "drawing" men unto Himself is what we might call "Prevenient Grace." As to it's effect, it draws man, it enables man to be custodian of the faith God has given, it "frees" the will of man. Prevenient Grace, however, DOES NOT produce "regeneration" and thus salvation, nor is it irresistible and outside man's ability to choose.

In short, then, Man is Totally Depraved -- men cannot will, think,do or be good. God, then, draws men to Him, enables men to believe and allows men to choose whether or if he will ultimately receive God's gift of salvation. Upon exercising saving faith, regeneration -- the "New Birth" is accomplished. An eternal destiny is changed. A spirit is "made alive," or "quickened."

It's ALL of Grace -- God's grace. And that is, in summary, the Biblical concept of Total Depravity and Prevenient Grace as understood by Reformation Arminianism.

Yes, I believe in the "doctrines of grace." :-)


1 comment:

Godismyjudge said...

Great post bringing rare clarity to an often misrepresented issue.

God be with you,