One of the cores of Arminian theology is that God wants everyone to be saved. Two passages that teach that are 1 Timothy 2:3-4, and 2 Peter 3:9.
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Calvinists on the other hand, believe in limited atonement, that God intends to save some people and not others. But that would seem to contradict the teaching of scripture that God wants everyone to be saved. One way that Calvinists resolve this conundrum is to argue that God has two separate wills. 1) A revealed will, that he wants all to be saved, and 2) A secret will where he predestines some to be saved, but not others.
Calvinist John Piper holds to this view:
Affirming the will of God to save all, while also affirming the unconditional election of some, implies that there are at least “two wills” in God, or two ways of willing. It implies that God decrees one state of affairs while also willing and teaching that a different state of affairs should come to pass.
To support the idea of God’s secret will, Calvinists point to passages such as Deuteronomy 29:29, and Luke 10:21
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. Luke 10:21
As an Arminian, I’m okay with expressing the idea that God has more than one will. A good way to say it is that God desires one thing, but permits another thing to happen. Where I disagree with Calvinists is if God’s will can directly contradict itself. So it’s coherent to say that God prefers for one thing to happen, but allows another thing to happen instead. But it’s a contradiction to say that God prefers one thing, but secretly does not prefer that same thing.
CS Lewis gives a good explanation of two wills in the book Mere Christianity.
But anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will in one way and not in another. It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, “I’m not going to go and make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You’ve got to learn to keep it tidy on your own.” Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. That is against her will. She would prefer the children to be tidy. But on the other hand, it is her will which has left the children free to be untidy. The same thing arises in any regiment, or trade union, or school. You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.
It’s coherent for a mom to tell her 10 year old son to clean the room, and be upset if the son didn’t do as she asked. But it would be incoherent for her to want a clean room and also secretly not want a clean room.
Another principal regarding God’s will is that is what is hidden from us will be consistent with what God has already revealed. God doesn’t lie about his unchanging purpose (Heb 6:17-18), and he can’t deny himself (2 Tim 2:13)
Right now we see things as if in a clouded mirror (1 Cor 13:12). We don’t see everything clearly, but we still see the big picture. If you look into a clouded mirror, some things will be fuzzy, but the mirror still reflects what is actually there. So for example, you might look into the cloudy mirror and see the ocean but miss the surfer. At the same time, you can be fully confident that you’re looking at an image of the ocean, and not the desert. Our understanding of God’s will is like that. We don’t understand everything he wills, but since scripture states that he wants everyone to be saved, we can be confident that other things he wills are consistent with that.
It’s also true that God sometimes hides things from the wise and reveals them to children (Luke 10:21). Sometimes the least educated and most childlike see God most clearly, and best explain him to us, and it pleases God to reveal himself that way. But again, what God reveals about himself to the “least” person will be consistent with what he has already revealed about himself through scripture. So if someone says God told them to go rob a bank, you can be confident that God didn’t really tell them to do that, because it contradicts the principle of “do not steal”, which he has already revealed.
To summarize, it’s a reasonable idea to express that God has more than one will, but inconsistent to say that God’s wills can be in direct contradiction. The Calvinist idea of God’s secret will results in a contradiction.
This post is about why I think the Penal Substitution theory of Atonement is compatible with the Wesleyan-Arminian theology. I think it is scripturally supported, it is easy to understand, it is advocated by Arminians past and present, and properly represented it gives an accurate picture of God’s loving nature, without neglecting his holiness.
Here is a quick summary of the Penal Substitution theory: Penal means legal, and substitution means Jesus took our place. Before God the Father, Jesus legally took our place. The theory was developed by John Calvin and other reformers at the time of the Reformation. Penal substitution is a modification and systemization of Anselm’s satisfaction theory. Anselm’s theory focuses on God’s honor. Penal substitution focuses on God’s justice. It says that Jesus willingly died on the cross as a substitute for humanity, taking our place. God the Father gave Jesus the penalty we deserved. This allows God to cancel our sin through the sacrifice of his perfect Son. God imputed our sin to Jesus, and in him and because of his work we are now given right standing before God.
Atonement theories are not the gospel themselves, they are just theories to help us understand. We should not be dogmatic about them. That is to say Christians in general, including Wesleyans, should be able to in good conscience hold to whatever orthodox atonement theory or combination of theories that they think provide the best the picture of who God is, and what Jesus accomplished. The goal of this post isn’t to say that all Wesleyans must affirm penal substitution, the goal is to show why some Wesleyans affirm it for good reasons. I see value in all of the theories of atonement. They all help to contribute to give a better picture of who God is. And they almost all include substitution of some form. Having said that, Penal Substitution is my preferred theory.
Penal Substitution is supported by scripture, and arguably has the most support of any of the theories. Here are a few passages that I think advocate the view. I’ll include some thoughts in italics on each.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This passage gives a strong picture of atonement. Notice it says that God (the Father) made him (the Son) who had no sin to be sin (a sin offering) for us. And this was so that in him (Christ) we can become the righteousness of God.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
This passage speaks of the atonement in legal terms. We were legally indebted and condemned. Jesus took that away and nailed it to the cross. This passage also shows of the validity of the Ransom view of atonement (that Jesus defeated Satan at the cross).
1 John 2:1-2
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice [propitiation] for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
We have an advocate (Jesus) to God the Father, and this is because of what Jesus accomplished at the cross. To propitiate means “to appease”. John Wesley wrote of this passage “The atoning sacrifice by which the wrath of God is appeased. For our sins – Who believe. And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world – Just as wide as sin extends, the propitiation extends also .”
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Jesus willingly took the penalty for our sins. God the Father placed all of our iniquity (our wickedness) on the Son, and because of this we are healed.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
We are no longer condemned because Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death. This is because God sent his Son in the flesh to be our sin offering, and in doing so he condemned sin in the flesh.
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
We are cursed because we don’t and can’t obey the law. Jesus redeems us from the curse of the law by becoming the curse for us.
The Penal Substitution theory is easy to communicate and understand
An additional benefit is the theory is easy to understand. While this doesn’t make it true in and of itself, it’s useful because it’s easily communicated. It’s arguably the default theory for most of Protestant Christianity because of this. If you ask your average lay person to explain how Jesus saves them, they’ll likely tell you something like “Jesus took the penalty that I deserve”.
Some atonement theories are difficult to explain and understand. This reduces their usefulness outside academic circles. If a layperson can’t grasp an atonement theory, it’s not valuable to them. This is even more true when graduating seminary students can’t explain it. Nazarene theologian Richard Taylor wrote about this in his book on atonement God’s Integrity and the Cross, noting that graduating seminary students at Nazarene Theological Seminary often couldn’t explain the Governmental atonement theory. For this reason and scriptural reasons, Taylor eventually changed and adopted Penal Substitution as his preferred theory. “Year after year I was distressed by the cloudy grasp of this basic Christian dogma displayed by a very high percentage of the students. In trying to analyze this serious weakness, I found myself probing the wonderful but complex area of truth more carefully.”
Penal Substitution has been advocated by many Wesleyans and Arminians, both past and present.
One of the four pillars of the Wesleyan quadrilateral is tradition (Scripture, tradition, reason, experience). By tradition we mean that our Wesleyan beliefs are influenced by historic Christian orthodoxy. Since both Jacob Arminius and John Wesley advocated for the Penal Substitution theory, it deserves consideration.
Jacob Arminus wrote: “For since the first covenant had been made weak through sin and the flesh, and was not capable of bringing righteousness and life, it was necessary, either to enter into another, or that we should be forever expelled from God’s presence. Such a covenant could not be contracted between a just God and sinful men, except in consequence of a reconciliation, which it pleased God, the offended party, should be perfected by the blood of our High Priest, to be poured out on the altar of the cross. He who was at once the officiating priest and the Lamb for sacrifice, poured out his sacred blood, and thus asked and obtained for us a reconciliation with God. ” [The Priesthood of Christ]
John Wesley wrote: “Our sins were the procuring cause of all his sufferings. His sufferings were the penal effects of our sins. ‘The chastisement of our peace,’ the punishment necessary to procure it, ‘was’ laid ‘on him,’ freely submitting thereto: ‘And by his stripes’ (a part of his sufferings again put for the whole) ‘we are healed’; pardon, sanctification, and final salvation, are all purchased and bestowed upon us. Every chastisement is for some fault. That laid on Christ was not for his own, but ours; and was needful to reconcile an offended Lawgiver, and offering guilty creatures, to each other. So ‘the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all’; that is, the punishment due to our iniquity.” [The Doctrine of Original Sin].
Penal Substitution has also been advocated by modern Wesleyan and Arminian theologians, including: William Lane Craig (Methodist), Ben Witherington (Methodist), Thomas Oden (Methodist), F Leroy Forlines (Free Will Baptist), Robert Picirilli (Free Will Baptist), Jack Cottrell (Church of Christ), the above mentioned Richard Taylor (Nazarene), and others.
Ben Witherington, professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Seminary writes (about WLC’s book): “The essence of the book’s argument can be summed up as follows— Penal substitutionary atonement, involving both propitiation of God’s wrath, and expiation of our guilt is at the very heart of the NT doctrine of the atonement. I completely agree with this analysis. Any theory of the atonement must adequately deal with the righteous character of God and the fact that his moral character demands that justice in some form must be done in a world where all have sinned, but at the same time since God is love, and is merciful, he found a way to satisfy the demands for justice and at the same time save the sinner.”
Roger Olson Professor of Christian Theology of Ethics at Baylor University writes in his book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, that: “There is no one Arminian doctrine of Christ’s atonement. Many Arminians accept the penal substitution theory enthusiatcicly, but others prefer the governmental theory.”
While not all Wesleyan Arminians hold to penal substitution (nor should they be required to), it has a strong history in our tradition, up to the present time.
Penal Substitution is compatible with God’s love, without neglecting his holiness and integrity.
As Wesleyan-Arminians, we rightfully focus on God’s love as his defining characteristic [1 John 4:8]. But he is more than just love. He his holy and truthful as well, and that’s why a penalty for sin is required. Richard Taylor writes that “If love alone were at work here, unconditional forgiveness could have been extended to the whole world without such a horrible price as the suffering of God’s only son. But God is holy as well as loving, and holiness governs the way love functions…It should become axiomatic in our thinking that the necessity of penalty is not incompatible with love. It was love that gave God’s only Son for our redemption; but it was the necessity of penalty that made the gift of his Son, not only necessary, but necessary as a blood sacrifice.”
With penal substitution, God the Father treats Christ the son, in our place, the way we deserve. By doing this it makes his love and mercy compatible with justice. He is true to himself.
An analogy on why integrity matters: My wife and I have a son, and we love him. Today my wife told him that we’ll go out to eat at a restaurant for dinner, but first he needs to put his dirty clothes in the hamper and put the hamper next to the washing machine. He did this, and we went out for dinner. But what if he didn’t complete his chore? Would it be loving for us to take him out to dinner anyway? Would my wife still be true to her word? No. It would make her less loving and less true. This example only deals with integrity, not substitution. But the point is in a healthy and loving parent-child relationship, there are consequences when the child disobeys. The loving response addresses the disobedience in the best way. Just like parents love with integrity, God’s loves with integrity. Because of his perfect love, especially because of it, he can’t ignore our sin. There are consequences for sin. God lovingly responds to our disobedience in the best way.
God always keeps his word and does what he says he will do. God says there is a penalty for sin [Romans 6:23], and God is always truthful to us and himself. If he didn’t have integrity, he wouldn’t be trustworthy. With penal substitution God does keep his word, yet because of his love, he (the Son) takes the penalty that we deserve.
Some argue that Penal Substitution inaccurately portrays God the Father. That it effectively means the Father had to hate his innocent Son and take out his revenge on him. I don’t think this is a fair criticism. Jesus went to the cross willingly, because the Father asked him to. The Father didn’t hate the Son, rather he gave the Son the penalty we deserve. That’s not the same thing.
Some argue that Penal Substitution creates a conflict in the Godhead where the Father no longer approves of the Son. I disagree. During the very time Jesus was paying our penalty on the cross, the Father still loved and approved him.
Charles Wesley expresses these two ideas together well in the hymn Wherewith O Lord Shall I draw Near?
For me I now believe He died!
He made my every crime His own,
Fully for me He satisfied:
Father, well pleased behold Thy Son.
As Paul says in Philippians 2, Jesus willingly humbled himself, he was obedient to death, even death on the cross. Because of this God the Father exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name. God the Father was pleased with his Son while he was giving him our penalty, because Jesus willingly bore it and was obedient to death.
Others argue that God the Father could not really forsake his son during the crucifixion, although Jesus seems to express that he did. “My God my God, why have you abandoned me?” [Matt 27:46]. I think that God had to forsake his Son for the penalty to truly be sufficient. We are relationally separated from God in our sinful state. Jesus also had to be relationally separated from God in order for the penalty to be the same. We know what it’s like to be entirely alone. Jesus does too. He can empathize with us in every way. [Heb 4:14-16],
Some have argued that Penal Substitution is cosmic child abuse. Brian McLaren takes this view. The angry Father unfairly abuses his Son. One problem with this argument is it invalidates other substitutionary atonement theories. If true, it presumably applies to the Governmental and Satisfaction views as well, as they both also have the Son being punished by the will of the Father in order to maintain his honor and moral rule of law. And again, this criticism minimizes the truth that Jesus willingly went to the cross. He wasn’t a child, he was an adult who made the decision in collaboration with the Father. The more biblical picture is that God the Father sent his only begotten Son, and the Son willingly went to the cross as a sacrifice, and make atonement for the world.
In conclusion, the penal substitution is compatible with Wesleyan-Arminian thought. It has scriptural support, it useful because it’s easy to understand, it has been advocated by Wesleyan-Arminians past and present, it provides an accurate picture of God’s love and holiness, and criticisms of it miss the mark.
A few years ago I did a post on titles for Calvinist Christmas songs. This year I thought it would be fun to create lyrics for some of them. Enjoy, and merry Christmas to ALL.
Deck the Shelves With Books by Piper
Deck the shelves with books by Piper,
fa la la la la la la la la.
He’s Reformed but is not hyper,
fa la la la la la la la la.
Don wants books, but not apparel,
fa la la la la la la la la.
Troll Arminians with this carol,
fa la la la la la la la la.
All I want for Christmas is my ESV
All I want for Christmas is my ESV,
my ESV, oh my ESV
Gee if I could only have my ESV,
then I could wish some “Merry Christmas”
I Saw Edwards Dissing Santa Claus
I Saw Edwards Dissing Santa Claus
Puritans don’t celebrate that man.
He thinks Nick is a creep,
and that lost folks can’t be sheep,
He says that they are spiders.
hanging over open fires,
I Saw Edwards Dissing Santa Claus
even though Nick beat up Arius.
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If we weren’t decreed to sin.
Edwards dissing Santa Claus last night!
Good Christian Men Read Boyce
Good Christian men read Boyce,
with heart and soul and voice;
give ye heed to we say:
Christ was born but not for clay.
The elect before him bow,
to the rest we must say ciao,
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today!
Last Christmas You Gave You My Heart
Last Christmas You Gave You My Heart
Because this way, I cannot stray
This plan saves you from tears
And it makes you feel special.
I’m dreaming of a James White Christmas
I’m dreaming of a James White Christmas.
I’ll download podcasts of his show.
Where he don’t act Christian, but I still listen,
To hear him scoff and cause a row.
I’m dreaming of a James White Christmas,
With every blog post that I write.
May my days be merry and bright,
And may all my Christmases have White.
O come, All Ye Chosen
O come, all ye chosen,
Joyful and triumphant.
O come ye, o come ye by fatalistic plan.
Come and behold Him,
But only if selected.
O come, some must adore Him
O come, some must adore Him
O come, some must adore Him
Christ the Lord
Book Review- Free Will Revisited: A Respectful Response to Luther, Calvin, and Edwards, by Robert E. Picirilli
Free Will Revisited is a book by Robert E Picirilli, a Free Will Baptist theologian and professor emeritus of Greek and New Testament studies at Free Will Baptist College. As the title suggests, the book is a respectful response to the writings of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards on the topic of free will, coming from an Arminian perspective. The book was enjoyable to read. It is informative, generous, and fair in its treatment of the views of each of these three theological giants. Picirilli explains the motivations and type of arguments that each make, their similarities and their differences. And he contrasts those views of free will with those from a Classical / Reformational Arminian perspective.
The book is 134 pages long. It’s easy to understand, and can be read over the period of a few evenings. One thing I appreciate about Picirilli’s style is that his writing is accessible to the lay person. He takes the time to define the issues in easy to understand terms, and doesn’t speak over the average person’s head.
The book is broken into four parts, which I will review below.
Part 1 is about defining the issues. What is free will? Picirilli defines it as the power of alternative choice or libertarian freedom. “This means that the choice or decision is one that really could go either way; that the person is neither compelled by some force outside nor shut up from within by previous condition or experience, so that only one alternative can actually be chosen.
How do worldviews (both naturalistic and theological) relate to free will? Is it part of being created in the image of God? Is it compatible with theological determinism? This is “the view that everything that happens in the universe, including the apparently free choices of human beings, comes about as a result of the fact that God, before the foundation of the world deliberately decreed everything that will transpire as part of his all inclusive plan.”
Most importantly for the Christian, is free will biblical? Picrilli argues that it is, and goes in depth into a number of passages that address it. One argument that I found compelling here was related to the many “ifs” of the Bible. He writes, “There are many ifs in the Bible, and they often set alternatives before us. These alternatives are the way freedom of choice is expressed.” Picirilli also uses the term “the sweet winds of grace” to explain how we can choose what God sets before us. Because of our sinful depravity we don’t have the ability to choose God on our own. It is the winds of Grace from God that enable us.
Part 2 is the case against free will. What are the arguments of Luther, Calvin, and Edwards against free will?
Luther’s work, “On the Bondage of the Will”, was written in response to Erasmus. Luther always tied his argumentation to scripture. He argued that God foreknows of necessity. This means in Luther’s view, God’s foreknowledge and his plans of predestination prevent free will. He also compared humanity’s will to that of a horse with a rider. The rider could be either God or Satan, but either way the horse is controlled by an outside influence.
Calvin’s work, like Luther’s was written in response to another – Albert Pighius. Whereas Luther focused on scripture for his argumentation, Calvin focused on the church fathers – particularly Augustine. Calvin also believed that Adam and Eve had genuine free will, which was lost at the fall. Calvin also had less of a focus on the roll of Satan and the roll of God’s foreknowledge than Luther did.
Edwards work, unlike Calvin and Luther, was not written against any person in particular, but against “Arminians” in general. Edwards used the rationalistic method in his argumentation, which “seeks for indisputable (self-evident) truths and then attempts to draw out whatever is necessarily and logically implied by them.” For Edwards every person does what he does by necessity, due to “cause and effect”. And this cause and effect regresses all the way back to God, who is the original cause. It is meaningless to speak of free will, because a person is created, and is tied to the cause and effect relationships of everything that came before. In Edwards view, sin was inevitable even for Adam.
Part 3 addresses the major issues. What is the Arminian response to the arguments of Luther, Calvin, and Edwards?
First, what is the relation of free will to God’s foreknowledge and necessity? In contrast to Open Theists, Ariminans believe (as do Calvinists), that God has exhaustive knowledge of the future. Picirilli makes a distinction between necessity (has to be), contingency (does not have to be), and certainty (will be). Something can be necessary and certain, or it can be contingent and certain. But it can’t be necessary and contingent. The fact that something will be a certain way does not mean it has to be that way. So then, God can know the future exhaustively without exhaustively causing it. Knowledge of a fact is not the cause of a fact.
And what about Total Depravity? Again, Arminians agree with their Calvinist brothers. Picirilli writes that, “I am satisfied that depravity is real and total. I am equally satisfied that it does not finally negate the freedom of the will.” This is because of Prevenient grace, God’s initiating grace that draws us. “As depraved as one is, he is still a person, a human being in the image of God. Sinners are spiritually blind, but the Word and the Spirit can bring them to see the truth of the gospel….the Spirit and the Word can persuade a person of the truths needed for that person to be able to receive the gift of salvation offered in the gospel.”
How does God’s sovereignty and providence relate to free will? Sovereignty means that God is in control and does as he pleases. Control does not mean that God causes everything, but it means he knows about everything, provides a means for everything, and fits everything into his perfect plan. Picirilli notes that “if God sovereignly ordained that humans had free will, then their exercise of it in no way encroaches on his sovereignty.” Providence “is the activity of God in caring for and governing the universe in accord with his unfailing purpose”. A distinction made here is that “God does not concur with the sinner in his sin, else we would make God himself a sinner.” God made Adam and Eve capable of sin, but he did not put them in a circumstance where they had to sin.
And what about Edward’s logic of cause and effect? Picrilli argues that Edward’s frames his argumentation against free will in a way that no advocate really believes – that it is always a two part thing, a cause and effect, and a choice must always be caused. This definition allows Edwards to make his “infinite regression” argument, but it’s not how human choices really work. We choose. We don’t choose to choose. Picirili also writes that “One of the powers of the human psyche is to “originate” ideas, and to translate those ideas into actions…” Not everything we do and think comes from a previous cause. Secondly, the “infinite regression” argument is ultimately invalid because each person is created by a “self existent Creator-God”. God created us, and that’s why we can make choices.
Part 4 is the conclusion, in five major points.
First, the sovereignty of God is strong, if not stronger in a world where humans have the power to make choices.
Second, human depravity prevents us from seeking God. However, God has broken into our world and provided his son for the atonement of our sins. The preaching of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to choose Christ.
Third, we are saved by faith, and this does not diminish God’s grace or glory. “A person’s accepting the gift contributes nothing to the work, and subtracts nothing from the giver”.
Fourth, God’s foreknowledge of the future does not contradict free will, because foreknowledge is knowledge in advance, not foreordination.
Fifth, the laws of cause and effect don’t contradict free will. The exercise of the mental will is more than a mechanical cause and effect, because they come from persons. Persons originate thoughts and volition.
Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the book, and agreed to write a review.
Here’s a nice concise presentation by Greg Boyd on the differences between Calvinism and Arminianim. HT: Society of Evangelical Arminians
Local resident Calvin deKlein declared bankruptcy today after refusing to sign a check that would have paid off the debt for him. deKlein was reportedly heard muttering, “If I sign the check, it means I did all the work.”
Judge Peyda Piper says she has never come across a case like this before. “I repeatedly asked deKlein why he refused to sign the check, and he was unable to provide a coherent answer.”
Wealthy philanthropist Jesse Pagotodo was left shaking his head. “I wrote the check out to deKlein, put it in his hand, and even drove him to the bank. But he refused to sign it when we arrived”. Pagotodo went on to say. “I don’t know what else he expected me to do, I couldn’t sign the check for him, that would have been forgery.”
A great theologian, a brilliant man. He will be missed. His book “The Transforming Power of Grace” is the best book out there about grace written from a broadly Wesleyan perspective.
Here’s a lecture he gave a few years ago at Seattle Pacific University about classical Christianity.
Here’s a fun account of someone (a Calvinist!) who went to Oden’s house uninvited in order to meet him.
Christianity Today: Died: Thomas Oden, Methodist Theologian Who Found Classical Christianity
What’s in the Bible is a DVD / video teaching series for children about the Bible. It is produced by Phil Vischer, one of the makers of “VeggieTales”.
Anyway, I’ve been watching the series with my son Alexander. He really enjoys it. I do too. I’ve appreciated how well done the series is. It is entertaining, but not at the expense of accuracy. It overviews the entire Bible, from beginning to end. It add in little tidbits here and there (like the difference between a canon and a cannon), and in the process teaches about Jewish and Christian history, and how and why we have the Bible today with the books that it contains.
I’ve noticed (and appreciated) how very Arminian the series is. God is described as relational, loving, and all powerful. The series also takes a high view of scripture, when the opening song asks, “Is it true, is it reliable, absolutely verifiable?” (and concludes that it is).
Here is a sample of dialog from episode 2 “Who wrote the Bible?”.
Sunday School Lady: “God loves us more than anything else he’s ever made. And He loves it when we love Him back. But it has to be our choice. God could make us love him, but that isn’t love at all. We’d be like robots, like toasters. You press the toast button, you get toast. You press the love button, you get love.”
Ian: “My toaster doesn’t have a love button.”
Sunday School Lady: “Nope, neither does a robot. Love is a choice. So God gave us a powerful, dangerous gift. He gave us the freedom to choose.”
Brother Louie: “Dangerous, what’s so dangerous about being able to choose, Sunday School Lady?”
Sunday School Lady: “We can choose to love God or we can reject him. We can choose to love each other or hurt each other. Through the years people chosen to do wonderful things and terrible terrible things. Love is so important to God that the risk is worth it. God’s heart aches when we choose to hurt each other and reject him. But he still lets us choose.”
Buck Denver: “Wow, that’s really big.”
I recently received an email from a reader asking this question. I thought it would be worth sharing, as it comes up occasionally. I’ve received permission to share our correspondence, but have removed the specifics for privacy.
[From the reader]
Hello was really hoping for some help.
I fell down the Calvinist rabbit hole and have been trying to get out. I sometimes sway back and forth between unconditional election and conditional. I have a question which has been really tough for me. How does us freely choosing God apart from his sovereign election not take away from his glory? Or doesn’t us choosing Christ and therefore choosing correctly give us something to boast about? Like we chose right everyone else chose wrong?
I’ve really been struggling with this and it seems safer to see salvation as a monergistic work of God, and I’m fearful to believe anything else is to steal glory that is owed to him. Please I would really appreciate some insight or help you could offer.
In our dear Lord and Savior,
Thanks for the email. To specifically answer your question, I don’t think God allowing us to believe or not believe steals from his glory or causes boasting.
First, I think God deliberately created a world where people can make choices. This is by his sovereign design. He prefers to have genuine relationships – where people choose him. CS Lewis said it like this:
“God has made it a rule for Himself that He won’t alter people’s character by force. He can and will alter them – but only if the people will let Him. In that way He has really and truly limited His power. Sometimes we wonder why He has done so, or even wish that He hadn’t. But apparently He thinks it worth doing. He would rather have a world of free beings, with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn’t do anything else.”
Second, the very nature of faith precludes boasting about it. Faith is knowing that I’m a sinner, and that my only hope is to trust in Jesus to save me. The minute I start bragging it’s no longer faith. It’s like the parable of the prayers of Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18). The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like the tax collector, while the tax collector prayed “God have mercy on me a sinner.” Jesus said the tax collector was the one who was justified.
In reality, I think holding to Limited Atonement can cause boasting. Because the nature of monergistic election puts one in a special class where others are excluded. And this can cause pride. Wesley said in describing the Calvinistic concept of grace that it naturally inspires contempt and coldness to those whom we suppose to be outcast from God. I’ve seen this in some Calvinists (though certainly not all), and you probably have too.
I leaned towards Calvinism for a while too, but what brought me to Arminianism is that I think it best represents the character and heart of God. If God loves the world and Jesus died for all, and monergism were true, then everyone would believe, because God would ensure it.
But since not everyone does believe, we must settle between God loving everyone and allowing people to to reject him, or that God doesn’t love all in a meaningful and eternal way. To me, the most scriptural position and the position that best represents God’s character, is to believe that he loves everyone yet allows people to reject him.
Hope that helps and blessings!