Monday, January 25, 2010

Essays on "New Evangelical Liberalism"

In this recent e-Journal by 9Marks ministry (Jan/Feb 2010, 7:1), various notable evangelical theologians including Carl Trueman, R. Albert Mohler, Phil Johnson, Mike Horton and Darryl Hart have written excellent articles on the state of the church — On the "New Evangelical Liberalism".

As written in the editor's note:

In general, the danger of liberalism, which we define broadly as gospel-denial within the church, occurs when we allow the world's demands to ring a little too loudly in our ears. It occurs when we let the world dictate the terms of our beliefs or practices. Or when we let the world determine, "These things are good and worthy, not those things," or, "This is the salvation we are looking for." As soon as we let the world influence the terms of the church's life and mission, we have let another authority enter the house and tie up the king of the church, Christ.

A question for evangelicals to ask themselves is, has the way we think about church prepared us for compromise? The challenge for churches, we're told, is striking the balance between isolation and assimilation. Usually, this translates into, "Change your church structures and the way you talk, but not your doctrine." The trouble is, changing our structures and the way we talk changes the way we think, because words and structures shape thinking. For instance, change how you talk about the gospel and your congregation will think differently about the gospel. Change what membership means, to use another example, and your congregation will begin to understand the inclusiveness and exclusiveness of God's love—and so God himself—differently. In short, the question about finding the balance between isolation and assimilation may be the wrong question. It may open a side door through which the authority of the world sneaks into the church. Wouldn't a better question be, how can we be utterly faithful to God's Word in everything? After all, faithfulness will preclude both isolation and assimilation. It's often been suggested that the doctrinally aberrant Emergent church is a reaction to fundamentalism. This may be true for some individuals, but could it be that the Emergent church's doctrinal aberrations are more the result of an entire generation who grew up in doctrinally anemic seeker-sensitive churches?

It's in this light that evangelicals should always be willing to "examine ourselves" (2 Cor. 13:5), especially since our very place of strength is also our Achilles Heel. Our desire to reach the world is what can lead us to mimic the world. Many things in our churches are encouraging, but some things are discouraging. And for the sake of love, we should, from time to time, take stock of those places where we will be tempted to compromise the gospel and move toward liberalism. That's what this issue of the 9Marks eJournal tries to do.

Michael Lawrence, Carl Trueman, Al Mohler, and Phil Johnson examine how liberalism happens and offer wise counsel for the academic and the pastor's heart. Greg Gilbert, Michael Ovey, Russell Moore, and I point to several specific areas where evangelicals appear to be walking on thin ice (yet a careful reader will notice a slight divergence of views here). Greg Wills, Michael Horton, and Darryl Hart present notable lessons from history, which Bobby Jamieson rounds out by observing some striking similarities between the ecumenical movement of the 20th century and evangelicalism today. Finally, Mack Stiles does the hard work of challenging one particular organization which he loves, I dare say, with the love of Christ— a love which is willing to both build up and tear down for the purposes of holiness and glory.

Dear reader, we offer these pieces not to be alarmists or critics, but in the attempt to be lovers of our churches and yours. Where we overstep, we ask for your patience and loving correction in return.

Do check out ALL the articles in this journal, as it speaks much to the state of the New Evangelical movement in our day. I would be going through some of them here also myself in subsequent posts

[HT: Pyromaniacs]

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The marks of true faith: Fiducia? Or?

[continued from here and here]

In Reformed circles, there has been a controversy regarding the nature of saving faith — whether it be dipartite (two parts) or tripartite (three parts). Both sides accept cognitio and assentia in the definition of faith. Those who follow Van Til (the majority) tend to add fiducia as a third element of faith, while Gordon Clark denied fiducia as being a proper element, not disagreeing with the concept but subsuming it under the element of assentia, noting that adding it as an element is tautological, since the root of Fiducia is Fide, which is basically Latin for "faith".

While the debate would properly not go away any time soon, no matter how much Van Tillians would like that to be, where does Witsius land on this issue?

According to his The Economy of the Covenants, Witsius does not put trust (Fiducia) as one of the elements of faith. Following on knowledge (cognitio) (III.7.8) and assent (assentia) (III.7.11), the next "acts of faith" are "love of the truth" (III.7.17), then followed by "a hunger and thirst after Christ" (III.7.18), "a receiving of Christ the Lord for justification, sanctification, and so for complete salvation" (III.7.19), "recline and stay itself upon him [Christ]" (III.7.21), "surrender to Christ" (III.7.23), and to "conclude, that Christ with all his saving benefits are his" (III.7.24). A careful reading of Witsius however show us these other acts of faith are indeed ACTS of faith, not elements of faith. Starting from the third act of the "love of the truth", we read thus:

It is indeed true, that love, strictly speaking, is distinguished from faith; yet the act of both virtues, or graces, are so interwoven with one another, that we can neither explain nor exercise faith without some acts of love interfering; ... (III.7.17. Vol. 1, p. 381)

These other acts of faith therefore are rather the fruits of faith, not the elements of faith strictly speaking.

However, between discussing the second and third acts of faith, it can be seen that Witsius qualifies the assentia of saving faith by linking them with the idea of it having substance, using the Greek word ύποστασις (of which the nuance cannot be fully expressed when translated) to modify the assent that is required. In Witsius' words:

XIII. The term, ύποστασις hypostasis substance, is also very emphatical, which the apostle makes use of when he speaks of faith, Heb. xi. 1. Nor have the Latins any word that can fully express all its force and significancy. 1st Ύποστασις hypostasis denotes the existence, or, as one of the ancients has said, the extantia, the standing up of a thing; in which sense philosophers say that a thing that really is has an ύποστασις, that is, real existence, and is not the fiction of our own mind. An indeed faith makes the thing hoped for, though not actually existing, to have, notwithstanding, an existence in the believer's mind, who so firmly assents to the promises of God, as if the thing promised was already present with him. ... And [John] Calvin's interpretation looks this way; faith, says he, is hypostasis, that is, a prop or possession on which we fix our feet. ... And indeed there is something in faith that can with intrepidity sustain all the assaults of temptations, and not suffer it to be moved from an assent to a truth once known. Now it we join all this together, we may assert, that faith is so firm an assent to divine truth, as to set things future before us as if they were present, and that it is a proper to the soul on which it fixes its foot without yielding to any assault whatever. (III.7.18. Vol. 1, pp. 378-379. Emphases original)

From what can be seen, Witsius does not seem to fit any of the two categories. Maybe we should change the term "fiducia" (trust) to "hypostasis" (substanced confidence?)??

The marks of true faith: Assentia

In a previous post on the nature of saving faith, I have expounded a bit on the element of cognitio which is basic to the concept of saving faith. In this post, I would continue with Witsius' second element of saving faith: Assentia, which has been alluded to already in the previous post.

XI. To this knowledge must be joined assent, which is the second act of faith, whereby a person receives and acknowledges as truths those things which he knows, receiving the testimony of God, and thus setting to his seal, that God is true, John iii. 33. This assent is principally founded on the infallible veracity of God, who testifies of himself and of his Son, 1 John v. 9, 10. On which testimony revealed in scripture, and shedding forth all around the rays of its divinity, the believers relies with no less safety than if he had been actually present at the revelation of these things. For when the soul, enlightened by the Spirit, discerns those divine truths, and in them a certain excellent theoprepy, or beauty worthy of God, and a most wise and inseparable connection of the whole, it cannot but assent to a truth that forces itself upon him with so many arguments, and as securely admit what it thus knows, for certain, as if it had seen it with its own eyes, or handled it with its own hands, or had been taken up into the third heavens, and heard it immediately from God's own mouth. Whatever the lust of the flesh may murmur, whatever vain sophists may quibble and object, though perhaps the soul may not be able to answer or solve all objections, yet it persists in the acknowledgment of this truth, which it saw too clearly, and heard too certainly, as it were from the mouth of God, ... . And this faith is accompanied with ύποστασις, substance, and βεγχος [sic] evidence, Heb. xi. 1. and πληροφορια, full persuasion or assurance, Rom. iv. 21. (III.7.11. Vol. 1, pp. 377-378. Emphases original)

Assent according to Witsius consists in "receiving the testimony of God, and thus setting to his seal, that God is true". Not only is there knowledge of what is true (cognitio), but such knowledge must be taken to be sealed in the person who knows that truth based upon the "infallible veracity of God", not mere human reasoning. In other words, saving "assent" does not function in the same manner as the "assent" which functions according to the framework of humanistic rationalism — that "assent" which only accepts whatever is true based upon what seems "rational" to fallible human presuppositions. Rather, saving "assent" functions out of the axiom of God and of His Word, and receives Christianity as true because that is its epistemic foundation. (ie. Christianity is not be argued for, but argued from).

This assentia manifests in new believers in an interesting way, which Witsius utilizing 2 Peter 1: 16, 18 speaks of: that believers "perhaps ... may not be able to answer or solve all objections, yet it persists in the acknowledgment of this truth, which it saw too clearly, and heard too certainly, as it were from the mouth of God". Just as cognitio does not require complete knowledge of God and the Faith, neither are they required for the aspect of assentia. Ironically therefore, assentia has the dubious honor of making new believers (and believers also) seemingly stupid and foolish in the eyes of the world. Barring the few Christians scholars and theologians and philosophers, who through Spirit-given wisdom silence the unregenerate and earn their hatred, most Christians will look like anti-intellectual fools in the eyes of the world. Nevertheless, as Scripture says, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men", it is better to be foolish on God's side, than wise on Man's side.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Article: On the heresy of Classical Arminianism

Based mainly on the blog posts on the topic, I have compiled and written an article entitled The Heresy of Classical Arminianism, here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The marks of true faith: Cognitio

I have been laboring through Herman Witsius' The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man: Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity recently. This two volume work is Herman Witsius' (1636-1708) magnum opus, and reported to be one of the best volumes of Covenant Theology from the continental Dutch Reformed tradition.

In volume 1 Book III, Chapter VII — Of Faith, Witsius writes about what faith actually is. The first component of faith is what is typically termed cognitio or knowledge. On this aspect, Witsius wisely states:

... it must be confessed, that in the present dark state of our minds, even the most illuminated are ignorant of a great many things; and that many things are believed with an implicit faith, especially by young beginners and babes in Christ, so far as they admit, in general, the whole scriptures to be the infallible standard of what is to be believed; in which are contained many things which they do not understand, and in as far as they embrace the leading doctrines of Christianity, in which many other truths concenter, which are thence deduced by evident consequence, and which they believe in their foundation or principle, as John writes concerning believers, that they knew all things, 1 John ii. 20. ... (III.7.9. Vol. 1, p. 376. Bold added)

Witsius in this instance addressed the issue of "implicit faith", which is the faith of new believers who would know little of the Christian faith. If faith does includes cognitio, then saving faith must have certain cognitive contents in it in order for a person to be saved. No doubt new believers know little about the faith, yet they cannot be saved without some amount of knowledge.

Witsius thus distill the faith to two things mentioned here: 1) a belief in the Scriptures as the Word of God, and 2) "leading doctrines of Christianity". What are these "leading doctrine of Christianity"? According to Witsius, who in the next paragraph explains himself:

Moreover those things which are necessary to be known by the person who would believe, are in general, the divinity of the scriptures, into which faith must be ultimately resolved; more especially, those things which regard the obtaining of salvation in Christ; which may summarily be reduced to these three heads: 1st To know, that by sin thou art estranged from the life of God, and art come short of the glory of God, Rom. iii.23. That it is not possible, that either thou thyself, or an angel from heaven, or any creature in the world, nay, or all the creatures in the universe, can extricate thee from the abyss of misery, and restore thee to a state of happiness. 2dly. That thou shouldst know Christ this Lord to be full of grace and truth, John i.14. who is that only name given under heaven, whereby we can be saved, Acs. iv. 1. and in the knowledge of whom consists eternal life, John xvii. 3. 3dly. That thou shouldst know, that, in order to thy obtaining salvation in Christ, it is necessary that thou be united to Christ, by the Spirit and by faith, and give up thyself to him, not only to be justified, but also sanctified, and governed by his will and pleasure, proving what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God, Rom. xii. 2. (III.7.10. Vol. 1, p. 377. Bold added)

The "leading doctrines of Christianity" is nothing more than the Gospel; the "obtaining of salvation in Christ". The two things that all Christians, even new born believers, are to believe in are 1) that the Bible is the Word of God, 2) the Gospel of salvation.

If cognitio includes that, therefore by deduction those who deny one or the other cannot be true believers since they do not have true faith. For the first, while new believers certainly do not know the intricacies of the doctrine of Scriptures and its inspiration, yet they have a childlike trust that the Bible is indeed the Word of God. In the second, they do not have to know the intricacies of salvation either, of depravity, election etc, but they know that they are sinners and God saves them through the Cross of Jesus Christ.

According to Witsius' criteria therefore, all peoples and groups who deny the above two criteria are false believers in danger of the fires of hell. Denials of the first criteria would include the Neo-Orthodox, the Romanists, the Eastern Orthodox, the Liberals, Neo-Liberals and Post-Liberals and Post-Conservatives and Emergents. Denials of the second criteria include many if not all of the above groups as well, as well as Classical Arminians, Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, Socinians, Universalists etc. Furthermore, since the Gospel message has as its object God, those who distort the doctrine of God are out as well since they cannot believe the true Gospel. That throws out all the Sabellians, Nestorians, Arians and all who do not subscribe to the Definition of Chaceldon.

"Implicit faith" or the faith of new Christians is indeed simple. Yet, a multitude of errors exist which destroy through denial or redefinition the simple "faith statements" in the cognitio element. It is indeed a sad reality that many professing believers educate themselves into hell instead of heaven, proving in themselves that "For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many." (Mt 7:13b). May we therefore keep watch over our life and doctrine and so manifest that we have the true saving faith in Christ instead of the false faith which damns. Amen.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

James White responding to Bryan Cross and Francis Beckwith

In this video, Dr. James R. White responded to the arguments of apostates Bryan Cross and Francis Beckwith on their denial of the sufficiency of Scripture through a special appeal to the doctrine of the Trinity.

[HT: Aomin.org ]

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Machen: Christianity and the religion of 'me'

We value God solely for the things that He can do; we make of Him a mere means to an ulterior end. And God refuses to be treated so; such a religion always fails in the hour of need. If we have regarded religion merely as a means of getting things — even lofty and unselfish things — then when the things that have been gotten are destroyed, our faith will fail. When loved ones are taken away, when disappointment comes and failure, when noble ambitions are set at naught, then we turn away from God. We have tried religion, we say, we have tried prayer, and it has failed. Of course it has failed! God is not content to be an instrument in our hand or a servant at our beck and call. He is not content to minister to the worldly needs of those who care not a bit for Him. ... Has it never dawned upon us that God is valuable for His own sake, that just as personal communion is the highest thing that we know on earth, so personal communion with God is the sublimest height of all? If we value God for His own sake, then the loss of other things will draw us all the closer to Him; we shall then have recourse to Him in time of trouble as to the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

— J. Gresham Machen

[J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith? (Originally published 1925; Carlisle, PA, USA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1991, 2008), p. 74]

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Evangelical Arminianism versus Classical Arminianism

[continued from here and here]

The question, however, was a pressing one, whether the Evangelical elements thus taken up could consist with the Arminian principle. Calvinists earnestly urged that the union was an unnatural one, and could not be stable: that either the Evangelical elements ought to rule to the exclusion of the unharmonizable Arminian principle, in which case we should have consistent Calvinism; or else the Arminian principle would inevitably rule to the exclusion of the Evangelical doctrines forced into artificial conjunction with it, and we should have consistent Arminianism.

[B.B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield II, ed. John E. Meeter (Phillipsburg, N.J., USA: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973), p. 315]

They [the Methodists] call themselves Arminians; but it is perfectly obvious that their theology differs widely from that of Limborch, and Whitby, and Warburton, and all the recognized Arminian divines of Holland and England ... They differ widely and radically in principles and in results; whereas when we hear the gospel preached by a Methodist, we feel that it is the very same to which we love to listen, and are accustomed to hear as Presbyterians. ... Man's ruin by the fall, his native depravity and alienation from God, his absolute need of a Saviour, and utter inability to save himself, the necessity of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, justification, not by works, but by faith alone in the blood and righteousness of Jesus, the free offer of the gospel to every human being without money and without price, the necessity of holiness, not to merit heaven, but to become meet for it — these articles constituted the very burden of their preaching.

[Review of Annals of the American Pulpit (Methodist), in the British and Foreign Evangelical Review, vol. xi (London, UK: Nisbet, 1862), pp. 301-2. As cited in Iain H. Murray, The Old Evangelicalism: Old Truths for a New Awakening (Carlisle, PA, USA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), p. 156]

Evangelical Arminianism, Olsen's so-called "Arminianism of the heart", is the "Arminianism" founded mainly by Methodist founder John Wesley. A revivalist following up on the First Great Awakening (the so-called Methodist Awakening), John Wesley was an Anglican who focused much on preaching the Gospel to all. While his forerunner George Whitefield was a Calvinist, Wesley due to certain burdens was unable to accept Calvinism even though many of his compatriots did (ie Richard Hutchins and James Hervey, former members of his Holy Club, a few of his own itinerants like John Bennet, John Whitford and John Edwards, and of course the famous John Newton, author of the hymn "Amazing Grace") [1].

While Wesley was convinced of Arminianism, and his opposition to it stiffened rather than weakened in light of Calvinistic influence [2], several points can be made to show the differences between Wesley and his Evangelical Arminianism, and the Classical Armininism of former times.

The first point can be found in the fact that Wesley was not a proper theologian. His bifurcation on the topic of full sanctification (embracing then modifying it) shows us that "his beliefs in their totality made up a loose synthesis, an amalgam, rather than a coherent system. Taken as a whole there was an absence of consistency" [3]. The Modern Arminian Roger Olsen similar states that "Wesley was not a systematic thinker" [4], citing his horrible contradictions in his sermons preaching on the topic of justification as an example that Wesley's "theology often was ad-hoc — determined by perceived errors and imbalances that needed correcting" [5].

Pursuant to this point is Wesley's historical context, whereby Wesley stubbornly refuse to separate the doctrine of Calvinism from the dying Dissenter congregations they were found. Over time, a form of Hyper-Calvinism and Antinomianism had crept into the Dissenting (formerly Puritan) congregations, and Wesley stubbornly refuse to delink them, thinking for instance that Antinomianism "was a direct consequence of Calvinistic belief" [6]. Such strawman beliefs held by Wesley held him unable to see much good in Calvinism, which together with his inconsistency, caused him to embrace the national "religion" on this subject - Synergism.

The second point we must note was that Wesley was a revivalist, and revivalists focus on the Gospel. As noted by the British and Foreign Evangelical Review, the Gospel proclaimed by Wesley and the Methodist movement was essentially orthodox and no different from that found in for example Presbyterianism, unlike the "gospel" of the Classical Arminians. Keeping the Gospel at the center yielded a benefit for the Evangelical Arminian movement which distinguished it sharply from Classical Arminianism: the presence of the Gospel, with its doctrine of the sinfulness of Man as opposed to the partial sinfulness of Man in Classical Arminianism.

Putting both points together, we can see that Evangelical Arminianism with its focus on the Gospel is thus orthodox. Wesley's inconsistency would ironically save Evangelical Arminianism from heresy. Right from the start however, the forced fusion of Evangelicalism and Arminianism in Wesleyan thought created logical, philosophical and theological contradictions of all kinds.

As B.B. Warfied has said, the Evangelical and Arminian elements in Evangelical Arminianism war against each other. To the extent that Evangelical Arminians are irrational and Gospel-centered, to the same extent they would remain evangelical. To the extent however that they are logically consistent, they ironically lose their faith, or be Calvinists.

The logical irrationality inherent in Evangelical Arminianism also extends to their doctrine of sin. Being Evangelical, a form of Total Depravity was required to be embraced. At least in their Gospel presentation, men must be presented as being totally depraved and unable to save themselves. The Classical Arminian teaching of Partial Depravity with their denial of Original Guilt can have no place in the Evangelical Arminian Gospel. Similarly, the orthodox doctrine of Justification by Faith alone with the teaching of double imputation is believed and taught in Evangelical Arminianism, while such is impossible in the context of Classical Arminianism. Thus, while Classical Arminians reject all five points of the Calvinist TULIP, Evangelical Arminianism embrace the first point however inconsistently— as long as they remain Evangelical that is.

Being an Evangelical Arminian and living with its logical inconsistencies is indeed unstable, as what Warfield himself has said with regards to the situation. Wesley himself was led into two errors — viz weakening the finality of justification and embracing some form of Christian perfection [7]. The Modern Arminian Roger Olsen evidently has little problems with the heresy of Open Theism [8], a sober reminder to us of the tenacious nature of the "Evangelical" in Evangelical Arminianism indeed.

In conclusion therefore, Evangelical Arminianism is indeed orthodox, though at a very steep cost in terms of logical and theological inconsistencies. Due to its instability, Evangelical Arminianism tend to settle into either of two trajectories: towards Calvinism or some form of Liberalism (or it could remain irrationally evangelical). While we would gladly call Evangelical Arminians our brothers and sisters in Christ, we know that they are constantly on a precipice near error, and we should strive to bring them closer to the truth of Scripture, instead of toying with teachings that come, as the Canons of Dordt put it, from the "pits of hell".

THE END!


References:

[1] Iain H. Murray, Wesley and Men Who Followed (Carlisle, PA, ISA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2003), p. 69

[2] Ibid., p. 68

[3] Ibid., p. 76

[4] Roger E. Olsen, Arminian Thelogy: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove, IL, USA: IVP Academic, 2006), p. 213.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Murray, p. 65

[7] Ibid., p. 66

[8] Olsen, pp. 198-199

The heresy of Classical Arminianism

[continued from here]

... Therefore this Synod of Dordt in the name of the Lord pleads with all who devoutly call on the name of our Savior Jesus Christ to form their judgment about the faith of the Reformed churches, not on the basis of false accusations gathered from here or there, or even on the basis of the personal statements of a number of ancient and modern authorities — statements which are also often either quoted out of context or misquoted and twisted to convey a different meaning — but on the basis of the churches' own official confessions and of the present explanation of the orthodox teaching which has been endorsed by the unanimous consent of the members of the whole Synod, one and all.

Moreover, the Synod earnestly warns the false accusers themselves to consider how heavy a judgment of God awaits those who give false testimony against so many churches and their confessions, trouble the consciences of the weak, and seek to prejudice the minds of many against the fellowship of true believers. ...

(Conclusion, in the Canons of the Synod of Dordt)

Classical Arminianism refers to the belief system of the Remonstrants, especially as codified in the Remonstrant Articles and Opinions. Her founder, James Arminius, did not always share the same view as what Classical Arminianism in the Remonstrants taught — as seen most notably in Arminius' uncertainty regarding the doctrine of Eternal Security [1], while the Remonstrants rejected it outright [2]. This must be seen as the slow [d]evolution of Classical Arminian theology, from Arminius who started off rejecting parts of Reformational theology, followed by the Classical Arminianism of the Remonstrants, and then on to later Remonstrants like Limborch with a steady drift leftwards.

Among the declension of ArminianismS, there would most definitely be a variety of views of what exactly each Arminian believes. For Classical Arminianism however, such a system must be defined especially by the Arminianism formed around the time of the Synod of Dordt, and expressed most notably in the Remonstrant Articles and Opinions, the confessional statements that were "squeezed" out of the Remonstrants (who through being ambivalent were not forthcoming with their views and tried as much as possible to forestall a synod being convened to examine their views, even though they were creating havoc in the Dutch Reformed churches [3] ).

In the Remonstrant Opinions, a Remonstrant creedal statement was obtained from the Remonstrants "only with difficulty" [4]. In this creedal statement, the doctrines of Classical Arminianism were properly delineated, and their distinctive parts shown as follows [5]:

(1) Partial depravity
(Therefore God has not with this plan created in the one Adam all men in a state of rectitude, has not ordained the fall and the permission of it, has not withdrawn from Adam the grace which was necessary and sufficient, ... –The Remonstrant Opinions A3. Bold added.)

(2) Conditional election
(The election of particular persons is decisive, out of consideration of faith in Jesus Christ and of perseverance; not, however, apart from a consideration of faith and perseverance in the true faith, as a condition prerequisite for electing. –The Remonstrant Opinions A7. Bold added.)

(3) Universal Atonement
(The price of redemption which Christ offered to God the Father is not only in itself and by itself sufficient for the redemption of the whole human race but has also been paid for all men and for every man, according to the decree, will, and the grace of God the Father; therefore no one is absolutely excluded from participation in the fruits of Christ’s death by an absolute and antecedent decree of God. –The Remonstrant Opinions B1. Bold added.)

(4) Resistible Grace
(The efficacious grace by which anyone is converted is not irresistible; and though God so influences the will by the word and the internal operation of His Spirit that he both confers the strength to believe or supernatural powers, and actually causes man to believe – yet man is able of himself to despise that grace and not to believe, and therefore to perish through his own fault. –The Remonstrant Opinions C5. Bold added.)

(5) Conditional perseverance in the faith
(True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish. –The Remonstrant Opinions D4. Bold added.)

The errors of Classical Arminianism are many. Besides the errors stated above, its humanistic slant is seen especially in the work of Grotius for example [6]. Classical Arminianism also has a problem with the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone in the doctrine of imputation (by making faith credited as righteousness instead of Christ's righteousness imputed as our righteousness) [7].

The concepts of Justification and Imputation is linked to the doctrine of sin and depravity, and ultimately to the Gospel. This is one of the the reasons why Classical Arminianism is serious heresy, because they explicitly undermine a key tenet of the Gospel: that of the sinfulness of Man.

The Remonstrant Opinions revealed that Classical Arminianism taught the error of Partial Depravity. In his polemic against Arminianism as it reared its ugly head in England, the Puritan scholar John Owen produced a booklet entitled A Display of Arminianism [8] to combat this heresy. Quoting from the Classical Arminians of his day and refuting their arguments, Owen has incidentally given us a window into what these Classical Arminians taught.

In his book, Owen devoted a chapter Of Original Sin [9] to examining the doctrine of sin and imputation held to by the Classical Arminians, where Classical Arminianism's doctrine of the non-imputation of sin is shown.

Quoting the Arminian Venator, it was said that "Infants are simply in that estate in which Adam was before his fall, ..." (p. 70). Boraeus states that "Adam sinned in his own proper person, and there is no reason why God should impute that sin of his unto infants" (p. 72). Corvinus affirmed that "That it is absurd, that by one man's disobedience many should be made actually disobedient" (p. 73). In the Remonstrant Apology, they have even said that "We confess that the sin of Adam may be thus far said to be imputed to his posterity, inasmuch as God would have them all born obnoxious to that punishment which Adam incurred by his sin, or permitted that evil which was inflicted on him to descend on them" [10], and "We account not original sin for a sin properly so called, that should make the posteriority of Adam to deserve of Adam to deserve the wrath of God, nor for an evil that may properly be called a punishment, but only for an infirmity of nature" [11].

All of these evidences Owen collected and deduced their view of original sin. Original sin as historically defined is the imputation of Adam's sin unto the whole human race without respect to the actual sinning of anyone - this the Classical Arminians deny. Rather, especially as seen in the case of infants, infants are born without the stain of original sin (guilt). Through the use of the concept of "prevenient grace", all infants are stated to be born without the guilt of sin. As Owen states, the Classical Arminians redefine Original Sin to mean "a defect of nature, and not of this or that particular person" (p. 73).

Therefore, in Classical Arminianism, all men are born with an "original sin nature" (thus an "infirmity of nature"), but without "original guilt". Sin is genetic rather than federal, transmitted but not imputed. Infants therefore are said to be actually sinless but possessing a sinful nature, and it is from this errant notion that the entire Arminian notion of "an age of accountability" is derived, not to mention the teaching that infants by default go to heaven.

On the topic of sin, justification and imputation then lies a most pernicous error in Classical Arminianism, which makes it heresy. It is not simply a denial of Predestination that makes Classical Arminianism heresy, but its denial of Original Guilt, the doctrine of the imputation of Adam's sin etc which stands behind their teaching of Partial Depravity, which makes it heresy indeed.

In the next section, we would do some comparisons with Evangelical Arminianism to see the differences between these two which are often confused with each other, and see why Evangelical Arminianism is EVANGELICAL and thus orthodox, while Classical Arminianism is not.


References:

[1] James Arminius (1560 - 1609), The Works of James Arminius, vol. 1, 2.5.6 A Declaration of the Sentiments of Arminius on: The Assurance of Salvation. Accessed on CCEL.

[2] Appendix H — The Remonstrant Opinions D4, as cited in Peter Y. De Jong (ed.), Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dordt 1618-1619 (Grandville, MI, USA: Reformed Fellowship, 1968, 2008), p. 267

[3] Peter Y. De Jong (ed.), Crisis in the Reformed Churches, pp. 50- 51, 148-149

[4] Introduction in Appendix H — The Opinions of the Remonstrants, in Peter Y. De Jong (ed.), p. 261

[5] Appendix H — The Opinions of the Remonstrants, in Peter Y. De Jong (ed.), pp. 261-268.

[6] Marten H. Woudstra, The Synod and Bible Translation, in Peter Y. De Jong (ed.), pp. 132-134.

[7] Louis Praamsa, The Background of the Arminian Controversy (1586 - 1618), in Peter Y. De Jong (ed.), p. 48, states:

Arminias interpreted the doctrine [of justification] as teaching that man is justified before God not on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ but by the human act of believing which constituted his righteousness before God.

In his book, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove, IL, USA: IVP Academic, 2006), pp. 200-220, Roger E. Olsen tried to spin Arminius' teaching by saying that Arminius cannot mean this because he contradicted himself by stating an orthodox formulation elsewhere. This of course begs the question why one must read it in a Olsen's manner instead of the other way round, especially since some of the later Arminians interpret Arminius' phrase "faith imputed for righteousness" as precisely the error that human faith is considered as righteousness in God's sight, as Olsen himself admits (ie. Philip Limborch, Richard Watson, William Burton Pope, H. Orton Wiley). Despite Olsen's spin, the historical facts are unequivocal that Classical Arminianism is in error at this point.

[8] John Owen, A Display of Arminianism — A Discovery of the Old Pelagian Idol Free-Will, with the New Goddess Contingency, Advancing Themselves into the Throne of the God of Heaven, to the Prejudice of His Grace, Providence, and Supreme Dominion over the Children of Men (Originally published in 1644; Dahlonega, Georgia, USA: Crown Rights Book Company, Reprinted 1999)

[9] Owen, Chapter VII Of Original Sin and the Corruption of nature, pp. 68 - 82

[10] As quoted in Owen, p. 74

"Fatemur peccatum Adami, a Deo posse dici imputatum posteris ejus, quatenus Deus posteros Adami eidem malo, cui Adamus per peccatum obnoxium se reddidit, obnoxios nasci voluit; sive quatenus Deus, malum, quod Adamo inflictum erat in poenam, in posteros ejus dimanare et transire permisit." — Rem. Apol. p. 84

[11] As quoted in Owen, p. 75

"Peccatum itaque originale nec habent pro peccato proprie dicto, quod posteros Adami odio Dei dignos faciat, nec prop malo, quod per modum proprie dictae poenae ab Adamo in posteros dimanet sed pro infirmitate," etc. — Rem. Apol. fol. 84

Friday, January 01, 2010

Rick Warren running out of money

It seems that, in light of the financial crisis, Purpose-Driven Pope Rick Warren and Saddleback Church are having financial difficulties. Maybe Warren and Saddleback could go back to being a church instead of an all-in-one social service club. You know, just preach the Word.

P.S.: Honestly, how do you even get USD 900,000 in debt in one year, except by wasting spending money on non-essential "social club" activities? My Church does not even have have that amount to spend in one year!