“What the Arminianist and Calvinist believe”
CENTURION EDUCATION FOUNDATION
A Theological Article
Dr. Andrew T. Knight
Are Armenians’ and Calvinists Biblical?
Andrew Thomas Knight
DMIN Luther Rice University, 2014
MABA Clarks Summit University, 2018
MRE West Coast Baptist College, 2010
MBS Emmanuel Baptist Theological Seminary, 2004
BB Pensacola Christian College, 1994
April 7, 2012
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Calvinist Beliefs……………………………………………………… 1
Infralapsarian Election……………………………………….. 9
Limited Atonement…………………………………………… 13
Unlimited Atonement………………………………………… 15
Arminian Beliefs……………………………………………………… 17
Historical Background……………………………………….. 17
Beliefs Defined……………………………………………….. 17
Conflicted Beliefs…………………………………………….. 20
Beliefs Debated………………………………………………. 21
Biblicist Beliefs………………………………………………………. 22
Limited Atonement…………………………………………… 25
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY……………………………………………… 27
Calvinist beliefs will be the first of the beliefs to be researched and evaluated.
This study discuss the definition, meaning, the author, and applications of this belief.
This writer will investigate dictionaries, Bible handbooks, systematic theology books,
commentaries, and topical books that have dealt with this subject matter, and books that
review the history of Calvinism. Secondly, the beliefs of Arminianism, its history, its
author, its followers and its applications will be reviewed. Once the beliefs of Calvinism
and Arminianism have been research and reviewed they will then be compared with each
other for their similarities and differences, and then they will each be contrasted to a
biblical approach to soteriology. This then will lead the reader to the Biblicist approach to
soteriology. This writer will research theologians that have a viewpoint of Calvinism as
well as theologians that have stood against this doctrine. In the conclusion this writer will
give final arguments for the strength and weaknesses of Calvinism, Arminianism and the
Biblicist approach to Soteriology.
The Calvinist’ belief focuses around the concept of predestination. This is in
relation to the sovereignty of God and man’s ability, or the inability of man’s will to
accept God’s offer of salvation. The belief system then takes into account the sovereignty
of God, including whom He predestined, the nature of man, and the doctrine of
soteriology. Romans 8:30 “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and
whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”1
A definition for the word, predestinate is defined by W.E. Vine, “This verb is to
be distinguished from proginosko, to foreknow; the latter has special reference to the
person’s foreknown by God; proorizo has special reference to that to which the subjects
of His foreknowledge are predestinated.”
The predestination is based upon what God foreknew, according to the Calvinist
viewpoint of soteriology. Clarke gave the same definition to v. 30 as he wrote,
“The Gentiles, whom He determined to call into His church with the Jewish people, He
called—He invited by the preaching of the Gospel, to believe on His Son Jesus Christ.”
Clarke puts in context this word, predestination, with regard to what else is
happening in this passage in Romans. Predestination has the idea that God purposed to
invite Jews and Gentiles both to the cross of Jesus Christ by the preaching of the Gospel.
Clarke indicated that all that would through true faith and hearty repentance would be
pardoned from their sins. Wayne Grudem also discussed Romans 8:28-30 when he
stated, “We know that ineverything God works for good with those who love him, who
are called according to his purpose.”
Between Clarke and Grudem, both respected theologians, they hold two very
different points of view on this matter of who can be saved, and who is chosen to be
saved, or can all be saved that respond favorably? Clarke seems to believe that all that
call upon the name of Christ in faith can be saved, while Grudem seems to believe that
while some are chosen to be saved from before the foundations of the world many have
been chosen, by God, to be eternally separated from Him. This decision apparently,
Grudem believes, took place even before the price for the sins of the world was even paid
for by His Son Jesus on the cross.
Albert Barnes assessed this passage, Romans 8:30, bluntly when referring to the
apostles preaching this new gospel and he stated, “For how would it be a source of
consolation to say to them that whom God foreknew he predestinated, and whom he
predestinated he called, and whom he called he justified, and whom he justified might fall
away, and be lost for ever?” Barnes approaches the passage as a grammarian to explain
the contextual meaning of this passage. He suggested that these clauses, that each had a
benefit attached to them, were contingent upon the first and the previous clause. As a
result, he explained, that predestination was directly connected, continuously to
glorification. Barnes’ position did not so much deal with who would or would not be
saved but rather eternal security. Romans 8:35a “Who shall separate us from the love of
Christ?” Barnes’ point, he stated, was that no one can separate you from Christ.
George Bryson in his book, “The Dark Side of Calvinism,” used strong words,
“According to Calvinism, it is futile to try to convert the lost who are not predestined to
be saved…Calvinists want other Christians to believe in their convoluted theology, which
if fully understood, destroys the gospel to every creature.”
Bryson continued his strong rebuke of Calvinism in his introduction he reported,
“According to Calvin, it is all happening according to the perfect plan and purpose of
God…Can we trace moral evil back to God in the same way we can good things? Even
the first sin and its terrible consequences were orchestrated by God.”
What Bryson has done was to put Calvinism in terms of its character. When
Calvinism, Bryson argued, is blaming God for the original sins he seems to be describing
Calvinism as faithless and humanistic in its character. Bryson does seem to add some
balance to his approach to Calvinism. He stated, “While I am clearly opposed to
Calvinism as a theological system, I do not consider Calvinist to be the enemy. In fact,
I view Calvinists as the victims of Calvinism.” Bryson’s view is significant as he
demonstrated human compassion, not theological, partisan arguments to defend or
advance his position only. As a Christian apologists he demonstrated that one can differ
without destroying another with differing theological perspectives.
This idea of God’s sovereignty and predestination are widely contested, and
deeply imbedded within different sects of Christendom. Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell
address this belief system, mostly within Reformed or Wesleyan churches. They
referenced the Westminster Confession, “Here is what the Westminster divines insisted
on. God’s sovereign decrees do not in any way hinge on his foreknowledge of what his
creatures will do or of their choices. God’s knowledge of the future is not logically prior
to his sovereign decrees, nor are his decrees based on foreknowledge. Rather, the other
way around. God knew the future because of his sovereign decrees.”
Wells and Dongell analyzed this teaching on predestination that their readers
might better understand the sovereignty of God clearer. What they had explained is that
God’s foreknowledge was based upon His divine character and statues rather than on the
character and actions of mankind. Thus what these authors have pointed out that the
whole doctrine of redemption rests upon God’s character not man’s.
Lawrence Berkhof reported that one of the early church fathers, Saint Augustine,
was one persuaded and then rejected the doctrine of predestination. Berkof’ research
demonstrated this. “At first, Augustine himself was inclined to this view, but deeper
reflection on the sovereign character of the good pleasure of God led him to see that
predestination was in no way dependent on God’s foreknowledge of human actions,
but was rather the basis of the divine knowledge.”
Augustine’s reaction to Calvinism would seem to be a reflection of one that knew
the character of God and found that Calvinism did not mirror that same character that
Scripture depicts. Lewis Chafer discussed this conflict of the nature of God that
Calvinism portraits and the nature of God that is seen through a father-son relationship.
“Having secured for the believer a perfect union with Christ, a perfect standing, and a perfect acceptance in Christ, and on the ground of such infinite equality that God remains just when He justifies the ungodly, there remains only the problem of communion, fellowship, and a walk which is well-pleasing to God. As a son may be in fellowship or out of fellowship with his earthly father without affecting the immutable fact of sonship, the child of God may be in fellowship and communion or out of fellowship and communion with his heavenly Father without disturbing the immutable fact of a sonship relation to God.”
What Augustine as well as Chafer were saying is that the philosophy of Calvinism
and the doctrine of soteriology and the character of Christ should be in line with each
other if Calvinism were to be consistent with the Bible. Since Calvinism does not align
with the Bible doctrine of soteriology and that he holds to low view of the character of
Christ Augustine and Chafer ultimately rejected the philosophy of Calvinism.
Charles Ryrie gave his understanding of election and broke it down into three
areas. First, Ryrie discussed the idea of God’s foresight as it relates to soteriology. He
explained, “God looked down the corridor of time and in His foreknowledge saw who
would accept Christ and then elected them to salvation. This makes foreknowledge
foresight without any pre-temporal elective action on God’s part.”What Ryrie has done
was to lay out different perspectives of this controversial Philosophy. This first aspect it
would seem lends itself to the belief of Calvinist.
The next view that Ryrie gives of election is what he called, “Corporate election.”
This view focused on the assembly of believers rather than the individual believer. The
corporate idea would coincide with Ephesians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the
will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:” Ryrie
explained, “An evangelical form of this same concept views election as the choosing of
the group, the church, in Christ, but not of individuals until after they became members
of the group by faith.” The controversy of election revolves around a number of
Scriptures, one being Ephesians 1:4 “According as he hath chosen us in him before the
foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:”
As mentioned, it is likely that Ryrie laid out several different positions and then the
serious Bible student would dig deeper until the truth was found. As Dr. Mapes stated,
“There is only one correct interpretation of Scripture” (class syllabus, Pg. 2). The answer
to this study may be more grammatical then theological. The antecedent of “us” in
Ephesians 1:4 would seem to be the believers in the church of Ephesus.
Ryrie discussed the view of election referring to as individual and pre-temporal.
He explained, “Thus election is unconditional, pre-temporal, unmerited, and the basis of
salvation. Those who hold this view also acknowledge that election is in Christ, but they
mean that He is the ground and cause and guarantee of the election of individuals.”
William Shedd elaborated on the doctrine of soteriology, and dealt with the use of
the word elect in the Old Testament and giving his explanation. Shedd stated, “The
covenant of grace and that of redemption are two modes or phases of the one evangelical
covenant of mercy. The distinction is only a secondary or sub-distinction.” Shedd was
dealing with the Isaiah 42:1 passage, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in
whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to
the Gentiles.” Shedd explained first what the covenant was and then to whom was the
covenant too. He stated, “The covenant is not made with them as alone and apart from
Christ…And in like manner, when Christ, as in Isaiah 42:1-6, is spoken of as the party
with whom the Father covenants, the elect are to be viewed as in Him.” Shedd nowhere
in this passage stated that the Gentiles could not be saved though primarily this passage
dealt with the believing Jews. Shedd reference was that the elect were to those that, in the
Old Testament setting, were believers. Shedds discussion about covenants was significant
as it demonstrated the bilateral relationship between God and His people.
Delitzsch gave further definition and explanation of this special relationship
between God and Israel, of which Isaiah referred to as the “elect.” Delitzch described
Israel this way, “Israel’s true nature as a servant of God, which had its roots in the
election and calling of Jehovah, and manifested itself in conduct and action in harmony
with this calling, is all concentrated in Him, the One, as its ripest fruit. The gracious
purposes of God towards the whole human race, which were manifested even in the
election of Israel, are brought by Him to their full completion.” Delitzsch detailed this
relationship between God and His people, Isreal, in a way that demonstrates a divine
relationship that shows purpose of God and His covenant relationship to Israel.
Ralph Smith took note of this covenant relationship between Jehovah – God and ‘
Israel His people. Smith looked at this passage historically. Isaiah 45:4 “For Jacob my
servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have
surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” Smith explained the passage this way,
“Nicholson noted that F. Giesebrecht first challenged Wellhausen’s view that Israel’s
early relationship to Yahweh was a natural relationship—like that of son and father. This
made Israel similar to other god’s…From the beginning, it was the belief in divine
election that shaped the peculiar direction. It brought with it an aggressive exclusivism
and ‘a belief in the incomparability of Yahweh.,”” This covenant relationship was not
like those of the pagan god’s. The exclusivity of this relationship demonstrated the
holiness of God, and the divine intervention that Jehovah – God worked in the Israelites.
Chad Brand began his explanation of infralapsarian election with his running
definition. He stated that, “Infralapsarian election to salvation may be defined as God’s
gracious choice, made in eternity past, of those whom he would save by faith through the
atoning death of his Son, a choice which considered all of humanity as fallen, sinful, and
guilty in Adam, fully deserving of eternal condemnation while fully undeserving of the
bestowal of any favor or kindness, according to which God elected out of the whole of
this fallen and guilty humanity some particular sinners to be granted eternal life in Christ,
by grace, and through faith.”
What Brand has said is that before God the Father sent God the Son to die on the
cross for the sins of the world He decided who would be saved and who would not be
saved. Since, as Brand stated, “some particular sinners” so be saved the inference could
only be that God decided not to grant salvation to most of humanity. The deeper and
darker inference is that God must have made most of humanity in order to then be
separated from that humanity for all eternity.
Paul Copan’s viewpoint of God and His relationship to man was much different
than the Calvinist viewpoint. Copan expressed himself this way, “Our being made in
God’s image is simply God’s ‘spreading the wealth.’ God’s rich goodness overflows to
his creation, which lives, moves, and has its being in him. Though God created freely and
without constraint, God is bursting with joy and love to share His goodness with His
creatures. He allows us, His image-bearers, to share in His characteristics.” Copan
described for his readers a heart that God has for His Creation, including mankind, that is
unmistakably the divine love that can only be from God Himself. On the contrary to
Calvinism, the love that Copan describes that God demonstrates is for everyone in His
Creation. The idea that Copan was communicating, as it might apply to Calvinism, there
was no parsing out of who would be saved down through the corridors of time and who
would God decide before time even began who would not get saved.
Millard Erickson has given a technical definition for the term infralapsarianism.
Erickson stated, “The terminology relates to whether logically the decree to save comes
before or after the decree permitted the fall. The positions also differ on whether the
atonement was for all or only for those chosen to be saved:” Erickson listed the steps in
the Calvinist’ order of God’s decrees as, “the decree to create human beings; to permit
the fall; to save some and condemn others, and to provide salvation only for the elect.”
Erickson, while defining this belief system would seem to be several
inconsistencies that are cause to consider what the mind of God is in the totality of
Creation and humanity. Since God is One of order, He has the preeminence, and all
things exist and consist because and in Him. Colossians 1:16 –18 give some context
to the mind of God as it relates to Creation and mankind. “For by him were all things
created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be
thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for
him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the
body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he
might have the preeminence.” This matter of God’s preeminence is that He is in control
of all His Creation and all of mankind. Every person was created for God’s enjoyment,
and He created each one for fellowship with Him. Matthew Henry stated, “He has the
pre-eminence in the hearts of His people above the world and the flesh;” What Henry
was describing was the God of Creation that was and continues to be involved in His
Creation. Matthew further stated, “It pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell in
Him; and we may have free resort to Him for all that grace for which we have occasion.
He not only intercedes for it, but is the trustee in whose hands it is lodged to dispense to
us: Of His fullness we receive, and grace for grace, grace in us answering to that grace
which is in Him, and He fills all in all,” Matthew was saying that God is the keeper,
giver of His grace, and is the Intercessor for the people that He created.
Brand made his argument for infralapsarian election this way, “First, many
passages of Scripture that speak of God’s election indicate that it is an election to
salvation. It stands to reason, if this is the case, that God must have in view persons
needing to be saved who are consequently chosen by Him for that gracious saving work.
But of course, if God’s elect is of persons needing to be saved, then it follows that those
persons elected are viewed as sinners…Put differently, in eternity past and before the
creation of the world, God must have had in mind that the fall into sin had already
occoured when He contemplated the totality of humanity out of which He elected some
to be saved. Divine election to salvation, then, is infralapsarian.” Brand exposed his real
philosophy that he has relied upon human reason as he stated, “It stands to reason.” Then
Brand supposes to know the thoughts of God, “God must have had in mind.” Brand then
referenced Acts 13:48, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified
the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Though
Brand may not have referenced Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine
elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth
judgment to the Gentiles,” Though this writer has referenced this passage previously,
the Calvinists teach in the later verse that the Gentiles are not God’s elect while the
former verse teach that these Gentiles were God’s elect.
Fred Brown dealt with this issue of election in the Bible. He discussed election
this way, “Nothing in the Word of God requires a belief in the Unconditional Election
of saved and lost. The philosophy of John Calvin requires belief in both. If for no other
reason than his personally crafted definition of the sovereignty of God, there are no
alternatives. For those of us who are Biblicists, as opposed to being Calvinists, other
possibilities do exist. First, it should be restated that no man speaks infallibly on that
which has not been detailed in the Bible.”
Brown made a simple but profound argument as to the validity of Calvinism.
Brown’s question that goes unanswered by the proponents of Calvinism, Why the Bible
does not have the same requirements for salvation as does the philosophy of Calvinism?
Brown stated, “The great thinkers among men pale into insignificance as we meditate
upon this declaration of the Eternal Sovereign of the universe.” And then he referenced
Matthew 11:25 “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of
heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast
revealed them unto babes.” Brown is arguing for a simple gospel that even a young child
could understand. With all the intellectual complexities of Calvinism one would find
great difficulty explaining Calvin’s theory to children. The love of Jesus children will
respond to without question.
Another point of Calvin’s philosophy was limited atonement. Samuel Telloyan
first parsed out the difference between the Calvinist and the Arminians, which was that
the Arminians did not believe in the unlimited atonement. Telloyan wrote with the intent
to answer the question, For whom did Christ die? “Arminians hold that Christ’s death
was for all men alike, and that it secured for everyone a measure of common grace
whereby all are able to believe if they will. Telloyan than identified those that hold to
a limited atonement position this way, “Those who consider that Christ died only for the
elect can for convenience be referred to as limited redemptionists.” Telloyen also
discussed a more moderate position to the Calvinist or limited redemptionists. Telloyen
stated, “Those who feel that this position is not true to Scripture, the unlimited
redemptionists, say that Christ Jesus died for all, but only those who trust Him receive
After Telloyen clarified terms that would be discussing regarding limited
atonement he first made a number of arguments for the limited atonement position,
followed by numerous Scriptures in favor of the unlimited atonement position. Telloyen
began with his list of arguments for limited atonement. “The first argument for the
limited redemption rests on the tenet of election.” Telloyen then referenced the second
argument, “A second argument for limited atonement, quite similar to the first, is from
the covenant of redemption. In this covenant a relation supposedly was established
between the Father and the Son and those for whom Christ would lay down His life.
Since the covenant of redemption did not include all, it follows that Christ did not die for
all…A third argument for the limited atonement is the argument from the special love of
God. It is stated that God had a peculiar love to His people, to His church, to the elect,
and that this love prompted Him to send Christ.”
The fourth argument, from the Old Testament, Telloyen argued that the Aaronic
priest was a type of Christ, and he only interceded for his own tribe and not for any other.
It stood to reason than that Christ died only for His elect. Telloyan concludes the list of
humanistic arguments for limited atonement with a Calvinistic viewpoint of Isaiah 53:12
“Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with
the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the
transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Consider the difference of Matthew Henrys’ understanding. “In the foregoing verses the
prophet had testified very particularly of the sufferings of Christ, yet mixing some hints
of the happy issue of them; here he again mentions his sufferings, but largely foretels the
glory that should follow.” The One that Isaiah was referring to in this passage was
Christ and the sufferings that were foretold. Nowhere does this passage exclude anyone
from the benefit of Christ’ propitiation of sins. Matthew Henry, in the commentary on
this passage, never make any reference to those chosen to eternal life or dammed to hell.
Ron Rhodes discussed clear Scriptural references and biblical thinking as he
explained the viewpoint of unlimited atonement. The strength of his argument is the
Scriptural references put forth, such as, John 1:29 “The next day John seeth Jesus coming
unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
Rhodes than explained, “Though Calvin is often cited in favor of limited atonement, here
is a clear statement in which unlimited atonement is in view.” The credibility aspect
regarding Rhodes is his command of the biblical languages, thus giving confidence that
his use of Scripture is based on sound exegesis.
Rhodes than referenced John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his
only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life.” He then stated, “Christ applied the story spiritually when He says that
‘whosoever’ believes on the uplifted Son of Man shall experience spiritual
deliverance.” Rhodes again references a powerful account from John 4:42 to
demonstrate the biblical persuasion of God’s unlimited atonement. “And said unto the
woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves,
and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” Rhodes made a good
argument that is that Jesus is the Saviour of the world and that would include everyone.
He then wrote, “It is quite certain that when the Samaritans called Jesus ‘the Saviour of
the world,’ they were not thinking of the world of the elect. To read such a meaning into
this text would be sheer eisegesis.” Rhodes continued his argument for unlimited
atonement as he referenced I Timothy 4:10, “For therefore we both labour and suffer
reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially
of those that believe.” He explained, “Christ has made a provision of salvation for all
men, though it only becomes effective for those who exercise faith in Christ.”
Again Telloyan appropriately referenced I John 2:1, 2 “My little children, these
things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours
only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” He then stated, “The elect people of God
are encouraged not to sin, but if they would sin Jesus Christ is an advocate at God’s right
hand to plead His blood in their behalf. The apostle continues by stating that the blood of
Christ was not only shed for the elect but for the sins of the whole world. This strongly
asserts not unlimited salvation, but unlimited atonement.”
Paul Martin Henebury had given a strong pro unlimited atonement position when
he referenced I Timothy 1:15 “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” And then he
referenced II Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count
slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all
should come to repentance.” Henebury approached the Scriptures, in particularly, those
that dealt with the unlimited atonement doctrine was plenary, verbal, grammatical,
and historical in its hermeneutics. He demonstrated this when he stated, “The Bible
plainly says that Christ died for ‘sinners,’ ‘the lost,’ ‘the ungodly,’ the world,’ etc.
Unless only the elect qualify as belonging to this group, these verses ought to be taken
to mean that Christ died for all lost sinners. After all, Adam plunged the whole of his
posterity into sin and judgment.”
J. D. Douglas took time to explain in general terms some history of Arminianism.
He had given church history approach to defining Arminianism as it was manufactured
system of beliefs. Because this belief system was not found in the Bible Douglas
explained the history from which the Arminian philosophy was established and taught.
“A theological system named after Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian (1560 – 1609) who was educated at Leyden, Basle, and Geneva. After studying under Beza he went to Amsterdam to serve as minister of a Reformed congregation (1588). Holland had become the center of Calvinism during the sixteenth century, but during his fifteen years as pastor Arminius came to question some of the teachings of Calvinism. Disputes arose, and he left the pastorate and became professor of theology at the University of Leyden. Here he gave a series of lectures on the doctrine of predestination.”
Douglas after giving a brief historical overview then gave a brief outline of the
beliefs that separated Arminianism from Calvinism. Again, the reason for the need of an
explanation, as opposed to the systematic theologies the define Christian orthodoxy,
is that the Arminian system of beliefs is not laid out in Scripture. Rather this belief
system would be defined as a man made philosophy.
Douglas than outlined the belief system of Arminianism this way. “After the death of Arminius, his followers issued the Remonstrance of 1610 which outlines the system known as Arminianism. The major points of departure from strict Calvinism are that (1) the decree of salvation applies to all who believe on Christ and who persevere in obedience and faith; (2) Christ died for all men; (3) the Holy Spirit must help men to do things that are truly good (such as having faith in Christ for salvation); (4) God’ saving grace is not irresistible; (5) it is possible for those who are Christians to fall from grace.”
Robert Picirilli discussed the matter of foreknowledge. It would appear that he
came at it from an Arminian perspective as he compared it to the Calvinistic view of
foreknowledge, “The certainty of a future event means, simply, the fact that it will
occur…If God is omniscient, it follows that all things occur are certainly foreknown by
God. Everything that happens is certain and known as such by God from all eternity.”
Picirilli than described the Calvinistic view of foreknowledge. “Calvinists affirm
that all events, including future ones, are certain and foreknown because God has
foreordained all events: In that case, there is no problem with absolute foreknowledge, or
with divine control; the question is whether there is any real freedom and moral
responsibility for humans.” Picirilli began his humanistic reasoning trying desperately
to get into the mind of God, almost in a Nixonian hearing kind of way, (“What did the
president know and when did he know it?”). Picirilli having than contrasted the
Calvinist approach with Arminius, and though they seem to be in agreement on the
foreknowledge aspect the focus of the Calvinist seemed to be on the response by
mankind, and if humans had free will to choose correctly?
Lewis Sperry Chafer discussed eternal security as understood by Arminius. And
than he quickly communicated the biblical approach to eternal security. Chafer stated,
“Eternal security, by which term it is meant that those chosen of God and saved by grace
are, of necessity, preserved unto the realization of the design of God. Since sovereign
election purposes this and sovereign grace accomplishes it, the Scriptures could not—
being infinitely true—do other than to declare the Christian’s security without reservation
or complication. This the Scriptures assuredly declare.” Chafer was decisive and
forceful in his choice of words as he communicated this biblical position. In contrast, he
gave no space to the Arminian position.
Chafer continued next by stating the Armenians’ non security position and
contrasted it with the biblical, eternal security position. He argued,
“It may be restated that, as for human experience which the Arminian believes is at times a proof that one once saved can be lost again, it cannot be proved that such a case ever existed. On the contrary, revelation so defines the saving and keeping power of God that it can be said with all assurance, that not one of those who have been truly regenerated has ever been lost nor could such a one be lost. As for human reason, which the Arminian employs against the doctrine of security, it need only be pointed out that no human is able to trace the divine undertaking which provides both salvation and safekeeping on the ground of the sacrificial and imputed merit of the Son of God, and with no other requirement resting on the sinner than that he believes on Christ as his Savior.
Chafer again made the contrast between Calvinist and Arminian belief on eternal
security. He put forth the facts of the Arminian and made the strong, biblical case and
arguments for the eternal security position. He finished by stating the totality of the
requirements for salvation and eternal security by placing simple faith in Jesus Christ.
Armenians are many times, Roger Olson stated, are compared to Calvinists. Olson
argued that these two philosophes were not compatible with one another. Olson than
listed numerous points of difference between Armenians and Calvinists. He explained,
“While they accept a form of limited atonement, they reject the idea that God sent Christ
to die only for a portion of humanity. The atonement’s limited nature is grounded not in
God’s intention but in human response. Only those who accept the grace of the cross are
saved by God; those who reject it and seek salvation elsewhere fail to be included in it by
their own choice, much to God’s dismay. While Arminians embrace the necessity of
supernatural grace for salvation, they deny that God irresistibly bends human wills so
that they are effectually saved apart from their own spontaneous response.”
By pointing out inconsistencies with the two philosophies Olson has, rightly so,
brought doubt to these belief systems. Olson, later in his book corrected a falsehood
regarding Arminianism. There have been a number of myths, he explained, about
Arminianiam such as the myth that this belief is humanistic, and also that it is not a
theology of grace. Olson clarifies this misconception when he stated, “Arminius went out
of his way to elevate grace as the sole efficient cause of salvation and even of the first
exercise of a good will toward God, including the desire to receive the good news and
respond positively to it. Olson seems to have clarified, at least on this point, that
Arminius believed the grace that is seen in Ephesians 2:8, 9 “For by grace are ye saved
through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man
should boast.” At least Olson found the basis of faith and salvation written within the
belief system of Armenians view of Christianity.
Alan Sell documented both the Arminius contentions as well as Calvin’s
contentions as it related to the depravity of man and the free will of man. Sell put forth
Arminius’ position this way, “Arminius, as we have seen, was equally concerned to
emphasise that God was not the author of sin.” That being the Calvinists’ position that
was not acceptable to Arminius. As it relates to total depravity Sell stated, “Further, the
Remonstrant points did not mention, and certainly did not deny, the doctrine of total
depravity. There was, however, a gradual drift from this doctrine on the part of many
Arminians, especially when they came to deny the imputation of Adam’s first sin to his
descendants, and when they elaborated their view of man’s freedom in such a way as to
threaten the notion of man’s total inability. Here we approach the crux of the Calvinist-
Seller that stated the Calvinist’ position on man’s depravity and man’s will. Seller
explained, “Calvin wishes to argue that man’s will is bound, but that he is still
responsible. His freedom consists in his being able to act freely in a manner consistent
with his will; but fallen man’s will is depraved, and from this depravity he can be rescued
only by the grace of God in Christ.”
The final arbiter for any theological question or debate is the Bible. This writer
sometimes refers to the Bible and the debates that ensue as the great finalizer. Robert
Peterson and Michael Williams have given their final answers on the belief system of
Arminianism. Their first conclusion was on the doctrine of predestination.
They wrote, “First, although the Arminians hold to corporate rather than individual
election, the Bible teaches both…Arminian, then, make a false distinction between
individual and corporate election.” They then referenced John 6:37 – 40 to make their
point. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will
in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will
of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he
hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this
is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him,
may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Laurence Vance used the ridicules to demonstrate the absurdity of an umbilical
view of election and predestination. Vance stated it this way,
“Consider the implications of this teaching: (1) The ‘elect’ were ‘in Christ’ before the foundation of the world. (2) The ‘elect’ fell out of Christ and became lost ‘in Adam.’ (3) The ‘elect’ got back ‘in Christ’ at the cross. (4) The ‘elect’ fell out of Christ again so they could be born ‘in sin.’(5) The ‘elect’ got back ‘in Christ’ when God applied Irresistible Grace to them and they got saved. But if the ‘elect’ fell out of Christ even once, what is to prevent them from falling again?”
Two of the verses Vance used to make his biblical case that anyone can be saved
were Romans 5:12 “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by
sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:,” and I Corinthians 15:22
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Peterson, Williams and Vance all made a simple yet profound case for an
unlimited atonement position. Furthermore, the simplicity of their arguments all pointed
to the authoritativeness of Scripture as the final authority that salvation was provided for
everyone at the cross.
Erickson came to an appropriate conclusion regarding the preservation of the
saints. He gave consideration to both Armenian and the Calvinist view before arriving
at the biblical view. He concluded, “The practical implication of our understanding of
the doctrine of perseverance is that believers can rest secure in the assurance that their
salvation is permanent; nothing can separate them from the love of God. Thus, they
can rejoice in the prospect of eternal life. There need be no anxiety that something
or someone will keep them from attaining the final blessedness that they have been
promised and have come to expect.” Here he alluded to, in this quote, in Romans 8:28
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who
are the called according to his purpose.”
Peterson and Williams make a compelling case for the biblical view of the
perseverance of the saints. Their conclusion was expressed this way, “First, we sampled
the abundant biblical testimony to God’s preservation of the saints. Preservation relates to
the perseverance as cause to effect. Because God preserves His saints, they will persevere
and not fall from grace. God’s power and faithfulness preclude true believers from
committing final apostasy.” Peterson and Williams then argued from Scripture that
believers do not work for their salvation but rather work out their salvation when they
referenced, Philippians 2:12, 13 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not
as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his
Their final argument with regard to the warning against apostasy in Hebrews was
not in reference to the believers but rather to the unbelievers. They explained, “Further
evidence of the impossibility of believers committing apostasy is provided by the
presence of preservation texts in Hebrews. In the very book where the sternest warnings
against apostasy appear are some of the sweetest affirmations of believer’s security in
Christ.” They had referenced Hebrews 6:4 – 6 “For it is impossible for those who were
once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the
Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to
come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify
to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”
Vance gave a comprehensive biblical reasoning and biblical references from
throughout the Scriptures that backed up his position. He explained, “This fallacy is the
whole idea that mankind is divided into two groups: the ‘elect’ and the ‘reprobate.’” He
than referenced Psalms 33:13-15 “The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the
sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the
earth. He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works.” Vance also
referenced I John 5:1 “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and
every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.”
With regard to the limited atonement position of the Calvinist Vance dismantles it
and unconditional election is one sentence when he stated, “Limited Atonement is simply
adding insult to the injury of Unconditional Election. For if certain men are not of those
elected to salvation, then what does it matter whether Christ died for them or not?”
Most important he referenced I Timothy 4:10 “For therefore we both labour and suffer
reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially
of those that believe.” He also used as a proof text, II Corinthians 5:19 “To wit, that God
was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto
them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” Vance argued that ‘all
men’ and ‘the world’ constitute that every person has opportunity by virtue of God’s
provision to be saved. Vance exposed the fallacy of human philosophy. The clear
contradiction within the false teaching of Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement
was thought through by Vance in a way that would make any Spirit led believer to
strongly reconsider the unbiblical philosophy of Calvinism and Arinianism.
This research began with a discussion as to the meaning and application of
predestination. The battle line was drawn between the foreknowledge of God and the
purpose of God. With the aid of Clarke’s research the outcome, without diminishing
God’s foreknowledge, was that His purpose for both Jews and Gentiles was to call both
to salvation, through grace, by faith in Jesus Christ. Dongell and Wells put straight the
concepts of foreknowledge, and clarified that God’s foreknowledge was the basis for
God’s sovereign decrees. The Calvinists, they stated, had this order reversed.
This research on the matter of election uncovered the term Ryrie used, “corporate
election,” to clarify his position on election. It would seem that proper understanding of
the grammatical structure would solve this controversy, namely fining the proper
antecedent. His explanation of election was that those that were elect were elect once
they got into the church buy way of salvation.
The explanation found for infralapsarian election showed that God would have
had to predetermine not to make salvation possible for most of humanity for this
philosophy to be consistent with God’s thought process. The most consistent thought is
that as God’s image-bearers He created us all to accept Him and fellowship with Him.
The matter of Limited Atonement was found to be inconsistent with Scripture and
the major theme of the Bible, the redemption of sinful man back to a holy, righteous God.
This research leads to a belief and conviction in an Unlimited Atonement.
A review of the Arminian beliefs was found to be a works – salvation. The
emphasis being what man can do rather than what Christ did. The conclusion of this
research are the biblical promises of salvation, freely offered to all, eternally secure.
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