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Discussion in 'A Puritan's Mind Updates' started by C. Matthew McMahon, Feb 8, 2006.
That was my point Fred.
I thought so, but did not want to assume. And an exceedingly insightful observation on your part.
You know how much we agree in so many areas. Ben and others who have taken issue with the article as well.
Your post above I think is a good example of how this thread has "evolved".
Who is being criticized here? Is it one of the posters or is it Matt's article? I think the thread has created some protagonists that some would want to associate with Matt's article and some are left with the impression: "He's saying that about what Matt said." It gets very complicated with all the twists and turns.
I've affirmed that there are ways that the article can be interpreted that cause consternation. I wonder, however, if Matt had been dead for a few hundred years and we were digging this article up from some obscure Reformed Puritan in the past if we'd be saying "Whoa, that sounds like Owens." I've read J.I. Packer write that Arminianism in a return to Rome.
Again, I prefer to view it as a grave warning. It is one thing to have zeal in ignorance. It is quite another to become zealous for Biblical error as I believe Dave Hunt is. I will never say any man is damned because I have no such knowledge.
I don't like to talk about such issues in hypothetical categories. I tend to be a very "what's this mean to those I worship with" kind of guy. I worship with Southern Baptists right now.
Let me just take the idea of a poor view of man's sinfulness. Do not the Scriptures witness that the Law brings us to the Gospel by convicting us of our utter need for a Savior? Doesn't Arminianism tend to undermine that utter need?
For example, JUST YESTERDAY, I was in Church (it's Monday here). The preacher is a visiting minister here on island to prep for a Franklin Graham crusade that will be taking place in November. His sermon was horrible. He preached on worry and spoke of peace as something more in psychological terms of doing away with angst. He never spoke about being at peace with God.
During the altar call some people came forward crying. They were baptized members coming forward to rededicate their lives (the Arminian sacrament by which those who aren't being as holy as they're supposed to be come back to promise to be holy again. The rest, in the pews, are doing OK so they don't have to come forward.) Anyway, the minister didn't know these were baptized for sure, he asked that they repeat a prayer in their hearts so that, if they're unbelievers, they can experience God's peace. It went something like this:
"Heavenly Father, I know I need peace but I don't know how to get peace. Jesus, please come into my heart and be in charge of my life. I know you are waiting to bless me and I want to be blessed. I pray that you would be in charge and give me that peace."
I wish I knew the exact words but that's close enough. I commented to my wife later that the prayer would not have offended anybody in an AA meeting. No mention of sin or a need to be delivered from utter wretchedness.
Who cares about the dang doctrine and that it is expressed an embraced with seminary precision?! I care about what it means when people pray prayers that are consequent of a faulty doctrine that allow a sinful heart to pour any meaning they want into the terms "peace" and "rule". I REALLY CARE about those people who are going forward on those altar calls. I teach them about the Gospel and am trying to help them understand it. I am not some stuck-up Calvinist content to lob rocks at them because they're messing it all up. I'm really afraid that the presentation of the Gospel is so flawed that it is spiritual malpractice. I care about my relatives whose souls are poisoned by it too.
And so, being very concerned about my fellow brothers and sisters who remain weighed down with worry about their sins because they hear the Gospel mixed with Arminianism, I have very little affinity for its doctors. Men and women come time and again to that stupid altar call to receive the assurance they should have heard when the Gospel was first proclaimed. It is NO DIFFERENT than that plank of justification that Rome holds out in Penance in terms of how it is utilized by the uneducated. It breaks your heart to see. It is almost enough to not want to come back just so I don't have to witness it week after week but NO, NO! I will make sure that somehow, I'm not sure how, that God will use me to tell some of these people "PEACE. You can really rest now."
I call them brothers and sisters because they've been baptized in the name of the Trinity and professed faith. I weep for them like brothers and sisters because they are like Galatians that want to return to chains, called by a different name, but now it's altar calls and rededications as opposed to circumcisions.
[Edited on 2-13-2006 by SemperFideles]
Fred, its my mistake for being unclear. Pastor Way is right to be alarmed, there is alot at stake here. Notional knowledge must be distinguished from real saving experience of the knowledge of Christ. At the same time I can see things from the other side's perspective. You must have sufficient knowledge of Christ inorder to trust in him. Arminianism in its extreme forms adds human will to the basis of salvation. Yet how much must we know about salvation in order to be saved? The Apostle Peter at one time disbelieved in the death and resurrection of Christ, was he yet unsaved? I think a lot has to do with our disposition towards the truth. Not knowing it or disbelieving it in ignorance is much different from obstinately refusing it. Dave Hunt, who name was brought up before, knows the truth and he hates it. He wants his choice to accept Jesus to be the ground of his salvation. Jesus' overtures are to us as sinners, to come with nothing, with no money to pay our debts. We must completely transfer all reliance to Christ. To do otherwise is to strike at the sufficiency of Christ and to endanger our salvation.
John Calvin on Arminianism
The following is an verbatim quote from Calvin. Of course, just because he says what he does below does not make it true, but nontheless, would people react to Calvin as they have this article? Is Calvin a "hyper-calvinist"?
Calvin wrote this agains Pighius, who defended "free will" in the Arminian sense.
John Calvin, The Bondage and Liberation of the Will, p. 188-189
Please help me understand what is complicated about my post. I was very clearly responding to one post which Jeff Bartel made. I was not talking about Matt's article at all.
Please see above where I put certain words in bold. I made it clear that I was specifically addressing Jeff, not Matt.
I agree that Matt sounds like John Owen. I highly respect both Matt & John. And both of them are quite explicitly clear that Arminians don't go to heaven unless they convert to Calvinism before death.
And Scott Bushey agrees with Matt:
I completely agree with you that such "prayers" are an abomination, and that no one is saved by them. Of course I agree that there has to be a real recognition of sin, grace, and salvation via Christ's sacrifice.
But *many* Arminians don't use such prayers. For salvation, a large number of Arminians believe and pray very clearly concerning our utter lostness in sin, and our total need of Christ's sacrifice in order to obtain forgiveness. Read John Wesley. He was a staunch Arminian. But he didn't ignore the depravity of humans lost in sin, and he certainly didn't ignore the cross.
I think *everyone* on this thread and on this board agree that Arminianism is *very much* in error. But is it damnable error? No.
I'm not saying you disagree. I just want to be very clear.
I appreciate you, Rich. And I appreciate your posts. I am very blessed to have you as a brother in Christ!
Just for the record, I have never said that a person must assent to Irresistible Grace in order to be saved. They must assent to Total Depravity, as the WLC states, and as the scriptures declare.
As the saying goes....you gotta get 'em lost, before you can get 'em saved. (All sayings break down...so please don't read any works salvation into the statement...but you know what it is trying to get across).
In a sense, total depravity is not about the gospel, it is about the condemnation of the law. You realize the disease, before you can know the cure.
I agree that the points stand or fall together, but that does not mean that a person can hear/learn about them all at once does it? A person may wait long before he ever HEARS about the doctrine of limited atonement, or effectual grace.
This is what Keswick theology has done to the evangelical church. It was supposed to be perfectionism for Calvinists, but it taught Arminianism to many who didn't know they were learning it, by teaching that sanctification (rededication) is obtained in the same way as justification, by believing a set of propositions and making a decision, thus teaching decisional regeneration, i.e. Arminianism.
I never came to faith until I was an adult, almost 40 years old, even though I was technically raised a Christian. This that you describe is what I grew up with. For those who think maybe some Calvinists are nitpicking about this, I didn't come to faith until I was presented with the Gospel in a Reformed context. I am always amazed when I hear of someone coming to faith in an Arminian or Dispensational church, not because I think they're all lost, but because the Gospel is so garbled in those contexts. So I wonder and would like opinions about the following, whether they constitiute "other gospels" or not; Arminianism and Keswickian or Wesleyanism/Perfectionism.
Even John Wesley agreed that it is not "apart from the grace of God". Rather, he said that we are *totally* depraved, with no good in us at all. But Wesley said that God gave prevenient grace to everyone. And it is this grace that makes people "able to do all these things as we should". So John Wesley actually would agree with much of what Calvin said in your quote. But of course he thought that a person could be made "able to do all these things", and yet still choose not to do them. John Wesley was wrong, but not damnably wrong.
John Wesley taught that man is totally depraved, every bit as much as any Calvinist taught. Wesley agreed that man was "entirely, that is, in both soul and body, changed for the worse" because of Adam's disobedience. So John Wesley would agree totally with Calvin's statement above. He simply believed that God gives prevenient grace to everyone, to enable all men a sort of pre-fall-ability to choose. He did not deny total depravity. He just believed that God partially rescues all men from it. Thus, he would say that all of salvation after faith was a gift, and he would also say that it was the grace of God that made it possible for even that initial faith to take place.
I'm not sure what you are trying to show by this, but it is not a refutation of Arminianism. It is a putting of the cart before the horse, considering that Arminianism did not even exist in Calvin's day - Arminius came after.
This is Calvin's critique of Pelagianism which is quite different, and much greater an error than Arminianism. It is clear that this is the case not merely from history, but because Calvin cites the Council of Orange as an authority in this matter (as well he should), and at Orange, semi-Pelagianism was upheld as a sort of compromise between the the Augustinian and moderate Pelagian factions (one things of Jerome).
Each of these statements by Calvin can be claimed by classical Arminians using the doctrine of prevenient grace. NOTE: I do not agree with the doctrine of prevenient grace, but it is compatible (at least at face value) with the statements from Calvin.
So no cigar.
I want to point out the fact that many Arminians DO believe in total depravity. John Wesley is an important example.
He taught total depravity as heavily as Calvinists.
He just believed that God offered "prevenient grace" to universally undo some of that depravity.
Thus, he would say that the natural state of man is totally depraved, but that God sends prevenient grace to return all people to a not-quite-so-depraved state, so that they at least have the restored ability to choose good instead of evil. Then, if any of these people choose Christ, then they receive salvation. But don't forget . . . even their initial ability to have faith was a gift from God. Several times, John Wesley even said that "faith is a gift from God".
John Wesley was confused and inconsistent. But he believed man was lost in sin, and he preached the cross of Christ as the only available remedy.
I should have been clearer. I initially thought you were ascribing it to Matt because I tend to scan things initially and then re-read them. I'm just stating that this thread has confused some (including me) and takes a lot of effort to sort out who is criticizing who because an affirmation or criticism of Matt's article becomes a rabbit trail argument (lenghty trails at that!) and some might start to think they're criticizing Matt. I should have been clearer on that.
My experience would indicate that such man-centered prayers are widespread (witness the appeal of The Prayer of Jabez). I'm not saying that there aren't Arminians that pray utter lostness but I've travelled pretty far and wide and intersect Christian men and women from every corner of the globe. "Lostness" sentiments are rarely expressed in prayer or in the literature they consume. I hope that I'm wrong but fear that I am not.
No doctrine really damns. It doesn't have the power to do that. Unbelief damns. I know no man's heart so I reserve final Judgment to Him who knows the heart. Nevertheless, are there tenets of Arminianism that are just as pernicious (perhaps more so) than having a faulty view of the hypostatic union of Christ? A case can be made that it so distorts the Gospel that I would not want be one of its Doctors at the Last Judgment answering for those it harmed.
Likewise my friend.
[Edited on 2-13-2006 by SemperFideles]
I was raised Roman Catholic and, by interesting circumstances, ended up in Evangelical, non-denominational Churches for a really long time. I almost can't remember what I really believed about salvation then. I think I frankly just believed that my excitement for Christ (especially singing) combined with my desire to read the Bible, get quiet time, and pray were marks that I loved God and would be saved by Him. I was a Worship Team leader and I remember looking forward to the 40 minutes of singing we had each week. I would raise my hands and sing with great passion working something up within me as we came to emotional climax designed to inspired the congregation (designed by my song selection).
I always left so deflated. I remember leaving Church depressed every Sunday. Depressed! It was like I had just come down off a drug and now I had to face the week - a week filled with sin and knowing I wasn't living up to the life I was supposed to be living.
I lived in a state of spiritual depression for years. A couple of altar calls rededicating my life and the 40 minutes of singing every week were very much like going to Penance as a Roman Catholic kid. Enter the Church depressed loaded down with sin, get your fix (Te Absolvo), go back into the world sinning almost immediately and wondering why I was so miserable.
I'm with you, I don't know how people get saved in systems like that. The preacher never spoke about Christ atoning for our sins. He never even ended prayers in Jesus Name, preferring to end them in "...your most precious Name." (anybody else notice how widespread that is). I've met friend after countless friend that was re-baptized, re-dedicated constantly, etc.
I think God had me by the neck then but MAN, am I blessed that R.C. Sproul came on the radio at lunchtime in Quantico!! In the first 20 pages of Faith Alone I was thinking: "IT WAS ALWAYS RIGHT THERE!!! WHY ISN'T ANYBODY TALKING ABOUT THIS?!!!
When you're in the middle of it, though, you can't see it. They even sometimes get the language close but the symbols and the pietistic messages drown it out.
[Edited on 2-13-2006 by SemperFideles]
Prehaps it might be helpful to look at this issue from another angle. Instead of asking 'can an arminian be saved?' maybe we can ask 'can one of the elect be so deceived so as to believe in arminianism?'
I believe the answer is yes, they can. God does not promise to protect his elect, no matter what happens, from heresy. If he did, why would the apostles write so extensively against it and warn so strongly about false teachers?
There are some in this thread who have said that there is not a time difference between regeneration and conversion. I respectfully disagree. I am sure the example of John the Baptist has been debated about before. What about Cornelius and Lydia? I think they are both examples of elect people regenerated but not converted before they met Peter/Paul. If you look at the descriptions of them before they met their respective evangelists and compare with all the verses on total depravity, it is impossible to conclude that they were natural men before they heard the gospel.
If instead of one of the apostles, an arminian heretic had preached to them first, do we really believe it is absolutely impossible they would have been deceived? If the elect are really 'immune' from heresy in this way, than large portions of the new testament that warn about false teaching are a waste of space. Nor do i believe that God ever promises he will restore all his elect from false doctrine that deceives them. To hold to that proposition, borders on fatalism, i think.
Look at 1 Cor 11 where we see corinthian christians who died for abusing the Lord's Supper. We have no indication whatsoever that they repented. And surely it is not unreasonable to think that a man who dares to profane the Lord's Supper in that way would also be invovled in some of the other heresies and problems plaguing the church of corinth. And whilst Paul tells us they were saved from hell by God's faithfulness, we have no grounds for concluding they were restored to sound doctrine in this life.
Look in the Old testament at Samson and Lot. Both of them lived carnal, fruitless lives. We don't know for sure about Lot but Samson at least never repented, even at the end.
That, i think, is the whole point of santification and preaching. Those things don't save anyone, because Jesus Christ saved all his elect by himself. But they do give the elect assurance in this life, and make the difference between making it to heaven having lived a life like Paul, or like Samson.
Gettting back on topic, I think those who say arminians cannot be saved are holding on to an erroneous idea that the elect cannot be deceived and become arminian ( or something else ). Or, an elect man might be converted to an arminan gospel and if he is stiff necked and hardens his heart, or if God's preachers around him are slothful, he may never be converted out of his error.
None of these things are meant as a defense of arminianism or any kind of error. If agree that a gospel without predestination is no gospel at all, and i agree with Rich that it pains me to see men and women who seem to have genuine love for Jesus Christ deceived by this nonsense.
i think it was Ryan(?) who mentioned a page ago that arminian believes makes a christian's profession questionable. But then so does any false doctrine or sin he or she hold to, although different things will effect his profession to different extents. There are certainly somethings that if believed make it almost impossible for other to believe that man can be born again. But i do not believe arminianism crosses that line.
[Edited on 2-13-2006 by satz]
[Edited on 2-13-2006 by satz]
It would seem to me that the underlying issue here is not who is dammed and who isn't, but what really constitutes the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some of the arguments are just specious. So and so is not a "5 pointer"; and he can't be dammed, look at how good a person he is and he believes almost everything a "5 pointer does" Since when does almost believing the right things mean you have been chosen by God? No matter which side of the argument you are on, this argument is not credible.
Try approaching this from a different direction. Tell us what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is, how it changes the elect and what the elect look like after being changed.
Having come out of an Arminist tradition I resent the fact that so many in that tradition tried with all their might to keep me in that tradition, finding ways to reinforce their false teachings and ingrain them in me to such an extent that I would be mired forever in those errors. I don't resent the people, by the way, they were really "nice" people. Were they dammed? If they continue to teach error and try to cause others to stumble into their errors, yes. But, God wasn't done with me and he may not be done with them. He didn't leave me in that mess but brought me out of it. How?
When he changed me, he gave me a hunger for his Word and by the Spirit of God led me to greater understanding as i strove to come to an awareness of who God is. Who is the living God that i am to worship! Who is Jesus Christ, son of the living God who gave himself for me!
In passing I want to say that these "Arminist" errors are not stand alone as so many in these threads want to imply. In fact over time if held they bleed over to other areas of doctrine and pollute it also. They will completely distort "human" understanding of the Gospel, save that God intervene. Are there so called "Arminists" that do not understand what real Arminist doctrine is? Of course! Just as there are Catholics, Mormons, JW's and those from other traditions that do not understand what their traditions truly believe. Now, many today want to say that those who sit under the teachings of these groups, but dont understand or necessarily follow their teachings, may in fact be "saved." Well, they may be elect but if they have been justified, where is their hunger for God's Word. Why are they sitting contentedly under false teaching without being disturbed by it. No one can know whose God's elect may be, but the Bible indicates that we can make judgements as to their current state based on their fruits (both good and bad).
Also there is another human frailty that damages the credibility of many participants. That is adherence to a particular teacher of professor or mentor. These folks have a lot to teach us, and we can stand on their shoulders and have more understanding then if we did not have them. But ultimately you and you alone are responsible for what you choose to believe. Too often we hold to what someone teaches because we "like" them or their charismatic presentation of issues sway us to become loyal followers. Time and time again I see those whose doctrine is inconsistent, and there is no way to reason with them. That is because it is more like a football game to them. I have chosen my team, and we will WIN!! Then there is the other side of the coin. Those who reason and are so pleased with their great intelligence and learning that they invent convoluted constructs of logic and reason that are then used to modify the clear meaning of Scripture. There also is no reasoning with these folks, they are too impressed with themselves to listen to anyone else and consider that all their intelligence reason and logic may have failed them.
So set aside all of these things that distract. Tell me what the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ is, and lay out the Order of Salvation, tell me what happens to people when they are justified and what justified people look like. Tell me about sanctification and fruits. Lay this out clearly and this thread is moot.
[Edited on 2-13-2006 by lwadkins]
Isn't this what people have been going on about for the last 12 pages?
Mark, I don't see a clear statement of the Gospel and what it does to people in this thread. I am glad that you do, and you can be of great service to me by summarizing it for me.
I disagree that Wesley's form of depravity was the same as the Calvinist form.
No matter how you shape it, the Arminian form is that man is depraved, and needs God's help (prevenient grace) to save him, BUT IN THE END, that's all it is, is help. Man is not so depraved that THE GRACE OF GOD ALONE must rescue him. He is sick and in need of medicine, but not dead, and in need of resurrection.
I understand what you are saying, and historically it is important to make the comments about Arminianism "technically" existing during/after Arminius.
That being said, I think the quote (at least part of it) directly applies to the Arminian controversy. How many Arminians would say that the Spirit caused him to believe, will etc?
The semi-Pelagian controversy condemned by Orange and the Arminian controversy are so closely related, that it is easy to see why the Puritans saw Arminianism as the ole' Pelagian heresy resurrected.
sorry.. what i meant was that people have been arguing over just that thoughout this thread. So asking for a clear statement would only produce more of the same debate.
No reason to be sorry brother, i am here to learn and sharpen myself just as you are.
I wanted to post a public apology for my comments on this thread, specifically the "Mega dittos" line above.
Regardless of whatever my opinion is of the article, bandwagon comments are unacceptable. I could have as easily asked my question without the "mega-dittos" comment. May God grant me the grace to learn when to keep my mouth shut. I am not an officer in the Church, nor do I have any aspirations therunto. The public discussion of such a public article ought to be reserved to the elders of the Church, and I do not believe that I should have had any business in giving a public opinion on the matter.
Please forgive me.
Hmmm. Are there some saying that we can't publicly discuss an article publicly displayed for that purpose unless we agree with it? As for the elders of the Church being the ones elected to discuss such matters, I am not sure about that either. Besides, Dr. McMahon's denomination is not even in the sphere of our denominations authority.
Maybe I am missing something, but apart from calling out Dr. McMahon as a heretic, which I don't believe nor would I do if I did, I don't see the problem with reasoned criticism of his article. I doubt he has problems with criticism of the article, or he would have not posted it for discussion.
On the other hand, I may be missing something, and would like to be corrected if so.
[Edited on 2-13-2006 by raderag]
At the moment I am writing this, this thread has had 3789 views. Now I'm sure that many of us regulars have viewed the thread between 10 and 20 times, so the number is greatly inflated as to the actual number of viewers. Possibly 200 people have read through this thread to date, and who knows how many hereafter. My point is that I am not a teacher in the church. What business do I have of making public statements, especially seeing that the name of my church and denomination are at the bottom of each of my posts? I am begining to think that posting on public forums (except to ask a question, seek clarification, or to offer encouragement) is not for me. I have no desire to pass judgment on anyone who does think that it is okay, but in my mind, I am not convinced, so, for conscience sake, I am bowing out.
Remember, the purpose of the Puritanboard, from its inception, is to discuss theology, history, pray for one another, etc. I have absolutely no qualms about anyone being charitably critical about something. None whatsoever. I am not so tolerant with uncharitable discussion. Would I have expected such to be the case on this issue on the Puritanboard? Not remotely. But still that's OK. It just surprised me. You can always tell how much a topic is really hot by those who partake in in it AND those who don't. Healthy discussion on any topic should be encouraged, though. Let's just be sure we know what the other person is saying, and we respond in charity as much as Christianly possible.
This topic is especially applicable to us all since we all live in an age where Arminianism is excepted as the Gospel, as you find throughout Christendom today. I think healthy discussion should be encouraged.
Hey Dan, I can understand that. I will consider this entire thread a loss if we cannot come to some kind of basic agreement, but I don't have much confidence that we will. I appreciate your thoughts.
Dr McMahon, what strikes me is the misunderstanding of the message that you might have intended to get across. If those such as Phillip (a minister of the Gospel) have misunderstood your viewpoint, do you think that perhaps some of those laymen that agree with you have misunderstood? You have continually corrected those that have argued against your aticle as misunderstanding you, but they are merely arguing against what many who agree with you are saying. If both sides are not understanding your point, your point is not clear enough.
That is just one mans personal observation.
In my humble opinion the Gospel must start with an understanding of who God is, that He is holy, uncreated, the Source of all that is good.
The next point would be that though He created us good, we (through our representative Adam) chose to put our own judgment ahead of God's and to decide to rule ourselves, on the evidence of a traitor.
If those two points are understood well, it would then follow that we are in grave and just danger from this Being, who though benevolently disposed to His creation, must do something about human evil that is first just, then, if possible, merciful, since the latter also accords with His nature.
God has done what was necessary through sending Jesus to earth to live the life we should have lived, and to die the death we should have died.
Again, In my humble opinion, that's what we need to be telling the unconverted. One problem with modern evangelism is that by leaving out the wrath of God and the just reason for it, the sinner isn't sufficiently awakened to begin to hate sin as God does.
Also, when talking about election to people, I try to stress that NO ONE would come to God if He did not elect them, not because they're helpless cripples, as 4-point Calvinists often say, but because NO ONE WANTS TO!
PS, the all-caps isn't yelling, I'm too lazy to use BB code to bold. Sorry.
That may be true. I may not be clear. Sometimes I'm not clear at all. I often feel tht after preaching a sermon, I was not as clear as I would like. In writing we have more time and more observation to make. But at the same time, I've received emails and U2Us to the contrary that have thanked me for the article. It seemed to clear to them. Maybe then, with certain preconceived notions, the article tends to become myopic. I hope, in the next one, to clarify anything that may seem out of sorts. I don't want to be confusing, but I think some initial "doctrines" are being misunderstood that I may be taking for granted, and others are not. Or maybe I'm interpreting them one way and then others are reading into them something else. I hope to clarify that.
Well I am almost done reading the paper and so far I find it excellect and very well done In my humble opinion.