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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we bessech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Augustianism/Calvinism Versus Arminianism/Molinism

[The following exchange took place after I contacted the Society of Evangelical Arminians regarding their article satirizing "Stuff Young Calvinists Like." I am at a loss as to how this satirical piece is supposed to demonstrate "love" and an "irenic" spirit as the contact person proposes is the express the purpose of the SEA.]



Ron,

Three things.

1) Dordt and Westminster are not Scripture is absolutely correct. But it also follows from that Arminianism is not Scripture EITHER. It is an "interpretation" of Scripture and therefore fallible. Likewise no visible church on earth is infallible or inerrant. So by your reasoning no doctrine is binding because they are all fallible interpretations of Scripture. That is at least implied in your statement.

That being said, however, the church does have authority to interpret Scripture because it is established by God himself in the very Scriptures you mention. (See 1 Timothy 3:15-16). The church, according to the principles of the Protestant Reformation, should always be reforming itself and thus a common understanding of Scripture must be agreed upon. The principle of sola scriptura and the perspicuity of Scripture applies here.

Since the Dutch "Three Forms of Unity" (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dordt) and the Westminster Standards (Westminster Confession, Westminster Larger Catechism, Westminster Shorter Catechism) are summaries of what the church believes the Scriptures infallibly teach, then it follows that they are infallible wherever they are faithful to the infallible Scriptures. Confessional standards are simply more detailed "creeds" which express what Christians "believe." The creeds are prefaced with the words, "I believe..."

Regarding the Synod of Dordt, the Remonstrandts first created the controversy by formulating 5 points of Remonstrance and by attacking the Calvinist doctrines which were at that time binding doctrine in all the Dutch churches. It is a bit silly for Arminians to cry over the Synod of Dordt when in fact the Arminians were in rebellion against biblical doctrine as it had been understood since the Reformation in the Dutch Calvinist churches. The Arminians were in fact challenging the Belgic Confession, which was a binding confession of faith. Confessions of faith are not in and of themselves infallible but they are binding upon the conscience of all members of a local, regional, universal church unless and until it can be proven that the document is unfaithful to Scripture. On this point the Arminians have not proven their case one whit.

"Episcopius was their chief speaker; and with great art and address did he manage their cause. He insisted on being permitted to begin with a refutation of the Calvinistic doctrines, especially that of reprobation, hoping that, by placing his objections to this doctrine in front of all the rest, he might excite such prejudice against the other articles of the system, as to secure the popular voice in his favor. The Synod, however, very properly, reminded him, that they had not convened for the purpose of trying the Confession of Faith of the Belgic Churches, which had been long established and well known; but that, as the Remonstrants were accused of departing from the Reformed faith, they were bound first to justify themselves, by giving Scriptural proof in support of their opinions. The Arminians would not submit to this plan of procedure because it destroyed their whole scheme of argument. However, the Synod firmly refused to make any concessions on this point of order. Day after day they were reasoned with and urged to come and scripturally defend their published doctrines. . . The Arminians would not submit to this course and were thus compelled to withdraw. Upon their departure, the Synod proceeded without them."

2) Molinism cannot be deistic? Molinism is essentially a more philosophically complex form of Arminianism proposing God's natural knowledge, middle knowledge, and free knowledge. However, sophisticated restatements of Arminianism do not solve the problems Molinism claims to solve. In fact, Molinism reinforces the sovereignty of God argument for Calvinists and Augustinians. If Molinism is true, then the Creator God is somehow dependent upon His creation in order to make what is actually existent occur. Thus, Molinism denies the Scriptural truth that God is self-existent and absolutely omnipotent. Any scheme which makes God dependent on creation is therefore either deistic or a capitulation to the open view of theism. (See

Middle Knowledge: A Reformed Critique Travis James Campbell).


3) I did not declare you a heretic. The Synod of Dort declared you and all Arminians as heretics from the Reformed faith and that was an almost unanimous decision of Calvinists all over the world at that time, including those invited to attend from the English church and the Swiss churches. While you may find the term "heretic" uncomfortable, the historical facts stand as they have occurred. We might debate regarding the level of heresy or class of heresy into which Arminianism falls. Are you a primary level heretic on the level of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy? Or are you a secondary heretic in which you remain within the Protestant visible church but with a deficient understanding of the Scriptures and the law and Gospel? I would contend that it is debatable but the evidence toward the primary level of heresy is gaining ground in some Reformed circles.

Confessions of faith are absolutely necessary in determining who is in fellowship or communion within the visible local/regional/universal churches. Otherwise, we would be in communion with everyone in the world who makes any illicit claim to being "Christian." We both know that is not the case. As Paul himself said:

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty." " (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, ESV)

As I said earlier in this discussion, Arminianism exalts man above God and is a move back toward the semi-pelagianism of the Roman Catholic system and the Eastern Orthodox system. While some Calvinists have argued that Arminianism is "semi-augustinian" and is faithful to the principles of the Synod of Orange, I would strongly disagree. At best Arminianism is semi-pelagian precisely because it claims that prevenient grace neutralizes total depravity/inability to one degree or another. In short, Arminianism leaves salvation up to capricious and sinful human beings and makes grace of no effect for the vast majority of mankind. A defective grace is pragmatically no different from withholding effectual grace for the end result is the same. The road to hell is broad and the way to salvation is narrow. I prefer to stand with the Scriptures in upholding the absolute sovereignty of God even over the free choices of sinful men. God is God and we are merely His creatures. (Romans 3:5-8; Romans 9:18-23).

The weight of Scripture, church history is against the Arminian view no matter how "popular" it may be. Sin is popular as well but that does not make sin desirable or true. I reiterate that the Protestant Reformation was an Augustinian movement and in no wise was it semi-pelagian or even semi-augustinian. Luther, Calvin, Bullinger, Zwingli, Cranmer and a host of other Reformers were all Augustinians. Surely this too bears heavily against Arminianism, Amyraldianism, Tractarianism/Anglo-Catholicism and a host of other divisive doctrines creating confusion and discord within the visible churches.

I am not nearly so "tolerant" as others since I believe biblical truth is more important than any principle of "tolerance" or "love." In closing, I might point out as well that even William Lane Craig concedes that middle knowledge is not biblical:

Since Scripture does not reflect upon this question, no amount of proof-texting can prove that God's counterfactual knowledge is possessed logically prior to his creative decree. This is a matter for theological-philosophical reflection, not biblical exegesis. Thus, while it is clearly unbiblical to deny that God has simple foreknowledge and even counterfactual knowledge, those who deny middle knowledge cannot be accused of being unbiblical. [Ibid., quoted on page 23].

While you claim that you base your view on exegesis, clearly William Lane Craig says otherwise. The theory of middle knowledge is a philosophical interpolation and not a scriptural argument. Calvinism/Augustinianism, on the other hand, simply takes the Bible as God's word on the matter. Scripture clearly teaches both God's sovereignty and sinful man's accountability for his actions as a free moral agent. While this makes those with a selective reading of Scripture uncomfortable, the bottom line is that Calvinism/Augustinianism/Thomism has the more plain understanding of the entire Bible and is a more complete and systematic exegesis of problem texts for both positions. Your position may make more "common sense" to those who are biblically illiterate in the pews but for anyone willing to read the Bible from cover to cover the implications are unequivocably Augustinian/Thomist and, by implication, Calvinist.

Any departure from the law and the Gospel is serious whether it be on the secondary level or on the primary level. Obviously, departures from the very Gospel itself are the most serious. (John 3:18, 36).

The 39 Articles of Religion, which is the "confession of faith" for the Anglican churches clearly sides with Augustinianism over against pelagianism and semi-pelagian views:

Article IX

Of Original or Birth Sin

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated, whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek phronema sarkos (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire of the flesh), is not subject to the law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess that concupiscence and lust hath itself the nature of sin.

Article X

Of Free Will

The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will.
It is indeed unfortunate that you do not wish to correspond further. However, I know that God's will shall be done with or without me. I am merely a creature who is temporarily passing through this world. Nothing can thwart God's eternal plans and decrees, of that I am most certain. (See Job 36:23; Isaiah 10:20-23).


Charlie


"For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:26-31, ESV)

----- Original Message -----
From: Ron Fay
Sent: Saturday, June 20, 2009 7:05 AM
Subject: RE: [Contact Us] Reasonable Christian

Charlie,

Three things.

1) Dordt and Westminster are not Scripture. Dordt was a horrible parody of a council in which no Arminians were allowed to speak and only 3 were allowed to attend. It compares to the fruitless ecumenical councils that excluded Trinitarians during the days of Constantius. Westminster is a confession and holds no authority either. Both are worthless in conversations.

2) Molinism cannot be deism in any sense since God perfectly and absolutely practices meticulous sovereignty at every step. How is that deism if He is constantly involved at every moment?

3) You declared me a heretic and showed once again that for a Calvinist, or at least you, theology is the gospel instead of Christ crucified. Nowhere in Scripture is your theology called the gospel. I would be very careful about declaring others unsaved. Unless you amend that statement, I will not be further responding to you.

God bless,

- Ron

________________________________________________
Ron C. Fay, PhD
Associate Pastor of Administration and Teaching
Cornerstone Community Church
Wadsworth, IL
roncfay@hotmail.com





14 comments:

J.C. Thibodaux said...

My, my. You have quite the penchant for ill-informed sophistry and intellectual dishonesty.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Would you care to clarify? Ron Fay is a minister of a church with no doctrinal statement. The Lord only knows what sorts of heresy his church teaches?

I stand on the confession of faith expressed in the 39 Articles and several other Reformed confessions which are much more detailed.

Sorry if telling the world what I actually believe bothers you:)

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Of course.

I am at a loss as to how this satirical piece is supposed to demonstrate "love" and an "irenic" spirit....

Sophistry. Please explain exactly how satire can't be irenic.


In short, Arminianism leaves salvation up to capricious and sinful human beings...

Nonsensical posturing. You're setting up a strawman ('up to...human beings') by conveniently excluding the fact that salvation is initiated by God through, and therefore dependent upon, prevenient grace, which is made even more nonsensical by the fact that...


...and makes grace of no effect for the vast majority of mankind.

...you argue against prevenient grace in the very same sentence! Additionally, you're equivocating 'effective' with 'irresistible;' using Calvinist conceits as argument for Calvinism. If grace is meant to afford men the ability to believe, albeit not irresistibly, then it is effective within its scope of function.


As I said earlier in this discussion, Arminianism exalts man above God...

This is simply a lie. What evidence do you have to back such a spurious accusation?


...and is a move back toward the semi-pelagianism of the Roman Catholic system and the Eastern Orthodox system.

And how exactly would Christianity being non-Cavlinistic necessitate it becoming RCC/EO/Pelagian? Where is your evidence?


At best Arminianism is semi-pelagian precisely because it claims that prevenient grace neutralizes total depravity/inability to one degree or another.

Do you even have any clue as to what you're talking about? Semipelagianism denies the existence of prevenient grace altogether. Therefore any system that acknowledges prevenient grace is by definition not Semipelagian.


I did not declare you a heretic.

But you did. You distictly stated that our 'god is free will.' Such a sweeping claim is not only an inexcusably dishonest representation of Arminian beliefs, but unmistakably a pronouncement of heresy. Does what you believe at least afford you honesty about your own statements?

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thibodaux said:

Charlie said, "I did not declare you a heretic."

>>>But you did. You distictly stated that our 'god is free will.' Such a sweeping claim is not only an inexcusably dishonest representation of Arminian beliefs, but unmistakably a pronouncement of heresy. Does what you believe at least afford you honesty about your own statements?

Thibodaux, I did call you a heretic if you will read carefully what I said. What I said was that the Synod of Dort declared you Arminians "heretics" from the Reformed faith AND it is questionable whether your heresy is on the primary level OR the secondary level. But I will give you a cigar for READING COMPREHENSION:) You CAN read:)

I can see that you're one of those baiters who doesn't have a clue about the position of the opposition. As such responding each of your ad hominem points is a complete waste of time.

Be that as it may, you may claim to worship God but your theology actually denies the absolute sovereignty of God, exalts "free will" above sovereignty of God, and denies the doctrine of total depravity by making prevenient grace neutralize original sin and total depravity. For all practical purposes your position is a "pragmatic" form of pelagianism. At best you can be called a semi-pelagian.

But of course, you're going to ignore the fact that I spent at least 10 years as a full blown Arminian and I graduated from a Christian college with a minor in Arminian systematic theology. And to top all that off, I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary, the largest "conservative" Wesleyan holiness and Arminian seminary in the country. To accuse me of not understanding Arminian theology is about as reasonable as saying the pope isn't Catholic.

Arminianism leaves you as just another number in the crowd. You're nobody special. You might even "lose" your salvation. No guarantees and no real assurance of salvation when you get right down to it. Christ died for everybody? So what? How does that give "me" any assurance? I get a "chance" to be saved???

Really, the Scriptures teach the doctrines of grace and salvation is guaranteed. Christ paid the debt especially for ME because my name is written in the book of life from before the foundation of the world and Jesus had planned to die for my sins before creation. He is the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."

And you ask me to trade the precious blood of Jesus, who died for his sheep, in exchange for a common grace that saves no one in particular and a cross that is for everyone in general and for no one in particular???? And a view of God who can actually save no one at all?

No, the Bible says that God makes His people willing in the day of His power! :) (Psalm 110:3)

Charlie J. Ray said...

I notice that Thibodaux's profile says he's a computer programmer. Which makes him an expert in theology? Gee, I'm expert in programming code, too:)

The program generally does what you sovereignly decree that it will do, doesn't it, Thibodaux? Or do programs just run off on their own free will?

Jaltus said...

For the record, my church is a member of the EFCA and has been for years, and therefore hold to the EFCA statement of faith.

Sorry, just happened upon this post in my internet travels. I do not appreciate people making incorrect statements about my church.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I'm not sure which church you belong to, Jaltus. Also, I don't believe the article mentions any particular church. It refers to the Calvinist and Arminian controversy.

The EFCA has to do with financial accountability, not theological issues.

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie J. Ray said...

Is Arminianism "semi-pelagian"? While it is true that Arminians re-interpreted the doctrine of prevenient grace to fit their scheme (prevenient grace as taught in the 39 Articles of Religion and the English Reformation refers to irresistible grace), the fact that semi-pelagians attribute libertarian free will to nature and Arminians attribute libertarian free will to prevenient grace makes their actual and practical position the same. For the Arminian prevenient will cancels original sin so that nature is now able to have libertarian free will:

Semi-Pelagianism and Pelagianism

Semi-Pelaginism acknowledges that man’s will and nature are somewhat affected (injured) by the Fall, but mankind retains libertarian free will. The end result is essentially the same as the Arminian view — the difference being free will “by nature” rather than by the Arminian’s universal prevenient grace. In Semi-Pelagianism, man has a free will essentially unaffected by the fall and not limited by his natural desires, inclinations, or prior dispositions. By way of reference, Pelagianism says man’s will (and nature) is not affected at all by the Fall.
From: Free Will.

Thus, my contention that Arminianism is "semi-pelagian" stands.

For a more thorough understanding of the Calvinist doctrine of prevenient grace, see Articles 9-18 of the 39 Articles.

If, as Articles 9 and 10 say, man is unable to turn himself, then a definition of grace that does not in fact result in a turning from self reliance is no grace at all. An ineffectual grace that does not actually raise the person from spiritual death and the bondage to the sinful nature such that he refuses to believe is an empty grace:

Article IX
Of Original or Birth Sin
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated, whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek phronema sarkos (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire of the flesh), is not subject to the law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess that concupiscence and lust hath itself the nature of sin.

Article X
Of Free Will
The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will.


Without particular and irresistible grace there is no good will to choose Christ. After conversion the elect are to cooperate with God's will and even that grace is monergistic, not synergistic.

Article 17 nails down double predestination.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Sophistry. Please explain exactly how satire can't be irenic.
Satire by definition is not a logical or rational disputation of the propositions of a position but relies instead on the ad hominem fallacy. "Calvinists are ....." yada yada yada... Sophistry on Mr. Arminian's part seems to be OK:)

Charlie J. Ray said...

You declared me a heretic and showed once again that for a Calvinist, or at least you, theology is the gospel instead of Christ crucified. Nowhere in Scripture is your theology called the gospel. <<<This fellow seems to think that believing what Scripture says in propositional truth claims is irrelevant so long as you have some empty, doctrine-less mystical encounter with an undefined person. The last I checked the Bible makes it clear that Jesus is defined by apostolic teaching in Scripture (2 Corinthians 11:3-4) and that must believe what the Jesus of Scripture says:

The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day. 49 For I have not spoken from my own authority, but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. Thus the things I say, I say just as the Father has told me." (John 12:48-50 NET) New English Translation

Charlie J. Ray said...

Prevenient grace by the Arminian definition obviously has no power to overcome inability since a great majority of mankind remains in slavery to sin. If there is actual libertarian free will, then it would be hard to see how the Arminian view is anything other than Pelagianism rehashed? Sin would be simply following Adam's bad example and unbelief.

Blog said...

I used to attend a Pentecostal church and I heard that there is no goodness in man at all and that one's justification before God is not dependent upon anything in or about man. Would this teaching be consistent with Arminianism? I was just wondering because people say that Pentecostal churches are known to be Arminian.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Blog,

Arminianism teaches depravity but not "total depravity". Wesleyan view is that man has a "bent" toward sinning but that "prevenient" grace or common grace is given to all mankind so that he has "free will". That is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that the will is in total slavery to sin unless and until Jesus makes them free. There is no "free will" but only free moral agency.

See John 8:32ff and following....

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