Arminianism: Illogical or Blasphemous?

The Arminian view of the universal atonement of Jesus Christ, if logically deduced, either results in universalism, or it denies Christ’s atonement as being the substitute for sin.

The Arminian says that Christ died for every man. But every man will not be saved. But how does this work light of the substitutionary power of the atonement (which most Arminians would affirm)? Is Christ’s blood powerful (by cleansing those for whom He sheds it) or powerless (by only cleansing some of the sins for those who will receive it)?

Some Arminians see the logical discrepancy in the popular view of the atonement, and, as a result, affirm the idea that Christ didn’t die for anyone, but died just as an example: to “show how serious God is about sin”. As J. Kenneth Grider, a proponent of this idea, wrote,

“A spillover from Calvinism into Arminianism has occurred in recent decades. Thus many Arminians whose theology is not very precise say that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Yet such a view is foreign to Arminianism, which teaches instead that Christ suffered for us. Arminians teach that what Christ did he did for every person; therefore what he did could not have been to pay the penalty, since no one would then ever go into eternal perdition. Arminianism teaches that Christ suffered for everyone so that the Father could forgive the ones who repent and believe; his death is such that all will see that forgiveness is costly and will strive to cease from anarchy in the world God governs. This view is called the governmental theory of the atonement.” [1]

The problems with this are obvious and myriad. If Christ died simply to make it “possible” for people to be saved, without being the absolute substitute for anybody’s sin, every man would go to hell. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, “there is none that doeth good, no not one” and “God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot not look on iniquity”, and thus, every sin that we committed we would have to give an account for, without any substitution, before a holy God.

But, on the other hand, if Christ died to cleanse the sins of all men, than everybody would go to heaven. As Paul writes,

“Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:9)

“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.” (Romans 8:30)

So we see that if Christ’s blood is shed for a man, that man will be justified and ultimately glorified. Thus, to say Christ died for every man is to say every man will be glorified.

Having established that Christ’s blood is efficacious we see that if He did die for everybody, than everybody would be counted sinless before God (which is unitarian heresy). Therefore we see it must be a particular atonement which is efficacious, which will, in fact, cleanse all of the sins of the people for whom Christ shed it. As theologian John Owen put it,

God imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent the pains of hell for, either: all the sins of all men, all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. In which case it may be said: If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved. If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. But if the first be true, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins? You answer, “Because of their unbelief.” I ask, “Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it is, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!”[2]

Consider the words of Christ,

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep…. Ye [Pharisees] believe not because ye are not of my sheep.” (John 10)

Notice, Christ didn’t say, “Ye are not of my sheep because ye believe not” but He says, “Ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep.” This implies that the Pharisees did not believe, (and thus, were going to go to hell) because they weren’t His sheep, i.e., because Christ’s blood was not shed for them.

Thankfully, most Arminians are illogical in their thinking about the subject of the atonement and haven’t fallen into either of the two gross heresies that result from deducing this doctrine of universal atonement to its logical conclusions (universalism and the denial of penal substitution).

– Evan Murch

Footnotes:

[1] J. Kenneth Grider, “Arminianism” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter Elwell, ed., (Baker, 2001), p. 97.

[2] John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Book 1, Ch. 3

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20 responses to “Arminianism: Illogical or Blasphemous?

  • Danny Nowotarski

    A couple issues here. Number one, many arminians would argue that yes Jesus died for everybody, yet people have free will to accept or deny the lordship of Christ. Number two, You ask “Is Christ’s blood powerful?” The answer to that is yes absolutely it is. Every single person even though they were enemies of god, now are given the choice to accept Jesus or refuse, but we must not confuse power with coercion and force. The opportunity is there for everybody, because his blood is powerful, yet he will not force anyone to accept it. Lastly, it is the exact opposite when you state that “Thankfully, most Arminians are illogical in their thinking about the subject of the atonement and haven’t fallen into either of the two gross heresies that result from deducing this doctrine of universal atonement to its logical conclusions (universalism and the denial of penal substitution).” The truth is Calvinism is the one that leads to universalism. This is so because the Bible makes it clear that God wishes that all people will come to Christ and be in heaven one day (Ex. 1 tim 2:4; 2 peter 3:9). So if God predestines everything, then that means everyone will be saved. Thankfully, Calvinists just aren’t logical enough to see what their conclusions lead too. God Bless

  • Reformed Inquisitor

    Danny,

    This is the question I would ask, If Christ died for an individual, and the Bible says that “we are justified by His blood” (which is a legal declaration that imputes our sins to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to us) how can one be /justified/ and yet still end up in hell? Yes, we’re justified by faith, but that faith (which is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8)) is a result of Christ’s atonement. In other words if Christ’s atones for someone, it will, in time, manifest itself in true faith.

    The fact is, Danny, you cannot affirm that Christ’s blood is powerful if it can be declared null and void by the will of man; when the Bible says in John 1 that we are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The doctrine you are proposing bases it solely on the will of man.

    You said, “So if God predestines everything, then that means everyone will be saved.”
    No, because God predestines every thing it means He actually /doesn’t/ will all men to be saved, but only His elect. The Scriptures you cited are in the specific context of the church/elect, or speak of all kinds of people. Notice the previous two verses of I Timothy 2:2: “[Pray] For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men [(kings and common folk alike)] to be saved…” As for II Peter 3:9: Peter was addressing the /elect/, as he says in his first epistle “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the…Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” (I Peter 1:1,2) So, in light of who he’s addressing, when he says, “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.” who is the “us” he’s talking about? The people he is writing to: the elect. God has never promised that He will be longsuffering to the rebels of God.

    And just a thought for you to chew on: whose will is free, God’s or man’s? Think about it.

    In Christ,
    -Evan

  • Nathan Brackenridge

    Evan

    I just want to say that I enjoyed this article and I am grateful for the clear wording. It is all the same thoughts i have pondered on the subject. Plus a very good reply to Danny as well.

  • Brett

    Great post. Behold, the power of the arminian god to save ones soul. This god is impotent and not the God revealed in the Scriptures.

    Maybe when you have time you can express your thoughts on this: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2010/08/17/an-interview-with-the-apostle-paul-on-the-law-life-and-death/

  • Danny Nowotarski

    Evan,
    For one, yes we are justified by His blood (Rom 5:9), but this also depends on if the person accepts to become part of the we. Yes its a gift from God, but this doesn’t mean its forced upon me. Someone can give me a gift, and if I don’t like it I don’t have to accept. Gift doesn’t mean predestine or force.

    Secondly, you say that “The doctrine you are proposing bases it solely on the will of man.” This is not true at all. Man wouldn’t have a choice in the first place if it wasn’t for God’s gift. It still in the end depends upon God’s grace and the calling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3), not man’s free will. In fact, to turn the tables if I may, your view bases it solely on the will of God. Yet if this is true, then why would God ever repent or show sorrow in the Bible?(Hos 11:8; Luke 13:34).

    Thirdly, In 1 tim 2:2 the WE refers to the elect, but NOT the ALL. Notice how he states earlier “Pray for kings and for all that are in authority”. Would you suggest that the all mentioned there refers to the elect? Then he contrasts that with only those of us who have already accepted to be in Christ “That we may live a quiet and peaceable life” Then he goes back to the word all, talking about God wanting all people (this time without talking about only those in authority) to join the elect (the we) and be saved. If your interpretaion is correct, wouldn’t this mean that all who are in authority are part of the elect and will be in heaven?
    With regards to 2 peter 3:9 it states that God is “long suffering” toward us, or some interpretations would have it “patient”. I’m just wondering, why and/or how would God be longsuffering or patient with us if we never did anything other than his will? If God predestines what I do, he has no need to be longsuffering towards me.
    Lastly, to answer your question I would argue that both God’s will and man’s will are free.

    God Bless

  • Reformed Inquisitor

    Thanks, Nathan and Brett.

    Danny,

    There’s kind of a lot to address, so pardon me if this comment turns into a book.

    “For one, yes we are justified by His blood (Rom 5:9), but this also depends on if the person accepts to become part of the we.”

    No, if Christ’s blood is shed for someone the result will be their justification. Thus, if it was shed for everyone, everyone would be justified and hell would be empty. To put it simply, if Christ’s blood is shed for somebody, the Spirit will regenerate them and sanctify them, and the Father will draw them, and glorify them. There is no schizophrenia in the Godhead. Christ doesn’t shed His blood for someone the Father won’t draw, and the Spirit won’t regenerate.

    And as far as predestination is concerned, (even though the scope of the article was the Atonement) the Scriptures make it very clear that God’s elect were chosen before the foundation of the world,

    “4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame (which is accomplished by the atonement. Which implies the effects of the atonement were also predestinated, in which case, why would Christ die for someone He knew He wouldn’t choose?) before him in love:
    5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (note: it’s according to His will, not man’s)
    6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (emphasis added)Ephesians 1:4-6.

    Thus, our “choosing” God was actually foreordained by God.

    “Gift doesn’t mean predestine or force.”

    Reformed theology does not say that God forces man to be saved against his will. God transforms the will of man by taking the stony heart out of his flesh and by giving him a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26-27)and by doing so He causes us to walk in His statutes/laws. The result could be nothing less.

    “Thirdly, In 1 tim 2:2 the WE refers to the elect, but NOT the ALL.”

    You misread my commentary on that passage. The “all” in that passage refers to men in every station: kings and paupers alike. So, in other words, Christ has died for all sorts of men.

    “I’m just wondering, why and/or how would God be longsuffering or patient with us if we never did anything other than his will? If God predestines what I do, he has no need to be longsuffering towards me.”

    There is a difference between God’s revealed will (His Law), and His declarative will (what He has decreed to happen in history). His revealed will is His Law, so in this sense, yes, we do disobey and go contrary to the will/Law of God, and as believers, God will chasten us when we do so; but He is longsuffering: in other words, He doesn’t chasten us immediately when we disobey, but gives us time (humanly speaking) to erect our ways.

    I hope that answers your question.

    In Christ,

    -Evan

  • Danny Nowotarski

    Evan,

    Thats ok, It wasn’t like a book. In fact, I enjoy hearing your opinions on it.

    When it comes to justification, Yes Christs blood justifies someone, but I would argue this also depends on if the person accepts or not. You say that “if Christ’s blood is shed for somebody, the Spirit will regenerate them and sanctify them, and the Father will draw them, and glorify them” I would agree that the father draws them, but this doesn’t mean they have to accept. He draws everyone, and then they have the choice to respond or not.

    You mention Eph 1:4-6, but this doesn’t support the view that God chooses certain individuals. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”

    This means that once we are in Christ, we are ‘Holy and blameless’ It deos not say that particular individuals are chosen to be in Christ, but that once we are in Christ, then we are predestined to be ‘holy and blameless’ and also children of Jesus Christ. It is “to the good pleasure of his will” that once in Christ we are holy and blameless and children of Jesus.

    When Jews thought of election or predestination they didn’t think of inidividuals, but thought of the nation of Israel. Yet, not every person born into Israel was chosen by God. It depended upon whether they kept the covenant or not. I think Paul is speaking of a corporate election here.

    Verses like this at most support the view that once in Christ, we are predestined for certain things, but not that certain individuals are predestined.

    With respect to 1 tim 2 you say that “The “all” in that passage refers to men in every station: kings and paupers alike. So, in other words, Christ has died for all sorts of men.” It does not say that Christ died for all sorts of men, but “Pray for kings and for all that are in authority” I dont see anything in that verse that suggests or even refers to ‘all sorts of men’. The all I think is refering to everybody, not just all sorts of men.

    Lastly, you say that
    “There is a difference between God’s revealed will (His Law), and His declarative will (what He has decreed to happen in history). His revealed will is His Law, so in this sense, yes, we do disobey and go contrary to the will/Law of God, and as believers, God will chasten us when we do so; but He is longsuffering: in other words, He doesn’t chasten us immediately when we disobey, but gives us time (humanly speaking) to erect our ways.”

    Yet, even if this is true and we do disobey much of the time, if God as you believe predestened certain individuals to be chosen, then he has no need to be longsuffering towards us. This is so because if your right, even though we disobey at times, God has still predestined us to be chosen in the end.

    God Bless

  • Reformed Inquisitor

    Danny, where in Scripture do you read that Christ’s blood is only effective if one “accepts” it? The Bible says that Christ died to be a propitiation for our sins, a substitute for our sins, and for the justification of sinners. Thus, if He did this for everybody, everybody would be saved–He paid the penalty. If He paid the penalty for everybody’s sins at the cross, how can one go to hell when their sins are paid for? Because they didn’t believe? But even unbelief is a sin for which He died for. But if He didn’t die for the sin of unbelief every man would go to hell because all of us were unbelieving at one point in time.

    Read it again.

    “This means that once we are in Christ, we are ‘Holy and blameless’ It does not say that particular individuals are chosen to be in Christ, but that once we are in Christ, then we are predestined to be ‘holy and blameless’ and also children of Jesus Christ.”

    Predestination doesn’t happen after we “are in Christ”. The very definition of predestination is something that was determined before time even existed.

    “I think Paul is speaking of a corporate election here.”

    There is nothing in Ephesians 1 that would indicate corporate election. The Ephesians weren’t Jews–They were Gentiles. Besides, Ephesians is not the only book in the bible that talks about predestination/election.

    Consider Romans 9:10-24:

    10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
    11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
    12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
    13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. (Note: he gives /individuals/ as examples)
    14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
    15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
    16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
    17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
    18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
    19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
    20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
    21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
    22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
    23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
    24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

    This lengthy passage makes it abundantly clear that God shows mercy/elects/predestines people not according to any foreseen good in them, (He chose Jacob over Esau before either of them had done any good or evil) but according to the good pleasure of His mercy. He also gives the example of Pharaoh: God raised Pharaoh up for one sole purpose–to make His power known. Where was Pharaoh’s choice? Where was Jacob’s choice? Where was Esau’s choice? All of their lives were predetermined by God.

    As for the I Timothy passage, we can be saying yes, no, yes, no all day long. The fact is, /rarely/ does the bible mean “every single man without exception” when it speaks of the “whole world”, “all men”, or “all”. These words have to be interpreted in their respective contexts; just like if I said, “Everybody likes ice cream” you wouldn’t assume I mean every single person in the whole world (even the people who never tasted it), but rather every person I /know/.

    There is nothing incompatible with God being longsuffering and the fact that He predestinates His elect. If they are you must demonstrate how they are in logical form.

    Gotta go.

    In Christ,
    -Evan

  • Danny Nowotarski

    Evan,
    You say that “The Bible says that Christ died to be a propitiation for our sins, a substitute for our sins, and for the justification of sinners”

    Yes, but not only for those currently in Christ. “And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2)

    You say that “Predestination doesn’t happen after we ‘are in Christ’. The very definition of predestination is something that was determined before time even existed.”

    I would agree with this. I never said that it happens after we ‘are in Christ’. Those in Christ are predetermined to be ‘Holy and Blameless’. This is different than saying certain individuals are determined before they existed to be holy and Blameless or ‘in Christ’. An analogy would be say I’m having a party tomorrow and I’m going to watch the movie Passion of the Christ. I predetestined that at 6:00 p.m. that movie will be on and therefore whoever comes to my house will watch it. Yet, whether a certain individual participates in the predestined event depends on whether they show up in the first place.

    With regards to Eph 1, yes I know the Ephesians were gentiles. But Paul was Jewish.

    With regards to Romans 9, without going into a full exegesis, let me just give two points.

    1.)You say that “This lengthy passage makes it abundantly clear that God shows mercy/elects/predestines people not according to any foreseen good in them, (He chose Jacob over Esau before either of them had done any good or evil) but according to the good pleasure of His mercy.”

    For one, Paul’s point in Romans 9 has nothing to do with individual salvation or God choosing individuals, but about whether “the word of God had failed” (Rom 9:6). Jews were wondering if God broke covenenant with the nation of Israel or not (not certain individuals). This is what Paul was addressing.

    2.) Jacob and Esau represent more than just individuals, they represent Israel and Edom. Paul clearly is not talking about individual salvation here as you suggest, because his main concern is the nation of Israel (9:6), and the text he refers to is Malachi 1:2-3, which is dealing with the nation of Edom. In other words, God is saying He chose the nation of Israel over the nation of Edom. This did not mean that particular individuals in these respective countries he loves or hates. Just because you were born in Israel didn’t mean that you were part of the chosen people, but depended upon whether they kept the covenant or not. Also, love and hate here should be considered as hyperbole, not literal. This is similar to Luke 14:26.

    With regards to 1 timothy, sometimes the word “everything” or “all” can mean just what they say. If I say everybody who is alive has a brain, I’m not just talking about people I know, but I literally mean everybody. We just have a disagreement, I don’t think the context of 1 timothy at all forces us to accept that everybody is only referring to some and not all.

    Lastly, with regards to longsuffering and predestination. I’ll just go straight to the text, rather than use my own logic. The context of 2 peter 3:9 is that God is longsuffering towards us only because he doesn’t want us to perish. If God predestines us not to perish, well then this verse doesn’t tell us why he would be longsuferring towards us. Yet it does, he is patient with us becuase he wants us not to perish.

    God Bless

  • Reformed Inquisitor

    “Yes, [Christ died to be a propitiation] but not only for those currently in Christ. “And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2)”

    True, not only for those currently in Christ but for all who are and will be in Christ past, present, and future, but not for all men without exception. 1 John 2:2 does not necessarily mean “all men”, just like Paul didn’t mean “all men” when he says that the church at Rome’s faith was spoken of throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:8) The phrase “whole world” is commonly a reference to Jews and Gentiles alike.

    “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations;” (Mt 24:14)

    “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” (Lu 2:1)

    These are clearly not references to every individual out there, for one, not every person has heard the gospel, and two, Caesar didn’t tax the Aborigines in Australia or the Indians in America.

    “Those in Christ are predetermined to be ‘Holy and Blameless’. This is different than saying certain individuals are determined before they existed to be holy and Blameless or ‘in Christ’”

    “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:” (Ephesians 1:4)

    This passage doesn’t say once we’re in Christ God predestines us to be holy and blameless, but that we were chosen /before the foundation of the world/ to be holy and blameless. There’s a difference.

    Even if Romans 9 is talking about nations (I don’t believe it is because Paul gives /individuals/ as examples, but even if it was,)how is that any better for free-will? Okay, so God elects and damns whole nations which consist of individuals. Either way, He is the one Who controls the will of man.

    Concerning longsuffering and predestination: God brings about His ends through means. He is longsuffering (the means)so that we won’t perish (His ends); He ordains both, because the fact is, if He wasn’t longsuffering we’d all go to hell.

    You didn’t answer the question I posed in the first paragraph of my last post. If all of the sins of all men have been bought and paid for by the blood of Christ, including /unbelief/, how is it anyone can go to hell?

    In Christ,

    -Evan

  • Danny Nowotarski

    “This passage doesn’t say once we’re in Christ God predestines us to be holy and blameless, but that we were chosen /before the foundation of the world/ to be holy and blameless. There’s a difference.”

    The ‘we’ doesn’t refer to single individuals, but refers to the church as a whole. The church as a whole is predestined to be Holy and Blameless. Yet, whether any particular individual is part of the church depends on if they repent or not. In the O.T. God elected Israel (predestined Israel for service), but not every individual in Israel was chosen or predestined for service, but only those who kept the covenant.

    You say that “Even if Romans 9 is talking about nations (I don’t believe it is because Paul gives /individuals/ as examples, but even if it was,) how is that any better for free-will? Okay, so God elects and damns whole nations which consist of individuals. Either way, He is the one Who controls the will of man.”

    It makes a huge difference. In the Old Testament, God elected the nation Israel over the nation of Edom. Yet, as alluded to earlier just because one was born in the elected nation Israel, didn’t mean that that person as an individual was elected, and just because you were born outside of the chosen nation of Israel, didn’t mean you were damned. When the words ‘elect’ or ‘chosen’ are used in the Bible rarely is it referring to individuals. Again in the O.T. God elected the nation of Israel, but many individuals in Israel ended up not being chosen because of their own actions.

    You say that “Concerning longsuffering and predestination: God brings about His ends through means. He is longsuffering (the means) so that we won’t perish (His ends); He ordains both, because the fact is, if He wasn’t longsuffering we’d all go to hell.”

    Yes you’re right, if God wasn’t longsuffering towards us we’d all (every single person) end up in hell. Yet, this is not the point of this passage. The only way you can interpret that us not perishing in this passage is ordained by God, is if you read this verse with the presupposition that God predestines certain individuals to not perish. I believe that the verses you use to support this presupposition don’t hold up under scrutiny (at least the ones we’ve talked about). The point of this passage is that God does not want anyone to perish so he is patient with us to try to make this a reality. The genuine possibility that we will perish is not taken away.

    Now, your question is “If all of the sins of all men have been bought and paid for by the blood of Christ, including /unbelief/, how is it anyone can go to hell?

    I think we are thinking too much in a legalistic manner. Many of the reformers after all were lawyers. Jesus did die for unbelief, but someone can’t continue in their unbelief and be saved just because Jesus died for that particular sin. It still depends on if the person repents of it or not. If someone states that they are saved, yet continue in a sin and never try to turn away from it, just because Jesus died for that sin does not mean that that person is saved.

    God Bless

  • Reformed Inquisitor

    Danny,

    You say that Ephesians 1 is talking about the “church as a whole”. What do you mean by “church”? I would agree with that if you meant God’s elect–the invisible church (as opposed to the people who just go to church on Sunday). The thing is Paul was specifically talking about those who are saved /in/ the visible church. Many of the things Paul says can only apply to those who are /actually/ saved, not just members of the visible church:

    “…who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”

    “…he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

    “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,”

    He is clearly writing to those in the church who /believed/. So, if he was writing to those who believed, when he says “/we/ were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” he is talking about those who believe.

    Concerning Romans 9: if Paul was talking about nations, why didn’t he say “Israel”, “Edom”, and “Egypt”. And further, he makes it clear in verse 8 that it /isn’t/ about nationality but about the promise.

    “8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”

    And why does he say, “it is not of him (singular pronoun that indicates a /person/) that willeth, nor of him that runneth” Do nations “will”? And what does it mean that God “hardens” a nation, unless He hardens the individuals in the nation?

    Also, the response to Paul’s argument about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart he anticipates doesn’t make sense if he’s talking about nations: “how doth he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will?” Find fault with what?

    I interpret passages like II Peter 3:9 in context of what the rest of Scripture says about God’s absolute sovereignty:

    God is sovereign over the entire universe: Ps 103:19; Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11
    God is sovereign over all of nature: Ps 135:6-7; Mt 5:45; 6:25-30
    God is sovereign over angels & Satan: Ps 103:20-21; Job 1:12
    God is sovereign over nations: Ps 47:7-9; Dan 2:20-21; 4:34-35
    God is sovereign over human beings: 1 Sam 2:6-7; Gal 1:15-16
    God is sovereign over animals: Ps 104:21-30; 1 Ki 17:4-6
    God is sovereign over “accidents”: Pr 16:33; Jon 1:7; Mt 10:29
    God is sovereign over free acts of men: Ex 3:21; 12:25-36; Ez 7:27
    God is sovereign over sinful acts of men and Satan: 2 Sam 24:1; 1 Chr 21:1; Gen 45:5; 50:20.

    In Christ,

    -Evan

  • Danny Nowotarski

    Evan,
    You mention “He is clearly writing to those in the church who /believed/. So, if he was writing to those who believed, when he says “/we/ were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” he is talking about those who believe.”

    Yes, the Church is anyone who believes. But who decides if they believe? Ephesians 1 does not say that God chose us to be in Christ (to believe), but that God chose us in Christ to be Holy and Blameless. Whoever is in Christ will be holy and blameless. Once someone chooses to be in Christ (to believe), then what is predestined for the group is now applied to that individual. An analogy would be this. Let’s say that God predestined that the New York Yankees will win the World Series in 2011 (I hope this isn’t true because I don’t like the Yankees). God chose us in the Yankee’s organization before the foundation of the world to win the World Series. Yet, whether an individual gets what the group as a whole gets depends on if they choose to join the Yankees (become part of the us). The owner can try and call players to get them on his team, yet the player must accept to join.

    With regards to Romans 9, we know that Paul was referring to nations and not individuals when he mentions Jacob and Esau, because the verse he cites (Mal. 1:1-3) is talking about the nation of Edom. If Paul was talking about those two individuals in Romans 9, then he cited the wrong verse and doesn’t know his Old Testament very well. Also, when it comes to Pharaoh, Paul is talking about the individual because this time he doesn’t reference any verse that talks about nations. He is letting the Jews know that just like Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, the Jew’s are now having their hearts hardened. Is this for no reason though? No. They are having their hearts hardened “because of their unbelief” (Romans 11:20) It is their own actions that have caused God to harden them. He refers to their free will here as he does in 9:30-32.

    “I interpret passages like II Peter 3:9 in context of what the rest of Scripture says about God’s absolute sovereignty”

    Yes God is sovereign. Yet, what this means depends upon our view of Sovereignty. When I look to find out about God’s sovereignty I look at the Cross. The main place we go to when we want to know what God is like is Jesus (Col 1:15; Heb. 1:3). Jesus could have used all of his power and called down legions of angels to raise the Jews up against the Romans (Matt 26:53). Yet, he refused to use all of his power, and gave up his rights and his life. This is what God is like. He has all the power in the world, but refuses to use it. This is what defines God’s sovereignty. God doesn’t always use all of his power, as shown in the life of Jesus.

  • Reformed Inquisitor

    Alright, I’m gonna get straight to the point:

    You think that God’s will can be thwarted by the will of man (“God /wants/ everyone to believe but He’s powerless to bring it to pass”). But this notion is completely opposite to what we see in Scripture:

    “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:” (Ephesians 1:11)

    He doesn’t work some things, but ALL things after the council of His will: He doesn’t just will the salvation of men (for the glorification of His mercy and grace), but also the damnation of men (For the glorification of His perfect justice and judgment.)

    “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11)

    God does ALL His pleasure; what He has purposed He will do. He has declared the end from the beginning: so, if He has declared the end from the beginning that means man cannot have free-will because every decision is already set in stone, every event in history, declared by God.

    “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35)

    But it seems in your view men are reputed as something, because God wouldn’t dare manipulate their will for His purposes: but the Scripture makes it clear He does “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever He will.” (Proverbs 21:1) In other words, not even the king of Israel had a free-will, but his will was ordained by God’s.

    “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD…
    “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil…
    “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:1,4,9)

    If God /created/ the wicked for destruction, how can you say He actually wants them to be saved but is just absolutely powerless to do so bring it to pass– especially considering all of these verses that explicitly say God controls the will of man?

    “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

    I think He makes it pretty clear He’s the Potter, we’re the clay. He has free-will, we don’t.

    In Christ,

    -Evan

    P.S. Malachi 1 is talking about Esau as an individual “I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid /his/ mountains and /his/ heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” God laid Esau’s heritage (Edom) waste because He hated him (Esau, as an individual).

  • Danny Nowotarski

    Evan,
    “You think that God’s will can be thwarted by the will of man (“God /wants/ everyone to believe but He’s powerless to bring it to pass”). But this notion is completely opposite to what we see in Scripture”

    Not that he’s powerless, but that he chooses to not use all of his power as seen in the life of Jesus.

    With reference to Ephesians 1:11 all things that happen God will work “after the counsel of his own will”. No matter what happens, even if it’s contrary to his will, he will work it out where it still works out overall with his will. God can turn any situation into something that will work out according to his plan.

    You say that “He doesn’t just will the salvation of men (for the glorification of His mercy and grace), but also the damnation of men (For the glorification of His perfect justice and judgment.)”

    If God wills the damnation of men, then he doesn’t have perfect justice. That is not justice.

    With regards to Isaiah 46:9-11, to find out what he means by “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” we must look at the last part. “yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” Anything that God states he’s going to do, he can and will do it. Unlike other peoples false Idols (who God is contrasting himself with) when he states he will do something he brings it to pass and when he purposes something, he does it. This is referring to the things God stated he is going to do and the things he has purposed, this doesn’t mean everything in history. So you ask “if He has declared the end from the beginning that means man cannot have free-will because every decision is already set in stone, every event in history, declared by God”. Declaring the beginning from the end, as then latter part of 46:11 makes clear, is talking about how God can bring the things to pass which he states he will do to, unlike these other false idols.

    “P.S. Malachi 1 is talking about Esau as an individual”
    No it is not. Malachi 1 is referring to Genesis 25:23. Notice it states “two nations are in your womb”, not two individuals. This means that Jacob and Esau represent Israel and Edom. Then it goes on to say “one people will be stronger than the other”, not one person will be stronger than the other. Also, In Hebrew thought when hate and love are contrasted they should be considered as hyperbole not literally. Similar situation in Luke 14:26. God is saying he preferred Jacob (Israel) over Esau (Edom). Yet, many people born in the chosen nation of Israel were not chosen, but it depended upon whether they kept the covenant or not. And just because you were born outside of the chosen nation of Israel didn’t mean you couldn’t become part of the chosen people.

    “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD…
    “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil…
    “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:1,4,9)

    For one, since this is Wisdom Literature we shouldn’t take everything literally (ex. Proverbs 16:7). Secondly, for example in 16:4 – Yes everything that happens God takes it and punishes accordingly. He set up a world where all the wicked will have to deal with the consequences. In 16:9 – It’s a man’s heart who ‘deviseth his way’, not God. Then God directs how these ways get worked out overall into his sovereign plan.

    “If God /created/ the wicked for destruction, how can you say He actually wants them to be saved but is just absolutely powerless to do so bring it to pass– especially considering all of these verses that explicitly say God controls the will of man?”

    Again, not powerless. Also, I don’t think these verses you mentioned do support the view that God controls the will of man.

    We can go back and forth debating verses, but in the end we always must look to Jesus Christ, and then read the rest of scripture in the light of that. We see Jesus Christ as someone who refuses to use all of his power (Matt 26:53). Also, Jesus shows us that God is against all forms of violence (Matt 5:43-48; 26:50-53). Yet, God uses a lot of violence in the Old Testament. So violence goes against the will of God, but even God had to use violence because of the sinfulness of humans, not because he wanted to.

  • Reformed Inquisitor

    Daniel, so you’re saying God genuinely wants everyone to be saved, has the power to save them, but doesn’t. Why?

    Your explanations for the Scriptures I cited from Proverbs was unconvincing to say the least. If those verses aren’t literal what are they symbolizing? If you can’t demonstrate why you think they’re anything but literal, why would I think otherwise? (Prov. 16:7 is literal)And Proverbs 16:4 doesn’t say God created things so that the wicked will have to deal with their consequences, it says He /created the wicked FOR/ the day of evil.

    Yes, Jesus could have used His power to save Himself but He didn’t, because it was His will to go to the Cross, but you’re saying God /wills/ everybody to be saved, has the power to save them, but doesn’t.

    “Also, Jesus shows us that God is against all forms of violence (Matt 5:43-48; 26:50-53). Yet, God uses a lot of violence in the Old Testament. So violence goes against the will of God, but even God had to use violence because of the sinfulness of humans, not because he wanted to.”

    So you’re saying that God–the everlasting, immutable, omnipotent God–went /against/ His own Character because man forced His hand! That is outrageous. Simple fact is God is not against all forms of violence, Jesus is not against all forms of violence. God does not contradict Himself.

  • Danny Nowotarski

    Evan,
    “Your explanations for the Scriptures I cited from Proverbs was unconvincing to say the least. If those verses aren’t literal what are they symbolizing? If you can’t demonstrate why you think they’re anything but literal, why would I think otherwise? (Prov. 16:7 is literal)”

    Proverbs give general principles and are worded in a way to try to be memorable to the readers and listeners, and they do this by using exaggerated language. They are not meant to be taken as theological facts. For example Prov. 16:7 is not meant to be taken literally because many people have done things to please the Lord, yet their enemies kill them. Same with Prov. 22:6, because many people raise their children the right way, yet their children still stray. The book of Proverbs is all about how in this world God created acts that have consequences; it uses the language of moral order. I don’t take them literally because that would be taking them out of the context of the genre.

    “Yes, Jesus could have used His power to save Himself but He didn’t, because it was His will to go to the Cross, but you’re saying God /wills/ everybody to be saved, has the power to save them, but doesn’t. Why?”

    I don’t think God wills everybody to be saved. I think it is his will that everyone gets saved, but His will doesn’t always comes to pass.(Hosea 11:8; Luke 13:34). Why doesn’t God save everybody? I think he limited his power when he decided to create a world with free agents. If a human goes to hell they have only themselves to blame.

    “So you’re saying that God–the everlasting, immutable, omnipotent God–went /against/ His own Character because man forced His hand! That is outrageous. Simple fact is God is not against all forms of violence, Jesus is not against all forms of violence. God does not contradict Himself.”

    I agree that God does not contradict himself. Yet we must deal with the fact that Jesus is against violence. Jesus lets us know that He is opposed to all violence (ex. Matt 5:43-45), so something else must have been going on in the Old Testament with the violence. Some would say that violence in the Old Testament is just metaphor. Most would not agree with this today. So the only two other options are that God isn’t opposed to violence, which as seen in Jesus he is, or He did those violent things for another reason. If what I stated is outrageous then one must come up with another way then to deal with the violence in the O.T. in light of the pacifism Jesus taught.

    God Bless

  • Reformed Inquisitor

    “Proverbs give general principles and are worded in a way to try to be memorable to the readers and listeners, and they do this by using exaggerated language. They are not meant to be taken as theological facts.”

    See, this is where the crux of the matter is. It’s not a matter of Arminianism vs. Calvinism it’s a matter of /sola Scriptura/. I believe the Bible is /inerrant/–that all the words written therein are true. It doesn’t exaggerate. The Proverbs speak about God (Theos) thus, they do contain Theological facts. They are FILLED with Theological facts. And since I believe the Bible is inerrant, I believe the facts that it says about God are true. The Bible doesn’t speak half-truths. Logically, Proverbs 16:7 doesn’t necessitate that if someone pleases the Lord that will always be the case, but when someone pleases the Lord God will sometimes cause even His enemies to be at peace with him.

    “I don’t think God wills everybody to be saved. I think it is his will that everyone gets saved, but His will doesn’t always comes to pass.”

    God is omnipotent (Re 19:6). He works according to His own will (Eph. 1:11). His will always comes to pass, it is illogical to say otherwise. If He has the power to do what He wants (Re 19:6) and He does all things according to what He wants (Eph. 1:11) and He wants everyone to get saved, then the logical result would be the salvation of every individual. But my point is He clearly doesn’t want everybody to be saved (as seen in Proverbs 16:4) But rather He has chosen a people to Himself, which He redeemed by His precious blood, out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation (Rev. 5:9). THAT is what the Bible teaches. You need to recognize it for what it is. There are no contradictions in Scripture. It is a logical whole.

    Jesus was not a pacifist. (Lu 22:36, Mt. 15:4, Mt. 21:12.)

  • Danny Nowotarski

    This is my last post, then you’ll get the last word, so sorry in advance for the length of it.

    “I believe the Bible is /inerrant/–that all the words written therein are true. It doesn’t exaggerate. The Proverbs speak about God (Theos) thus, they do contain Theological facts. They are FILLED with Theological facts. And since I believe the Bible is inerrant, I believe the facts that it says about God are true. The Bible doesn’t speak half-truths”

    I believe in sola Scriptura and the Bible is inerrant. It doesn’t mean every word should be taken literally. Also, you and most Christians don’t believe all the facts the Bible states about God as true, because it states that God changes his mind (Exod. 32:14). Unless you’re an open theist. Now, you say it never exaggerates, yet your issue is with Jewish people, not me. It’s common for Jews to try to get their point across by exaggerating what they say. For example with regards to Proverbs 22:6 many parents raise their children the right way, yet their children still stray. Here they exaggerate (use hyperbole) to get their point across that as a general principle it is wise to raise your children the right way. When it comes to half truths, are exaggerations half truths? No, they are there to try and get a point across as was common with Jewish people. Exaggerations (hyperbole) are not half truths, they are just one of many ways to intelligently communicate to people. Hyperbole is used by Jews and in Scripture.

    “God is omnipotent (Re 19:6). He works according to His own will (Eph. 1:11). His will always comes to pass, it is illogical to say otherwise. If He has the power to do what He wants (Re 19:6) and He does all things according to what He wants (Eph. 1:11) and He wants everyone to get saved, then the logical result would be the salvation of every individual. But my point is He clearly doesn’t want everybody to be saved (as seen in Proverbs 16:4).”

    He is omnipotent, doesn’t mean he uses all his power. With Ephesians 1:11 God will “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” God can take all situations, even if it’s contrary to his will, and work it out where it still is in line with his will and overall plan. Unfortunately His will does not always come to pass (Hos. 11:8; Luke 13:34). Also, Proverbs 16:4 as I stated before is using the language of moral order. If we take it literally as you suggest, it would stand in contradiction to verses that say God never wills or is pleased with the damnation of anyone. (Ezek. 18:30-32; 33:11). Yet, the Bible does not contradict itself, so Proverbs 16:4 shouldn’t be taken as literal but as language of moral order.

    “Jesus was not a pacifist. (Lu 22:36, Mt. 15:4, Mt. 21:12.)”

    Luke 22:36, why did Jesus tell his disciples to buy swords? We see that answer as we continue reading. “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” (Luke 22:37). Them having swords was about Jesus fulfilling what was written about him, namely The Cross. By His followers having swords, He provoked the authorities to arrest him therefore being able to fulfill what was written about him. He wasn’t talking about using them because he rebukes Peter for thinking they could (Luke 22:49-51). Also, they would have needed more than two swords if they were for self defense. Even Augustine who made the unbiblical Just War Theory popular among Christians suggested it was not ok to use violence for self defense.

    Mt. 15:4, The Pharisees accused Jesus and his followers of breaking tradition, so Jesus showed them how their traditions violate the Law. Yet the law was there to expose our sin (Rom. 7:6-20), and lead us to Christ (Gal. 3:23-24). And when lead to Jesus who fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17), He makes it clear that it is never ok for one of his followers to use violence (Matt 5:43-48; 26:52).

    Mt. 21:12, this showed Jesus as angry not violent. He drove them out how? With a whip (John 2:15). It didn’t say He hit anyone with it though, He scared them away with the whip. He threw over tables; he didn’t hit people over the head with them.

    The Anabaptists were right in believing that Christianity demanded pacifism, and it resulted in them being tortured and killed by Calvinists and other Protestants during the Reformation just because they obeyed the commands of Jesus. Yet they Trusted Jesus when he told us that even though we may be killed, he won’t allow a hair on our head to be lost (Luke 21: 12-19).

    Most likely neither of us will change each other’s minds and we could probably go back and forth for years, so since this is your blog I’ll let you have the last word.

    God Bless

  • Mike Jeshurun

    It is both! I.e. Illogical and blasphemous!

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