Archive for the ‘Decretive Will’ Category

Arminius – Closer Than You Might Think

July 15, 2008

We frequently refer to non-Calvinist evangelicals as “Arminians,” in very broad sweeping terms. This is partly for simplicity, and partly because we view them as having some historical connection to Arminius. When one actually goes and reads what the historical Arminius wrote, one finds him to be much closer to the Reformed views than many of those to whom we attach the label “Arminians.” The following is just one example:

The Essence of God is that by which God exists; or it is the first cause of motion of the Divine Nature by which God is understood to exist.

The Life of God, which comes to be considered under the second [momentum] cause of motion in the Divine Nature, is an act flowing from the Essence of God, by which his Essence is signified to be in action within itself. (Psalm xlii. 2; Heb. iii. 12; Num. xiv. 21.)

This [i.e. the Will of God] is the second faculty in the life of God, [§ 29,] which follows the Divine understanding and is produced from it, and by which God is borne towards a known good. Towards a good, because it is an adequate object of his will. And towards a known good, because the Divine understanding is previously borne towards it as a being, not only by knowing it as it is a being, but likewise by judging it to be good. Hence the act of the understanding is to offer it as a good, to the will which is of the same nature as the understanding, or rather, which is its own offspring, that it may also discharge its office and act concerning this known good. But God does not will the evil which is called that of “culpability;” because He does not more will any good connected with this evil than He wills the good to which the malignity of sin is opposed, and which is the Divine good itself. All the precepts of God demonstrate this in the most convincing manner. (Psalm v, 4, 5.)

Works of Arminius, Volume 1, Disputation 4, “On the Nature of God, Paragraphs VII, XXV, and XLIX.

One may note that Arminius’ views changed over time. Evidently this disputation is taken from the time when Arminius “stood for his degree of D.D.” I don’t quote these paragraphs to endorse what Arminius had to say, but only to illustrate the apparent difference between Arminius and some of those who are viewed as Arminians.

I would particularly ask Godismyjudge (Dan) with whom I’ve been having a dialog, and who considers himself an Arminian, whether he accepts the description of God’s nature, essence, life, and will of God provided by Arminius, or whether he distinguishes his position from that which Arminius evidently held.


UPDATE (16 July 2008): Godismyjudge (Dan) has provided a response (link) in which he suggests at least the following:

1) That there is some doubt that the work from which these quotations come are part of the true Arminian corpus (i.e. it’s possible this work was actually the work of someone other than Arminius) – Dan nevertheless concedes that Arminius probably wrote it;

2) That there is a translation issue with respect to “first cause of motion” and “second cause of motion.” Dan cites Richard Mullener [sp? – transcription from Dan’s audio] who argues that Arminius was trying to refer to a “first logical moment” and a “second logical moment.” Sadly, I don’t have access to Arminus’ original Latin, in order to get into the translation issue. I don’t like having to rely only on a translation, and so if anyone can point me to the original Latin, I’d be happy to dig in further.

3) Dan makes some comment about Arminius’ views evolving (and some theories about why they evolved). Those theories don’t particularly concern me and I was’t trying to hint at them. My point was simply that there was some indication by the editor or translator of Arminius’ works that suggested that this might be one of the earlier works. Given that most men’s views evolve over time, I wouldn’t want someone to assume that Arminius didn’t have the liberty (free will, if you prefer) to change his opinions over time.

4) Dan argues that (in Arminius) the work of making a decision are done by wisdom and reason, and the will simply acts on the final judgment of reason. Dan acknowledges that this sounds like the will is determined by the reason. Dan even acknowledges that this means that freedom attaches not actually to the will itself, but to the final (or last) judgment of reason.

5) Dan recommended the 11th Public Disputation, first paragraph, to explain the connection between the reason and the will in Arminius.

6) Dan argues that the “core” of Arminianism don’t include the “tangled mess” of the relation of reason and the will. Dan defines Arminianism with respect to the TULIP acrostic, such that (in his view) Arminians are those who accept T and who reject U, L, and I. Dan seems to argue that both those who accept and those who reject P are properly designated Arminians.

7) Finally, Dan states that although he’d rather not get into this level of detail (because of the danger of taking such divisions too far), he does agree with Arminius (I presume he means as modified by Mullener [sp?]).

Another Quasi-Amyraldian Attack on Dr. White

April 14, 2008

Tony Byrne (aka Ynottony) comrade-in-arms of Trey Austin and another of David Ponter‘s band of Quasi-Amyraldians (who host the misleading “Calvin and Calvinism” website), has launched a fresh attack on Dr. White’s radio debate with Steve Gregg. (link to attack piece) (Update: To be clear [and particularly since Carrie Hunter – one of David’s friends – has complained], when I say “attack” I do not mean that Tony calls Dr. White a big meanie. What I mean is that Tony (ironically) insinuates that Dr. White doesn’t understand the theological issues involved.)

The piece handles a complex (in terms of its grammar – not logically complex) question asked during a cross-examination portion of the debate, and appears to attempt to suggest the same thing that Trey Austin tried to suggest, namely that Dr. White doesn’t know the Reformed position.

This, of course, is absurd. Dr. White is well aware of the two wills distinction mentioned by Tony, and would indeed fully endorse it. What Dr. White would not do, however, is to make a false distinction between the non-elect who do not hear the gospel and the non-elect who do hear the gospel.

I’m not sure whether Tony misses this issue, or just doesn’t understand it. There is no difference with respect to the revealed will of God (or the secret will of God) between the non-elect who hear and do not hear the gospel. God’s revealed will is the same for both, and his secret will is the same for both. What is different is the culpability of the group that hear the gospel and reject it.

Tony goes so far as to accuse Dr. White of denying that God’s revealed will is that all men repent and believe, as though Dr. White would reject the fact that the gospel is revealed to be a command to be obeyed.

From where does Tony get these ridiculous ideas, it’s hard to say with absolute certainty. Nevertheless, the underlying root is clear. Tony has a mistaken idea that for the call to repent and believe to be universal and “well meant” it must be that (a) Christ died for the non-elect, and (b) God wants to save the non-elect. Of course, Dr. White would reject (a) as contrary to Scripture, and – if he would not reject (b) outright – would qualify it in ways that Tony could not accept.

After all, as Tony inconsistently is forced to admit, Christ died with the intent that his death be efficacious only for the elect. Once one recognizes that fact, the warm fuzzies generated by repeatedly using the term “well meant” go away. Unless Tony his slipped from Amyraldianism (what Tony likes to call, “moderate Calvinism”) into Arminianism or worse, his theology cannot really accommodate a gospel offer that is any more well-meaning than that of the Reformed position.

As Hoeksamaa explains, the gospel call is universal but conditional. It is, in a sense, an offer of salvation, but there is an explicit condition: a condition that none of the non-elect ever fulfill. It’s sincerity is not to be judged by a criterion of whether the non-elect can fulfill it, or whether hypothetical provision has been made in case the non-elect were to fulfill it, but rather by the certainty of salvation for those who do fulfill it.

Those who repent of their sins, and turn in faith to Christ alone for salvation will be saved. Those who do not, will be damned forever. It’s not just an offer, it’s an offer you cannot refuse. Once you realize that it is the truth, once you appreciate the sinfulness of your sin and the holiness of the God who stands in judgment over you, you’d have to be absolutely out of your mind to refuse to repent and trust in Christ. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.

But the non-elect (in fact, even the elect, prior to regeneration – and thus all the unregenerate men) have a moral inability to come to Christ, because they love darkness better than light. They hate God and will not heed the warnings that God’s messengers give them. The command is there, Repent and Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ but to them it is as though someone were mocking. It is truly a sad thing to watch the wicked perishing, because we have empathy for our fellow men. Let us, therefore, bear testimony to the truth of God’s word and seek to persuade those around us to obey the Gospel command, for if they do, they will be saved.

Trust in Him!


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