Friday, June 28, 2013

The False Christ of Arminianism (Part II)

Learn to Answer the Right Question

Yesterday I began this post with the late "breaking news" that I may have stumbled on what must have been a well kept secret. Learning to answer the right question may be a great way to reduce the amount of vitriolic rhetoric and superfluous gasbaggery that can abound.

First, let me say that I have come to loathe labels. I do think at times labels have the tendency to be divisive. I have come to realize that many times labels can be destructive rather than "helpful." Labels can also distort valuable viewpoints and the truth.

Let me say secondly, that I think it is also fairy-tailed naivety to think that we can totally eliminate labels from our discussions. I do not think that we can completely avoid using some "labels" for accurate description of certain doctrines or teachings.

Having said that, let me say that I am in the process of preparing a new study on Paul's letter to the Roman congregations. One of the themes in Romans is that of justification. I have commenced an in-depth research and reading regiment on justification.

In doing so I was somewhat startled to see some teachings that are not only germane to the subject of justification, but how they also "nullify" justification. This realization caused me to wallow through this "discussion" and let to the following conclusions.

It took nearly five years of intense and dedicated study to finally come to the position that the "Arminian" position of salvation was not biblical. I also came to the conviction that the "doctrines of grace" contains the true New Testament Gospel. Truly, the discussion centers on two diametrically opposed positions known as monergism and synergism.

Some of you may need to forgive me because this is not the time to go into a complete description of these  positions. This was not my purpose nor promise when I began yesterday. Suffice it to say that monergism describes the doctrine that God through the Holy Spirit based on the completed work of Christ on the cross works alone to effectively bring salvation to sinners through spiritual regeneration without the help or aid of sinners. Synergism is the teaching that salvation involves cooperation of both God and the sinner, a combination of divine grace and human participation.

These teachings are in deed opposite and cannot be brought together. One is right and one is wrong. I am convicted by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit that monergism is right and synergism is wrong. Not only wrong, but damming to the soul. There is no salvation in synergism.

I was also plagued by a tremendous struggle. That struggle can be reduced to the following dilemma: since  synergism is so wrong why are there individuals who saved who hold to this position?

I think synergism and Arminianism is a very damming doctrine. There are some who call is a very cruel hoax. John Owen dismissed Arminianism with this observation:

" [the required Arminian condition of salvation] as an impossibility: it is 'as if a man should promise a blind man a thousand pounds upon condition that he will see.'" (John Owen) 

Owen called the Arminian Christ "but a half-mediator" because He procures the end of salvation but not the means to it.

Charles Spurgeon spoke of Arminianism in this manner. Spurgeon compared Arminianism and what he called Calvinism, which is really the doctrines of grace, to two bridges over a river. The Arminian bridge is wide and easy but does not bring its traveler safely to the other shore. It stops short in sight of the shore because something is left for the depraved will of the natural man to accomplish - i. e. to exercise faith in Christ by his own strength. Spurgeon went on to say that the Calvinist bridge is narrow but spans the whole river for Christ Jesus is the Alpha and Omega of salvation and justification.

It is not my desire at this time to demonstrate why Arminianism has a false Christ and is a damming doctrine nor demonstrate why the doctrines of grace reflect the very teaching of Christ and the Bible. My point is to demonstrate how I finally resolved the struggle that I dealt with these past twenty five years.

My struggle was as I said, how could Arminianism or synergism be so wrong and yet there are people saved in that "camp?" Well, I discovered I was answering the wrong question.

What is the wrong question in regards to this struggle? The wrong question is: Can Arminians be saved? Most people would say yes, even though their system and Christ is false. How can these people be truly saved? Some of course have flat out rejected their "salvation." Others have come up with terms such as "muddle-headed Arminians" meaning they are muddled in their thinking. They became believers with faulty doctrine. I ran across a term recently called "folk Arminians." This term was defined as people who have been reared under faulty theology and have never been exposed to the biblical doctrines of grace.

I struggled however with the fact that synergism is unbiblical and damming. Damming in the sense that is causes justification to rely upon the faith of a dead sinner. So how could a person be really saved by that system?

Well, here is the right question:  Are Arminians saved? No, I am not trying to be funny. First, to answer the question can Arminians be saved? No! They cannot be. Their doctrine is unbiblical, possess a false Christ and denies the depravity and deadness of a sinner relying on a sinner to cooperate with divine grace. An Arminian cannot be saved by the teachings of synergism.

Are Arminians saved? Yes! At least some. God promised to save His elect. They will not be lost. All whom God gave to Christ will be saved. The cross and the work of Christ was efficacious. All of the elect are born dead in trespasses and sin, all are under condemnation, and all need salvation. God will save His elect regardless of what system you might have been brought up in or exposed to. Somehow, God can work through faulty theology whether it be Catholic, Mormon, Pagan, Mystic, Baptist, or Arminian and save His elect.

When I came to think through this my struggle instantly ceased. Synergism and monergism are diametrically opposed. Only one can be right. The other is wrong. I no longer have to struggle with the question of how one can be truly saved and yet be Arminian in thinking. God saves sinners in spite of themselves.

I am no longer asking the question of can an Arminian be saved by a false system, to are some Arminians truly saved? 

Now the quest begins on how to educate them to biblical doctrine? Those who are God's elect and have been redeemed by the efficacious work of the cross need to be taught properly. 

So, in conclusion, at least for me, learning to answer the right question solved years of frustrating struggle.

How about you? What questions do you need to re-think through?


Scott said...

Many questions finally resolved.

Some still burning.

Some that were resolved had to be rethought and corrected based on better biblical understanding.

"gasbaggery" did you invent that word? Pretty good.

These last two amoung my favorite of all your articles I've read over the years.

I spent one summer of intense reading on the subject of Justification. Three books stand out though there was more:

James Buchanan's Doctrine of Justification.

Bonar's Everlasting Righteousness.

Turretin's Justification.

None of them hard, all relevant, the overlap was very helpful also.

Plus they are classics standing the test of time. What will you be reading?

Just finishing my fourth year of Teaching through Romans 1-11, about to begin Chapter 12, Not sure if it will be but one more maybe two more years.

Anonymous said...

I did find these two post most interesting and although I don't quite grasp all that was written I understood most. Thanks Gregg.


Gregg Metcalf said...

Scott - I am glad you have settled some questions, and I think more than likely there will always be some that will still "burn."

Yes, to my knowledge I invented "gasbaggery." Only two favorites, I guess I better right better articles. :)

I am reading and/or re-reading:

Justification by Faith ALONE

Gregg Metcalf said...

Scott - hit the wrong button.

I am reading or re-reading:

Justification by Faith ALONE
Counted righteous in Christ
The Everlasting Righteousness
The Lord Our Righteousness
Faith Alone
The God Who Justifies
The Practice of Godliness
Holiness by Grace
The Pursuit of Holiness
The Christian's Great Interest
A New Birth

I love teaching Romans!

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Yvonne - I appreciate you also and thanks for reading. I know you are a poet but thanks for being faithful to this "theological blog." You can always email any questions you have if you don't grasp something I said.

Susan said...

Thanks Gregg,

This is a point that I get all turned around on, and it is the area that can get into that sticky area that almost seems to say everyone gets saved and that there is no hell. I'm not saying that you say that here, sorry if I'm muddying this up.

What I'm trying to say is the point that Jesus saves whomsoever He wills, can get twisted into all kinds of misinformation, like the one that says we do not need to evangelize because God is going to do it all anyway (which reminds me of what the lazy servant who buries his talent says).

God does save whomsoever He wills AND it is our duty to evangelize. Many people came to Christ through Spurgeon's preaching yet he was not "evangelical" he was a staunch "Calvinist" (or rather sovereign grace preacher) which many Arminians do not know, claiming to "love" Spurgeon as their own, which has me thoroughly confused.

I know that the Lord is the One who ultimately brings His own to Himself, and He does it through the foolishness of preaching the truth, and His own will hear it, perhaps not in their "Arminian" church, but they will come to the truth one way or another, through the way He has already determined because He knows the end from the beginning...and I know this is true, and yet it is so immense that it still boggles my little brain. :)

Susan said...

foolishness of preaching-- should be in ""

Scott said...

Amen on teaching Romans, what a privilege!!!!

Hope you were joking about "only two favorites" -- I really meant of many articles that stick with me these two are amongst the top of the list. (besides other articles the series you did on your life history was very interesting to me also.)

That's a large number books to read - thanks for sharing the list - read several but not all - , Also Piper's on Romans 9 "The Justification of God"- loved that one.

Bonar's has a good but short discussion of "eternal justification" that I thought was quite helpful. Turretin also - you can buy just his book on Justification taken from his "Elentic Theology". Turretin's method of objections and responses made for such a different approach to the problem that I found much benefit.

You might want to check out Buchanan's "Doctrine of Justification" described by some as follows: "The Doctrine of Justification by James Buchanan is considered one of the most complete works on the subject in the past 150 years." It was this for me. A very complete and very thorough exhaustive treatment immersing me in the subject unlike any other book I read.

I have it in print, but found it also helpful to have the free e-book available. You can find several PDF's available online.

Look forward to hearing and gleaning from your progress through Romans.

Prior to teaching Romans in Church these past four years, I was also able to spend almost three years immed previous walking my daughters through the book of Romans. They must have been 13,11, and 9 when we completed Romans. Through this with my girls we developed a keyword/phrase for each chapter, memory verses from each chapter, and for some chapters several phrases to help us remember the flow of Pauls logic.

ch 1 - without excuse
ch 2 - the law condemns
ch 3 - all have sinned

So what are we to do, what hope have we? What do the scriptures say?

ch 4 - imputation
Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.

That's good for Abraham, But what about me?

It was written not just for Abraham but for us also if we believe...

BUT how can this work? How can what one has done benefit many?

Ch 5 - headship/representation

This is all too good to be true-- or if this is true: Let's just continue in sin that grace may abound.

ch 6 Vivification/mortification
living to God/dying to sin

CH 7 - but this is so hard - the good that I would I do not and that I would not I do. O' wretched man that I am

ch 8 - no condemnation/no separation - the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death

ch 9 - election (with phrases to show the whole flow of argument)

ch 10 - telos - Christ is the end of the law for righteousness

ch 11 - what about the Jews
And in this way all Israel shall be saved.

ch 12 therefore be not conformed but be transformed, living by grace

ch 13 two or three phrases to show obeying authorities, love,

ch 14 remember the weaker brother - that which is not faith is sin

ch 15 working together for the glory of God

ch 16 loving the brethren

That seemed to work good for my girls, seeing the questions that arise from the text led into the answers that followed in the text. We spent a lot of time with each verse sometimes each word but with a goal to seeing the flow of Paul's thinking unfolding throughout the whole book. The keywords/phrases helped us keep that flow in memory. Early on we were especially distinguishing between impartation and imputation.