“There is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism. …It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith without works; not unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor, I think, can we preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the peculiar redemption which Christ made for his elect and chosen people; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation, after having believed. Such a gospel I abhor. The gospel of the Bible is not such a gospel as that.'”
— Charles H. Spurgeon
As promised in Monday’s post entitled It Cannot Be Both (click here to read), I outlined the debate between two views commonly known as Calvinism and Arminianism. In the post, I made room for several discussions, but nevertheless I wanted to outline basic truths. Based on logic and biblical reality, we must understand that Calvinism and Arminianism can’t be both right. Only one of them can be correct. I also expressed the urgency of this debate and why we must confront the issue head on, and it is simple: soteriology is just as much a primary issue as Christology.
If one made an outlandish claim that Christ was not divine, that Christ does not love His Church, or that Christ loves conditionally, orthodox Christians would be on guard to deal with the matter of such heresy. However, why are we not so vigilant about unbiblical views about soteriology? Could it be that we have been made to believe that soteriology is not of the same importance as Christology? I would argue anything in the Bible that is mentioned clearly should be taken into serious account, especially when it comes to the heart of the matter: the gospel. Soteriology is not a secondary issue; it is very much a dividing issue.
Now, because no truly orthodox Christian would even consider Pelagianism to be a biblical soteriological stance, I will not even address it. Rather, we must address Arminianism and Calvinism straight ahead. Only one of these views can be representative of the gospel. It cannot be both, as each view is fundamentally different. It’s impossible for both views to get it right, and both views are trying to explain the gospel. That being said, one of them must have the correct gospel, and the other must be a false gospel. It is either Calvinism that portrays a false gospel, or it is Arminianism, and here comes the big point: logically speaking, if one view is the gospel, and the other isn’t, than the latter must be a heresy.
With all that being said, I strongly believe that not only is Calvinism the biblical view of soteriology, but I also believe that what we call Calvinism is really the true doctrines of grace, which is the true gospel. I realize that by saying this, I come across as a boxer putting on his tulip red gloves (I had to I’m sorry) against Arminians, but I want people to understand my view first.
Do I believe that Arminians can be saved? Yes. Absolutely! We are saved by grace, and not by our theology.
Can good Christians, who believe in the sovereignty of God, be Arminians? Yes, actually!
Is it in the same way that I believe that Catholics can be saved, and that good Christians can be stuck in Catholicism? …Yes.
I know I am stepping on toes, and I know that what I am writing is going to be extremely offensive, shocking, and almost unheard of in the sphere of evangelicalism. What is important however, is to engage thought, reason, logic, the mind, and all faculties that your body has to offer to understand the truth of the matter, but I’m not only asking you to use your brain. I am asking you to stir your spirit through the Word of God, and the truth of who God is to come to the biblical conclusions concerning Arminianism using basic reason:
1) What is not based upon the Word of God, is heresy.
2) The Gospel is based on the Word of God.
Thus, 3) Any false, unbiblical gospel that is preached, is heresy.
That is why I hold to my strong stance on Arminianism, and why I believe it is worth examining.
Arminianism is unbiblical.
The foundation of Arminianism is that man is capable of choosing God. They point to verses with phrases such as “if you are willing”, “if you do”, and “if you hear”. They also point to the many times in the Bible where God would say, “Come!” and invite people to His side. However, what Arminians fail to comprehend are the not only the passages they take out of context, but also the many other passages that clearly state that man is radically depraved, and can’t choose God. However, we must promptly address the “inviting” texts, and whether they are truly inviting all men to come to God.
The truth of the matter is simple: these texts “do not assert anything indicatively” (as Martin Luther put it). These texts do not invite people to do anything, nor do these texts in which God says, “Come!” prove that man can indeed “Come!” to God. These Scriptures don’t prove that man is able, but rather that He is obligated, and show that man has no excuse as to not choosing God. Why? Because God made an invitation to all men. However, man refused this invitation by their very nature. How do we know? From other biblical texts as follows:
- Psalm 143:2 (ESV), “No man is righteous before You.”
- Romans 3:23 (ESV), “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
- Mark 7:21 (ESV), “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts.”
- Titus 1:15-16 (ESV), “To the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.”
- John 8:34 (ESV), “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
- Proverbs 21:10 (ESV), “The soul of the wicked desires evil.”
I could go on naming hundreds of verses that attest to one thing: man can’t choose God. Does man have free will? Yes! God indeed gave man a choice upon which to live, and the irony is that no one chose God. Man in the natural state of His heart, and without a change in His soul, cannot desire God. Paul addresses this very issue in Romans 6:20, 22 (ESV), “ For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness…But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”
You can’t choose your master. When you are a slave, you are stuck with that master. You are either evil and will continue to choose evil, or you are righteous and you will continue to choose righteousness. That’s why the very concept of Arminian ‘free will’ is extremely unbiblical. A slave to sin will continue to sin (being free from acts of righteousness), until the slave is freed from sin, and becomes a slave to righteousness.
So, how are we saved? Simple: God, out of His grace (karin/karis — unmerited favor), predestined people to salvation, for His glory, and out of love. Now, some may ask where I got that. Scriptures below:
- Ephesians 1:5 (ESV), “In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”
- Romans 8:29 (ESV), “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
- John 6:44 (ESV), “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
- Ephesians 1:11-12 (ESV), “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”
- Acts 13:48 (ESV), “They began rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
- Colossians 3:12 (ESV), “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…”
Again, I could go on with many Scriptures that simply go against Arminianism. The very foundation of Arminianism, that man can choose God, is wrong. The idea that man chose God, rather than God choosing man, is wrong. The idea that God died for all people, rather than for those He loved, is wrong. The idea that God’s grace doesn’t always succeed in drawing people, rather than His grace being irresistible, is wrong. The idea that God’s people can lose their salvation, rather than salvation being in the Father’s hands (therefore, it would belong to the Father), is wrong.
How do I know it’s wrong? The Bible is clear that only the elect will come to believe in Christ. As we read from John 3:16, we see 3 distinct truths: 1) God gave His Son only for those who believe, 2) that those who believe in Him will not perish, or fall away from God, and 3) that God’s love by sending His own Son will be irresistible to those who were to believe. Just from reading Scriptures, and then examining the most famous verse in the entire Bible, we can see that Arminius (the father of Arminianism) not only was wrong, but he was wrong according to the Scriptures. That’s the worst kind of wrong to be under, especially if to have a true gospel, it must be biblical. Arminianism already failed that criteria.
Arminianism is a false gospel.
Seeing that Arminianism is not in accordance with the Scriptures, we must now examine why it can’t have any resemblance to the gospel preached by Jesus Christ. Now, before it was nicknamed ‘Calvinism’, what Calvin taught was actually considered to be the doctrines of grace. In fact, the historical protestant Church recognized the doctrines of grace as the true gospel, and denied any of the alternative soteriological views such as Pelagianism and Arminianism (which they referred to as Semi-Pelagianism).
A book I highly recommend is On the Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther. The book has less than 200 pages and can be read within a few hours, and the published title deals with the subject of free will. Martin Luther repeatedly states that Erasmus, a strong proponent of free will theology, was a confused individual. Why did Martin Luther think that? Because Erasmus claimed that free will was essential to the gospel, and that it was the message of the Bible. However, Erasmus’ response was what shot himself in the foot as he said, “Free will can’t do anything without grace.” Rightly so, Martin Luther noticed the drastic contradiction that the man made as Martin Luther begged to ask Erasmus this (I will paraphrase): Can man choose do all things without grace (as Erasmus stated before), or is man unable to choose unless through grace? Martin Luther then pointed out that either Erasmus was a closet Pelagianist or a closet Calvinist (I am paraphrasing of course for everyone to understand).
The gospel would never so self-contradict itself like Arminianism. One moment, the theological view claims that man has free will to choose God, but at the same time Arminians say that you can’t choose without grace. It’s strange…isn’t it? Or is it? Could it be that Arminians who are truly Christians know that it is by God’s sovereign will that anyone can be saved, but they just don’t want to admit it? I believe so. However, there are the many Arminians, like John Wesley, who purposefully faked being a Christian while teaching his Arminian theology, and even admitted it in one of his letters to his brother in 1766 saying this:
“I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen…and yet I dare not preach otherwise than I do, either concerning faith, or love, or justification…I want all the world to come to know what I do not know.“
So, here is my question: if the most famous Arminian theologian claimed to refuse to preach the gospel, claimed to believe there was no God, and claimed that he never was saved to begin with, why trust His theology, and more importantly why trust his gospel? But I digress.
To Arminius, the very thought of God, in His love, to rescue us from our will was immoral. That is not only ungodly thinking, but no where near what the gospel message is. Arminius also truly believed and taught that man’s will was corrupted, but not so corrupt that man couldn’t come to salvation based on his own abilities. That’s very close to Pelagianism, ironically what Arminians claim to share no similarities with. This idea is contrary to the gospel which says that it is not based on the reason of this world that people can come to the faith, but only by the divine revelation of the Spirit.
So, what is the gospel? The gospel is the work of salvation that Jesus Christ had done, and finished. The gospel is that man is unable to be saved, since he is slave to sin, unless God would beckon you, and love you first. Is this love conditional? By no means. It is unconditional, undeserving, unmerited, and unworthy love. It is merciful, compassionate, gracious, and loving beckoning that God has for His people that can cause anyone from the human race to be saved. How can God be good if He leaves depraved man alone to their slavery? That is why we know God is good, for God didn’t leave us to condemn us, but to give us His Son for redemption. He wouldn’t let His children be left in their sin. That is good news! That is the gospel!
I understand this post was long, and I understand that this blog post has offended many. Nevertheless, I don’t believe that it was pointless. I hope this will open a discussion about the gospel, and that it will allow us to ask questions that we have been told to never ask. I truly hope this post will cause us to embrace the gospel and will move us to the presence of God in such a way that we resent any false gospel. Arminianism is indeed against the Scriptural definition of the gospel, therefore it is false gospel. Since it is a false gospel, it is a heresy. Do I believe every Arminian is unsaved? No, for we are saved by grace, not by our theology.
What saves us from hell, both Calvinist and Arminian, is not our works, lest we boast, but it is all because of Christ’s work on our behalf. That is why I can believe that Arminians, though having a false understanding of the gospel, can be saved. An Arminian who is saved, regardless of his intellectual inconsistencies, is saved by faith in Christ, not by his understanding of the gospel.
But if we continue to insult the true gospel and continue to allow the majority of evangelicalism to embrace a false one, then we must ask ourselves how much revival we need, and remember that we must remember Semper Reformanda (always reforming).
Soli Deo Gloria.