3/24/11

Calvinism and Arminianism - An Introduction

This lesson, a follow-up to last weeks discussion in class, attempts to characterize, albeit simply, a general view of Reformed and Arminian theology and how they relate to the words of Jesus in John 6.
• My aim is to be fair.
• My intent is to familiarize those, especially in my class, with these two views and understand some of the implications of each. 

1) COMMON GROUND

Continuing where we left off last week, we need to begin at what are, at least on the surface, typically considered common ground among the Arminian and Reformed views.
• The common ground is the (1) depravity of mankind; (2) God’s work; and (3) man’s belief.
• In other words, man is depraved and God has to do something about it so that we can believe.
• It is important to see the common ground on these issues, even if significant differences exist just below the surface.

(1) Depravity of Mankind:
• As we have seen in our study of John, Jesus Himself finds the depravity of man so stark that he cannot “entrust” Himself to the unbeliever.
• John 2:24–25 (ESV) — 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

How does the Bible describe the depravity that is “in man”?
• We are dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1-2).
• We are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
• We love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19-20).
• Our hearts are hard like stone and our minds lack understanding (Eph. 4:18).
• We are unable to submit to God or please God (Rom 8:7-8).
• We are unable to accept the gospel (Eph. 4:18; 1 Cor. 2:14).
• We are unable to come to Christ or embrace him as Lord (John 6:44, 65; 1 Cor. 12:3).
• We are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17).
• We are slaves of Satan (Eph. 2:1-2).
• No good thing dwells in us (Rom. 7:18).
• Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9).

(2) Work of God:
We just saw last week that Jesus Himself recognized the relationship between belief/unbelief and the work of the Father in the hearts of depraved men.
• And most evangelicals agree with Jesus that a work of God is required to reach through man’s depravity and draw him toward Christ.

How does the Bible describe this work of God?
• John 1:13 (ESV) — 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
• John 3:5 (ESV) — 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
• John 6:65 (ESV) — 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
• Titus 3:5 (ESV) — 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
• James 1:18 (ESV) — 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
• 1 Peter 1:3 (ESV) — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
• Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

(3) Belief of Man:
In our discussions on the two “whoevers” in John 3, it is clear that all of mankind is either a “whoever” that believes or a “whoever” that doesn’t.
• Most will agree that the “whoevers” that believe do so in response to the work of God.

How does the Bible describe man’s response to God’s work?
• John 1:12 (ESV) — 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
• Mark 1:15 (ESV) — 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
• Romans 10:9–10 (ESV) — 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
• Matthew 10:32 (ESV) — 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,
• 1 John 4:15 (ESV) — 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

Relationships:
All of the above verses address the relationships between man’s depravity, God’s work and man’s belief.
• When we begin to dig deeper and understand the relationships between the three and the rest of Scripture’s revelation pertaining to salvation, we encounter the beginning of the disagreements between the different camps.
• There are a many verses we could use to tease out these differences.
• We will, however, begin with John 12:32 and 1 Timothy 2:3-4 for the Arminian view and use our text from last week in John 6:35-37, 44, 65 for the Reformed view.

2) ARMINIAN VIEW OF SALVATION

John and Paul provide an aspect of God’s relationship with mankind that, depending on how they are taken, have a profound implication on the relationship between mankind’s depravity, God’s work and mankind’s belief.
• 1 Timothy 2:3–4 (ESV) — This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
• John 12:32 (ESV) — 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

These verses beg the following questions:
(1) Do these verses speak of the fact that God’s saving grace is for all men “without exception” wherein every man has been given the ability to respond in the affirmative to the Gospel?
• (2) Or, do these verses speak of the fact that God’s saving grace is for all men “without distinction” wherein salvation through Jesus is not just for Jews but also for Gentiles?

If (1) then the relationship between man’s depravity, God’s work and man’s believing is much different than if (2).
• I don’t have time here to review the variety of ways people come to these 2 differing conclusions.
• Suffice it to say that each side is certain of their interpretation and argues persuasively that the other side is mistaken.
• This gives you a great reason to dive in to the text and study God’s Word.
• And in so doing, remember context is king!

Now let’s look briefly at the Arminian direction and explore its implications.
• They go with option (1) from above.
• We will call this the Saving Grace Synergistic Model.
• This is opposed the Saving Grace Monergistic Model which we will deal with under the Reformed view.
    o Synergistic Model emphasizes the moral ability of all mankind to respond to the Gospel.
    o Monergistic Model emphasizes the moral inability of anyone to respond to the Gospel.

Saving Grace Synergistic Model:
This model assumes that God makes a well-meant offer to every person to choose Jesus.
• And to make this well-meant offer genuine, God has acted in every person in a special way to put them in a position to either accept or reject Jesus.
• This act of God in every person is sometimes referred to as “prevenient grace” or “overcoming grace”.

What is prevenient grace?
• H. Ray Dunning characterizes this grace as “the awakening activity of the Spirit [that] is universal in its scope”.
• This grace is “a benefit that flows from Christ's death on the cross, neutralizes human depravity and restores to pre-Christians everywhere the ability to heed God's general call to salvation" – Demarest.
• John Wesley puts it like this, "there is a measure of free-will supernaturally restored to every man".
• "Since mankind is hopelessly dead in trespasses and sins and can do nothing to obtain salvation, God graciously restores all men sufficient ability to make a choice in the matter of submission to Him. . . . In His foreknowledge He perceives what each one will do with this restored ability, and elects men to salvation in harmony with His knowledge of their choice of Him" – Lectures in Systematic Theology [Eerdmans, 1949].

How does this relate to three common ground doctrines we previously discussed?
• This grace is a work of God that mitigates man’s depravity and gives Him a fair chance to believe and respond to the Gospel.
• If God did not provide this grace to mitigate man’s depravity then His gospel offer to mankind could not be seen as a well-meant, genuine offer.
• In fact, it is argued that man cannot be held responsible for his sin if a genuine offer does not exist; if a “range of options” are not available to him.
• And a God who “so loved the world” will most certainly make a well-meant, genuine offer.
• Given the Synergistic Model’s interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:4 and John 12:32, God has to have provided this grace to all men or Scripture contradicts itself.
• If man responds with belief empowered by the prevenient grace of God, he is born again and enters into the kingdom of God – belief first and then the new birth.
• Finally, the mystery of who is saved and who isn’t resides with man.

Now let’s take a look at the Reformed Monergistic Model of Saving Grace.

3) THE REFORMED VIEW OF SALVATION

In our lesson last week, Jesus Himself provides an aspect of God’s relationship with mankind that once again, depending on how it is taken, has a profound implication on the relationship between mankind’s depravity, God’s work and mankind’s belief.
• John 6:37 (ESV) — 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
• John 6:44 (ESV) — 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
• John 6:65 (ESV) — 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

These verses beg the following questions:
(1) Is Jesus suggesting that the crowd’s unbelief is due to the fact that they weren’t drawn by the Father?
• (2) Or, is Jesus suggesting that the crowd’s unbelief is due to their rejecting the drawing of Father?

If (1) then the relationship between man’s depravity, God’s work and man’s believing is much different than if (2).
• In our lesson last week, I suggested that (1) is the intention of Jesus.
• Again, this is another reason for you to dive deep into the Bible and research the answers for yourself.

Now let’s look briefly at the Reformed direction and explore its implications.
• They go with option (1) from above.
• As stated earlier, we will call this the Saving Grace Monergistic Model.
    o Again, the Monergistic Model emphasizes the moral inability of anyone to respond to the Gospel.
    o Whereas, the Synergistic Model emphasizes the moral ability of all mankind to respond to the Gospel.

Saving Grace and the Monergistic Model:
This model assumes that God only draws, as in brings to salvation, His chosen elect.
• This drawing of God is actually regeneration and the granting of a new heart.
• And it is from this new heart that man always chooses to believe in the God who gave Him eyes to see and ears to hear.
• This act of God in the elect is sometimes referred to as “irresistible grace” or “effectual grace”.
• There is, of course, a sense that God draws all men via general revelation, conscience, etc.

What is irresistible grace?
• “Irresistible grace refers to the sovereign work of God to overcome the rebellion of our heart and bring us to faith in Christ so that we can be saved. If our doctrine of total depravity is true, there can be no salvation without the reality of irresistible grace. If we are dead in our sins, totally unable to submit to God, then we will never believe in Christ unless God overcomes our rebellion” – John Piper.
• “Man is so corrupt that he will not decide and cannot be wooed to follow after God, sovereign efficacious grace is required to convert him. This is done by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit whereby a fallen man who has heard the gospel is made willing and necessarily turns to Christ in God-given faith” – Theopedia.
• Charles Hodge puts it like this, unlike “prevenient grace”, irresistible “grace does not become efficacious from the cooperation of the human will”.
• In other words, man’s will is not persuaded to respond, it is supernaturally remade and so wants to respond in belief.

How does this relate to three common ground doctrines we previously discussed?
• This grace is a work of God that removes man’s depravity and remakes his heart so that he will believe and respond to the Gospel.
• If God bestows this grace the receiver doesn’t have a shot at being saved, but will most certainly be saved.
• Man has zero moral ability to ever respond to the Gospel unless God breaks through his depravity and saves him by this grace.
• Given the Monergistic Model’s interpretation of John 6, mankind is always free to do what his heart desires, but it is not until God draws man via the new birth that man desires to believe in and seek after God.
• An important implication of this is that the unbelievers’ problem is not simply an intellectual one rooted in his reason and will, but a profound moral inability.
• But with the Arminian Synergistic Model, Jeff Spry puts it like this, “The true nature of sin and guilt is denied. Sinners are told they are guilty of a major mistake of not accepting the wonderful benefits that God longs to give them. His unbelief is really no more than a mistake…At the point where a helpless sinner needs God’s help and power the most, the sinner is pointed away from God and told to look to himself. He is told that God has done all He can do”
• When God extends this grace to the elect, they are born again and then believe and then are received by Christ – new birth and then belief.
• Finally, the mystery of who is saved and who isn’t resides with God, our creator.


Summary:
Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
• The Scripture you read will be filtered through either the Synergistic or Monergistic model.
• It is important to understand why you believe either and be aware of its influence.
• We must be careful to not be judgmental and vitriolic towards the other view.
• In my mind, it is a wonderful thing that on many levels of this issue mystery is involved.
• This mystery, and even ambiguity, has motivated me and others to dig much deeper into Scripture than they otherwise would have.