Monday, April 14, 2008

The Insurmountable Dilemma of Arminianism

The Scriptures teach that God predestines persons to salvation. This is an inarguable fact with which all Christians agree. However, Christians have not agreed over how God predestines persons to salvation. There are two basic theological positions on predestination one called Calvinism and the other Arminianism.

Calvinists answer the how of predestination by arguing that God predestines persons to salvation according to his gracious plan without any foreseen merit or faith in the person. In the Calvinistic view, all are men are at the mercy of God’s grace for their salvation.

Arminians answer this dilemma in one of two ways. Most Arminians argue that God predestines those persons whom he knows will choose him. The other answer some extreme Arminians have adopted is Open Theism. Open Theists argue that God does not know the future; therefore, he does not know who makes up the elect. Consequently, they adopt a corporate view of election whereby God elects Christ and all those who believe being in Christ are also predestined. Most Arminians reject Open Theism as unbiblical. But, does predestination according to foreseen faith fair any better than Open Theism?

While most Arminians agree with Calvinists that God is omniscient, they thereby avoid the problem of limiting God’s knowledge. However, their system still limits God. Instead of limiting God’s knowledge, they limit his power to implement his plan. This is because in Arminianism God only forms his plans after he foresees man’s actions. Thus, God’s is unable to act; he can only react to man’s decisions. Therefore, God and his plan are at the mercy of mankind’s choices.

Take for example the Apostle Paul’s conversion: God’s plan for the early church was for Saul to be converted and be his instrument to spread the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. Certainly, someone else could have been God’s chosen instrument, but in the Arminian system there can be no guarantee that someone will be willing. So, God’s plan is ultimately dependent not on himself but Saul. The inevitable conclusion of the Arminian view is that God and his plan are limited by man’s will.

An Arminian may rejoin: granted God’s plan is limited by man’s will, but the sovereign God chose to limit himself so that man would freely choose him. A self-impose limit is still a limit, and the effect is the same whether the limit is self-imposed or not. Man’s free will limits God and his plan.

The insurmountable dilemma of Arminianism is that their God is limited either in knowledge or power. To be fair, the Calvinist position is not free from difficulties. But, the difficulties are not as fundamental as God’s omnipotence and omniscience. Calvinism affirms that God is both almighty and all-knowing; consequently, his plan is certain. Furthermore, men are at the mercy of a gracious God.

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Faith of God's People "in Prosperity and in Adversity"

Part of traditional wedding vows include the phrase, "In adversity and in prosperity." Twelve years ago, I stood before many people and said to my bride, "In adversity and in prosperity, I vow to be your husband, to work towards oneness in this marriage, to be faithful to you, until death should separate us." True unconditional love for our spouse isn't dependent on our good health or on our financial situation or on what happens with our children. Our covenant love for our spouse should be just as true in times of adversity as in times of prosperity. And isn't the same true in our "wedding vows to Christ" (so to speak)--in His covenant love for us and ours for Him as His people?

One passage of Scripture that clearly demonstrates this is Hebrews 11:32-40, the close of the great "faith chapter," the chapter that defines and demonstrates for us what is true, living, enduring faith in God and His promises. As we look at this passage, we see that there were times when God ordained earthly abundance and victory and deliverance for His faithful people AND times when He ordained earthly adversity and affliction and suffering, even death, for His faithful people (they were all living "by faith"!).

The way these two things are brought together in the text without even a break teaches us a valuable lesson we often need to be reminded of: that true faith trusts God in spite of outward results and earthly circumstances, looking to our eternal reward in Christ.

God's purposes for us in Christ is not necessarily to enjoy comfort, success, and abundance (not even a long life) in this present life. His purposes for us in Christ are to glorify Himself and conform us to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29) and for us to live forever in communion with Him and His people, to worship Him and serve Him and reign with Him, in the new heavens and new earth (described in 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 20-21)--a renewed earth, a place of righteousness without sin and death.

This is part of the gospel message and kingdom plan of God revealed from Genesis to Revelation: that what we lost in the Fall is restored in Christ and His eternal kingdom. This is what we are to keep our eyes on and live for, not our circumstances in this present, fallen, passing world.

May we possess a faith in Christ that perseveres "in adversity and in prosperity." As hymnwriter Samuel Rodigast expressed in 1676, "Whate'er My God Ordains Is Right"!

Jeff Ryan
Calvary Bible Church, Rogers City, MI