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

4 comments:

Joe VonDoloski said...

I received the CD's today Jeremy, thank you.
Look forward to seeing you guys on the 3rd.

Arthur Sido said...

Great comments Jeremy. Arminianism sounds appealing and like a great theology, but it never survives it's first encounter with the Bible.

Ed Goodman said...

Brother Jeremy,

This was well-written and extremely systematic in content. I had a thought about one of your comments/rationales in particular: "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."

God DOES choose to limit Himself in certain ways due to His own nature. For instance, God doesn't lie and He can't sin. So how does one counter the argument that God's self-imposed limitations ARE a part of His own plan? These self-imposed limitations don't conflict with God's sovereignty - they magnify it! While we may not be able to comprehend the intracacies of God's mind, heart, and plans, maybe we aren't able (see Isaiah 55:8-9).

Lastly, can you see a correlating relationship between: 1. God's "plan" of self-imposed limitations (which, rather than hindering His sovereignty, actually illustrates a manifestation thereof); and 2. Man's limited free will (which operates within the boundaries set by God)? I don't see a problem with reconciling the two issues - they seem to fit nicely together when considering the context of the entire Bible.

Tell me some of your thoughts as we explore this fascinating issue together.

Love in Christ,

Ed Goodman

P.S. I've enjoyed studying the Word and exploring many of your wonderful theological concepts. Keep up the good work for the Lord!

Ed Goodman said...

Let me also say this since I didn't specify it in the last post: I don't believe in man's absolute free will; I believe man obviously operates within the boundaries set by God. I've heard some scholars call it "free moral agency." I would say we can all agree upon that point.

I didn't want to confuse you when talking about the free will of man. When I speak of that, I simply refer to the limited will given to man by God. Our discussions and debates are not on the free will itself, but rather the extent of the free will given by God (such as whether man can reject God by resisting the Holy Spirit).