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Tag: Reformed Theology

Is Arminianism Heretical? (An analysis and guest post from James Quiggle)

Is Arminianism Heretical? (An analysis and guest post from James Quiggle)

Many Calvinsts are quick to damn those who hold to Arminianism as heretics, but are they really? In this fascinating essay, Visiting Professor James Quiggle, a frequent and beloved guest, here, endevors to answer this question with technical precision and Christian charity.

Is Arminianism Heretical?

I understand Calvinism and Arminian soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). I am qualified to render an opinion on Arminianism as to heretical or not. If the details of theology are not your thing, keep reading anyway. We also need to look at some history.

Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) developed his soteriological views in opposition to the supralapsarianism order of God’s decrees (respecting salvation) which were developed by John Calvin (1509–1564) and others, of what today is known as high Calvinism.

In the supralapsarian order of God’s decrees (respecting salvation) an election to both salvation and to reprobation is the first decree. The supra- order is: decree to elect to salvation and reprobation (damnation); decree to create; decree to permit the fall; decree to send Christ to redeem those elected to salvation; decree to send the Holy Spirit to effect salvation.

Here is the significance: in the supralapsarian order no human being was seen by God as a sinner when God elected some to be saved and some to be damned. The supralapsarian order is based solely on God’s sovereignty, at a time in the order of God’s decrees when no human being was seen by God as a sinner. The Arminian view of soteriology was developed to oppose the supralapsarian view that non-sinners were elected to reprobation (eternal damnation).

The “Five points of Arminianism” were developed a few years after Arminius’ death by his followers, as a means to systematically express their disagreement with the, at that time, prevailing supralapsarian view. The Synod of Dort and its Canons (doctrines) were a direct response to the Arminian five points. Is it important? The Synod thought so, they took seven months (Nov 1618 – May 1619), and 154 open-to-the-public sessions (and many side conferences), to discuss the issues.

The “Five Points of Calvinism” were developed *after* the Synod, based on their Canons. The ideas were in the Canons, but not stated in five points. Those five points *do not* express supralapsarianism, but express an order of God’s decrees that came to be known as infralapsarianism. (Both the Arminian five points and the Canons of the Synod of Dort are available online.) (BTW, the earliest known, documented use of the acronym TULIP was 1905.)

The word “lapsarian” means “after the lapse.” The “lapse” is the fall of humankind into sin. The word “supra” means “above, before.” “Supralapsarian” means “before the lapse, i.e., God elected some to salvation and others to damnation before the fall into sin. The word “infra” means “below, after.” Infralapsarian means “after the lapse,” i.e., God elected some to salvation after the fall into sin. There is no election to reprobation in infralapsarianism.

The infralapsarian order of God’s decrees is this: decree to create; decree to permit the fall; decree to elect some to salvation (no election to reprobation); decree to provide a redeemer for the elect; decree to send the Holy Spirit to effect salvation.

There is third order in Calvinistic soteriology, the sublapsarian order: decree to create; decree to permit the fall; decree to provide a redeemer; decree to elect some to salvation; decree to send the Holy Spirit to effect salvation.

Supra- sees no person as a sinner when God decreed his election. The significance of infra- and sub- is God saw all persons as sinners before he elected some to salvation, and left others are they were, as non-elect sinners. The difference between infra- and sub-, is when God decreed to provide a redeemer in relation to the decree of election. In infra- the redeemer is provided after election. In sub- the redeemer is provided before election.

Many Calvinists’ opposed the supra- election to reprobation, is why the infra- and sublapsarian views were developed. Is the difference between sub- and infra- important? Yes, in infra- the benefits of Christ’s propitiation of God for sin are directed only toward the elect. In sub- the benefits extend to all humankind: mercy and common grace to all human beings; salvation to the elect. As the Synod of Dort stated: Christ’s propitiation was sufficient for all, efficient to salvation for the elect.

Calvinistic ”Unconditional Election” is sometimes described as “God elected on the basis of his free grace.” No, “free grace,” aka, sovereign grace, is the consequence of election, not the basis of election. Here is genuinely biblical Unconditional Election: God chose some to salvation for no reason explained in the Scripture—we don’t know why.

The unconditional election of some to salvation but not others was not based on any merit or lack of merit in the person, thus not based on foresight of who would or who would not believe. God chose for reasons known only to God that suited his purpose in creating. The choice was neither arbitrary nor unjust: God viewed all persons as sinners before electing some to salvation, choosing to leave others as they were. Election does not prejudice God against the non-elect; they could be saved if they would come to God with faith in God and his testimony as to the way of salvation. They are not saved because they desire their sin more than a relationship with God.

The Arminian “Conditional Election” was not specifically written to oppose sovereign grace, but to oppose the supralapsarian election to reprobation. The Arminian view of election is known as “foresight election”: God foreknew who would believe and then elected those people to salvation. The Arminianism “Conditional Election,” naturally opposes supralapsarian election to salvation and election to reprobation. But Arminian “Conditional Election” also opposes the infralapsarian, sublapsarian, and biblical views of unconditional election.

Arminian soteriology does believe salvation is by God’s grace, but they differ from Calvinism in how that grace is applied. In Calvinistic salvation God’s prevenient grace (Ephesians 2:8) is applied to specific individuals whom God elected to receive that grace. That prevenient grace is efficacious to save: every sinner receiving God’s efficacious grace will infallibly believe.

In Arminian salvation, God’s prevenient grace (Ephesians 2:8) is applied indiscriminately to everyone. That prevenient grace makes it possible for anyone to choose to believe. In Calvinistic soteriology, prevenient grace is necessary because sin makes the sinner unable to believe to salvation. In Arminian soteriology, prevenient grace makes salvation possible for all, sin does not make the sinner unable to believe, so anyone can believe, or not believe, as he or she chooses.

With that historical and theological background, I can now accurately state the thing in common between any system of Calvinistic soteriology (supra-, infra-, sub-) and Arminian soteriology. In both Calvinism and Arminian views of salvation, Christ propitiated God for sin, God elected, and God must give prevenient grace (Ephesians 2:8) for a sinner to be saved. Thus both soteriologies agree sinners are able to be saved. But both differ significantly in the details of how a person is saved.

If, **which it is not**, the differences between Calvinism and Arminian soteriology were the only defining quality between heretical and not heretical, then the Arminian soteriology is not the biblical soteriology. But, and this is important, neither is the high Calvinism supralapsarianism. Both are wrong for different reasons. In Calvinistic supralapsarianism God is a monster who arbitrarily elects to damnation people who have not sinned. In Arminian soteriology God is not the sovereign God who initiates salvation but the helpless God who responds to the choices of his creature.

What is biblical soteriology?

Unsaved sinners have Total Inability to initiate their salvation, because the sin attribute dominates every aspect of human nature;

God, for reasons not stated in the Scripture, chose to give some sinners his gift of Prevenient Grace, Ephesians 2:8, thereby effecting the means to their salvation; there is no corresponding election to reprobation;

God’s gift of prevenient grace is Efficacious Grace: it infallibly accomplishes the end for which it was given, which is the salvation of the chosen sinner;

Christ’s all-sufficient Propitiation of God (aka: atonement) for all human sin has benefits to all humankind (mercy, common grace), but is efficient to salvation only toward those whom God chose to receive its merit by his Efficacious Grace, through the person’s faith in God and God’s testimony; this is known as Limited Redemption;

All those whom God has saved will Persevere in the faith by faith to the end of life and beyond, because each is and will be endlessly maintained by the merit of Christ’s propitiation through God’s Efficacious Grace.

Or: Free Will Dominated by Sin; Christ’s All-sufficient Propitiation; Limited Redemption by Election; Enlivened by Efficacious Grace; Faith that Receives Salvation; Perseverance in the Faith by the Faith to the End.

Is the Arminian view of salvation heretical? No, but just barely. Arminian soteriology teaches God elected some to salvation, that salvation occurs because Christ propitiated God for sin, and God gives prevenient grace to salvation. The Scripture opposes other aspects of Arminian soteriology. But any soteriology that teaches salvation of the sinner through the forgiveness of sins based on the propitiation of Christ, which Arminianism does, cannot be judged wholly heretical.

ESV with Creeds and Confessions Review

ESV with Creeds and Confessions Review

 

 

Additional Photos

 

The Crossway ESV with Creeds and Confessions is everything I have come to expect from Crossway, who, incidentally, sent me a copy in black trutone free of charge in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give a positive review, just an honest one.

Initially, I was actually surprised to find that this particular Bible did not blow me away. It is not a Bible that I dislike. It’s everything I have come to expect, sewn binding, good paper, etc. I like it and I enjoy using it but I don’t feel the same excitement that I get when I reach for other Crossway products such as my Literary Study Bible, Systematic Theology Bible, or the ESV Preaching Bible. HOWEVER, with more and more use the ESV with Creeds and Confessions has grown on me, so much so that I have recommended it several times to Christians who are new to what is commonly called Calvinism and are looking for a new Bible.

This Bible is very reserved, muted even. This does not surprise me as the most conservative Calvinists lean puritan and do not want a “flashy” Bible to take into the pulpit.

General Format

Essentially, the ESV with Creeds and Confessions is a large print ESV Bible, the back of which has the Reformed/Evangelical Confessions of Faith coupled with the Ancient Ecumenical Creeds. The font and layout are incredibly well done although it was not the layout I expected. (See next section)

What I Would Change

The original ESV with Creeds and Confessions was done by Schuyler Bibles a few years ago-it was an enlarged version of the New Classic Reference Edition with the Creeds and Confessions added in. I actually would have returned to that format. I would also move the Creeds and Confessions to locate them either in the front matter or between the testaments.  I would also add some lined notes pages. One could argue that this Bible is geared toward pastors and seminary professors so the lack of notes pages puzzles me. I would also remove the concordance, it seems a trifle unnecessary here-most of the people who would be picking up this particular Bible will most assuredly have plenty of other resources for in-depth topical study of the Bible.

Cover and Binding

The cover and binding are not unusual for Crossway. (I have the black trutone, which is Crossway’s polymer based imitation leather and includes a sewn binding. ) The TruTone Imitation Leather continues to get more and more convincing as Crossway continues to hone their craft.

It may surprise you to learn that, in many cases, I recommend Crossway’s TruTone before I recommend a genuine leather. I know a number of pastors who are on the go rather frequently and you don’t always want a more premium leather in your every -day carry Bible.

Paper, Layout, Font

Again there is nothing unusual here. The paper is bright white which works well with the black letter text. The text is laid out in double column paragraph format, approximately 12-point font. Crossway uses the Lexicon font family and continues to do so.

I think the Lexicon Font Family is more readable than most other Bible fonts on the market. I wear bifocals and frequently find ESV Bibles easier to read than other Bibles of similar size and font types.

The Creeds and Confessions

13 historic creeds and confessions are placed in the back, including the Apostles Creed (ca. 200–400), the Nicene Creed (325), the Athanasian Creed (381), the Chalcedonian Definition (451), the Augsburg Confession (1530), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Articles of Religion (1563), the Canons of Dort (1618–19), the Westminster Confession (1646), the London Baptist Confession (1689), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) Introductions to each of the 13 creeds and confessions written by historian Chad Van Dixhoorn were included.

First and foremost, I am a Baptist so seeing the London Baptist Confession is major for me. There is a bias (No way around it) in the Reformed Community which suggests that Baptists are not really reformed. This is grossly inaccurate and pejorative so seeing the LBC included was a major win for us.

You will also note that the 3 Forms of Unity are included. The Three Forms of Unity is a collective name for the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Heidelberg Catechism, which reflect the doctrinal concerns of continental Calvinism and are accepted as official statements of doctrine by many of the Reformed churches. In short, these are foundational documents to Reformed Theology.

Our Anglican Brethren will also be glad to see that the 39 Articles of Religion are included as well. Many do not often think of the Anglicans as being reformed but they were an integral part of the Reformation in the United Kingdom.

Final Thoughts

The ESV with Creeds and Confessions is perfect for the modern day puritan. You will find it to be a very well made Bible but that is what defines Crossway- incredibly well made Bibles at very affordable price points.

My niggling little gripes aside, the ESV with Creeds and Confessions is a prime example of what makes Crossway the first choice in Bible for a host of people, especially the “Reformed Pastor.”

ESV Systematic Theology Bible Review

ESV Systematic Theology Bible Review

It’s not the Bible I expected…I had visions of a juggernaut along the lines of Crossway’s ESV Study Bible, a massive tome that I could literally use to beat the heathen out of someone. Instead what I got when I opened the box was more like a mini me for the ESV Study Bible. The ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible is unlike what I envisioned, but Crossway likes to surprise me and in this case, the Bible they sent is no exception.

 

Disclaimer: Crossway sent me the hardcover of the Systematic Theology Study Bible free of charge in exchange for an honest review; so let’s do that.

 

First, some particulars:

About the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible (from Crossway)

Theology should, first and foremost, be rooted in God’s Word. The goal of the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible is to demonstrate how all Christian doctrine arises from the pages of the Bible. Created to help readers understand how Scripture forms the basis for our understanding of God, humanity, sin, salvation, and eternity, this study Bible features over 400 short in-text doctrinal summaries connecting Christian beliefs to specific Bible passages, 25 longer articles explaining important theological topics in greater depth, and introductions to each book of the Bible that highlight the unique ways each book contributes to the whole of Christian theology. Created by an outstanding team of editors and 26 contributors, this resource has been created to help Christians better connect what they believe about God with the very words of Scripture.

Features:

  • Double-column, paragraph format
  • Footnotes
  • Book intros
  • Topical index of sidebars
  • Cross-references
  • 400+ doctrinal summaries explaining core doctrines and connecting them to specific Bible passages
  • 25+ longer articles on key theological topics
  • Lifetime guarantee on leather and TruTone editions
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Packaging: J-Card (Hardcover); Box (Genuine Leather and TruTone)

Contributors:

  • Gregg Allison
  • Bruce Ashford
  • Gerald Bray
  • Bryan Chapell
  • Graham Cole
  • David Dockery
  • John Frame
  • Michael Horton
  • Kelly Kapic
  • Michael Kruger
  • Robert Letham
  • Donald Macleod
  • Chris Morgan
  • Stephen Nichols
  • J. I. Packer
  • Michael Reeves
  • Fred Sanders
  • Sam Storms
  • Scott Swain
  • Stephen Wellum
  • David Wells

 

 

I admit to not knowing some of the names on the contributors list but others (JI Packer, Stephen Nichols, John Frame, Michael Horton, and Greg Allison) read like a who’s who of theologians. Actually, there are two names, major players in the arena of theology, that are glaringly absent and I’m stunned that those names are not on the list of contributors, Drs. Sinclair Ferguson and R.C. Sproul. I suspect that is because of the role they play in the Reformation Study Bible.

 

The Fly in the Oatmeal

The ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible does not include any Dispensational Theologians which means, necessarily, that I will have disagreements with the Eschatology and any Israelology that you may find. However, this does not mean that I would discard it off hand. In fact, I would say that I am in agreement with probably 95% of the supplemental material that you will find here.

 

An Important Point

“Theology should, first and foremost, be rooted in God’s Word” –the back-cover.

 

Crossway could not have stated it better; the font of our understanding of who God is stems from His revelation of Himself in the Bible. I understand that, for many, Theology is difficult to handle and, at times, can seem rather dry and boring. Thankfully, that problem does not exist within the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible.

 

Introductions

This time around, the introductions bring more to the table with regard to theology including specific points on theology for each book of the Bible. The introductions also cover the author, the original audience, and provide an abbreviated outline for each book of the Bible. I say abbreviated because they are not as detailed as in other study Bibles.

 

Notes and Articles

In a change from traditional study Bibles, you won’t find verse by verse commentary at the bottom of the page. What you will find are 400 doctrinal footnotes and I, personally find these to be more useful. This is very important because of what Systematic Theology is, the discipline of formulating an orderly, coherent, and rational account of the doctrines of the Christian Faith.

 

The articles are expanded with larger articles in the back of the Bible. There are 28 articles and they are titled as follows:

 

  1. What is Doctrine and Why is it Important?
  2. How to do Theology: Worldview and Process
  3. A Brief History of Doctrine
  4. Theological Traditions Within Christendom
  5. The Origin and Authority of the Biblical Canon
  6. Doctrine in the Creed and Catechisms of the Church
  7. Apologetics
  8. Orthodoxy and Heresy
  9. Doctrine and Preaching
  10. Reading the Bible Theologically
  11. Revelation
  12. Scripture
  13. God
  14. Creation
  15. Providence
  16. Humanity
  17. Sin
  18. The Christian Life
  19. The Person of Christ
  20. The Work of Christ
  21. The Holy Spirit
  22. Ordinances and Sacraments
  23. Grace
  24. Election
  25. The Gospel
  26. Salvation
  27. The Church
  28. Eschatology

Honestly, the only article I have any kind of problem with is number 28, eschatology. I am a futurist and a dispensationalist so my point of view on this doctrine will be markedly different from the contributors.

Thoughts on the Book

I am impressed. On the other hand, I would really like to see people stop treating Dispensationalists like the fair haired step child. That being said, I think that the Systematic Theology Study Bible will be a benefit to anyone who is not a theologian by trade. There is a real lack of adherence to any form of theology in western evangelicalism and it is my hope that the Systematic Theology Study Bible will help to address that gap.

 

The paper that has been provided is crisp white and the font is a deep rich black. As is typical from Crossway, we have a sewn binding so that you will get a lifetime of use out of the Bible.

If there were ever a Bible that screamed for a wide margin, this is it. The paper is thick enough that you should not have any bleed through with your pen and so a wide margin would be perfect here.

Would I buy it? Should you buy it?

I would buy it, most likely for gift giving purposes. I have a number of Systematic Theologies on hand including the volumes by John MacArthur, Charles Hodge, John Calvin, Luis Berkhoff, Stanley Horton, and Wayne Grudem so I am well versed in theology. I emphatically recommend this Bible because of the glaring need for coherent theology in the church today.