"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « | Main | From Packer's Intro to Luther's Bondage of the Will »

    Clarifying the Love of God for His People in Christ

    Although some may not think so, we really do work hard to accurately represent those whose positions differ from us in regards to the work of Christ in our salvation. Recently I gave an illustration which highlighted the differences between the Arminian traditions' view of God's love and the traditional Augustinian view, which at least one visitor said misrepresented both sides ...

    The illustration has two parents whose children run out into the street when a car is coming. The first parent calls to his child to get out of the way but stays on the curb hoping he will obey, while the other parent sees the danger and runs out to scoop up the child to make certain he/she is safe. We believe this demonstrates two radically different conceptions of love. Synergists often challenge us that we put God's holiness over His love, but this illustration attempts to highlight that this is not the case, but rather, reveals a vastly different view of God's love and the message of salvation: one type of love is intensive and the other extensive. One loves makes certain that the job is done - that the child is safe, while the other love does not make this a certainly but sees love in the giving of a choice itself ... and consequently values more highly the will of the child as the final determiner of salvation.

    To clarify this illustration so you can see how it explicitly explains the two positions:

    First of all, both positions believe that Christ died for sinners .... but there are clear differences in what Christ's death actually accomplishes for His children:

    1) The Arminian position believes that Christ does a great deal to bring salvation to His people, but His death does not actually secure that salvation. It is not sufficient of itself to save lost people. There is still a requirement that sinners themselves must meet if Christ's death is to be effectual ... in other words, what Christ does for sinners in the Arminian scheme is really conditioned upon man fulfilling another requirement that is in addition to Christ's death ... in this case, faith.

    2) The Augustinian position, in contrast, believes that Christ's death and resurrection actually secures the salvation of His people. It is completely sufficient in itself to save sinners. God does require faith of His people but Christ's death even pays for the sin of our unbelief and thus He meets all the requirements necessary for our salvation ... requirements that we were morally impotent to meet ourselves. Thus, Jesus Christ gives His children everything necessary to secure salvation. This is an unconditional love ... salvation by grace alone in Christ alone. Christ plus nothing. Salvation is, therefore, not conditioned upon our prior faith but Christ actually even secures our faith. The finished work of Christ guarantees that none of his children will be lost and will all be raised up at the last day (John 6:37-39, 44)

    Posted by John on November 30, 2007 10:53 AM


    I'd add that the whole "more loving" argument coming from the Arminian side is not really exegetical, its ethical. In framing the argument as ethical:

    1. This is a tacit admission that the argument isn't exegetical, which is a real timesaver, in my opinion.

    2. It opens up the argument against Arminianism from Universalism in a way that's problematic for the Arminian. If it's true that what is the "more loving" option is to be preferred, then Arminianism is "less loving" than Universalism, so Arminianism loses.

    I must disagree with Gene's suggestion that the Arminian position is "not really exegetical." I am convinced that the Calvinist/Augustinian interpretation of the New Testament is simply wrong.

    The Arminian did not pick up his ethical convictions out of thin air. He learned them from Holy Scripture and God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ, which is precisely why he finds the implicit suggestion that the Father of Jesus Christ effectively and efficaciously predestines only some to eternal salvation utterly abhorent. Hence Tim Valentino's accusation of divine child neglect.

    The Arminian position in fact strives to situate itself between universalism and double predestination, recognizing both God's universal salvific will and the mystery of self-damnation (see C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce).

    If my only choice were universalism or double predestination, I would gladly choose the former as the ethically superior position. But I think the Arminian position offers a more realistic and faithful interpretation of the revelatory data and the human situation. God restores humanity to himself in Jesus Christ and gives him a new freedom in the Spirit to love and obey. But he does not coerce. In the words of Cardinal Ratzinger: "Heaven reposes upon freedom and so leaves to the damned the right to will their own damnation.”

    Ultimately, both Calvinism and universalism fail for the same reason.

    This seems like a great argument and helps me see the difference, but how would you answer the Arminian that says that the parent in the example given determined for the child to run into the street in the first place.

    I am somewhat new in the faith, especially Calvinism, so this leaves me speechless. I have no idea how to answer it because when I say we have choices the other person always comes back with God determined everything that you will do and that He is at fault.


    Great post and great comment, Thanks so much for both. They are both helpful to copy and file for future reference.

    Shout out to Gene in NC. My wife (Samira) and I were tremendously helped when your church helped move us out of the apartment to Hickory.


    how do you respond to, "the parent in the example given determined for the child to run into the street in the first place."

    Several ways.

    First, the Arminian cannot escape the same problem. Before God created the world, even in their view, He knew exhausively everything that would come to pass and He created it that way knowing full well how everything would turn out even before the world existed, we must ask the Arminian, why did He create it, knowing, with certainly that certain individuals would go to hell and it could not be otherwise. For if the God knows what will happen before He creates it, then the future is fixed and cannot be otherwise. So to the Arminian who says God is trying to save every person.... Why would God try to save someone He already knows with certainty, will not come to Him? It makes no sense.

    Second, Read Romans 9:15 to the end of the chapter. Paul gives the example of people blaming God for injustice since Paul teaches he has mercy on whom he will and he hardens whom he will, and the Arminian is doing the very thing Paul rebukes.

    Thirdly, While God ordains all that comes to pass, this does not come about by coercion. Look at Acts 2:23 & 4 where evil men crucified the Son ... yet God ordained them to do so - they are to blame.

    "...this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.(Acts 2:23)

    "...for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." Acts 4:27-28

    So as you can see, God ordained the most evil act in history to take place, and yet he remains blamless. God ordains sin sinlessly. They must respond to the many passages in the Bible, like this, where this is clearly the case. The men who crucified Jesus must take ownership of their sin. Likewise, while God ordains all that comes to pass (Eph 1:11), we chose to sin voluntarily .. we do not do so against our will. Our will, in in bondage to sin, so we sin of necessity, not by coersion. Even the Arminain would acknowledge that the unregenerate persons sins of necessity apart from grace.

    So the question comes down to this: According to Scripture, does the grace God gives people prior to salvation put them in a post-regenerate, presalvation state where the sinner is temporarily given an autonomous free will (Arminian) or does the grace God grants actually regenerate (1 John 5:1, John 6:63-65) unto faith (Augustinian).

    There is no exegetical evidence for a state in-between regeneration and salvation. It is a logical (non-biblical) construct the Arminian must make to make his system work. Unfortunately the most critical docrtine he has of prevenient grace has zero scriptural warrant.

    Fr Alvin Kimel

    You said, "I must disagree with Gene's suggestion that the Arminian position is "not really exegetical." I am convinced that the Calvinist/Augustinian interpretation of the New Testament is simply wrong."

    Since you believe your position is exegetical, now, I believe, we are getting somewhere. Please demonstrate us the exegetical case for Arminian prevenient grace, that is, where the case in plainly made that God temporarily places huamn beings in a semi-regenerate state above our natural depravity in order that we may choose. Simply saying you believe we are wrong is one thing, but proving it Scripturally is quite another. It appears to us that Arminianism is simply your preference because you want it to be true. If it is in fact true, the Biblical case for prevenient grace is a good place to start and should be easily demonstrated. We would be delighted to be shown from Scripture that we are wrong. Truth is more importantant than our pride, any day of the week.


    In my thoughts i find that the differnce that is missing from the analogy is the fact that the parent went after His child. This claims the child from the begining, and so leads us to what if the child was a stranger without the teachings of the parent. This thought may leave the analogy incomplete as the child becomes adopted by the parent, the child assumes responsibilty of the teachings that follow. In any account just some more food for debate I am sure. But quite enjoyable none the less. Rev. Goodwin, UMC

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