"...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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  • « His Truth Is Marching On | Main | A Simple Way To Evangelize »

    Three Views of Salvation

    The problem with analogies is that at some point, they almost always fail. While the illustration does not give sufficient account of the biblical portrait of man (the man would need to be dead at the bottom of the river), it does achieve the purpose of answering the specific question, “Which of those three men is the truest illustration of what God does to save us?” – John Samson


    “Long ago, when I was an undergraduate, I had an experience on one of the rivers in Oxford where students love to pole themselves around in flat-bottomed boats called punts. I do not know if undergraduates do it in the universities of this country, but we do it in Oxford. The experience was my falling into the river. I can still remember the surprise I had when I suddenly found myself upside down in the water and that there were strands of green weed around my head and the light was up at my feet. You do not forget that sort of thing quickly, and on the basis of that experience I construct for you the following illustration.

    Imagine a man who has fallen into a river. He cannot swim. The weeds have caught his feet. He is threshing around, but he cannot get free and will not be above the surface for very long. His state is desperate. Three people come along on the bank. One looks at him and says, ‘Oh, he’s all right; if he struggles he’ll get out; they always do. It’s even good for his character that he should have to struggle like this. I’ll leave him.’

    The second person looks at the poor struggling man and says, ‘I’d like to help you. I can see what you need. You need some tips about swimming. Let me tell you how to swim.’ He gives him a great of good advice, but he stops there.

    Then there is the third man who comes along and sees the measure of the trouble. He jumps in, overcomes the man’s struggles, gets him free from the weeds that have caught him, brings him to shore, gives him artificial respiration, and puts him back on his feet. Which of those three men is the truest illustration of what God does to save us?

    These three views have theological names. The first corresponds to what is called Pelagianism: its only message is self-help. A hard and unfeeling form of Christianity it is. The second corresponds to what is called Arminianism: God tells us how to be saved, but stops there. The third corresponds to Calvinism. And you can see how the illustration fits. God takes the initiative. Christ comes right down to where we are, enters into our trouble, and does all that has to be done. He breaks the bonds of sin that bind us, brings us to land (that is, to God), restores life, and makes us believers, all this by his sovereign grace which saves absolutely and wonderfully from first to last.”

    “To All Who Will Come,” in Serving the People of God: The Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer, Volume 2 (Paternoster Press), 200-01.

    Posted by John Samson on April 21, 2016 08:17 PM


    While I think you have some good things to say in this article, I would disagree with a couple points.

    In Arminiansism, God does not simply tell us how to be saved but then do nothing. Rather, John 1:12 says, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." Furthermore, Romans chapter 4 tells us that Abraham believed God and it was his faith that was imputed to him as righteousness. As an Arminian, I fully understand not only how to be saved, but that faith is required on my part if I want to be saved. Without faith, none of us can have a relationship with God. Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace are you saved through faith.." Faith is the irreducible minimum.

    The difference between Arminianism and Calvinism is not that Calvinists are the only ones that believe that God saves us. Rather, it is that Calvinists would lead people to believe that God out of His great sovereignty intentionally created people who He ordained would never be allowed to be saved. As such, the very character of God and His love is attacked.

    If we would be honest we would instead say that the true illustration for Calvinist Theology is as follows: "There were two men struggling to no drown. A man comes along and sees the measure of their trouble. He jumps in, overcomes ones man struggles, gets him free from the weeds that have caught him, brings him to shore, gives him artificial respiration, and puts him back on his feet. However, he then looks at the second drowning man and says, "I am in complete control and I sovereign choose that you must die so that I might be glorified."

    That is an egregious insult to the very character of God, not truth.

    I have to disagree with Mr. Dewhurst's comment. Calvinism does not teach that God creates certain people for the express purpose of destroying them for His own glorification.


    Your analogy is grossly sub-biblical and does not take into account unregenerate man's hostile disposition towards God. Here's a response to the type of argument you make above from Dr. James White:

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