Tag Archives: Arminianism, as it relates to being Baptist

“T is for Total Depravity”

2 Nov

“”For that which I do, I allow not:  for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:  for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:15-18)


The above passage is in one of the chapters over which Arminius and Calvin differed the most.


Arminius said it was written by Paul as an unregenerate man, or looking back to when he had been unregenerate.


Calvin said Paul wrote it after he was saved. 


Which way do you believe?


I am leaving town for a two week business trip so I will be reblogging the posts of others for most of that time. 


I am going to drop a bombshell here.


I agree with Calvin.  And that those verses frame the “total depravity” doctrine.


It makes no sense that God would inspire His Scripture, even part of it, through an unregenerate man.  I know of no other book in the Bible where anyone has made that claim. 


And the passage itself shows Paul fighting against the evil inside of himself.  I don’t think we do that before we are saved.  The total weight of Scripture shows us that.


Before we are saved, we just give in to sin, with no qualms about it.


So if the great apostle Paul realized that in his flesh, after salvation, dwelt no good thing, is it unrealistic for us to agree?


You see, I have spent a lifetime studying people.  I love to people watch.


And one thing we all do is self-justify.  We try to convince ourselves and others that our actions are coming from righteous motives while everyone else’s actions are the results of sin. 


What could be a more stunning mark of our total depravity than our own total lack of consciousness that it exists?


If I do something that hurts someone and then defend it with the idea that I am a good person and would never intentionally hurt someone, I am all about me and not at all about God’s glory.  How much better to just ask forgiveness and move on, trying to grow and learn to better glorify a Holy God by my actions.


My concern is that many Christians I know have the idea that they were 98% okay before they met Jesus and just needed Him to die and rise again so they could get that 2% boost into heaven. 


My friends, that cheapens the life and death of our Holy God, who came and dwelt among us and was tortured to death because . . . we have a sin problem. 


That is bad news and good news at the same time, as my reblog today also points out.  It is bad news because we can’t get ourselves to heaven.  It is the most excellent news because God has provided a way to get us there. 


“By grace, through faith.”  (Ephesians 2:8,9).


Yes, I do believe in total depravity.  I am not sure about some of the other Calvin/TULIP doctrines (and you can see that I am studying them out for myself this year), but I can’t think of one good, Biblical reason to fight against the doctrine of total depravity.


And I believe we fight total depravity in our flesh our entire life, not just until we are saved.


Life gets sweeter when we agree with God on this and let Him start showing us His more excellent way–how to work against the evil that is ever present in our own hearts.


Which Way the Wind Blows (or Human Choice in Salvation)

28 Oct

John 3:8, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

Yesterday, I left my usual form of discourse and addressed an issue directly and sharply, probably leaving little room for argument (at least I hoped so).

Today’s post will also be different in that it involves a series of questions I can’t answer.  Some of the questions may not be answerable in this world.  I am not sure.

The discussion might be fruitful, however, as we strive to know God and discover His ways in the world He created.

In the above verse, Jesus challenged Nicodemus about not understanding earthly things.  He said if Nico couldn’t understand earthly things, he should not expect to understand heavenly things.

Sometimes I think we are in a similar bind when we try to explain how God’s election/choice interacts with our choice in the process of salvation.

I know there are two extremes in belief, the extreme Arminian belief (now usually referred to as “open theism” in which it is taught that God Himself doesn’t know the outcome of all events) and Hypercalvinism, in which man is drawn to God by irresistible grace without seemingly having any choice at all in the process.

There are many shades of belief in between the two extremes, usually clustered around five points called either the Five Points of Calvinism or the Five Points of Arminianism.

Smarter people than me have studied and debated these ideas for centuries.  Some of these debates have been, and remain, rancorous.  My aim is to take apart these ideas and present them in a way that the layperson can understand.  Sometimes important issues are at stake.  I try to identify those.

Talking with a friend of about my same age today, we remarked how much the world has changed in our lifetime.  We mentioned my career as a female naval officer and her husband’s career as a nurse.  When we were young, it was rare to have a female naval officer or a male nurse.  There were centuries when such people would have been non-existent.

The question became, “Did God change His will as the human race changed?  Was He not calling any women to be naval officers or men to be nurses in the 1800’s?  Or did He have such a calling upon people all along, but it took a while for the human race to catch up to His will?”

You see, that may seem like an exercise in semantics to some, but the question truly encapsulates God’s movement in this world.

People have wills, too, and groups of people have collective wills and, somehow, whole societies willed for centuries that there would not be female naval officers or male nurses, though both of those roles exist now and people are doing wonderfully at them.  How do we explain that?

Hmmm!  I can’t even explain God’s will in earthly things.  How can I explain it in heavenly things (in the process of salvation)?

Another thing I have noted is that almost no one says “yes” to God the first time he hears the plan of salvation.  So right there the idea of “irresistible grace” has to be modified.  If it were truly irresistible in the sense the Hypercalvinists use, no one would be able to withstand it at all, even for five minutes or a couple of weeks.

So, it can take a while for an individual to understand what salvation is, and to accept it.  Doesn’t it seem then like it might be a bit hard for we humans on earth, caught in time as we are, to see the overall view of how salvation looks from eternity?  I fear we get caught up on facets of it and argue those, in the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debates.  The entire product probably can’t be comprehended nor explained completely while we are still in earthly bodies.

And that is why I maintain a holy awe toward such things.  I know Jesus came to save me and I am a saved woman.  I also know there are many parts of my salvation which I can’t explain but just accept by faith.  And for me, right now, that is enough.

And while we are on the topic of Arminianism and Arminius . . .

24 Oct


Seems like Romans 7 is one of the keys.  Do you think that the passage about “the good that I would do, I do not” was written by Paul as a believer, as Calvin thought, or as an unbeliever (or later looking back to when he was an unbeliever), as Jacob Arminius thought?  Some interesting history of how we got to where we are today!


Strawman Monday: Some Thoughts as a Baptist Looks at Calvinism

22 Oct

Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”


“Surely the five points of Calvinism (TULIP) are not all doctrines with which we disagree.  Total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.  Seems like we agree completely on total depravity, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.  Unconditional election is pretty hard to dispute by anyone who believes Jeremiah 17:9 about the heart’s deceitfulness.  There is nothing to recommend us to salvation except the fact that God loves us.  So . . . we get stuck on the limited atonement issue.  And fight so fiercely about it that you might think that Calvinist doctrine was more of an obstacle to Baptists than are the cults, or the Eastern religions, or the atheists.”


The above quote is from my first post on Calvinism, several months ago (see the category “Calvinism” to pull it up).


Remembering that a strawman argument occurs when we write down what we think someone believes, and then argue against that, instead of taking the time to learn someone’s true beliefs and then say why we disagree with them, I am going to try to deconstruct the anti-Calvinist reaction that many of us Baptists have.


It does not really go back to Arminianism, I have found (and I will write about Arminianism later, just not now).  It really, truly goes back to the era when Baptists were known as “four-pointers” (General Baptists or those who believe in a general atonement) and “five-pointers” (Particular Baptists or those who believe in particular atonement or, as Calvinists say “limited atonement).


Baptists have pretty much never gone to the extremes of Arminianism that other denominations have.  And it’s a good thing.  You see, I have seen an extreme reaction to the election doctrine among some of my Episcopal/Anglican friends.  These particular friends are born again, I am sure of it.  But they are teaching that, since they don’t believe in election, God not only doesn’t elect anyone for salvation but He doesn’t even know yet who will and who will not be saved.


How do you make a case for God’s sovereignty if you believe that?  I believe the doctrine is called “the open-ended universe.”  In that belief system, God doesn’t determine a lot of the outcomes in His creation.  And He doesn’t know about them till after they happen, as though God could be constrained by time, as we humans are.


No, we Baptists are left, along with the Calvinists, to try to explain in our systematic theology how we can reconcile a God who is sovereign and knows everything before it happens with a world in which we have choices.

The Calvinists choose an explanation of that which we Baptists would consider extreme, saying that the Holy Spirit engages in the salvation process in a much stronger way than we Baptists traditionally believe.  We all agree that the Holy Spirit starts the salvation process.  If He didn’t woo us, then we would never come to Christ.  We differ on what happens after that.


That, my friends, seems to be the area where Calvinists and Baptists differ.  Right there.  The Holy Spirit’s role in the process of salvation.


We Baptists are not Arminians, at least not unless we are Free Will Baptists who believe that you can lose your salvation.  See, that doctrine is part of Arminianism, too.


So . . . if we are very close to being “four pointer” Calvinists or even “five pointer” Calvinists as Baptists, it is important for us to listen carefully to each other, so as not to make strawmen arguments out of each other’s doctrines.  We are talking fine points of doctrine here, not differences that are like chasms between us.  And it is hard to understand fine points of doctrine if we are in attack mode.


It is only meet and comely to listen and to treat each other with mutual respect.  After all, we will have to share heaven together for eternity.

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