Tag Archives: Arminianism

God’s Election and Reprobation in 2 Thessalonians 2:9–14

“The arrival of the lawless one will be by Satan’s working with all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders, and with every kind of evil deception directed against those who are perishing, because they found no place in their hearts for the truth so as to be saved. Consequently God sends on them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. And so all of them who have not believed the truth but have delighted in evil will be condemned. But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. He called you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess 2:9–14)

I want to make a few brief comments on this passage.

1. This passage on God decreeing the elect to salvation comes on the contextual heels of God decreeing the reprobate to eternal perdition. It is in the context of the lawless one’s parousia and Jesus Christ’s parousia:

“and then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will destroy by the breath of his mouth and wipe out by the manifestation of his arrival. The arrival of the lawless one will be by Satan’s working with all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders” (2 Thess 2:8–9).

As we move closer to the Lord’s return, Paul exhorts believers that the threat of apostasy is real; the warnings are a means by which God perseveres his elect people from the temptation to apostatize (see the many forms in 2 Thess 2 of exhorting to stay faithful).

God is both active in election (“God chose you”) and hardening in reprobation (“God sends on them”).

2. Ephesians is not the only instance where Paul grounds election in love (Eph 1:4). There are other instances such as this passage: “brothers and sisters loved [ἠγαπημένοι] by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation.” We know we are loved by God because (ὅτι) of his act of electing us for (εἰς) salvation. The obverse is that those who are not elected are not “loved [ἠγαπημένοι] by the Lord.” They are rather “those who are perishing” (2 Thess 2:10).

3. “God chose [εἵλατο] you [ὑμᾶς] . . . .” God is the actor performing the choosing, where the “you” is the direct object. Arminians may object by claiming that because the verb εἵλατο (“chose”) is in the middle voice, that leaves room for some activity of so-called “prevenient grace” activated by the creature’s will. Those who typically say this never actually explain how that works. In short, it is a linguistic blunder, or more accurately, it reveals no familiarity with the Koine Greek language. It is used to throw something against the wall and hope that it sticks with the linguistic benighted.

The middle voice rather is subject focused and such verbs “shift attention from the situation itself to the role of the subject” (Decker, Reading Koine Greek, 227), and “[its] specific features is the affectedness of the subject of the verb in, or by, the event denoted by the verb” (Bakker, “Voice, Aspect and Aktionsart,” 24), and “middle voice, in which the subject performs the action but with a self-interest nuance” (Decker, Reading Koine Greek, 227; cf. 235–36; see also Mathewson and Emig, Intermediate Greek Grammar, 148).

4. As if the fact that it is God decreeing and thus performing the choosing for salvation did not make Paul’s point, he emphasizes that this gracious act was done “from the beginning.” This excludes our participation in the sovereign decree of salvation since it was ordained before we were born.

5. “through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” Another feature of salvation that excludes any claim by us to have some efficacious boasting is that salvation is brought about by the work of the sanctifying work of the Spirit (ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος). Paul attributes the work of the Spirit in our salvation numerous times (see esp. Rom 8). The work of the Spirit brings about faith in the truth (πίστει ἀληθείας). Arminians who claim that the mention of “faith” must be the determining factor of their salvation has read Paul’s words literally backwards making faith the mechanism by which brings about the Spirit’s work and determines God’s decree before time! It is rather an absurd reading that is indicative of the Arminian tradition. Paul is praising God for what he does for us, something we could not do for ourselves.

6. And this is emphasized by Paul’s very next statement: “He called [ἐκάλεσεν] you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 2:14). Paul uses another electing term, a favorite of his, called (ἐκάλεσεν) (see also the “golden chain of redemption,” Rom 8:28–30). The object of God’s decreeing action, once again, is you (ὑμᾶς).

In summary, Paul teaches that this electing love of God is the basis for his exhortations to have hope, comfort, and faith in trials and temptations to apostatize from the faith. In fact, this sovereign attribute of God’s faithfulness is effective to protect us from even the most evil one in the universe: “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thess 3:3).

 

A Short Reply to Brian Abasciano on John 3:16

James N. Anderson has replied to Abasciano here.

I want to briefly illustrate Abasciano’s co-text myopia.

Abasciano claims that πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων (pas ho pisteuōn, “whoever believes”) grammatically conveys indefiniteness. It actually does not, at least as it is realized in this particular discourse of John.

If Abasciano wants to be consistent then he must conclude that John is teaching that everyone believes in something, qua belief, regardless of what someone believes. So someone could believe in the tooth fairy, according to Abasciano’s insistence of disconnecting the notion of indefiniteness from its co-text delimiters.

Abasciano and Arminians isolate the phrase πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων. But the entire subject of the clause is not πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων; rather it is πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν. They conveniently leave out εἰς αὐτὸν.

Next time you listen to an Arminian, notice how they break up the subject of this clause by disconnecting and isolating πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων from εἰς αὐτὸν.

This rules out the tooth fairy since it refers to those (not indefinite) who believe in Jesus.

In short, this point in John 3:16 is teaching the object of belief, not the originator of belief.

 

Regards,
Alan E. Kurschner

 

 

What You NEED to Know about the Calvinism and Arminianism Debate

The Calvinism-Arminianism debate is substantially a debate between what is called “synergism” and “monergism.” For those who are new to this debate, the following is a primer on the two perennial branches of theological systems within Christianity. Or to put it another way, there are two very different ways for believers to understand their salvation.

The first type is the Arminian-Synergist. They affirm synergism. It teaches that two forces in the universe are necessary to bring about regeneration in the life of the sinner. Specifically, the two forces at work (cooperation) that are necessary to bring about regeneration, or spiritual life, is the human will and the Holy Spirit (grace).

To put it another way, the work of the Holy Spirit is dependent on the creature’s will; hence, “synergism” (working together). These individuals will sincerely say, “I believe in grace alone.” But the truth is they believe that grace is not alone (sufficient); rather, the human will is necessary for regeneration to be effective.

Many people do not like being labeled “Arminian” (e.g. “I am neither Calvinist or Arminian!) The reality, however, is their theology functions synergistically. Thus, how they identify themselves is inconsistent with what they teach and believe. At the end of the day, they are Arminian, whether they like it or not.

The second group is Calvinist-Monergist. They affirm monergism. They (including myself) believe that there is only one force in the universe (grace alone) that brings about regeneration in the life of the sinner. In specifics, because of the deadness of the spiritual human will (i.e. moral inability), the Holy Spirit performs the miracle of spiritual resurrection (regeneration) in that person. Thus it is monergism (one work). Grace is sufficient to be effective, and does not depend on some action of the human will.

In other words, the Holy Spirit does not merely “whisper” in the hardened sinner’s ear and hopes that the rebel sinner will “cooperate.” Instead, while the sinner is in a state of hardness and rebellion, the Holy Spirit penetrates into the human will and performs the miracle of spiritual life (regeneration). That is grace alone. That is what the Bible teaches. Faith does not precede regeneration, regeneration precedes faith.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions– it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13

“He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:47

Arminians cannot affirm grace alone. They must always have the creature’s will as the final determiner of their destiny, not God.

One final note.

Arminians pray inconsistently. They pray unknowingly as a Calvinist:

“God, change the unbeliever’s heart.”

I have never heard an Arminian pray:

“God, only whisper in the unbeliever’s ear, but don’t change their heart unless you’ve been given permission by the unbeliever.”

The Calvinist prays and affirms biblical truth consistently.

 

Why Divine Electing Love Requires Exclusivity

In his The God of Israel and Christian Theology R. Kendall Soulen make a case why God’s love must be exclusive in his election of the physical people Abraham-Israel. The same principle can be applied to the Divine electing love of individuals—Jew or Gentile—who are in Christ.

But why should God be a God of election at all? Does not God love all persons equally? Why should God choose one people and not another? Wyschogrod’s insistence upon God’s freedom prohibits him from saying that God had to elect one family over the rest. Yet given the fact that God has done so, it is possible to seek reasons for what God has done in order to display ground for human gratitude….

For Wyschogrod, this account of love [sharp distinction between agape and eros love]  is suspect because it bifurcates the human condition in an unreal way. In this respect it resembles the distinction between body and soul. Body and soul are aspects of the one being that God created in God’s image. To regard a person primary as a soul rather than as a concrete unity is to risk missing the human being who is really there. Similarly, true love is impossible without an element of eros that orients agape on the reality of the particular one who is loved. This introduces an element of exclusivity into true love. Without this directedness and exclusivity, agape because fictitious:

Undifferentiated love, love that is dispensed equally to all must be love that does not meet the individual in his individuality but sees him as a member of a species, whether that species be the working class, the poor, those created in the image of God, or what not.

Real encounter is possible only when humans are regarded as more than instance of a class. Genuine human love is directed to the concrete individuality of the other; therefore, genuine human love requires exclusivity (7–8).

Synergism Belongs in a Car Dealership, Not in Divine Salvation . . .

The “Calvinism-Arminianism” debate is substantially a debate between what is called “synergism” and “monergism.” For those who are new to this debate, the following is an instructive primer on the two perennial branches of theological systems in Christianity. Or to put it another way, there are two very different ways for believers to understand their salvation.

In general, the first type, Arminian-Synergist, affirms what is called “synergism.” It teaches that two forces in the universe are necessary to bring about regeneration in the life of the sinner. In specifics, the two forces at work (cooperation) that are necessary to bring about regeneration, or spiritual life, is the human will and the Holy Spirit (grace).

To put it another way, the work of the Holy Spirit is dependent on the creature’s will, hence, “synergism” (working together). These individuals will sincerely say, “I believe in grace alone.” But in reality, they believe that grace is not alone (sufficient), but that the human will is necessary for regeneration to be effective.

It could be said that these individuals are “functional” Arminians because even though some will deny the label, their theology functions synergistically; thus, how they identify themselves is inconsistent with what they teach and believe.

The second group of believers, Calvinist-Monergist, affirm what is called “monergism.” They believe that there is only one force in the universe (grace alone) that brings about regeneration in the life of the sinner. In specifics, because of the deadness of the spiritual human will (i.e. moral inability), the Holy Spirit performs the miracle of spiritual resurrection (regeneration) in that person; hence, “monergism” (one work). Grace is sufficient to be effective, and does not depend on some action of the human will.
In other words, the Holy Spirit does not merely whisper in the hardened sinner’s ear and hopes that the rebel sinner will “cooperate”; rather, while the sinner is in a state of hardness and rebellion, the Holy Spirit penetrates into the human will and performs the miracle of spiritual life (regeneration). That is grace alone. Faith does not precede regeneration, regeneration precedes faith.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions– it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13

He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:47

Arminians cannot affirm monergism (grace alone); they must always have the creature’s will as the final determiner of their destiny, not God. Inconsistently, Arminians pray, without knowingly, as a Calvinistic: “God, change the unbeliever’s heart.” I have never heard an Arminian pray: “God, only whisper in the unbeliever’s ear, but don’t change their heart unless you’ve been given permission by the unbeliever.”

The Calvinist prays and affirms biblical truth consistently.