Four Views of the Kingdom of God

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“When Jesus arrived on the scene, he immediately began proclaiming the message of a new kingdom: “The time has come … The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) …

They [the religious leaders] feared that, if Jesus continued to proclaim this royal domain, the Romans would destroy their temple and any hope for a kingdom (John 11:47-48).

But this kingdom was different. He [Jesus] never provided a detailed verbal definition of his kingdom. Instead, he told stories – and his parables rarely included the typical trappings of kingship. There were no horses or chariots or battles in these stories. Instead, Jesus told about a woman who was kneading some dough, a farmer whose neighbor mixed weeds with his wheat, and a man who planted some mustard seeds (Matthew 24:24-33).” [1]

We will now consider four of the popularly advocated and held to views of the kingdom of God

  1. Amillennialism
  2. Postmillennialism
  3. Historical Premillennialism
  4. Dispensational Premillennialism

 

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[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.113

Sources:

  • Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

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How God Will Fulfill His Promises to Abraham and Israel

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

What were God’s promises to Abraham?

  1. To make a great nation from Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:1-3)
  2. To give to Abraham’s descendants all the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:18-21)
  3. To make Abraham a father of many nations (Genesis 17:2-9)
 Perspective
A) Dispensational i) Quick Summary: God has two plans with two people, the church and Israel. God will fulfill His promises to Abraham and Israel by giving to ethnic Jews the land that He promised to Abraham

“Throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes: one related to the earth with earthly people and earthly objectives involved, which is Judaism; while the other is related to heaven with heavenly people and heavenly objectives involved, which is Christianity.” [1]

ii) Specifics

  1. Fulfillment in the future through the nation of Israel: At some point in the future, physical descendants of the ancient Israelite people will possess the land God promised to Abraham

iii) Different ways someone can be a child of Abraham [2]

  1. Through physical descent: The Jewish people are children of Abraham through natural lineage from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  2. Through spiritual adoption: Believers in Jesus Christ are children to Abraham through a spiritual lineage. God’s purpose in the spiritual lineage is separate from His purpose and work with the nation of Israel.

The offer of grace to Gentiles was “an unexpected and unpredicted” spiritual parenthesis within God’s work with the physical descendants of Abraham. [3]

B) Covenantal   i) Quick Summary: God has one plan with one people, with one covenant of grace which extends from the fall of humanity to the end of time. God’s work with Israel was preparatory for His work with the church

ii) Differing opinions amongst covenantal theologians on the specifics:

  1. Fulfillment during King Soloman’s reign: According to 1 Kings 4:21, Solomon ruled all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the border of Egypt. This fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:18
  2. A promise with a condition: God promised that the descendants of Abraham would receive the land regardless of their deeds (Deuteronomy 9:5) but would retain the land only if they remained faithful to their God (Joshua 23:15-16). When the Israelites turned to other gods, they lost this aspect of God’s blessing (Deuteronomy 4:26)
  3. Fulfillment through the church:  The church has superseded Israel as God’s people. God is fulfilling His promises to the Jewish people through the church. Verse referred to include Galatians 6:16, James 1:1, Matthew 21:43)

Because the Jewish people had not               turned to Jesus, “God changed his                 covenant – that is, he bestowed the               inheritance of eternal life on foreign           nations – and collected to himself a               more faithful people.” [4]

C) New Covenantal  i) Quick Summary: God has one purpose that He has worked out through multiple covenants. God’s work with Abraham and Israel was a temporary picture of what God has already purposed to do in Jesus. God’s promises to Abraham find their fulfillment in Jesus

“The [Old Testament] law was a parable, a sketch. The gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment.” [5]

ii) Specifics

  1. Old covenant as a temporary picture of the new covenant: The covenant with Abraham and Israel was intended to be fulfilled in Jesus and then to pass away (Hebrews 3:5, 8:5-13, 9:8-10, 10:9). The present and future reign of Jesus over all the earth fulfills God’s promise to Abraham.
  2. Fulfillment in Jesus Christ: God’s promise was made primarily to one offspring of Abraham, Jesus the Messiah (Genesis 12:7; Galatians 3:16). The present and future reign of Jesus over all the earth fulfills God’s promise to Abraham.

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dispensationalism (1951), p.107

[2] John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (2010), p.145

[3] John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question (2010)

[4] Lactanius, Divinarum Institutionum, 4:11

[5] Melito of Sardis, Peri Pascha, pp. 39-45

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), pp.54, 57-63

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Views on Divine Providence

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

This article is a summary of the four views on divine providence which are expressed in Zondervan’s Four Views on Divine Providence (2011). The four views presented & interacted with are as follows:

  1. God Causes All Things
  2. God Directs All Things
  3. God Controls By Liberating
  4. God Limits His Control
Perspective  Proponent & Overview
 A) God Causes All Things  i) Proponent

Paul Kjoss Helseth

ii) Overview

Dennis W. Jowers: “… God exercises comprehensive control over even the minutest aspects of his creatures’ activities” [1]

The Westminster Confession of Faith: “God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy” [2]

B.B. Warfield: “There is nothing that is, and nothing that comes to pass, that [God] has not first decreed and then brought to pass by His creation or providence” [3]

Paul Kjoss Helseth: “… particular evils happen because he [God] ordained that they would, and he did so for reasons that, while ultimately inscrutable, nevertheless serve to conform believers more and more to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-30) and, in the process, to cultivate in them the Christian virtues of perseverance, proven character, and hope (Rom. 5:1-5)” [4]

B) God Directs All Things  i) Proponent

William Lane Craig

ii) Overview

Dennis W. Jowers: “… God employs “middle knowledge”, his knowledge of what human beings would decide to do under any conceivable set of circumstances, to control creaturely affairs without depriving human beings of libertarian freedom.” [1], or

William Lane Craig: “… by employing his hypothetical knowledge, God can plan a world down to the last detail and yet do so without annihilating creaturely freedom, since God already factored into the equation what people would do freely under various circumstances.” [5]

William Lane Craig: “We may formulate this argument as follows:

  1. If there are counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, then God knows these truths
  2. There are true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom
  3. If God know true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, God knows them either logically prior to the divine creative decree or only logically posterior to the divine creative decree
  4. Counterfactuals of creaturely freedom cannot be known only logically posterior to the divine creative decree

From premises 1 and 2, it follows logically that

  1. Therefore, God knows true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom

From premises 3 and 5, it follows that

  1. Therefore, God knows true counterfactuals of creaturely divine freedom either logically prior to the divine creative decree or only logically posterior to the divine creative decree

And from premises 4 and 6, it follows that

  1. Therefore, God knows true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom logically prior to the divine creative decree” [6]

William Lane Craig: “… the Molinists, by placing God’s hypothetical knowledge of creaturely freedom by exempting counterfactual truths about creaturely choices from God’s decree. In the same way the necessary truths like 2 + 2 = 4 are prior to and therefore independent of God’s decree, so counterfactual truths about how creatures would freely choose under various circumstances are prior to and independent of God’s decree.” [5]

William Lane Craig: “He [God] is thus like a Grand Master who is playing an opponent whom he knows so well that he knows every move his opponent would make in response to his own moves. Such a chess player could not actualize just any possible match, given his opponent’s freedom, but he could actualize any feasible match.” [7]

William Lane Craig: “Via his middle knowledge, then, God can have complete knowledge of both conditional future contingents and absolute future contingents. Such knowledge gives him sweeping sovereignty over the affairs of men. Yet such an account of God’s knowledge is wholly compatible with human freedom, since the circumstances envisioned in counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are nondetermining and, hence, freedom-preserving.” [8]

C) God Controls By Liberating  i) Proponent

Ron Highfield

ii) Overview

a) By Ron Highfield

“Through the Word and the Spirit, God gives real and lasting efficacy to human action by empowering and directing all things, including human freedom, to their God-appointed end … God frees human freedom from the futility of its blind groping and enables it to achieve its end.” [9]

“In the explicit teaching of the New Testament, the fullness of freedom is not the beginning but the goal, of human life. It is not the power to choose between this and that or between good and evil; it is the power for, and the actual state of, loving God perfectly and willing his will invariably.” [10]

God’s providential and saving actions – even when they overrule and defeat our misguided and sinful intentions – are designed to liberate us from sin and death. Even if we cannot explain how God works in providence to accomplish his will perfectly, we can now see that the objection that such a view of providence contradicts human freedom and responsibility – however enticing to philosophical intuition – possesses no biblical warrant.” [10]

“… God does not do evil when he works in and through and after stupid, ignorant, and evil human acts. God overcomes the stupidity, ignorance, and evil to accomplish his good will perfectly.” [11]

 D) God Limits His Control  i) Proponent

Gregory Boyd

ii) Overview

a) By Gregory Boyd

“While there is never a question whether these foes [the forces of evil] will be ultimately vanquished by the work of Christ, it is also perfectly clear in the Gospels, as throughout the entire Bible, that these cosmic foes genuinely resist the reign of God and exercise a formidable destructive influence in the world today.” [12]

“… Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane … asked if it was possible for the Father to alter the divine plan to accomplish the mission in some way that avoided the hellish spiritual and physical agony of the cross (Matt. 26:39). In this particular instance, of course, it was not possible. Yet this prayer – by the only one who truly knows the Father (Matt. 11:27) – reveals that God is in principle open to modifying his plans in response to human input, as we find him doing throughout the biblical narrative (e.g., Ex. 32:12-14)” [13]

“God’s decision to create a cosmos that was capable of love and that was, therefore, populated with free agents was also a decision to create and govern a world he could not unilaterally control.” [14]

“To the extent that God gives an agent free will, he cannot meticulously control what that agent does. Yet the “cannot” in this statement is not a matter of insufficient power, for God remains all-powerful. It rather is simply a matter of definition. Just as God cannot create a round triangle or a married bachelor, so too he cannot meticulously control free agents.” [15]

“God’s knowledge of what will come to pass in the future is incomprehensibly superior to ours, simply because he perfectly knows all past and present variables that effect what comes to pass, including his own will. Yet, amid all the things we do not have say-so over, the open view holds that free agents have (or at least had) some degree of say-so, however slight it may be in the total scheme of things.” [16]

“In contrast to the classical view that assumed the future could be exhaustively described by propositions asserting what will or will not come to pass, the open view holds that, insofar as agents face ontological possibilities, the future must be described by propositions asserting what might and might not come to pass.” [17]

“Since an omniscient God must know the truth-value of all propositions, in other words, he must know the truth value of “might” propositions as well as “will” propositions.” [17]

“… what it is about divine omniscience that renders it metaphysically impossible for God ever to create a world in which the future was causally open to alternate possibilities and therefore known by God as such?” [18]

“While Scripture certainly depicts aspects of the future as settled either in God’s mind (foreknowledge) or by God’s will (predestination), no Scripture forces the conclusion that the future is exhaustively settled, let alone necessarily settled from all eternity.” [19]

“The very fact that Jesus inquired [in Matt. 26:39, 42] about this possibility presumes that it is in principle possible for God to change his mind in response to prayer. Yet it is hard to see how God could ever modify his plans in the flow of history if every one of his plans had been unalterably settled from all eternity.” [20]

“Similarly, if the future is eternally settled in God’s mind and/or by God’s will, it is challenging to see how God could genuinely regret some of his decisions in light of how events played themselves out (Gen. 6:6-7; 1 Sam 15:11, 35)” [21]

“… if the future is eternally settled, it is difficult to see how God could express surprise over how humans behave, and even confess several times that he expected people to act differently (e.g., Jer. 3:7, 19; Isa. 5:1-5).” [21]

“Along the same lines, it is quite hard to understand why Scripture on numerous occasions would depict God as testing people to see how they would choose if their choices were settled in eternity before their testing (e.g., Deut. 8:2; 13:1-3)” [21]

“So too, it is not clear how Scripture could encourage us to speed up the time of the Lord’s return by how we live if the exact time of his return was eternally set in stone (2 Peter 3:11-12).” [21]

“God, the author of the adventure of creation, as it were, predetermines the overall structure of the adventure as well as all the possible story lines and all the possible endings within this adventure. Moreover, if God predestines certain events to take place if certain story lines are chosen and other events to take place regardless of what story lines are chosen. Yet within this predetermined structure, free agents  are empowered with a certain amount of say-so as to which of the many possible story lines is actualised.” [22]

“… an infinitely intelligent God is as prepared for every one of any number of possible future events as he would be for a single future event that was certain to take place.” [23]

“While not everything happens for a divine purpose, in the open view, everything happens with a divine purpose, for God from eternity has been preparing a response to each and every possible event in case it takes place. It is evident, then, that the God of open theism knows the future just as effectively as the God of classical theism, who faces an eternally settled future.” [24]

Continue reading “Views on Divine Providence”

Views on the Atonement

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“Whereas the orthodox view concerning Jesus Christ as one person in two natures was established in the early creeds of Christendom, there was at no time the elaboration of an official view of the Atonement. The most that was said in this regard was that Christ “for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.”” [1]

Below we will examine different views of the atonement which have cropped up through the ages. Specific ones considered include

i) Ransom to Satan
ii) Satisfaction to God
iii) Moral Influence on Man
iv)  Governmental Theory

Overview & Proponents
A) Ransom to Satan 1) Overview: The atonement is “a victory over Satan procured through the ransom of Christ.” [1], or

“… the ransom Christ paid to redeem us was paid to Satan, in whose kingdom all people were by virtue of sin.” [2]

2) Those who held to this view

“Among those who, in varying ways, set forward this view were Origen (c. 185-254), Gregory of Nyssa (331-96), Augustine (in part) (345-430), and Pope Gregory the Great (540-604).” [1]

Peter Lombard (c. 1100-1164)

B) Satisfaction to God  1) Overview: God became man in Jesus Christ to render proper satisfaction to the impugned honor of God.

2) Those who held to this view

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109): “Every one who sins ought to pay back the honor of which he has robbed God; and this is the satisfaction which every sinner owes to God” [3]

C) Moral Influence on man  1) Overview: The suffering and death of Christ is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love and mercy which intends to evoke from us the response of love [4], or

It hold that “God did not require the payment of penalty for sin, but that Christ’s death was simply a way in which God showed how much he loved human beings by identifying with their sufferings, even to the point of death. Christ’s death therefore becomes a great teaching example that shows God’s love to us and draws from us a grateful response, so that in loving him we are forgiven. ” [2]

2) Those who held to this view

Peter Abelard (1079-1142): “God in Christ has united our human nature to himself and, by suffering in that same nature, has demonstrated to us that perfection of love … So we, through his grace, are joined to him as closely as to our neighbor by an indissoluble bond of affection.” [5]

D) Governmental Theory  1) Overview: Christ’s death was a demonstration of the fact that God’s laws had been broken, and as the moral lawgiver and governor of the universe, some kind of penalty would be required whenever His laws were broken [6], or

God is viewed as the “Lawgiver who both enacts and sustains law in the universe … The Law states unequivocally: “The soul that sins shall die.” Strict justice requires the eternal death of sinners.” [21]

2) Those who held to this view

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)

 

Elaboration
A) Ransom to Satan “Since Jesus had said he came to “give his life as a ransom for many,” there must have been someone to whom the ransom was paid. The answer, these churchmen held, was Satan, since he held humanity captive until Christ came.

From this perspective the death of Christ was a kind of deal worked out between God and the devil, namely that He would turn over His Son to Satan in exchange for the release of all the souls held captive by him.

Hence when Christ died on the cross and descended into hell, Satan thought he had his price at last. However (and here Satan the ancient deceiver was himself deceived), try as hard as he might, he could not hold Christ fast. Christ’s humanity he sought to destroy, but His divinity Satan could not overcome.” [1]

B) Satisfaction to God “This dishonor of God cannot simply be overlooked or forgiven; it calls for either punishment or satisfaction on the part of the sinner.

However, if punishment is not to occur and satisfaction instead is to be made and sin put away, that satisfaction cannot be accomplished by man because his sin against the infinite God is infinite in character. Accordingly only one who is God can provide this vast satisfaction.

But since man owes it, it must also come from within humanity. This is why God became man in Jesus Christ to make an offering sufficient to satisfy God’s honor.” [7]

C) Moral Influence on man Abelard:  “We are impartially justified by this manifestation of God’s grace.” [5]

“Our redemption through Christ’s suffering is that deeper affection in us which not only frees us from slavery to sin, but also wins for us the true liberty of sons of God, so that we do all things out of love rather than fear …” [8]

Abelard: “… the obstacle [between God and man] rests entirely in man. All that is needed is for man truly to behold the love and benevolence of God and allow his hardened heart to be transformed thereby.” [4]

“In the Incarnation and the Cross we see a demonstration of God’s overwhelming love. This vision moves us to gratitude and love and therefore incites repentance, faith, and a desire to change our behaviour.” [19]

D) Governmental Theory “… God inflicted pain on Christ for the sins of the world in order to uphold his justice and holiness. Christ’s suffering was equivalent to any sinner’s deserved punishment so that God could forgive while at the same time being wholly just and holy.” [9]

Christ’s death was “a public example of the depth of sin and the lengths to which God would go to uphold the moral order of the universe.” [22]

“The effects of His death do not bear on us directly, only secondarily, in that Christ did not die in our place but only in our behalf. The primary focus was not saving sinners but upholding the Law. In the Cross, God showed He can abominate lawlessness and at the same time maintain the Law and forgive the lawless.” [21]

 

Continue reading “Views on the Atonement”

Ways of Interpreting the Bible

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“Over the centuries, Jewish and Christian scholars have developed different ways of interpreting the Bible. Jewish rabbis living around the time of Jesus developed an elaborate set of rules to help them interpret their sacred texts. Among early Christian writers, there were two main schools of thought about biblical interpretation.

Those who studied the Bible in Egypt tended to favour more symbolic interpretations. Those who studied in what is now Turkey, however, preferred more literal, historical readings.

A monk called John Cassian (360–435 AD), took the discussion to the next level by bringing both kinds of interpretation together. He identified four ways in which the Bible could be understood: the literal, the symbolic, the ethical and the mystical. By the Middle Ages, these four methods of interpretation (or ‘senses’) had become fairly standard among Christians.” [1]

Cassian’s “explanation of the four senses of Scripture …, derived from Origen’s three senses, was the basis for the standard fourfold method of Biblical interpretation in the West until the Enlightenment.” [2]

Method, Example, and Challenges
A) Literal Interpretation – Historical-Grammatical-Literalistic Meaning  i) Method: Take every part of the text at its most literal meaning unless the immediate context makes this meaning impossible

ii) Example: “Temple” must be seen as a physical building

iii) Challenges: Sometimes the larger context of the literary genre suggests a broader range of meanings for a word or idea. Not every literary genre was intended to be taken literalistically. May lead to reading certain texts like historical narratives even when those texts were not intended as historical accounts.

B) Literal Interpretation – Historical-Grammatical-Rhetorical Meaning  i) Method: Seek the meaning intended by the original human authors in their historical contexts as conveyed through the Holy Spirit superintended their words and choice of genre. This does not exclude a later fulfillment of a text in a fuller and better way than what the original human author had in mind

ii) Example: “Temple” is seen as the physical building in historical genres and contexts; but in other genres, “temple” might, for example, symbolize the people of God as God’s dwelling place

iii) Challenges: In some cases, it can be difficult to identify the historical context correctly; in other instances, it can be a challenge to understand the nuances of a particular literary genre in its historical context, especially if a text combines different literary genres

C) Moral Interpretation – Ethical Meaning  i) Method: Seek the underlying moral in each biblical story.

“It involves reading between the lines of a Bible passage or verse to see how it applies to daily life. In Jewish circles this was (and is) known as midrash.” [1]

ii) Example: “Temple” might symbolize  the innermost part of the human soul.

In 1 Corinthians 9, the apostle Paul, “quotes a saying from the Old Testament … about oxen and then ‘explains’ what the text actually implied on an ethical level (i.e. that apostles have the right to financial support).” [1]

iii) Challenges: If historical-grammatical-rhetorical interpretation does not remain primary, can lead to reading Scripture as a series of stories to improve our morals instead of seeing that all of Scripture testifies to Jesus Christ and that human morals can never measure up to God’s perfect standard

D) Spiritual Interpretation – Tropological (Spiritual) Meaning  i) Method: Looks for ways in which parts of the story might prefigure or relate typologically to the life and ministry of Jesus

ii) Example: “Temple” might symbolize the people of God or the church, even in historical texts where this could not have fallen within the original author’s range of intent.

“The apostle Paul wrote that the story about Abraham and his two wives, Hagar and Sarah, could be read allegorically. He interpreted it to refer to the difficult relationship between Jewish people and Christians of his time (Galatians 4.22–31).

This type of interpretation was popular in the early Church. Many, for example, gave Christian meanings to details from the book of Joshua (e.g. ‘crossing the river Jordan to the Promised Land’ was about baptism, the ‘red rope of Rahab’ symbolised the blood of Christ etc.)” [1]

iii) Challenges: If historical-grammatical-rhetorical interpretation does not remain primary, can allow the interpreter to read ideas into the text completely unrelated to the original author’s intent, allowing the interpreter rather than the intent of the author to dictate the meaning of Scripture

E) Spiritual Interpretation – Anagogical (Heavenly) Meaning  i) Method: Looks for ways in which parts of the story might relate allegorically to the believers union with God

ii) Example: “Temple” might symbolize union with God in heaven.

iii) Challenges: If historical-grammatical-rhetorical interpretation does not remain primary, can allow the interpreter to read ideas into the text completely unrelated to the original author’s intent, allowing the interpreter rather than the intent of the author to dictate the meaning of Scripture

[1] https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/explore-the-bible/bible-articles/how-can-the-bible-be-interpreted/ (accessed on 15th June 2017)

[2] Richard Lischer, “The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present” (2002), p.182

Sources:

  • Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), pp.22-23
  • Richard Lischer, “The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present” (2002)
  • BibleSociety.Org’s “How Can The Bible Be Interpreted?”

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Introduction to Soteriology (Creeds & Confessions)

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

Soteriology concerns the doctrine of salvation and over the years, many views have arisen. The focus of this post is to present a few of the more prominent views out there, using sources which adherents of these positions would regard as accurately depicting their beliefs.

We’ll be focusing on what Arminianism, Calvinism, and Traditionalism (arranged in alphabetical order) have to say about the following areas:

  • The state of man
  • Election
  • Atonement (extent)
  • Nature of grace
  • Apostasy
Sources
1) Arminianism The Five Articles of the Remonstrants
(1610)The Arminian Confession of 1621
2) Calvinism Canons of Dort (1618-1619)

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646-1647)

3) Traditionalism A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation (2012)
Perspective on the state of man
1) Arminianism  A) Five Articles of Remonstrance

“That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free-will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good …” [Article 3]

“Man in his fallen state is unable to accomplish any thing really and truly good, and therefore also unable to attain to saving faith, unless he be regenerated and renewed by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit.” [Phillip Schaff, “Creeds of Christendom. Volume I.”, p.524]

B) Arminian Confession

“Because Adam was the stock and root of the whole human race, he therefore involved and implicated not only himself, but also all his posterity … and consequently are now born subject to that eternal death of which we spoke, and manifold miseries.” [Chapter 7, Article 4]

“For without it [divine grace, prepared for us in Christ the Savior before the ages] we could neither shake off the miserable yoke of sin, nor do anything truly good in all religion, nor finally ever escape eternal death or any true punishment of sin. Much less could we at any time obtain eternal salvation without it or through ourselves.” [Chapter 7, Article 10] (emphasis mine)

2) Calvinism  A) Canons of Dort

“Man after the fall begat children in his own likeness. A corrupt stock produced a corrupt offspring. Hence all the posterity of Adam, Christ only excepted, have derived corruption from their original parent …”

“Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform.”

B) Westminster Confession of Faith

“Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. [Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 9, Para III]

3) Traditionalism  A) Traditional Statement

“We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

“We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.” [Article 2]

Perspective on election
1) Arminianism  A) Five Articles of Remonstrance

“That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ.” [Article 1]

“God has immutably decreed, from eternity, to save those men who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus Christ, and by the same grace persevere in the obedience of faith to the end; and, on the other hand, to condemn the unbelievers and unconverted (John iii. 36).
Election and condemnation are thus conditioned by foreknowledge, and made dependent on the foreseen faith or unbelief of men.” [Phillip Schaff, “Creeds of Christendom. Volume I.”, p.524]

B) Arminian Confessions

” The first decree is the decree of predestination to salvation, or election to glory, by which is established the true necessity and at the same time the usefulness of our faith and obedience for obtaining salvation and glory.” [Chapter 9, Para. 3]

2) Calvinism  A) Canons of Dort 

“Since all men sinned in Adam and lie under the curse [according to the Augustinian system held by all the Reformers], God would have done no injustice if he had left them to their merited punishment; but in his infinite mercy he provided a salvation through the gospel of Christ, that those who believe in him may not perish, but have eternal life. That some receive the gift of faith from God and others not, proceeds from God’s eternal decree of election and reprobation.”

“Election is the unchangeable purpose of God whereby, before the foundation of the world, he has, out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen from the whole human race, which has fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation. These elect, though neither better nor more deserving than others, God has decreed to give to Christ to be saved by him, and bestow upon them true faith, conversion, justification and sanctification, perseverance to the end, and final glory (Eph. i. 4, 5, 6; Rom. viii. 30).”

“Election is absolute and unconditional. It is not founded upon foreseen faith and holiness, as the prerequisite condition on which it depended; on the contrary, it is the fountain of faith, holiness, and eternal life itself. God has chosen us, not because we are holy, but to the end that we should be holy (Eph. i. 4; Rom. ix. 11–13;Acts xiii. 38). As God is unchangeable, so his election is unchangeable, and the elect can neither be cast away nor their number be diminished. The sense and certainty of election is a constant stimulus to humility and gratitude.”

“The non-elect are simply left to the just condemnation of their own sins. This is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger.”

B) Westminster Confession of Faith

“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.” [Chapter 3, Para. III]

“Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.” [Chapter 3, Para. V]

“Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.” [Chapter 3, Para. VI]

“The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.” [Chapter 3, Para. VII]

3) Traditionalism  A) Traditional Statement

“We affirm that, in reference to salvation, election speaks of God’s eternal, gracious, and certain plan in Christ to have a people who are His by repentance and faith.

We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation.” [Article 6]

“We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.

We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.” [Article 7]

Perspective on the atonement (extent)
1) Arminianism  A) Five Articles of Remonstrance

“That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins.” [Article 2]

“Christ, the Saviour of the world, died for all men and for every man, and his grace is extended to all. His atoning sacrifice is in and of itself sufficient for the redemption of the whole world, and is intended for all by God the Father. But its inherent sufficiency does not necessarily imply its actual efficiency. The grace of God may be resisted, and only those who accept it by faith are actually saved. He who is lost, is lost by his own guilt.” [Phillip Schaff, “Creeds of Christendom. Volume I.”, p.524]

B) Arminian Confessions

“… He submitted to the cursed death of the cross for us, and offered Himself to God the Father as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the entire human race …” [Chapter 8, Para.7]

“Indeed by this merit, whether He earned eternal salvation for us because of His obedience, or because of that mediation, especially of His violent and bloody death (just as a λουτρόν, or price of redemption, and propitiatory sacrifice), God has thus far reconciled all sinners to Himself [2 Cor. 5:19], in order to restore them by His grace through and because of this ransom and sacrifice [by means of faith in Christ] …” [Chapter 8, Para. 9]

2) Calvinism  A) Canons of Dort

“According to the sovereign counsel of God, the saving efficacy of the atoning death of Christ extends to all the elect [and to them only], so as to bring them infallibly to salvation. But, intrinsically, the sacrifice and satisfaction of Christ is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.”

“And, whereas many who are called by the gospel do not repent nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief; this is not owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves”

B) Westminster Confession of Faith

“God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit does, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them. [Chapter 11 Paragraph 4]

3) Traditionalism  A) Traditional Statement“We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.

We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith. We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will. We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.” [Article 3]

Perspective on the nature of grace
1) Arminianism  A) Five Articles of Remonstrance

“That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of an good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without that prevenient or assisting; awakening, following, and co-operative grace, elm neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible …” [Article 4]

“Grace is the beginning, continuation, and end of our spiritual life, so that man can neither think nor do any good or resist sin without prevening, co-operating, and assisting grace. But as for the manner of co-operation, this grace is not irresistible, for many resist the Holy Ghost.” [Phillip Schaff, “Creeds of Christendom. Volume I.”, p.524]

B) Arminian Confessions

“Yet a man may despise and reject the grace of God and resist its operation, so that when he is divinely called to faith and obedience, he is able to render himself unfit to believe and obey the divine will, and that by his own true and conquerable fault, either by secure carelessness, or blind prejudice, or thoughtless zeal, or an inordinate love of the world or of himself, or other inciting causes of that kind.” [Chapter 17, Para. 7]

“For whoever God calls to faith and salvation, He calls them seriously, that is, not only by an external show, or in words alone (that is, when His serious commandments and promises are declared to those that are called in general) but also with a sincere and unfeigned intention of saving them and the will of converting them. Thus He never willed any prior decree of absolute reprobation or undeserved blinding or hardening concerning them.” [Chapter 17, Para. 8]

2) Calvinism  A) Canons of Dort

“Faith is therefore the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure, but because it is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him; nor even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should, by the exercise of his own free will, consent to the terms of salvation, and actually believe in Christ; but because he who works in man both to will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe and the act of believing also.”

B) Westminster Confession of Faith

“All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. [Chapter 10 Paragraph 1]

3) Traditionalism  A) Traditional Statement“We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.

We deny that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.” [Article 4]

Perspective on apostasy
1) Arminianism  A) Five Articles of Remonstrance

“… whether they [those who an incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his lifegiving spirit] are capable. through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.” [Article 5] (emphasis mine)

“Although grace is sufficient and abundant to preserve the faithful through all trials and temptations for life everlasting, it has not yet been proved from the Scriptures that grace, once given, can never be lost.” [Phillip Schaff, “Creeds of Christendom. Volume I.”, p.524]

B) Arminian Confessions

“Even if it is true that those who are adept in the habit of faith and holiness can only with difficulty fall back to their former profaneness and dissoluteness of life, yet we believe that it is entirely possible, if not rarely done, that they fall back little by little and until they completely lack their prior faith and charity.” [Chapter 11, Para. 7]

“And yet in the meantime we do not absolutely deny it is possible that those who have once truly believed, when they fall back to their former profanity of life, may be renewed again by [the benefit of] divine grace, become good men, even if we believe that it usually rarely happens and with great difficulty.” [Chapter 11, Para. 7]

2) Calvinism  A) Canons of Dort

“By reason of these remains of indwelling sin, and the temptations of sin and of the world, those who are converted could not persevere in a state of grace if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who having conferred grace, mercifully confirms and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end.”

“Of this preservation of the elect to salvation, and of their perseverance in the faith, true believers for themselves may and do obtain assurance according to the measure of their faith, whereby they arrive at the certain persuasion that they ever will continue true and living members of the Church; and that they experience forgiveness of sins, and will at last inherit eternal life.”

B) Westminster Confession of Faith

“They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.” [Chapter 17 Paragraph 1]

3) Traditionalism  A) Traditional Statement

“We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity. This process begins with justification, whereby the sinner is immediately acquitted of all sin and granted peace with God; continues in sanctification, whereby the saved are progressively conformed to the image of Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit; and concludes in glorification, whereby the saint enjoys life with Christ in heaven forever.

We deny that this Holy Spirit-sealed relationship can ever be broken. We deny even the possibility of apostasy.” [Article 9]

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