Introduction to Soteriology (Books)

Soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, is arguably one of the most controversial doctrines within Christendom. If you are somewhat new to it and are looking to study it deeper, on top of the books listed below, consider also a previous article of mine titled “Introduction to Soteriology (Creeds & Confessions).”1

In order to avoid the strawman fallacy, that is, “[a] misrepresentation of an opponent’s position or a competitor’s product to tout one’s own argument or product as superior.”2, it is greatly recommended that one reads and learns the different soteriological positions from its original sources. This would include the works of those who hold to that particular position.

The following is by no means intended to be an extensive list. There are many other works out there on the topic and, seeing how soteriology is still contentious 400+ years after the time of Luther, Calvin, and Arminius, I believe there will be many more books written on the subject. For introductory purposes, the books listed below will suffice.

 

For Arminianism

The Grace of God, the Will of Man: A Case for Arminianism, edited by Clark Pinnock (Harper Collins, 1989)

Grace, Faith, Free Will (Randall House Publications, 2002) by Robert Picirilli

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (InterVarsity Press, 2006) by Roger Olson

Understanding Assurance & Salvation (Randall House Publications, 2006)  by Robert Picirilli

Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation (Randall House, 2011) by F Leroy Forlines

Grace for All: The Arminian Dynamics of Salvation, edited by Clark Pinnock and John D Wagner (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015)

 

For Calvinism

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination (1932) by Lorraine Boettner

The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented (P&R Publishing,  1963) by David Steele and Curtis Thomas

Chosen By God (Tyndale House Publishers, 1994) by R.C. Sproul

The Potter’s Freedom (Calvary Press, 2000) by James White

For Calvinism (Zondervan, 2011) by Michael Horton

 

For Lutheranism

The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church: Exhibited, and Verified from the Original Sources (Lutheran Publication Society, 1876) by Heinrich Schmidt

Lutheran Theology (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011) by Steven Paulson

The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church (Tredition, 2012) by George Geberding

The Great Divide: A Lutheran Evaluation of Reformed Theology (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015) by Jordan Cooper

 

For Traditionalism/Provisionalism/Provisionism

Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, edited by David Allen and Steve Lemke (B&H Publishing Group, 2010)

The Potter’s Promise (Booktango, 2015) by Leighton Flowers

Anyone Can Be Saved: A Defense of “Traditional” Southern Baptist Soteriology, edited by David L. Allen, Eric Hankins, Adam Harwood (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2016)

 

Misc [optional]

Chosen But Free (Bethany House, 2001) by Norman Geisler 3

Calvinism Vs. Arminianism (Author House, 2014) by Steve Urick

Is God Calvinist or Arminian?: The Closing Argument (WestBow Press, 2018) by Bob Raymond

 

Disclaimer: The recommendations in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Grace for All (2015) [Chapters 1-2]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Arminianism is God Centered Theology

(pp.1-17)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Roger Olson is Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University. Before joining the Baylor community, he taught at Bethel College (now Bethel University) in St. Paul Minnesota.

His alma mater is Rice University (Ph.D in Religious Studies). He also graduated from North American Baptist Seminary (now Sioux Falls Seminary). [1]

“A past president of the American Theological Society (Midwest Division), Olson has been the co-chair of the Evangelical Theology Group of the American Academy of Religion for two years.” [2]

[1] www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerolson/biography-2/

[2] https://www.baylor.edu/truett/index.php?id=927923

B) Chapter Summary:

“What would count as truly God-centered theology to these Reformed critics of Arminianism? First, human depravity must be emphasized as much as possible so that humans are not capable, even with supernatural divine assistance, of cooperating with God’s grace in salvation.”[1]

“Second, apparently, for the Reformed critics of Arminianism, God-centered theology must view God as the all-determining reality including the one who ordains, designs, governs and controls sin and evil which are then imported into God’s plan, purpose and will. God’s perfect will is always being done, even when it paradoxically grieves him to see it (as John Piper likes to affirm).”[2]

“The only view of God’s sovereignty that will satisfy these Reformed critics of Arminianism is meticulous providence in which God plans everything and renders it certain down to the minutest decisions of creatures. Most notably this includes the Fall of humanity and its consequences including the eternal suffering of sinners in hell.”[3]

David Bentley Hart: “It is a strange thing indeed to seek [God-centered theology] … at a cost of a God rendered morally loathsome.”[4]

“Third, to satisfy Arminianism’s Reformed critics, God-centeredness requires that human beings are mere pawns in God’s great scheme to glorify himself; their happiness and fulfillment cannot be mentioned as having any value for God. But this means, then, that one can hardly mention God’s love for all people.”[5]

“… It accomplishes very little to construct a God-centered theology if the God at its center is sheer, naked power of ambiguous moral character. “Glory” is an ambiguous term. When divorced from virtue, it is unworthy of devotion.”[6]

“God is glorious because he is both and good, and his goodness, like his greatness, must have some resonance with our best and highest notions of goodness or else it is meaningless.”[7]

“Real Arminianism has always believed in human freedom for one main reason – to protect the goodness of God and thus God’s reputation in a world filled with evil. There is only one reason why Classical Arminian theology emphasizes free will, but it has two sides. First, to protect and defend God’s goodness; second to make clear human responsibility for sin and evil. It has nothing to do whatsoever with any humanistic desire for creaturely autonomy or credit for salvation.”[8]

John Wesley: “you suppose him [viz., God] to send them [viz., the reprobate] into eternal fire, for not escaping from sin! That is in plain terms, for not having that grace which God had decreed they should never have! O strange justice! What a picture do you draw of the Judge of all the earth!”[9]

“The point that Boice and other critics continually make is that in the Arminian system the saved person can boast because he or she did not resist God’s grace and others did. All Arminian theologians from Arminius to Wesley to Wiley have pointed out that a person who receives a life-saving gift cannot boast if all he or she did was accept it. All the glory for such a gift goes to the giver and none to the receiver.”[10]

“All [Classical Arminians] emphasize the sovereignty of God over his creation including specific providence and all underscore God’s power limited only by his goodness. What throws off Reformed (and perhaps other) critics is the underlying Arminian assumption of God’s voluntary self-limitation in relation to humanity. However, that God limits himself by no means implies that he is essentially limited. According to Arminian theology God is sovereign over his sovereignty and his goodness conditions his power.”[11]

[1] p.4

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea (2005), p.99

[5] p.5

[6] p.6

[7] Ibid.

[8] p.7

[9] John Wesley, The Works of the Rev. John Wesley (1872), p.221

[10] p.10

[11] pp.10-11

Continue reading “Grace for All (2015) [Chapters 1-2]”

Interpretations of Romans 9-11

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

It would be an understatement to say that Romans 9-11 is a controversial passage. It has often been touted to be a proof-text for Calvinism. Today’s article presents the traditional Calvinist interpretation of the passage, as well as other interpretations posited by non-Calvinist scholars.

A) Individual election to salvation

Douglas Moo: “While the passages from Genesis may not refer directly to the salvation of individuals, Paul applies them to the question of who belongs in the spiritual Israel (v. 6). In other words, the ultimate concern is to show how God has determined who belongs to his people. That means that the issue is, finally, about the salvation of individuals …

Romans 9 teaches the absolute sovereignty of God in the decisions he makes about the ultimate fate of human beings.”[1]

John Murray: “The interpretation which regards the election as the collective, theocratic election of Israel as a people must be rejected and the ‘purpose of God according to election’ will have to be understood as the electing purpose that is determinative of and unto salvation and equivalent to that which we find elsewhere (Rom. 8:28-33; Eph. 1:4; 1 Thess. 1:4 et al).”[2]

Steven M. Baugh: “This passage teaches divine election and predestination of individuals to salvation, and the hardening of whom God wills, as candidly as anything is ever taught in the Bible, despite the resolute and persistent efforts of many to obviate it …

For Paul, Israelite privileged status is a biblical teaching which must be qualified by other truths. Specifically, Paul sees that membership in theocratic Israel with its national benefits does not guarantee membership in elect Israel whose benefits are righteousness, salvation, and eternal life.12 This is the point of his thematic statement in Romans 9:6: ‘They are not all Israel who are of Israel’; i.e., elect Israel and national Israel are not coextensive. Put another way, sonship in the Abrahamic line does not guarantee that one is a child of God (9:8) …

… Paul is addressing a more fundamental issue: why don’t all ethnic Israelites believe and thereby partake in the eternal inheritance? Paul’s answer to this deeper question pours out in a staccato stream in Romans 9:10-13. One believes only because God so chooses. The root of all God’s benefits is his own predestinating free will.”[3]

Thomas Schreiner: “When Paul speaks of the anguish in his heart and his desire to be accursed because of his fellow Israelites (Rom 9:1-3), the reason he feels this way is not because Israel is merely losing out on temporal blessings. Distress torments his heart because his kinsmen from Israel were not saved. Paul is almost willing “to be separated from Christ” (9:3) because his fellow Israelites are separated from Christ …

The particular question in [Paul’s] mind in w. 1-5 relates to the salvation of Israel, and thus the claim that God’s word has not failed (9:6) must be interpreted in relationship to the issue that is at the forefront of Paul’s mind—namely, the salvation of Israel. Those interpreters who assert that Paul is referring merely to the historical destiny of Israel and not to salvation do not account plausibly for the relationship of vv. 1-5 to the rest of the chapter, for vv. 1-5 make it eminently clear that the reason Paul brings up the question of the faithfulness of God in v. 6 is that a great portion of Israel is not saved.”[4]

B) Corporate election to salvation

Brian J. Abasciano: “What is imperative to see in relation to the nature of the election Paul envisions in Rom. 9.10-13 is that the significance of the individual Jacob’s election for Israel was that they were elect by virtue of their identification with him. Their election was ‘in him’, and thus intrinsically consequent upon his. This dispels another of the main objections to taking election as corporate in these verses – that the individuals Jacob and Esau are obviously in view to one degree or another, and therefore so is individual election (of individuals as autonomous entities). This objection fails to apprehend the relationship between the election of the corporate representative and his people. The corporate representative’s election is unique, entailing the election of all who are identified with him. Its significance was never that each individual member of the elect people was chosen as an individual to become part of the elect people in the same manner as the corporate head was chosen. Rather, the individual possesses elect status as a consequence of membership in the elect people/identification with the corporate representative. In the case of the divine covenantal election, God chooses his people by his choice of the covenant head.

A great obstacle to the view that Paul is teaching direct election of individuals as individuals to become part of his people and receive salvation is the fact that the corporate view is the view of the Old Testament generally and the texts Paul interprets in Romans 9 specifically as well as the standard view of Judaism in Paul’s day. Moo, an outspoken advocate of individual election, admits as much and concedes, ‘We would expect Paul to be thinking of “election” here in the same terms, an expectation that seems to be confirmed by the OT texts that Paul quotes’. This is exactly right. As I have argued elsewhere, the burden of proof lies squarely upon those who would argue that Paul departs from the standard biblical and Jewish concept of election. Therefore, it is an insuperable problem for the individual election view that everything Paul says here in Romans 9 fits comfortably into the view of corporate election, which could speak of the inclusion or exclusion of individuals vis-à-vis the covenant without shifting the locus of election itself to the individual. Indeed, Paul’s olive tree metaphor in Rom. 11.17-24 evidences the view of corporate election perfectly. Individuals get grafted into the elect people (the olive tree) and participate in election and its blessings by faith or get cut off from God’s chosen people and their blessings because of unbelief, while the focus of election clearly remains the corporate people of God, which spans salvation history. The natural understanding of Jacob’s election in a first-century context would have led readers to apply Paul’s example to the character of the corporate election of God’s people rather than to the individual. Advocates of individual election in Romans 9 appear to have jumped to applying election directly to individuals because of individualistic assumptions foreign to Paul and his socio-historical milieu.

Thus, Paul’s argument based on Jacob and Esau is salvation-historical. Based on the circumstances of their conception and the timing of the divine call/proclamation of Jacob’s election as the covenant heir, Paul concludes that the election of God’s people was not dictated by any distinctive of either twin, but by the sovereign will and call of God. Generally speaking, by basing the foundational election of his people on his sovereign call rather than some meritorious distinctive of Jacob or de-meritorious distinctive of Esau, God ensured that he remained free to choose who his people are according to his own good pleasure. More specifically, he ensured that he remained free to choose the head/mediator of his covenant for any (or no) reason whatsoever, and thereby to choose similarly who his people are. Most specifically in the context of Paul’s argument, God’s sovereign call of Jacob and his descendants ensured that he could call only those who believe in Jesus Christ seed of Abraham if he so chose, that is, regard them as his covenant people, and thereby fulfill his purpose of blessing the whole world in Abraham, for Israel’s election depended wholly on his sovereign will from the beginning and therefore remained subject to the dictates of his own will.”[5]

“God chose the people of Israel in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel (Deut 4:37; 7:6-8). That is, by choosing Jacob/Israel, the corporate/covenant representative, God also chose his descendants as his covenant people. It is a matter of Old Testament covenant theology. The covenant representative on the one hand and the people/nation of Israel on the other hand are the focus of the divine covenantal election, and individuals are elect only as members of the elect people. Moreover, in principle, foreign individuals who were not originally members of the elect people could join the chosen people and become part of the elect, demonstrating again that the locus of election was the covenant community and that individuals found their election through membership in the elect people.”[6]

B. J. Oropeza: “Paul’s references from the Scriptures on individuals such as Isaac, Esau, Jacob, and Pharaoh address the issue of election (cf. Rom. 9:6-19; see below), but their election or rejection by God is brought out to make more relevant points to the Romans about the communities such as Israel (9:23-10:3, 18-21; 11:26-32), the Gentile believers (9:24, 30; 11:13, 25), and the faithful remnant (11:1-7). Likewise in this context, Paul considers himself elect not by virtue of his own independent status with God but because he is a member of the elect remnant of Israel (11:1-7) …

For the Romans whom Paul is addressing, the individual is elect by participating in the elect community “in Christ,” and the assurances of final salvation given to that community pertain to the individual as long as that individual is identified as belonging to the elect community.[7]

Norman Geisler: “… God is not speaking here about the individual Jacob but about the nation of Jacob (Israel) … The reference here [in Gen. 25:23] is not to individual election but to the corporate election of a chosen nation – Israel.

Second, regardless of the corporate election of Israel as a nation, each individual had to accept the Messiah in order to be saved. Paul said, “I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel” (Rom. 9:3-4). He added, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved” (10:1). Even though of the end times he says later that, “all Israel will be saved” (11:26), he is referring to Israel at that time, and clearly at present there is only “a remnant” (v.5). So even though Israel as a nation was elect, each individual had to accept God’s grace by “faith” in order to be saved (v.20).”[8]

William Lane Craig: “The problematic [sic], then, with which Paul is wrestling is how God’s chosen people the Jews could fail to obtain the promise of salvation while Gentiles, who were regarded by Jews as unclean and execrable, could find salvation instead. Paul’s answer is that God is sovereign: He can save whomever He wants, and no one can gainsay God. He has the freedom to have mercy upon whomever He wills, even upon execrable Gentiles, and no one can complain of injustice on God’s part.

So—and this is the crucial point— who is it that God has chosen to save? The answer is: those who have faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul writes in Galatians (which is a sort of abbreviated Romans), “So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3. 7). Jew or Gentile, it doesn’t matter: God has sovereignly chosen to save all those who trust in Christ Jesus for salvation …

Election, then, is first and foremost a corporate notion: God has chosen for Himself a people, a corporate entity, and it is up to us by our response of faith whether or not we choose to be members of that corporate group destined to salvation.”[9]

Continue reading “Interpretations of Romans 9-11”

How One Can Be Reformed and Arminian

This article intends to argue for the proposition that one can identify as Reformed and Arminian at the same time. First off, for the purposes of clarification, this should not be confused with Reformed Arminianism. The latter is synonymous with Classical Arminianism, that is Arminian theology closer to that which was held by Jacob Arminius himself[1]. Reformed Arminianism stands in contrast to Wesleyan Arminianism.

So, how can one claim to be Reformed and Arminian at the same time? Isn’t Reformed theology closely associated to or even sometimes used synonymously with Calvinism?[2] It is submitted that it all boils down one’s definition of Reformed. The same goes for concepts like “sovereignty” and “decree” in relation to God[3].

A) Defining “Reformed”

The problem with defining the concept “Reformed” is that even those who claim to be Reformed disagree on what constitutes “Reformed”. There are extremely narrow definitions, as well as extremely broad ones.

C. Matthew McMahon starts off with some basic principles of the Reformed tradition:

“Some good starting points in the consideration of this topic would be the following.

1] The Majesty and the Praise of God,

2] The Polemic Against Idolatry,

3] The Working Out of God’s Divine Covenant Purposes in History through justification by faith by the one and only mediator Jesus Christ,

4] Sanctification and a life of Holiness,

5] The Life of the Mind as the Service of God,

6] Biblical Preaching,

7] The order of Church Government and Pastoral Care,

8] The Disciplined Life, and

9] The Simplicity of the Gospel.”[4]

The problem with these definitions is that they can be readily affirmed by all Protestants. However, Reformed folks who hold to a narrow definition of what it means to be Reformed would not consider some Protestants as being Reformed. Case in point would be Methodists for their Arminianism.

Byron G. Curtis, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Geneva College provided his extensive definition on what it means to be reformed. He says:

“To be reformed means:

1) to confess with the orthodox churches the consensus of the first five centuries of Christianity, including:

a) Classic theism: One omnipotent, benevolent God, distinct from creation.

b) Nicene and Chalcedonian Trinitarianism: one God in three eternally existent persons, equal in power and glory.

c) Christ, the God-Man, the one mediator between God & the human race, incarnate, crucified, resurrected, ascended, & coming again.

d) Humanity created in the image of God, yet tragically fallen & profoundly in need of restoration to God through Christ.

e) The Visible Church: the community of the redeemed, indwelt y the Holy Spirit; the mystical body of Christ on earth.

The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

f) The Sacraments: visible signs and seals of the grace of God, ministering Christ’s love to us in our deep need.

g) The Christian life: characterized by the prime theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

2) to confess with the Reformation churches the four great “Solas:”

a) RE the source of authority: Sola Scriptura.

b) RE the basis of salvation: Sola Gratia.

c) RE the means of salvation: Sola Fide

d) Re the merit of salvation: Solus Christus

3) to confess with the Reformed churches the distinctives of the Reformed faith:

a) In salvation: monergism not synergism. God alone saves. Such monergism implies T.U.L.I.P., the Five Points of Calvinism from the Synod of Dordt:

T = Total Depravity

U = Unconditional Election

L = Limited Atonement, or, better, Particular Redemption

I = Irresistible Grace

P = Perseverence [sic] and Preservation of the Saints

b) In worship: the Regulative Principle of Worship “Whatever is not commanded in public worship is forbidden.” God alone directs how he is to be worshiped in the assem- bly [sic] of the visible church.

c) In the Visible Church: Covenant Theology & Covenant Community. The Church is the New Israel, incorporating believers among Jews and Gentiles alike. Infant Baptism ordinarily follows from this understanding. Sacraments are not merely human observances, but acts of Jesus Christ, marking out the visible church.

d) In life: Life is religion: there is no sacred/secular destinction [sic]. As such Christians have neither jobs nor careers; they have vocations (callings). Every calling is “full time Christian service,” because every Christian is a full-time Christian.

4) finally, in everything, as Christians everywhere joyfully affirm: Soli Deo Gloria. ‘To God alone be the glory.’”[5]

Richard Muller, shares a similar definition, though he adds belief in amillennialism into the mix:

“Any of these documents [i.e. Reformed Confessions and Catechisms], in addition to standing in substantial agreement on the so-called five points — total inability to attain one’s own salvation, unconditional grace, limited efficacy of Christ’s all-sufficient work of satisfaction, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints — also stand in substantial agreement on the issues of the baptism of infants, the identification of the sacraments as a means of grace, and the unity of the one covenant of grace from Abraham to the eschaton.

They also — all of them — agree on the assumption that our assurance of the salvation, wrought by grace alone through the work of Christ and God’s Spirit in us, rests not on our outward deeds or personal claims but on our apprehension of Christ in faith and on our recognition of the inward work of the Spirit in us. Because this assurance is inward and cannot easily or definitively be externalized, all of these documents also agree that the church is both visible and invisible — that it is a covenanted people of God identified not by externalized indications of the work of God in individuals, such as adult conversion experiences but by the preaching of the word of God and the right administration of the sacraments.

Finally, they all agree, either explicitly or implicitly, that the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 is the kingdom of grace established by Christ at his first coming that extends until his Second Coming at the end of the world.”[6]

R. C. Sproul, well known amongst the narrow-definition-Reformed-folk as being Reformed, grew to accept postmillennialism as the biblical eschatological position [7]. Under Richard Muller’s definition, this would disqualify R. C. Sproul from being considered Reformed, although he checks the other boxes.

C. Matthew McMahon’s definition which includes infant baptism (pp.20-21), covenant theology (pp.28-29), and the Lord’s Supper as sign and seals (pp.29-30)[8] is less comprehensive but, just like the definitions provided before it, would exclude Reformed Baptists who affirm credobaptism. It would seem odd that individuals like John Bunyan (1628–1688), Alistair Begg (1952–), D. A. Carson (1946–), John Gill (1697–1771), Wayne Grudem (1948–), Albert Mohler (1959–), Arthur Pink (1886–1952), John Piper (1946-), Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892), and James White (1962-) would not make the Reformed cut.

Michael Allen adds to the discussion by arguing that, “By “Reformational,” we speak of those churches and persons who affirm the five solas (sola Scriptura, solus Christus, sola gratia, sola fide, and soli Deo Gloria), the five points enumerated by the Reformed Synod of Dordt regarding the doctrine of predestination, and the importance of penal substitution as a crucial (though not exclusive) understanding of the atonement.”[9] R.C. Sproul takes it a step further and synthesises the Five Points of Reformed Theology as being just TULIP[10].

To include TULIP in the pre-requisite of being Reformed, or even to make it the sole criterion, might exclude the following individuals who are/were regarded as Magisterial Reformers. First off, Phillip Melanchton who studied under Martin Luther himself[11].  Leighton Flowers points out that, “… Calvin, though a close friend, took great issue with Melanchthon’s soteriology, as would most Calvinistic scholars today. Melanchthon affirmed a more corporate approach to the doctrine of predestination, while rejecting the typical Calvinistic view that God predetermines to save some individuals to the neglect of the rest. For instance, Melanchthon wrote,

“The eternal fate of individuals was in their own hands at the moment when they heard the Spirit-illumined Gospel promises. Altogether, therefore, the choice for a saving faith in Jesus had three origins: the Word, the Spirit, and the individual free will.””[12]

Gregory Graybill observes that, “In 1532, Melanchton’s gradually evolving doctrine on the will’s role in justification finally reached a tipping-point. In The Summary of Ethics, he was almost there. In The Commentary on Romans, he was there, and in the Loci of 1533-5, he strengthened his position. A subtle change had taken place in Melanchton’s thinking, marking a transition from a bound-will position to one of evangelical free will.”[13]

Secondly, “… it would appear likely that the chief Polish shaper of the Reformed church, Jan Laski, though he was involved only after his return from the West from 1556 until his death in 1560, remained somewhat Erasmian on predestination and free will.”[14] It has been noted that “few Reformed theologians were to turn sympathetically to Erasmus’s championing of free will, the exception being that independent-minded Erasmian Jan Laski.”[15]. Erasmus’s view of predestination and free will is contrary to that of Luther’s and the latter was a significant influence in Calvin’s view of soteriology, as seen in Beneficio di Cristo.

Thirdly, John Wycliffe who was quoted as having said: “And who knoweth the mesure of goddis mercy, to whom herynge of goddis word schal thus profits, eche man schal hope to come to hevene & enforce hym to here & fulfille goddis word, for sith eche men hath a free wille & chesyng of good and evyl, no man schal be savyd but he that wilfully hereth and endless kepith goddis hestis, and no man schal be dampnyd but he that wilfully & endeles brekith goddis comaundementis, & foraskith thus & blasphemeth god. & herynge of goddis word & grace to kepen it, frely govyn of god to man but gif he wilfully dispise it, is right weie to askape this peril & come to endeles blisse.”[16]

Wycliffe was basically of the opinion that “Although ‘trewe men’ acknowledge that ‘god hath ordeyned goode men to blisse’, this does not contradict the truth that he also ‘geveth to eche man a free wille to chese good or evyl & god is redi to geve hem grace gif thei wolen resceyven it.”[17]. This position seems to be in conflict with the U and I of TULIP.

To include TULIP in the pre-requisite of being Reformed, or even to make it the sole criterion, might exclude ... individuals who are/were regarded as Magisterial Reformers Click To Tweet

Roger Olson acknowledges the definitional problem at hand. He articulates that, “On one end of the spectrum of defining it, “Reformed” requires affirmation of and adherence to the “three symbols of unity”—The Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of the Synod of Dort. By that definition, Presbyterians are not Reformed. (Which is why, for example, the publisher Presbyterian and Reformed is so named.) Everyone agrees that they have much in common, but some Reformed scholars define “Reformed” in such a way as to exclude even Presbyterians.

At the other end of the spectrum of defining “Reformed” is the traditional Lutheran approach. For many “old school” Lutherans (e.g., Casper Nervig in Christian Truth and Religious Delusions ) all Protestants are either Lutheran or Reformed with Anglicans being sort of a hybrid. Anabaptists aren’t Protestant. But Methodists are Reformed (in this taxonomy)!”[18]

Perhaps the solution is to embrace a broader definition which encompasses that which the Protestant Reformation stood for. The spirit of the Reformation was Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei (‘The church reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God’). C. Matthew McMahon notes that, “The term “Reformer” was used to describe those men who desired to reach back to the foundations of the Word of God and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in contrast to human traditions and ecclesiastical corruption.”[19]

Perhaps the solution is to embrace a broader definition which encompasses that which the Protestant Reformation stood for, a mere-Reformed definition if you will Click To Tweet

Tim Challies agrees when he says that, “It is important to understand that because the Reformed tradition arose from the Protestant Reformation, the term Reformed was not defined from within a void. Rather, it was defined as a biblical response to the excesses and perversions of the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformers, having returned to Scripture, attempted to carefully and faithfully rebuild the church upon the teachings of the New Testament.”[20] According to John Barber, “the message of the Lutheran and Reformed theologians have been codified into a simple set of five Latin phrases: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Fide (faith alone), Sola Gratia (by grace alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone).”[21]

As such, anyone who, embodies the spirit of the Reformation and by extension, affirms the five solas, should be entitled to refer to himself/herself as Reformed. This would, undeniably, include Arminians. Carl Bangs, an Arminius scholar, notes that “Arminius stands firmly in the tradition of Reformed theology in insisting that salvation is by grace alone and that human ability or merit must be excluded as a cause of salvation. It is faith in Christ alone that places a sinner in the company of the elect.”[22]

... anyone who embodies the spirit of the Reformation, and by extension affirms the five solas, should be entitled to refer to himself/herself as Reformed. This would, undeniably, include Arminians. Click To Tweet

B) Why Reformed?

In light of fact that the term “Reformed” is historically and theologically loaded, why would an Arminian want to identify as such? The simple answer is that Arminius himself was Reformed. Arminius scholar, Keith D. Stanglin, asserts that “… Arminius and the Remonstrants before the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) considered themselves to be Reformed.”[23]

So why would Arminius consider himself to be Reformed? Arminius “studied under Calvin’s successor Beza in Geneva and was given a letter of recommendation by him to the Reformed Church of Amsterdam. It seems highly unlikely that the chief pastor at Geneva and principal of its Reformed academy would not know the theological inclinations of one of his star pupils.”[24]

Arminius also taught at the University of Leiden/Leyden[25] which was “a centre of Dutch Reformed theology and of science and medicine in the 17th and 18th centuries,”[26] and affirmed the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism[27]. Furthermore, the Remonstrant Brotherhood, a Dutch denomination which follows the work of Arminius and his followers, is a full member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches [28]

In consideration of all that has been said, Arminians should not be afraid or embarrassed to embrace the Reformed label. Their theological tradition stands squarely within the framework of historical Reformed thought. Whether or not they wish to take up the designation is an entirely different matter.

Arminians should not be afraid or embarrassed to embrace the Reformed label. Their theological tradition stands squarely within the frame of historical Reformed thought. Click To Tweet

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

[1] For further elaboration, see Matthew Pinson, “Meet A Reformed Arminian.” TheGospelCoalition.org. Accessed May 15, 2018. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/meet-a-reformed-arminian/

[2] Tim Challies, “Defining My Terms: Calvinist and Reformed.” Challies.com. Accessed May 15, 2018. https://www.challies.com/articles/defining-my-terms-calvinist-and-reformed/: “I will treat the terms “Reformed” and “Calvinist” as being synonymous. While some may disagree with this, I believe it is beyond dispute that most people use the terms interchangeably.”

[3] With regards to “sovereignty,” Calvinists, Arminians, Provisionalists/Traditionalists, Lutherans, and Molinists would affirm that God is sovereign, but they do not necessarily share the same conception of it.

[4] C. Matthew McMahon, The Reformed Apprentice: A Workbook on Reformed Theology (2013), p.27

[5] Byron G. Curtis, “A “Reformed” Definition.” Fivesolas.com. Accessed May 17, 2018. http://www.fivesolas.com/ref_defn.htm

[6] Richard Muller, “How Many Points?” Calvin Theological Journal, Vol. 28 (1993): 427

[7] Kenneth Gentry, “Recent Developments in the Eschatological Debate.” ReformationOnline.com. Accessed May 17, 2018. http://www.reformationonline.com/debate.htm: “A recent noteworthy “convert” to postmillennialism is R. C. Sproul, who invited me to speak on postmillennialism and preterism at his 1999 National Conference in Orlando”; see also “The End? Finding Hope in the Millennial Maze: 1999 National Conference.” Ligonier.org. Accessed May 17, 2018. https://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/orlando_1999_national_conference/postmillennialism/

[8] C. Matthew McMahon, The Reformed Apprentice: A Workbook on Reformed Theology (2013)

[9] Michael Allen, Reformed Theology (2010), p.6

[10] R.C. Sproul, What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics (2005)

[11] “Phillip Melanchton 500th Anniversary Exhibit.” LutheranHistory.org. Accessed May 17, 2018. http://www.lutheranhistory.org/melanchthon/: “At Wittenberg Philipp Melanchthon studied theology under Dr. Martin Luther. In September 1519 he was granted his first degree in theology: baccalaureus biblicus. Melanchthon turned out to be a popular lecturer. And Luther, who was fourteen years his senior, recognized Melanchthon’s remarkable abilities.”

[12] Leighton Flowers, “Is Reformation Day only for the Calvinists?” Soteriology101.com. Accessed May 15, 2018. https://soteriology101.com/2016/10/31/is-reformation-day-only-for-the-calvinists/

[13] Gregory Graybill, Evangelical Free Will: Phillipp Melanchthon’s Doctrinal Journey on the Origins of Faith (2010), p.199

[14] George Huntston Williams, The Proceedings of the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society, Volume 18 (1976), p.586

[15] Zwingliana: Beiträge zur Geschichte Zwinglis der Reformation und des Protestantismus in der Schweiz (2005), p.175; see also Samuel Fiszman, The Polish renaissance in its European context (1988): “But significantly, perhaps of all the classical Protestant luminaries of first orsecond magnitude, Jan Laski was the most Erasmian in mitigating this major thrust of classical Protestantism in his interest in free will”

[16] ‘Speculum de Antichristo’ in The English Works of John Wyclif, ed. F. D. Matthew (1880), p.111

[17] D. Andrew Penny, Freewill Or Predestination: The Battle Over Saving Grace in Mid-Tudor England (1990), pp.16-17

[18] Roger Olson, “Is Arminianism “Reformed?”” Patheos.com. Accessed May 15, 2018. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2014/02/is-arminianism-reformed/

[19] C. Matthew McMahon, The Reformed Apprentice: A Workbook on Reformed Theology (2013), p.19

[20] Tim Challies, “What It Means To Be Reformed.” Challies.com. Accessed May 15, 2018. https://www.challies.com/articles/what-it-means-to-be-reformed/

[21] John Barber, The Road from Eden: Studies in Christianity and Culture (2008), p.233

[22] Carl Bangs, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation (1971), p. 198

[23] Keith Stanglin, Arminius on the Assurance of Salvation: The Context, Roots, and Shape of the Leiden Debate, 1603-1609­ (2007), p.14

[24] Roger Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (2009), p.48

[25] see William den Boer, God’s Twofold Love: The Theology of Jacob Arminius (1559-1609) (2010), p.21: “Following the events of this assembly as recorded above, there appeared today in the same assembly Dr Jacobus Arminius, Doctor and Professor at the University of Leiden”; see also Arminius, Arminianism, and Europe: Jacobus Arminius (1559/60-1609) (2009), eds. Theodoor Marius van Leeuwen, Keith D. Stanglin, Marijke Tolsma, p. IX: “In any case in October 2009 at Leiden University, where Arminius was a professor from 1603 until his death, a conference was held in honour of him.”

[26] “Leiden.” Britannica.com. Accessed May 17, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/place/Leiden

[27] After citing the 14th and 16th article of the Belgic Confession and questions 20 and 54 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Arminius says the following: “Since these are the actual statements of our confession and catechism, no good reason can be foot put forward by those who defend these ever mentioned sentiments on predestination to force these doctrines on their colleagues or on the church of Christ; nor should they be offended and place it in the worst possible light when something is taught in the church or university that does not exactly correspond to or is in opposition to their position.” [Arminius and His Declaration of Sentiments: An Annotated Translation With Introduction and Theological Commentary, ed. W Steven Gunter (2012), p.112]

[28] “Members.” WCRC.ch. Accessed November 6, 2018. http://wcrc.ch/members

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]

Continue reading “Introduction to Soteriology (Creeds & Confessions)”