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See Part 1: The Set Up
Part 2: Theological Imprecision and Misrepresentations
Patton: However, I think we need take a step back and see that while the shoe fits when it comes to some particular issues in Calvinism these accusations are far from forming the bedrock of the primary issues in Calvinism. You see, one of the many reasons I am a Calvinist has to do with the tension that is allowed within the Calvinistic system that is not allowed in other systems.
The central core of Calvinism primarily centers on one doctrine: predestination. While the sovereignty of God has its place, it does not ultimately determine where one lands.
This is highly debatable among Calvinists. This may be Mr. Patton’s opinion, but I think that he is probably in the minority. Sovereignty (defined as God’s exhaustive control over everything) is what leads to the Calvinist understanding of predestination in many Calvinist’s minds. However, it is true that the Calvinist view of predestination can lead back to such a view of sovereignty, but it does not demand it. Unconditional election and predestination can just as easily fit within a system that does not hold that God exhaustively determines all things. Also, for many Calvinists, “predestination” is essentially synonymous with the doctrine of God’s exhaustive determinism and is not limited only to matters of salvation (like unconditional election and reprobation). In other words “predestination” simply means that God “predetermines” everything in reality (i.e. exhaustive determinism, the Calvinist version of “Sovereignty).
Patton: An Arminian can believe that God is sovereign to a similar degree as a Calvinist. But an Arminian cannot believe in predestination the same way as Calvinists.
This is a confused statement. The Arminian view of sovereignty is incompatible with the Calvinist view of sovereignty just as the Arminian view of predestination is incompatible with the Calvinist view of sovereignty. Mr. Patton’s distinction here is not really accurate.
Patton: Both Calvinists and Arminians believe in predestination.
Just as both Calvinists and Arminians believe in God’s sovereignty (which Mr. Patton happily admits here ), which is why Mr. Patton’s previous comment is awkward and strange.
Patton: In other words, whether or not God predestines people is not the issue. All Bible believing Christians believe this doctrine. The issue has to do with the basis of this predestining.
The Calvinist says that God’s predestination is unconditional. God did not choose people based on any merit, intrinsic or foreseen.
We need to stop right here, as Mr. Patton’s comments wrongly imply that Arminians base “predestination” on “merit”, simply because Arminians hold that predestination (more appropriately, election) is conditional. Mr. Patton should know this is not the case. Arminians hold that election is conditioned on faith, and faith holds no merit (Romans 4). It is also simply an obvious non sequitur to assume that if something is “conditional” it means it is “earned” or “merited”. This is a common Calvinist mistake and a misrepresentation of Arminian theology that is still perpetuated, despite Calvinists (like Mr. Patton) being continually corrected on the matter.
Also, it must be pointed out that Mr. Patton is conflating election and predestination, as Calvinists often do. Unfortunately, even Arminius seemed to conflate the two based on his ties with Reformed thinking. But many (if not most) Arminians today do not see election and predestination as the same thing, because the Bible doesn’t view them as the same thing. Election has to do with God’s choice of His covenant people to belong to Him and bear His name. Predestination has to do with God’s predetermined purpose for His covenant people. Predestination is not about God predestinating some sinners to become believers. Rather, predestination has to do with God’s eternal purposes for believers (to adoption as sons, to an inheritance, to be conformed to the image of Christ, etc.). Calvinists, like Mr. Patton, will likely disagree with that important distinction, but it is a distinction that should not be overlooked, especially when trying to compare the Arminian view with the Calvinist view.
Patton: This is called unconditional predestination because there are no conditions in man that need to be met. It does not mean that God did not have any reason for choosing some and not others, but that the reason is not found in us. It is his “secret” and “mysterious” will that elects some and passes over others.
The Arminian says that God’s predestination is conditional. It has a founding in the faith of the predestined. In other words, God looks ahead in time and discovers who will believe and who will not and chooses people based on their prior free-will choice of him.
This is not a very good description of Arminian election. The Classical view would better be expressed as God’s election of “believers” in Christ. Jesus is the “elect” and only “in Him” is anyone “elect” (note again Mr. Patton’s conflating of terms). Arminian election has its “founding” in Christ, not “the faith of the predestined.” So God foreknows those who are joined to Christ in faith and therefore it can be said that election is “according to foreknowledge.” It is not so much a foreknowledge of an act of faith, but a foreknowledge of people (“believers”), joined to Christ. Faith is how one comes to be joined to Christ (Eph. 1:13), but it is the person “as a believer” who is in union with Christ that is the proper Biblical object of foreknowledge, not just the act of faith that joins one to Christ. God foreknows and elects “believers” because they are joined to Christ (Eph. 1:4). To be fair, some Arminians have expressed it as Mr. Patton does, but that is not the best way to express it. It ignores the main focus and purpose of election in Arminianism, an election based on Christ and those who come to be in faith union with Him.
The corporate view is even more robust and even more Biblically accurate in my opinion, but it is not the Classical approach. The corporate view does not rely on foreknowledge as the Classical view does, either. Mr. Patton doesn’t even mention the corporate view, so I will not spend time delving into it at this time. 
 For more on the corporate view of election, which I believe to be the Biblical view, see “Corporate Election Quotes” and “Corporate Election (Resources)”
THE NECESSITY OF REVELATION. — The absolute necessity of a divine revelation is sufficiently established. If God be the sole Fountain of light and truth, all knowledge must be derived from him. “The spirit of a man may know the things of a man; but the Spirit of God can alone know and teach the things of God.” That is, the human intellect, in its ordinary power and operation, is sufficient to comprehend the various earthly things that concern man’s sustenance and welfare in social life; but this intellect cannot fathom the things of God; it cannot find out the mind of the Most High; it knows not his will; it has no just idea of the end for which man was made; of that in which his best interests lie; of its own nature; of the nature of moral good and evil; how to avoid the latter, and how to attain the former, in which true happiness, or the supreme good, consists: and these things it is the province of divine revelation to teach, for they have never been taught or conceived by man.
How unspeakably we are indebted to God for giving us a revelation of his WILL and of his WORKS! Is it possible to know the mind of God but from himself? It is impossible. Can those things and services which are worthy of, and pleasing to, an infinitely pure, perfect, and holy Spirit, be ever found out by reasoning and conjecture? Never; for the Spirit of God alone can know the mind of God; and by this Spirit he has revealed himself to man, and in this revelation has taught him, not only to know the glories and perfections of the Creator, but also his own origin, duty, and interest. Thus far it was essentially necessary that God should reveal his WILL; but if he had not given a revelation of his WORKS, the origin, constitution, and nature of the universe could never have been adequately known. The world by wisdom knew not God. This is demonstrated by the writings of the most learned and intelligent heathens. They had no just, no rational notion of the origin and design of the universe. Moses alone, of all ancient writers, gives a consistent and rational account of the creation; an account which has been confirmed by the investigations of the most accurate philosophers.
ON ACTUAL SINS
RESPONDENT, CASPER WILTENS
I. As divines and philosophers are often compelled, on account of a penury of words, to distinguish those which are synonymous, and to receive others in a stricter or more ample signification than their nature and etymology will allow; so in this matter of actual sin, although the term applies also to the first sin of Adam, yet, for the sake of a more accurate distinction, they commonly take it for that sin which man commits, through the corruption of his nature, from the time where he knows how to use reason; and they define it thus: “Something thought, spoken or done against the law of God; or the omission of something which has been commanded by that law to be thought, spoken or done.” Or, with more brevity, “Sin is the transgression of the law;” which St. John has explained in this compound word anomia “anomy.” (1 John iii, 4.)
II. For as the law is perceptive of good and prohibitory of evil, it is necessary not only that an action, but that the neglect of an action, be accounted a sin. Hence arises the first distinction of sin into that of commission, when a prohibited act is perpetrated, as theft, murder, adultery, &c. And into that of omission, when a man abstains from [the performance of] an act that has been commanded; as if any one does not render due honour to a magistrate, or bestows on the poor nothing in proportion to the amplitude of his means. And since the Law is two-fold, one “the Law of works,” properly called, “the Law,” the other “the Law of faith,” (Rom. iii, 27,) which is the gospel of the grace of God; therefore sin is either that which is committed against the Law, or against the gospel of Christ. (Heb. ii, 2, 3.) That which is committed against the Law, provokes the wrath of God against sinners; that against the gospel, causes the wrath of God to abide upon us; the former, by deserving punishment; the latter, by preventing the remission of punishment.
III. One is a sin per se, “of itself;” another, per accidens, “accidentally.”
(1.) A sin per se is every external or internal action which is prohibited by the law, or every neglect of an action commanded by the law.
(2.) A sin is per accidens either in things necessary and restricted by law, or in things indifferent. In things necessary, either when an act prescribed by law is performed without its due circumstances, such as to bestow alms that you obtain praise from men; (Matt. vi, 2;) or when an act prohibited by law is omitted, not from a due cause and for a just end; as when any one represses his anger at the moment, that he may afterwards exact more cruel vengeance. In things indifferent, when any one uses them to the offense of the weak. (Rom. xiv, 15, 21.)
IV. Sin is likewise divided in reference to the personal object against whom the offense is committed; and it is either against God, against our neighbour, or against ourselves, according to what the Apostle says: “The grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world.” (Tit. ii, 11.) Where soberness is appropriately referred to the man himself; righteousness to our neighbour; and godliness to God: These, we affirm, are likewise contained in the two grand precepts, “Love God above all things,” and “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” For howsoever it may seem, that the ten commandments prescribe only what is due to God and to our neighbour; yet this very requirement is of such a nature that it cannot be performed by a man without fulfilling at the same time his duty to himself.
V. It is further distinguished, from its cause, into sins of ignorance, infirmity, malignity and negligence.
(1.) A sin of ignorance is, when a man does any thing which he does not know to be a sin; thus, Paul persecuted Christ in his Church. (1 Tim. i, 13.)
(2.) A sin of infirmity is, when, through fear, which may befall even a brave man, or through any other more vehement passion and perturbation of mind, he commits any offense; thus, Peter denied Christ, (Matt. xxvi, 70,) and thus David, being offended by Nabal, was proceeding to destroy him and his domestics. (1 Sam. xxv, 13, 21.)
(3.) A sin of dignity or malice, when any thing is committed with a determined purpose of mind, and with deliberate counsel; thus Judas denied Christ, (Matt. xxvi, 14, 15.) and thus David caused Uriah to be killed. (2 Sam. xi, 15.)
(4.) A sin of negligence is, when a man is overtaken by a sin, (Gal. vi, l.) which encircles and besets him before he can reflect within himself about the deed. (Heb. xii, 1.) In this description will be classed that of St. Paul against Ananias the High Priest, if indeed he may be said to have sinned in that matter. (Acts xxiii, 3.)
VI. Nearly allied to this is the distribution of sin into that which is contrary to conscience, and that which is not contrary to conscience.
(1.) A sin against conscience is one that is perpetrated through malice and deliberate purpose, laying waste the conscience, and (if committed by holy persons) grieving the Holy Spirit so much as to cause Him to desist from his usual functions of leading them into the right way, and of making them glad in their consciences by his inward testimony. (Psalm li, 10, 13.) This is called, by way of eminence, “a sin against conscience;” though, when this phrase is taken in a wide acceptation, a sin which is committed through infirmity, but which has a previous sure knowledge that is applied to the deed, might also be said to be against conscience.
(2.) A sin not against conscience is either that which is by no means such, and which is not committed through a willful and wished-for ignorance of the law, as the man who neglects to know what he is capable of knowing: or it is that which at least is not such in a primary degree, but is precipitated through precipitancy, the cause of which is a vehement and unforeseen temptation. Of this kind, was the too hasty judgment of David against Mephibosheth, produced by the grievous accusation of Ziba, which happened at the very time when David fled. This bore a strong resemblance to a falsehood. (2 Sam. xvi, 3, 4.) Yet that which, when once committed, is not contrary to conscience, becomes contrary to it when more frequently repeated, and when the man neglects self-correction.
VII. To this may be added, the division of sin from its causes, with regard to the real object about which the sin is perpetrated. This object is either “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life,” that is, either pleasure specially so called, or avarice, or arrogant haughtiness; all of which, proceeding from the single fountain of self love or inordinate affection, tend distinctly towards the good things of the present life, haughtiness towards its honours, avarice towards its riches, and pleasure towards those things by which the external senses may experience self-gratification. From these arise those works of the flesh which are enumerated by the apostle in Gal. v, 19-21, perhaps with the exception of idolatry. Yet it may be made a legitimate subject of discussion, whether idolatry may not be referred to one of these three causes.
VIII. Sin is also divided into venial and mortal: but this distribution is not deduced from the nature of sin itself, but accidentally from the gracious estimation of God. For every sin is in its own nature mortal, that is, it is that which merits death; because it is declared universally concerning sin, that “its wages is death,” (Rom. vi, 23,) which might in truth be brought instantly down upon the offenders, were God wishful to enter into judgment with his servants. But that which denominates sin venial, or capable of being forgiven, is this circumstance, God is not willing to impute sin to believers, or to place sin against them, but is desirous to pardon it; although with this difference, that it requires express penitence from some, while concerning others it is content with this expression: “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me, O Lord, from secret faults.” (Psalm xix, 12.) In this case, the ground of fear is not so much, lest, from the aggravation of sin, men should fall into despair, as, lest, from its extenuation, they should relapse into negligence and security; not only because man has a greater propensity to the latter than to the former, but likewise because that declaration is always at hand: have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,” that is, of the sinner who has merited death by his transgressions, “but that he be converted and live.” (Ezek. xviii, 32.)
IX. Because we say that the wages of every sin is death,” we do not, on this account, with the Stoics, make them all equal. For, beside the refutation of such an opinion by many passages of Scripture, it is likewise opposed to the diversity of objects against which sin is perpetrated, to the causes from which it arises, and to the law against which the offense is committed. Besides, the disparity of punishments in the death that is eternal, proves the falsehood of this sentiment: For a crime against God is more grievous than one against man; (1 Sam. ii, 25;) one that is perpetrated with a high hand, than one through error; one against a prohibitory law, than one against a mandatory law. And far more severe will be the punishment inflicted on the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida, than on those of Tyre and Sidon. (Matt. xi, 23.) By means of this dogma, the Stoics have endeavoured to turn men aside from the commission of crimes; but their attempt has not only been fruitless, but also injurious, as will be seen when we institute a serious deliberation about bringing man back from sin into the way of righteousness.
X. Mention is likewise made, in the Scriptures, of “a sin unto death;” (1 John v, 16;) which is specially so-called, because it in fact, brings certain death on all by whom it has been committed. Mention is made in the same passage of “a sin which is not unto death,” and which is opposed to the former. In a parallel column with these, marches the division of sin into pardonable and unpardonable.
(1.) A sin which is “not unto death” and pardonable, is so-called, because it is capable of having subsequent repentance, and thus of being pardoned, and because to many persons it is actually pardoned through succeeding penitence-such as that which is said to be committed against “the Son of Man.”
(2.) The “sin unto death” or unpardonable, is that which never has subsequent repentance, or the author of which cannot be recalled to penitence — such as that which is called “the sin” or “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,” (Matt. xii, 32; Luke xii, 10,) of which it is said, “it shall not be forgiven, either in this world, or in the world to come.” For this reason, St. John says, we must not pray for that sin.
XI. But, though the proper meaning and nature of the sin against the Holy Ghost are with the utmost difficulty to be ascertained, yet we prefer to follow those who have furnished the most weighty and grievous definition of it, rather than those who, in maintaining six species of it, have been compelled to explain “unpardonable” in some of those species, for that which is with difficulty or is rarely remitted, or which of itself deserves not to be pardoned. With the former class of persons, therefore, we say that the sin against the Holy Ghost is committed when any man, with determined malice, resists divine, and in fact, evangelical truth, for the sake of resistance, though he is so overpowered with the refulgence of it, as to be rendered incapable of pleading ignorance in excuse. This is therefore called “the sin against the Holy Ghost, not because it is not perpetrated against the Father and the Son; (for how can it be that he does not sin against the Father and the Son, who sins against the Spirit of both?) but because it is committed against the operation of the Holy Spirit, that is, against the conviction of the truth through miracles, and against the illumination of the mind.
XII. But the cause why this sin is called “irremissible,” and why he who has committed it, cannot be renewed to repentance, is not the impotency of God, as though by his most absolute omnipotence, he cannot grant to this man repentance unto life, and thus cannot pardon this blasphemy; but since it is necessary, that the mercy of God should stop at some point, being circumscribed by the limits of his justice and equity according to the prescript of his wisdom, this sin is said to be “unpardonable,” because God accounts the man who has perpetrated so horrid a crime, and has done despite to the Spirit of grace, to be altogether unworthy of having the divine benignity and the operation of the Holy Spirit occupied in his conversion, lest he should himself appear to esteem this sacred operation and kindness at a low rate, and to stand in need of a sinful man, especially of one who is such a monstrous sinner!
XIII. The efficient cause of actual sins is, man through his own free will. The inwardly working cause is the original propensity of our nature towards that which is contrary to the divine law, which propensity we have contracted from our first parents, through carnal generation. The outwardly working causes are the objects and occasions which solicit men to sin. The substance or material cause, is an act which, according to its nature, has reference to good. The form or formal cause of it is a transgression of the law, or an anomy. It is destitute of an end; because sin is amartia a transgression which wanders from its aim. The object of it is a variable good; to which, when man is inclined, after having deserted the unchangeable good, he commits an offense.
XIV. The effect of actual sins are all the calamities and miseries of the present life, then death temporal, and afterwards death eternal. But in those who are hardened and blinded, even the effects of preceding sins become consequent sins themselves.
I was struck by how graceful both Arminius and Francis Junius were toward one another in their correspondence over the issue of predestination. I have printed their opening statements toward one another below. Oh that Arminians and Calvinists today could be as graceful toward one another as these brothers were toward one another. Our debate is in-house (Galatians 3:26-29) and we are all justified before God because of the work of Christ and not because of Arminius or Calvin. As we keep that in mind, theological debates will be graceful, loving, peaceful, and seeking to learn from each other in areas where we may be weak. I confess that I learn much from my Calvinist brothers and sisters. They are precious to me.
TO THE MOST DISTINGUISHED MAN, FRANCIS JUNIUS, D.D., A BROTHER IN CHRIST, WORTHY OF MY MOST PROFOUND REGARD, JAMES ARMINIUS WISHES YOU HEALTH.
MOST DISTINGUISHED AND VENERATED SIR:
They who do not give their assent to the sentiments of others, seem to themselves, and wish to seem to others, to be, in this, under the influence of sound judgment; but sometimes, ignorance of the sentiments of others is the cause of this, which, nevertheless, they by no means acknowledge. I have not hitherto been able to agree, in the full persuasion of my mind, with the views of some learned men, both of our own and of former ages, concerning the decrees of predestination and of reprobation.
Consciousness of my own lack of talents does not permit me to ascribe the cause of this disagreement to sound judgment: that I should ascribe it to ignorance is hardly allowed by my own opinion, which seems to me to be based on an adequate knowledge of their sentiments. On this account I have been till this time in doubt; fearing to assent to an opinion of another, without a full persuasion in my own mind; and not daring to affirm that which I consider more true, but not in accordance with the sentiments of most learned men. I have, therefore, thought it necessary for the tranquillity of my mind, to confer with learned men concerning that decree, that I might try whether their erudite labours might be able to remove my doubt and ignorance, and produce in my mind knowledge and certainty. I have already done this with some of my brethren; and with others, whose opinions have authority, but thus far, (to confess the truth,) with a result useless, or even injurious to me. I thought that I must have recourse to you, who, partly from your published works, and partly from the statements of others, I know to be a person such that I may, without fear, be permitted to hope from you some certain result.
REPLY OF FRANCIS JUNIUS TO THE MOST LEARNED MAN, AND MY VERY DEAR BROTHER, JAMES ARMINIUS GREETING:
TERTULLIAN, On whose works, as you know, I have now been long engaged, has been the cause of my long silence, respected brother. In the mean time, I placed your letter on a shelf plainly in my view, that I might be reminded of my obligation to you, and might attend, at the earliest possible opportunity, to your request. You desire from me an explication of a question of a truly grave character, in which the truth is fully known to God: that which is sufficient He had expressed in His written word, which we both consult with the divine help. You may set forth openly what you think and do not think. You desire that I should present my views, that from this mutual interchange and communication of sentiments, we may illustrate the truth of divine grace. I will do what I can according to the measure, which the Lord has admeasured to me; and whatever I may perceive of this most august mystery, I will indicate it, whether I regard it as truth or as a merely speculative opinion, that you with me may hold that which belongs to the Deity. Whatever pertains to my opinion, if you have a more correct sentiment, you may, in a kind and brotherly manner, unfold it, and by a salutary admonition recall me into the way of truth. I will here say nothing by way of introduction, because I prefer to pass at once to the subject itself, which may rather be “good to the use of edifying,” as the apostle teaches. I judge that all desire the truth in righteousness: but all do not therefore see the truth in righteousness. “We know in part, and we prophesy in part,” (1 Cor. xiii, 9,) and “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” (John xvi, 13.) We perceive a part of the truth: and present a part; the rest will be given in his own time, by the Spirit of truth to those who seek. May he therefore grant to both of us that we may receive and may present the truth.
That we may both realize greater advantage from this brotherly discussion, and that nothing may carelessly fall from me, I will follow the path marked out in your letters, writing word for word, and distinguishing the topics of your discussion into propositions; and will subjoin to them, in the same order, my own opinion concerning each point, that in reference to all things you may be able to see clearly, and according to the Divine will, determine from the mode of my answer, what I think and what I do not think. The following is your first proposition, in which you may recognize yourself as speaking.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God:” and this is worse than death. Then to show how it is at once death and enmity; “for it is not subject to the Law of God,” he says, “neither indeed can be.” But be not troubled at hearing the “neither indeed can be.” For this difficulty admits of an easy solution. For what he here names “carnal mindedness” is the reasoning (or “way of thinking,” ????????) that is earthly, gross, and eager-hearted after the things of this life and its wicked doings. It is of this he says “neither yet can” it “be subject” to God. And what hope of salvation is there left, if it be impossible for one who is bad to become good? This is not what he says. Else how would Paul have become such as he was? how would the (penitent) thief, or Manasses, or the Ninevites, or how would David after falling have recovered himself? How would Peter after the denial have raised himself up? (1 Cor. v. 5
.) How could he that had lived in fornication have been enlisted among Christ’s fold? (2 Cor. ii. 6–11
.) How could the Galatians who had “fallen from grace” (Gal. v. 4
), have attained their former dignity again? What he says then is not that it is impossible for a man that is wicked to become good, but that it is impossible for one who continues wicked to be subject to God. Yet for a man to be changed, and so become good, and subject to Him, is easy. For he does not say that man cannot be subject to God, but, wicked doing cannot be good. As if he had said, fornication cannot be chastity, nor vice virtue. And this it says in the Gospel also, “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit” (Matt. vii. 18
), not to bar the change from virtue to vice, but to say how incapable continuance in vice is of bringing forth good fruits. For He does not say that an evil tree cannot become a good one, but that bring forth good fruit it cannot, while it continues evil. For that it can be changed, He shows from this passage, and from another parable, when He introduces the tares as becoming wheat, on which score also He forbids their being rooted up; “Lest,” He says, “ye root up also the wheat with them” (ib. xiii. 29
); that is, that which will spring (????????, 4 mss. ?????????) from them. It is vice then he means by carnal mindedness, and by spiritual mindedness the grace given, and the working of it discernible in the right determination of mind, not discussing in any part of this passage, a substance and an entity, but virtue and vice. For that which thou hadst no power to do under the Law, now, he means, thou wilt be able to do, to go on uprightly, and with no intervening fall, if thou layest hold of the Spirit’s aid. For it is not enough not to walk after the flesh, but we must also go after the Spirit, since turning away from what is evil will not secure our salvation, but we must also do what is good. And this will come about, if we give our souls up to the Spirit, and persuade our flesh to get acquainted with its proper position, for in this way we shall make it also spiritual; as also if we be listless we shall make our soul carnal. For since it was no natural necessity which put the gift into us, but the freedom of choice placed it in our hands, it rests with thee henceforward whether this shall be or the other. For He, on His part, has performed everything.
For sin no longer warreth against the law of our mind, neither doth it lead us away captive as heretofore, for all that state has been ended and broken up, and the affections cower in fear and trembling at the grace of the Spirit. But if thou wilt quench the light, and cast out the holder of the reins, and chase the helmsman away, then charge the tossing thenceforth upon thyself. (John Chrysostom’s comments on Romans 8:7
President Obama today argued that we need reform in the United States regarding the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms. He argued that we as a nation must do what we can to protect our children and keep them safe.
Unless it comes to abortion. There President Obama and the entire Democratic Party stands for Romans 1:18-32. They approve of the wretched practice of murdering babies inside of their own mothers.
Someone said it best today, if you want to end abortion, require the doctors to use guns to blow their brains out instead of a vacuum and then abortion would end (since it was performed by a gun you see).
Face the facts, Obama is a hypocrite to call us to protect our children and do all this possible to keep them safe while he endorses murdering institutions such as Planned Parenthood and other murder clinics.
Exodus 20:13 Mr. President.
Good defense here against C. Michael Patton’s misleading post on Arminianism.
C.Michael Patton is the President of Credo House. He has now written two separate and similar posts defending the “irrationality” of Calvinism as actually being a strength of the system, specifically over and above Arminianism. In this newest post, Mr. Patton levels many unfair and unfounded criticisms against Arminian theology and “Arminians” in general, betraying a basic lack of understanding concerning what Arminians believe and why they believe it. For this reason, an Arminian response seemed appropriate in order to set the record straight. This response will interact with the entirety of C. Michael Patton’s post, which would make for a very long interaction as a single post. For that reason, the response will be broken into parts.
Part 1: The Set Up
Patton: I am a child of Western thought. Therefore I like to figure things out. If possible, I like to figure it all out. It causes some problems sometimes with me and God and I need to deal with it better. Sometimes I only really follow or engage with God when I get it. When things make sense to me, it eases my intellectual anxiety and engages my will. Who?, What?, Where?, How?, and, especially,
Honestly, I don’t like the way this starts out. It makes it seem like logic and wanting to figure things out is just a “western” thing. That is not the case at all. It’s pretty basic to human nature and our desire to understand and makes sense of reality and the world we live in. This desire goes far beyond just questions of theology, and it is not limited to “western thought” in the least.
Patton: Why? Theological gurus call this “cataphatic” theology. Cataphatic theology emphasises God’s revelation and our understanding of it. Taken to an extreme, we can find ourselves in arrogantly awkward position of, as A. W. Tozer put it, “trying to look God eye to eye.” When we have to understand everything, we attempt to trade our finitude for infinitude. And this should scare us to death. We need a healthy dose of “apophatic” theology. This emphasizes mystery.
Actually, we need a balance of both. There are unhealthy extremes on both ends. Patton admits this later on.
Patton: Our Eastern brothers and sisters normally get this better than we do. They are content without publishing a new theology book every year. They normally don’t write papers explaining the mysteries of the world, have societies discussing the nuances of our faith, and they don’t argue about too much.
But why is that? Personally, I think a lot of that is because Eastern theologians almost unanimously reject Calvinism and so don’t find themselves in the position to always try to reconcile irreconcilable problems. Honestly, a tremendous amount of Calvinist scholarship is caught up in dealing with problems that Calvinism alone creates (and this post by Mr. Patton is yet another example).
Patton: Taken to an extreme, it can lead to an unexamined faith where people know what they believe but they have no idea why. And God did go through a lot of trouble to explain quite a bit of himself to us. While there are secret things that belong to the Lord (apophadic), the things revealed belong to us (cataphatic). We need balance. We need a cool yet passionate head about us. We need to hold some theological ropes very tightly, but we need to loosen our grip on others. There is quite a bit that we can know about God, but there are so many things that we don’t get and we will never get.
Patton: Why all of this? Because I am going to talk about something that is very divisive in the Christian life. And, for the most part, I am going to try to encourage some of my Western brothers and sisters to take a que [sic.] from my Eastern brothers and sisters and step down off the stool and quite [sic.] trying to look God eye to eye. I am going to encourage us to allow some tension in a very debated issue in Protestant Christianity.
The reason for all of Mr. Patton’s set up now seems rather clear. It is to create the idea that it is unreasonable to reject contradictions and irrationality in a theological system, namely (and only) Calvinism, of course. That’s right, Mr. Patton has just introduced a new so called “tension” into the mix, the wild claim that it is irrational to have a problem with irrationality. Of course, this is circular and self-defeating, just as the main thrust of Mr. Patton’s entire post. Not only that, we see another slam on “western thought.” Why does Mr. Patton keep going back to that? The answer seems to be that if he can convince his readers that their problems with irrationalities in Calvinism are just an unfortunate and invalid symptom of less sophisticated “western thought”, his readers will be more likely to feel OK about embracing such irrational “tensions” in Calvinism.
I have seen this same tactic many times before. For example, Craig Brown, in his little book, “The Five Dilemma’s of Calvinism,” says,
“In my defense of the Reformed faith, I will be ‘the Devils advocate’ and attack five principles of Calvinism from the standpoint of American common sense.” (pg. 9, see here for a post dealing with this quote and other aspects of Craig’s book)
So the argument is now framed to be more of an issue of Calvinism versus flawed Western or American thinking, rather than Biblical truth. Indeed, Mr. Patton will eventually spin things to such an extent as to potentially convince his readers that those who embrace such irrationalities (“tensions”) are nobler and just more honest with the Bible than those who do not (namely Arminians, of course). 
Patton: I am a Calvinist. It is funny. I often hear people talk about Calvinism as a closed box system that forces everything to fall in line, even when we have to sacrifice biblical integrity to do so. I often hear the accusation that Calvinism is a system that makes rationality its primary goal. And this is often true. Sometimes Calvinists do attempt to fit things into a system and engage in questionable logic driven hermeneutics to do so.
An admission that should not be soon forgotten. It is important to note here what Mr. Patton apparently means, though it is not very “apparent” from what he says here. Mr. Patton speaks about Calvinism being a “closed system” because Calvinists often pride themselves on the logic of that “system.” Indeed, many people seem to embrace Calvinism because the logic or coherence of the “system” appeals to them, or seems compelling. Patton finds this ironic since he embraces Calvinism because it has the same “tensions” (“apparent” inconsistencies, or irrationalities) that he sees in the Bible. So it is not coherence that attracts Mr. Patton to Calvinism, but “apparent” incoherence.
If Mr. Patton’s post were simply about explaining why he personally holds to Calvinism and finds it attractive, or how he finds it ironic that people are drawn to Calvinism based on the supposed logic of the system when he embraces it for its “irrationality”, that would all be well and good, but Mr. Patton does more than that. He attacks Arminianism in the process, and unfairly so. That is why this response seemed necessary.
 Unfortunately, this is a typical Calvinist tactic. The aim is to shame “logical” and “rational” interpreters as not submitting to what the Bible says as, supposedly, only Calvinists have the guts and the fortitude to do. Besides painting the Calvinist as more noble and honest than those who refuse to “embrace” such “tensions”, it also amounts to saying, “So what if Calvinism doesn’t make sense; neither does the Bible!” As will be discussed further, there is no reason to assume that such “tensions” are inherently “Biblical” tensions. Rather, they are the direct results of the Calvinist interpretation of the Bible. They are Calvinist tensions, not Biblical ones.
 For further evidence that this is Mr. Patton’s view and one of the main reasons for writing these posts, see his comments in the thread of a similar post called, “Why Calvinism is the Least Rational Option.” You can see that comment here (which seems to be a partial and general response to a comment I made earlier in that thread that will be quoted below).
In Calvinism, there are three major views regarding the divine viewpoint of the atonement of Christ and the purpose of the atonement. I will present all three views below.
1. The decree to save (elect) some and reprobate others.
2. The decree to create both the elect and the reprobate.
3. The decree to permit the fall of both the elect and the reprobate.
4. The decree to provide salvation only for the elect.
1. The decree to create human beings.
2. The decree to permit the fall.
3. The decree to elect some and reprobate others.
4. The decree to provide salvation only for the elect.
1. The decree to create human beings.
2. The decree to permit the fall.
3. The decree to provide salvation sufficient for all.
4. The decree to save some and reprobate others.
Either view one holds, to be a consistent Calvinists one must hold to particular redemption or limited atonement. To hold to the other major points of Calvinism while rejecting limited atonement would be based simply on a personal decision to do so and would not be congruent with the other points.
If you are wondering, most Arminians would somewhat comfortable with Sublapsarianism but we would disagree with point 4 only in that we believe God decreed the giving of His Son for all but those who reject Christ and His gospel to worship false gods (Romans 1:18-32) do so because of their own free will and not because God has not chosen to save them. Their rejection of the gospel leads to their condemnation (John 3:18) and not by God’s decree. We would argue that God decreed to save all who repent of their sins and place their saving faith in Christ Jesus. The reprobate would be thus so because of their own sinfulness and rejection of Christ rather than a decree.
I have been a disciple of Jesus for over 20 years by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). I know that my salvation is based entirely upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work at Calvary (John 6:29; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Salvation is a work of God from beginning to end (Jonah 2:9; Ephesians 1:13-14). Salvation is not by works of the flesh at all (Titus 3:5-7) and I believe that a person is justified before God because of the saving work of Christ (Acts 15:11; Romans 5:1-11).
And yet there are still Christians seeking to evangelize me. Most of the time it is Calvinists who write to me and express that I am wrong on so many levels because of my rejection of Calvinism. I willingly accept that I see God differently than Calvinists and I willingly accept that I believe in the work of Christ somewhat different than they do in that I hold that Jesus died for all and that all can be saved through faith in Him. I accept that I view election differently than they do as I hold to conditional election based on foreknown faith (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2). I acknowledge that we Arminians and Calvinists do disagree over theological issues.
Yet I don’t reject my Calvinist brethren as non-Christians. I don’t seek to evangelize them. I don’t mind questioning from time to time various aspects of a Calvinists theology but I am not out to make them into Arminians. I don’t feel this is my job nor is it my passion. I disagree with them but do not reject them as brothers and sisters in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29).
If you were able to view my IPod you would find many Calvinist Bible teachers from Dr. John MacArthur to Dr. Albert Mohler to even Dr. James White. I respect these men even if I don’t fully agree with them on all theological issues. I greatly enjoy listening to Dr. Mohler’s podcast as he helps me to think biblically about the world and about cultural issues. Dr. MacArthur is well-known for his exposition of Scripture and I appreciate his biblical knowledge and how his teachings are full of the Word of God. I appreciate the knowledge God has given to Dr. White in his understanding of cults. My passion is not to spend my time correcting these men nor is to convert them to Arminianism. I suspect they would not so why waste my time or their own.
I simply ask my Calvinist brothers and sisters to do the same toward me. I don’t want to convert you. I don’t want to argue with you. I understand we will disagree and from time to time we may debate but I don’t want to evangelize you. I want to evangelize the lost. I want to see sinners repent. I want to see the gospel go forth (2 Thessalonians 3:1). My passion is for people to be found in Christ Jesus (Mark 16:15). The gospel is what I value above Arminianism.
It has been nearly forty three years since Robert Shank published his seminal work, Elect in the Son, and that being ten years following his examination of perseverance, Life in theSon. Both are books that I have previously read in years past and recently the topic of election sparked a renewed interest, on my part, of Shank’s contribution. Dr. Shank suffered great rejection and whispered condemnation among many of his Baptist brethren when he first published “Life”, made all the more remarkable by the lack of any substantial repudiation of his exegesis and conclusions. To this day I have not found a credible rebuttal of his work and I hope that opinion is not shaded by any excessive Arminian sympathies on my part. To that end I have undertaken a re-reading of both volumes. During the first introduction to Dr. Shank, I was quite firmly in the Wesleyan camp and his conclusion reinforced much of the theology I was accustomed to. Since then, the classical Arminian position holds a greater sway theologically and this new exploration of these great books should give me an opportunity to better evaluation the conclusions and exegesis presented.
As I started reading “Elect in the Son”, the first chapter captured my attention for a couple of readings and I want to record it here for future reference and consideration. The comments struck as profound and worthy of meditation.
In a day when the foundations of society are crumbling, a day of gathering storm and deepening gloom, a day of unprecedented peril in which thoughtful men speak of the collapse of civilization and the possible annihilation of cities and nations – even of mankind, the sovereignty of God is an unfailing encouragement that lights the path of the just and affords assurance to all the faithful, who take great comfort in the words of James in the historic council of the church at Jerusalem: “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).
God, who has “declared the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done,” has said, “My council shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). He who “works all things after the council of His own will” is at work in the world in these momentous times, moving inexorably toward fulfillment of an eternal purpose that antedates creation and gives meaning to human history. History, by divine appointment, is teleological, and the sweep of human events, whatever the sound and fury, moves toward the appointed end: “Thy kingdom come.”
Nothing in the course of events can alter the appointed outcome. The unfolding of the days and years, whatever their number, ultimately will issue in all that was foretold by the prophets of old, by our LORD, and by His Apostles. The witness of history past, confirming “the prophetic word made more sure” (2 Pet. 1:19), attests that the human events ever move toward the inevitable denouement on which creation itself is predicated: “the coming of the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world”.
There is, of course, a sense in which the kingdom of God is eternally present rather than prospective, coexistent with Him who “before the mountains were brought forth or ever He had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, is God” (Ps. 90:2). But the kingdom of God, as proclaimed and anticipated by both Jesus and the Apostles and the prophets of old, is yet future and awaits its manifestation at the end of the age, to appear in a moment of spectacular divine intervention at the coming of Christ in power and judgment … but appearing also as the consummation of a long process, as implied by many of our LORD’s parables
Why a long process? Why not, instead, instant kingdom? Could not God, in the act of a moment, have created the everlasting kingdom He purposed from eternity? Are not all things possible with God?
All things are indeed possible for God, but only within the limitations of consistency with His own nature and being. God cannot lie, for example, nor can He change, nor can He deny Himself. We may reverently assume that, for the kind of kingdom He intends, God is following the only possible course: the process of human history.
The process comprehends all that God has done, beginning even before His mighty acts of creation when He “laid the foundations of the earth and the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4,7). It comprehends the creation of man in the image and likeness of God and the entrance of sin into human experience in the disobedience of man to the world and will of his Creator.
The process comprehends the moral self-discoveries and the redemptive revelations and encounters experienced by the patriarchs of old and all the faithful of their generations. It comprehends the experiences of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and a nation descended from them, and the judges and kings and prophets who appeared among them.
The process comprehends the redemptive mission of Jesus, unfolded in His incarnation, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and ultimate return in righteous judgment. It comprehends the labors of the Apostles and the witness of the Church to Christ and His saving Gospel in all generations until the coming of the King and the kingdom.
The process whereby God is creating the kingdom which He purposed before the world began comprehends “all nations of men … on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26) and involves every man. Human history in its totality is the milieu in which the everlasting kingdom is being wrought … and in which the election determined by God from before creation – an election wholly identified with the kingdom – is being realized.
“Thy kingdom come” – the kingdom which was the concern of Jesus in the days of His flesh, the burden of His preaching, the subject of splendid promises and solemn warnings, and the central theme of all His teachings from the beginning of His ministry to the time of His ascension (Acts 1:3). Thy kingdom come!
And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen, and Amen – Psalm 72:19
1 Elect in the Son, Robert L. Shank, Bethany House, Bloomington, MN 1970, 1989, pp 21-23
It was William Seward, the United States secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln, who said that slavery was doomed by a “higher law than the Constitution, the law of God.” Seward understood that slavery would fail because of the law of God opposing slavery based on race. Clearly racism was a sin and God would end the awful, destructive practice of slavery of the African race.
We modern abolitionists of abortion believe the same. Our war is not a war against a law. Our war is not a war against our culture. Our war is against murder. God will dispose abortion because abortion violates not the laws of the United States of America or the laws of New Zealand or the laws of China but the law of God. Murder is not just and abortion is nothing more than murder (Exodus 20:13).
Let it be known that we modern abolitionists of abortion desire to fight abortion with the same passion the abolitionists fought against slavery before the American Civil War. We believe that all people: black, red, white, yellow, etc. deserve the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that every person including the handicapped are made in the image of God and are precious in His sight. We believe that abortion is nothing more than the murder of unborn people and should be completely abolished in all forms.
Only to sit and think of God,
Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breathe the Name
Earth has no higher bliss
-Frederick W. Faber
Do you want to be in God’s presence? Do you desire to know him, to hear his voice, to fellowship with him, to listen and obey him? Meditation is listening to God’s word, thinking about his law, and remembering again and again what he has done. “Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2). “Christian meditation is the ability to hear God’s voice and to obey his word.” Hearing God is also a call to obedience. It does us no good to hear if we do not also obey.
Jesus often meditated. He set aside time to be alone with his Father. He listened, communed, and followed the will of his Father. He modeled a relationship for us. “What happens in meditation is that we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct an inner sanctuary in the heart”.
Christian meditation has little in common with meditation of the eastern religions. “Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind.” Eastern meditation is an attempt to escape from the physical realm and to lose one’s personal identity. Christian meditation is an encounter with the living God who makes us whole. Christian meditation is creating space that allows God to remove confusion around us, and to replace that confusion with a rich relationship with himself.
Deep down it is frightening to talk directly to God. He is holy, and we are not. It’s hard to trust him, it’s intimidating to be in his presence. We usually prefer to hear from God second hand – through a mediator – just like Israel preferred Moses to talk to God on their behalf. We think that by speaking to God “second hand”, we won’t really need to change our lives or who we are. But, “to be in the presence of God is to change.”
Desiring to talk to God requires grace from God in the first place. As we receive his grace, the fire in our heart grows. We increasingly desire to know him, to hear him, to obey him, to be in his presence, and for him to change us.
Learning to meditate requires setting aside some time to do it. At the same time, our whole day matters. Paul says “to pray without ceasing.” We can’t compartmentalize. If most of our day is frantic and without thought of God, it will be difficult to think of him for the few minutes that we do set aside.
What about location and posture? When meditating, try to pick a spot that is free of distraction. Turn off the TV and the cell phone. Focus on God. When the weather is nice, consider going outside. Pick a posture that works for you, that’s comfortable, and that helps you to center your attention on Christ.
Meditate on scripture. Allow God to speak to you through his written work. Scripture meditation is different than exegesis or study. It is ruminating on a scripture passage (reading the passage slowly, several times, thinking deeply about it). Sometimes it might include memorizing the passage. Ask God to personalize his word for you – to show you how he wants to apply it in your life. Pick a passage of scripture and internalize it.
Another kind of meditation is to “center down” (a Quaker term). Be quiet before God. Give your cares to him. Receive from him. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Another kind of meditation is to enjoy God’s world. Be amazed at his creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1). “Give your attention to the created order. Look at the trees, really look at them. Take a flower and allow its beauty and symmetry to sink deep into your mind and heart.”
Another kind of meditation is to think about current events. This could be called “prophetic meditation”. “Hold the events of our time before God and ask for prophetic insight to discern where these things lead. Further, we should ask for guidance for anything we personally should be doing to be salt and light in our decaying and dark world.”
Remember as you meditate that it is a learning process. Don’t get discouraged, don’t give up. God wants you to know him better. He is in the process of drawing you to himself. Let him do it.
All quotes in this post (other than the Bible references) are from the Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster.
No, even if infants sin, that does not mean God would send then to hell if they die. The “age of accountability” is more about the time when children can trust in Christ for salvation, rather then when they can first sin. Most parents realize their young children do things they shouldn’t long before they can understand the Gospel. I tried explaining this to a Presbyterian once, but he insisted the age of accountability means young children are not moral agents – they cannot sin. So here’s a few quotes on the age of accountability (frankly the first three hits off a Google search, but they do the trick).
“It doesn’t mean that they are not fallen; it doesn’t mean that they are not sinful — it does mean that God mercifully treats them as “innocent” in spite of that, and He has to exercise grace to do that, just as He exercises grace to save those who believe.” (John MacArthur Grace to you)
“Frequently lost in the discussion regarding the age of accountability is the fact that children, no matter how young, are not “innocent” in the sense of being sinless… The age of accountability is a concept that teaches those who die before reaching the age of accountability are automatically saved, by God’s grace and mercy. The age of accountability is a belief that God saves all those who die before reaching the ability to make a decision for or against Christ. …The fact that Christ’s death was sufficient for all sin would allow the possibility of God’s applying that payment to those who were never capable of believing.” (Got Questions)
“But second, since that response is based on one’s ability to comprehend and respond to the message, a person becomes personally accountable when he or she reaches a point where they have the spiritual and mental facility to grasp the issues. This does not mean they are not sinful, but only that they have not reached a place where they can understand.” (Bible.org – What does the Bible say about the age of accountability?
I once visited Leonard Ravenhill’s home in Lindale, Texas. His house was full of books. In his study were shelves full of books. Ravenhill was a reader. He often would read a chapter or more from books when some brethren would gather in his house for prayer. He loved to read from the great saints of God such as Spurgeon, Bounds, Tozer (whom he was personal friends with before his death in 1963), Murray, Wesley, and many more.
Charles Spurgeon himself was an avid reader. He read as many as five books a week! He too had a personal library full of books. Spurgeon loved to read commentaries and would spend hours reading over commentaries. He had a photographic memory and would often walk into the pulpit to preach with little more than an outline and would recite from memory quotes from books that he had read or hymns.
Dr. Al Mohler is an avid reader. He reads as many as ten books a week!
Dr. John MacArthur is an avid reader as well. He has made it his custom to always reading a commentary, a book on theology, and sometimes a “hot” topic book on history, culture, etc. His sermons show his love for commentaries and his love for theology.
I wish I could read like that. On a good week I can read up to two books a week. Typically I average one book. I wish I could read more. Time does not permit that for me. I work a full-time job (mostly overnight) and am a full-time parent and husband not to mention my passion for the Lord Jesus. I love to read though and would rather read than any other thing besides prayer.
With the modern technology we have now with Kindles and other e-readers, there is no excuse for not reading books. I own a Kindle Fire and love my Kindle. Each week there are literally hundreds of free books one can download. I subscribe to a website that sends me updates about free books out there. You can find many godly books for free and you can also read books from saints long gone such as E.M. Bounds, Albert Barnes, John Bunyan, etc. I download as many free books as I can even if I don’t agree fully with the books or the authors.
Reading stretches your mind like nothing else. Television makes you passive even if you are watching programs designed for learning. Reading allows you to not just stretch your thinking but it also causes you to focus unlike television. Reading fictional works allows you to create worlds and images that are only in your mind. To read a book and then see the movie is often disappointing to me as the movie is never as good as the book and is nothing like I pictured in my mind (The Hobbit comes to mind).
Finally, it is interesting to me that God has chosen to faithfully reveal Himself and His Son and our salvation through a written book. The Bible is a collection of 66 different books that faithfully reveals the truth of God and His Messiah. God could have chosen to reveal His salvation to us through visions or dreams or through a picture in the sky but He chose to reveal Himself through His Word (John 20:31). His Word is to be studied, memorized, applied, and taught to others (2 Timothy 3:15-4:3). The Word sanctifies us (John 17:17) and His Word cuts us (Hebrews 4:12). His Word is how we defeat the lies of Satan (Ephesians 6:17). His Word is how we know we are disciples of Jesus (John 8:31-32). His Word is how we grow in the Lord (Psalm 1:1-3; 2 Peter 3:18). We are to long for His Word (1 Peter 2:2). We are not to add to His Word nor take away from it (Revelation 22:18-19). The Word is vital to knowing Christ and preaching His truth. How important it is then to spend time reading the Bible above all other books.