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Plenary speakers:

Roger Olson, PhD


October14-16,2010
Barry Collen, PhD Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Ml
Denis Fortin, PhD
George Knight, PhD
Gory Lond, PhD Come discuss·the Adventist understanding
Woodrow Whidden, PhD
Hons LoRondelle, ThD of salvation with its roots in 17th century
AngelRodrlguez.ThD Arminianism and Wesleyan thought. Hear top
Other speakers include:
scho lars explore issues relating to a biblical
Ron Clouzet understanding of human nature, freewill, God 's
Jo Ann Davidson grace, atonement and predestination.
Richard Davidson
Jacques Doukhon
Sponsored by: Andrews University: Adventist Theological Sociery; rhe General
Mortin Hanno
Conference Brblicol Research Institute: Andrews University Press; Andrews
Jifi Moskolo
University Seminary Studies; Review ond Herold Publishing Association:
John Reeve
Russe// Staples North American Division Ministerial Association; Ministry Magazine,
Stephen Bouer North American Division; Pacific Press Publishing Assoc1at1on

For more information and regi stration:


www.andrews.edu/ armi nian ism

A Seventh-da:y Adventist
W Theological Seminary
Andrews University
THURSDAY,0CTOBER14
SE.\IINARY

5:00 Opening Reception in Seminary Commons


6:00 Opening Plenary Session*
Dr. Denis Fortin
Historical and Theological Perspectives on the Rise ofArminianism
and the Place ofSeventh-day Adventism in the
Calvinist-Arminian Debate
Dr. Hans LaRondelle
Divine Election and Predestination: A Biblical Perspective
Discussion Groups (according to the color of the dot on your name badge)
*Musical selection: Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) by AU Early Music Ensemble
FR1DAY, 0CTOBER15
SE...\1INARY
8:00 am Plenary Session
Dr. George Knight
Seventh-day Adventism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Overlooked
Topics in Adventism's Soteriology: Moving Beyond Missing
Links and Toward a More Explicit Understanding
Discussion Groups
Dr. Roger Olson
Arminianism is God-centered Theology
Discussion Groups
Breakout Session 1 (p 6-7)

Lunch Break
2:00 Plenary Session
Dr. Barry Callen
Soteriological Synergism and Its Surrounding Seductions
Discussion Groups
Breakout Session 2 (p 7-8)

4=45 Sabbath Preparation and Supper

7:00 - 8:30 Vespers Drs. Richard & Jo Ann Davidson


The Sabbath: A Highlight ofAdventist Soteriology
11:00 Worship Service Dr. Angel Rodriguez
Incarnation, Death, Resurrection: Atonement as a Narrative

12:30 pm Lunch Break

2:00 Plenary Session


Dr. Keith Stanglin
Assurance of Salvation: An Arminian Account
Dr. Woodrow Whidden
Investigative Judgment and the Assurance of Salvation
Breakout Session 3 (p 8-9)

5 :00 Refreshments provided in Seminary Commons

6:00 Plenary Panel Discussion Dr. Martin Hanna, moderator


Plenary Session
Dr. Gary Land
Reflections on the Symposium
Closing of the Symposium Dr. Denis Fortin

8 :00 Concert at Howard Performing Arts Center

Discuss ion Groups


The Greek root of the word "symposium" signifies a meeting that includes discussion. This notion has influenced the planning for Arminian-
ism and Adventism: Celebrating our Soteriological Heritage. The plenary and breakout presentations are intended to stimulate discussions during and
after the symposium.
Each of you has been ass igned to a discussion group with wh ich to participate throughout the symposium. Th is will allow you to develop
comfortable discussion relationships within your group. We ask that you r comments be brief and to-the-point so that all may participate. Additionally,
please give respect to one another; we can agree to be agreeable even when we disagree. We have appointed qualified discussion facilitators and assistants
to reco rd the questions arising from you r discussions. These questions will be addressed further in a panel discussion on Sabbath afternoon.

Color of Name Badge Dot Location Facilitator Assistant


5120 Skip Bell Roge r Dudley
N310 Cheryl Doss Paul Gregor
Roy Gane Kathy Beagles
Robert Johnston Gorden Doss
Nicholas Miller Stanley Patterson
Jerry Moon David Penna/ John Matthews
Teresa Reeve Wagner Kuh n
Walt Williams Terry Robertson
2
PLENARY P RESE:NTERS

Roger Olson is professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University. Previously
he taught theology at Bethel University and Oral Roberts University. He earned a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from
Rice University and a M.A. in Religious Studies from North American Baptist Seminary (Sioux Falls Seminary).
He is the author of 13 books, including The Story of Christian Theology and Arminian Theology: Myths and
Realities. He served as editor of Christian Scholar's Reuiew from 1994-1999 and as president of the American
Theological Society (Midwest Division) in the early 1990s. He is an ordained minister (American Baptist Church-
es, U.S.A.) and frequent speaker and writer on subjects related especially to evangelical Christianity in America.

"-tracts: A.rmin ianism is God-ce::iter:ed Theology: Many critics of Anninian theology have presented it as Mman-centered~
~-- This is a complete misconception or misrepresentation. In fact, Arminius and his faithful followers (the early Remonstrants,
,;:;. \\"esley, the 19th century Methodist theologians Pope, Watson, Summer and Miley) went to great lengths to emphasize the God-
.--edness of their theology. Arminius stated most emphatically and repeatedly that God's glory is the final end (ultimate purpose)
"'~•ything, including man's salvation. The idea that Arminian theology is man-centered, promoted mostly by Cahfoist theologians,
11eS from its emphasis on free will. However, classical Arminianism's emphasis on free will is for the sole purpose of rescuing God's
~tion as not the author of sin and evil. In c.lassical Arminian theology, God's glory is his perfect character, his goodness and love.
~ \\ithout goodness is not glorious or worthy of worship. Arminian theology better protects and promotes the glory of God than
:my other theology.
.,.;nianism is Evangelical Th eology: :Many critics of Arminian theology accuse it of being Jess than authentically evangelical
;;:eir definitions, of course). Accepting the idea that "evangelical" equates \\itb belief in salvation by grace through faith alone
-:i.::asized by Reformed theologians) one can clearly see that classical Arminian theology is thoroughly and authentically evangeli-
..\.ltlinius and bis faithful followers all emphasized the gift nature of salvation; all denied any Pelagian talk of human merit "ith
L-d to salvation. Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism are both foreign to classical Arminian thought. The critics have simply not
__>u-m.inius or his faithful followers on this subject, or they are \.\TOngly insisting that monergism is essential to evangelical faith.
o.=ian theology is ·evangelical synergism," which is more truly evangelical than its alternatives.

Bar ry Callen is University Professor Emeritus of Christian Studies at Anderson University, Editor of Ander-
son Uni~·ersity Press and the Wesleyan Theological Journal, and Special Assistant to the General Director of
Church of God Ministries. He is an ordained Christian minister married to Janetta Callen. Together they have
five grandchildren and have traveled the world in short-term mission assignments. A college and seminary dean
and professor at Anderson University for thirty-nine years, Dr. Callen has authored thirty-five books, including
his autobiography A Pilgrim's Progress (2008). Recent other volumes include: Discerning the Diuine (V'•estmin-
ster/John Knox 2004); Authentic Spirituality (Baker Academic/ Emeth Press 2001, 2006); and The Scripture
Principle, with Clark Pinnock (Baker Academic/ Emeth Press 2006, 2009). He holds academic degrees from
Geneva College, Anderson University, Asbury Theological Seminary, Chicago Theological Seminary, and Indiana
University. He is a founding officer and current corporate secretary of Horizon International, a Christian minis-
try to AIDS orphans in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Soteriolog:ical S),1ergism and Its Surrounding Seductions: I set the basic thesis in my 2007 book, Caught Be-
:--uths. Paradox is crucial for a balanced Christian orthodoxy. One must see the whole of a doctrinal topic and affirm that whole
=-::.need complexity. Otherwise, one holds half of a truth and presents it as the whole-\,Tongly, even in its partial rightness. For
:::... ::he doctrine of salvation must be understood as a soteriological synergism-two truths between which we are caught. Does
- lie \\ith divine grace and/or human "works"? In some sense, and to some degree, the only adequate answer is "Yes."' There
~on synergism, a mutuality model, with seductions on every hand. One dangerous seduction is reverting to a monogerism,
~-ity of perspective that is more logically "'clean" than theologically adequate. I affirm in God the balanced synergism of both
_c.ty and suffering, the complex and wonder-fuJJ re\·elation of God in Jesus Christ. I affirm that sah·ation is by faith based on
~alone, although sa-ving grace is never alone. The question is, What must go \\i th divine grace that completes the salvation
.. tltat constitutes the truths between/among which we are necessarily caught?

Keith Stanglin is Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, where
he teaches courses in church history, theology, and philosophy. He has a ~I.Div. from Harding University Gradu-
ate School of Religion. His Ph.D. is from Cahin Theological Seminary, with an emphasis in Reformation and
Pos t-Reformation theology. He has \vTitten Arminius on the Assurance of Salvation: The Contex1, Roots, and
Shape of the Leiden Debate, 1603-1609 (Brill, 2007); and The Missing Public Disputations ofJacobus Armin-
ius: Introduction, Text, and Notes (Brill, 2010). He also co-edited Arminius, Arminianism, and Europe (Brill,
2009). He is currently working on an introduction to Arminius' theology, tentath·ely entitled Jacob Arminius:
Theologian ofGrace (Oxford University Press).

Assurance of Sah·ation: An Arminian Account: Assurance of sa)Yation has been a key concern of soteriology
.n the history of the Western Church. For Jacob Arminius, as an heir to this tradition, assurance was one of the dri\ing forces
-g his dissent from the Reformed doctrine of predestination so common in his day. which he claimed Jed to either carnal se-
-c.espair. Instead, he proposed a doctrine of biblical assurance that would steer between these two e:...1remes. True salYation
~in ,·arious testimonies that bolster assurance. Ylore importantly, certainty of salvation is grounded in the doctrine of God,
.::eciares GOO's love for all humanity for the goal of eternal salvation and fellowship. The insights of Arminius on assurance yield
~:practical, pastoral considerations.

3
PLENARY PRESENTERS

Derus Fortin is dean and professor of theology at the Seventh-day Ad,·entist Theological Seminary, Andrews
University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. He was appointed dean in 2006. Since joining the Seminary faculty in
1994, Fortin also ser\"ed as director of the master of divinity program (1999-2001), associate dean (2000-2004),
and chair of the department of theology and Christian philosophy (2006). Born in Quebec City, Canada, Fortin
recei\"ed a bachelor of arts degree in pastoral ministry from Canadian Uni\"ersity College, Alberta, in i982. He
earned a master of di..inity from the Se,·enth-day Adventist Theological Seminary of Andrews University in
1986 and a doctorate in theology from the Universite Laval, Quebec, in 1995. His dissertation is titled: "Ad-
ventism in the Eastern Townships of Quebec: Implantation and Institutionalization in the 19th Century." Prior
to coming to Andrews, Fortin served as a pastor in the Quebec Conference of Se\"enth-day Adventists. Fortin
has authored a number of publications on Ad,·entist history and theology. In 2004 he published Aduentism in
Quebec: The Dynamics of Rural Church Growth, 1830-1910 (Andrews University Press). He is co-editor of the
forthcoming Ellen G. White Encyclopedia, to be published by the Re,iew and Herald. He is married to Kristine
Knutson, coordinator of advising services at Andre"·s University. Their children are ((jmberly and her husband,
Andrew Fish, Mark, and Erika.
Abstract: Historical and Theological Perspecti\"CS o n the Ri e of Arm inianism and tJ1e Place ofSe,·ent:Ji-day Ad,·e nt-
ism in ilie Cafrinist-Arminian Deb a te: As the first presentation made at this Symposium, this paper provides a brief historical
sun·ey ofsome of the theological issues raised by Arminius and The Remonstrance, and seeks to identify the key theological arguments
that anchor the Arminian perspective of the Ad\•entist doctrine of salvation.
Four hundred years ago, a group of Dutch pastors and theologians published a document in which they responded to the
accusations of heresy leveled against the teachings of their colleague, Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius, who had died the year
before. This document encapsulated Arrninian teachings on the doctrine of salvation in five points and subsequently became known
as The Remonstrance, a French noun referring to an official and well-articulated document to protest or raise objections about a law
or an edict. In the years that followed, the teachings of The Remonstrance became a rall)ing point for those who were dissatisfied with
traditional Calvinism. In 1618, during the Synod of Dort, Reformed theologians fought against the Arminian soteriology presented in
The Remonstrance and formulated their own response to the five points of Arminianism. This eventually became kno,,11 as the five
points of Calvinism, othel"\\ise referred to as TULIP (the Total depravity of human beings, the Unconditional election of the redeemed,
the Limited atonement of Christ only for the redeemed, the Irresistible grace of God toward the redeemed, and the Perseverance of
the Saints). Subsequent decades and centuries witnessed waves of conflicts among many Christian Protestant religious groups that
traced their theological roots to either Calvinism or Arminianism. The Seventh-day Adventist understanding of salvation clearly finds
its roots in the Arminian Remonstrance and Wesleyan Methodism, but also brings its own unique theological nuances and contribu-
tions to this doctrine.

George Knight taught at Andrews Unh-ersity for 30 years, from 1976 to 1985, in the field of philosophy and
history of education and from 1985 to 2006 as professor of church history. Prior to coming to Andrews, he
, served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a pastor, elementary and secondary school teacher, and school
administrator. He is a specialist in Adventist Studies, ha,ing ''Titten several books in Adventist history and the
development of Seventh-day Adventist theology. His foremost works in the area of soteriology are The Cross of
Christ, Sin and Saluah·on, and I Used to Be Perfect. Knight has published nearly 40 books and edited another
35. He is currently editor of the Aduentist Classic Library, the Aduenrist Pioneer Biographical Series, and (with
Woodrow Whidden) the Library of Aduentist Theology. He has also been the editor of Andrews University
Seminary Studies, the research editor of The Journal of Aduentist Education, and the general editor of the
Abundant Life Bible Amplifier Commentary. He currently lives in a somewhat less than retirement in Rogue
Rh·er, Oregon, where he and his ,.,.;fe enjoy a .,.;de ,·ariety of outdoor activities.
Abstract: Se,·e nth-day Ad,·cntis m , Semi-Pelagian is m . and (h"eriooked Topics in Ad,·e ntist Soteriology: :\lo,;ng Be-
yond :\Iissing Links and Toward a More Explicit u nderstanding: Roger Olson has suggested that Adventism has tended
to promote semi-Pelagian views, but that the denomination moved more toward Protestant orthodoxy during the second half of the
twentieth century. An examination of Adventist writings finds that Olson's assertion is both correct and incorrect. On the level of of-
ficially voted statements of its fundamental beliefs, the Seventh-day Ad'"entist Church definitely clarified its position on sin, the bond-
age of the will, the need for pre,·enient grace, and related topics, as it moved from its 1931/ 1946 statement to the new one in 1980.
On the other hand, major Adventist books on soteriology show a mLxed presentation, with clear statements of both pre,·enient grace
and semi-Pelagianism being evident in both halves of the century. :\1y study of the topic reflects two quite different approaches to
semi-Pelagianism and orthodox Protestant views of sin and grace in Adventism throughout the century. One implication of my study's
findings is that, all too often, Adventists have not fully treated the entire spectrum of issues related to salvation. A second implication
is that the denomination's writers need to be more intentional and explicit in laying out the foundational issues of soteriology.

\ngcl Rodriguez, TH.D., an Associate Director in the Biblical Research Institute since 1992, "·as elected as
Director of the Institute beginning January 1. 2002. Born in Puerto Rico, he has served as president of Antillian
College and academic 'ice president of Southwestern Adventist University. He is a member of the American
Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academ)' of Religion. He is the author of several books and has
a monthly column in Aduentist World.

\\'orsh ip Sen kc: Incarnation. Death. Resurrection: Atonement as a :\arratfre

4
PLENARY PRESENTERS

In 1991 Hans LaRondelle retired after twenty-fh·e years of teaching at the SDA Theological Seminary. Prior
to joining the Andrews Unh·ersity faculty, he served in the Netherlands as a pastor-e'"angelist for fourteen years.
He received his doctoral degree in Systematic Theology under the direction of the distinguished Dutch theo-
logian Dr. G. C. Berkouwer at the Reformed Free University in Amsterdam in 197L As a prolific writer, he has
authored many books including Perfection and Perfectioni.sm: A Dogmatic-Ethical Study of Biblical Perfection
and Phenomenal Perfectionism (Andrews University Press, 1971); Christ Our Salvation: What God Does for
Us and in Us (Pacific Press, 1980); Deliuerance in the Psalms: Messages of Hope for Today (First Impres-
sions, 1983); The Israel of God in Prophecy: Principles of Prophetic Interpretation (Andrews University Press,
1983); Chariots of Saluation: The Biblical Drama ofArmageddon (Review and Herald, 1986); The Good News
about Armageddon (Re.,;ew and Herald, i990); How to Understand the End-Time Prophecies ofthe Bible: The
Biblical-Contextual Approach (First Impressions, 1997); Assurance of Saluation (Pacific Press, 1999); Light for
the Last Days: Jesus' End-TIme Prophecies Made Plain in the Book of Revelation (Pacific Press, 1999); and Our
Creator Redeemer: An Introduction to Biblical Covenan t Theology (Andrews University Press, 2005). He also
has written numerous scholarly and professional articles.
Abstract: Dh; ne Election and Predestination: A Biblical Persp cctfrc: There is a connection between the doctrine of di-
\;ne election and pastoral care regarding the personal assu rance ofsalvation. My procedure will be to inquire first into the exegetical
foundation of the themes of Diuine Election and Predestination, as far as these are revealed in tbe redemptive history of the two
Testaments. I recognize that the New Testament testimony on divine election cannot be understood without that of Israel in the
Hebrew Scriptuses. Secondly, I reflect on the theological perspectives of the biblical data in engagement with modern systematic
theologians.

Woodr ow \\'h idden (PhD, Drew Univ., t989) has served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a pastor in
the South, East and Midwest of the United States from 1969 until 1990. From 1990 until 2006, he taught in the
undergraduate Religion Department of Andrews University. Since August of 2006, he has taught in the Seminary
of the Ad\"entist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AHAS) in the Philippines. A frequent contributor to
Ministry Magazine, he has been published in the Wesleyan Theological Journal, The Asbury Theological Jour-
nal, Toronto Journal of Theology, and Andrews Uniuersity Seminary Studies. His book publications include
Ellen White on Salvation (Hagerstown, MD: Re\iew and Herald Publishing Association, 1995); Ellen 1-•lhite on
the Humanity of Christ (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1997); and The Trinity:
Its Implications for Life and Thought (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2002; co-
authored with Jerry Moon and John Reeve). His most recent volume is a biography of Seventh-day Adventist
editor and revivalist Ellet Joseph Waggoner, entitled E. J. Waggoner: From the Physician of Good News to
Agent of Diuision (Hagerstown, ~ID: Re\;ew and Herald Publishing Association, 2008). Professor Whidden is
married to Peggy Gibbs Whidden and they have three children and four grandchildren.
.\b tract: Investigath ·e .Judgment and th e Assu rance of Sahation : The Adventist emphasis on Judgment and other
=pending End-Time apocalyptic crises has drawn the charge that such fear mongering eschatology destroys the believer's assur-
.....::ce of salvation. Furthermore, it is also claimed that Adventism's embrace of Wesleyan/ Arminian soteriology, \\ith its emphasis
;; perfecting grace, further diminishes the possibilities of being an assured Christian. These charges are often made by Reformed/
Cahinistic Christians who then go on to tout the alleged, assuring comforts that inhere in thei r more deterministic, irresistible
-=ace \"ersions of election and perseverance (especially the doctrine of once sa\"ed, always saved). In the light of these criticisms,
~paper will seek to demonstrate that any sobering prospects of judgment and End-Time crisis do not necessarily result in a loss
.sa"ing assurance. Furthermore, this paper will also argue that Wesleyan/ Arminian soteriology contains resources that are far
~prepared to engender genuine assurance of salvation than do Ca)\;nistic views on election and irremissible perseverance. In
~the whole concept of irresistible election sets up a scenario that is more inherently prone to despair than any Arminian version
- sah-ation does.

Bora in California, Gary Land received a B.A. (1966) from Pacific Union College and a '.\LA. (1967) and Ph.D.
(1973) from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He joined the Department of History and Political Sci-
ence at Andrews University in 1970 and bas ~erved as chair since 1989. He is planning to retire from teaching in
September 2010. Gary has edited and written books on Seventh-day Advcntism, including Adventism in Amer-
ica (Eerdmans, 1986); The World of Ellen G. White (Review and Herald, 1987); Historical Dictionary of the
Seuenth-day Adventists (Scarecrow, 2005); and, ,,;th Calv;n W. Edwur<ls, Seeker After Light: A. F. Ballenger,
Aduentism, and American Christianity (Andrews, 2000). Teaching History (Andrews, 2000) is a short intro-
duction to a Christian approach to history. He enjoys collecting books and musical recordings, and watching and
writing about baseball, the latter resulting in Growing Up with Baseball (l\cbraska, 2004). He is married to Edi,
an elementary music teacher; they ha\'e two grown children.

uJing Plenary: Reflections on the Symposium

5
B REAKOUT S ESSI OK 1: FRIDAY 11:45 AM - 12:30 Pl\I

PRESEXTER:. lcphen Bauer FACILITATOR: Stanley Patterson LOCATION: S!20

HISTORJCAJ. B.·\CK GROCl\"DS OF THE DOCTRIXE OF S I1'1'C'G L'\" :\.DA.., J: This paperfocuseson a concept used to under-
mine Arminian 'iews. namely, ""sinning in Adam... This concept, made famous by Augustine. isa centerpiece of Jack Sequeira's theology as '"ell as that
or the 1888 ~1essage Study Committee. I belie,·e there is no such concept in Scripture. Hence. this study would focus, not on current Adventist posi·
lions, but on the history of the concept. In short, I "ill show how there was no Adam theology of any substance till around the 3rd century A.O.. how this
theology d~·eloped out of the unbiblical belief in the immortal soul, including a mi.x of Stoic and Platonic pbilosophica.1 influences. Furtbennore, I "ill
sho--· how pedobaptism played a role in developing the doctrine of Sinning in Adam, along ,.,;th Ambrosiaster's choice to accept a Latin mistranslation
or Romans 5:12 as the correct reading and interpretation of said ,·erse. In short, the doctrine oi Sinning in Adam arose out of multiple doctrines that
Ad\·entists belie,-. are contrary to Scripture. Part of my im·estigation "ill lead to analysis or 1 Cor 15:22, the only te><'t in the Bible "ith an "in ....dam"
motif. I ,.,;u show that "dying in Adam- is actuaUy poor exegesis. and how the exegesis undermines the concept or sinning in Adam. The significance or
this srudy is its implications on our understanding of the role or an indhidual's damnation and salvation. The doctrine of sinning in Adam inherently
contradicts the Arminianf Wesleyan ,;.,.,. of the role of the human "ill in gaining salvation, and hence has implications for current Ad"enlist ,;.,..,.,
dependent on the doctrine of sinning in Adam.

PRESE:-.."TER: Jacques Doukhan FACILITATOR: John Baldwin LOCATION: ~335

FATE OR DESTI'.\"Y : T HE ISSUE OF PREDESTL'\"..\TIO>." A .'\"D FREE WI LL IX H EBREW (OT) A SD JE'v\iS H


TH 0 t.:G [IT: On the one hand, the Bible seems to promote deterministic ideas (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11: Daniel 2:21); on the other band, the Bible em·
phasizes the '-alue of free "ill ( Deuteronomy 30:15; Daniel 4:25, 27). The same tension is attested in the history oi J""ish thought, as reflected in the
two fo1Jo,.,1ng statements from the '.\.fahnah: "All is foreseen, but choice is gh·en ... ·E"erythmg is in God's hand e.xcept the fear of God.· After addressing
the tension between the two ideas in the Hebrew Bible, this paper ,,;u then trace the J""ish views on predestinatton and free will and explore, along
the "''3y, their suggestions to cope with that tension. This enquiry "ill be conducted through the classical textS ofJe"ish Literature ( Mishnah, Talmud.
)!edie,.aJ rabbis and philosophers, Mi-sties of Hassidism, and '.\.lartin Bubtr). Although free "ill has been advocated by most Jewish think.,rs, a few
~ceptional cases ha'-e been noted of rabbis and Je,.,ish philosoph"rs who embraced the idea ofdeterminism or predestination. and who ma)• even have
influenced the thinking of some Chnslian Reformers (e.g.. Calvin). The discussion of these,;.,.,., "ill lead to a theological reflection ~., regard to SDA
thinking and ultimately to an existential application.

PRESE:>."TER: Kenlq Hall FACILITATOR: Skip Bell LOCATION: l\ 135

THE GRE..\TA\\'AK E >." L'\"C · C..\1.\' l :'\ IS :\!. ,\R..\ 11:'\L.\..'\'. IS:\l. ..\SD REVTV AJ...JSTl C P R.EACH I >."G - HO'.\II LETICAL
LESSO:-:S FOR TODAY : The Great Awakening describes the ,.,;despread re-ival that occurred during the 18th century in the American colonies.
The re-i,'31 reached its pe;i.k in :s"..-• England in the 174o·s. associated closely ,.;th the p reaching or Jonathan Edwards and George \\lhuefield. Concur-
rently a re-ival ""staking place in England connected to the preaching of Whltefield and John \\·esley. Ed"-ards. \v"ltitefield. and Wesley each had a
unique yet effecli\·e style of preaching. Did the primal)' theological issue that separated these men (Calvinism '">· Arminianism) ha''e a direct impact on
their preaching style and content? The preaching Styles or Edwan!s, Whitefield, and Wesley ...-ere not primarily impacted by their Calvinist or Arminian
beliefs. Each man utilized their indi,idual preaching style to accomplish a similar purpose, and. in spite of their differences, "-ere stri:.<lngly similar in
content. Ho,.,-.ver. there is a possible connection between their Cahinist or Arminian beliefs and the way they followed up ,.,;th those ,.·ho bad a ·new
bir..h • experience as a result of their preaching.

PRESE:\TER: Darius J:inkie\\'iu FACILITATOR: Jonathan Leonardo LOCATION: N l 10

TWO \"ISIO>."S OF GOD AXD '.\1:\1.E ll E..\ DSIIIP: ,\STl:DY I:\ CAL\ T:\!ST . \SD AR.\I r.\'L\ >." P R.ESt.:P POS lTIO:'\S:
The mere mention of male headship in any con,-.rsation among commitled Bible-beli~fog Christians has the potential to create a wr:ety o f reactions,
,·ery few of which are neutral. Some instantly affirm what they believe is the dj,foely inspired mandate for a husband to exercise authority O\U his
household- Others tend to consign the idea of male headship to the exiger.cies of a bygone era, no longer relevant 10 the 21St-ceotury world. ~fiddle
ground is rarely found. This presentation seeks the middle ground. It recognizes that male headship is a biblical concept that should not, or indeed
cannot, be side-stepped by beli~fog Christians. To help na•igate the treacherous "-ate rs of the human interpretation of the Scriptures. howl'\-er, it be-
gins by addressing the presuppositions that tend to guide the thinking of most Christians when they consider men's head.ship in the conte.'<I of marital
relationships.

PRf SE:-.."TER: Robert Johnston FACILITATOR:.Teresa Reeve LOCATIOl\: S340

A.POCA.I...Yl"TIC' .-\ SO FR.EE \\1 LL: Adventism is historical!>• grounded in apocalypticism, especially the books of Daniel and R~·elation.
Apocalyptic thought. in contrast to classical Hebrew prophtt)'. is strongly deterministic. Hence a paradox appears when apocalypticism is laminated to
Arminianism. ,.;th its resistance to determinism. Various "'3)'S to o,·ercome this paradox can be suggested. most of them not \'Cl)' successful.

PRE E:\TER: Skip ,\lacCar~· FACILITATOR: Jerry .\loon LOCATIOl\: >." 150

T II E H EART OF 111'.\I \\1 10 JL.\.R.DESS II E.-\ RTS: FC\'.', if any, passages in Scripture present a greater challenge to lhe belief in human
free will than does Romans 9:io-24. This passage asseru that Cod lo,·ed Jacob and hated Esau btfore they "·ere born, has mercy on whom He wills
and hardens whom He "ills. and bears ""ith theobjecisofhis wrath prepared for destruction" to show His glory to "the objects of his mercy whom he
prepared in ad,'3nce for glory.· To anyone who questions the justice of it, Paul responds, Who are you to talk back to God. the divine Poner who can
make )'OU, a lump of clay, into an)'thing He -.ills! lo his commentary on this passage. Cahin writes: "'The ruin of the "icked is not only foreseen by the
Lord, but also ordained by his council and will: ... the wicked themselves ha,·c been created for this '-ery end-that they may perish.... [They] are ' 'es·
sels prepared for destruclion, that is. given up and appointed to destruction: they are also vessels of wrath. that is. made and formed for this end, that
th~· may be examples of Cod's ,·engeaoce and displeasure... This presentation will propo.<e a thoroughly biblical response from a free ,.,;11 perspecli,·e.
while maintaining a high vie-" of di,ine 50\'ereignty.

6
BREAKOUT SESSION 1 : FRIDAY, 11:45 ..\..\1 - 12: 30 P l\I (CO).TTlNUED)

PRESE:\TER: Ke"in Paul<on FACILITATOR: Ste\·e Toscano LOCATIOl\: l\310

~THEGLORY\\1HCH S I L\U. BE R.EYEALED I:\" cs-, THE BrBUC...\.LAXD lllSTORI CrU ROOTS OF L-\STGE:\-
ERATIO:-\ T H EOLOGY 11' THE SEYE:>.TH-D.\ Y AD\.E:\TIST CHt..:RCH: One key legacy within Ad,-entism of the Anninian/
Cahinist controversy has been the debate over the nature oihuman sin. This debate-the question o: whether man·s inherited fallen nature constitutes
sin itself or simply a tendency to sin- :ies at the basis of the continuing conflict in the church o'-er sah-ation and eschatology. Predictions of a future
demonstration of dhine character in human !j,·es. together ••ith the role of this demonstration in the timing of Jesus· return, find strong suppon
throughout the Old and ::\ew Testaments. Recent attemp1S to sideline this theology as the alleged product of a few disgruntled, marginalized ''Oices in
the Ad,·ennst experience ha,·e failed to coruider the large number of mainstream thought leaders throughout the church's history who ha•·e held to this
position. E,·en more problematic is tile claim tliat this theology rests primarily on a few Ellen \\nite statements rather than on Scripture. Jn reality,
such authors as M.L Andreasen-~rliaps the most famous advocate of this teaching in modem Adventism-ha'-e produced e.'-iensi'-e Biblical evidence
in support of the doctrine in question. with no significant reliance on Ellen \\"bite quotations as the linchpin of key arguments. E'idence suggests, by
contrast, that factors other than the content of ir.spired statements have engendered many. if not most, contemporary Ad,· entist objections to what
some call Last Generation Theology.

PRESE:-.TER: John Peckham FACILITATOR: Martin Hanna LOCATIO!\: 1'235


THE CO'.\IDIT!OC\'.\.LITV A..'\'D 1...1'\'COYDITlOKA.LJTY OF Of\'TXE LOVE:.\ BRIEF CO~SIOERATI0:-1 OF T HE
RJ':LATIO~SH I P OF LOVE .-\." l\D ELECTIO:\ I:'\ THE OLD TESTA)I E.." l\T: Divinelovehassometimesbeenseenasunilateral.that
is, only flo,.ing from God to human beings. but not 'ice versa. As such, di,ine low refers to God's arbitrary bestowal oflo,·e upon only those whom He
chooses. Such an interpretation do"etails "ith the deterministic view of dhine love as unaffected, unilateral, indifferent, and wholly subjective, benefi-
cence. This essay critically examines t:>-'O conceptions of di>ine Jo,·e that are logically supponi•-e of such a ,;ew, "ilether intentionally or unintentionally.
First, that divine love is to be thought of as election and, second, that divine Jove is altogether unconditional. Rather than attempting to address these
two issues in a comprehensi,·e sense, this study engages the issues by reference to the OT data. especially "ith regard to the most prominent word for
love [: :-x). .~examination oi the biblical data with these issues in mind calls into question the conception of ·eiection lo,..- as weU as the supposition
of altogether unconditional love. Illumination of this issue may ha,,, significant impact "ith regard to the "icer systematic issues surrounding the God-
liuman relationship, especially the issue or determinism ,.s. indeterminism.

BREAKOUT SESSIO~ 2: FRIDAY, 4 :00 4:45 P}I


PRESE'.\TER: Hans Lalton dd l~ FACILITATOR: l'\icholas MiUer LOCATION: 1'235
PAL;l:S HOPE FOR A L L IS J~.\ E I.: RO~tA.." S 9-11 : \\·e need to note a modem paradigm shift of interpreting the purpose of Romans
9-11: from a locus de praedestinatione about individual election or rejection to Paurs pastoral goal to unite belie-ing Jews and Gentiles in one new·
covenant people of God as the divine purpose o f redempti"e history. This redempti"e historical perspective of God's eternal purpose lifts us above the
old Cahinist-Arminian debate. Discussed briefly are:
1--Paurs differentiation between a spintual and a natural Israel in redempth-e history.
11-Paul·s focus is not on individual sal,.,.tion. but on God's free and sovereign purpose fo r Israel and the Gentiles.
111·-Paul's messianic remnant theology testifies to God·s covenant faithfulness.
!\'--The mysterious interdependence of Israel and the Church.
I·- The triumph of God's mercy leads to doxology.

PRESEXTER: Jifi ,\lo~J..al .1 FACILITATOR: Larry Lichcenwalter LOCATION: $120


CA.L\ 'l:"\·s T l0 \C ll 1:\(; 0 ,_. IHH ' 111.E P R EDESTl:"ATlO:\ l:'\ LIG H T OF THE BIBLJCAL :\IESSAGE: Thepaperdescribes
Cahin's ,;..., on double predestination as presented in his fn.sritures of the Christian Religion (book three, cliaps. 21-24) and his argumentation
and concerns. CaMn·s opinion is announced in the title of chap. 21: -Eternal Election, By Which God Has Predestined Some to Salvation. Others to
Destruction.- His understanding is analyz.ed and evaluated on methodological. exegetical, and theological grounds. Theological implications of this
doctrine- positi,•e and negative- are summarized. The present study argues that Cahin·s concept is not supported by the biblical material, in spite of
the iact that it is heavily saturated "'ith the biblical text. It is reasoned that the usage of the Bible is not taken in its entire context and intended meaning.
Special attention is gh·en to Old Testament texts used to support the double predestination ,;ew, e.g.. the hardening of Pharaoh's beart (Exod 4-14):
God·s 10\·e for J acob but hate for Esau (~1al 1:2-3); God·s mercy on whom He "ill have mercy (Exod 33:20). Three biblical meanings of predestination
are discussed: (1) Predestination or the only and unique way of sah;ition through Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Eph 1:3-8): ( 2) Predestinat.ion for
a specifir mission, like the cases of Abraham. Israel, Jeremiah. or Paul (Gen 12:1-4; Jer 1:4-5; Am 13:47): and (3) Predestination of the ultimate end
Jf this sinful " 'Orld and the establishment of God·s kingdom ( Dan 2=45; Eph 1:9-10; Rev 2t:i-3).

l'RESf'.'\TFR: John Rec''" FACILITATOR: Denis Kaiser LOCATION: Nl35


ORl(;E:"\·s .\ P01'AT.\STAS IS ,\ :"\'l> ELLE:\" \11HT E'S "OS E PtILSE OF H.-\.R.\lOi\1-: The future ongoing peace of the king-
dom of God and the Lordship of Christ over all beings are seen by an increasing number of Christians as being in theological tension "ith the tradinonal
cone:eptuali>.ation of an eternally burning hell with a continuation of the conscious punishment of the rebellious. Origen·s leanings toward unh't!rsal
salvation were strongest when he w:is most emphasizing opokatasrasis. the setting of all things back to their proper and of.ginal circumstance. and
the oneness brought about by Christ being the ·au in aU- {Eph 1:23). Though he re~titively assened his belief in punitive and cleansing fire along the
lines of "''hat he viewed as trodition:il Christianity, Origen re.iected the idea that a continuance of rebellious souls existing in an eternal!)· tormenting fire
'"-'OU!d be compatible '"-ilh Christ's filling the uni,-erse " ith his love and peace. Though he talked at times about the possibility of cessation of e.~istence
for the rebellious, he seemed to be positing a change of character O\·er annihilation of the soul. Ellen White shared the rejection of the conrinuauon of
consciousness or rebellious souls as being compatible ,.;th Christ's rule of peace and harmon)', but she posited the path of annihilation of the rebellious
rather than unh·ersal salv:ttion as the way to ·one pulse of liarmony," a way that retains a greater freedom of choice.

FACfLITATOR: ~lanin Hanna LOCATION: 1\150


DO ES 0 I' E:\' T l I E !.S~ l LI ;\I IT GOO?: Both cntics and supporters or open theism reson to •Jim1t· language when describing the open ,;ew
of God. Open theists hold that God created beings " ·ho enjoy genuine, or ·radical: freedom and that God acquires kno"1edge of their decisions when
and as they are actually made, but not before. for its critics. these aspects of open theism impose unacceptable limits on God's po"--er and kno,,•:edge,
lea•-ing us with a God who is ·iesser" or ·diminished· in significant ••;iys. for its supponers. these characteristics constitute a self-limitation on God's
pan: God expresses kenotic love by voluntarily restricting the range of his po'"-'er and kno,.1edge. ~ty contention is that open theists should a"oid limit
language in describing God. Such language implies that open theism suffers in comparison to classical theism. "ith its concept of divine determinism
and absolute forekno"·ledge. Far from limiting God's po,..., , howe>·er, the act of creating a world that contains genuine!;- free beings uniquely expresses
it. And God·s progressive experience of the creatures· decisions and actions enriches the di,ine life in unique and irreplaceable "'1)'S. To describe God·s
relation to the creaturely world in tenns oflimits on divine power and knowledge. therefore, is both unnecessary and misleacing.

7
BREAKO UT SESSIO:\T 2: FRIDAY, ~:oo - ~:45 PY! (CONTINCED)

PRESE:--IER: Peter ,·an lkrumdcn FACILITATOR: ~1erlin Bun LOCATIOK: ;\1335

ELLES \\'TIIT.E A.'\0 THE ;\JAIN ISS l "ES HET,\'EF.~ .\.R~l ISL\S LS;\I A.'\'l) C.-\lXl SISi\I: The theological significance of
Ellen \\"hite"s "Tilings warrants the question of how she ,;ews the main is.sues ber.··een Anninianism and Calvinism. Primar)" issues to be considered
are the SO'-ereignty of God, the eternal decrees, predestination and election, scope of the atonement, grace, human depra,ity, free "ill, a.1d perseverance
of the saints. While she ne'"er mentions Arminius or Arminianism explicitly in her writings, White certainly deals "ith issues that dhide Arminianism
and Calvinism. Obviously, it is not possible within the limitations of this paper to deal in depth -..i th White's ,;e-..-s of all the issues mentioned abo\"e.
Consequently some ,.;u receive more attention than others. B«ause of \\nite"s theological emphasis on the great contro,·ersy between Christ and Satan,
an attempt "ill be made to discuss brieflr how she relates the issues under consideration to this central theme in her writings. The primacy sources to
be used are Ellen White"s published ""Tilings. The primacy sources used for Arminianism and Cahinism ,.;11 be the Remonstrance of 1610 and the live
points of Calvinism presented at the S}nod of Dort in 1619. Onlr limited use "ill be made of secondary sources.

PRESE:\IER: Caesa r \\"amali!..a FACILITATOR: Kenley Hall LOCATIOK: NI 10


. \..'\ EX.Ul L'\ATrO:"\ OF AD\' E:'\''11ST SOTEKIOl.OC:IC.\ L KOOTS r." \ \ 'ESL£Y,\..'< A.R..\ID.'l.:\.XIS~I AS REL.\TED
TO JCSTI F l CATl Ol\'. A..'iD S_-\J\"( T l Fl(".\ Tl O '.\" : This paper examines the extent of Ad'"entist Soteriological roots in \\'es!eyan Arminian·
ism, hith reference to the relationship bel'>ttn Justification and Sanctification. Some Adventist scholars think that universal justification separates
God's justif)ing act from the new birth. the first as beslowed on mankind, potentially and ccllecth-ely. ,,;th a.c tual persons born subjectively lost but
objecth-ely sa,·ed in Christ. This paperemplo}-s a descriptive historical investigative method and obsel\"es that. in contrast, mainstream Ad,·entism pre-
fers biblical e."<)lressions for the universal effects o f God"< plan of salvation. Together '•ith other Arrninianism, Ad,·entist soteriology would rather speak
of a uni,-ersal pro•ision of salvation or an objective reronciliation of the entire world. This paper points out substantial similarities beiween Wesleyan
Arminianism and mainstream Ad,-entism. Though without 11Sing Adventist phrases, concepts exist in Wesleyan ..\nninianism that are closely related
to a potentially uni'"ersal justification that does not embrace antinomian ism. At Wesley's potential discourse. both justification and new birth come
inseparably in Jesus Christ. On the other hand, at the discourse level of actual realities. a person is either a lost unbelie--er or a belie,ing. justified and
born again person. Christ's righteousness is al"':IYS upheld :is the key factor and the rwo soteriological realities occur only by faith union with Christ.
This paper obser-·es that the impression some scholars get of «'parntion bel'>·een God'sjustif)ing act and the new birth is a result of mL'<ing the l\>"O le>'-
els of soteriological discourse whose roots are foreign in We;leyan Amiinianism. The conclusion of this examination is that. terminologies apart, a close
analysis of mainstream Ad,·entist soteriological roots of.lustilication and Sanctification does not de-iate substantially from Wesley:in Arminianism.

PRESEi\'TER: Woodrow \\"h it.l<lc11 FACILITATOR: Darius Jankiewicz LOCATIO::\I: S340


CAL\11'. AR..,lf:"\IUS, WESl.E\" ,\:\'ll SE\' E:\Tll · ll \ \ \ll\' E:\'TI S~I: COCLD
THERE H..\ \ 'E BEE.'\ ADYE'.\TJS'.\I
\\'lTHOliT \\'ESLEY ASO ,\ 10 1I:\'11 "S '!· The ccntral theme of this paper is to demonstrate a line of theological DNA which begins "ith the
~lagisterial Reformers of the sixteenth Century and pcrdurcs through Arminius and \\"esley and then onto Se--enth-day Ad'"entism. Especially founda-
tional to this 0 :-IA inheritance '-':IS the influence o f John Calvin and his :iffinnation of the four key Protestant ·so1as·: so/a Scriprura. so/a Christi. so/a
Fide, and so/a Groriae. But from this formidable group also emanated two other positive themes: (1) the doctrine of total depravity and (2) L'ie theme
of-~1ystical Union With Christ br Faith.· Subsequen1ly.1his Reformed heritage "'"Ould be embraced by Arminius and Wesley and passed onto Advent·
ism. but "ith one key exception- the concept ofirresi•tihle grace a nd its implications. Thus, follo"ing •.\nninius and Wesley. Adventist theology "·ould
further de-·elop ·rree grace· ideas into a theology of•final justification: known as '"The Great Controversy Theme; and its lush doctnne of Judgment
according 10 """Orks. The key theme of this paper L<: With11ut r\nainius and Wesley. there "°Ould ha, ·e bttn no distincti'"e Ad,-enlist theology!

PRE E'.\'TER: Michael Younkc:r FACll.ITATOR: Jonathan Leonardo LOCATIOK: N310


A TE..'\'TATf\"E PROPOSAi. FOR A l'KOlll l·'.;\ I I 'i C'O\I ;\10:\': l, OG I C l:"\ Afu\ll;\'.1..-\..'\JS;\l A..'\0 .-\.D\'E..'-.I LS ;\I \\lTH ·
r.\ THE COXTEXT OF 0 1\"lS E FOK El\:\O\\' l.EIH:J·: \:\'ll II Ui\ L\..'\ FR££00;\I: Three majonie"-s on the relationship of
divine foreknowledge and human frtt<lom dominate the i-vangclical landscape: Calvinism, Arminianism, and Open Theism. Underl)ing the debate.
but often incompletely addressed, is a critical discussion of the nature of logic used in defending each of these 'ie-..-s respectively. This paper --~11 s11m·
marize the logical issues and problems at s take for earh pers)X-ctivc (including ~1o!inism and Ockhamism). concluding that the greater burden falls to
the Arminian and Ad,•enlist positions. which are simil>t but nut idt•ntical. With this realization in mind. a tentati,.., and speculath-e exploration of the
foundations of logic will be undertaken to s uggei:t a possible rosolution to the problem for the Arminian/ Ad,-entlst positions. dra,.ing on data from both
traditional metJtphysics as well as ru<Tent quanturn physics.

BREAK.Ol7f S ESS IO '.'J :~ : S A BBATH , 4:15 5 :00 P:W


PRESE:"\TER: Barry Callen FACll.ITATOR: Denis Fort in LOCATIOK Nl50
GO O "S \\' ORO: THE POTE'.\"TI, \I.FO R E\ l·.I{ .\IOltl·. I K 1-n 1: Divine re-·elation is.final. but not in "'·ccysensefiired. What "'3Soncc
infolded in Christ and recorded in the biblical text by the Spirit mar now be freshly unfolded in new senings by the same Spirit. Christian authority
comes more than through so/a scriptura: it also is by the 1cs1i111011iu111 Spiri111s sancri. Clark Pinnock and I prepared the third edition of The Scripture
Principle in 2006, convinced that the present mmistryof <:ad's Spirit is crucial for a proper and contemporary reading of the authoritative biblical text.
The Bible is not inert object. but li'ing subject. The challenge is to discover how best to understand and profit from the Bible as it functtons as the Jh;ng
instrumentality of the Spirit. The proper balance of Spirit ond Word i< the key to a living orthodoxy. The Spirit did not "ithdraw from the church after
the biblical canon was completed, but remains in the church. speaking through the Scriptures, revealing Christ to us afresh. Through the Bible "1' can
orient o ursel'"es 10 the revelation that h:is been given and, throu~h the Spint. enter into it personally. d~namically. and relO'-antly.

PR£ F.:'\l 'ER: Ron Cloui.et FACll.ITATOK: John B~ldwin LOCATIOK: 1\335
THE BAPTIS:\1 OF T HESPIRJT I;>; El.LE:\ \\"111"11·.-s \\"R ITI NCS: llOW :\R.\1 1:\'l\..'\" IS HER P OSrTIO:\'?: TheBap·
!ism of the Holy Spirit is the key doctrine of the third ond most pu1mlar hranch of Christianity today: Pentecostals and Charismatics. Ellen G. White
\\TOie extensi,·ely on the subject oi the Holy Spirit and the bapti<m of the Spirit. Though not a trained theologian, she is, by far, the most influential
thought-leader in the Ad,·entist Church. Her religious background wa~ thoroughly Arminian, but many of her statements on sah-atton. and e'"en on
the "ork of the Ho!)' Spirit. could be used to support Refomll'<I doctrine. Wesley.ins, the largest branch from the Arminian root, ha,.., interpreted the
baptism oithe Spirit as a crisis experience resulting in ·entire "1nctificatiun.- rJlen White, ho,.·e--er,shies away from iden~ingsanctilication as a crisis
experience. putting into question her Arminian credentials. lbis po per .,.;u briefly explore the Arminian position and\\bite's position on the docnine of
the baptism of the Spirit. highlight similarities and dilkrcnc,-s. 1hen dro" o conclusion as to ho"· Arminian her position was on the doctrine.

8
BREAKOUT SESSION 3: SABBATH, 4 :15 - 5:00 PM (CONTI:'llUED)

PRESE:"\"TER: David Hamslra FACILITATOR: John Ree,·e LOCATION: N310


ZECl-L~RlAH 3 ..\.'\D THE DAY OF ATO::-.:E;\l E:-."T : Commentators have recognized that removal of"iniquity" (J:=) in Z«h 3:4,9 alludes
to the Day of Atonement. Howe--er. this intertexrual study goes further by demonstrating that Zeeb 3 >pecifically references the rituals of Lev 16 ,,;th
three key words-"before" (":~)(Zech 3:1, 3: cf. Lev 16:12-13); "clothes" c~·-::) (Zech 3:3-5; d. Lev 1604, 32); and "iniquity" (jt::) (Zech 3:4, 9: cf. Lev
16:21-22)-in a 'ision of the high priest io the ~1ost Holy Place. contaminated by the very kind of e-~1 his rituals are intended to remO\'e. Other interte~­
tual references in Zech 3 support and de--elop atonement/judgment themes related 10 Lev 16 and 23:2;-32. Tbese include the identity of the Messenger
of the LORD. the need to remove moral "filth: renewal of priesthood and sanctuary. the he.wenly council scene, and the presence of Satan. Z«h 3
culminates in the promise of an eschatological Day of Atonement, which the priests s)mbolize but God alone is able to accomplish. This ultimate Day
of Atonement/judgment is a historical process, beginning "ith the messianic Branch and ending on the day all iniquity is finally removed. Through this
process, God answers implied questions of his justice in forgMng his people's iniquity.

PRESE:S-TER: .\ fa rtin Hanna FACILITATOR: Jo Ann Davidson LOCATION: S340


PREDESTI:\'E D TO FREEOO'.\I ACCOROL:>:G TO FOREIC\OWLEDGE .-\SD OTHER KJ::-.:os O F 0 [\"lSE KXO\\l. -
EDGE: Tnis paper addresses the problem of an apparent contradiction between foreknowledge. prede>tination. and freedom. How can God foreknow
and predestine free choices? This question has to do "ith the freedom of God and His creation. Ls God free to predestine His creation contrary to what
He has fo~own concerning free choices " ithin it? Some Bible students propose that all things are determined prior to frtt choices and that freedom
is limited 10 be companl>le with this kind of determinism. Others propose that not all things are determined in this way and that freedom iD\·olves
significant self-determinism.
~I~ proposal is ba_<ed on a study of Paul"s teaching in Romans 8:21, 28-30. This paper's thesis is that there are different aspects of divine forekno"1·
edge and differences betwe"" foreknowledge and other kinds of di•ine knowledge. These differences clarify how God exercises and facilitates a creati,-e
freedom that enables us to make free choices in harmony with or contrary to our predispositions. We are free because God is free and has created us in
His image. Freedom may also be used in ways that destroy freedom. Fortunately, God has provided a way for us to "be delivered from the bondage of
corruption into the glorious free<lom of the children of God" (Rom 8:21).

PRE E:"\TER: Jo~eph Ohtad FACILITATOR: Darius Jankiewicz LOCATIOK: 1':235

l.:,:,e....·t
t."":-."1YERSAL LEGAL J t;ST! F I C":\TI O :\': A FAILED ALTE RSATI\ "E BETWEES CAL\T'.'i •.\.'\D . \R.\11'.\'Tt:S: The con·
cept of unh-ersal legal justification has gained significant anention o,·er the past few decades in Ad,·entist soteriology. Uni,·ersalizingjustification with-
out entailing uni,-ersalism has been proffered as resohing the atonem•nt debate (whether Christ's atoning death saved no one. everyone, or just some)
' I i
..•:...
be""ttn Arminianism and Cal•inism. However. many ha,·e seen this approach as fraught " ith difficulties. creating more problems than it 0S1ensibly
·~ '
solves. First, this paper will show that when some of the no,-el terminology of unh·ersal legal justification is swept away. it is t>Ot a genuine alternative to
the ."1minian \'$. Cahinistic understanding o:the scope of the atonement, but is in fact lhe Arminian po;ition..."ith a twist. Secondly, a discussion "ill

......
:~ follow dealing with the grammatical and logical difficulties that arise from adopting Uni\'ersalist language to portray a soteriologr that is fundamentally

.•......
Anninian. L.1stly, a reason "ill be proffered as to why this ·uni\·ersalist" mode of expressing the atonement has lingered so long within Ad,•tmlist ranks
and why its depanure is no< soon coming.

PRE E:"\'TER: Terry Rob.:rL<on FACILITATOR: David Penno LOCATION: N135


T H E l'.\IPUCATTO.'\'S OF .\1011 1'\ll'S' l':\DERST:\..' \01:\G OF T H E E\,.ELLECT 0:\ K..'\O\\"LEDGE EXCR\XGE
POLICIES lK THE '.\llSS IOI\' O F T ll E SD.\ C ll L"RCH: In the wnrldviewof Arminius, die soul consisted of the Intellect, the Will, and
Desire. He agreed " ith his Cal,inist counterparts that because of the Fall. all three facets of the Soul were totally corrupt, and no one could achie-·e
salvation "itho11t God·s direct intervention. Where Arminius differed from his Cah'inist opponents was on how God intervened. Cahin argued that God
first redeemed the .,..Ill, and then the Intellect was informed. Arminius belie-·ed that God appealed first to the Intellect, which in turn empo"-ered the
Will. As a case study of the implications of this God/soul interaction, I compare recent Calvinist s tatements and Ad'-enlist statements on the role and
purpose of academic scholarship. For the Cahinist perspecti'"'· scholarship is a responsibility of the =·enant community to bring about the reign of
God on eorth. particularly as regards to social justice. In the SDA perspecti'"'• scholarship has a soteriological focus in that it equips the church to fulfill
its commission to ·make disciples· who will participate in the reign of God on a ·''ew Earth. I conclude that this distinction ""'rrants the articubtion of
an intentional Ad,-entist social epistemology that situates academic scholarship as "e-"angelism.'

PRE EYf ER: A. Rahel Sch.if.:r FACILITATOR: Stephane Beaulieu LOCATIOK: Kl 10


T H E .N.'\O\\' L£DGE FR0'.'1 C R.f:ATIOK: CO:\'"OE;\l:>:L'\G G LORY A.'\'1> l .IO PEFU L SUFFERL"\G L'\ RO'.'L~'\'S 1:18-
23 AX 0 8: t 9 -2 3: Tbe two major themes of Romans, condemnation of all humanity and hope of redemption through Jesus Christ, are illustrated in
many wars throughout the epistle. One of the often-o,·erloo~ed ways is through the motif of creation. In Rom 1:18-23, Paul indicts all humanity based
on what they should ha,·e known through nature from the creation (K:tO•~l of the world. Paul discusses (K:tO•>) in only one other place in Romans,
"ithin the conte.'1. oflife in the Spirit (8:1<}-23). At first, these passages do not appear to be connected at all, but this paper contends that creation is one
of the major keys 10 understanding both passages (separately as well as linked together), and that Paul is dependent on the bo,•iedge found in creation
for elucidating the ""-o main themes in Romans. Pagans feel threatened by the glory of God re--ealed in nature and choose 10 suppress it, leading to
futility. corruption, and ult imate condemnation. After witnessing the undeserved suffering of nature (involving futility and corruption) resulting from
human sin, belie,-ers choose to hope in God and His funrre redemption. Thus, the testimony of creation forms a foundation for Paul's understanding
of condemnation as well as his theology of redemption.

PR ESF.:"\T ER: Zane G. Yi FACILITATOR: Kenley Hall LOCATIOK: Sl20


RE..<;PO ::-.:S l\'E RE.\SOt'\: TOW ,\RDS A.'i AR.)11::-.;L-\..'\ ACCOU:"\T OF Tl I E FOR-'IATIO.'\' OF THEISTIC BELIEFS:
Ora,.ing on the '--Ork of John Cal"in and Thomas Aquinas. Ahin Plantinga argues that humans ha,·e a faculty. the sensus diuinitorus. that. when op-
erating correctly, gives them immediate knowledge oi God. AS justification for basic perceptual beliefs is unnecessary, belief in God, if theism is true,
does not require justificanon either. Plantinga·s model also offers an e"<planation for why all people are not theists. According to Plantioga. the Fall had
negati'"C cognith-e consequences; it damaged the sensus diviniarus. In its damaged state, 11 is unable to percei'-e God clearly or at all. So in the absence
of rational proofs or empirical e-idence, there is no belief. According to Plantinga, the cogniti,·e damages of the Fall can on!}· be re-·ersed through the
spiritual restoration that follow,; faith in the Christian gospel. This paper does not engage Plantinga on the issue of justification of theistic or Christian
beliefs in philosophy. Rather. I explicate his model for theistic belief and address some of the theological concerns it raises. Plantinga·s model makes
full-fledged theistic belief contingent on Christian faith. It is also unclear on the relationship between the role of the Holy Spirit and human response.
His model seems influenced by se,·eral aspects of Reformed theology-the teaching of 1010/ deprouity, unoonditiona/ election. and irresistible groce-
which makes it potentially problematic from an Arminian perspective Suggesting clarifications to Plantingas account. I explore a n alternate account of
the formation of theistic beliefs that is independent of specificallr Christian beliefs and one that better harmonizes " ith Arminian theology.

9
We wish to acknowledge the many who have participated in making this symposium a success. We are grateful to each
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We pray that God has been ho nored during this symposium.

The Symposium Organizing Committee


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I
Contents

1. Historical and Theological Perspectives on the Rise of Arminianism and


the Place of Seventh-day Adventism in the Calvinist-Arminian Debate,
by Denis Fortin

2. Divine Election and Predestination: A Biblical Perspective, by Hans K.


LaRondelle.

3. Seventh-day Adventism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Overlooked Topics in


Adventist Soteriology: Moving Beyond Missing Links and Towards a
More Explicit Understanding, by George K. Knight

4. Arminianism is God-centered Theology, by Roger E. Olson

5. Soteriological Synergism and its Surrounding Seductions, by Barry L.


Callen

6. Arminianism is Evangelical Theology, by Roger E. Olson

7. Investigative Judgment and the Assurance of Salvation, by Woodrow


W. Whidden

8. Assurance of Salvation: An Arminian Account, by Keith D. Stanglin.

9. Incarnation, Death, and Enthronement: Atonement as a Narrative, by


Angel Manuel Rodríguez.
Andrews University Seminary Student Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1-15.
Copyright © 2015 Denis Fortin.

HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON


THE RISE OF ARMINIANISM AND THE PLACE OF
SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISM IN THE
CALVINIST-ARMINIAN DEBATE

DENIS FORTIN
Professor of Theology
(Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University)
fortind@andrews.edu

Abstract
This article provides a brief historical survey of some of the theological issues
raised by Arminius and The Remonstrance, and seeks to identify the key theological
arguments that anchor the Arminian perspective of the Adventist doctrine of
salvation. Four hundred years ago, in 1610, a group of Dutch pastors and
theologians published a document in which they responded to the accusations of
heresy leveled against the teachings of their colleague, Reformed theologian
Jacobus Arminius, who had recently died (1609). This document encapsulated
Arminian teachings on the doctrine of salvation in five points and subsequently
became known as The Remonstrance, a French noun referring to an official and well-
articulated document to protest or raise objections about a law or an edict. In the
years that followed, the teachings of The Remonstrance became a rallying point for
those who were dissatisfied with traditional Calvinism. In 1618, during the Synod
of Dort, Reformed theologians fought against the Arminian soteriology presented
in The Remonstrance and formulated their own response to the five points of
Arminianism. This eventually became known as the five points of Calvinism,
otherwise referred to as TULIP (the Total depravity of human beings, the
Unconditional election of the redeemed, the Limited atonement of Christ only for
the redeemed, the Irresistible grace of God toward the redeemed, and the
Perseverance of the Saints). Subsequent decades and centuries witnessed waves of
conflicts among many Christian Protestant religious groups that traced their
theological roots to either Calvinism or Arminianism. The Seventh-day Adventist
understanding of salvation clearly finds its roots in the Arminian Remonstrance and
Wesleyan Methodism, but also brings its own unique theological nuances and
contributions to this doctrine.

Keywords: Calvinism, Arminius, Arminianism, Remonstrance, Salvation, Methodism,


TULIP, predestination, freewill.

1
2 SEMINARY STUDENT JOURNAL 1 (SPRING 2015)

Introduction
About four hundred years ago, in 1610, a group of Dutch pastors and theologians
published a document in which they responded to the accusations leveled against
the teachings of their colleague, Reformed theologian Jacobus, or James,
Arminius, who had died the year before. This document encapsulated Arminian
soteriological teachings in five points and subsequently became known as The
Remonstrance, a French word referring to an official and well-reasoned document to
protest or raise objections about a law or an edict.
In the years that followed, the teachings of The Remonstrance became a rallying
point for those who were dissatisfied with traditional Calvinism, but more
particularly with a strict unconditional predestination.
Subsequent decades and centuries witnessed waves of conflicts among many
Christian Protestant religious groups that traced their theological roots to either
Calvinism or Arminianism. As Roger Olson has shown in his recent book
Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities,1 there are major theological differences
between Calvinism and Arminianism, but there are also many points in common.
The Seventh-day Adventist understanding of salvation clearly finds its roots in the
sixteenth-century Reformation and the Arminian Remonstrance. But eighteenth-
century Methodism, which championed Arminian thought, forms the immediate
theological context for the Adventist doctrine of salvation in the nineteenth
century.
This article presents a brief historical survey of the theological issues raised by
Arminius and The Remonstrance, the Calvinist/Reformed response given at the
Synod of Dort, and identifies the key theological arguments that anchor the
Arminian perspective of the Adventist doctrine of salvation.

I. Theological Issues Raised by Arminius and the Remonstrance


Arminianism begins per se in Holland at the end of the sixteenth century. James
Arminius was born near Rotterdam in 1559.2 He studied theology under some of
the best teachers of his time and spent five years in Geneva (1582-1587) under the
tutelage of Theodore Beza where he was exposed to the various forms of
scholastic Reformed theology. In 1588, Arminius received a pastoral appointment

1Roger E. Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove, IL:
InterVarsity, 2006).
2This biographical and historical context of Arminius’ life and teachings is taken from

Richard A. Müller, “Arminius and Arminianism,” in The Dictionary of Historical Theology, ed.
Trevor A. Hart (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 33-35, and J. K. Grider
“Arminianism,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI:
Baker, 1984), 79-81.
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE RISE OF ARMINIANISM . . . 3

in Amsterdam and in 1602 became professor of theology at the University of


Leiden.
Arminius soon found himself at odds with two of his university colleagues,
Franciscus Gomarus and Lucas Trelcatius. During the decade or so before his
university appointment, Arminius had begun to shift his understanding of the
Reformed doctrine of predestination and the debate that his views initiated at the
university occupied the remainder of his life. In 1608, he argued for his orthodoxy
in his Declaration of Sentiments, a document he offered to the Estates General of
Holland.3 In this document he presented his views on predestination, human free
will, divine grace, assurance of salvation, the divinity of Christ, and his justification
for his request to revise the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism. Of all the
topics he addressed in the Declaration predestination receives the lengthiest
treatment and he clearly stated his divergence from the Reformed theology of his
colleagues. “The document presents three Reformed views of predestination—the
supralapsarian, a modified supralapsarian position, and the infralapsarian—and
rejects them all in favour of a fourth position, Arminius’s own.”4

Supralapsarianism
Supralapsarianism is the form of the doctrine of predestination that Arminius was
most at odd with and in order to understand his position and the theological
contributions he made, we need to understand what he was against. Calvinist
theology laid great emphasis on the sovereignty of God, which was a concept
borrowed from Augustine. God is said to be perfect in all respects of his nature,
possessor of all power, righteousness, and holiness. He is eternal and completely
self-sufficient. Therefore, he is not subject either to time or to any other beings,
nor is he to be reduced to spacio-temporal categories for human understanding
and analysis. To his creatures God must always remain mysterious, except insofar
as he reveals himself to them.
This philosophical understanding of the nature of God, taken from Greek
Aristotelian and neo-Platonic philosophy, had some important implications.
According to this perspective God is timeless and exists in timelessness; hence, he
cannot do anything new for this would reduce him to a set of imperfect and
human categories. “Zwingli and Calvin both had emphasized that everything that
happens—including the fall of Adam and Eve and the election of some humans
to salvation and others to damnation—is decreed by God. In other words [...]
nothing at all happens or can happen accidently or even contingently. Everything
that happens outside of God himself happens by divine decree. God foreknows

3James Arminius, A Declaration of the Sentiments of Arminius in The Works of James

Arminius, London ed., trans. by James Nichols and William Nichols (Grand Rapids, MI:
Baker, 1996), 210-275.
4Müller, 34.
4 SEMINARY STUDENT JOURNAL 1 (SPRING 2015)

what will happen because he foreordains everything that happens, and he


foreordains because he decrees it all from eternity.”5
Therefore, Reformed theology at the time of Arminius wondered and
speculated about the order of these eternally foreordained divine decrees.
Theologians asked themselves what could have been the ultimate and first decree
in the mind of God, the eternal decree that would bring the most glory to God.
“They agreed that all of God’s decrees are simultaneous and eternal because they
accepted Augustine’s notion of eternity as an ‘eternal now’ in which all times—
past, present and future—are simultaneous. For God, they believed, there is no
separation or even succession of moments. Everything is eternally present.”6 Since
God exists only in timelessness, God cannot respond to a human situation, like
the fall. What appears to us as God’s response to human life has always been
decided of all eternity in the mind of God and God has preordained of all eternity,
before the creation of time, everything that has happened in regards to the plan of
salvation.
Reformed theologians speculated over the logical order of these decrees, not
their chronological order. At the time of Arminius, they had somehow figured out
and established the order of these divine decrees into different schemes. Arminius
took issue with the supralapsarian scheme of these decrees. These decrees of God
are named in reference to the fall of humanity, particularly when was ordained the
decree to save the elect. Supralapsarianism argues that the decree that brings the
most glory to God is the salvation of the elect and the damnation of others, and
this decree must logically have been in the mind of God before the decree to allow
or ordain the fall of humanity (from the Latin supra before, and lapsa fall). The
logical order of the supralapsarian decrees is:
1. To predestine some to eternal life in heaven and some others to eternal
damnation in hell;
2. To create both the saved and the reprobate;
3. To allow the fall of humanity;
4. To provide atonement and salvation only for the elect;
5. To give salvation only to the elect.

5Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform

(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1999), 457. Based on Eph 1:11 where Paul refers to the
plan of him “who works all things after the counsel of His will,” God’s decree is a
theological concept for the comprehensive plan for the universe and its history which
God’s sovereignty established in eternity. The Westminster Shorter Catechism provides
this classic definition: “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the
counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to
pass” (Question 7). See Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 3 vols. (New York: Harper
and Brothers, 1919), 3:677.
6Olson, Story of Christian Theology, 457.
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE RISE OF ARMINIANISM . . . 5

The Remonstrance
In 1610, just one year after the death of James Arminius, five articles of faith
based on his teachings were drawn up by his followers. The Arminians, as his
followers came to be called, presented these five doctrines to the States of
Holland and West Friesland in the form of a Remonstrance. The Arminian party also
insisted that the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism (which was the official
expression of the doctrinal position of the Churches of Holland) be amended to
conform to the doctrinal views contained in the Remonstrance. They wanted to see
changes made to five particular doctrines of the Reformed faith as understood by
supralapsarianism.
Before going any further, we should note that Arminius and the Remonstrants
did not reject the philosophical foundation of Reformed theology. Their
understanding of God’s eternal nature, of eternity, and of the need of eternal
divine decrees remained intact. What they challenged was the nature of these
decrees, their logical order and their biblical and historical foundation. Arminius
and his colleagues were Protestant scholastic theologians just as much as other
Reformed theologians at the time. By the eighteenth century, however, when John
Wesley championed an Arminian understanding of salvation, this philosophical
understanding of eternity and of God’s relationship with humanity was no longer
as prominent and did not concern theologians to the same extent.
What were the five doctrinal points or objections of the Arminian
Remonstrance?
God’s election of people is conditional to their response. The first point of contention
with traditional Reformed theology was its unconditional predestination. Arminians
had difficulty accepting that God would decide from all eternity who would be
saved and who would not. Moreover, if God would of his own will decide to save
some, then why not save all humankind? In this sense Arminianism viewed
Calvinism as fatalistic.
The Remonstrants also had difficulty with the antinomian tendencies of
Calvinism or the seeming complacency of the people. If God had already
determined who would be saved, why should people make much efforts at
keeping the commandments of God or in being strict about church standards?
For Arminianism this attitude had also a negative impact on missionary and
evangelistic endeavors. Why preach the gospel if God has already decided who
will be saved? Furthermore, Calvinism’s view of predestination was opposed to
human freedom and human reason, key concepts of the Renaissance view of
humankind.
In contrast to Reformed unconditional predestination, the Remonstrance states
that God, foreseeing who would believe in Jesus, has predestined the elected
people to salvation and that one’s salvation is determined by one’s acceptance of
God’s offer. Arminianism affirms that God desires all persons to be saved but an
individual has to believe in the salvation Christ has provided in order for her to be
6 SEMINARY STUDENT JOURNAL 1 (SPRING 2015)

saved and to benefit from salvation. A key text for Arminians is John 3:16, “For
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whosoever believes in Him
should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Christ died for all sinners. The Remonstrance objects to Calvinism’s view of limited
atonement, that Christ atoned for the sins of the elect only. Arminianism affirms
that Christ’s sacrifice of atonement on the cross was made for all of humankind
who has ever lived or will ever live. Yet, the benefits of this universal atonement
are applied only to the believer.
Human freewill is restored by the Holy Spirit. The Remonstrance also specifies that
because of the fall of Adam and Eve, the nature of human beings is sinful and
that of themselves no one is able to do good or even to believe in God. Even a
person’s will is affected by sin. However, God has given to every human being a
measure of his grace to enable them to accept the influence of the Spirit. Through
this divine intervention, called prevenient grace, human beings have a free will and
are able to believe in God because the Holy Spirit works in all of them. It is
therefore the work of the Holy Spirit to effect a transformation in a person’s heart
in order for them to rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good.
Grace can be resisted. In article four the Remonstrance explains that God, through
his Holy Spirit and his grace, accomplishes all the good that a person may do or
conceive. However, the grace of God can be resisted. People may resist the
operation of the Holy Spirit in one’s life and God does not force anyone against
their will to accept his salvation.
Believers may persevere in the faith or fall from grace. The last article goes on to say
that the Christian may have the victory over sin through the assisting grace of the
Holy Spirit. If the individual who is tempted to sin desires the help of Christ,
he/she will have the victory. In the last part of the article, the statement becomes
blurry, and the writers did not seem to know for sure if it was possible for one to
fall from grace, although it cited a few biblical references that support this
concept. However, later Arminianism took the position that one’s perseverance in
the faith is a condition for salvation.

Synod of Dort
Calvinism reacted strongly to the Remonstrance and its five Arminian articles. What
Arminianism promoted was tantamount to a redefinition of what Reformation
theology had stood for against Roman Catholicism. The Reformers had stood
firmly against the possibility of humankind to earn even a little part of their
salvation and believed Roman Catholicism had accepted during the Middle Ages
an anthropology based on Pelagianism, that human beings are not totally depraved
but could operate parts of their salvation. The Reformers believed that this view
of humankind was the basis of Roman Catholic sacraments and of a works-
oriented salvation scheme.
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE RISE OF ARMINIANISM . . . 7

By understanding the nature of human beings to be totally depraved, as


Augustine had believed against Pelagius, Reformed soteriology emphasized the
sovereignty of God in the salvation of humanity. From all eternity, God chose
who would be saved and who would be lost, without any human participation in
salvation. We need to understand the Reformers’ position in its context and in
reaction to abuses and aberrations in Catholic theology. I believe Arminianism
brought back the pendulum of the doctrines of God’s sovereignty, human free
will and salvation into a more centrist position with a better biblical
understanding.
In any case, Reformed theologians reacted strongly against Arminianism. To
meet the challenge they faced various Reformed churches of Holland,
Switzerland, England and France sent delegates to a synod in the city of Dort
from November 13, 1618 to May 9, 1619.
It unanimously rejected the five points of Arminianism and produced a
document, the Canons of the Synod of Dort, in which the major doctrines of
Reformed theology were carefully defined in response to Arminianism. It is from
this document that came what is now called the “five points of Calvinism”7 or the
TULIP:
1. the Total depravity of human beings,
2. the Unconditional election of the redeemed,
3. the Limited atonement of Christ only for the redeemed,
4. the Irresistible grace of God toward the redeemed, and
5. the Perseverance of the Saints.
Regarding the position taken by the Synod of Dort, Jaroslav Pelikan
comments, “the Synod of Dort affirmed its allegiance to normative Reformed
teaching, as promulgated in the Belgic Confession, to whose authority the several
national delegations to the synod subscribed, and in the Heidelberg Catechism, which
was endorsed as ‘a very accurate compendium of orthodox Christian doctrine.’”8
This document is still today the basis of many Reformed doctrinal positions.
Although it is a strong Calvinist document, and a reaffirmation of the basic
tenets of supralapsarianism, some of the language and expressions used in it
betray an uneasiness with the freedom of the will and such texts of Scripture as
John 3:16. From an Adventist perspective, it does not successfully answer the
objections raised by James Arminius and The Remonstrance. Thus the debate
continues 400 years later.

7A well-known exposition of the five points of Calvinism is David N. Steele and Curtis

A. Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub.
Co., 1963).
8Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, vol. 4:

Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984),
236.
8 SEMINARY STUDENT JOURNAL 1 (SPRING 2015)

II. Key Theological Arguments of Adventist Arminian Soteriology


But why are Seventh-day Adventists Arminian in their theology? I will try to
answer this question from two directions; first, by highlighting what I perceive to
be Arminius’s most accurate and powerful arguments showing the weaknesses of
an unconditional predestinarian theology and, second, by describing briefly the
major foci of Adventist theology.

Arminius’s Key Theological Contributions


After many years of conflicts, as I alluded to earlier, Arminius wrote his Declaration
of Sentiments in 1608 in which he presented his best arguments against the
supralapsarian form of Reformed theology and why he felt it was inconsistent
with biblical theology and church history.
Seventh-day Adventists know very little about James Arminius. In fact, most
of Protestantism knows very little about Arminius. He remains one of the least
studied Protestant theologians, yet he is still one of the most influential. Among
his arguments in the Declaration of Sentiments, his twenty objections to the
supralapsarian doctrine of unconditional predestination reveal a deep knowledge
of Scripture, church history and contemporary theological developments.
Among Arminius’s twenty objections I find that five of them, in particular,
speak powerfully in favor of his understanding of the plan of salvation and
resonate well with Adventist beliefs. At the beginning of the list, he stated
unequivocally the main reasons for his decision to reject supralapsarianism. The
various texts of Scripture that speak of a person’s belief in God’s salvation, or of
the need to believe in Christ in order to be saved, are at the core of his
understanding of the plan of salvation and of the gospel. Arminius saw a crucial
sequence of events in Scripture regarding someone’s salvation: God loves
humanity and gives his Son as a sacrifice of atonement for all humankind, and
whoever believes in Christ and repents from sin, receives the forgiveness of sins
and the promise of eternal life. This sequence he believed is the core doctrine of
the gospel and this Good News is a genuine invitation to whoever believes. God
provides salvation for all human beings, he invites them to accept Christ as
Saviour, those who accept this invitation are saved. Hence, God could not have
already determined who would be saved or lost before the creation of the world
or before the fall of humankind as stated in supralapsarianism. “For, according to
the tenor of the discourses delivered by John and Christ,” Arminius explained, “as
they are described to us by the Evangelist, and according to the doctrine of the
Apostles and Christ after his ascension, the Gospel consists partly of an injunction
to repent and believe, and partly of a promise to bestow forgiveness of sins, the grace of the
Spirit, and life eternal.”9 According to Arminius, the simple sequence of events

9Arminius, Declaration of Sentiments, 217.


HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE RISE OF ARMINIANISM . . . 9

explained in Scripture is to be accepted as God’s revelation of the plan and the


order of salvation.
A second crucial theological reason that I find appealing is based on his
understanding of the nature of God’s character. Arminius finds “repugnant” to
the nature of God’s character the belief that from all eternity he decreed some
people to eternal damnation before they were created and even before they made
a decision to rebel against him. This, he said, “represents God as decreeing
something for a particular end [...] which neither is nor can be good”.10
Fundamentally, he argued, the decision to condemn someone, before that person
sins, is an evil decision and cannot be in accordance to God’s wisdom, justice and
goodness.
A third theological reason relates to the freedom of the will. He argued that
human beings were created with freedom of will and, therefore, “with a
disposition and aptitude for the enjoyment of life eternal.”11 Hence, if the first
decree of supralapsarianism is accurate, then this doctrine is inconsistent with the
image of God in human beings; human beings were not really created with
freedom of will since logically before their creation they were already
unconditionally predestined to either be saved or be lost. In fact, human beings
are misled to think that they have freedom of will.
A fourth theological reason relates to the purpose of creation. Scripture tells us
that creation was a “good” act of God, which implies a moral quality. At the end
of the creation week, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was
very good” (Gen 1:31 NKJV). According to Arminius, “If creation be the way and
means through which God willed the execution of the decree of his reprobation,
he was more inclined to will the act of reprobation than that of creation; and he
consequently derived greater satisfaction from the act of condemning certain of
his innocent creatures, than in the act of their creation.”12 Again, here, Arminius
raised an issue of logical inconsistencies between the supralapsarian understanding
of salvation and his understanding of biblical theology. Ultimately, if God derives
more glory from the salvation of some and the damnation of others, than he does
from the creation of human beings, then why create human beings in the first
place? Why give them freedom of the will? Why declare creation to be “very
good”? To Arminius, all this is illogical and inconsistent with biblical revelation.
A fifth theological reason Arminius stated relates to the nature of sin and its
impact on the nature of God’s character. I find this argument the strongest he
made. What is the relationship between sin, human transgression, and eternal
damnation? In the plan of salvation, is sin the result of a human transgression to
God’s law and does it bring about eternal damnation? Paul seems to say so in

10Ibid., 222.
11Ibid., 223.
12Ibid., 226.
10 SEMINARY STUDENT JOURNAL 1 (SPRING 2015)

Romans 6:23, “for the wages of sin is death”—death is caused by sin. But, if
according to supralapsarianism, transgression was logically decreed before human
beings were created, than how can sin be the cause of damnation? Paul states that
sin is the cause of damnation but supralapsarianism makes sin the means of
damnation since one’s damnation was decreed before sin was ever committed.
Hence, Arminius concluded that such a doctrine is profoundly “injurious to the
glory of God” because it makes God the reason for the existence of sin; sin was
necessary in order to effect the damnation God decreed of all eternity. The first
decree of supralapsarianism could not happen unless in the third decree “God
ordained that man should commit sin.” Sin is therefore unavoidable in God’s
universe and some people, those who are condemned, could not avoid sin. Sin
was necessary in order for God to receive all glory and majesty. The logical
conclusion of all this according to Arminius is that “God is the author of sin”,
“God really sins” by ordaining something evil (which is a moral decision at odds
with God’s nature), and “God is the only sinner.”13 Perhaps of all the theological
arguments Arminianism has fired at Calvinism, this is the strongest. How can God
be consistent with his character of love if unconditional predestination also
assumes that God decreed the existence of sin?
In his Declaration of Sentiments, Arminius concluded his list of arguments by
stating his own understanding of the eternal decrees of God. God’s decrees are:
1. “to appoint his Son, Jesus Christ, for a Mediator, Redeemer, Savior, Priest
and King [...]”;
2. “to receive into favor those who repent and believe, and, in Christ, for His sake
and through Him, to effect the salvation of such penitents and believers as
persevered to the end; but to leave in sin, and under wrath, all impenitent
persons and unbelievers, and to damn them as aliens from Christ”;
3. “to administer in a sufficient and efficacious manner the means which were
necessary for repentance and faith; and to have such administration
instituted [...]”;
4. “to save and damn certain particular persons.”14
To this last decree Arminius adds that the foundation of this decree is the
“foreknowledge of God, by which he knew from all eternity those individuals who
would, through his preventing grace, believe, and, through his subsequent grace would
persevere, [...] and by which foreknowledge, he likewise knew those who would not
believe and persevere.”15

13Ibid., 228, 229.


14Ibid., 247, 248.
15Ibid., 248.
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE RISE OF ARMINIANISM . . . 11

What’s Arminian in Adventist Theology?


Although Adventists do not subscribe to an Augustinian or scholastic worldview,
their theology is anchored and deeply rooted in the basic Arminian system of
thought as they inherited it from Methodism. This provides Adventists with the
foundation for their core beliefs regarding the character of God and the plan of
salvation. In his analysis of the Arminian roots of Adventist beliefs, Russell
Staples states, “The cluster of doctrines relating to the Fall and sin and salvation
constitute a thoroughgoing evangelical Arminianism.”16 In fact, the Adventist
theme of the great controversy between good and evil provides a theological
framework that is dependent on an Arminian understanding of God’s relationship
with sinners and the sinner’s need to respond to the gospel invitation.
Adventists believe that the core characteristic of God’s character is love, a
selfless love on behalf of his creation, a love that guides all his actions toward the
universe and humanity. God’s character of love is intrinsic to who he is and was
such prior to the creation of any other beings. The creation of the universe,
including angels and human beings, was an act of love. Yet, sadly, this perfect
universe created by God became corrupted by sin and rebellion.
According to Adventist beliefs, Scripture teaches that the problem of evil
started in heaven when a perfect angel created by God, Lucifer, decided of his
own freewill to rebel against God and his government.17 Deceived by his self-
confidence and pride, Lucifer decided to challenge God’s authority and to level
against God accusations of tyranny and arbitrariness, that God’s government is
based on arbitrary rules, that God is not a god of love but one of vindictiveness.
Thus, Adventists understand the core of the problem of evil and sin in the
universe to be at once a theological and an ethical problem—that God’s character
of love is challenged and misunderstood, that God’s government of the universe
and response to humanity’s sin is misrepresented. Satan’s rebellion against God
thus began a cosmic controversy between God and Satan, between God’s
government and Satan’s claims, a rebellion that spread to Earth with the
disobedience of Adam and Eve.18
16Russell L. Staples, “Adventism,” in The Variety of American Evangelicalism, ed. Donald
W. Dayton and Robert K. Johnston (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1991), 63.
17Scripture passages that speak of this great controversy include Job 1:6-12; Isa 14:12-

14; Eze 28:12-19; Rev 12:7-17; Luke 10:18. Gregory A. Boyd’s books God at War
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997) and Satan and the Problem of Evil (Downers Grove,
IL: InterVarsity, 2001) present an understanding of this great controversy that is similar to
what Adventists have believed.
18The Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Belief #8 on the Great Controversy states,

“All humanity is now involved in a great controversy between Christ and Satan regarding
the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe. This conflict
originated in heaven when a created being, endowed with freedom of choice, in self-
12 SEMINARY STUDENT JOURNAL 1 (SPRING 2015)

God’s response to Adam and Eve’s transgression was the plan of salvation, a
plan that had been devised by the Trinity “before the foundation of the earth”
(Eph 1:4; Rev 13:8). This plan of redemption insists that only God can redeem
humanity from the fall and that only God’s Son could die for humanity. This plan
was devised as a response of God’s love, a self-sacrifice on behalf of his creation.
Yet, since the core issue of the great controversy is a misunderstanding of God’s
character, God cannot force anyone to accept his offer of salvation. Forcing or
preordaining someone’s salvation would be tantamount to give credence to
Satan’s accusations. Instead, the entire plan of salvation is based on the freewill of
individuals to accept or reject the salvation provided by Christ’s death on the
cross as an act of God’s redeeming, selfless love. Adventists believe that no one
will be forced to live with God for eternity. God’s dealings with humanity since
the beginning of sin have been for the ultimate purpose to bring an end to this
rebellion by demonstrating his love, mercy and justice through Christ’s life and
sacrificial death, and through his people Israel and the Church. When the rebellion
began in heaven, God could have easily destroyed all opposition but in doing so,
he would have cast a shadow on his character and given some credibility to
Satan’s accusations. It was to reveal the true character of God and to answer the
accusations of Satan that Christ came to this earth to redeem humanity. Christ’s
death for the salvation of humankind did not only make heaven accessible to men
and women who repent of their sins and accept the offer of salvation, but before
all the universe it justified and vindicated God in his dealing with the rebellion of
Satan.
This Adventist theological understanding of the origin of evil and sin and the
plan of salvation are based on core Arminian presuppositions: that God’s
character is essentially love, a moral quality that respects decisions made by other
free created beings; that God created human beings in his image with freedom of
choice; that sin broke humanity’s relationship with God but in God’s mercy the
Holy Spirit grants to all individuals a measure of grace to allow them the capacity
to make the right choice in regards to spiritual matters; that Christ’s sacrificial
death on the cross is for the benefit of all human beings; that salvation in Christ is
offered to every one; that God’s grace sustains those who persevere in faith unto
the end; and that God’s foreknowledge of those who will be ultimately saved or

exaltation became Satan, God's adversary, and led into rebellion a portion of the angels.
He introduced the spirit of rebellion into this world when he led Adam and Eve into sin.
This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the
disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide
flood. Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal
conflict, out of which the God of love will ultimately be vindicated. To assist His people
in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect, and
sustain them in the way of salvation” (Rev 12:4-9; Isa 14:12-14; Eze 28:12-18; Gen 3; Rom
1:19-32; 5:12-21; 8:19-22; Gen 6-8; 2 Peter 3:6; 1 Cor 4:9; Heb 1:14).
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE RISE OF ARMINIANISM . . . 13

lost respects every human being’s freedom of choice and that God elects to
salvation those whom he knows will make the right choice.
If Adventists have been so insistent on talking about the commandments of
God, and particularly the observance of the Sabbath, it is because of this theme of
the great controversy and of our Arminian roots. At the core of this controversy is
the character of God. The misrepresentation of God’s character by Satan is a core
issue, but also part of Satan’s challenge to God’s character is a challenge to his
law, which is a true representation of his character. Satan’s aim is also to
misrepresent and distort God’s law. In Adventist thought, the character of God
and the law of God are not two separate elements of this controversy; God’s law
is a reflection of his character, of who he is. Hence, Adventists argue, keeping the
commandments is the best way to demonstrate one’s faith in God, not to be
saved but to thank God for salvation. The same goes for all Adventist lifestyle
teachings on health and taking care of our minds and bodies. If it is true there is a
controversy over God’s character and his government of the universe, each
human being is part of this controversy and has a role to play in it. Our decisions
may impact our own salvation and that of others. God’s grace is sufficient to save
all sinners, but God will not force someone to live with him for eternity. While
Satan uses lies and deception to fulfill his purpose against God and his people,
God on the other hand uses only loving persuasion. He never forces someone to
serve Him.
Seventh-day Adventism is fundamentally Arminian. Of course, Adventism has
many other points in common with other Christian groups but at the core of its
belief system is Arminianism. And for Adventists, Arminius and the Remonstrants
are part of a long line of God’s faithful people who sought to understand the
Scripture to the best of their abilities and to share the good news of the plan of
salvation with others. Many of them were persecuted for their faith. Nonetheless,
their legacy lives on. Adventists consider them as their spiritual ancestors.
14 SEMINARY STUDENT JOURNAL 1 (SPRING 2015)

Appendix
The Remonstrance

Article One
“That God, by an eternal and 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, according to the word of the
Gospel in John 3:36: ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he
that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,’
and according to other passages of Scripture also.” Biblical texts supporting this
position include John 3:16, 17; Ezek 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Tim 2:3-4; Acts 17:30-
31.

Article Two
“That agreeably thereunto, 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; yet that no one actually enjoys this
forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And in
the First Epistle of John 2:2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for
ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Other biblical texts supporting
this position include John 1:29; 2 Cor 5:14-15; Heb 2:9; Isa 53:6; 1 Tim 2:6; Titus
2:11.

Article Three
“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 any thing that is truly good (such as saving 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,
according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, ‘Without me ye can do nothing.’”
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE RISE OF ARMINIANISM . . . 15

Article Four
“That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of
all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient
or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can 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 respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible;
inasmuch as it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Ghost.
Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places.”

Article Five
“That those who are incorporated into Christ by true faith, and have thereby
become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against
Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well
understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that
Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his
hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not
inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can
be misled nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the Word of Christ,
John 10:28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But whether
they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginning 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 Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our
mind.” Biblical texts supporting this position include Heb 3:6, 14; 6:4-6; 10:26, 35,
38; 1 John 2:24; 1 Tim 1:19; 4:16; 2 Tim 2:12; 1 Cor 9:27; Rom 11:22.
SYMPOSIUM ON ADVENTISM AND ARMINIANISM - Oct. 14-16, 2010

DIVINE ELECTION AND PREDESTINATION


A Biblical Perspective. Hans K. LaRondelle. Th.D.
Since Augustine the doctrine of Divine Election has received increasing attention
in the history of Scripture interpretation. Even when this doctrine is mostly
avoided in teaching and preaching, the issue remains a practical need in the
church. Pastors know about the hidden doubt among many believers, not so much
about the existence of God but rather whether one belongs to the chosen ones.
What will be God's decision in His.final judgment about me? Thus is the biblical
doctrine of election related to our pastoral care and our gospel proclamation .

My procedure is to inquire first into the exegetical foundation of the themes of


Divine Election and Predestination, as far as these are revealed in the redemptive
history of the two Testaments. I recognize that the New Testament testimony on
divine election cannot be understood without that of Israel in the Hebrew
Scriptures. Secondly, I reflect on the theological perspectives of the biblical data
in engagement with modem systematic theologians. Naturally, this presentation
can only sketch the contours of some fundamental turning points in the biblical
revelation and thus indicate the gospel perspective.

The divine election of Israel


The classical passage of the election of Israel is found in Moses' declaration:
"For you are a people consecrated to Yahweh your God; of all the peoples on
earth, you have been chosen {bachar} by Yahweh your God to be his own
people. Yqhweh set his heart on you and chose you (bachar} . .. It was for love
of you ('ahabah} and to keep the oath he swore to your fathers that Yahweh
brought you out with his mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of
slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Deut. 7:6-8, NJB [1999]; cf.

1
14:2; 10: 15; 4:37; 26: 16-19). Moses reveals that Yahweh's choice to redeem
Israel from slavery was rooted in His love for Israel and in His faithfulness to His
promises to their patriarchs. This choice or election became a historical event,
however, in Israel's miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt. With this
exodus event began the redemptive history of Israel (cf. Hos. 13:4). Israel's
liberation was at the same time an act of divine claim on Israel: Yahweh
identified them as "My firstborn son," who will be set free to worship [Heb.:
'abad, "to serve"] the Redeemer God (Exod. 4:22-23). Significant is Moses'
warning against a misunderstanding of her election, as if it was based on any
merit or virtue in Israel (Deut. 7:7; 9:4-5; cf. Ezek. 16:4-8). Yahweh's guidance
and grace are given ''for His Name's sake" (Ps. 23:3; 25: 11; Jer. 14:7; Isa. 43:25;
48:9, 11 ). The origin of Israel's election remains the inexplicable wonder of
God's love {'ahabah}. This 'ahabah denotes God's unconditioned love, His
election love. N.H. Snaith draws the conclusion: '"Ahabah is the cause of the
covenant; chesed is the means of its continuance" (The Distinctive Ideas of the
OT, London 1944, 95).

The prophet Amos used a particular synonym for God's election love,
when he announced to an apostate Israel: "You only have I known {yada '}of all
the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities"
(Am. 3 :2, NRSV). For our present inquiry it is essential to define the theological
meaning of this divine "knowing" {yada '}. OT scholars seem to agree that yada'
refers to a personal knowledge that expresses a loving care for others (for divine
knowing: Ps. 1:6, NASB; Nab. 1:7, NASB; also John 10:14; 2 Tim. 2:19). Amos
warned Israel, however, against her false conclusions from her election and
against her pretensions of superiority among the nations (9:7). G.C. Berkouwer
clarifies: "Israel interpreted election apart from faith and thus drew illicit
conclusions from it" (Div. Election, 314). At the same time God ordered the

2
prophet Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman, whose daughter he had to call Lo-
Ruhamah ("not loved," 1:6), and her next child Lo-Ammi ("not my people, 1:9).
Stronger could God not teach that His covenant with Israel allowed no claim on
the LORD apart from the obedience of faith: "my people are destroyed from lack
of knowledge" (Hos. 4:6; cf. 6:6; 2:20).

Election and covenant are distinctive ideas yet closely connected in redemptive
history. Abram was chosen and called for a universal purpose: "and all peoples
on earth will be blessed through you" (Gen. 12:3, NIV; "in you," NASB). God
then placed Abram's election in the framework of His covenant with Abram
(Gen. 15), so that the purpose of Abram's election became validated in the
Abrahamic covenant. God's covenant purpose with Israel extended the
Abrahamic covenant. This objective of Israel's election received a new focal
center in the Davidic covenant. David's election extends Israel's covenant
blessing to all nations, as the Royal Psalms testify (Pss. 2; 72). Psalm 132
emphasizes a conditional aspect: the Davidic king must remain faithful to the
Torah of Moses (Deut. 18: 14-20; Ps. 132: 11-12). His kingship serves the purpose
of proclaiming God's redemptive acts: "Posterity will serve him; future
generations will be told about the LORD. They will proclaim his righteousness to
a people yet unborn-for he has done it" (Ps. 22:30-31, NIV).

Israel's response to choose the LORD


This brings us to consider the response that God expected from His chosen
people. In his farewell speech, Moses appealed to the new generation that was
about to enter the promised land: "Now choose life so that you and your children
may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and
hold fast to him" (Deut. 30: 19, 20). Moses renewed the Sinai covenant by way of
Israel's new choice [bachar] and commitment. Joshua again renewed the choice
of Israel at Shechem (Josh. 24:22).

3
These repeated renewals of the covenant indicate the freedom of choice placed
before Israel by Moses and Joshua. Nevertheless, such choices of each generation
of Israel cannot be called autonomous decisions, because Israel was already
redeemed and set free from slavery by Yahweh. Israel's choices of commitment
would be responses to God's prior electing love for Israel. Such new
commitments required however "the careful activity of choosing itself' (H.
Seebass, in TDOT 2:86). The act of "choosing" Israel's God by believing
Gentiles would also be recognized, as Isaiah 56 assures for the post-exilic temple
cultus, "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and
hold fast to my covenant-to them I will give within my temple and its walls a
memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an
everlasting name that will not be cut off" (vv. 4-5). This revelation of Isaiah
includes believing Gentiles in Israel's election, and marks a turning point in the
history of divine election. The Mosaic regulation of Deut. 23: 1 (banning the
eunuchs from Israel's sanctuary) is cancelled by a new divine oracle. Now also
Gentiles are solemnly granted a place in Israel as a worshiping community. Yet
two conditions are mentioned: keeping the Sabbath and holding fast to God's
covenant (Isa. 56:3, 6). The purpose is universal worship: "For my house will be
called a house of prayer for all nations" (56:7).

The prophetic remnant theology


Isaiah developed a specific "remnant" theology to assure the fulfillment of
Israel's "divine election: a faithful remnant of Israel "will inherit the election
promises and form the nucleus of a new faith community (Isa. 10:20-22; 28:5f.;
30: 15-17( (G.F. Hasel, in /SEE 4: 133). Isaiah stressed a· trusting faith in Yahweh
during threats to the nation. For Amos divine election entailed the sacred
obligation to walk with God (Am. 3:3). The covenant God examines, sentences,
and will punish Israel's sense of false security (3 :2). Surprisingly, Amos held out

4
one ray of hope: "Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the
remnant of Joseph" (5: 15). In God's discriminating judgment "all the sinners
among my people will die by the sword, all who say, 'Disaster will not overtake
or meet us"' (Am. 9: I 0). Nevertheless, a faithful "remnant" of Israel shall survive
the judgment (Am. 5: 15). With that remnant people God shall accomplish His
purpose for the world: God Himself shall "restore David's fallen tent. .. so that
they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,
declares the LORD, who will do these things" (Am. 9:11, 12, NIV). This
prophetic perspective includes: 1) the restoration of the Davidic dynasty as
Yahweh's work; 2) it will embrace the "remnant" of Israel's arch-enemy Edom
and of all the other nations. The Christian believer will also learn the apostolic
application of Am. 9: 11-12. During the apostolic council in Jerusalem, Jam es
interpreted the purpose of God in Amos 9 (via the Septuagint rendering) as
"taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name" (Acts 15: 14, NASB).
Revealing is the vision of Zechariah concerning Satan's accusation of the
high priest Joshua, who represented post-exilic Israel: "The LORD rebuke you, 0
Accuser; may the LORD who has chosen {bachar} Jerusalem rebuke you! For
this is a brand plucked from the fire" (Zech. 3:2, JPS). The assurance of God's
continued election is revealed in a graphic picture of God's justifying grace of His
guilty people (Zech. 3:3-5). Those whom God chose, He also justified. The
immediate context attaches the commission to Joshua to "walk in My paths and
keep My charge" (3:7, JPS) before being entrusted with a future rulership in the
kingdom of God (Zech. 8: 1-19). Zechariah thus connects election, justification,
sanctification, and glorification, in a mounting chain of God's eternal purpose.
Paul validates this order of divine election for Christian believers in Rom.8:28-30.

5
The Messiah as the Chosen One
Isaiah connected the chosen remnant and the messianic promises ( 11: 1, 10-16;
42: 1). He used the image of a tested foundation stone in Zion to describe the
mission of the Davidic Messiah: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a
precious cornerstone for a sure foundation, the one who trusts will never be
dismayed" (Isa. 28: 16, NIV; the LXX translates "tested" by eklekton, "chosen";
quoted by Peter as being fulfilled in Jesus Christ, in 1 Pet. 2:6; cf. Rom. 9:33;
10: 11). If Jerusalem would respond infaith and trust, God would be to them a
Sanctuary and place of refuge, but if they responded in unbelief God would
become a Stone of stumbling (Isa. 8: 14). Isaiah revealed that trust in the Davidic
covenant was a divine test of faith: "If you will not believe, surely you shall not be
established" (Isa. 7:9, NKJV).

THE NEW TESTAMENT


After His triumphal entry in Jerusalem, Jesus noticed the rejection of His humble
messiahship by the religious leaders. He then delivered His most comprehensive
indictment in the form of an updated Song of Isaiah about the "Vineyard" of
Israel (Isa. 5:1-7). Jesus added a new feature: the owner of the vineyard has a
"son" who was therefore the legitimate heir, "When the tenants saw his son
coming, they said, "Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours" (Luke 20:14).
Jesus asked the question, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: 'The
stone the builders rejected has become the capstone'? Everyone who falls on that
stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed" (Luke
20: 17-18). Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22 as a messianic prefiguration of His
redemptive mission that would meet first rejection by Israel but was recognized
by God in the resurrection of Christ and chosen as the foundation of a "holy
temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:21-22; see Peter's post-Easter proclamation in Acts
4: 11-12; 1 Pet. 2:4-8).

6
Significant is Jesus' reply to the chief priests and Pharisees in His parable
about a king's "Wedding Feast for his son" (Mat. 22: 1-14; Luke 14: 15-24). The
repeated invitations of the king to attend the feast were all met with
"unwillingness to come," even when "everything" was "ready" (Mat. 22:3-5;
"now ready," Luke 14: 17). Finally the king invited all that could be found, "both
good and evil" (v. 10), so that the wedding hall was filled with guests. Its
fulfillment is commonly understood as referring to the mixture of true and false
disciples in the church. The king's coming to "look over" the dinner guests
"implies divine inspection of professing disciples at the last judgment" (R.H.
Gundry, Matthew (1982], 439). One invited guest appeared to have refused the
appropriate wedding garment and was "cast into the outer darkness" (Mat. 22: 11-
13). Jesus' concluding statement was: "For many are called {kletoi}, but few are
chosen {eklektoi} "(Mat. 22: 14, NASB). Jesus' surprising contrast between the
invited (or called) and the chosen ones becomes meaningful in this narrative. It
reveals the personal responsibility of choosing to accept the call to the kingdom of
God from the God-sent Messiah (John 6:44-45; 8:37-38). Jesus viewed the
boasting of the Pharisees that they were Abraham's children as a misinterpretation
of Israel's election because of their hatred of His messianic mission. The "chosen
ones" are those who respond by faith like Abraham did to God's promises (Mat.
24:22, 24, 31; cf. Eph. 4:1; Phil. 2:12-13; and Rev. 17:14, "those who are with
Him-the called and chosen {eklektoi} andfaithful {pistoi}." Mark's Gospel even
stresses that ''for the sake of the elect whom He has chosen" God shall "shorten
the days" of distress (Mark 13:20; cf. Dan. 12:1). Matthew and Mark designate
the "chosen" ones as "His elect" when the Son of Man appears in His glory (Mat.
24:31; Mark 13:27).

Christ claimed to be sent by God as His unique Son, endowed with divine
power and authority. He announced to His apostles: "You did not choose me but

7
I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that
the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name" (John 15: 16, 17,
NRSV). Jesus emphasized the individual choice to do the will of God and to
judge His messianic teachings: "If anyone chooses to do God's will {"thelei to
thelema autou poiein; "resolves to do," NRSV}, he will find out whether my
teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" (John 7: 17, NIV). The
context reveals that Jesus elicited a decision of the worshipers at the Tabernacles
feast to recognize His teaching as God's o•vn teaching (see John 6:45; 7:15-16).
Jesus asked them to "judge with right judgment" and not "by appearances" (7:24)
regarding His identity as the God-sent Messiah (John 7:12, 25-31). Jesus thus
evoked a decision offaith from the chosen people as well as from the Gentiles
(John 7:37-39; 12:32).

Peter's testimony regarding election and predestination


On the day of Pentecost Peter proclaimed the surprising news to the Jews that
their act of handing over Jesus to death was both their guilt before God and an act
according to God's "set purpose and foreknowledge" {tei orismenei boulei kai
prognosei tou theou} (Acts 2:23, NIV). Luke's narrative repeats this divine
providence: "They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should
happen" {hosa he cheir sou kai he boule proorisen genesthai} (Acts 4:28, NIV).
In the face of this divine act of "deciding beforehand'' regarding Christ, Peter still
appealed to faith and repentance in view of God's new act in Christ (Acts 2:38;
3:18-19; 5:31). Significant is Peter's address in his pastoral letters "to God's elect
{eklektois}, strangers in the world ... who have been chosen according to the
foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for
obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling of his blood" (1Pet.1:1, 2, NIV). He
assured the suffering Gentile Christians in Asia Minor that they are "a chosen
people {genos eklekton}, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to

8
God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness
into his wonderful light" (I Pet. 2:9). Peter applied to them the same calling that
ancient Israel had received (cf. Exod. 19:5, 6; Deut. 7:6; Isa. 43:20-21). As the
purpose of their election Peter explains: to "declare the praises" of their
Redeemer and to "offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus
Christ" as a "holy priesthood" (I Pet. 2:5, 9). In his second letter, Peter urges his
"brothers" to diligently "make your calling and election sure" by way of a
sanctified life, as he had outlined (2 Pet. 1:10, see vv. 4-7). In short, Peter united
God's election and calling for Gentile believers for the purpose to glorify God as
the Redeemer and Sanctifier of His chosen ones. He stressed the responsibility of
Christian believers to "confirm" (NRSV) their "calling and election" by
practicing godliness and spiritual "growth" in the grace and knowledge of our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (3: 18). Peter assured that every Christian believer
who sanctifies Christ in heart and life shall enter "into the eternal kingdom of our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (I: 10-11). The implication for Peter seems to be
that a failure to "confirm" their election in heart and life amounts to their
repudiation of the election. To encourage the insecure believers, Peter declared
that God had "chosen" and "foreknown" them, so that Jesus Christ came "for the
sake of you" ( 1 Pet. 1: 1, 2, 20).

Paul's testimony regarding divine election and predestination


During their first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas visited the synagogue of
Pisidian Antioch and reminded the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles that God had
"chosen" [exelexato] Israel to bring forth the Davidic Messiah who had come in
Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 13: 17-23). He reported that the rulers of Jerusalem did
not recognize Jesus as Messiah and had rejected him (v. 27). Paul then witnessed
that they were sent with the news that God had fulfilled His promise made to the
fathers in the crucified and risen Jesus. His appeal was that "through Jesus the

9
forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you" (v. 38). Those who believed among the
Jews and God-fearing Gentiles were counted as "appointed {tetagmenoi,
"belonging to, classed among) for eternal life" (Acts 13:48, NIV). Here Luke
qualifies the appointment, or assignment, to "eternal life" in accordance with the
divine purpose of faith in the hearers of the gospel (cf. v. 46). To the Corinthians
Paul stressed that God had chosen (exelexato] the church in Christ in her low and
weak appearance "to shame the wise and the strong," "so that no one may boast
before him" (I Cor. I :27-29; three times: God "chose" them). He describes
Christ as the secret "wisdom" that God had "predestined {proorisen} to be for
our glory before the ages began" (I Cor. 2:7, NJB). Paul claims that the
prophecy of Isaiah (64:4) about the inconceivable glory of "what God has
prepared {etoimasen} for those who love him" has been revealed now by God's
Spirit to the Christian believers who love God (1 Cor. 2:9-10), even when the
consummated glory is still waiting (I Cor. 15:20-28). When Paul spoke to the
Greek philosophers on the Areopagus he emphasized the turning point in history
in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which has ended the times of "ignorance"
about God (see v. 23) by means of the gospel proclamation everywhere.
Repentance is called for, because God "has set a day when he will judge the
world with justice by the man he has appointed {hoi orisen}" (Acts 17:31,
NIV; cf. Peter's gospel preaching before Cornelius in Acts 10:42-43). Here Paul
made the final Judgment of all human beings the basis for his call to repentance,
while proclaiming the risen Christ as the mediator of the divine judgment.

To the Ephesians Paul sent his most comprehensive theology of divine


election. He praises "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has
blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (I :3,
NASB). First, Paul wants them to know that these "blessings" were coming from
the risen Christ who is ministering now "in the heavenly places" on their behalf

10
(v. 3). In this respect Paul makes the remarkable statement that God "raised us up
with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places" (2:6). Secondly, Paul
reveals the pre-temporal origin of the heavenly blessing: ''just as He chose us in
Him before the foundation of the world" (v. 4). This divine election in Cluist
fulfills God's eternal purpose: "He predestined us to adoption as sons through
Jesus Christ to Himself' (v. 5). Now Paul turns to the saving event they are
presently experiencing in Cluist: "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness
of our trespasses" (v. 7). Finally Paul widens God's purpose in Cluist to a cosmic
dimension: "the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and
things upon the earth" (v. 10). Paul thus anchors the believers' certainty of
salvation in God's choice to predestine them in Christ as His children "because of
His great love with which he loved us" (1:5; 2:4). Paul's focus in this future
perspective is not on individual salvation but on the redemptive call for all
believers and on the Cluistocentric structure of the entire universe. He permeates
his hymn of praise (1 :3-12) with eleven Christ-centered attestations of God's love
and gracious purpose for the world. With apostolic authority he claims that God
"has made known to us the "mystery of His will, according to His kind intention
{eudokian, "good pleasure"} which he purposed in Him" (1 :9).

Paul could not make it clearer that God's plan of salvation was never conceived or
determined without Christ before the creation of the world. He therefore includes
all dimensions of time, past-present-future, in his gospel perspective in Eph. 1.
.. ·
He stresses the eternal love of the Father for the Son (1 :6), and so God's love for
both Jews and Gentiles (1: 11-14). In the larger context of his letter, Paul explains
that "the mystery of Cluist" means that Cluist has broken down "the banier of the
dividing wall" between Israel and the nations by creating a new body-the
church-in which believing Gentiles have become "fellow-heirs and fellow-
members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Cluist Jesus through

11
the gospel" (2:14-16; 3:3-6, NASB). All this has taken place "in accordance with
the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord" (3: 11 ).
The believer's conviction of participating in God's grace is personal faith
in the gospel of Christ and experiencing the Holy Spirit as the seal that
"guarantees our inheritance" (Eph. l: 13, 14; 4:30).

In his Romans letter, Paul also presents God's electing love for his
pastoral purpose to unite Jewish and Gentile believers in one new covenant people
(see Rom. 9-11). Here Paul develops more fully the individual assurance of
salvation through faith in Christ and the inner testimony of the Spirit of God that
we are "children of God" (Rom. 5:1-5; 8:14-17). Where Ephesians began with an
extended hymn of praise "to God as our Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ"
(Eph. 1:3-12), the Romans letter concludes the exposition of God's plan of
salvation with a dramatic affirmation of the certainty of our Christian hope (Rom.
8:35-39; cf. also 11 :33-36).
It may be enlightening to compare Paul's theological exposition of divine
election and predestination in Ephesians and Romans. Our interest will be in the
patterns of development in Ephesians 1 and in Romans 8. The somewhat
abbreviated listing in this diagram is taken from the NASB.

EPHESIANS ROMANS

1:3 God ... has blessed us with every 8:28 God causes all things
spiritual blessing in the heavenly to work together for good
places in Christ, to those who love God ...

1:4a just as He chose us in Him before 8:29 For whom He foreknew,


the foundation of the world, He also predestined to
1:4b that we should be holy and become conformed to the
blameless before Him. image of His Son . ..
1:5 He predestined us to adoption as 8:30a and whom He
sons through Jesus Christ to predestined, these He
Himself, also called, and whom He
1:7 In Him we have redemption called,
through His blood, the forgiveness 8:30b these He also justified;
of our trespasses
1:10, 11 the summing up of all things and whom He justified,
in Christ ... In Him also we have these He also glorified.
obtained an inheritance, having
been predestined according to His
purpose

1:13, 14 In Him, you also ... having also 8:33 Who will bring a charge
believed, you were sealed in Him against God's elect? God is
with the Holy Spirit of promise, the one who justifies;
who is given as a pledge of your 8:38 For I am convinced that
inheritance, ... to the praise of His neither death nor life ...
glory. shall be able to separate us
from the love of God, which
is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This parallel view allows us to make some observations: 1) both Scripture

passages show an advancing pattern of God's plan of salvation that ends with

the glorification of the chosen ones; 2) both use the same verbs "to predestine"

to indicate the certainty of the triumph of God's redemptive plan in Christ Jesus;

3) both describe the origin of God's redemptive act of predestination in pre-

temporal time: either "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world"

(Eph. 1:4), or "whom He foreknew" (Rom. 8:29). Paul adds here a new

dimension to the OT concept of divine election, or at least develops it

Christologically in God's eternal purpose and counsel: "He chose us in Him" (Eph.

13
1:4, 5, 9). The corresponding phrase to God's "choosing" us "before the

foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4) would be in Rom. 8 God's "foreknowing"

those "who love God" (Rom. 8:28, 29). This parallel phrasing of God's eternal

purpose in Christ may indicate a mutual elucidation.

4) both chapters describe the same purpose of God's predestinating acts: the

adoption of Christian believers as God's children (Eph. 1:5; Rom. 8:15, 29); 5)

both imply an earthly order of realization: the call to faith in Christ, receiving

forgiveness as justification by faith, with the assurance of the inheritance or

glorification; 6) in both chapters Paul addresses not individuals but all believing

Christians as the elected community ("us"); last but not least, both chapters

conclude with the pastoral appeal to recognize the absolute reliability of God's

promise and the sealing work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts (Eph. 1:13-14;
Rom. 8:14-17, 33-34).

When we accept Paul as the author of both letters, our comparison supports the
idea that Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 are mutually explanatory, a point of
hermeneutical significance. The unit of Romans 8:28-30 calls for special
reflection because of its controversial dogmatic use in dogma history.

THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS

The OT data describe divine election as the ground for the existence of the people
of Israel. This election is grounded itself in the divine love for Israel and her
patriarchs. In His love God chose Israel to have covenant fellowship with
Himself, and to receive the call to witness to His glory and to be a blessing to all
peoples on earth (see Hos. 11:1, 8-9; Jer. 31:3). God's act of electing expresses
the freedom of His love to choose a people and to determine their mission,
together with His expectation of their response of a loving commitment to Israel's

14
Redeemer (Deut. 6). Karl Barth stressed that God created Israel "as partner in this
covenant" and thereby "responsible" to Him as the meaning of her existence (CD
II, 2, 12). He concluded: "There is no grace without the lordship and claim of
grace. There is no dogmatics which is not also and necessarily ethics" (Id.).

The danger became repeatedly acute for Israel to assume that her election
gave her a claim on God. Jeremiah's temple speech presents God's rejection of
Judah's unconditional claim as "deceptive words": "This is the temple of the
LORD" (Jer. 7:4). Otto Weber states: "Yahweh's claim on his people could easily
be transformed into Israel's claim on Yahweh. Wherever that happened, the
gracious freedom of election was placed in question" (Foundations of Dogmatics,
1983, 2:439). To counteract this trend to trust in a false security seems to be the
need for covenant renewals (Deut. 30: 19-20: Josh. 24: 19-24; 2 Kgs. 23: 1-3).
Every seven years the Law of Moses had to be read publicly during the Feast of
Tabernacles so that Israel may "learn to fear the LORD your God" (Deut. 31: 10-
12; cf. Lev. 19:2). This spiritual qualification oflsrael brought the prophets to
their remnant theology (Am. 5: 15; Isa. 6: 13; 11: 11-16; Jer. 23:3; 31 :7; Joel 2:32;
Zeph. 3: 12-13) and their messianic promise (Isa. 11: 1, 10; 53). Most revealing in
the OT revelations is the persistent love of God to provide a faithful remnant of
Israel in spite of large-scale apostasy and covenant breaking (see Ezek. 16). God
has demonstrated His faithfulness notwithstanding Israel's faithlessness.

The New Testament gospel develops a new depth dimension of divine


election by the use of the prefix "pro" to the verb "to elect" and its synonyms,
such as proorizein (to decide beforehand, to predestine), and prothesis (plan,
purpose, resolve, will), prognosis or progini5skein (foreknowledge, to know
beforehand) and proetoimazein (to prepare beforehand, Eph. 2: 10). Paul offers
this elucidation of God's eternal purpose: "[God] has saved us, and called us
with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own

15
purpose {prothesis}and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all
eternity {pro chroniin aioniiin }" (2 Tim. 1:9, NASB). In Eph. 1:4 Paul states
that God "chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should
be holy and blameless before Him." This "eternal purpose" God has
"accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3: 11, NIV), so that we now--
through faith in Him--may "approach God with freedom and confidence" (v. 12).
Berkouwer clarifies that Paul's references to divine election "from all eternity" or
"before the foundation of the world" are not given as a threat, but "indicate the
decisive depth-aspect of salvation ... and show us the source of our eternal
salvation" in Christ (1960, 150).

The New Testament emphasis on God's foreordained will or plan {boule}


focuses on the messianic fulfillment of "God's own purpose" in the !ife, death,
and resurrection of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 1:9,10; Rom. 16:25-26). Peter announced
on the day of Pentecost that the men of Israel had handed over Jesus for
crucifixion "by God's set purpose and foreknowledge" {tei i5rismenei boulei kai
prognosei} (Acts 2:23, NIV; "by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of
God," NJB). Peter referred to messianic prophecies that were misunderstood by
Israel, as appears from his explanation: "But the things which God announced
beforehand {prokatengeilen} by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ
should suffer, He has fulfilled" (Acts 3: 18). Similarly, the grateful prayer of the
church in Jerusalem regarded the hostile acts against Jesus and His disciples as
"predetermined" by God's "hand" and "purpose" (Acts 4:28), as predicted in
Psalm 2: 1-3. This understanding accords with Paul's announcement that he had
taught the Ephesians "the whole purpose {ten boulen} of God" (Acts 20:27,
NASB; "the whole will of God," NN).

Particular attention requires Paul's passage in Romans 8:28-30. With few


exceptions, modem NT exegetes and systematic theologians find no ground in

16
this passage for a predecision of God (Deus nudus, "pure God in isolation") about
a "decree" of double predestination. This medieval scholastic assumption created
the problem that "the electing God is not understood seriously anymore as the
One who elects and discloses himself in Christ" (Weber, Id., 2:420). Barth
concluded: "There is no such thing as a decretum absolutum. There is no such
thing as a will of God apart from the will of Jesus Christ" (CD II, 2, 115).
Ridderbos points out that the term 'election' of itself does not contain the thought
of "decree," and is used originally to describe the manner in which Israel became
the people of God and had its cause only in God's "good pleasure" (Paul, ET
1975, 344).

As noted earlier, Paul's teaching in Romans should not be isolated from


that in his Ephesians letter, where he stresses the Christ-centered character of
God's eternal purpose and counsel (Eph. I :4-11; 2:4-10; 3:8-12). The structure of
the divine plan or counsel is explicitly Christocentric. In his Romans letter, Paul's
intention is to assure all believers of their present and future salvation by the
calling of God through the gospel proclamation (Rom. 1:6; 5:1; 8:1; 11:32; 16:25-
26). As in Ephesians 1:10, Paul's scope of God's redeeming grace widens to
embrace all of creation that "waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to
be revealed" (Rom. 8: 19, NIV). For that future glory of "the sons of God" Christ
Jesus was sent to earth, so that "He might be the first-born among many
brethren" (Rom. 8:29). To assure the believers of the absolute certainty of the
fulfillment of God's plan of salvation, Paul introduces the concept that "God
causes all things to work for good to those who love God, to those who are
called according to His purpose" (8:28, NASB). In this majestic outlook on
redemptive history, Paul develops first God's purpose in Christ (in 8:29); and
then God's way to realize this purpose (in 8:30).

17
1) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to
the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many
brethren (8:29, NASB);
2) and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called,
these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified
(8:30).

This passage stresses God's perspective of His eternal purpose. Paul states what
God is doing for His chosen ones, that is, "for those who love him, who have
been called according to his purpose" (8:28, NIV). He unfolds how God causes all
things to work together for good to those who love God (8:28, NASB). He
mentions how God's plan of salvation is realized in human history: by God's acts
of calling, justifying, and glorifying (8:30). This exclusive focus on God's
redemptive acts does not refer to any human response--neither to our act of faith,
nor to our decision to obey God's will, nor to our perseverance in a sanctified life-
-, not because such responses are irrelevant or superfluous but rather because
these are not meritorious works that contribute to our salvation. Pertinent to Rom.
8:30 is the explanatory note of John Wesley:

Paul does not ... deny that a believer may fall away and be cut off between his
special calling and his glorification (Rom. xi.22) ... He only affirms that this is
the method whereby God leads us step by step toward heaven (Explanatory
Notes upon the NT. London, 1754, on Rom.8:30).

Jes us Himself warned that "many are called, but few are chosen" (Mat. 22: 14),
and indicated the reponsibility of the believers to "remain" in Him or face the
judgment (John 15:1-8). These summons to cultivate a personal relationship with
Christ call for a careful attention to the nature of saving and sanctifying faith.
Authentic faith in Christ honors not only the sovereignty and the priority of God's

18
grace, but also seeks a faithful walk with Christ (see Eph. 2: I 0; 4: I; Col. I: IO;
IThes. 2:12; Hebr. 12:14; Rev. 17:14).

Our second theological reflection is that Paul does not suggest that God's
predestinating will has decided our destiny apart from Christ. God's election is
His election "in Christ" (Rom. 8: 1-17; Eph. I :4-5, 9). This Christocentric plan of
God cannot be any threat to human freedom, because it is a call and summons to
all people to believe the gospel of God or not (Acts 17:26-31; Mat. 23:37). For
Paul salvation is "not by works" or human merit seeking, because it is offered by
God's gracious call to accept Christ Jesus as our righteousness before God (Rom.
9: 11; 10:8-13). Paul does not create a tension between God's sovereignty and His
grace, because God comes to us in Jesus Christ, a reality that can be known only
in the way of faith (Rom. 5: 1-2, 9). J.E. Sanders justly states: "Our views of
divine power, providence and sovereignty must pass through the lens of Jesus if
they are to come into focus regarding the nature of God" (The God Who Risks,
116-7).

Problematic are the scholastic distinctions and constructions of God's

"foreknowing" and "pre-ordaining" (e.g. M.J. Erickson's priority of

predestination, in his Christian Theology, 3:926). Many have interpreted these

terms as referring to God's foreseen faith (praevisa fides) of the believers, as the

ground of their predestination to salvation (Pelagius, Origen, Arminius). But who

can claim to understand the order of divine decisions in God's eternal counsel?
Paul was overwhelmed in realizing that God's electing love existed already before
we love J;fim: "Now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by
God'' (Gal. 4:9, NASB; cf. I Cor. 8:3; 13:12; cf. lJohn 4:19). Why God loved us
beforehand cannot be explained by a mere decree of God's sovereign will. God
chose us beforehand in His unfathomable merciful love. Wanting to be more

19
specific about any ground for God's redemptive love seems to "exceed what is
written" ( 1 Cor. 4:6). In divine election and predestination we stand not as
believers, but rather as sinners and enemies of God (see Rom. 5:6, 8, 10).

Paul has no doubt about the future glorification of all who are "in Christ"
because they are already redeemed from God's "condemnation" and from fear for
the coming "wrath of God" (Rom. 8: 1, 33; 5:9). He anchored such absolute
certainty in the gospel message that God had delivered His beloved Son "for us
all" (Rom. 8:32) and that the risen Lord Jesus is interceding "for us" (v. 34). For
Paul, the structure of divine election is revealed in Christ. By faith in Him, "we
may approach God with freedom ["boldness," NASB] and confidence" (Eph.
3: 12, NIV). The Hebrews letter assures all Christians that they may "approach
the throne of grace with confidence" (4: 16). These apostolic counsels to
boldness and confidence to approach the very throne of God by faith in Christ
bring the ultimate consolation to the believer in times of need and self-doubt.
"Nothing can go deeper and farther than this boldness" (Berkouwer, Id., 150).

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- .ft

20
George R. Knight
Arminian Symposium
Andrews University
October 20 I 0

Seventh-day Adventism, Semi-Pelagianism, and


Overlooked Topics in Adventist Soteriology:
Moving Beyond Missing Links and Toward a More
Explicit Understanding

"Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists have tended to promote Semi-Pelagian views of


salvation, although the latter have been moving more toward orthodox Protestant Christianity in
the second half of the twentieth century." 1 Such are the thoughts of Baylor University's Roger E.
Olson.
While the nasty sounding implications of that statement are modified somewhat by Olson's
claim in his Arminian Theology that "today, semi-Pelagianism is the default theology of most
American evangelical Christians," 2 it is still important to examine his accusation, since he has
singled out Adventism for special mention on the topic. So, we need to ask, is Olson correct or
incorrect in his statement regarding Adventism's semi-Pelagianism and its shift toward
orthodoxy in the second half of the twentieth century? Is he right? Or is he wrong? The answer is
an unqualified yes to both questions, as an examination of Adventist documents on salvation will
demonstrate.
Before beginning that examination it should be stated that the data banks are immense. 3
Thus I limited my focus largely to the twentieth century, and within that time frame I decided to
focus on two types of documents: (1) the officially voted statements of the fundamental beliefs
of the denomination and (2) selected representative Adventist books on salvation. In line with
Olson's suggestion I have divided those two categories into early and later twentieth century
contributions. Prior to those major segments of my study I supply some operational definitions
crucial to the study, briefly overview nineteenth century Adventist theology on the central topics
in the discussion, and highlight Ellen White's beliefs on the relevant issues.

Foundational Definitions for the Discussion


The definitions in this section are pivotal in the discussion of both salvation and the
differences that have arisen over the topic throughout church history. The definitions provided
are not comprehensive but are adequate to provide a frame of reference for our study. I have
allotted them significant space because they are crucial in evaluating Adventism's understanding
of salvation.
Central to all topics in the realm of soteriology is the definition of sin. Different definitions
of sin lead directly to varying approaches to solving the problem. Perhaps the best concise
definition comes from Augustus Strong who views sin as the "lack of conformity to the moral
law of God, either in act, disposition, or state."4 All three of the aspects of sin in that definition
inform theological discussion even though some writers highlight only one of two of them.
Foundational to any discussion of sin is the concept of original sin. Since the controversy
between Augustine and Pelagius in the fifth century the concept of original sin has been an
important topic in theological discussion. Calvinists and most Arminians have sided with
Augustine, who held that original sin, stemming from the sin of Adam, includes both (1) the
transmission of guilt and the liability to punishment and (2) the inheritance of a fallen and
conupt human nature.
Closely related to original sin is total depravity. Total depravity does not mean that people
are as wicked as they could be, but rather, suggests H. Orton Wiley, that "depravity is total, in
that it affects the entire being of man." One effect is that "depravity renders man totally unable in
spiritual things." 5 Thus people are helpless even to seek God. Because the effects of original sin
on human nature are universal, so is total depravity--a teaching shared by Calvinists and
Arminians.
Intimately related to original sin and human depravation is the bondage of the will.
Calvinists and Arminians are agreed that post-fall humans in their natural state do not have free
wills in the sense that they can choose to follow God. Yet the two theological traditions differ on
the solution to that inability. Calvinists have God overriding the will through the unconditional
predestination of individuals to salvation, while Arminians, who hold that "the human will
ultimately determines whether the divine grace proffered to man is accepted or rejected," believe
that god predestined Christ to become the potential Savior for every human being who would
believe and repent. 6 But that is where the problem comes in. Given the facts of the effect of
original sin on human nature, including depravity and bondage of the will, there was no way that
individuals can choose for God. Something has to wake them up to spiritual realities and enable
them to choose. As we will see below, that something is called prevenient grace, the grace that
.!..U"/ENT:sr~ _:i._:.JD SEt-:I-?E:....::..Gr.~.NISM/3

works in a person's life before they accept saving grace. The result of prevenient grace's
enabling power through the Holy Spirit is a "freed will" --"one which, though initially bound by
sin, has been brought by the prevenient grace of the Spirit of Christ to a point where it can
respond freely to the divine call." 7
The remedy for sin and fallenness in all their forms, both theological traditions assert, is
grace. But, it is important to note, grace has many aspects. Most basic of all is common grace--
defined by Millard Erickson as "grace extended to all persons through God's general
providence" in such things as "his provision of sunshine and rain for everyone." Thus common
grace provides the theological foundation for civil justice in secular societies in spite of human
depravity. But Arminius and his followers "did not believe common grace alone was sufficient
for willing the good." Rather, Olson points out, "a special infusion of supernatural grace ... is
required for even the first exercise of a good will toward God." 8
Arminius and John Wesley identify that special infusion of grace as prevenient grace.
Prevenient grace in its many facets is that convicting, calling, enlightening, and enabling grace
that is provided before conversion and makes repentance, faith, and the freed exercise of the will
possible. Without prevenient grace, even accepting God's offer of salvation by faith would be
both a human work and an impossibility for fallen humans. Thus prevenient grace, so to speak, is
the work of the Holy Spirit to wake up those dead in sins and to prepare them for the acceptance
of saving grace. In other words, prevenient grace unbinds the will so that it can make a choice for
God.
Thomas Oden points out that prevenient grace "antecedes human responsiveness so as to
prepare the soul for the effective hearing of the redeeming Word. The preceding [prevenient]
grace draws persons closer to God, loosens their blindness to divine remedies, strengthens their
will to accept revealed truth, and enables repentance. Only when sinners are assisted by
prevenient grace can they begin to yield their hearts to cooperation with subsequent forms of
grace." 9 Thus all of salvation from beginning to end is by grace alone. One final point needs to
be noted before we move away from prevenient grace, notably that just as the results of Adam's
sin are universal, so in the justice of God is the gift of prevenient grace through the Holy Spirit a
universal gift to every person.
The mention of "other forms of grace" and "cooperation" brings us to a topic that has been
divisive in the extreme between the Calvinists and Arminians, but one crucial in soteriology.
ADVENT:SM AND S~M!-P~LAGIANISM/4

While both groups agree that salvation is by grace alone received by faith alone, they differ as to
human participation. The theological divide runs along the line of monergism versus synergism.
Monergism is the belief that God is the sole agent in salvation and that human beings have
absolutely no part in cooperating with God in their salvation. Calvinism, with God predestinating
everything by His sovereign will, takes the position of monergism. Synergism, by way of
contrast, "is any belief that salvation is a cooperative project and process in which God is the
superior partner and the human person being saved is the inferior but nevertheless crucial
partner." 10
Arminians hold to synergism, partly because as they see the biblical evidence, both imputed
and imparted righteousness are in evidence in the biblical teachings on justification and
sanctification. Humans who have been justified by faith and have freed wills daily choose to
cooperate with God through the empowering grace of the Spirit. Thus they follow Paul's
injunction to work out their salvation as the Spirit works within them (Phil. 2: 12, 13).
Unfortunately, the Calvinists of Arminius's day equated synergism with Roman Catholicism and
condemned all forms of synergism. That attitude has been kept alive among many dogmatic
Calvinists, even though Luther himself demonstrated his synergism in expounding upon both
imputed (forensic) righteousness and transforming righteousness in his essay on 'Two Kinds of
Rightousness." 11
The final terms we have to deal with are Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. Pelagianism
arose about the year 400 when Pelagius began to seek to raise ethical standards in the church. He
affirmed freedom of the will and that all humans have the power not to sin. The choice is theirs
to follow Adam's evil example or Christ's good one. Pelagius not only denied original sin and its
results but also assertively taught that humans have a natural ability to live sinless lives apart
from empowering grace. In short, humans are morally neutral with the power to choose good and
evil. Sin is a problem of the will rather than being rooted in human nature. Following that line of
thought, Hans LaRondelle points out, "sinless perfection after baptism was not merely possible
but a duty to achieve." 12
Such teachings were met aggressively by Augustine who championed the sovereignty of
God, original sin, total depravation, bondage of the will, and related theological themes.
Semi-Pelagianism, Olson suggests, "embraces a modified version of original sin but believes
that humans have the ability, even in their natural or fallen state, to initiate salvation by
_O,DVENTISM AND SEMI-?ELAGIANISM/ 5

exercising a good will toward God." He notes insightfully in another place that semi-Pelagianism
appears most often in what Christians fail to say about salvation rather than in what they actually
say. 13 That is undoubtedly so in the case of some Adventists. Prevenient grace is the means
Arminians use to escape the problem of semi-Pelagianism.
I have spent considerable time on definitions in this paper because I am addressing a largely
Adventist audience and Adventists have by and large neglected discussion of those aspects of
soteriology that have divided Calvinists and Arminians. The reason for that neglect is not hard to
discover: The waning Dutch camps were primarily interested in the beginning of salvation in
individuals, whereas Adventists with their concern with the law and the eschaton largely
neglected beginnings and focused on how people ought to live and what they had to do to be
ready for the coming of Christ.

14
Early Adventism on Sin and Related Topics
That insight is reinforced by Edwin Zackrison' s doctoral dissertation on Adventism and
original sin. Early Adventists, he notes, were more concerned with the answer to the problem of
sin rather than its depth. The possibility of overcoming early became a focus. Doing, and not
theological abstractions, was their interest. That point is illustrated by Joseph Bates, the
denomination's founding theologian. Bates moved beyond semi-Pelagianism and Pelagiansim
into legalism when he repeatedly asserted that keeping the commandments "saves the soul."
Original sin and related topics did not even surface in his thinking. He appears merely to have
assumed freedom of the will, human ability, and choice as the major religious determinants. His
focus was on what people needed to do in order to be ready for Christ's coming. 15
Up through the late 1880s, Zackrison demonstrates, Adventists tended to follow Bates' lack
of concern with_.such issues as total depravity, original sin, and the bound will, even if they often
avoided his bold legalism. For them, humanity was morally neutral. Original sin in early
Adventism was vi_ewed as Adam's transgression. What they inherited from Adam was death.
Thus their main concern with the original sin (of Adam) was tied to an illustration and defense of
their belief in conditional immortality. But the punishment that came upon all humanity was not
a result of Adam's sin. Rather, all die because of their own sin. 16
While Adventist writers in the denomination's earliest decades spoke of human depravity in
such terms as "the natural man," "the flesh," and the "law of sin and death," they tended not to
.~D"/ENTISM .r-.ND SEM::L-?EL.!:i.G:ZAN!SM/ 8

which, sooner or later, more or less, enlightens every man that cometh into the world." That
spark of goodness, Wesley points out, is due to the fact that no person is in "a state of mere
nature" or "wholly void of the grace of God." Each has prevenient grace. 24 Arminian theologian
H. Orton Wiley agrees when he writes that "everything which can be called good in man,
previous to regeneration is to be attributed to the work of the Spirit of God .... The state or
nature in which man exists previous to regeneration, is in some sense a state of grace--
preliminary or prevenient grace." And Roger Olson makes essentially the same point in his
treatment of Arminianism. Both Wesley and Ellen White base their thoughts regarding a spark of
goodness residing in every person on John 1:9, which expresses the idea that Christ "lighteth
25
every man that cometh into the world."
Even such a devoted teacher of human depravity and inability as John Calvin asserts that a
"residue" of God's image remained in humans after the Fall, "some sparks still gleam" in the
"degenerate nature. " 26 With that sentiment in mind, one should not view Ellen White's
seemingly positive statements regarding human nature as providing the basis for semi-
Pelagianism. Of course, once a person has been led to Christ, she is quite affirmative about the
place of cooperating, synergistic grace in the daily life of believers.
This short review of White's understanding of selected foundational Arminian themes
indicates one possible basis for avoiding a semi-Pelagian theology for twentieth century
Adventism, especially since the denomination's leaders looked to her writings for guiding ideas.
We will now tum to twentieth century Adventism as we seek to better understand the
denomination's soteriological leanings.

Twentieth Century Official Statements of Belief


The twenti.eth century saw Seventh-day Adventists vote to accept two statements of
fundamental beliefs. The first statement was officially accepted at the 1946 General Conference
session, even tho1:1gh it had been published in the denomination'~ official literature since 1931.
Before the 1931/ i 946 statement there had been no doctrinal statement voted upon by the church.
That first official statement would be superseded by actions taken at the 1980 General
Conference session.
On the topic of sin, the 1931/1946 statement of fundamental beliefs 27 provides no definition
and no understanding of sin as inheritance or human inability. It only mentions that Jesus died
AD~ENTISM AND SEMI-PELAGIANISM/9

for our sin, forgiveness of sin, and that sin leads to death. As might be expected, given
Adventism's nineteenth century history, it emphasized Jesus as example, the transformed life,
obedience, the Ten Commandments, living a godly life, and final judgment. In terms of ideas
related to prevenient grace and semi-Pelagianism, article 7 speaks of those who come to Jesus,
with no explanation of anything outside of the human will stimulating the act of coming. Article
8 highlights justification by faith after noting that the law cannot save or provide power to keep
one from sinning. It goes on to state that "by accepting Christ, man is reconciled to God,"
justified, and "saved from the power of sin by His indwelling life." That is followed by a
synergistic statement, emphasizing that the Holy Spirit convinces individuals of sin and leads
them to the Sin Bearer and subsequently provides enabling power to live a life conformed to the
divine precepts.
Overall, the 1931/1946 statement is orthodox in that it avoids a full-blown Pelagianism. But
in what it does not say it not only implies semi-Pelagianism but seems to suggest it by
advocating that individuals need to come to Christ. Nowhere does it treat sin as human nature,
the issue of depravity or sinful tendencies, or human inability. And when it discusses the
convicting power of the Holy Spirit, it is in the context of sin in the life of a believer rather than
that of initial salvation. One is left with the impression that the initial moves toward salvation are
up to the individual. Of course, semi-Pelagian assumptions are not explicitly stated. Rather, any
inherent semi-Pelagianism in the document meets Roger Olson's dictum that "semi-Pelagianism
appears more in what Christians do not say about salvation than in what they actually do say."28
The 1980 statement of fundamental beliefs 29 makes significant strides in avoiding semi-
Pelagianism. Article 7 takes a giant step forward when it not only talks about Adam's sin, but the
fact that his "descendants share this fallen nature and its consequences. They are born with
weaknesses and tendencies to evil." Thus human inability, depravity, and the inherited sinful
tendency aspects of original sin are implicit even though they are not defined explicitly in that
terminology.
In the prevenient grace and avoidance of semi-Pelagianism arena, similar changes are found.
Article 5, for example, asserts that the Holy Spirit "draws and convicts human beings; and those
who respond He renews and transforms." Article 10 also expresses Holy Spirit leading quite in
harmony with prevenient grace. Number 18 has a similar statement, adding that "salvation is all
of grace and not of works." While article 18 may be speaking of the post-conversion experience,
.".DVENTISM AND SEMI-PEL.''IGI,..NISM/ l0

there is not the slightest doubt that number 5 is a clear statement of prevenient grace even though
it does not use that term.
In summary, as far as the official statements of the church are concerned there is a definite
shift between the 193111946 statement and the one in 1980 on the topics of human inability and
the need of prevenient grace. Thus Olson's assertion in this area of Adventist theology is
definitely true. Adventism in its official statements did move explicitly "toward orthodox
Protestant Christianity in the second half of the twentieth century." 30 The picture is more
confusing among its theological authors.

Adventist Authors During the Early Twentieth Century


The rest of this paper will examine themes related to topics on Arminianism and semi-
Pelagianism set forth in books on salvation by influential twentieth-century Adventist authors.
Of necessity, the coverage has to be selective. In my treatment of both halves of the twentieth
century I have sought to highlight authors who represent the various strands of Adventist
thinking.
One helpful book in illustrating Adventist beliefs on human ability, prevenient grace, and
semi-Pelagianism is William H. Branson's How Men are Saved (1941). Branson, who served as
General Conference president from 1950 to 1954, has at least half of the equation right in that he
notes that people are born with both inherited tendencies to sin and Adam's guilt. Thus he
accepted both of the major teachings on original sin. That in itself is interesting since he is only
one of two authors that I have discovered in the entire history of Adventism who accept original
sin as original guilt. But with his teaching on the inheritance of sinful tendencies from Adam he
is in company with most twentieth century Adventist thinkers. 31
For Branson, sinners have no power to change their condition or do right. "The sinner
cannot save himself." Sin renders people "absolutely helpless to do good." They are "hopelessly
lost" and there is nothing they can do about it. Their "every act" is "polluted by sin." 32
Having highlighted human inability, Branson brings his readers right up to the border of
prevenient grace when he writes that "had not the omnipotent and gracious God intervened, hope
never could have been revived in the human heart." But having arrived at the frontier of
prevenient grace he fails to pass over. Rather, Branson repeatedly asserts that it is up to
.".DVENTISM AND SEMI-PEL.".GIANISM/11

individuals to choose and accept God's plan of salvation. 33 Thus he ends up with an implied
semi-Pelagianism that contradicts his teaching on inherited sin and human inability.
L H. Evans, a General Conference vice president, in his This Is the Way ( 1939) moves
beyond Branson in his understanding, but still expresses some inconsistencies in his soteriology.
Midway through his first chapter he seems to reject any acceptance of a bound will when he
writes that human beings choose God's way or Satan's. It is only those who choose to disobey
who are no longer free. But three pages later he concludes his presentation with a description of
human fallenness that leaves sinners without spiritual vision, their concept of right perverted,
possessing a propensity toward evil, and enslaved to Satan. Chapter 2 moves on to conclude that
"man has no way to undo wrong"; that the "only remedy is faith in Christ." 34
In his fourth chapter Evans reverses his understanding on free will when he writes that
Adam's sin "changed his very will and nature," disabilities that were passed on to the human
race. Although he avoids using the words "original sin," Evans does assert that "man's nature
had become depraved" and that there was no hope for humans to change for the better, since all
their "desires were carnal" and their "very will and choice was eviL" "Total depravity carries
with it total impotence and helplessness." 35
Having arrived at total inability, the next few pages find Evans seemingly implying that it is
up to people to accept and believe. For a time it appears that he might exit the issue in the same
way as Branson. But in the next chapter Evans clarifies his understanding. Beginning with a
restatement of his convictions on human depravity and "bondage to sin," he claims that
"something must get hold of the sinner's mind that will lead him to change his view of God, or
he cannot tum to the Lord." 36 From that conclusion he moves to a clear statement of the need for
prevenient grace when he argues that "there must be some power outside himself that will win
the carnal heart to seek after God .... The sinner cannot find God of himself, because by nature
he is in rebellion" against God. Evans then moves on to the drawing power of God, a quotation
from Ellen White on prevenient grace, and the role of the Holy Spirit leading individuals into
"the experience of conversion." 37
Thus by the late 1930s we find a clear presentation not only of human inability but also of
prevenient grace. It appears that Adventism was arriving at an understanding that could move it
beyond semi-Pelagian tendencies. But, we should note, the theology of men like Branson and
Evans was comparatively weak in influencing the Adventist public when compared to the real
l'.D"JENTISM .Z\ND SEMI-PEL."'.GIANISM/12

theological powerhouse of Adventist theology in the late 1930s and early forties--M. L.
Andreasen.
Andreasen would have his own convictions on the soteriological issues important to
Adventism. His focus would downplay events and conditions at the beginning of Christian
experience and emphasize obedience and end-time soteriological concerns.
Perhaps the best avenue into Andreasen' s theology is through his view of the cross and
substitution. 38 Christ's death on the cross and the shedding of blood was important for
Andreasen, but it did not in itself play a dominant role in his theology. For him, the death of
Christ accomplished at least two important goals--it restored communion between humans and
God and it provided for forgiveness. "Forgiveness," he wrote, "is not merely a matter of God's
overlooking our faults, forgiving and forgetting them. Every sin required blood atonement; every
transgression meant the death of an innocent victim. God can and does forgive, but the cost is
Calvary." 39
So far, so good. This sounds like a general evangelical understanding. But forgiveness and
the restoration of communion play a minor role in Andreasen' s theology of the cross. The real
point for him is that God instituted sacrifice "to impress upon the sinner the sinfulness of sin."
When an Israelite "plunged the knife into the innocent victim, he realized as never before the
heinousness of sin and its great cost. He doubtless resolved never to sin again, which was the
very effect God wanted to produce." Likewise, if Christ's death did not produce in Christians
"the same determination as it did in the Israelite, to go and sin no more, then to that extent Christ
has died in vain." 40
Andreasen's understanding of substitution reflects the same obedience-oriented perspective.
Throughout the Old Testament, he points out, God's complaint was that the Israelites
"substituted offerings for obedience .... Christ came to do God's will, to render obedience to His
commands; not to offer sacrifices for having broken them." Thus "Christ came, not primarily to
do away with sacrifices, but to substitute obedience for sacrifice, to teach the people that 'to obey
is better than sacrifice.' ... He came to do away with sin, to substitute obedience for sacrifice.
Doing away with sin canceled the law of offerings" and the sacrificial system. 41 For Andreasen,
the focus of the sanctuary service was not primarily Christ as the sacrificial lamb but obedience.
That conclusion is in line with his threefold understanding of atonement. In the first place
Christ lived a perfect life. In the second, which included the cross, he annulled the sins of
.".JVENTISM l'.ND SEMI-PELAGL".NISM/ 13

humanity and destroyed the power of the devil and apparently the results of sin in a person's life
(see his view on original sin below)_ That leads to the third phase in which God's end-time
people will demonstrate that, like Christ, they can live a life completely victorious over sin. 42
Andreasen's emphasis on obedience in substitution and the atonement leads us to the
questions of human ability and original sin in his writings. While he speaks of "inherited
tendencies" and feelings of hopelessness, weakness, and lack of mental control as well as the fact
that even with "the best of intentions" humans are "unable to do" what they know to be right,
Andreasen doesn't have all that much to say on the topic. 43 His focus is on human victory over
sin rather than human disability in the face of it
An interesting exception to his neglect of original sin is his belief that even though children
suffer for the sins of their forbearers, if they "turn from their evil ways, the law of heredity is no
longer operative." Paul Evans in his doctoral dissertation on Andreasen picks up that point when
he claims that "Andreasen understands forgiveness to result in a neutralization of the effects of
sin, so that the believer stands in a similar condition to that of Adam before the fall." 44 Here it
seems that we find what we might call a form of post-justification Pelagianism that leaves the
Christian will completely neutral.
Andreasen's belief on a neutral will after people come to Christ is clear enough, but, we
need to ask, how do they initially come to Christ if their mind is limited and if the best of their
intentions are inadequate? Here we find what appears to be a blank section in his theology. He
provides no bridge between human disability and coming to salvation. He just assumes that faith
is the human act of choosing on the basis of evidence to accept Christ for the forgiveness of sins
and the removal of human disabilities. 45 Thus he teaches a semi-Pelagian perspective.
Once a person comes to Christ, Andreasen is quite clear on the major function of the Savior
in Christian living. People, he claims, "are to follow His example and prove that what God did in
Christ, He can do in every human being who submits to Him." Following Christ's example will
lead to a life of perfect obedience and the same sort of sinlessness that Christ had. Those
thoughts lead us to the topic of the nature of sin in Andreasen' s theology. 46
He saw sin as having both an inward and an outward aspect. "Sin begins in thought. It ends
in act. If the beginning can be controlled, the end will take care of itself. It is the mind, the heart,
47
that needs purifying. When these are clean, all is well."
.O\CV::NTiSM .Z\.ND SE:MI-PEL.O\GIANISM/14

Is it? we need to ask. What about sinful nature? That, as we noted above in discussing his
view of original sin, is a non-issue for Andreasen since the results of the fall are neutralized
when a person accepts Christ. In the area of sin, Andreasen's major focus is transgression of the
law in both its inward and spiritual (illustrated by covetousness) and outward aspects. Thus sin
"is not only doing something wrong; it is thinking something wrong," including "wanting" to do
wrong. But for the converted Christian sin is not a matter of human nature. For that reason
Darius Jankiewicz concludes his study of the doctrine of sin in Andreasen's writings by noting
that if he had "accepted a broader definition of sin," his idea of its total elimination in human life
"would be strongly jeopardized." 48
Even though Andreasen viewed sin as having both spiritual/inward and outward aspects, he
tended to view overcoming both subsets of sin as actions, or* more specifically, a series of
actions. That is certainly true in his most influential treatment of the topic. In his discussion of
victory over sin in the chapter on "the Last Generation" in his Sanctuary Se,.,ice in the same
paragraph he links gaining the victory over something (an outward action) with overcoming such
spiritual/inward aspects of sin as pride, ambition, and love of the world. When individuals gain
the victory over all those sins they are declared to be "without fault" and "ready for translation,"
having demonstrated to the universe that "it is possible to live without sin." 49
Obedience is central in Andreasen's writings. While justification and forgiveness are
important, they only provide the first step as one moves toward sanctification and sinless living.
"The plan of salvation," he writes, "must of necessity include not only forgiveness of sin but
complete restoration. Salvation from sin is more than forgiveness of sin." Andreasen at times
presents salvation from sin as a series of victories in a sequence of increasingly difficult tests by
which character is developed. In such a scenario, of course, believers are following the example
of Christ who showed the way. 50
Andreasen illustrates the relative place of justification and sanctification in his theology by
an appeal to the sanctuary service. He notes that the first apartment ministry of forgiveness was
not enough. It had to be completed by the second apartment ministration that led to complete
holiness. "Forgiveness," he wrote,
operates after transgression, when the damage already has been done. True, God
forgives the sin, but it would have been better had the sin not been committed. For
this the keeping power of God is available. To forgive the transgression after it
has been committed is wonderful; but it is not enough. There must be a power to
ADVENTISM ANJ SEMI-PELAGIANISM/15

keep from sinning. "Go, and sin no more" is a possibility of the gospel. But to
"sin no more" is sanctification. This is the eventual goal of salvation. The gospel
is not complete without it.

For that reason believers needed to "enter with Christ into the most holy" place so that they can
eventually be declared "'without fault before the throne of God. "' 51
The obedient life is central to Andreasen's soteriology. It is from that perspective that he
claims Christianity is primarily "a life, a changed life, a life dedicated to the service of God and
humani~y. The Christian does not merely spend his time being good; like his Master, he goes
about doing good. " 52
In summary, Andreasen's widely accepted theology encouraged semi-Pelagianism and even
Pelagianism among many Adventists at mid-century. His teaching that God expected a sinless
final generation53 would leave an indelible impression for the rest of the twentieth century among
both those who agreed and disagreed with him. Now that we have overviewed Andreasen's
theology, we are ready to examine the semi-Pelagian and Arminian aspects of Adventist
soteriology in the second half of the twentieth century.

Adventist Authors During the Later Twentieth Century


Reactions to Andreasen's soteriology would be many. One of the most widely heard would
be that of Desmond Ford. He put his finger on the nerve center of Andreasen's understanding
when he wrote that one of the problems in Adventist theology was "an imperfect recognition of
human sinfulness as it exists both before and after conversion." The effects of Adam's sin,
"innate depravity," and human inability were foundational to Ford's theology of salvation. 54
In combating the theology of those who emphasized sanctification (and sinless perfection)
as the heart of the gospel, Ford uplifted forensic justification as the sum total of righteousness by
faith, a position that led to the identification of justification with salvation. Those following Ford
rejected Arminianism, Wesleyanism, and all forms of synergism, and, in line with many
doctrinaire Calvinists and post-Trent Lutherans, identified those who held those beliefs as being
"arm in arm with Roman Catholicism" in its understanding of salvation and denying salvation by
grace alone. 55
Thus while Ford and his followers recaptured the understanding of sin and human inability
held by Arminius, they differed from both him and previous Adventist theology in their proposed
solution to the sin problem. As a result, Ford's teachings stimulated as many theological
.;::rvE:HISM ANu SEMI-PEL.1'GL1'NISM/ 16

reactions as did those of Andreasen. Adventist theology in the late twentieth century would
largely be dominated by the controversy over those two polar positions on sin and salvation.
One of the most closely reasoned responses to Ford's understanding of sin being rooted in
human nature and his downplaying of synergism and sanctification would come from Dennis
Priebe. In his Face-to-Face With the Real Gospel Priebe argues that the pivotal issue in the
controversy is the nature of sin, since the gospel is all about how we are saved from it. 56
Priebe asserts that the true Adventist understanding of the gospel "revolves around the issue
of free choice .... The issue to be resolved is how fallen and unfallen beings, will choose in the
great controversy, either for God or for Satan." Sin, argues Priebe, is not "the way man is, but the
way man chooses . ... Sin is concerned with a man's will rather than with his nature. If
responsibility for sin is to have any meaning, it cannot ... be affinned that fallen human nature
makes man an inevitable sinner. ... Thus sin is defined as choosing willfully to rebel against
God in thought, word, or action." Christ, of course, always chose to be obedient to God. And
human "sinlessness is our willful choice not to rebel against God in thought, word, or action."
Furthermore, "if Jesus' obedience was based on the Holy Spirit's control of His life, then I can
also choose that control for my life, and I can come to live a life of total obedience," and have a
"sinless character. " 57
While Priebe, along with nearly all Adventists, rejects original sin as original guilt, he does
believe that humans "inherit negative tendencies from Adam, which lead [them] to do wrong."
Having said that, like Andreasen, Priebe expects people to choose Christ and the right but
provides no explicit method for doing so. But we still need to ask, How is this to be done?
Priebe' s answer is based upon Christ being born with the same sinful tendencies as us. Yet He
made the right choices. So can other humans. On the other hand, sin "is the choice to remain
ignorant of God;s will. It is the choice to be careless of one's abilities and responsibilities." 58
Thus Priebe ends up, like Andreasen, suggesting a theology that is semi-Pelagian for the
unconverted and; what appears to be a Pelagian-like neutral will after conversion.
In harmony with Priebe, Colin and Russell Standish define sin as being the "willful or
negligent violation of God's law," whereas "the proponents of the new theology present sin as
any departure from the infinite will of God and as any weakness or frailty," or ignorance of the
divine will. If that were true, they perceptively note, "then no created beings could live in perfect
sinlessness." 59 Once again, in their theology the untrammeled will is the key to living sinlessly.
.o.CVENTISM i'.l\D SEM!-PELi\Gii'.NISM/ 1 7

A writer who stood over against Andreasen's theology was Arnold Wallenkampf, who
before retirement worked in the denomination's Biblical Research Institute. From an Arminian
perspective, his 1988 book What Eve!): Christian Should Know About Being Justified starts out
in the right direction, with such chapter titles as 'The Battle of the Will," "Kinds of Sin," and
"The Destructiveness of Sin," which precede his fourth chapter entitled ''Justification."
Wallenkampf early on makes the point that "a defective concept of sin inevitably leads to a lack
of appreciation of justification and salvation." He then moves on to point out that even though
Adam originally had free choice, "he jumped, as it were, with all his posterity, from freedom
under God into slavery to Satan." Without the new birth, he asserts, every person is hopelessly
lost, "since he is by temperament an enemy of God." Wallenkampf is also clear on the fact that
"sin resides in the mind and manifests itself in one's choices."60
Thus he is clear on total fallenness and original sin consisting of inherited sinful tendencies.
But, as usual, we need to examine his presentation of how a person makes choices and comes to
salvation. Interestingly, early in his presentation he comes to what looks like an insightful
treatment of prevenient grace when he writes that Abel chose to be born again because he
followed "the promptings of God's Spirit." But having come up to the frontier of prevenient
grace, the rest of his treatment of the will and initial salvation highlights a free will, semi-
Pelagian approach. "Everyone born into the world," he asserts, "lives under the imperious
demand that the faculty of free choice imposes on him--that of deciding where he will tum his
will." No one, he writes, can make our moral choices for us. God curtails His omnipotence in
order to give "intelligent, free-willed, moral beings" space in which to operate. He concludes his
chapter on the will by noting that it is up to us whether we will follow Christ's or Adam's
example. 61
Wallenkampf makes a strong presentation of common grace in which he develops the
concept of a probationary period during which sinners can come to God. But he fails to extend
common grace into an explicit presentation of prevenient grace. To the contrary, he writes that
by this common grace "God purposes to give sinners a chance to choose to come to Him."
Whereas Christ made salvation possible for all, "we as individuals personally choose and
confirm out salvation." 62 Thus Wallenkampf ends up with an essentially semi-Pelagian
presentation, even though he gives hints that he would move toward prevenient grace.
.l\DVENTISM .'\ND SEMI-PELAGIANcSM/ 18

Another interesting case study is that of Edward Heppenstall, who for many years taught at
the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, from which position he uplifted Christ's
righteousness and the cross in opposition to the perfectionistic theology of Andreasen and his
followers. If any one person helped move Adventism toward a more adequate view of grace and
salvation in the second half of the twentieth century it was first of all Heppenstall.
Heppenstall's Salvation Unlimited (1974) opens with a discussion of the "problem" of
human nature. In good Adventist fashion, he notes that the will is all important in the struggle
between good and evil. He then moves on to discuss the helplessness of humans in the face of
sin. Unlike many Adventist, Heppenstall does not stay away from the words "total depravity,"
pointing out that total merely means that no part of a person is exempt from the problem of sin.
He moves on from that insight to the conclusion that "man has nothing, absolutely nothing, in
himself that he can use to solve the problem of sin and death." 63
Having made those points, a reader would expect a movement toward prevenient grace. But
in Heppenstall's presentation initial grace is represented as God's gift of special revelation. Thus
"sinful men are dependent upon what God has revealed .... For man to be redeemed and
transformed there is need of a divine agency, but with the solemn endowment of free choice." In
his discussion it is free choice that allows humans to choose to follow God's gift of special
revelation. That choice between the word of God and the words of human beings forms the core
of the rest of the chapter. 64
In later chapters Heppenstall reiterates the fact that the response of faith is needed to accept
God's gift, but here faith is merely an "attitude on the sinner's part that signifies acceptance" of
that gift. So far it looks as if faith for him is merely another word for choosing to believe God.
But several pages later it appears that we might find a clear statement of prevenient grace when
he asks "what is the starting point for faith? Where is the right place to begin?" He goes on to
note that faith "is not self-generated," but is the gift of God. Here Heppenstall has led his readers
to the very frontier of an explicit statement of prevenient grace. But at that point he reverts to his
earlier concept that initial grace comes through God's special revelation in Jesus, which he
earlier noted must be responded to by free will. 65
Still later in his presentation Heppenstall notes that the gift of faith is available to those
"who earnestly and sincerely seek God according to the Scriptures," once again presenting a
position of human initiative at the center of the beginning of salvation. He goes on to quote a
.!1.J"JENTISt-~ .;.ND SEMI-PELZ:..GI.:;NISM/ 19

theologian who definitely expresses an understanding of prevenient grace, but comments on the
passage with another assertion of initial seeking after God by individuals. He does make what in
a different context would sound like a clear statement of prevenient grace when he notes that
"under the moving influence of the Holy Spirit we turn ourselves completely over to Christ," but
that statement comes in the context of a semi-Pelagian desiring and seeking after God. Other
statements in Salvation Unlimited definitely show Heppenstall' s belief that it is the Holy Spirit
that wakes people up to their true condition and their need to repent. Such statements could be
interpreted as firm statements of prevenient grace, but the order of his chapters muddies the
water on his understanding of the order of salvation and on whether he is treating Holy Spirit-
generated repentance in the context of an already made faith-choice on the basis of free will. 66
Interestingly enough, no place in his early discussion of total depravity did he discuss the
bondage of the will. To the contrary, he talked as iffree choice were an option once God's
revelation had made the way to salvation clear. Thus even though Heppenstall circled all around
the soteriology, anthropology, and hamartiology that undergird the necessity of prevenient grace,
he never made an explicitly clear statement on the topic. On the other hand, he definitely left the
impression that fallen individuals had free choice in the face of God's special revelation.
That failure in explicitness is not found in Heppenstall' s successor in the soteriological chair
at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. Dutch born and educated Hans LaRondelle
was well aware of the theological struggles that had earlier divided the Calvinists of his native
land. The opening chapter of his Christ Our Salvation ( 1980) is titled "Divine Election and
Providence." In it LaRondelle makes it clear that "the initiative of our salvation ... is not with
man but with God." It is God who starts the process by "calling" humans "to the saving
knowledge in Christ." Humans respond by coming. At that point humans "receive freedom to
follow" God and cooperate in His purposes. 67
But even though initial grace searches us out, LaRondelle asserts, "it is not bestowed in
fullness against our will." By grace we choose to accept God's gift. "Faith in Christ begins with
Christ's own initiative." For LaRondelle "by grace" sums up the plan of salvation. 68
With LaRondelle we have come to an explicit and clearly stated theology of prevenient
grace, even though he chose not to use that label in Christ Our Salvation. He left that privilege to
me in my 1992 Pharisee's Guide to Peifect Holiness (revised as Sin and Salvation in 2008)
during a discussion of the fallen will. 69
ADVENTISM AND SEMI-PELAGIANISM/20

With that usage I came face to face with a temptation to Arminian pride in what I thought
was my firstness of the use of the term in a full-length Adventist book on salvation. But I have
recently been rescued from the necessity of a messy intellectual repentance by my discovery in
researching this paper that Edward Vick in his Let Me Assure You had used the term in 1968. He
begins to speak of the initiative of God and human helplessness in his very first paragraph. And
by page 12 he gives God's initiative a name, stating that '"prevenient grace' emphasizes God's
grace as the source and origin of anything and everything that has to do with the reconciliation of
man with God." Then, after getting humans saved, he turns to "cooperating grace, an Adventist
favorite." 70
Before moving to our conclusions, we need to briefly examine the theology of Robert
Wieland, Donald Short, and Jack Sequeira. These influential Adventists have confused universal
prevenient grace with what they call universal legal justification. They have stepped off the
Arminian/Wesleyan soteriological platform by denying the provisional nature of justification.
Sequeira states the case concisely when he writes: "I believe the Bible teaches that God actually
and unconditionally saved all humanity at the cross so that we are justified and reconciled to God
by that act. ... I believe that the only reason anyone will be lost is because he or she willfully
and persistently rejects God's gift of salvation in Christ." This understanding of righteousness by
faith, claim Wieland and Short, is different from and "greater than what the Reformers taught
and the popular churches understand today." 71
In this understanding, they are correct about the initiative of God in salvation and the
unconditional, universal nature of the gift of God in Christ. But they are confused on the nature
of the gift itself, defining it as legal justification and not prevenient grace. To the contrary,
Sequeira claims that all humanity was "born uninhabited by God's Spirit." Christ bore "our
sinful nature" on the cross and the human race was raised "in Christ with a glorified body, totally
cleansed from sin" and its results. The end product is not only a semi-Pelagian beginning point
but an Andreasen-like Pelagianism. In line with that conclusion is Sequeira's claim that vicarious
substitution makes the gospel "unethical," a "legal fiction," and the root of "cheap grace." The
remedy is to follow Christ's example. The final end of this theology is a final-generation
perfectionism, in which, claims Short, the last generation will prove that "there is no reason for
failure and sin." "The unveiled message of Calvary is that Christ's death is a death to sin" in our
lives. 72 And with that theology, popular in many Adventist circles today, we have come back to
ADVENTISM AND SEMI-PELAGIANISM/21

the semi-Pelagian if not Pelagian ideas that have formed a strand of Adventism throughout its
history.

Concluding Remarks

So what about Roger Olson's claim that "Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists have tended
to promote Semi-Pelagian views of salvation, although the latter have been moving more toward
orthodox Protestant Christianity in the second half of the twentieth century." 73 Is he right or
wrong? The answer is yes.
It depends on where you look and what Adventists you are talking about. Certainly the
denomination's official statements have moved in the direction suggested by Olson. But in terms
of books on salvation it is a mixed bag, with authors on both sides of the semi-Pelagian issue in
both halves of the century. Having said that, it appears that a larger portion of the books in the
second half of the century have had a more sophisticated approach to both sin and semi-
Pelagianism. But here we have a divided camp, with several sectors of Adventism, led largely by
pastors and lay leaders, firmly rooted in semi-Pelagianism and even advocating forms of
Pelagianism. As to the Adventist public, I would have to agree with the sentiment of Olson, who
believes that "most people who call themselves Arminians are really semi-Pelagian." 74 The
majority of Adventists, it appears, are in good company.
Meanwhile, the task of the denomination's theologians is clear. They need to move away
from the perpetual interest in the relative places of justification and sanctification in salvation
and from an overemphasis on how to live the Christian life and what it means to be ready for
Jesus to come. Conversely, they need to move toward creating a soteriological discussion that
provides balance between both the beginning and ending of salvation as well as in life between
those two points.
Such a discussion should include several elements. First it needs to be more self-consciously
definitional in its treatment of sin in all its forms (original, nature, motivational, act, etc.), the
will in both its possibilities and its limitations, grace in all of its flavors (common, prevenient,
transforming, empowering, and so on), and the meaning(s) and implication(s) of depravity and
the imago Dei. Beyond more breadth and depth in foundational definitions and concepts and
their interrelatedness, Adventism needs to broaden its interest in topics related to soteriology. For
example, Adventist writing in the area of Christian anthropology needs to move beyond its
ADVENTISM AND SEMI-PEL.?;GLZ\NISM/22

perennial focus on conditionalism and the unity of the human soul and toward topics that
intersect with soteriology and the broader issues of theology. Likewise, Adventist writing on
pneumatology should focus more than on such topics as the latter rain, spiritual gifts, and the
fruit of the spirit. In short, Adventist theology needs make more of an effort to capture the
integrative themes and connections that run throughout and across the boundaries of the various
formal aspects of theology.
Beyond those tasks, Adventist theology needs to explore more fully the relationships
between Pelagian and semi-Pelagian views of sin and the divisive topic of the human nature of
Christ. The two topics are integrally related. And divisions on them have led to two quite distinct
Adventist soteriologies and eschatologies--in fact, two different theologies that overlap in some
places but consistently and predictably diverge in others.
Finally, I would suggest that Adventist theology has too often been developed in isolation
from an adequate knowledge of historical theology. Adventist writers need to realize more
consistently that they have not been the first to raise most of these issues, and that they can learn
from the struggles and conclusions of others, even if they end up disagreeing with them on some
points.
So Olson's assertion regarding semi-Pelagianism and Adventism is both true and false. But
no matter what its truthfulness, any effort to investigate it leads one into the various theological
flavors in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Notes

1. Roger E. Olson, The Mosaic of Christian Belief Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002), 275.
2. Roger E. Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove: lnterVarsity,
2006), 30.
3. Here is an excellent topic for a Ph.D. dissertation, or two or three.
4. Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: Judson, 1912), 549 (italics
supplied).
5. H. Orton Wiley, Christian Theology (Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 1952), 2: 128; H. Orton
Wiley and Paul T. Culbertson, Introduction to Christian Theology (Kansas City: Beacon Hill,
1946), 177.
_,,.DVENTISM ,;;ND SEl-!I-PEL.".GIANISM/23

6. Wiley, Introduction, p. 263; see Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty
Centuries of Tradition and Reform (Downers Grove: InterV arsity, 1999), 454-4 72 for a helpful
summary of the Arminian debate.
7. Olson, Arminian Theology, 164. Thomas C. Oden calls the freed will "grace-enabled
freedom." The Transforming Power of Grace (Nashville: Abingdon, 1993), 95.
8. Millard J. Erickson, Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker,
1986), 69; Olson, Arminian Theology, 42.
9. Oden, Transforming Power, 47.
10. Olson, Mosaic, 277.
11. Olson, Arminian Theology, 201.
12. Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church, rev. ed. (New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1959), 168, 169; see also his 4th ed. (1985), 206, 207; Edwin Harry Zackrison,
"Seventh-day Adventists and Original Sin: A Study of the Early Development of the Seventh-
day Adventist Understanding of the Effect of Adam's Sin on His Posterity" (Ph.D. dissertation,
Andrews University, 1984), 108-113; H.K. LaRondelle, Peifection and Peifectionism: A
Dogmatic-ethical Study of Biblical Peifection and Phenomenal Peifectionism (Berrien Springs,
MI: Andrews University Press, 1971), 290, 291.
13. Olson, Anninian Theology, 17, 18; Olson, Mosaic, 274.
14. This section is largely based on Zackrison's study of original sin in early Adventism.
15. Zackrison, "Original Sin," pp. 405, 399; George R. Knight, Joseph Bates: The Real
Founder of Seventh-day Adventism (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2004), 83-88. On
early Adventism's emphasis on overcoming and being ready for the Advent, see also Paul M.
Evans, "A Historical-contextual Analysis of the Final-generation Theology of M. L. Andreasen"
(Ph.D. dissertafton, Andrews University, 2010), 13-116.
16. Zackrison, "Original Sin," 396, 403, 397, 398, 328, 329.
17. Ibid., 40?, 398, 329, 399, 412.
18. Ibid., 395, 337-339.
19. Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1942),
451; Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, n.d.), 62; Ellen G.
White, Selected Messages (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1958), I :344. See also
.O.DVENTISM .Z\.ND SEMI-PEL.".GI.Z\.NISM/24

Woodrow W. Whidden II, Ellen White on Salvation (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald,
1995), 41-46.
20. White, Steps to Christ, 47; cf. 34, 43, 44, 48, 62.
21. Ibid., 18.
22. White, Selected Messages, 1:390, 391.
23. Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1952), 15, 29.
24. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, 3d ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1984),
6:512.
25. Wiley, Christian Theology, 2:352; Olson, Arminian Theology, 154.
26. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill (Philadelphia:
Westminster, 1960), book 2, chap. 12.
27. The 1931/1946 statement was published in the denomination's Church Manual up to
1980.
28. Olson, Mosaic, 274.
29. The 1980 statement has been published in each edition of the denomination's Church
Manual since 1980.
30. Olson, Mosaic, 275.
31. William Henry Branson, How Men Are Saved: The Certainty, Plan, and Time for Man's
Salvation (Nashville: Southern Publishing Assn., 1941), 8. On original sin as original guilt, see
Robert W. Olson, "Outline Studies in Christian Perfection and Original Sin," Ministry
Supplement, October 1970.
32. Branson, How Men Are Saved, 9, 10, 19.
33. Ibid., 10, 18, 23, 27, 29.
34. I. H. Evans, This Is the Way: Meditations Concerning Justification by Faith and Growth
in Christian Graces (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1939), 15, 18, 19, 31.
35. Ibid., 39, 40.
36. Ibid., 45, 47, 48, 51, 52.
37. Ibid., 53, 54.
38. Here is a topic of central importance for understanding SDA historical theology. Thus
far the only extended scholarly study of Andreasen's theology is I- .. ,:! Evan's Ph.D. dissertation.
But the focus of that dissertation was on the antecedents to Andreasen' s final generation
_;DVENTISM .Z:..ND SEMI-PEL.~.GIANISM/25

theology in Adventist history. He did a good job in accomplishing his purpose, but a study of
Andreasen's beliefs in terms of the larger issues of theology is yet to be done. And no issue is of
more importance than his understanding of the cross and substitution. Here is a key that will
probably unlock the full implications of Andreasen' s perfectionism and final generation
understanding. It should be noted that Roy Adam's Ph.D. dissertation also gives significant space
to Andreasen' s understanding of the sanctuary service. See Roy Adams, The Sanctuary
Doctrine: Three Approaches in the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Berrien Springs, MI:
Andrews University Press, 1981), 165-235. Adams concluded that Andreasen gives the
impression that what happened on the cross was not of central importance and was "of lesser
importance" to other events in salvation history (228).
39. M. L. Andreasen, The Sanctuary Service, 2d ed. (Washington, DC: Review and Herald,
1947), 19, 21; M. L. Andreasen, Prayer (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1957), 104.
40. Andreasen, Prayer, 103 (italics supplied).
41. M. L. Andreasen, The Book of Hebrews (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1948),
430, 431 (italics supplied).
42. Ibid., 58-60.
43. Andreasen, Sanctuary Service, 312, 300.
44. M. L. Andreasen, The Faith of Jesus and the Commandments of God (Washington, DC:
Review and Herald, 1939), 343, 353; Evans, "Historical-Contextual Analysis," 302 (italics
supplied).
45. Andreasen, Sanctuary Service, 300; Andreasen, Faith of Jesus, 353; M. L. Andreasen,
What Can a Man Believe? (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1951), 1-8.
46. Andreasen, Sanctuary Service, 299; Andreasen, Hebrews, 58-60.
47. Andreasen, Faith of Jesus, 441.
48. M. L. Andreasen, The Sabbath: Which Day and Why? (Washington, DC: Review and
Herald, 1942), 124; Darius W. Jankiewicz, "The Doctrine of Sin Within Its Soteriological
Context in the Writings of M. L. Andreasen," (seminar paper, Andrews University, 1996), 29,
30.
49. Andreasen, Sanctuary Service, 302.
.O.DVENTISM ;>.NCl SEMI-PELAGIANISM/26

50. Ibid., 300, 299; Jamie Kiley, "The Doctrine of Sin in the Thought of George R. Knight:
Its Context and Implications," (M.A. thesis, Andrews University, 2009), 41; Andreasen,
Hebrews, 58.
51. Andreasen, Sanctuary Service, 49.
52. M. L. Andreasen, A Faith to Live By (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1943), 63.
53. Andreasen, Sanctuary Service, 299-321.
54. Desmond Ford, quoted in Arthur Leroy Moore, "Theology in Crisis: or Ellen G. White's
Concept of Righteousness by Faith as It Relates to Contemporary SDA Issues," (Ph.D.
dissertation, New York University, 1979), 28.
55. Milton Hook, Desmond Ford: Refonnist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist (Riverside, CA:
Adventist Today, 2008), 161, passim. See also, Olson, Story, 455.
56. Dennis E. Priebe, Face-to-Face With the Real Gospel (Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1985),
11, 12.
57. Ibid., 16-18, 20, 56, 69, 70.
58. Ibid., 28, 13, 14, 41.
59. Colin D. Standish and Russell R. Standish, Deceptions of the New Theology (n.p.:
Hartland Publications, 1989), 77, cf. 79.
60. Arnold Valentin Wallenkampf, What Every Christian Should Know About Being
Justified (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1988), 12-14, 16.
61. Ibid., 14, 17, 16, 18.
62. Ibid., 34, 35, 39, 42.
63. Edward Heppenstall, Salvation Unlimited: Perspectives in Righteousness by Faith
(Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1974), 14, 15, 18, 17.
64. Ibid., 2':3-25.
65. Ibid., 66, 71, 23.
66. Ibid., 78;: 79, 106, 190.
67. Hans K. LaRondelle, Christ Our Salvation: What God Does for Us and in Us (Mountain
View, CA: Pacific Press, 1980), 12-14, 16, 17.
68.lbid., 17-20.
69. George R. Knight, The Pharisee's Guide to Peifect Holiness: A Study of Sin and
Salvation (Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1992), 82-84; George R. Knight, Sin and Salvation: God's
.".D"c"ENTISM AND SEMI-PELAGIANISM/ 27

Work for Us and in Us (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2008), 73, 74. See also Kiley's
thesis on my understanding of sin and its implications referenced in note 50 above.
70. Edward W. H. Vick, Let Me Assure You: Of Grace, of Faith, of Forgiveness, of
Freedom, of Fellowship, of Hope (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1968), 1, 12.
71. Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short, 1888 Re-examined, rev. ed. (Meadow Vista,
CA: The 1888 Message Study Committee, 1987), preface, [ii, iv]; Jack Sequeira, Beyond Belief
The Promise, the Power, and the Reality of the Everlasting Gospel (Boise, ID: Pacific Press,
1993), 8. In fairness, it should be noted that Sequeira and his colleagues do believe in a
justification by faith that makes their legal justification effective (see p. 43). But that claim only
illustrates the muddledness of their theology, which has everyone "unconditionally saved" at the
cross (8).
72. Jack Sequeira, Saviour of the World: The Humanity of Christ in the Light of the
Everlasting Gospel (Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1996), 145, 146; Sequeira, Beyond Belief, 41, 42;
Donald Karr Short, "Then Shall the Sanctuary Be Cleansed" (Paris, OH: Glad Tidings
Publishers, 1990), 70, 76-78, [96).
73. Olson, Mosaic, 275.
74. Olson, Arminian Theology, 10.
Arminianism is God-centered Theology

Roger E. Olson

www.rogereolson.com

One of the most common criticisms aimed at Arminianism by its opponents is that it is
“man-centered theology.” (I will occasionally use the gender-exclusive phrase because it is used
so often by Arminianism’s critics. It means, of course, “humanity-centered.”) One Reformed
critic of Arminianism who frequently levels this charge is Michael Horton, professor of theology
at Westminster Theological Seminary (Escondido campus) and editor of Modern Reformation
magazine. I have engaged Horton in protracted conversations about classical Arminianism and
his and other Reformed critics’ stereotypes of it, but to date he still says it is “man-centered.”
Almost every article in the infamous May/June, 1992 special issue of Modern Reformation on
Arminianism repeats this caricature of it. Horton’s is no exception. In his article “Evangelical
Arminians,” where he says “an evangelical cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical
can be a Roman Catholic” (p. 18) the Westminster theologian and magazine editor also calls
Arminianism “a human-centered message of human potential and relative divine impotence.” (p.
16)

Horton is hardly the only critic who has made this accusation against Arminianism.
Several authors of articles in the “Arminianism” issue of Modern Reformation do the same thing.
For example, Kim Riddlebarger, following B. B. Warfield, claims that human freedom is the
central premise of Arminianism, its “first principle” that governs everything else. (p. 23) That is
simply another way of saying it is “man-centered.” Lutheran theologian Rick Ritchie lays the
same charge against Arminianism in the same issue of Modern Reformation. (p. 12) In the same
issue theologian Alan Maben quotes Charles Spurgeon as saying that “Arminianism [is] a
natural, God-rejecting, self-exalting religion and heresy” and man is the principle figure in its
landscape. (p. 21)

Another evangelical theologian who accuses Arminianism of being man-centered is the


late James Montgomery Boice, one of my own seminary professors. In his book Whatever
Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway, 2001) the late pastor of Tenth Presbyterian

1
Church of Philadelphia wrote that under the influence of Arminianism, contemporary evangelical
Christianity is “focused on ourselves and…in love with their own supposed spiritual abilities.”
(p. 168) According to him, Arminians cannot give glory to God alone and must reserve some
glory for themselves because they believe the human will plays a role in salvation. He concludes
“A person who thinks along these lines does not understand the utterly pervasive and thoroughly
enslaving nature of human sin.” (p. 167)

Reformed theologian Sung Wook Chung of Korea, trained in theology at Princeton


Theological Seminary, writes that Arminianism “exalts the autonomous power and sovereign will
of human beings by denying God’s absolute sovereignty and his free will. Arminianism also
regards man as the center of the universe and the purpose of all things.” (“The Arminian
Captivity of the Modern Evangelical Church,” Life Under the Big Top, Jan/Feb 1995, pp. 2-3)
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler writes in The Coming Evangelical
Crisis about the “human-centered focus of the Arminian tradition.” (p. 34) In the same volume
Gary Johnson calls Arminianism a “man-centered faith” and says that “When theology becomes
anthropology, it becomes simply a form of worldliness.” (p. 63)

Perhaps the most sophisticated way of saying the same thing is provided by scholar of
Protestant orthodoxy Richard Mueller in his volume on Arminius entitled God, Creation and
Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius (Baker, 1991). Mueller writes that “Arminius’
thought evinces…a greater trust in nature and in the natural powers of man…than the theology
of his Reformed contemporaries.” (p. 233) He goes on to accuse Arminius of confusing nature
and grace and of placing creation at the center of theology to the neglect of redemption. He
writes that Arminius tended “to understand creation as manifesting the ultimate purpose of God.”
(p. 233) A close reading of Mueller’s interpretation of Arminius’ theology will reveal that he is
charging it with being anthropocentric or man-centered rather than God-centered and focused on
grace. A close reading of Arminius, on the other hand, will reveal how wrong this assessment is.

What do these and other critics mean when they accuse Arminianism of being “man-
centered” or “human-centered?” And what would it mean for a theology to be God-centered as
they claim theirs is? Especially in today’s Calvinist resurgence of “young, restless, Reformed”
Christians it’s important to clarify these terms as one often hears it said, as a mantra, that non-
Calvinist theologies are man-centered whereas Reformed theology is God-centered. Their main

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guru John Piper frequently talks about the “God-centeredness of God” and refers everything in
creation and redemption to God’s glory as the chief end. His implication, occasionally stated, is
that Armnianism falls short of this high view of God. Too often without any consideration of
what these appellations mean, today’s new Calvinists toss them around as clichés and
shibboleths.

It seems that when critics of Arminianism accuse it of being man-centered they mean
primarily three things. First, it focuses too much on human goodness and ability especially in the
realm of redemption. That is, it does not take seriously enough the depravity of humanity and it
prizes the human contribution to salvation too much. Another way of putting that is that
Arminian theology does not give God all the glory for salvation. Second, they mean that
Arminianism limits God by suggesting that God’s will can be thwarted by human decisions and
actions. In other words, God’s sovereignty and power are not taken sufficiently seriously. Third,
they mean that Arminianism places too much emphasis on human fulfillment and happiness to
the neglect of God’s purpose which is to glorify himself in all things. Another way of expressing
this is that Arminianism allegedly has a sentimental notion of God and humanity in which God’s
chief end is to make people happy and fulfilled.

Certainly there is some truth in these criticisms, but their target is wrong when aimed at
classical Arminian theology. Unfortunately, all too seldom do the critics name any Arminian
theologians or quote from Arminius himself to support these accusations. When they say
“Arminianism” they seem to mean popular folk religion which is, admittedly, by-and-large semi-
Pelagian. Some, most notably Horton, name 19th century revivalist Charles Finney as the culprit
in dragging American Christianity down into human-centered spirituality. Whether Finney is a
good example of an Arminian is highly debatable. I agree with Horton and others that too much
popular Christianity in America, including much that goes under the label “evangelical,” is
human-centered. I disagree with them, however, about classical Arminianism about which I
suspect most of them know very little.

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. In other words, grace must be irresistible. Another way of saying that is that God

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must overwhelm elect sinners and compel them to accept his mercy without any cooperation,
even non-resistance, on their parts. This is part and parcel of high Calvinism, otherwise known
as five-point Calvinism. According to Boice and others theology is only God-centered if human
decision plays no role whatsoever in salvation. The downside of this, of course, is that God’s
selection of some to salvation must be purely arbitrary and God must be depicted as actually
willing the damnation of some significant portion of humanity that he could save because
salvation in this scheme is absolutely unconditional. In other words, Calvinism may be God-
centered, but the God at the center is morally ambiguous and unworthy of worship.

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). 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 all certain
down to the minutest decisions of creatures but most notably including the fall of humanity and
all its consequences including the eternal suffering of sinners in hell. The downside of this, of
course, is that the God at the center is, once again, morally ambiguous at best and a monster at
worst. Theologian David Bentley Hart expresses it thus: One should consider the price of this
God-centeredness:

It requires us to believe in and love a God whose good ends will be realized not only in
spite of—but entirely by way of—every cruelty, every fortuitous misery, every
catastrophe, every betrayal, every sin the world has ever known; it requires us to believe
in the eternal spiritual necessity of a child dying an agonizing death from diphtheria, of a
young mother ravaged by cancer, of tens of thousands of Asians swallowed in an instant
by the sea, of millions murdered in death camps and gulags and forced famines (and so
on). It is a strange thing indeed to seek [God-centered theology]…at the cost of a God
rendered morally loathsome. (The Doors of the Sea [Eerdmans, 2005], p. 99)

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

4
mention God’s love for all people. One must first say with John Piper and others that God loves
people because he loves himself and that Christ died for God more than for sinners. The down
side of this is that the Bible talks much about God’s love for people—John 3:16 and numerous
similar verses—and explicitly says that Christ died for sinners (Romans 5:8). While not
canonical, early church father Ireneaus’s saying that “The glory of God is man fully alive” ought
to be considered to have some validity. Surely it is possible to have a God-centered theology
without implying that people created in the image and likeness of God and loved by God so
much that he sent his Son to die for them are of no value to God. In fact, some Reformed
theologians such as John Piper ironically do violate the third principle of God-centeredness as it
is required by some critics of Arminianism. His so-called “Christian hedonism” says that human
happiness and fulfillment are important to theology even if not to God. His mantra is “God is
most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” In spite of this saying and his Christian
hedonism, overall and in general Piper follows the typical Calvinist line of thinking that human
happiness and fulfillment should be of little or no value compared with God’s glory. Another
down side of this, besides the Bible’s emphasis on God’s love and care for people, is the picture
of God it delivers. In this theology, the God at the center is the ultimate narcissist, the greatest
egoist who finds glory in displaying his naked power even to the point of consigning millions to
hell just to manifest his attribute of justice.

The point of all this is simply this: 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. Many of the
monarchs of history have been “glorious” while at the same time being blood-thirsty and cruel.
True glory, the best glory, the right glory worthy of worship and honor and devotion necessarily
includes goodness. Power without goodness is not truly glorious even if it is called that. What
makes someone or something worthy of veneration is not sheer might but goodness. Who is
more worthy of imitation and even veneration, Mother Teresa or Adolf Hitler? The latter
conquered most of Europe. The former had little power outside of her example. And yet, most
people would say that Mother Teresa was more “glorious” than Adolf Hitler. God is glorious
because he is both great 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.

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All that is to say that Arminianism’s critics are the proverbial people casting stones while
living in glass houses. They talk endlessly about God’s glory and about God-centeredness while
sucking the goodness out of God and thus divesting him of real glory. Their theology may be
God-centered but the God at its center is unworthy of being the center. Better a man-centered
theology than one that revolves around a being hardly distinguishable from the devil.

In spite of objections to the contrary, I will argue that classical Arminian theology is just
as God-centered as Calvinism if not more so. The God at its center, whose glory, to the contrary
of critics’ claims, is the chief end or purpose of everything is not morally ambiguous which is the
main point of Arminianism. Somehow Arminian theology has been stuck with the bad reputation
of believing most strongly in human freedom. That has never been true. 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 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 whatever to do with
any humanistic desire for creaturely autonomy or credit for salvation. It has never been about
boasting except in the goodness of the God who creates, rules and saves.

Why did Arminius reject and why do classical Arminians reject Calvinism? Certainly not
because it is God-centered. As I will demonstrate, Arminius’ own theology was fully God-
centered in every sense. Arminius and his followers rejected Calvinism because, as Arminius
himself put it, it is “repugnant to the nature of God.” (“Declaration of Sentiments,” Works I, p.
623) How so? According to Arminius (and all classical Arminians agree) Calvinism implies that
“God really sins. Because, (according to this doctrine,) he moves to sin by an act that is
unavoidable, and according to his own purpose and primary intention, without having received
any previous inducement to such an act from any preceding sin or demerit in man.” Also, “From
the same position we might also infer, that God is the only sinner. For man, who is impelled by
an irresistible force to commit sin, (that is, to perpetrate some deed that has been prohibited,)
cannot be said to sin himself.” Finally, “As a legitimate consequence it also follows, that sin is
not sin, since whatever that be which God does, it neither can be sin, nor ought any of his acts to
receive that appellation.” (“Sentiments,” p. 630)

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Anyone who has read John Wesley’s sermons “On Free Grace” and “Predestination
Calmly Considered” knows very well that he rejects Calvinism for the same reason given by
Arminius before him. In the former sermon he described double predestination (which he rightly
argued is necessarily implied by classical Calvinist unconditional election) as “Such a
blasphemy…as one would think might make the ears of a Christian tingle.” (The Works of John
Wesley 3:III, p. 555) According to him, that doctrine “destroys all [God’s] attributes as once”
and “represents the most Holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and
more unjust.” (Ibid., p. 555) In “Predestination Calmly Considered” Wesley rejected Calvinism
for one reason only: not because it denied the free will of man but because it “overthrows the
justice of God.” He preached as if to a listening Calvinist “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!” (The Works of John Wesley, Vol. X: Letters,
Essays, Dialogs and Addresses [Zondervan, n.d.], p. 221) Anyone who has read later classical
Arminians knows that their main reason for rejecting Calvinism is the same: it impugns the
goodness of God and sullies God’s reputation. It has nothing at all to do with valuing human
free will in and for itself and I challenge critics to demonstrate otherwise.

To explain and defend Arminianism’s God-centeredness let’s begin with the first issue
mentioned above as a reason critics give for claiming that Arminian theology is man-centered:
the human condition and participation in salvation. Classical Arminian theology, defined by
Arminius’s own thought and by the thoughts of his faithful followers, has always emphasized
human depravity just as strongly as Calvinism and it has always given all the credit for salvation
to God alone. Anyone who has read Arminius for himself or herself cannot dispute this. The
editor of The Works of James Arminius (Baker, 1996 [originally published in England 1828])
says rightly that “Were any modern Arminian to avow the sentiments which Arminius himself
has here maintained , he would be instantly called a Calvinist!” (Editor’s notes to “Twenty-five
Public Disputations,” Works II, p. 189) In that context Arminius wrote about the human
condition “under the dominion of sin”: “In this state, the Free Will of man towards the True
Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and…weakened; but it is also…imprisoned,
destroyed, and lost: And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by
grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.” (Ibid., p. 192)

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Lest anyone misunderstand, he drives home his point saying of man that in the state of nature,
due to the fall, he is “altogether dead in sin.” (Ibid., p. 194) This is not the only place in his
voluminous writings where Arminius describes the human condition apart from supernatural
grace this way. In virtually every essay, oration and declaration he says the same and
abundantly! There can be no doubt that Arminius believed in total depravity every bit as much
as do Calvinists.

What about free will? What about the human contribution to salvation? Did not
Arminius attribute some good to the human person that causes God to save him or her? I’ll
allow Arminius to speak for himself on this matter also. Immediately after describing the divine
cure for human depravity, which is what is commonly known as “prevenient grace” which
awakens the person dead in sin to awareness of God’s mercy, Arminius says that even “the very
first commencement of every good thing, so likewise the progress, continuance and
confirmation, nay even the perseverance in good, are not from ourselves, but from God through
the Holy Spirit.” (Ibid., p. 195) This is not an isolated quote taken out of context. Everywhere
Arminius constantly refers all good in man to God as its source and attributes every impulse and
capacity for good to grace. I cannot resist offering one more example. In his “A Letter
Addressed to Hippolytus A Collibus” Arminius speaks of grace and free will:

I confess that the mind of … a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his
affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that
the man himself is dead in sins. And I add to this, That teacher obtains my highest
approbation who ascribes as much as possible to Divine Grace; provided he so pleads the
cause of Grace as not to inflict an injury on the Justice of God, and not to take away the
free will to do that which is evil. (Works II, pp. 700-701)

The context of this statement makes clear that Arminius’ concern for free will is to avoid doing
injury to God’s goodness by making him the author of sin and evil. For him, human free will is
always the cause of sin and evil and God is never their cause even indirectly. (Although, it
should be noted that in his doctrine of providence Arminius affirms that a creature cannot do
anything without God’s permission and even concurrence.) This is the only reason he affirms
free will.

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What about later Arminians such as the Remonstrants? Sometimes critics of
Arminianism allege that the true meaning of Arminianism is to be found in the theology of the
Remonstrants who were Arminius’ followers after his death. Of course, that is like saying the
true meaning of Calvinism is to be found in the theology of the Reformed scholastics after
Calvin. The truth is that both “Arminianism” and “Calvinism” must be defined by both their
namesakes and their most faithful followers. I argue that true, classical Arminian theology was
always faithful to and consistent with Arminius’ thought and vice versa. I have demonstrated
that in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (InterVarsity Press, 1996).

The normative expression of Remonstrant theology may be found in The Arminian


Confession of 1621 written by Simon Episcopius, founder of the Remonstrant Seminary in
Holland. In complete harmony with Arminius, the Confession affirms that the fallen human
person is completely incapable of saving faith and that he or she is totally dependent on grace for
any and every good. In the article on the creation of the world, angels and men it says “whatever
good [man] has, he owes all solidly to God and…he is obligated…to render and consecrate the
same wholly to him.” (Confession 5.6 as translated by Mark A. Ellis in The Arminian Confession
of 1621 [Wipf & Stock, 2005], p. 56) As for the human condition, the Confession says of grace
that “without it 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.” (Ibid., pp. 68-69)
There is nothing “man-centered” about this Confession. Later Remonstrants such as Philip
Limborch, who fits Alan Sell’s category of “Arminian of the head” as opposed to “Arminian of
the heart,” veered off toward a man-centered semi-Pelagianism. But most Arminians followed
the path of Arminius and Episcopius and Wesley and the 19th century Methodist theologians such
as Richard Watson who averred that even repentance is a gift of God. (Theological Institutes
[Lane & Scott, 1851], p. 99)

Anyone who reads these classical Arminians with a hermeneutic of charity rather than a
hermeneutic of suspicion and hostility cannot help but see their God-centeredness in
emphasizing the absolute dependence of human persons on God’s grace for everything good. All
of them repeat this maxim frequently and attribute all of salvation from its beginning to end to
God’s supernatural grace. Of course, most Reformed critics will not be satisfied with this. They

9
will still say, as does Boice, that if the sinner, however enabled by prevenient grace, makes a free
choice to accept God’s mercy unto salvation that is man-centered rather than God-centered. All I
can say to that is that it is ludicrous. The point 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.

The second issue raised by critics of Arminianism has to do with God’s alleged
limitations and lack of sovereignty and power. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president
Al Mohler writes in The Coming Evangelical Crisis that “The Arminian God ultimately lacks
omniscience, omnipotence, and transcendent sovereignty.” (p. 34) I argue that this objection
carries no weight at all. Anyone who reads Arminius or his faithful followers, classical
Arminians, cannot come away with this impression. All 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. Otherwise, he would
be sheer, naked power without character. As I argued earlier, that would make him unworthy of
worship.

I will begin as before with Arminius himself. What did he believe about God’s
sovereignty and power? First, he rightly pointed out that, although he did affirm God’s absolute
dominion over creation, “The declaration of dominion has no glory by itself, unless it has been
justly used.” (“Examination of the Theses of Dr. Franciscus Gomarus Respecting
Predestination,” Works III, p. 632) In his “Private Disputations” and “Public Disputations,”
Arminius went to great lengths to affirm and endorse what is called classical Christian theism
with all the traditional attributes attached to it including omnipotence and sovereignty. A
stronger statement of God’s incommunicable attributes could not be found anywhere. As for
sovereignty, Arminius confessed that “Satan and wicked men not only cannot accomplish, but,

10
indeed, cannot even commence anything except by God’s permission.” (“Examination of Dr.
Perkins’s Pamphlet on Predestination,” Works III, p. 369)

Even some Arminians might find some of Arminius’s statements about God’s sovereignty
perplexing if not troubling. He attributed every power to God and denied that any creature has
the ability to accomplish anything, including evil, independently of God. To critics who accused
him of limiting God and exalting human autonomy Arminians wrote:

I openly allow that God is the cause of all actions which are perpetrated by the creatures.
But I merely require this, that that efficiency of God be so explained as that nothing
whatever be derogated from the liberty of the creature, and that the guilt of sin itself be
not transferred to God: that is, that it may be shown that God is indeed the effector of the
act, but only the permitter of the sin itself; nay, that God is at the same time the effecter
and permitter of one and the same act. (Ibid., p. 415)

This is an expression of Arminius’s doctrine of divine concurrence in which the creature cannot
act without God’s permission and aid. God wills creaturely free will and therefore must
reluctantly concur with creatures in their sinful acts because they cannot act independently of
him. He does not, however, plan or propose or render certain any sin or evil.

To drive the point home further: In his “A Letter Addressed to Hippolytus A Collibus”
Arminius went to great lengths to affirm divine sovereignty, power and providential control over
creation. He speculates that he was accused of holding “corrupt opinions respecting the
Providence of God” because he denied that “with respect to the decree of God, Adam necessarily
sinned.” (Works II, p. 698) In other words, he rejected the typical Calvinist view that God
foreordained and rendered certain Adam’s sin. However, he averred that, in spite of his rejection
of the necessity of Adam’s fall, he did teach a strong and high view of God’s providence:

I most solicitously avoid two causes of offence, -- that God be not proposed as the author
of sin, -- and that its liberty be not taken away from the human will: These are two points
which if anyone knows how to avoid, he will think upon no act which I will not in that
case most gladly allow to be ascribed to the Providence of God, provided a just regard be
had to the divine pre-eminence. (Ibid., pp. 697-698)

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What is absolutely clear from the context is that his insistence that liberty be not taken away
from the human will has only one motive—that God not be proposed as the author of sin. He
had no vested interest in human autonomy or free will for its own sake. His God-centeredness
revolved around two foci: God’s untarnished goodness and absolute creaturely dependence on
God for everything good. These cannot be missed as they appear on almost every page of his
writings.

What about the Arminian Confession of 1621, the normative statement of Remonstrant
belief after Arminius? Did it fall into human-centeredness as critics claim? In its chapter “On
the providence of God, or his preservation and government of things,” the Confession avers that
“nothing happens anywhere in the entire world rashly or by chance, that is, God either not
knowing, or ignoring, or idly observing it, much less looking on, still less altogether reluctantly
even unwillingly and not even willing to permit it.” (p. 63) The practical conclusion of the
doctrine of providence, the Confession affirms, is that the true believer “will always give thanks
to God in prosperity, and in addition, in the future…freely and continuously place their greatest
hope in God, their most faithful Father.” (Ibid.)

As for God’s omnipotence, the Confession says that God “is omnipotent, or of invincible
and insuperable power, because he can do whatever he wills, even though all creatures be
unwilling. Indeed he can always do more than he really wills, and therefore he can simply do
whatever does not involve contradiction, that is, which are not necessarily and of themselves
repugnant to the truth of certain things, nor to his own divine nature.” (Ibid., p. 48) What more
can anyone ask of a doctrine of omnipotence? Oh, yes…certain Reformed critics can and so
seem to ask for divine omnicausality. The problem with that, of course, is that it entangles God
in evil. Again, the God at the center of that system is not worthy of being central to a belief
system that values virtue and goodness. The fact is, that Arminius’s and the Remonstrants’
doctrines of God’s sovereignty and power are as high and strong as possible short of making God
the author of sin and evil.

What about later Arminians? Did they remain true to this high doctrine of God’s
supremacy in and over all things? While affirming everything Arminius and the early
Remonstrants taught about this doctrine, including God’s control over all things in creation,
Richard Watson rightly cautioned that “the sovereignty of God is a Scriptural doctrine no one can

12
deny; but it does not follow that the notions which men please to form of it should be received as
scriptural.” (Watson, p. 442) For example, he avers that God could have prevented the fall of
Adam and all its evil consequences but regarded it as better to allow it. (p. 435) That God
merely allowed it and did not foreordain or cause it is where Watson’s doctrine of providence
parts ways with the typical Reformed view. However, he rejects any notion that God is in any
way the author of sin as incompatible with God’s goodness. (p. 429) The very fact that he
affirms that God could have prevented the fall points to his strong view of God’s omnipotence
and sovereignty. Again, in Watson, we see a subtle but definite assumption of God’s voluntary
self-limitation in order to keep the God who stands at the center of theology good and worthy of
worship.

The upshot of all this so far is that classical Arminian theology does not have a man-
centered emphasis. Arminius’s main concern was not to elevate humanity alongside or over
God; no one can read him fairly and get that impression. His main concern was to elevate God’s
goodness alongside or even over God’s power without in any way diminishing God’s power.
The way he accomplished that was by means of the idea of voluntary divine self-limitation—
something he everywhere assumes and hints at without explicitly expounding. Reformed
theologian Richard Mueller has rightly discovered and brought this element of Arminius’s
thought to light. He acknowledges the two equally important impulses in Arminius’s thought:
God’s absolute right to exercise power and control and God’s free limitation of his power for the
sake of the integrity of creation:

Both in the act of creation and in the establishment of covenant, God freely commits
himself to the creature. God is not, in the first instance, in any way constrained to create,
but does so only because of his own free inclination to communicate his goodness; nor is
God in the second instance, constrained to offer man anything in return for obedience
inasmuch as the act of creation implies a right and a power over the creature.
Nonetheless, in both cases, the unconstrained performance of the act results in the
establishment of limits to the exercise of divine power: granting the act of creation, God
cannot reprobate absolutely and without a cause in the creature; granting the initiation of
covenant, God cannot remove or obviate his promises. (Mueller, p. 243)

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The point is that any and all limitations of God’s power and sovereign control to dispose of his
creatures as he wills is self-imposed either by his nature or by his covenant promises. This
hardly amounts to a man-centered theology! In fact, one could rightly argue that certain
Reformed doctrines of the necessity of creation, including redemption and damnation, for the full
manifestation of God’s attributes and the full display of God’s glory amount to a creation-
centered theology that robs God of his freedom and makes the world necessary for God.

The third charge laid against Arminianism that allegedly demonstrates its man-
centeredness is its focus on human happiness and fulfillment to the detriment of God’s glory.
Some Reformed theologians claim that Arminianism’s God is a weak, sentimental God who
exists to serve human needs and wants and that in Arminian theology man is made glorious at the
expense of God’s glory. This is nothing more than vicious calumny that needs to be exposed as
such. It may be true of a great deal of American folk religion, but it has nothing whatever to do
with classical Arminian theology in which the chief end of all things is God’s glory.

As always I will begin with Arminius himself. Anyone who reads his “Private
Disputations,” his “Public Disputations” or his “Orations” cannot deny that he makes God’s
glory the ultimate purpose of everything including creation, providence, salvation, the church
and the consummation. In his “Private Disputations” Arminius stated clearly that God is the
cause of all blessedness and that the “end” of this blessedness is twofold: “(1.) a demonstration
of the glorious wisdom, goodness, justice, power, and likewise the universal perfection of God;
and (2.) his glorification by the beatified.” (Works II, p. 321) Lest anyone think that he makes
God dependent on creation or creation necessary to God Arminius declares in his “Apology or
Defence” that everything God does ad extra is absolutely free—even his self-glorification
through creation and redemption: “God freely decreed to form the world, and did freely form it:
And, in this sense, all things are done contingently in respect to the Divine decree; because no
necessity exists why the decree of God should be appointed, since it proceeds from his own pure
and free...Will.” (Works I, p. 758) In other words, only Arminius’ belief in libertarian freedom
both in God and creatures, protects the absolute contingency and therefore gratuitousness of
creation. Which is more glorious? A God who creates to glorify himself absolutely freely or one
who, like Jonathan Edwards’ God, cannot do otherwise than he does?

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It’s difficult to know from which context to quote Arminius’ numerous affirmations of the
glory of God as the chief end of all his works. Here, however, is a typical example from his
“Private Disputations” where he covers all the loci of theology and almost always concludes that
everything in heaven and earth is for the glory of God. This one has to do with sanctification
although his words are nearly identical with regard to justification and everything else God does.
Sanctification, Arminius declares, “is a gracious act of God…[that] man may live the life of God,
to the praise of the righteousness and of the glorious grace of God….” (Works II, p. 408) Then,
also, “The End [purpose] is, that a believing man, being consecrated to God as a Priest and King,
should serve Him in newness of life, to the glory of his divine name….” (Ibid., p. 409)
Similarly, the “end” of the church is “the glory of God” (Ibid., p. 412) and the “end” of the
sacraments is “the glory of God” (Ibid., p. 436) and “The principle End [of worship] is, the glory
of God and Christ….” (Ibid., p. 447) In his “Public Disputations” Arminius repeats the pattern
of describing everything blessed and good as God’s work and its end or purpose as the glory of
God.

Earlier I said that Arminius almost always concludes that everything in heaven and earth
is for the glory of God. There is one and only one exception. In his discussion of sin he
concludes, specifically here with respect to the first sin, that “There was no End for this sin.”
(Ibid., p. 373) Man who sinned and the devil both proposed an end or purpose for it, but
ultimately it could not have a purpose which would be to import it into God’s will which would
make it not sin. Rather, the first sin, like all sin, was a surd, something inexplicable—except by
appeal to man’s misuse of free will. However, God had an end in allowing it: “acts glorious to
God, which might arise from it.” (Ibid.,) In other words, while sin does not glorify God, God’s
redemption of sinners does.

Time and space prohibit a lengthier and more detailed account of Arminius’ emphasis on
the glory of God as the chief end or purpose of every good in creation. All I can do is urge
skeptics to read his “Orations” in Works I where he constantly repeats the refrain for “the glory
of God and the salvation of men.” Lest anyone think he puts these two ends on the same level of
importance he says in Oration II that all salvation has the single purpose that “we might sing
God’s praises to him forever.” (Works I, p. 372)

15
One finds no hint anywhere in Arminius of any concern for human autonomy for its own
sake. Arminius’s only reason for affirming libertarian free will is to disconnect sin from God and
make the sinner solely responsible for it. His one overriding concern is for God’s glory in all
things. There can be no doubt that he would agree whole heartedly with the answer to the first
question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism “What is the chief end of man?” “The chief end
of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Time prohibits me from rehearsing a litany of Arminian affirmations of the glory of God
after Arminius. Suffice it to say that all classical Arminians have always agreed with Arminius
about this matter. I challenge critics of Armininism to display one example of a classical
Arminian theologian who has elevated humanity to an end in itself or in any way made God’s
chief end the glory of man. It doesn’t exist.

I conclude with this observation. The difference between Arminian and Calvinist
theologies does not lie in man-centeredness versus God-centeredness. True Arminianism is as
thoroughly God-centered as Calvinism. A fair reading of classical Arminian theologians from
Arminius to Thomas Oden cannot avoid finding in them a ringing endorsement of the God-
centeredness of all creation and redemption. The difference, rather, lies in the nature and
character of the God who stands at the centers of these two systems. The God who stands at the
center of classical, high Calvinism of the TULIP variety is a morally ambiguous being of power
and control who is hardly distinguishable from the devil. The devil wants all people to go to hell
whereas the God of Calvinism wants some, perhaps most, people to go to hell. The devil is
God’s instrument in wreaking havoc and horror in the world—for God’s glory. The God who
stands at the center of classical Arminianism is the God of Jesus Christ, full of love and
compassion as well as justice and wrath who voluntarily limits his power to allow creaturely
rebellion but is nevertheless the source of all good for whose glory and honor everything except
sin exists.

16
1

SOTERIOLOGICAL SYNERGISM
AND ITS SURROUNDING SEDUCTIONS

by
Barry L. Callen

My title features some alliterative overkill, just as many presentations of our subject suffer from
serious imbalances. This is my attempt at proper balance. Given the radical consequences of the
fall into sin, human salvation can only be the result of God's unmerited grace extended on our
behalf. But-and here is the key question-"Is salvation also, in some important sense, our
work?" Is the clearly unconditional somehow also to be conditioned? How do we avoid pitfalls
lurking on all sides of such a theological minefield? Is it really the case that, as biblically
revealed, a proper understanding of salvation requires a necessary synergism-and then a careful
avoidance of its surrounding seductions? My answer is, "Yes."

A Personal Context

I was reared in a very Arminian/Wesleyan-oriented church tradition. I doubt that those


good people in my home church had ever heard the word "Arminian" or could have named
the centuries in which John Calvin and John Wesley lived. Regardless of such unawareness,
they held a sophisticated synergism in relation to salvation, maintaining dual and
simultaneous assumptions that were not seen as in conflict, but rather functioning together
as a pivotal paradox of Christian belief. Humans have free will and the responsibility of
activating their own salvation by receiving the unmerited divine gift of redemption through
heart-felt repentance of sins. To b~ sure, the available salvation comes only from God's
entirely unmerited grace, but it nonetheless is activated by repentant humans who "work,"
willingly respond to the loving work of God's Spirit within them.
This synergistic duality, God alone, although activated by the conscious actions of
humans, was the theological air we breathed. But then I found my way to Geneva College
where high Calvinism was taken for granted. These Reformed Presbyterians knew the
word "Arminian" and relegated it to their list of seductive Christian heresies. I soon began
to sense keenly the tension between redemptive grace divinely given and grace
intentionally received by faith, between the unconditionality and yet the conditionality of
salvation. The tension has remained with me. I see the same tension in the New Testament
itself.
As a boy, m{home pastor was an exceptional woman, which might have rendered
me particularly open to appreciating someone like Ellen White, although, of course, we had
never heard of her either. In the Church of God (Anderson), the Adventist that we did hear
about was Uriah Smith. His work on the Book of Revelation had influenced our primary
pioneer, Daniel S. Warner, who argued against Uriah's thinking-just before he cleverly
redirected some of it to bolster his own emerging reform movement. Warner was soon
2

followed by the Church of God version of Uriah Smith, Frederick G. Smith, and his
influential book The Revelation Explained (1908).
I don't know how the thinking of Uriah Smith has survived among Adventists. I do
know that F. G. Smith's thought has faded away for most in our contemporary movement,
what some might judge our "Great Disappointment." Today, like Adventists, the Church of
God focuses on the Bible as central Christian authority and has no prophetic counterpart to
Ellen White. What it continues to have in common with Adventism i7:8' healthy synergism
about salvation, one needing careful definition since there are subtle seductions sitting
I
around every corner.
John Calvin insisted that the doctrine of divine election is profitable because it
serves to elevate God's sovereignty and properly humble us fallen creatures. Our salvation
does not depend on our own merits, but wholly on God's choice of us, even before our
births.2 I fully agree, at least with the "not on our own merits" part. Nothing that follows
should be understood as suggesting otherwise. Even so, I am convinced that somehow the
salvation which comes only by unmerited divine grace involves a necessary human "work."
Given my tradition, I have always been comfortable with John Wesley who affirmed the
universal gift of "prevenient grace," and with the Orthodox tradition of Christianity that
assumes a necessary interrelationship, a divine-human cooperation in the salvation
process. More recently, Clark Pinnock came to this view, witnessing that all that then
followed for him theologically was the "result of reciprocity" (Callen, 2000, 100-106), his
new salvation-synergism phrase.

Negotiating A Complex Continuum

A divine-human reciprocity? A salvation synergism? All is by God's grace, including some


necessary human work? If we are not to be seduced by the seductions surrounding such a
paradox, or by a premature elimination of the paradox itself, we first must define our words and
the synergism in view. By "seduced" I mean being drawn inappropriately, even unknowingly in
a negative and theologically unacceptable direction. By "synegerism" I mean the interaction of
multiple agents that, in a distinctive integration, claim to bring a result greater than any one of
them could produce in isolation. Like the "Synoptic Gospels," the first four New Testament
books are "seen together" and interact wonderfully, synergistically. In spite of their differences,
maybe even because of their differences, they join to tell the story of Jesus with a resulting
fullness not possible by any one of them alone. The full story is in the cumulative impact of the
four stories.'. Our minds prefer simplicity over complexity, which seems to invite confusion.
Truth, however, may not always satisfy our preferences.
Synergism is a cooperative venture; its opposite, monergism, presumes a single account
or actor. Mdnergisms are "clean," simple, easily understandable, internally coherent, popular.

1
For an overview of the teaching of the Church of God movement (Anderson),
see Barry L. Callen, Contours of a Cause (Anderson, IN: Anderson University School of
Theology, 1995) and Following Our Lord (Anderson, IN: Warner Press, 2008).
2
This is highlighted by Joseph Hill, a former professor of biblical studies at my
alma mater, Geneva College, Joseph Hill, in his editing of selections of Calvin's work.
(Grace and its Fruits, Evangelical Press, England, 2000, 92).
3

Synergisms are more complex, paradoxical, with a range of interrelated perspectives that can
easily push the picture out of balance-or, of course, bring it into proper balance. All
monergisms view synergisms as seducing people away from treasured singularities. When the
words "seduction" and "synergism" are related to the conditions that activate human salvation
from sin, the monergist fears a violation of the single actor, God. The synergist, on the other
hand, judges that the real seduction is the temptation of all monergists to oversimplify the issue
by granting a restrictive and thus inappropriate singularity to the means of the saving action of
God.
We are probing the relationship between divine grace and human reaction to it. We are
asking where the real seduction lies, with the God-only monergist or the God-and-human
synergist. We hear with interest Woodrow Widden's affirming of synergism when he
characterizes approvingly Ellen White's theology of salvation. Her theology was carefully
nuanced, complex, "wonderfully balanced," a mixture of realism in this fallen world and
optimism about the transforming grace coming from another world. She was "certainly a
perfectionist, but she was not advocating perfectionism," meaning that "sinners can gain victory
over sinful attitudes and actions, but they retain their corrupt natures, which are subject to
temptation until glorification." Without being prematurely triumphalist, White "was most
optimistic about what could be accomplished when the human will is combined with divine
3
power." Note the divine-human synergism, with activated salvation the result of this reciprocity.
We are asking questions about the proper relationship between divine initiative and
grace, on the one hand, and human faith, repentance, and "good works" on the other. Synergism
views some working combination of these factors and searches for the correct combination that
actually yields (activates) salvation. Over the centuries of church history, Christians have been
all over the theological map in their claims about the most appropriate interrelationship of the
salvation-producing factors. Various possibilities have been judged heretical; others have
spawned influential theological traditions of sharply differing views that nonetheless persist side-
by-side in the mainstream life of the church. The chart in Appendix A attempts to show the
continuum of views, with synergism in the mediating middle. The extremes to the left and right
agree on at least one thing, that synergism is the seductive dilution of their purer positions. More
synergistic views are clear that the extremes to the left and right lose the necessary balance and
complexity of the full truth.
My task is to jump into this caldron of theological viewpoints, this myriad of proposed
monogeristic and synergistic patterns, and find the proper (biblical) balance, while avoiding the
ever-present seductions. The challenge is to avoid patterns that violate biblical revelation,
however atp-active they may be on other grounds. Given the focus of this conference, one key
focus will be the Protestant Reformation. From that crucial period in Christian church history we
will be able to look backward and forward in theological time, viewing and assessing available
patterris. First, however, we must consider the doctrine of God. How one understands God
determines one's general perspective on most other theological matters, including the
conditionality of salvation, salvation that nonetheless comes from wholly unmerited divine
grace.

Being Open to God's "Openness"

3
Woodrow W. Whidden II, Ellen White on Salvation (Berrien Springs, MI:
Adventist Institute for Theological Advancement), 155-156. Emphasis added.
/
4

Perceiving properly the God who is before, bl\hind, and above all else is a delicate theological
4
task to be accomplished cautiously and only pahially at best. I sense in my theistic thinking the
presence of a necessary synergism, with related perceptual pitfalls on every hand. The synergism
involves a dynamic and ongoing process of knowing and not knowing, especially with reference
to God.
With the apt title Reformed and Always Reforming, Roger E. Olson has surveyed the
"new horizons" in today's evangelical Christian thinking about God. I applaud the clarity of his
review and the wisdom of his guarded but "open" judgments. He believes it possible "to be more
evangelical by being less conservative," and affirms as wholesome and productive the work of a
range of "post-conservative evangelical scholars" who now are "exercising the freedom so hard
5
won by the [sixteenth-century] Reformers to rethink old doctrines in light of God's Word." A
primary example of this fresh rethinking regards the doctrine of God, thought by many
"relational" or "open" theologians to have been sidetracked from the proper biblical synergism
by a theism too heavily influenced by Greek philosophic thought and the more recent
Enlightenment mentality.
The Qur'anic depiction of God clearly features great might, authority, and transcendence.
Allah has power over everything (Q5:120). Although the Bible says similar things at points,
"divine power over all things" comes to be viewed quite differently in light of the incarnation in
Jesus. Total power then seems less like "power over" and more like "empowering," with God
having but not parading transcendent and unilateral authority. To the contrary, God functions in
humble Self-sacrifice as co-laborer, even collaborator with humans. As Michael Lodahl
concludes, "this logic of the incarnation .. .is forcefully and repeatedly repudiated by the
6
Qur'an." The Qur'an is monergistic; the Bible is synergistic with its incamational story of the
sovereign Father choosing out of love to Self-give in the humiliation of the Son.
Various post-conservative "evangelical" approaches to revisioning the understanding of
God center around the synergistic concept of relationality. They affirm the Bible's incarnational
leaning toward the co-laborer and collaborator images. F. LeRon Shults focuses on a "robust
Trinity," God as personal being-in-relation, God "no longer to be understood primarily as
controlling power but as empowering relationship that creates room for creatures to develop as
7
creatures within the overarching creative sovereignty of God." Stanley Grenz also focused on
the doctrine of the Trinity, viewing God as essentially relational in nature, other-oriented,
8
loving. Miroslav Volf draws on Jiirgen Moltmann' s root metaphor for God, father or parent,
viewing essence of God's nature as primarily relational love.

4
I have traced the centuries of Christian questing for the best understanding God
in my Discerning the Divine: God in Christian Theology (Louisville: Westminster John
Knox, 2004).
5
Roger E. Olson, Reformed and Always Reforming: The Postconservative
Approach to Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 7, 211.
6
Michael Lodahl, Claiming Abraham: Reading the Bible and the Qur'an Side
by Side (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2010), 202.
7
Olson, op. cit., 229-230.
8
Stanley Grenz, The Named God and the Question of Being: A Trinitarian Theo-
Ontology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006).
5

The intent of these theologians is to honor the best revelation of God we believe we have,
the biblical presentation of the divine incarnation in Jesus Christ. The resulting synergism is a
biblical portrayal of God as both thoroughly majestic sovereignty and fully relational love
intended to be implemented in a covenant partnership. Henri Nouwen saw this synergism in the
famous Rembrandt painting "Return of the Prodigal Son." The two hands of the father resting on
the repentant prodigal are quite different, yet are both those of the father: "The Father is not
simply a great patriarch. He is mother as well as father. He touches the son with a masculine
hand and a feminine hand. He holds, and she caresses. He confirms, and she consoles. He is,
indeed, God in whom both manhood and womanhood, fatherhood and motherhood are fully
9
present." While there is sensitivity, beauty, and rich truth in Nouwen's artistic, synergistic view,
there also are the usual seductive pitfalls.
Henry H. Knight, for instance, agrees that there is the danger of opening all the way to
"process" theology, viewing God as deeply interdependent with the creation by including the
creation within the divine becoming. A process theistic model is judged as guilty as the defects
of "classical" theism since it loses the synergistic balance-i.e., it fails to affirm that God is
lovingly relational and also prior to, distinct from, and ontologically different from the creation.
10
God is transcendent over creation "while upholding both divine and human agency within it."
Clark Pinnock sees the "process God" as too passive to fit the fullness, the richer synergism of
the biblical testimony. God can and sometimes does influence this world by more than loving
persuasion. Even so, Pinnock insists that "God elected to create a world reflective of his own
spontaneously free and triune self.. .. God can predetermine, and foreknow, whatever he wants to
about the future. This does not change the fact that he also leaves much of it open and allows
11
other issues to be resolved by the decisions offree agents."
"Open" evangelicals like Pinnock see God's highest glory manifested in God's voluntary
"self-limitation," resulting in God's "vulnerability" to a free creation, a creation free only
because of God's grace-gift of freedom to human creatures. Some "open" evangelicals, sensitive
to the criticism of associating words like "limitation" and "vulnerability" to God, now are
offering helpful clarifications. Thomas Jay Oord centers Christian theology around divine love,
keynotes it with the kenosis passage of Phil. 2:5-8, and resists the concept of God's self-giving
being viewed as a voluntary self-limitation. His offered corrective is that "self-giving love is an
essential attribute of God's eternal nature," an "involuntary divine self-limitation." While
nothing outside of God's own being and nature ever limits God involuntarily (after all, God is
fully and unqualifiedly sovereign), it is God's essential nature that determines what is real or not,
what will or will not be. "Essential kenosis," according to Oord, necessarily provides humans
with a significant freedom, the possibility of an interactive relationship, and thus final
responsibility, clearing God "from any credible charge of culpability for causing or failing to
prevent genuine evil. The God whose loving nature necessarily gives freedom/agency to

9
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son (N.Y.: Doubleday, Image
Books, 1994), 99.
10
Henry H. Knight III, A Future for Truth: Evangelical Theology in a
Postmodern World (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1997), 168.
11
Clark H. Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God's Openness (Grand
Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 147. Emphasis added.
6

12
creatures cannot withhold, withdraw or override the gifts God gives." The central point is that
God is by nature and choice open to reciprocity, covenant partnership, a soteriological
synergism. The whole Bible is built around old and new covenants provided by a sovereign God.

The Protestant Reformation

The European Christian community in the sixteenth century was experiencing a particularly
conflicted, pivotal, and creative period of its history. The Swiss reformers compensated for the
lack of theological systematizing on the part of Martin Luther. They followed his general
reforming trajectories, with clear stress on the absolute sovereignty of God as a pivot point for
Christian thought. John Calvin, for instance, insisted on Scripture as the sole supreme authority
for Christian faith and practice. Since he thought that human understanding is deeply
compromised by the fall into sin, he taught that this great biblical authority is grasped rightly
only as it is illumined by the Holy Spirit. The needed illumination is a special gift to the elect,
given to them by God at their regeneration. Thoroughly Augustinian, this view stresses God's
meticulous providence and divine foreknowledge and foreordination, so that all redounds to
God's glory. Regeneration is viewed as largely monergistic, exclusively a divine act of
unmerited grace. The quickening of the spiritually dead is something only God can do, with no
assistance possible or needed from those dead in their sins.
According to Calvin, God ordains from eternity those whom he will embrace in love and
those upon whom he will unleash his deserved wrath. God will redeem all who repent and
believe. God, however, has foreordained that some of the fallen will never repent and believe. If
such a choice of salvation candidates appears unjust, and it certainly does to many, Calvin
argued that all sinners deserve damnation, so the election of some to salvation demonstrates an
amazing and wholly undeserved divine love. But why not extend this saving grace to all people?
Calvin apparently judged this a perverse question, an attempt to force on God a human sense of
what constitutes justice. Eventually, Calvin's thought was built into a tight system of theological
logic that features the ''TULIP" sequence of Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited
atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the elect. Here is a classic monogerism
that views synergistic deviations from it to be sinful seductions.
Jacob Anninius came to represent one such "seduction." His thinking soon brought a
deep split in the Reformed tradition of John Calvin, speaking against core aspects of Calvinist
theology and getting himself labeled "Pelagian," seductively synergistic--even though he insisted
on no salvation that is not at God's initiative and by grace alone through faith alone. What
troubled Arminius about Calvin was the unilateral divine election of individuals that pre-
assigned them to heaven or hell. For Anninius, viewing God's relationship to fallen humanity
more synergistically than that was biblically possible and did not deviate from viewing salvation
as a sheer gift of a gracious God. So, he clipped the TULIP by rejecting unconditional election
and irresistible grace. Calvin would have seen this clipping as a dangerous seduction; Arminius
saw it as the biblical wisdom of a more balanced synergism.
Anninius was reflecting a stance that also emerged from the Roman Catholic Church and
its counter-reformation Council of Trent (1545-1563), namely that

12
Thomas Jay Oord, The Nature of Love: A Theology (St. Louis: Chalice Press,
2010), 126.
7

... justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus
Christ. .. whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called ... so
they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His
quickening and assisting grace to convert themselves to their own justification by
freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace.

Here is a Catholic synergism that affirms simultaneously a truly fallen humanity, the prevenient
grace of God, a salvation not available on the basis of any human merit, and yet a salvation
available only as one willingly cooperates with such grace.
The later Wesleyan revival in England made a similar synergistic observation. John
Wesley, like Arminius, agreed with the main body of the teachings of John Calvin. Also, like
Arminius, he differed with Calvin's teaching of the complete unconditionality of salvation. Like
the Roman Catholic Church, the key to making possible some form of synergistic conditionality
was seen as God's "prevenient grace." Wesley thought that such undeserved grace enabled the
doctrine of original sin and salvation by grace alone to co-exist, maintaining both God's genuine
13
sovereignty over salvation and meaningful human freedom. The constructive relationship of
the Calvinist-leaning George Whitefield and Arminian-leaning John Wesley provides an early
example of a possible wholistic synergism, a unity among believers who are not quite in
agreement, but who nonetheless are committed together to the gospel's mission in the world.
Many church bodies in the Wesleyan tradition affirm such a synerigism, seeing the
various monergisms as positions seduced by premature elimination of necessary factors in the
biblically-revealed salvation process. For instance, the Church of the Nazarene includes among
its articles of faith this very synergistic statement on prevenient grace:

We believe that the human race's creation in God-likeness included the ability to
choose between right and wrong, and that thus human beings were made morally
responsible; that through the fall of Adam they became depraved so that they
cannot now tum and prepare themselves by their own natural strength and works
to faith and calling upon God. But we also believe that the grace of God through
Jesus Christ is freely bestowed upon all people, enabling all who will to tum from
sin to righteousness, believe on Jesus Christ for pardon and cleansing from sin,
and follow good works pleasing and acceptable in His sight.

Through my research for and writing of the intellectual biography of Clark H. Pinnock in
2000, I became newly sensitized to th~ contemporary emphases of "open" and "process"
14

theists. Whlle these emphases speak directly and sometimes helpfully to the grace-faith
tension, our focus here is the grace-faith tension itself. The controversial elements of open
and proces~ thinkers would distract from this focus~and distraction is one of many
seductions to be avoided-at least for now.

Current "Evangelical" Imbalances

13
See John Wesley's sermon titled "On Working Out Our Own Salvation."
14
Barry L. Callen, Clark H. Pinnock: Journey Toward Renewal (Nappanee, IN:.
Evangel Publishing House, 2000).
8

Maintaining theological equilibrium is an art not easily mastered. Two examples of


imbalance from contemporary "evangelicalism" are troublesome. Both tend to highlight
divine sovereignty to the detriment of human responsibility. The first is excessive emphasis
on divine sovereignty; the second is excessive emphasis on divine gifting.
From a biblical point of view, God's absolute sovereignty is hardly in question. The
thought of John Calvin, however, focuses on divine sovereignty almost to the exclusion of
human responsibility. John Piper lauds Calvin's passion for the majesty of God and wrote
on the five-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Calvin "to fan the flame of your passion
for the centrality and supremacy of God ... God's never beginning, never ending, never
becoming, never improving, simply and absolutely there-to be dealt with on his terms or
not at all," the God who "created all that is, sustains everything in being, and directs the
course of all events." Piper laments that this majestic and holy God has virtually
disappeared from the modern evangelical world. Is I resonate to an extent with his
16
concern, but hesitate over the imbalance that fully affirming his view tends to introduce
(a missing synergism, almost a Qur'an-like critique of the Bible's incarnational emphasis).
The second imbalance is with the faith/works continuum. In my view, much of
contemporary "evangelical" Christianity has so stressed that salvation is by faith alone
through grace alone that it has undercut the conscious choice to exercise faith and the
serious action required of believers for needed growth in the Christian life. Of course, it is a
mistake to associate action in the service of faith with attempts to gain merit from God, that
is, to work for one's salvation. Salvation is by faith alone, but mature faith is never alone. As
John Wesley insisted, saving faith necessarily feeds on the means of grace divinely provided
for its own existence and maturation, and it flowers with the fruit of the Spirit and works of
service. His careful balance is that baptism and the Lord's supper are central means of
7
grace and are necessary, "if not to the being, at least to the well-being of a Church."I The
priority of divine grace comes first, but not then to the exclusion of the human response
that accepts and implements the "feeding" and "flowering" of that grace.
Whether resisting Calvinistic election or Moravian stillness, two seductions away
from a centrist synergism, John Wesley opposed any pernicious passivity of the believer.
Instead, he championed active cooperation of the believer with the initiatives of God. IS All
good things are gifts of God, yes, but the proper posture of our waiting on and receiving the
gifts is active participation in the divine channels through which they normally come and
grow. Spiritual disciplines and the "sacraments" are not ways of earning what we can never

IS John Piper, John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God (Wheaton, Ill.:
Crossway Books, 2009), 12-14.
6
I So does Timothy George who sees a renewed recognition of Calvin's focus
"a healthy corrective to the prevailing neo-Pelagianism of contemporary American
Christianity" (Broadman Press, Theology of the Reformers, 1988, 248).
7
I John Wesley, "An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion," Works
(Oxford ed.), XI, 78.
IS John Wesley, "The Means of Grace," john Wesley's Sermons: An Anthology,
ed. Albert C. Outler and Richard P. Heitzenrater (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991),
159.
9

afford; rather, they are ways of opening doors to what God wishes to freely give. We must
not be seduced by arrogance-we can do it ourselves, or by passivity-God will get it done
without us. It finally is a covenant enterprise with two partners, unequal though they are.
There is a required synergism of waiting and working, actively seeking and humbly
receiving. Ellen White insisted that justification and perfection are so related that the
believer cannot have one without the other. Believers are reckoned perfect in Christ Jesus,
certainly not because of their flawless performance of the will of God, but through the
meritorious accounting of Christ. Woodrow Whidden makes clear that White never
understood obedience as generating saving merit for the believer, although "the experience
of justification is retained only on the basis of faithful loyalty to Christ, which is expressed
in constant obedience and repentance .... Sinners are saved in experience by faith, in merit
by the grace of Christ accounted to us, and obedience is the essential evidence of faith's
19
acceptance of Christ's precious merits.'' Note the theological balance, the synergism that
carefully sidesteps the surrounding and alluring seductions.

Caught Between Truths

Admittedly, there is tension between actively opening spiritual doors and avoiding the
pitfall of "works righteousness," between being viewed in Christ as "perfect" without
having attained the ability to function perfectly. Such tension, however, is hardly
surprising. Paradox is a tenacious and delicate reality in all Christian theology. We
necessarily proceed knowing that we are "caught between truths"-and we must not yield
20
to anti-paradox seductions in the name of full rational clarity. A central complexity is
crucial, a certain mystery essential. God is the great three-in-one, while humans are both
the crown and crisis of creation. Jesus is both God and man, the Bible is divine and yet so
human, all helping the church to exist between heaven and avoid the pitfalls surrounding
such core synergisms.
Avoiding pitfalls requires constant diligence. In the soteriological thought of John
Wesley, for example, salvation is understood to be both instantaneous and gradual, and it
involves divine and human agencies in a way that neither diminish God's love and power
nor deny human stn and finitude. Nevertheless, as Henry Knight observes, "this has not
kept interpreters of Wesley from arguing over which was more central in his thought and
practice; even less has it prevented his theological descendents from promoting one at the
21
expense of the other.'' Maintaining essential equilibrium is sometimes as difficult in
theology as walking over a gorge on a high wire with cross winds from shifting directions.
One of the core synergisms basic to the Christian life is the conditionality of
unconditional faith. At work in John Wesley, and in Jacob Arminius before him, was the

19
Woodrow W. Whidden II, Ellen White on Salvation (Berrien Springs, MI:
Adventist Institute for Theological Advancement), 152.
20
Barry L. Callen, Caught Between Truths: The Central Paradoxes of Christian
Faith (Lexington, KY: Emeth Press, 2007).
21
Henry H. Knight III, "The Transformation of the Human Heart: The Place of
Conversion in Wesley's Theology," in Kenneth Collins and John Tyson, eds., Conversion
in the Wesleyan Tradition (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), 54-55, 43.
10

central notion that God chooses to save humanity "along the lines of divine prevenience
22
and humanity's cooperant responsible grace." In 1778 Wesley decided to call his
Methodist publication The Arminian Magazine. Being caught between truths required the
affirming of a soteriological synergism, a delicate doubleness that may not be "clean" to the
purely rational eye, but is theologically crucial nonetheless. Like Arminius, Wesley believed
that his soteriology was only a "hair's breadth" separated from that of John Calvin-but it
was a critically important breadth. It involved a carefully crafted salvation synergism.
Wesley might have asked of his Calvinist collea~ues, as Roger Olson more recently did ask
3
of his-"don't hate me because I'm Arminian." After all, we are all caught between the
same truths, on the same gospel team, all looking for the best balance, the most biblically-
sensitive salvation synergism.
In the biblical record, and very much in the Protestant Reformation tradition, the
knowledge of God is not an unaided possibility for fallen humanity. It is not possible apart
from the divine gifts of revelation and the enabling grace to receive and respond to
revelation. We do not know God until God addresses us fallen humans through a gracious
awakening of our knowing and believing potential. Karl Barth was so clear on this. Before
him, Martin Luther said: "God will not have thee thus ascend, but He comes to thee and has
24
made a ladder, a way and a bridge to thee." Luther was reversing the mystical salvation
pattern. The ladder imagery was seen by him as the means of divine descent rather than of
human ascent. God descends to us graciously, not from any need to do so apart from a great
and loving desire to redemptively address our human need. As C. S. Lewis once put it, "In
25
God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give."
It is here that the core grace-faith paradox appears and synergism becomes
necessary. The truly sovereign and unconditioned God freely chooses to act graciously on
our behalf and, in the process, chooses to become-to some degree-dependent on how we
humans respond in faith to the grace extended our way. God appears not to want
mechanical slaves, but responsive sons and daughters who faithfully receive the grace
freely given and then become what they themselves come to deeply desire. That deep
desire, nurtured by God's continuing ministry through the Spirit, is to be active participants
in a fellowship of love, covenant partners with God for kingdom purposes in this fallen
world, and redeemed children of God who will be wonderfully with God in the next world.
The Calvinistic-leaning TULIP is Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited
atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the elect. The Arminian-leaning ROSE

22
W: Stephen Gunter, "John Wesley, A Faithful- Representative of Jacobus
Arminius," in Wesleyan Theological Journal, 42-2, Fall, 2007, 69. See also Randy
Maddox, Responsible Grace: John Wesley's Practical Theology (Nashville: Kingswood
Books, 1994).
23
Roger Olson, in Christianity Today, September 6, 1999, 87-94.
24
As cited by Donald G. Bloesch, Spirituality Old and New (Downers Grove,
ILL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 79.
25
C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1960), .
175.
11

26
views God as Relational, Open, Suffering, and Everywhere Active. The goal is the best
balance of these contrasting floral rubrics, seeking the synergism that grasps simultaneously the
several tones, dimensions, nuances, and emphases of divine revelation. Rather than defending
absolute doctrinal boundaries as though they were a first-order language of revelation, I prefer
keeping doctrinal boundaries relatively undefined and always under examination, judging such
formulations to be human and therefore fragile second-order language.

New Words from the Mouth of Jesus

E. Stanley Jones once reflected on those classic words of Jesus from the cross: "It is finished!"
What was finished? It was, concluded Jones, the purpose of his coming, the redemption of
humanity. But, taken alone, such finishing sounds too divinely monergistic for the Bible's
broader presentation of it. Therefore, Jones goes on to imagine additional words from the
Saviour. They were words of synergism, the divine plan of our human participation. Said Jesus,
via Jones, "I have redeemed the race. It is now for them to accept it .... I cannot force it upon
27
them, for forced goodness is not goodness.''
I join Jones, daring to suggest new words in the mouth of Jesus because I am convinced
that such words express best the God seen both in sovereign creation and in suffering
redemption. In Jesus, the truly sovereign God was with us, for us, impacted by us, and now is
calling for our responsible and freely-chosen response to this redemptive work of the cross. It is
the same synergism heard in the title of that classic 1972 book of Jtirgen Moltmann-The
Crucified God. The God who is truly sovereign above all is also, because of the loving essence
of the divine nature, the truly suffering God for the sake of lost humans far below. Sovereign and
suffering, the synergistic balance, the reality above strict logic, the complex and wonderful
revelation of God in Jesus Christ!
Elsewhere, I have called synergistic thought like that of Jones a "mutuality model of
conversion.'' It features the biblically-revealed God "reaching lovingly to all persons and
enabling them with the ability to respond in ways that can activate the salvation that is God's
intention-and an ability that also includes the possibility that some will choose to reject
salvation, which is God's willingly chosen risk .... God provides all that is necessary. We
respond as God's grace enables us, but also by our own genuine choice. God's provision and our
28
response are the two essential and inseparable elements of a mutuality model of conversion."
Even with the synergism, the mutuality of the salvation process, we mere humans must
remember that there always remains only one bottom line. To God alone be the glory! Even so,
there remains the salvation synergism. Says N. T. Wright about the Lord's Prayer, "This prayer
starts by addressing God intimately and lovingly, as 'Father' [an interactive mutuality]-and by
bowing before his greatness and majesty [a transcendent singularity]." Concludes Wright, "If

26
See Barry L. Callen, "From TULIP to ROSE: Clark H. Pinnock on the Open
and Risking God," in Wesleyan Theological Journal 36:1 (spring 2001), 160-186.
27
E. Stanley Jones, The Song of Ascents: A Spiritual Autobiography (Nashville:
Abingdon Press, 1968), 22.
28
Barry L. Callen, "A Mutuality Model of Conversion," in Kenneth Collins and
John Tyson, Conversion in the Wesleyan Tradition (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press,
2001), 145, 159.
12

you can hold those two together, you're already on the way to understanding what Christianity is
29
all about." There it is again-the ongoing challenge of holding seemingly contrasting things
together!

APPENDIX A

HUMAN "WORK"

Semi-
Pelagianism

Pelagianism Ausustinianism

Semi-
Augustinianism

DIVINE GRACE

..... IL.LL, ..... '"'L .,;, ____ J, ,.,L ....... t.ttt ..... , ... ,.,,.Li . .. m .... t,,,ClkLA ..... ,, L ·"-~,! ..... HHL .. .

Human Divine
Monergism Monergism

29
N. T. Wright, The Lord & His Prayer (Eerdmans Publishing, 1996).
Arminianism is Evangelical Theology

Roger E. Olson

One of the most distressing criticisms of Arminian theology is that it is not evangelical.
One does not have to read far into modem Calvinist literature to find this either implied or
explicitly stated. One example is from influential Reformed theologian Michael Horton, editor
of Modern Reformation magazine and one-time director of the Alliance of Confessing
Evangelicals. The May/June, 1992 issue of Modern Reformation was dedicated to criticism of
Arminianism. The issue's title was simply "Arminianism." The cover showed an imaginary
ballot labeled "Important Election." The question was "Will you be saved?" On the ballot God
voted for the person and Satan voted against and at the bottom it declared "A TIE! Your vote
must decide the issue" as if this illustrated Arminian theology. In fact, the imaginary ballot
image was taken from a Southern Baptist evangelistic tract. The "tie-breaking vote" illustration
originated with Southern Baptist preacher and theologian Herschel Hobbs.
Inside the special Arminianism issue of Modern Reformation various Reformed
theologians blasted Arminianism as tantamount to the heresy of semi-Pelagianism. The best
example of this misrepresentation and of the claim that Arminianism cannot be authentically
evangelical is in Michael Horton's article "Evangelical Arminians" subtitled "Tom between two
systems, evangelical Christians must make a choice." Near the end, Horton declares his thesis
that "An evangelical cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical can be a Roman
Catholic." (p. 18) Why did Horton and why do many other Reformed critics of Arminianism
exclude it from evangelical theology?
Horton's reasons are representative of many other Reformed critics of Arminianism. I
know this because I was invited to participate in a meeting of the Alliance of Confessing
Evangelicals in Colorado Springs in 2001. I was their token Arminian brought in to explain why
I think Arminian theology can be authentically evangelical. The discussions held over those two
days revealed clearly that Horton's article nicely sums up the main line of thinking about this
matter among at least some Reformed theologians.
Horton defines "evangelical" as adherence to the Reformation tenets of salvation by
grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. (p. 15) He admits that before 1520, the
year in which Luther was excommunicated and therefore the date of the beginning of the

1
Protestant Reformation, "evangelical" had a different meaning. It referred to anyone who had a
sincere love for Christ and a zeal for missions. After 1520, however, Horton claims, "an
evangelical was a person committed to the sufficiency of scripture, the priesthood of all
believers, the total lostness of humans, the sole mediation of Christ, the gracious efficacy and
finality of God's redemptive work in Christ through election, propitiation, calling and keeping."
(p. 15) Ultimately, according to Horton, authentic evangelical faith does not exist without what
he regards as the distinctive Reformation doctrines of simul justus et peccator-"simultaneously
justified and sinful" and monergism-unconditional election and irresistible grace. He
concludes "[h]istorically speaking, those who do not affirm those doctrines are, by virtue of the
law of non-contradiction, not evangelicals." (p. 16)
I would like to suggest that Horton has simply committed an error of thought and
argument. He has defined a label in such a way as to exclude people he does not want in his
camp or party. In other words, his claim that these doctrines are necessary to authentic
evangelical faith since 1520 is a mere assertion; he cannot prove it or even support it except to
say that he and his peers have always used the label this way. That others, such as Wesleyans
and Anabaptists, have defined it differently is simply dismissed as irrelevant. In fact, one can
peruse the major historical treatises about the history and theology of the evangelical movement
and not find this strict limitation to all the Reformation principles to which Horton appeals. For
example, David Bebbington and Mark Noll, two widely acknowledged experts on the history and
character of the evangelical movement nowhere limit evangelical theology to Horton's doctrinal
hallmarks. Their lnterV arsity Press series "A History of Evangelicalism" traces the movement
back to the Great Awakening with Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and the Wesley
brothers as its progenitors. Obviously, the Wesleys did not embrace all of Horton's crucial
doctrines. And neither have many evangelicals since the Great Awakening.
In his introductory article to the special Arminianism issue of Modern Reformation
Horton equates Arminianism with the ancient heresy of semi-Pelagianism which places the
initiumfidei in the sinner rather than in God and his grace. (p. 4) And he says that for
Arminianism man's contribution to salvation becomes central. (p. 6) He writes that
"Evangelicalism stands or falls with Calvinism" (p. 10) and he claims that Arminianism denies
the Reformation belief that faith is a gift. (p. 16) Horton's argument can be summed up by his

2
assertion that monergism, belief that God alone saves without any cooperation by the person
being saved, is necessary for authentic evangelicalism. (p. 17)
Horton and others like him reveal two things by these statements. First, they arbitrarily
pre-define evangelicalism their way so as to exclude adherents of theologies they don't like, and
second, they clearly have not read Arminius or any true, classical Arminian thinkers. They may
have read Charles Finney and misused him as a true representative of classical Arminianism and
they may have read B. B. Warfield's critical review of 191h century Methodist theologian John
Miley's Systematic Theology, but they cannot have read Arminius or Wesley or Fletcher or
Watson or Pope or Summers or Wiley or Oden. If they had, they would know that classical
Arminians all believe that salvation is all of grace and by faith alone.
Without accepting Horton's narrow definition of evangelicalism, here I will demonstrate
that Arminius, the touchstone of Arminian theology, and other, later Arrninian theologians
affirmed the core soteriological tenets of the Reformation. Whether one must affirm them to be
authentically evangelical I'll leave to others to decide. For my purposes here and now I will
simply show that Arminius and his faithful followers of the past and present have always
embraced salvation by grace alone through faith alone apart from works or merit on the part of
the person being saved. This seems to be the central fear of critics such as Horton-that
Anninianism somehow attributes merit to the human person being saved so that salvation is not a
free gift of God's grace alone acquired through faith alone. Of course, I cannot satisfy him or
other Reformed critics insofar as they simply, arbitrarily insist that authentic evangelicalism
must include belief in strict monergism. But I consider that claim historically inaccurate and
unsupportable.
For me, following Bebbington and Noll and a host of other scholars of the evangelical
movement sudi'.as Marsden, Carpenter, Stone, Collins, Bloesch, Balmer and McGrath, authentic
evangelicalism necessarily includes a conversional soteriology that emphasizes salvation as
regeneration as yvell as justification and rejects works as any foundation for it. Evangelicalism
centers around the unconditional good news that anyone who throws himself or herself on the
mercy of God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning death on the cross,
leaving behind all claims to meritorious righteousness, is saved. This classical Arminianism
teaches and it is therefore a form of evangelicalism.

3
Some critics accuse Arminianism of implicitly denying this soteriology. So I will begin
my refutation with appeal to Arminius himself. Then I will proceed to the Remonstrants such as
Simon Episcopius and Philip Limborch and then to John Wesley and his followers, the 191h
century Methodist theologians mentioned above, and conclude with appeal to 201h century
Arrninian theologians such as H. Orton Wiley and Thomas Oden.
What did Jacob Arminius himself say about salvation? He went out of his way to affirm
in every way possible its nature as sheer gift not dependent on good works or merits-except the
merits of Christ. Giving the lie to claims that he was a Pelagian or semi-Pelagian, making
salvation partly dependent on good works or on human initiative (e.g., by exercising a good will
toward God apart from supernatural assisting grace), Arminius strongly affirmed that
regeneration precedes anything good in man and that grace is the beginning and continuance of
all good that a person has or does. In his "A Declaration of Sentiments" delivered to the Lords
of the States of Holland less than one year before his death in 1609, Arminius said that

[i]n his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to
will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and
renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through
the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and
perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or
renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking,
willing, and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine
grace. (The Works of James Arminius, Volume/, p. 659)

Shortly after that he added

I ascribe to grace the commencement, the continuance and the consummation of all
good,--and to such an extent do I carry its influence, that a man, though already
regenerate, can neither conceive, will nor do any good at all, nor resists any evil
temptation, without this preventing and exciting, this following and co-operating grace,--
From this statement it will clearly appear, that I am by no means injurious or unjust to
grace, by attributing, as it is reported of me, too much to man's free-will.. .. (Ibid., p. 664)

4
Immediately after that statement, Arminius went on to deny irresistible grace. This, he
thought was the nub of the disagreement between him and Gomarus and the other Calvinists who
were persecuting him. With them, however, he agreed entirely that salvation is all of grace and
not at all based on any goodness or merit or even autonomous decision or choice of the person
being saved.
Arminius' affirmation that regeneration precedes even the first movement of the will
toward God may surprise even many Arminians. It is usually thought that only Calvinists
believe that regeneration precedes conversion. However, as later Arrninians explain perhaps
better than Arminius himself did, the regeneration of which the Dutch theologian here spoke is
not complete regeneration but a partial regeneration in which the bondage of the will to sin is
released so that the sinner can for the first time respond freely God's offer of mercy in Jesus
Christ. This is, of course, prevenient grace-an Arrninian doctrine much neglected,
misunderstood and sometimes maligned by Reformed critics of Arrninianism. It is a, if not the,
distinctive doctrine of Arminian theology that sets it apart from all forms of monergistic
soteriology. For Arminius, at least, this prevenient grace of God, which is not merely common
grace but supernatural grace, is not automatically salvific but it is essential to salvation. Without
it, the fallen human person could never exercise a good will toward God.
In virtually every essay answering his critics, Arminius extolled the power and necessity
of prevenient grace for salvation. In his "Letter Addressed to Hippolytus A Collibus" he wrote
that

Free Will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without Grace That
I might not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word "Grace," I
mean by it that which is the Grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration: I affirm,
therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the
mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is
good: It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which
infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the affections, and bends
the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace ... goes
before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and cooperates
lest we will in vain. It averts temptions, assists and grants succour in the midst of

5
temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest
grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered
and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more
cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.
(Works, Volume II, p. 700)
A few sentences later Arminius wrote that "That teacher obtains my highest approbation who
ascribes as much as possible to Divine Grace; provided he so pleads the cause of Grace, as not to
inflict an injury on the Justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil."
(Ibid., pp. 700-701)
In other words, Arminius believed and taught that the source of all good is God and his
grace; nothing spiritually worthy arises from the human person alone-not even the first
inclination of the mind or heart toward God. God "bends the will" to the good but not
irresistibly. And God does not take away the person's freedom to resist God's grace. In essence,
then, what Arminius was saying is that the only thing the human person does in salvation is not
resist the grace of God. Everything else is God's work alone and human non-resistance to God's
grace can hardly be called a "work." It certainly cannot be claimed as meritorious.
And yet, some critics will claim it is meritorious. A common saying among Reformed
critics of Arminianism is that it makes the human decision not to resist the grace of God "the
decisive factor in salvation" thus robbing salvation of its entirely gracious character. This, of
course, is sheer folly. Suppose that critic gave a check for $1,000 to a student to save him from
starvation and homelessness. Suppose then the student went around claiming that by endorsing
the check and depositing it in his account he actually earned part of the money so that it was not
a sheer gift. Suppose further that, when challenged, the student said "Well, I know of others who
were offered money and didn't accept it, so I must be better than them." Who would consider
the student anything other than a stupid, ungrateful wretch? Surely the Calvinist critic would so
consider him. So why do Calvinist critics of Arminianism continue to claim that the sheer
decision to not resist the grace of God makes God's salvation something less than a gift? It
boggles the mind.
In order to put to rest any notion that he denied the sheer graciousness of salvation or
somehow fell short of the fullness of Reformation belief in justification by grace alone through
faith alone, Arminius adamantly denied any merits in human persons and affirmed even faith as a

6
gift. He also affirmed justification as the imputation of righteousness on the basis of faith alone
as merely the instrumental and not effectual cause of justification. In other words, he affirmed
everything the critics demand except their version of monergism-unconditional election and
irresistible grace.
With regard to merits and the means of the blessings of salvation Arminius wrote that
"God destines these means to no persons on account of or according to their own merits, but
through mere grace alone: And he denies them to no one except justly on account of previous
transgressions." (Works, Volume II, p. 395) With regard to justification he expressed full
agreement with the Reformed and Protestant churches' doctrines saying "I am not conscious to
myself, of having taught or entertained any other sentiment concerning the justification of man
before God, than those which are held unanimously by the Reformed and Protestant Churches,
and which are in complete agreement with their expressed opinions." (Works, Volume II, p. 695)
Lest anyone doubt, Arminius laid out his doctrine of justification clearly and unequivocally:
"I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the
righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins
of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law." (Ibid., p.
700) What about faith? Arminius had a motto that he frequently stated and that was quoted by
most of his followers, especially the l 91h century Methodist Arminian theologians: "To a man
who believes Faith is imputed for righteousness through grace." (Ibid.) To those who questioned
then or question now his meaning he wrote of Calvin's doctrine of justification as imputed
righteousness by faith alone that "[m]y opinion is not so widely different from his as to prevent
me from employing the signature of my own hand in subscribing to those things which he has
delivered on this subject, in the Third Book of his Institutes; this I am prepared to do at any time,
and to give them my full approval." (Ibid.)
Some critics, such as Horton, have accused Arminius and his followers of turning faith
into a good work and teaching by this motto, "faith imputed for righteousness," that faith is a
substitute for righteousness. Nothing could be further from Arminius' meaning and that is
demonstrated clearly by the context quoted above. Clearly, for Arminius, faith is no substitute
for righteousness; it is merely the instrumental means or "proximate cause" of obtaining the
imputation of Christ's righteousness. Christ's righteousness is the "meritorious cause of
justification" and that which is imputed to the repentant sinner on account of his or her faith.

7
(Works, Volume II, pp. 701-701) Furthermore, Arminius argued that faith is a gift of God as well
as an act of the believer; his teaching is a classical example of "both/and" thinking in theology.
Call it a paradox, if you will, but clearly Arminius held faith to be both a gift and a human act.
What he wanted to avoid by calling it a gift is any hint that it is a good work that merits
salvation; what he wanted to avoid by calling it an act of the believer is any hint that the God-
human relationship is an impersonal or mechanical one. So, on the one hand, according to
Arminius, "Faith is the requirement of God, and the act of the believer when he answers the
requirement." (Ibid., pp. 49-50) On the other hand, "Faith is the gift of God, which is conferred
on those only whom He hath chosen to this-that they may hear the word of God, and be made
partakers of the Holy Spirit." (Ibid., p. 67)
Normally people think that only Calvinists teach that faith is a gift of God; allegedly all
others including Catholics and Arminians, believe faith is a work of man that partially merits
salvation. This is simply false; Arminius, at least, believed faith to be both a gift of God and an
act of man in response to prevenient grace. How can this paradox be relieved? Is it a sheer
contradiction? I think not. What Arminius meant is that God offers saving faith to a sinner
under the influence of prevenient grace and the sinner, under that influence, allows himself to
receive the gift. The reception of the gift is also called "faith." But it is properly the empty
receiving of the gift of faith which is confidence in God's grace through the cross of Christ to the
exclusion of one's own righteousness. At the moment a person receives that gift of faith by the
act of faith he or she receives the imputation of righteousness. The righteousness imputed is
Christ's. (Ibid., p. 701) So, when Arminius says that "faith is imputed for righteousness" he is
not making a work out of faith; he is simply saying that faith is the condition of the imputation of
righteousness. But we must understand that for Arminius even the condition is supplied by God.
All the person being saved does is freely receive it which is an act that can also properly be
called "faith." The "faith that saves," however, is a gift of God passively received.
What about good works? Did Arminius leave out good works entirely? Was he an
antinomian as some accused Calvinists of being? Naturally, he did not want to emphasize good
works because he was wrongly accused of making them a condition of salvation. However, he
often mentioned good works as a necessary concomitant of faith. For example, in his "Letter
Addressed to Hypollitus A Collibus" he stated that "Faith, and faith only, (although there is no
faith alone without good works,) is imputed for righteousness." In other words, with Luther

8
Arminius affirmed that true faith is always accompanied by good works, but good works are not
part of faith or a condition of justification.
I think that Arminius' true soteriology would come as quite a shock to many people-
both Reformed critics and uninformed Arminians. It is thoroughly evangelical in the sense of
attributing all of salvation entirely to God and his grace and requiring nothing of the human
person except empty, passive reception of the gifts of grace. And it is thoroughly Protestant in
the sense of viewing justification as the gracious imputation of Christ's righteousness on account
of faith alone. Whether Arminius would affirm the simul justus et peccator is open to debate,
but I think he would.
What about Anninians after Arminius? Did the Remonstrance and Wesley and the l 91h
century Methodist theologians carry on Arminius' strong affirmation of salvation by grace alone
through faith alone because of Christ alone? I believe a strong case can be made that they did
with some slight alterations of emphasis.
In 1621 Arminius' main disciple Simon Episcopius wrote a document called "Confession
or Declaration of the Remonstrant Pastors" which is commonly known as "The Arminian
Confession of 1621." Interestingly, the self-proclaimed "Calvinist pastor of a Reformed baptistic
church" who edited and translated the Confession for new publication in the Princeton
Theological Monograph Series in 2005 writes in the Introduction that "[i]f one allows history to
define labels, neither Arminius nor the Remonstrants were semi-Pelagian." (The Arminian
Confession of 1621 [Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2005], p. vi) What do we find in this early
Remonstrant Confession about grace and faith? Echoing Arminius, the Confession says

We think therefore that the grace of God is the beginning, progress and completion of all
good, so that not even a regenerate man himself can, without this preceding or
preventing, exciting, following and cooperating grace, think, will, or finish any good
thing to be saved, much less resist any attractions and temptations to evil. Thus faith,
conversion, and all good works, and all godly and saving actions which are able to be
thought, are to be ascribed solidly to the grace of God in Christ as their principal and
primary cause. (Ibid., p. 108)

9
What about faith? Is it a work that merits salvation as critics of Arminianism say? Hardly.
According to the Confession, "Man ... does not have saving faith from himself, nor is he
regenerated or converted by the powers of his own free will, seeing that in the state of sin he
cannot of himself or by himself either think or will or do anything that is good enough to be
saved." (Ibid., p. 107) The Confession goes on to say, with Arminius, that the sinner must first
be regenerated by God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit before he or she can even will
anything that is savingly good. (Ibid., pp. 107-108)
What about justification? Does it require any good works? Or is it wholly and
exclusively by grace alone through faith alone? Here is what the Confession says:
Justification is a merciful, gracious and indeed full remission of all guilt before God to
truly repenting and believing sinners, through and because of Jesus Christ, apprehended
by true faith, indeed, even more, [it is] the liberal and bountiful imputation of faith for
righteousness. For indeed in the judgment of God we cannot obtain to it except by the
pure grace of God and only by faith in Jesus Christ ... without any merit of our own
works. (Ibid., p. 111)
What more do critics of Arminianism want? Well, I supposed they want a clear and unequivocal
affirmation of monergistic grace, but the evangel only requires this-the confession that
salvation is a gift and not of works lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9) The Arminian
Confession goes so far as to say, with Arminius, that faith is a gift and that regeneration must
precede conversion and that justification is without merit a pure imputation of righteousness on
account of faith alone.
A case can be made that Arminianism began to take a wrong path with Episcopius' s
disciple and nephew Philip Limborch whose system of theology minimized human depravity and
downplayed the supernatural aspect of prevenient grace. What actually happened, however, was
not that Arminianism took a wrong path but that it split into two paths-what theologian Alan P.
F. Sell calls "Arminianism of the head" and "Arminianism of the heart." Limborch and his late
Remonstrant followers headed toward rationalism and deism; John Wesley and his followers
preserved the true spirit of evangelical Arminianism. Nevertheless, even Limborch affirmed that
God, not man, is the primary cause of both repentance and faith even though the person being
saved must "concur" with the divine operation of grace. (A Complete System, or, Body of
Divinity, trans., William Jones [London: John Darby, 1713), p. 531) Of justification Limborch

10
wrote that "[i]t denotes a declaration of righteousness, that is, absolving a man from guilt, and
treating him as one that is righteous." (Ibid., p. 835) Also, in justification, "[a] man is esteemed
by God as righteous upon account of his faith." (Ibid., p. 836) Finally, Limborch's full definition
of justification is as follows: "[j]ustification is the merciful and gracious act of God, whereby he
fully absolves from all guilt the truly penitent and believing soul, through and for the sake of
Christ apprehended by a true faith, or gratuitously remits sins upon account of faith in Jesus
Christ, and graciously imputes that faith for righteousness." (Ibid., p. 836) Limborch's
description of the synergism of salvation was not as subtle or paradoxical as Arminius's and that
is where he begins to get into trouble as an evangelical. In some places he emphasized the
human side of the synergism calling faith an "act of obedience" and he denied that the
righteousness imputed to the believer is Christ's. (Ibid., pp. 838 and 837 respectively)
Nevertheless, he clearly rejected any idea of human merit in faith and taught that salvation is a
free gift of grace received by faith alone.
John Wesley was a true Arminian in spite of what some Calvinists claim. One notable
Reformed theologian has called him a "confused Calvinist"-probably because of his strong
belief in human depravity apart from supernatural grace and because of his strong emphasis on
grace. Wesley himself said many times that his theology was "on the very edge of Calvinism" or
a "hair's breadth from Calvinism." In his book John Wesley's Scriptural Christianity (Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) Thomas Oden quotes from Wesley's "Minutes of 1745:"
"Q[uestion] 23. Wherein may we come to the very edge of Calvinism? A[nswer] (1.) In ascribing
all good to the free grace of God. (2.) In denying all natural free will, and all power antecedent to
grace. And (3.) In excluding all merit from man, even for what he has or does by the grace of
God." (p. 253) His Arminianism was evident, however, in his strong rejection of unconditional
election and irr~istible grace-see his sermons "Predestination Calmly Considered" and "Free
Grace"-and in his affirmation of synergism in salvation. What did he mean by synergism-a
dirty word to Calyinists? Wesley explicitly rejected semi-Pelagianist synergism and defined his
synergism this way (as paraphrased by Oden): "By synergism we do not imply that fallen
freedom retains a natural capacity to reach out and take the initiative and establish a restored
relationship with God. Rather by synergism we mean that human freedom by grace is being
enabled to cooperative interactively with God's saving plan. It is the coworking by grace of

11
human willing with the divine willing." (Ibid., p. 269) This is what I call "evangelical
synergism" as opposed to semi-Pelagian or Roman Catholic synergism.
Some Calvinist critics accuse Wesley of attributing a part of salvation to human effort in
a way that attributes it to human merit rather than solely to grace. This is Horton's treatment (or
one should say "mistreatment") of Wesley in his article "Evangelical Arminians." Nothing could
be farther from the truth. Hear Wesley on salvation:

[i]t is free in all to whom it is given. It does not depend on any power or merit in man;
no, not in any degree, neither in whole, nor in part. It does not in any wise depend either
on the good works or righteousness of the receiver; not on anything he has done, or
anything he is. It does not depend on his good tempers, or good desires, or good
purposes and intentions; for all these flow from the free grace of God. ("Free Grace" in
The Works of John Wesley, Volume 3, ed., Albert Outler (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1986,
p. 545)

Also, Wesley wrote that "Whatever good is in man, or is done by man, God is the author and
doer of it." (Ibid.) What more can anyone ask of an evangelical theologian? Contrary to what
Horton and other critics imply, Wesley attributed everything in salvation to God alone.
What about justification and faith? Wesley preached two sermons entitled "Salvation by
Faith" and "Justification by Faith" in which he delivered as strong an account of justification by
grace alone through faith alone as possible. In the former sermon he even declared all good
works "unholy and sinful." (John Wesley: The Best from All His Works, abridged and edited by
Stephen Rost [Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1989], p. 91) Of course, he meant good works
insofar as they are compared with Christ's righteousness and viewed as a cause of salvation,
which they are not and cannot be. In the same sermon Wesley declared that "[n]one can trust in
the merits of Christ till he has utterly renounced his own." (Ibid., p. 99) He also preached that in
salvation God does all so that he "leaveth us nothing whereof to glory." (Ibid., p. 98)
So what is justification according to Wesley? Here he departed somewhat from Arminius
and other Arminians in asserting that justification is not an imputation of Christ's righteousness
to the sinner which Wesley considered a legal fiction and therefore unworthy of God. He
defined justification as "[p]ardon, the forgiveness of sins." (Ibid., p. 182) However, he clearly

12
distinguished it from sanctification: "[i]t is not the being made actually just and righteous. This
is sanctification .... " (Ibid., p. 181) So, for Wesley, justification is notforensically imputed
righteousness, but neither is it, as in Roman Catholic theology, being made righteous inwardly.
It is the total and complete forgiveness of sins for the sake of Christ and his atoning death on
account of faith alone. Wesley preached that

Faith .. .is the necessary condition of justification. Yea, and the only necessary condition
thereof.... [t]he very moment God giveth faith (for it is the gift of God) to the 'ungodly'
that 'worketh not,' that 'faith is counted to him for righteousness.' He hath no
righteousness at all antecedent to this, not so much as negative righteousness, or
innocence. But 'faith is imputed to him for righteousness' the very moment that he
believeth. Not that God ... thinketh him to be what he is not. But as 'he made Christ to be
sin for us,' that is, treated him as a sinner, punishing him for our sins; so he counteth us
righteous from the time we believe in him. That is, he doth not punish us for our sins,
yea, treats us as though we were guiltless and righteous. (Ibid., p. 188)

How are we to interpret this? Wesley sounds confused. I suggest that what he is saying
is that the righteousness we have in justification on account of faith only and by God's grace
alone is not Christ's righteousness imputed to us but God's considering us as if we were
righteous. That is, in justification God treats us as if we were righteous while knowing we are
not. Wesley was apparently afraid that the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness to
us would lead inevitably to antinomianism. Admittedly, Reformed folks will never be satisfied
with this, but the point is that Wesley affirmed the forgiveness of sins in which we are accounted
righteous by God to be wholly and exclusively a gift. Even faith, he said, is a gift of God and not
a meritorious work. I think Wesley could have affirmed the doctrine of imputed righteousness,
even the imputation of Christ's righteousness, if he had not been so nervous about
antinomianism and if he had not been afraid of implying that God deceives himself about what
we a_ctuall y are. Neither of these things is necessarily attached to the doctrine of Christ's
imputed righteousness.
What about the 191h century Arminian Methodist theologians-Wesley's main
interpreters and the main conveyors of evangelical Arminianism in that century? Were they

13
evangelical in their soteriology? That is, did they remain faithful to the great Reformation truth
of sola gratia et fides? I believe they did. They consistently rejected salvation by works and
human merit as having any role in salvation. Their version of the gospel of Jesus Christ was
genuinely good news-that God loves all people, wants all to be saved, has freely provided
salvation for everyone and requires nothing but faith for salvation.
One of the earliest and most influential 19th century Arminian theologians was Richard
Watson whose Theological Institutes was published in 1851. Another was William Burton Pope
who wrote A Compendium of Christian Theology and who died in 1903. Another was Thomas
0. Summers, author of Systematic Theology: A Complete Body of Wesleyan Arminian Divinity
published in 1888. Finally, there was John Miley who wrote Systematic Theology in 1893.
Together these four represent the cream of the Arminian crop between Wesley and the 20th
century. They largely handed on the Arminian faith to the 201h century. Rather than treat them
one-by-one I would like to select quotes from some of them on the crucial subjects of evangelical
soteriology. They largely agree on these matters; their differences are minor. One area of
disagreement among them is the atonement; some of them believed in the penal substitution
theory, with Wesley himself, and some of them believed in the governmental theory with
Arminius' follower Hugo Grotius. On the major soteriological doctrines, however, they were
largely agreed.
First, then, the necessity of supernatural grace for anything spiritually good in the human
person including even a first inclination toward God. Watson: "It is not denied, that the will, in
its purely natural state, and independent of all grace communicated to man through Christ, can
incline only to evil." (Institutes, Volume JI, p. 438) According to him, even repentance is a gift
of God; sinful men are not capable of repentance. (Ibid., p. 99) Watson emphasized that even
repentance dod' :not save; only the death of Christ saves and restores the lost relationship with
God. (Ibid., p. 102) Finally, Watson writes that "[s]acred is the doctrine to be held, that no
person can repen,t or truly believe except under the influence of the Spirit of God; and that we
have no ground for boasting in ourselves, but that all the glory of our salvation, commenced and
consummated, is to be given to God alone, as the result of the freeness and riches of his grace."
(Ibid., p. 447)
William Burton Pope declared in his Compendium the "inability of man to do what is
good" apart from renewing grace. (Volume JI, pp. 65, 67) Also, "The natural man .. .is without

14
the power even to co-operate with Divine influence. The co-operation with grace is of grace.
Thus it keeps itself for ever safe from Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism." (p. 80) With regard
to grace, Pope wrote that "It is the sole, efficient cause of all spiritual good in man: of the
beginning, continuance, and consummation of religion in the human soul. The manifestation of
Divine influence which precedes the full regenerate life receives no special name in Scripture;
but it is so described as to warrant the designation usually given it of Prevenient Grace." (p. 359)
Also, "[t]he salvation of man is altogether of grace" (p. 361) and "The Grace of God and the
human will are co-operant, but not on equal terms. Grace has the pre-eminence .... " (p. 364)
What about Thomas 0. Summers? He strongly defended the doctrine of inherited total
depravity firmly rejecting Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. According to him, "Apart from
grace the will is bad, because the man's nature is so bad that of himself he cannot choose that
which is right." (Systematic Theology, Volume/, pp. 64-65) Also, "It is impossible for a man in
this [natural] state to will and to do works pleasant and acceptable to God." (Ibid., p. 68) Finally,
he affirmed that "[n]oone can repent or believe without the aid of God's grace .... " (Ibid., p. 120)
Our final 19th century witness to Arminianism' s emphasis on the priority of grace is John
Miley who said of man's "native depravity" ''This is a state of alienage from the true spiritual
life, and utterly without fitness for a state of holy blessedness. Nor have we any power of self-
redemption." (Systematic Theology, p. 529) Miley argued that the power of choice in spiritual
matters is a "gracious endowment" and not a natural capacity and that moral regeneration is
entirely a work of the divine Spirit. (Ibid., p. 305) Only with the help of the Holy Spirit can a
person choose to accept God's mercy.
What about justification and faith? Did the 19th century Arminians believe, like
Arminius and Wesley before them, that justification is entirely a work of grace through faith
without meritorious works? Did they believe righteousness is imputed and not imparted or
infused? Richard Watson affirmed that "Justification by faith alone is ... clearly the doctrine of
the Scriptures." (Theological Institutes, Volume II, p. 246) He also affirmed faith as the sole
condition for justification to the exclusion of virtue or good works (Ibid., p. 253) and taught that
sanctification cannot be a formal cause of justification (Ibid., p. 251 ). As for imputation of
righteousness, Watson claimed the motto "the imputation of faith for righteousness" and
explained it thus: "The Scriptural doctrine is ... that the death of Christ is accepted in the place of
our personal punishment, on condition of our faith in him; and, that when faith in him is actually

15
exerted, then comes in, on the part of God, the act of imputing, or reckoning righteousness to
us." (Ibid., p. 242)
William Burton Pope wrote that "[j]ustification is declaratory and altogether of grace."
(Compendium, Volume II, p. 411) and faith is its sole instrumental cause while Christ's
obedience is its sole meritorious cause. The Holy Spirit is justification's sole efficient cause.
(Ibid., p. 414) About justification he said: "Justification is the Divine judicial act which applies
to the sinner, believing in Christ, the benefit of the Atonement, delivering him from
condemnation of his sin, introducing him into a state of favour, and treating him as a righteous
person .... [i]t is the imputed character of justification which regulates the New Testament use of
the word." (Ibid., p. 407)
Thomas Summers unequivocally affirmed justification by grace through faith alone as
well as justification's declaratory nature and the imputed nature of righteousness. "In
justification we are accounted, accepted-dealt with-as if we were righteous, just as pardoned
culprits, who are not by their pardon made innocent, are dealt with as if they were not criminals."
(Systematic Theology, Volume/, p. 121)
John Miley also affirmed justification by grace through faith alone: "The imputation of
faith for righteousness is ... easily understood. It means simply that faith is accepted [by God] as
the condition of justification or the remission of sin, whereby the believing sinner is set right
with God." (Systematic Theology, Volume/, p. 320) He taught that faith as trust is the only
condition of justification (Ibid., p. 323) and that justification requires no interior moral change
(Ibid., p. 312). According to him, justification is at once complete the moment the believing
sinner exercises faith in Christ-it sets him right with God as if he had never sinned. (Ibid., p.
313)
I could go on and offer similar quotations and arguments from 20th century Arminians
such as H. Orton Wiley, the leading 20th century Nazarene theologian, and Thomas Oden, a
contemporary evangelical Methodist theologian. Time and space prevent it. Suffice it to say,
however, that both teach unequivocally that salvation is a sheer gift of God's grace given apart
from any human merit, received by faith alone resulting in the imputation of righteousness.
So what more do Reformed critics of Arminianism want? First, they want affirmation of
monergistic grace-something they require not because it is clearly taught in Scripture but
because they think it is logically necessary for salvation sofa gratia etfides. Of course, it isn't.

16
Second, they want affirmation of justification as the imputation of Christ's active and passive
obedience to the sinner. Arminians have been reluctant to offer that because it is not specifically
taught in Scripture and because it could easily result in antinomianism. Finally, Calvinists want
a clear and unequivocal affirmation of the simul Justus et peccator-something many Arminians
are reluctant to offer because it implies a static salvation that ignores the transforming power of
the Holy Spirit in sanctification. Arminians affirm everything necessary for a fully evangelical
soteriology; Calvinists require more. Why? One wonders if it is because they are over reacting
to the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation that includes salvation by means of human merit and
confuses justification with sanctification? I suspect that is the case. But it is always wrong to
over react and the Calvinist over reaction of strict monergism suffers a fate as bad or worse than
its opposite. It makes salvation a mechanical process in which those being saved are puppets
rather than free partners in a relationship.

17
Investigative Judgment and
The Assurance of Salvation

By Woodrow W. Whidden
Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies
Silang, Cavite, the Philippines

"These Things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you
may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of
the Son of God" ( I John 5: 13)

Introduction

The Seventh-day Adventist reactions to the issue of the believer's personal

assurance of salvation definitely unfolds in the setting of the Wesleyan/Arminian,

synergistic tradition. The gist of this includes what Wesleyan Scholar Randy Maddox

refers to as the dynamics of "responsible grace."i This explanatory concept emerges out

of a marked involvement with sanctifying and perfecting grace. Thus one who is living

the privileged life of victory over temptation and sin, through the grace of Christ, will not

only demonstrate moral "responsibility," but their characters will also feature the spiritual

goal of living "responsively" to the calling, convicting, converting, justifying, and

perfecting graces of Christ. What ever grace that God has on offer, they will manifest

patterns of responsiveness to it.

Now for many "evangelical Arminians" (be they Wesleyans, Pentecostals, or

Seventh-day Adventists) such a vision of Christian discipleship is challenging enough.

But Seventh-day Adventists have felt called (from their Bible study) to ramp up the issue

with some very challenging, even sobering eschatological factors. The foremost of these

is the doctrine of the Pre-Advent Investigative Judgment, which is chronologically

followed by an apocalyptic period featuring "times of trouble" and an irreversible "close


of probation" when every human case will be finally settled, "once and for all" for either

eternal salvation or damnation. Thus the final settlement of every person's eternal destiny

will then be decidedly revealed at the Second Coming of Jesus.

In some sense, this lush eschatological judgment sequence was largely the product

of a significant number of perfectionistic Methodists (including Ellen White) who

happened to wander onto a Millerite camp ground and would eventually fuse their

soteriology with major portions of Miller's Adventist eschatology! But that is history.

What we are now mainly concerned with in this presentation is personal salvation and the

possibility of living a Christian life which emerges from a fruitful, assured relationship

with Jesus as Savior and Lord. And the pressing, practical question is this: can there be

any genuine assurance of salvation when the eschatological stakes seem so imposing,

even down-right scarry?

The answer given by traditional, Bible-believing Seventh-day Adventists,

formatively tutored by the writings of Ellen G. White, is that it is indeed possible to live

with a balanced sense of saving assurance, received through faith in Christ, and still be a

fervent believer who endures through the crises of the impending Investigative Judgment,

the definitive, collective close of human probation, a great "time of trouble" (Daniel 12:

1, 2), and still savingly persevere through it all to meet Jesus in peace at His eternally

decisive, glorious Second Coming.

While I do not want to spend much time proving the Adventist eschatological

sequence from the Scriptures, I do challenge any Bible-believing Christian to give the

themes of the investigative judgment, the last-day "times of trouble," the close of human

probation, and the literal, visible, pre-millennial Second Coming some serious, sustained

2
attention. And I think you will be pleasantly surprised about how comprehensive the

Biblical evidence for these teachings is.

Furthermore, some sober reflection will reveal the following factors that all

evangelicals (who do not console themselves with fanciful "second chance" theories)

need to face up to. Basically, these factors go like this: The "close of probation" and the

Second Coming effectively arrive for each person at least by the time they reach the

moment of death at the end of this earthly life. Thus, in some very practical sense, when

the moment of death envelopes each human being, that is when each person's

possibilities for preparation for everlasting life with Jesus effectively end (to be blunt,

death closes each person's probationary opportunities for salvation). Thus untold

hundreds, possibly thousands of professing Christians are meeting their personal "close

of probation" daily, right here, right now, in this time, on this very planet called "Earth."

And for those who die in the Lord, the next conscious moments will be to behold Jesus at

His Second Coming.

But even if this sobering truth is acknowledged, I must admit that the full force of

the SDA eschatological scenario does have a certain fear factor that can quite easily "out-

sober" the simple, familiar prospects of a death experience which becomes the de facto,

normally anticipated end to this life. And thus it is incumbent on those of us who believe

in such a sobering Adventist eschatological scenario to render a credible account as to

how any believer can experience a reasonable assurance of ultimate salvation when faced

with the terrors of the "End-Times" (Adventist style).

Furthermore, it also seems that eschatologically conditioned Adventists should be

able to demonstrate that such an experience can be the privilege of all believers, whether

3
they emerge from the grave in the "first resurrection," during the events of the Second

Coming, or come safely through the most recent challenging discourses on perfecting

grace, the realities of the "Time of Trouble," and the "close of probation" (when the Pre-

Advent Investigative Judgment effectively ends).

Thus the key question is this: Is it truly possible for such saints to have the stable

assurance that they will finally stand forth, effectively numbered with the redeemed of all

ages before the "King of Kings" as He renders to each and every human being the reality

of their respective judgments? And there are only two alternative, either everlasting life

for the saved or frightful retribution for the lost? We think that it is possible to stand in

that day assuredly redeemed. But before we begin to present the case for the genuine

assurance of salvation for the eschatologically conditioned believer, we need to drop back

and seek a bit of perspective from the longer Christian tradition on the very practical

issues of Christian assurance.

Securitas, Desperatio, and Certitudoii

Over the last two thousand years of Christian reflection, there has emerged a

rather clear pattern of teaching regarding the dynamics tensions which have normally

played out in the collective Christian search for saving assurance. Such tensions normally

emerge between the extreme solutions called securitas and deperatio. Both of these have

been seen as dangerous.

The former condition, securitas, has been used to describe those who think they

are assuredly saved, but who are in fact self-deceived. These are the Christians who have

tended to attitudes of presuming on the grace of Christ and have fallen for the self-

deceptions associated with "cheap grace," indulging in all sorts of excuses for sinful life-

4
styles. And the long tradition of pastoral admonition has warned such believers that they

are playing loose and fast with grace as they tread dangerously close to the very brink of

damnation. Such a heady concoction is no true elixir for those seeking the genuine article

of assurance. And it has long been the Arminain suspicion that the Reformed

preoccupation with assurance has de facto (in its teachings) toyed with this attractive

brew for way too long.

But many of the Augustinian/Reformed partisans in this long history of

admonition have tended to see the dangers of desperatio as the greater contributor to a

lack of Christian assurance. Desperatio refers to the condition of either creeping or utter

despair when Christians have reached the point where their personal salvation seems

impossible. This often results because of perceived failures to live a life of victory over

temptation and sin. And thus it comes as no surprise that the Augustinian/Reformed

advocates have leveled the charge that Arminian teachings (that salvation can truly be

lost) is the greatest contributor to the evils of desperatio! In other words, they have

claimed that unless one accepts their version of salvation (as the fruit of an irresistible

grace that cannot be lost), there is no real antidote for Christian despair. Thus they claim

that their version of assurance is the only viable alternative which can lead to genuine

certitudo.

So who has the better part of the argument when it comes to the attainment of the

alleged "golden mean" of certitudo (a balanced experience which effectively avoids both

cheap grace and deadening despair)? Contra the Reformed Calvinists, we would humbly

stake out the claim that the Arminian/Wesleyan solution contains the best theological and

practical path to the "golden mean" of the genuine article of Christian assurance---the

5
certitudo of "free grace." It can also be identified with the larger, or longer Christian

tradition of the freely chosen patterns of "responsible grace"! And what follows attempts

to lay out the details of this dynamic path to the assurance of salvation, an assurance that

can even surmount the rigorous terrors of a Pre-Advent Investigative Judgment and the

frightful scenarios of earthly history's last great apocalyptic crisis---Adventist style!

The Gracious Resources for Genuine Certitudo

The A Priori Category

The rich resources of God's redeeming power have been manifested in two

important categories of grace. The first has to do with what has been called the a priori of

God's provisions for salvation. Such factors include not only God's irrepressible love for

sinners, but also all that His loving grace has generated in the provisions of the atonement

of Christ. In the Incarnate life, death, resurrection, ascension, and priestly intercessions of

Christ, all that needed to be done to save the entire human race has been done!

Furthermore, the a priori of Divine grace includes all that God has been doing

and is still doing to effectively communicate the saving provisions of Christ's work to all

who will respond to His gracious offer of redemption. And these communicating factors

include the calling, awakening, or convincing power of the Spirit (Prevenient Grace),

converting, regenerating (Repentance and New Birthing Grace), justifying (Forgiving

Grace), transforming (Sanctifying and Perfecting Grace), equipping (Spiritual Gifting)

and glorifying grace (the Gift of Immortality at the Second Coming). And when any

believer begins to reflectively ponder the wonders of these a priori privileges, one

wonders how anyone could ever be lost!

6
Now we will reflect further on which of these graces are the most relevant to

genuine certitudo assurance. But suffice it to say at this juncture that all of these factors

have inherently essential contributions to make to the genuine article of assurance. Yet

what is surprising, is that there is a significant unanimity between the Reformed and

Arminian versions of these assuring a priori factors of grace.

But the unanimity is not complete and where the real differences emerge have to

do with the very nature of God's love and the role that sanctification plays in the life of

the assured Christian. One other factor which undergirds this whole saving sequence is

the shared evangelical conviction that all are totally depraved by their experience with sin

and nothing but God's grace can redeem and grant the assurance that Salvation is real and

possible. But again, it must be emphasized that the really controversial factors center on

how God's love is understood and how optimistic believers should be about the ability of

transforming grace to really and truly free from the power of sin in the redeemed life

before glorification.

With regards to God's love, the key contrasting perspectives revolve around

whether love divine is persuasive and yet resistible (the Arminian position) or whether it

is both limited to and only administered irresistibly to a select group called the "Elect" or

the "predestined" (the Augustinian/Reformed position). On the second factor, regarding

the effectiveness of sanctifying or transforming grace, the Reformed position has always

been wary of most perfection emphases. In some marked contrast, Arminians have

normally been more optimistic about what God's grace can do (this side of glorification)

to make loving obedience a cardinal characteristic of the assuredly redeemed.

7
Now we will later have more to say about these key, controverted components of

saving grace when we discuss the key factors which contribute to a genuine certitudo of

Christian assurance. And such differences will make a significant contribution to our case

that the Anninian way of salvation is inherently more efficacious than the Reformed

version when it comes to any experience of balanced, effectual certitudo assurance of

salvation. But before we return to those factors, there is one other major set of graced

components which factor into any legitimate experience of Christian assurance. And

these are what have been called the a posteriori factors.

The A Posteriori Category

This category of grace includes such factors as the direct "witness of the Spirit

with our Spirit" (Rom 8: 16) that we are God's adopted child of grace. This is a grace

which emerges during conversion and afterward where believers sense that God is

directly speaking to their "spirits" (minds) that they are a child of God. This is a grace

which is very closely akin the believer's experience with the Spirit's illumination of the

Word of God so that they can not only understand the great plan of salvation, but receive

the studied conviction that this plan is destined to include each individual believer as a

beneficiary of the great redemption plan. Without such a deeply personalized conviction

that the truths of the bible are intended for each and every one of us, the plan of salvation

will be merely a doctrinal wonder that we can only contemplate, but never truly

expenence.

Now this aspect of saving experience has been technically called by both

Reformed and Arminian believers the syllogismus mysticus. This rather clumsy sounding

Latin expression simply means that any individual believer can actually, in a deeply
mystical way, perceive that the Spirit of God has spoken to him/her directly that they are

personally a child of God. The language of syllogism has reference to the fact that each

person can logically conclude from their experience that they have been personally, and

redemptively communicated with through the deep convictions and comforts of the Holy

Spirit.

Now very closely related to this is a second a posteriori experience called the

syllogismus practicus. Once again, this technical language has reference to the more

practical manifestations of the "fruit of the Spirit" in the life of the believer. This factor is

probably the one that is more familiar to Seventh-day Adventist Arminians. Simply

stated, if one has experienced a personal rooting of faith in Christ, the Bible assures them

that the "fruit of the Spirit" will not be lagging too far behind in the life of saving faith.

Put another way, if any believer does not actually manifest the "fruit of faith," it is pretty

good evidence that the "root of faith" is rotten at its core and is not the genuine article.

Such "fruit" would include a whole array of spiritual phenomena. These normally

include ethical consistency, attitudes of gratefulness to God for His mercy, patience with

the foibles of others, an attitude of penitence and Christian humility as the normal daily

"meat and drink" of the converted disciple of Christ, a love for the study of the Scripture,

the place of prayer, attendance at corporate worship, zeal for Christian service and a

desire to contemplate and converse on matters having to do Christ and eternity (to name a

few of the most important practical "fruit" of life in the Spirit and Grace of Christ).

Implications of the A Priori and the A Posteriori Factors

Now what is really interesting is that both the Arminians and the Reformed

believers and writers have all agreed that these factors, both the a priori and the a

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posteriori factors are absolutely necessary for anyone to experience genuine conversion

to Christ and receive the gift of the assurance of salvation (the coveted certitudo ).

Both the Reformed and the Arminian partisans agree that all of the graces of

Christ must be factored into any genuine experience of Christ. Without the a priori

provisions of salvation being effectively communicated to the believer, there will be no

real saving union with Christ by faith and no real chance of the blessing of genuine

assurance.

Furthermore, there is general agreement that without the a posteriori experiential

implications of the workings of God's grace in the life, there will be no deep personal

realization that any believer can know that they have actually become a called, converted

child of the King of grace! And these a posteriori factors include both the "mystical"

(syllogismus mysticus) and the "practical" (syllogismus practicus) experiences of grace. If

these factors are not abundantly apparent, no believer can have any viable, effective

evidence that they are a believer (in the Arminian sense), or among the predestined

"elect" (in the more Reformed or Calvinistic sense). So what can we conclude about

these factors and Christian experience?

The key issue at stake in this reflection is to simply make the point that all

believers are dependent on not just the a priori factors, but also on the full panoply of the

a posteriori factors in the experience of saving assurance. Thus it is safe to conclude that

there are really no discernible advantages which are the unique privileges of the

Reformed/Calvinistic believer. Once more we must make the point that the only major

differences between the Reformed and the Arminian experience of assurance do, in actual

fact, orbit around the a priori of how any believer understands God's love (is it

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persistently persuasive or is it irresistible?). Therefore both camps are in the same

evidential boat when it comes to the manner in which the possibilities of transforming

grace can contribute to either the assurance of salvation or the lack thereof.

And thus we have arrived at one more interesting and informative bottom line

regarding any supposed assurance advantages claimed by the Calvinists: if God's grace is

irresistible, how can anyone know that they are inevitably going to be found among the

elect, especially when it is patently apparent that no person is specifically prophesied (in

either the bible or any other inspired documents that I am aware of) to be irresistibly

placed among the elect! And why is this so? Simply because no such prophecy exists!

And with these simple facts in hand, there is really only one obvious conclusion---

Reformed Calvinists do not have any real advantage(s) when it comes to their ability to

detect whether they are among the chosen elect of God or not. And thus they are also

practically obliged to search out the powerful factors inherent in the a priori factors of

God's gracious provisions (and His ability to communicate them). Furthermore, they

also, along with their fellow Arminian pilgrims, must search the contours of their

personal experience of grace for any evidence of the a posteriori blessings that they are

evidently and assuredly saved.

Once more we enquire: Do the Reformed Calvinists truly possess any inherent

advantages when it comes to their claim of the assuring comforts of the irresistible

election teaching and their proclaimed privileges of irremissible perseverance (their

salvation cannot be lost-thus "once saved always saved")? We think not!

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Other Complicating Factors of Christian Experience

Now that both Reformed and Arminian partisans have all been consigned to the

task of searching out the contours of any personal experience of salvation, there are a few

other practical matters which all Christians need to keep in mind regarding the search for

assurance. And such matters are usually associated with common experience of what

earlier Christians referred to as lucta. This phenomenon includes the wrestling that often

transpires in the soul between the forces of the good and evil. And often these battles

become very intense. And in the heat of such struggles it can be easily concluded that

such exposed weaknesses mean that we are not really saved! This is especially troubling

to those who naturally struggle with depression, especially when they are called upon to

endure periods when the "witness of the Spirit" is not speaking all that emphatically or

clearly.

One other relevant factor that must be mentioned is the teaching of John Calvin

called "temporary faith" which can easily lead to despair.iii As Stanglin points out, "the

reason that the category of temporary faith undermines assurance is the great

correspondence between true and temporary faith. ,,iv Can a Calvinist really believe that

such could be true? In fact this is readily admitted by them, especially when persons who

claim to be saved are not looking or acting all that Christ-like. And once again, the

common experience of both Calvinists and Arminians become quite apparent, leading to

the obvious conclusion that both camps must come up with filtering factors by which

they can discern between the true and false (or "temporary faith") in Christian salvation

experience.

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So what can we practically conclude at this juncture? It seems that the key issues

between Calvinists and Arminians regarding the assurance of salvation come down to the

issue of who has the better theology of God's love. This is especially relevant when it

comes to God's loving ways in election and predestination and His power to forgive and

transform. Practically speaking, evangelical, bible-believing Calvinists and Arminians are

very similar in their views on forgiving and justifying grace for true believers. But as

already mentioned, their respective views on election and sanctification do manifest

significant variances. What are we to make of these factors. First we will turn to the

issues of election and perseverance.

Election, "Once Saved Always Saved" and Assurance

Some Preliminary Observations on Irresistible Election

While the issue of perseverance (once saved always saved versus the teaching that

believers can lose their salvation) has been the most controversial issue, we must first

share some preliminary observations on the issue of "irresistible election" and how it

informs the issue of the personal assurance of salvation. And even though most

contemporary Reformed/Calvinist Christians resist the idea of irresistible election, the

issue remains pertinent to a significant nu..1;.bcr of Reformed Christians who still

emphasize that election is irresistible. And while they claim that such irresistible grace is

a great boon to assurance, the real facts are that the stakes for any ultimate realization of

the assurance of salvation must be greatly reduced. And why, the reader may ask, does

such seem to be the case?

Actually, the answer is very simple: If the vast majority of sinners are irresistibly

predestined to be damned, this immediately and significantly reduces the "pool" of

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possible candidates for election to salvation, which is normally deemed to be but a small

remnant anyway.v And when this concept is contrasted with the Arminian view, the

results are quite instructive.

Since the Arminian view claims that the benefits of the "atonement" of Christ

have always been intended to potentially save all sinners, it then becomes abundantly

clear as to which teaching is inherently more optimistic about the possibility of a greater

number of sinners being assuredly saved. In fact, it is safe to say that the classic

Calvinistic doctrine, which teaches a great restrictedness in the number of possible

persons who will be irresistibly elected, is thereby simply more inherently negative about

the possibility of salvation for the many. vi

To put it as bluntly as it can be stated: If the pool of candidates for salvation is

already quite small, then the chances of anyone being among the elect, with its alleged

assurances of salvation, are also proportionally quite minimal---to say the least!

Therefore, even though Arminians also admit to a small pool of souls who will ultimately

receive salvation, they at least teach that every sinner has a chance of ending up in the

"saving pool" of the redeemed elect! And this is simply due to the fact that Arminians

understand the Bible to teach that the choice of salvation is ultimately contingent on the

decisions of every individual person, not some secret decision made unilaterally by God.

I simply ask the reader: Is there or is there not an obvious contrast between the

Arminian and the Calvinist positions, especially when the latter teaches that the decision

for salvation and damnation is totally and irresistibly determined by the inscrutable

wisdom of God? If your answer is affirmative, then it seems quite obvious that the

Arminian believer will be much less prone to worry about reduced statistical chances or

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even arbitrary rejection (the Calvinists call it "reprobation") since he/she is convinced

that God desires, even longs for all persons to be saved.

Therefore, the Anninian believers should then simply be more optimistic about

their chances to receive not only salvation, but also the assurance that such a great

salvation (offered on such a universal scale) will prove so alluringly desirable that the

saved will be loathed to carelessly mishandle such a precious gift! We therefore suggest

that Anninian believers should logically be the most assured Christians in the world!

Once more, let's keep in mind that a significant majority of modern

Reformed/Calvinists have given up on the classic doctrine of irresistible election and also

want to say, in good Anninian fashion, that all sinners can be saved. But they then

continue on to offer the important qualification that the ones who do respond to God's

universal offer will suddenly find themselves in His irresistible, saving clutches once they

say yes! In other words, once God lovingly "hooks" any responsive sinner, that person is

in the Gospel boat to stay (whether they want to stay or not)!

The question then immediately presents itself: Why would God respect any

believer's freely chosen decision to be initially saved, but then immediately deny them

the option of voluntarily choosing to leave His "loving" embrace? With this rather

searching question, it only seems logical to make a further enquiry. What is it then that is

truly at the heart of the "Once Saved, Always Saved" concept?

The Basic Rationale of the "Once Saved, Always Saved" Doctrine

At the risk of some repetition, all participants in the debates over Christian

assurance need to be very clear as to the basic rationale which undergirds the thinking of

the "once saved always saved" position. What its partisans boldly, even confidently assert

15
is that God simply will not allow those who have responded to his call to salvation to slip

away from His grasp. Thus the Lord providentially makes it impossible for any of his

initially responsive children, being defined as those who have accepted Him as their

Savior, to fall away from their saving relationship with Him. This forceful retention of

the saved has been represented by two basic versions that have received wide spread

popular acclaim.

The first version teaches something to the effect that God will so forcefully hem

in or surround the responsive believers with compelling, saving influences that they will

find it impossible to "back-slide." Thus they simply will not, since they effectively

cannot, renege on their salvation commitment to the Lord. Moreover, if any alleged

believer should begin to stray from their saving relationship with God, the Holy Trinity

will either irresistibly protect them from any temptation to apostasy, or "chastise" them

with a chain of providential circumstances so as to discourage any ultimate slippage away

from their assured status among the redeemed.

But what about those alleged believers who give the appearance of losing their

salvation or "back-sliding" away from the Lord's irrevocable embrace? This question

points to the most common explanation, which is effectively the second popular version

of irresistible perseverance. What this version claims is that such believers were never

really or truly saved in the first place. A good example of this conceptual claim has been

articulated by influential, contemporary Reformed theologian Millard J. Erickson.

Erickson begins by clearly affirming "once saved always saved:" "The practical

implication of our understanding of the doctrine of perseverance is that believers can rest

secure in the assurance that their salvation is permanent; nothing can separate them from

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the love of God. Thus they can rejoice in the prospect of eternal life. There need be no

anxiety that something or someone will keep them from attaining the final blessedness

that they have been promised and have come to expect."

But not surprisingly, Erickson then feels the need to face up to the nettlesome

issue of the commonly manifested attitudes of sinful presumption which so often

accompany the idea that such a salvation is so secure that it cannot be lost: "On the other

hand, however, our understanding of the doctrine of perseverance allows no room for

indolence or laxity. It is questionable whether anyone who reasons, 'Now that I am a

Christian, I can live as I please.' has really been converted and regenerated' (emphasis

supplied by Whidden, not Erickson). vii In other words, if someone manifests persistent

evidence of apostasy, that person was simply never truly converted in the first place! And

with these interesting conclusions, Erickson has summarily made the argument almost

impossible to deal with at any truly coherent, practical level. What is to be made of such

logic?

An Arminian Response

First of all, it must be admitted, even from the Arminian perspective (which says

that salvation can be lost), that it could well be true that there are believers whose

tendency towards apostasy suggests that they were never genuinely converted in the first

place. Jesus' parable of the sower clearly suggests that there are "believers" who are

"way-side," "rocky" or "thorny" ground types of professed Christians whose faith lacks

lasting, depth rootage. Furthermore, these wavering souls can ultimately give way to the

cares of evil influences which normally plague their salvation pilgrimage (Luke 8: 11-

15).
But the line of argument mounted by the Calvinists attempts to deny the

possibility of apostasy. And such a denial simply begs the question as to whether any

given believer can be genuinely converted, and then either heedlessly wander away by

careless neglect or be led away by strong temptations and go on to openly renounce the

saving power of God in their lives. After all, Jesus did plainly say that the great

Adversary works in such a way as to snatch the "word out of their hearts, lest they

believe and be saved" (v. 13).

Furthermore, many Reformed teachers conveniently ignore the fact that our Lord

also made the highly suggestive point that a person can "believe and be saved"!! And

finally, the context explicitly says that the seed which fell "on the rocks" did "receive the

word with joy" and "for a while" did "believe"---strongly implying that their belief did

effectually save them, if only temporarily.

Now if Jesus' teaching about "believing" and being "saved" has any merit, the

question then becomes: Does such an experience of belief, which ultimately fails or

languishes, prove to be no belief at all? Or were Jesus' "rocky" variety of believers

simply mentioned in order to put forward a sensible, cautionary warning to all Christians

to be watchful lest they carelessly fall into such "rocky" circumstances? For the Calvinist

teachers (such as Erickson) the answer is that they were never saved in the first place!

For the Arminian interpreters, however, it seems obvious that such struggling

believers could have been truly saved, but just proved not to be vigilant enough in their

walk with Jesus. Thus such a lack of vigilance is not inevitably caused by some secret

will of the electing God, but is simply due to a lack of attentiveness on the part of the

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careless believers who have the distinct possibility of finding healing for the their "back-

sliding" ways.

So what about the believer who is at the stage of personal experience where

his/her faith enters the stormy waters of intense struggle (the previously mentioned

lucta-literally wrestling with or battling "the world, the flesh and the Devil") and has

not yet achieved the fuller or richer, settled trust of a persevering "Child" of God? Should

such persons be told that they were never saved in the first place? From an Arminian

perspective, this approach is incomprehensible and such believers should be given the

benefit of the doubt and then be strongly encouraged to look again to the Lord in faith for

the healing of their propensity to backslide and ultimately fall away.

Thus we are once again back to the issue of who has the better response, the

Arminian or the Calvinists? Put another way, it seems patently obvious that both the

Calvinists and the Arminians need to be able to effectively discern the marks or

evidences of their election to salvation if they are to be blessed with the gracious article

of genuine assurance!

Effectively, we are again faced with the very basic issues of the previous

consideration in this paper regarding the biblical teaching of the illuminating power of

the Spirit (the "witness of the Spirit") and its work of witness with our own spirit that we

do have the evidences of election. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the

avowedly Calvinistic Erickson immediately makes this point: "Genuine faith issues

(manifests itself) ... in the fruit of the Spirit. Assurance of salvation, the subjective

conviction that one is a Christian, results from the Holy Spirit's giving evidence that He

is at work in the life of the individual. The Spirit's work results in conviction on biblical

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grounds that God will enable the Christian to persist in that relationship---that nothing

can separate the true believer from God's love."viii

Therefore, in the light of these considerations, the comments of Jerry Moon seem

to be abundantly justified when he claims that the "doctrine of 'once saved, always

saved,' is simply a theoretical guarantee of eternal security, not an actual guarantee, since

in that theological system (Reformed/Calvinistic), one cannot infallibly know that one

was 'once saved."'ix And once more, we are reminded of the common privileges and

challenges of all (both Calvinist and Arminian) who would be united to Christ by a

saving faith which justifies, sanctifies, and assures. Moreover, an important aspect of

such privileges is that the Spirit of God will not leave any believer bereft of the

illuminating power of the Spirit's direct "Witness" and its more indirect working which

sparks the "witness of our own spirit"!

Who Has the Better Biblical Evidence on Perseverance?

Now the question might be raised, at this juncture in the discussion, as to why I

have not engaged in an extended discussion regarding the Bible evidences for or against

the respective claims of the Calvinist and the Arminian positions as to whether salvation

can be lost or not? And the reply is simply this: if what has been suggested in the

previous paragraphs is true, then that whole discussion is, for the ultimate purposes of

this presentation, made somewhat moot. But a few sample comments about the respective

strengths and weaknesses of the biblical evidence adduced for the leading interpretive

positions of both schools would provide some helpful background.x Though not

exhaustive, the following arguments are quite representative of each position.

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The Calvinistic Evidence and an Arminian Response

The key evidence, commonly put forth by Calvinists, revolves around such verses

as John 10: 27-29: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out

of My Father's hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no

one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand."

The typical Calvinist interpretation of these verses is to conclude that since "no

one is able to snatch them out of' the "Father's hand," then believers are eternally secure

against apostasy. The Arminian response normally unfolds along the following lines:

It may be true that no other being in the universe can ultimately cause someone to

lose their salvation, but this does not apply to the actual believer who can very much

decide to ignore the saving graces that placed him/her into the saving hand of the Father

in the first place! Is God's Fatherly love such that He forces them to stay with Him

against their will? For the Arminian, the answer seems patently obvious or we tum God

into some deterministic overlord of the universe. Such an interpretation as the Calvinists

normally give to this text seems more typical of the brutish love of a "cave man" who

sallies forth to find a lover and promptly hits the "elected one" over the head and drags

her into his "loving" lair! Carl Bangs is quite correct when he claimed that Arminius's

objective in refuting the Calvinist claims was to present "a theology of grace which does

not leave man" to be reduced to the status of a "'stock or a stone."' For Arminius and all

Arminians, "grace is not a force; it is a Person" who lovingly draws sinners to embrace

His saving love. xi

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One is reluctant to sound so dismissive of the Calvinistic position, but many other

similar treatments of various verses could also be adduced. When, however, they are all

assessed and the arguments weighed out, one is repeatedly reminded of the sign that was

hung outside of the old blacksmith shops ofyesteryear---"All sorts of fancy twisting and

turnings done here"! We are not here suggesting that the Calvinistic position is totally

devoid of evidence and we do acknowledge that some of their arguments involve a

certain type of persuasiveness. But they ultimately seem to be largely based on a type of

logic which has to assume some sort of deterministic, irresistible presuppositions. And

such presuppositions just seem to distort the overall biblical portrait of God as a Savior

Who employs persuasive love, not forced affection borne of an intensely, controlling

determinism.

Another common argument featured in the Calvinistic case is their use of logical

conclusions drawn from parallelism. Robert Shank spotlights this argument, including the

commonly used reasons employed in its support, and then offers the following critique:

"A popular and serious error is the assumption that an equation somehow exists

between physical birth and spiritual birth: whatever is intrinsic in physical birth is equally

intrinsic in spiritual birth; whatever may be predicated of one may likewise be predicated

of the other. Laboring under such erroneous assumption(s), many have concluded that

spiritual birth, like physical birth, is necessarily irrevocable. 'If one has been born,' they

ask, 'how can he possibly become unborn?' 'I may be a wayward, disobedient son,' say

they, 'but I must forever remain my father's own son.' In defense of what seems to them

to be an obviously logical conclusion, they have proceeded in good conscience to impose

22
unwarranted and fanciful interpretations upon many simple discourses in the New

Testament. After all, the Scriptures must agree!"xii

Shank then proceeds to outline "three essential differences between physical and

spiritual birth: "1. Physical birth effects the inception of the life of the subject in toto,

whereas spiritual life involves only a transition from one mode oflife to another." "2. In

physical birth, the subject has no prior knowledge and gives no consent, whereas in

spiritual birth, the subject must have a prior knowledge of the Gospel and must give

consent." "3. In physical birth, the individual receives a life independent of his parents.

They may die, but he lives on. But in spiritual birth, the subject receives no independent

life ... In view of obvious essential differences, it cannot be considered strange that

spiritual birth, unlike physical birth, is not irrevocable ... Physical birth and spiritual

birth are equally real, but essentially different. While an analogy exists between the two,

there is no equation whatever."xiii

The Arrninian Evidence for Conditional Perseverance

The main biblical evidences invoked by the Arminian position are the following.

The strength of the Arminian interpretation of their key passages is that these proof texts

so obviously suggest the possibility or even the historical reality of spiritual apostasy for

genuine believers. For instance, the parable or illustration of the Vine and the Branches,

found in John 15: 1-11, exhibits abundant evidence that a well connected "branch" (the

believer), attached to the "vine" (Christ), can be cut away and burned up. This is simply

very strong evidence that those who were once entwined with Christ can be cut away and

lost forever.

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In addition to the teachings of Jesus, there are numerous other warnings regarding

the possibility of apostasy in Scripture. Here one immediately thinks of 2 Peter 2 where

the inspired apostle speaks of those who "have escaped the pollutions of the world

through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" and "are again entangled in

them and overcome;" and then the inspired apostle adds that "the latter end is worse for

them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the

way of righteousness, than having known it, to tum from the holy commandment

delivered to them" (vs. 20, 21). Paul writes to Timothy urging him to "wage the good

warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the

faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, who I delivered

to Satan that they learn not to blaspheme" (1 Timothy 1: 18-20).

One of the most explicit passages regarding the possibility of apostasy comes

from the words of Jesus in His letter to the church at Sardis: "He who overcomes shall be

clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I

will confess his name before My Father and before His Angels' (Revelation 3:5). Jon

Paulien' s succinct comments speak right to the point at issue: "It seems clear from this

text that Jesus didn't believe in the popular version of' once saved always saved.'

Remaining in the book of life is the result of an ongoing process of 'overcoming' (a

Greek participle in the present tense). Thus remaining in the book of life rests on [a]

continuing relationship with Jesus, not some arbitrary decree on God's part. While our

works are never the basis for our salvation, good works are the ongoing evidence that

people are saved (Rev. 19:7, 8). Righteous deeds are the garments of salvation. The

promise that God gives to those who continue to overcome---that He will not blot their

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names out of the book of life---is a warning to all Christians who think that mere

profession or church attendance will be sufficient to ensure their salvation."xiv

The final exhibits for the Arminian case are the sad histories of both the original

arch-Apostate of all apostates, including Lucifer, his fellow fallen angels, and Adam and

Eve the first humans who fell into sin. What are we to make of the "falls" of these once

perfect beings?

Lucifer was the highest of all created beings in the universe and somehow became

the Devil and Satan (Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14, and Revelation 12). I simply ask the reader

this question: can anyone really believe that the loving Triune God created Lucifer and

his rebellious angelic compatriots with the specific intention for them to morph into the

beings we refer to as Demons and Devils? The answer to this question appears so obvious

as to not even merit a reply! Thus if the highest of all the created beings in the universe

could be subject to the possibility of apostasy (and even go on to experience the actual

reality of it in the very presence of the loving Glory of the Triune God), who is to say that

sinful human believers would be exempt from the same possibility?

The case of Adam and Eve is very similar. In their sinless state in Eden, can we

say that they began life in a "saved" condition? It seems that it is perfectly safe to say,

that in a special sense, they started life by being initially saved from the death-dealing

blood-lust of Lucifer and his fellow fallen Angels. And God did this by protecting them

from Satan's power and warning them about his presence at the tree of the knowledge of

good and evil. But God did not irresistibly guarantee them safety from the temptations of

the Devil. They, like us, though we were born sinful and fallen, needed to take heed to

25
the warnings and instructions of God's grace and trust in His verbal warnings and

instructions regarding the demonic dangers which lurked in Eden.

Now if it was possible for the sinless Adam and Eve to fall from their state of

sinless grace (which was given to them and retained on condition that they exercise a

protecting faith in God's gracious warnings and guidance), who is to say that it is

somehow impossible for saved sinners to fall from their state of favor with God? To state

it more directly: would this be fair of God to give an iron-clad guarantee to lost sinners

saved by grace, but not grant the same gift to the sinless and unfallen Lucifer, one third of

the heavenly angels, and Adam and Eve?

It was these Scriptural passages and stories, along with many others that could be

cited, which finally convinced the once committed, arch-Calvinist Baptist theologian

Clark Pinnock to give up on the teaching of irresistible perseverance ("once saved,

always saved") and embrace conditional perseverance. During the 1970s, while teaching

at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in northern Illinois (USA), he tells how the

doctrine of irresistible perseverance began to crumble in his mind. His loss of conviction

regarding "once saved always saved" transpired while he was engaged in sustained

reflection on the Biblical evidence, especially the witness of the New Testament Book of

Hebrews:

"If in fact believers enjoy the kind of absolute security Calvinism had taught me

they do, I found I could not make very good sense of the vigorous exhortations to

persevere (e.g., Hebrews 3: 12) or the awesome warnings not to fall away from Christ

(e.g., Hebrews 10: 26), which the book addresses to Christians."xv Pinnock then goes on

26
to tell how he began to conceive of an alternative version of perseverance that was more

attuned to the larger narrative of God's dynamic way of salvation:

"It began to dawn on me that my security in God was linked to my faith-union

with Christ and that God is teaching us here the extreme importance of maintaining and

not forsaking this relationship. The exhortations and the warnings could only signify that

continuing in the grace of God was something that depended at least in part on the human

partner. And once I saw that, the logic of Calvinism was broken in principle, and it was

only a matter of time before the larger implications of its breaking would dawn on me.

The thread was pulled, and the garment must begin to unravel, as indeed it did.

"What had dawned on me was what I had known experientially all along in my

walk with the Lord, that there is a profound mutuality in our dealings with God ... For

the first time, I realized theologically that the dimension of reciprocity and conditionality

had to be brought into the picture of God's relations with us in creation and redemption

and that, once it is brought in, the theological landscape would have to change

significantly. The determinist model cannot survive once a person starts down this

road."xvi

Some Final Considerations on Perseveranre

I want to gently affirm that Pinnock has touched on a very important principle of

the assurance of salvation when he claimed that his "security in God was linked to" his

"faith-union with Christ ... and the extreme importance of maintaining and not forsaking

this relationship." Does not the Bible and our own personal history of faith in Christ

resonate with this important principle?


As I have reflected over these issues, the concept has gradually evolved in my

own ruminations that our beloved Calvinistic brothers and sisters, in their longing for a

secure relationship to Christ, have over-emphasized the importance of the moment of

redemption. And this imbalanced emphasis has inevitably led to the neglect of salvation's

long-term relational dynamics. And it is the long-haul relational dynamics, not so much

the initial moment of the realization of redemption, which truly generates the critical core

of the issue of the Christian's salvation assurance. Most certainly the initial moment and

its deep commitments are absolutely foundational! This, however, does not immediately

negate the personal choices of faith's on-going responsibilities in the believer's saving

walk with the Lord.

The initial moment of saving faith is the beginning of the Christian's pilgrimage,

not an experience of being irresistibly "hooked" by Christ. To the contrary, it is the

beginning of a life-time of responsive and responsible give and take which steadily grows

and deepens into the mutuality of a dynamic loving relationship. Therefore, this more

relational vision (version) of salvation seems truer to the biblical portrait that portrays a

God who is lovingly Self-giving in the interest of our reconciliation. This clearly stands

in clear contrast to the questionable vision of God being some sort of relentless

"manipulator" deity who is intent on kicking in the doors of our hearts and forcefully

binding us to Himself1 Once more, it seems that the Arminius inspired Carl Bangs was

correct---"grace is not a force; it is a Person"!

Now there is some truth to the fact that God's pursuit of us does have some

sovereign aspects to it. Most certainly, God must always take the sovereign initiative in

our salvation. And, in this sense, He does come knocking at the doors of our hearts-

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whether we want Him to or not. But the truth is that He simply does not knock our doors

down! Instead of irresistible force, He offers winsome appeals and suggests motives that

seek to elicit a positive, love engendered response from our grace infested "freed" wills.

Furthermore, I would suggest that many Arminians will readily attest that God's

persistent pursuit of us can, on occasion, feel down-right compelling (though it never

ultimately forces anyone's will). Contemporary Methodist theologian, Geoffrey

Wainwright, has sagely recalled an old truism: "When push comes to shove in Christian

experience and witness, Arminians preach the assurance of salvation in a manner worthy

of a Calvinist and Calvinists seek salvation through prayers which sound very much like

those of a free-will Methodist."xvii

Indeed, many can testify to the persistence with which God has sought them and

nurtured them; and it can, on occasion, feel like the solicitations of a watchful "mother

bear." Moreover, the persistent, prayerful intercessions of many Calvinists evoke the

need for human co-operation with God's providences in seeking the salvation of the lost.

But neither of these positions necessitates either a doctrine of irresistible, deterministic

election and perseverance or some bald doctrine of humanistic, natural free-will.

With a proper emphasis on the central importance of salvation being understood

or conceived of as a complete process of co-operant interaction between the Savior and

the individual believer---all the way from initial belief until glorification, we offer the

following, cautionary caveats regarding the "once saved, always saved" version of

Christian assurance.

29
A Cautious Critique of Irresistible Perseverance

First of all, our hope is in Christ, not ultimately in a once for all decision made in

response to an altar call during some local church revival, evangelistic series, summer

camp or camp meeting. The important thing is to remain constantly attentive by keeping

our focus on Jesus and His abundant graces and nurture the Spiritual discipline of

responsive sensitivity to the leading of the Spirit through the ministry of the Word.

Second, the focus of the Reformed version of perseverance is on faith itself. But

important as faith is, its primary focus is not to be on itself. Faith is a gift of God that has

no real virtue in and of itself, except that its great efficacy is found in the One Whom it

lays hold of.

Furthermore, saving faith is not to be primarily defined as an exercise in giving

mental assent to an abstract "theoretical guarantee" of irrevocable assurance. Rather,

biblical faith is better defined as a heart-felt trust in Christ that embraces Him as the One

and only Person capable of keeping believers effectively convinced that their salvation is

steadily assured. Herbert Douglass has succinctly expressed it this way: the "secret" of

Christian assurance is that "we are not to trust in our faith, but in God's faithfulness."xviii

Therefore any present blessings of the assurance of salvation have much more to

do with the believer's current faith-focus on Christ than it does in what faith did in some

supposed "once for all time" claiming of salvation during a particularly moving altar call.

Any initial exercise of faith that claims salvation at the instigation of the Spirit during any

altar call is of vital importance. But it is only a conscious beginning. Therefore,

persevering assurance is much more the result of an on-going focus on Christ rather than

on faith itself and its past exercise.

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Third, as has been acknowledged by Millard Erickson, the "once saved, always

saved" version of assurance has been persistently vexed with a checkered history of

presumption and antinomian attitudes on the part of many Calvinists. And it was this

troubling tendency that provoked John Wesley and the vast majority of later "Arminian"

Christians to so strongly and persistently oppose the Calvinistic version of Christian

election, perseverance, and assurance.

Moreover, at a very elemental level of pastoral concern, I can personally attest to

the wisdom of the long-standing Wesleyan/Arminian aversion to Calvinistic inspired

versions of assurance. Such troubling cheap-grace attitudes are still all too evident among

Reformed oriented believers.

The idea that a believer can go on knowingly transgressing God's law and still be

considered saved is currently very much alive and well at the popular level among many

professed believers who seek to excuse themselves from the duty of confronting their

lingering propensities to indulge the habit of their "darling" sins. Furthermore, the issue

includes not just indulgence in know defects, but an all too common refusal to embrace

strong convictions of the Spirit's call to incorporate new moral and practical duties into

their personal Christian walk. The fruit of the irresistible grace teachings is simply not

good.

In the face of these persistently common attitudes of "cheap-grace," antinomian

excuses for sinxix and the self-evident fact that the Calvinists have no real, built in

advantages (either theologically or practically) when it comes to the assurance of

salvation, we would suggest the following: On balance, the Wesleyan/Arminian (and

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Adventist) version of the personal assurance of salvation is the preferred biblical,

theological and practical route to take in our walk with the Lord.

Does an Emphasis on Sanctification Destroy Assurance?

This question raises one more important question: what should be the key reflex

resort for the struggling Christian who_is led to doubt the assurance of his/her salvation?

Should it be a preoccupation with how many victories they have had in overcoming their

character defects? Probably not! But does that do away with sanctified progress as a

factor in aiding the struggling Christian's attempt to re-gain assured spiritual

equilibrium? Certainly not. But before we briefly address these dynamics, it needs to be

emphatically stated that the blessings of justifying and forgiving grace are the main

default resorts for all believers, be they Calvinist/Reformed or Arminian.

The knowledge that Jesus is constantly standing as our Advocate with the Father,

moment by moment seeking to draw us to Himself and reminding us that He is constantly

reckoning the penitent, responsive believer as perfect for the sake of Christ, is a

wonderful tonic for any struggling sinner. But such considerations must never be isolated

from the twin blessing of character transformation which is the fruit of Christ's

transforming grace (a grace that He also mediates to us as our Advocating High Priest in

the heavenly sanctuary). So what is the assuring relationship between the justifying and

sanctifying merits of Christ?

We would once again affirm that there are no justifying merits in the fruitful

obedience and character growth of the true believer. But the very practical truth is that

one of the very reasons why Jesus grants the twin blessings of justifying and sanctifying

grace is so that every believer will be granted clearer spiritual perception when it comes

32
to the preciousness and expensiveness of the merits of justifying grace. Sin and character

defects always have a blinding effect on any believer. And this is the reason that attitudes

of presumption and "cheap grace" are so deadly to any genuine assurance of salvation.

But when we are growing in God's love through character transformation, the

believer's ability to perceive the awfulness of sin and the infinitely expensive, precious

privileges of forgiveness and justifying grace, the more assured the believer will become.

Thus we can conclude that God's love is expressed not only in merciful forgiveness, but

also in gracious character transformation. The stronger the character, the more perfect

will be our perceptions of God's assuring love for us!

And these reflections or forgiveness and transforming grace lead us to the final

consideration of this presentation: And that is the positive, though reserved manner with

which Arminius embraced the issues of sanctification and the experience of Christian

perfection. If character perfection truly does enable us to more clearly grasp the

privileges of God's merciful, loving forgiveness, why then should we get all negative

anytime some earnest "holiness" person (Adventist, Wesleyan or Pentecostal) reminds us

of the blessings of perfection and character change? The truth is that we should be open

to the following, wisely balanced counsels of Arminius:

"But while I never asserted that a believer could perfectly keep the precepts of

Christ in this life, I never denied it, but always left it as a matter which has still to be

decided."

Thus, while Arminius was not preoccupied with perfection, he went on to offer

sage counsel about disputes over the issue: "I think the time may be far more happily and

usefully employed in prayers to obtain what is lacking in each of us, and in serious

33
admonitions that every one endeavor to proceed and press forward towards the mark of

perfection, than when spent in such disputations. ,,xx

Conclusions

Most certainly the personal assurance of salvation should be the privilege of every

responsive and responsible believer in Christ. But what is becoming most apparent is that

the Reformed/Calvinists do not possess any substantive advantages over the Arminian

believers. In fact, if what we have here said has any ring of truth to it, the Arminian

theological and spiritual resources are eminently more prone to be practically efficacious

in generating the genuine article of true Christian assurance of salvation.

Therefore, with a balanced soterilogy (the blessed a priori 's) and a judicious,

perceptive invocation of the privileges of Christian experience inherent in the

enlightening power of the various witnesses of the Holy Spirit to our "spirits," every

sincere believer should be able to march forward to the kingdom of God with Christ's

"blessed assurance" providing spiritual steadiness to each step along the "Way."

But there will come special moments of lucta and spiritual drought. And it is at

these junctures that we need to fall back upon the precious, objective privileges of

Christ's Advocacy for us through the imputation of justifying grace.

And such appropriations of faith, enlightened and complemented by the

transforming power of the "Spirit" of God, will assuredly carry any sincere believer

through the trying times, be they fear of the Investigative Judgment, the Close of

Probation, the personal and apocalyptic "Times of Trouble," or even the latest

challenging sermon on perfecting grace. Truly the resources are more than sufficient to

carry us all the way to the Eternal Gates of Glory. Amen and Amen!

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i This expression is taken from Maddox's survey of Wesley's theology entitled Responsible Grace: John
Wesley's Practical Theology (Nashville, TN: Kingswood Books: An Impint of Abingdon Press, 1994).

ii The discussion which follows regarding these key terms is significantly informed by Keith Stanglin's
study of Arminius' views on the assurance of salvation, Arminius on the Assurance ofSalvation: The
Context, Roots, and Shape of the Leiden Debates, 1603-1609 (Leiden and Boston: Brill,2007).

iii See Stanglin's discussion beginning on page 183.

iv Ibid, 184.

v It is very clear that Calvin claimed that the pool of candidates for divine election to salvation included
only "that little number whom he (God) has reserved for himself," or "only a few people." These quotations
from Calvin are cited from Francois Wendel's classic analysis of Calvin's theology entitled Calvin: Origins
and Development of His Religious Thought (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1963), 279, 280.

vi Most certainly Arminians also need to admit that Christ's universal offer of salvation will be embraced,
but only by a relative few (compare I Tim 2: 3, 4, Titus 2: 11 and II Peter 3:9). This admittance is based on
the testimony of Jesus which clearly states that the vast majority of humanity will not positively embrace
His gracious offer ofredemption (Matt 7: 13 and 14). But this is a far cry from the Calvinist concept which
claims that the small number is due to God's sovereign choice, not the choices of those who could have
chosen to be in the kingdom.

vii Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 1007,
1008.

viii Ibid

ix These judicious comments by Moon are just one key point that he makes in his wonderful lecture
regarding Ellen White's true teachings on the issue of assurance of salvation. This lecture has been adapted
for inclusion as a chapter in my forthcoming book on Assurance and is entitled "Special Adventist
Challenges, Part IV: Ellen G. White on the Assurance of Salvation: Are Her Writings a Help or a
Stumbling Block?"

x Erickson gives a spirited summary in his Christian Theology, pp. 997-1003 of the key arguments that are
normally used to defend both the Calvinistic and Arminian concepts of perseverance. Of course, he sees the
resolution as falling on the Calvinistic side of the issue in pp. 1003-1008. The classic defense of the
Arminian position (and refutation of the Calvinistic arguments) on perseverance has been given by Robert
Shank, Life in the Son, 2nd Edition (Springfield, MO: Westcott Publishers, 1961). For the more recent
editions, the reader can readily locate them on the internet.

xiCited by Roger E. Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic,
An Imprint oflnterVarsity Press, 2006), 164.

xii Ibid, 89, 90.

xiii Ibid, 90, 91

35
xivJon Paulien, The Gospel From Patmos: Everyday insights for livingfrom the last book of the Bible
(Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2007), 79.

xv Clark Pinnock, General Editor, The Grace of God and the Will ofMan (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany
House Publishers, 1989), in his chapter entitled "From Augustine to Arminius: A Pilgrimage in Theology,"
17.

xvi Ibid, 17, 18.

xvii This quotation is Whidden' s rough paraphrase of comments made by Wainwright, though the actual
source of the quotation could not be directly located in Wainwright's Methodists in Dialog (Nashville, TN:
Kingswood Books: An Imprint of Abingdon Press, 1995). It was from his earlier reading of this volume
that Whidden distinctly recalls this epigrammatic quotation.

xviiiHerbert E. Douglass, Should We Ever Say, "I Am Saved"?: What it means to be assured ofsalvation
(Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2002), 26.

xn..we do want to make it clear that not all Calvinist/Reformed Christians manifest these attitudes; but it is
all too evident in their corridors of influence, including the experiences of numerous SDA's who have been
either implicitly or explicitly affected by the popular preaching and publishing venues of
Calvinsitic/Refonned teaching. We just sense that the Anninian venue offers, on balance, a better way.

xx Cited from Carl Bangs, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971),
347).
Stanglin

Assurance of Salvation: An Arminian Account


Keith D. Stanglin, Harding University
Arminianism and Adventism Symposium, Oct. 14-16, 2010

Abstract: Assurance of salvation has been a key concern of soteriology throughout the history of the Western
Church. For Jacob Arminius, as an heir to this tradition, assurance was one of the driving forces motivating his
dissent from the Reformed doctrine of predestination so common in his day, which he claimed led to either carnal
security or despair. Instead, he proposed a doctrine of biblical assurance that would steer between these two
extremes. True salvation is manifest in various testimonies that bolster assurance. More importantly, certainty of
salvation is grounded in the doctrine of God, which declares God's love for all humanity for the goal of eternal
salvation and fellowship. The insights of Arminius on assurance yield a variety of practical, pastoral considerations.

Many Reformed believers, for whom the doctrine of eternal security is an essential source

of comfort, assume that Arminianism results in a loss of assurance of salvation and wonder

whether Arminians can have any lasting assurance at all. I intend to show that assurance of

salvation was a key issue in the theology of Jacob Arminius himself, and that he believed his

doctrine of predestination offered a more biblical and genuine certainty of salvation than the

Reformed doctrine could give. First, I will present a brief summary of the reason for and history

of the concern over assurance. I will then provide a descriptive·sketch of Arminius' doctrine of

assurance and point out the similarities and differences with the Reformed doctrine. I will close

with some practical reflections on assurance, based on the theology of Arminius.

It is important to discuss Arminius' view of assurance of salvation for at least three

reasons. First, historically, examination of the doctrine of assurance helps illuminate the shape

of the theological debate in which Arminius participated. Second, theologically, it helps today's

"Calvinists" and "Arminians" see what is at stake in their differences and their similarities.

Third, pastorally, assurance is still a significant issue for Christians, and this investigation can

inform our own treatment of this practical concern.

I. Epistemology of Salvation: A Western Concern

Among the great promises of the Christian faith is that, through the atonement of Jesus

Christ, reconciliation of fellowship with God is possible. The gospel proclaims that the rupture

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of the good communion between Creator and creature, instigated by the sin of the latter, can be

healed by the omnipotent love of the former. The original intent of God can be realized for his

redeemed creation. We most commonly refer to this state, both in this life and in eternity, as

salvation, and, as such, we rightly acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Savior. The otherwise

irrevocable state of sin from which we are saved by God alone is variously referred to in

Scripture as darkness, eternal punishment, the lake of fire, the second death, and hell. The New

Testament indicates that such separation from God can result from doctrinal as well as ethical

error.

It is no wonder then that, although Christians share in the blessed hope of salvation, this

hope has often been accompanied by a palpable fear. Jesus himself warned, "Fear him who,

after killing the body, has power to throw you into hell". (Luke 12:5). Evidently, a healthy fear is

necessary, but when does the fear become unhealthy, and when does it undermine the hope and

joy of salvation?

Before plunging into an examination of the assurance of salvation, it is important to set

the context by distinguishing between two kinds of questions about salvation. On the one hand,

when one asks about objective, factual matters of salvation-what is salvation, how is it

accomplished, how can I be saved?-these are questions about the ontology of salvation that

divine revelation addresses. On the other hand, when one asks the more subjective question

about assurance of one's own salvation-how can I know I am saved?-this is an

epistemological question. The objective matter of fact has become the existential question of the

individual before God. Here Scripture also provides some answers, but given the uniqueness of

each individual, the epistemological, existential question is between that individual and God.

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The question of the assurance of salvation, it seems, is inevitably linked to any religious

faith that teaches the salvation of some and the condemnation of others. Furthermore, in the

context of the Christian faith, anxiety about one's salvation is not surprising, especially since the

way of salvation is described by the Savior as "small" and "narrow," found by "only a few," and

"many" who think they will be saved will instead be cast out (Mt. 7:13-14, 22-23; cf. Mt. 25:41-

46). It is the epistemology of salvation that concerns the writer of First John, who writes his

letter "so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 Jn. 5: 13). This concern over salvation

and post-baptismal sin, evident throughout the New Testament, continues into the subapostolic

period, raised most explicitly by Hennas, who asked, "If this sin is recorded against me, how will

I be saved? Or how will I propitiate God for my completed sins?" 1 The concerns that motivate

such questions are common to every Christian tradition that takes the holiness and justice of God

seriously.

In addition to this concern common to all churches, the Western church in particular has

maintained a heightened sense of anxiety about salvation. Much of this can be traced back to the

most influential theologian in the church's history, Augustine of Hippo (354-430). In his

controversy with the Pelagians, Augustine emphasized the unconditional election of God and the

inability of fallen humanity to do any saving good without the internal operation of grace.

Divine predestination continued to be an intermittent topic of debate throughout the medieval

period, and the strong Augustinian view was advocated by such theologians as Gottschalk,

Thomas Bradwardine, and Gregory of Rimini, among others.

On the eve of the Reformation, the popular imagination was dominated by an awful

burden of guilt and sin. The sacrament of penance, which developed as a response to the issues

raised in the Shepherd of Hermas, and intended as a means of objective assurance, actually
1
Shepherd, vis. I.ii. I.

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served to undermine any sense of assurance. Confession, which was obligatory, became a

frightful experience, which, along with the late medieval system of merits, exaggerated the threat

of purgatory and hell. A theology that promoted the purchase of indulgences to remit

punishment and the practice of good works and pilgrimages to earn merits could leave the sinner

wondering whether he had done enough.

The prime exemplar of the agonizing but vain search for assurance is Martin Luther, who

began his ecclesiastical career as a monk in the Augustinian order. In the monastery, although

his diligent piety exceeded that of all his brothers, his conscience was tortured above all others

and his confessions to the abbot, Johann von Staupitz, were never-ending. Luther's

breakthrough, of course, was his discovery of Christ's imputed righteousness and his realization

that good works are not a cause of salvation. Like Luther, the other magisterial reformers took

the Augustinian view of salvation for granted, and in fact employed their Augustinian

soteriology against the Roman Church, underscoring that salvation is by grace alone through

faith alone. Yet, because Augustine remained an authority second only to Scripture, the old

question of predestination and the concomitant problem of assurance, the latter of which in a real

sense sparked Luther's reform movement, continued to nag Reformation theology.

Protestant churches in general, and Reformed churches in particular, considered

themselves to be restoring true assurance of salvation to God's people. The powerful opening

question of the Heidelberg Catechism is but one indication of the importance of personal

assurance in Reformed theology: "What is your only comfort in°life and death?" 2 For the

Reformed, assurance is based on the doctrine of God's unconditional election and his gift of

perseverance. "Getting in" is not based on good works, and neither is "staying in." God's

2
Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A I, in Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 3:307-8, emphasis mine.

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sovereign election is irrevocable, and he will save whom he chooses. Salvation is in no way

dependent on the fallible believer, and that is reassuring.

II. Jacob Arminius

Along came Jacob Arminius (1559-1609), trained in Geneva under John Calvin's

successor Theodore Beza, later a pastor for sixteen years in the Reformed Church in Amsterdam,

and finally a professor for six years in the Theological College at Leiden University. Arminius is

most famous for his dissent from the doctrine of unconditional predestination, which was most

fervently directed against the supralapsarianism promoted by his faculty colleagues. His views

on predestination were worked out in conversational struggle with three problems that were

conspicuous in the Augustinian tradition: the reconciliation of grace and human freedom, the

problem of evil, and-the focus of our present discussion-the assurance of salvation.

A. Problems with Reformed Soterio/ogy

Certainty (certitudo) of salvation may be defined as assurance of one's personal salvation

made in one's heart by the Holy Spirit. When it came to this certainty, or assurance, in the

context of Reformed soteriology, Arminius observed two pastoral problems during his ministry

in Amsterdam, which he referred to as the two "pests of religion and of souls," and the "two fiery

darts of Satan."

The first problem was that many people in his Reformed congregation had no confidence

in their election. They feared for their salvation, lacking that divine comfort they desired in life

and in death. Arminius recounts the story of parishioners to whom he ministered during the

outbreak of the plague in Amsterdam in 1602. He visited the homes of two separate people, each

of whom, death! y ill, was suffering spiritual torment from lack of assurance of salvation.

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Stanglin

Arminius described both as true believers, who, of all people, should have rested assured in their

salvation. Yet, at this crucial time when they needed assurance most, they could not find it.

Arminius called this the state of wanhope (Dutch) or desperatio (Latin), that is, "despair"

or "lack of hope." Despair is the very state of mind to which the Roman Church's penitential

system supposedly led, the hopelessness that Luther was trying to escape and that Protestant

churches were seeking to assuage. How could Reformed Christians, who were saved not by their

own goodness but by Christ's imputed righteousness, ever fall victim to despair?

For Arminius, the problem lies first with the Reformed conviction that saving faith

includes not only knowledge and assent, but alsofiducia, or confident assurance. In other words,

assurance is, by definition, thought to be a component of saving faith. Under this asswnption, if

a person has belief in Christ as Savior, and believes that Christ's righteousness may be imputed

to him by faith, and the person desires this salvation, but only lacks certainty of that salvation,

then the person may begin to question his faith altogether, and wonder whether he is one of the

elect. After all, if a person seems to be missing a key component of saving faith-assurance--

then he would doubt the strength of his conviction and tend to despair. Anninius contested this

assertion that led Christians to despair. He distinguished assurance (jiducia) from faith (jides),

declaring that assurance follows as the ordinary result of saving faith, but is not necessarily

simultaneous with faith. What did his Reformed opponents say about weak assurance?

The typical Reformed response is that faith can be weak in this life, and since assurance

(jiducia) is part of faith, then it is no surprise that assurance can be weak as well. This response

provides little consolation, however, because of the doctrine of~emporary faith, as taught by

Calvin and other Reformed theologians. Even the reprobate can have a temporary faith that

resembles that of the elect. Calvin asserted that a person could seem to others to have faith,

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Stanglin

indeed could think herself to possess saving faith, when it is really only a temporary faith that

will not persevere but will be withdrawn. The person who appears to fall away was never elect

in the first place, but only possessed temporary faith. The common biblical example is Simon

Magus, whose belief was soon shown to be fraudulent. Such a person is self-deceived, and,

despite all present appearances to the contrary, his faith is not genuine.

When combined with the doctrine of unconditional predestination, this undermining of

assurance can be devastating. The Reformed doctrine of unconditional election claims that God

chooses whom he will save, based not on their good works, their foreseen faith, or even their

choice. The necessary corollary is that God reprobates, or perhaps passes over, the remainder of

humanity, the result of which is condemnation. The only way to escape condemnation is to be

chosen by God. But since that election is (apart from God's absolute and sovereign will)

unconditional, there is nothing that a reprobate person can do to be in a saved relationship with a

God who has not chosen her.

Therefore, at best, one can have only probable assurance of one's final election. The

doctrine of unconditional reprobation, combined with the acknowledgement of the category of

temporary faith, undermines assurance and leads to despair. Since a human cannot peer into the

secret will and decrees of God, it is impossible to know for sure. whether one is elect and not

simply self-deceived by temporary faith. At certain moments in life, most Christians could

easily wonder whether they are saved, and perhaps be persuaded that they are not. If one ever

doubts one's election or suspects temporary faith, there is little recourse. With the type of

despair produced by the late medieval Roman Church, a person could conceivably be satisfied

with more good works. But if a person concludes that he may be unconditionally reprobate, this
Stanglin

can lead to an inescapable despair that has no hope of salvation, recognizing that any attempt to

be saved is futile. As the saying goes, "Damned if you do; damned if you don't."

In addition to the problem of despair, the second problem Arminius witnessed was the

exact opposite of the first. In his opinion, many believers were over-confident of their own

salvation. Once again, Arminius appealed to his pastoral experience. He recalled times when he

admonished Christians to abandon their sinful ways and repent, only to be reminded by his

parishioners that sin is always a part of the Christian life, even for Paul (as the typical Reformed

interpretation of Romans 7 would have it), and that God will be gracious.

Arminius called this state sorgloosheyt (Dutch) or securitas (Latin), that is, "security" or

"lack of care." The word literally means carelessness, including the idea of neglecting

something that really does deserve attention. "Security," a term which in the Christian tradition

normally had negative connotations of negligence, presumption, and arrogance was increasingly

used by Reformed theologians to indicate a positive virtue. This careless attitude frustrated

Arminius during his time as a pastor and preoccupied him for years to come. He considered

arrogant security to be more dangerous in the Reformed churches than the problem of despair.

What prompted this common mindset of security in Reformed churches?

It is to be expected that a movement that was reacting against a lack of assurance of

salvation, in its attempt to restore true assurance, could fall into the opposite danger of

overemphasizing confident certainty. This tendency toward security is the result of the

combination of three distinctive Reformed teachings. The first point concerns the efficacy of

sanctification. For the Reformed, although the regenerate person can make steps toward

sanctification with the help of the Holy Spirit, they are baby steps; progress is minimal. The

standard Reformed interpretation of Romans 7, read as the autobiographical account of the

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regenerate apostle Paul, supports the notion that sin is an ongoing and prominent struggle in the

Christian life. Little expectation of personal sanctification implies that sin is in some sense

normal and, therefore, not of grave concern to the individual Christian. For his part, Arminius

contested this reading of Romans 7, interpreting the person weighed down with sin as someone

not yet regenerate, because sin cannot dominate the life of a regenerate person as described in

this passage.

The second Reformed doctrine that led to security is the perseverance of the saints, which

is a predictable consequence of justification by grace through faith. After all, if a person

becomes part of God's chosen covenant people by grace alone apart from good works, then no

amount of evil works or lack of good works can nullify that election and covenant. Combined

with the third doctrine, unconditional election, the doctrine of perseverance can lead to security.

If one is confident in one's election, then salvation is secure. After all, if one is elect from

eternity, and if that election has no condition on the human side, there is nothing that can be done

in time to separate the elect from the love of Christ. If it would be wrong to doubt one's election

and would be virtuous to be confident, and if assurance is a component of faith, then it may yet

be more virtuous to be more confident.

Arminius acknowledged perseverance in the sense that the truly elect will persevere in

their saving faith to the end. The question is whether he thought a person with true, saving faith

could lose that faith or sin in such a way as to fail to persevere and thus forfeit salvation.

Because of its relationship to the topic of assurance, this question of the possibility of apostasy is

worth pursuing briefly.

Most scholars remain agnostic regarding Arminius' view of apostasy, for Arminius

himself was ambiguous at times, indicating his own need for more study of the issue. Some
Stanglin

scholars claim that Arminius taught that true believers can fall away, but if this happens, they can

never be brought back to salvation. Taking the whole body of his writings into account,

however, it is clear that Arminius assumed that true believers can fall away, and that, in most

cases, they can be brought back.

We should observe two important sets of distinctions wh.en it comes to apostasy. The

first distinction is that between the possibility and the actuality of apostasy. Arminius

acknowledges the possibility, and never denies the actuality. In the most famous passage on this

topic, found in the Declaration ofSentiments, Arminius denies that he ever publicly taught that

final apostasy actually happens. When pressed to speculate whether it does actually happen, this

is where Arminius equivocates. But he never denies the possibility of apostasy. It is true that the

common English translation of Arminius' Declaration ofSentiments has him denying even the

possibility, but this is an unfortunate addition into the text that is represented neither in the Latin

(the basis of James Nichols' English translation) nor in the Dutch original. The second

distinction is between the elect and the believer. Arminius defines elect as a believer who

perseveres; therefore, every elect person is a believer, but not every believer is elect. A believer

(simpliciter) may not persevere, and thus would not be elect. How does a once sincere believer

forfeit salvation?

The most obvious way for a believer to apostatize is by rejecting the faith and renouncing

Christ. If, as Arminius taught, a person has a say in his faith, and salvation may rightly be

described as not resisting a grace which is by definition resistible, then a person may at any time

resist that grace. Arminius' famous beggar analogy may be illustrative. To make the point that

faith is a pure gift from God, Arminius said that a beggar reaching out his hand to receive freely

does not mean that he has earned whatever alms he may receive. To extend this analogy, a

10
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beggar could, to his own detriment, refuse the alms initially or at any time after receiving the

gift. The gift is resistible at the beginning, and at every step along the way.

Granting that Arminius taught that faith, the acceptance of which is the primary condition

of election on the human side, can be renounced and result in the loss of salvation, it is important

to examine whether a person can sin in such a way as to lose salvation. Some interpreters grant

the notion of apostasy through renunciation of faith, but deny that Arminius would allow for

other sins to affect one's status before God. Contrary to this opinion, however, there are three

pieces of evidence that indicate that Arminius did believe certain sins of commission could result

in apostasy.

First, there are clear passages where Arminius connects sins of commission with

apostasy, particularly using the example of David as an illustration. David clearly committed

grievous sins, but did not renounce his faith; yet, according to Arminius, he fell. 3 Second,

Arminius clearly distinguishes four different motivations for sin, the worst of which causes a fall

from grace. This sin he designates as arising "out of malice" (ex malitia). Whether such a sin of

apostasy can be forgiven depends on the object of malice. If the sin arises out of malice for the

law and causes one to fall away, it is forgivable. If the sin, however, arises out of malice for

Christ, the consequent apostasy is unforgivable. 4

Third, Arminius observes that sinful deeds arising from malice indicate a lack of actual

saving faith, even ifthe habit (habitus) of faith is present. This point demonstrates that the root

problem is the lack of faith, but it is manifest in malicious sins ~f commission. 5 In a sense, then,

it is true, as Arminius says, that believers, as long as they remain believers, cannot lose salvation.

3
Arminius, Exam. Perk., in Works 3:463; Disp. pub. XI.xiv; Art. non., in Works 2:725.
4
Arminius, Disp. pub. VIII; Ep. ecc. 45, in Works 2:743-50. On forgiveness, see Disp. pub. XI.xiv; Ep. ecc.
45, in Works 2:740-53; Exam. Perk., Works 3:456.
5
Arminius, Ep. ecc. 81, in Works 2:70; Exam. Perk., in Works 3:463-64.

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But these passages from Arminius indicate that certain sins are inconsistent with saving faith.

These sins either lead to or, perhaps more precisely, reflect the absence of active faith. Some,

like David, can be brought back to repentance from apostasy. Others, like Judas, who was

malicious against Christ himself, cannot be restored.

The point is that any carelessness with regard to sin was, for Arminius, a dangerous

indication of "carnal security" (securitas carnalis). The normalcy of sin in the Christian life,

along with the doctrines of eternal security and unconditional election, could foster an attitude of

"saved if you do; saved if you don't." This lack of concern over the presence of sin is the very

thing that could precipitate a fall.

The attitude of thinking oneself to be hopelessly reprobate or, conversely, of sitting

securely in sin while grace abounds, is not the way Reformed theology is meant to function. But

Arminius is serious about these attitudes being the fair implications of Reformed soteriology.

Though they may not be the intended outcomes, they are the logical outcomes. And if these

consequences are validly inferred, then there is something wrong with the theology. As

Arminius himself says, "Nothing can be true from which a falsehood may by good consequence

be concluded."6 For example, Arminius thought supralapsarian!sm to be erroneous, among other

reasons, because it implies that God is the author of sin. Likewise, Reformed soteriology, with

its combination of distinctive doctrines, is flawed because it leads a person to believe that there is

nothing one can do to affect one's salvation, either positively or negatively. Such a belief

justifiably places one in either despair or security.

B. Assurance as a Point of Departure

It should be clear, then, how important the doctrine of assurance was to Arminius, and

how it became a point of departure for some of his more well-known teachings. Not that

6
Arminius, Rom. 7, in Works 2:490.

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assurance was his only concern or that it was anything like a "central dogma," but it was a

pressing, pastoral problem that motivated him to re-examine the theological assumptions

connected to it and to articulate a doctrine of God, creation, and predestination that promotes a

healthy, more balanced assurance of salvation. For example, Arminius claimed that a correct

doctrine of predestination should lead to a balanced perspective on assurance. He wrote, "The

use of this doctrine [of predestination] handed down from the Scriptures is great. For it serves to

establish the glory of God's grace, to comfort afflicted consciences, to upset the impious and

drive away their security." 7 In other words, the solution will require more than simply a word of

encouragement to the desperate or a word of admonition to the secure. The problem is with the

doctrines that lead to these wrong attitudes. Hence, Arminius' theological concerns cannot be

understood fully without giving attention to the practical concerns that sometimes motivated and

al ways informed them.

The pivotal, practical question at stake with assurance concerns one's relation of

dependence: On what is a person dependent? Despair is grounded in nothing, based on no

foundation, and is therefore the absence of hope (wanhope/desperatio). Security is grounded on

something, but it is afalse thing, an inadequate foundation. Unlike despair, which signifies a

lack of hope, the secure person relies on a false hope, a hope that is misplaced

(sorgloosheyt/securitas). To place hope on a false foundation is no better than no foundation at

all. Both tendencies undermine true assurance. For Arminius, the goal is to avoid both of these

extremes and to ground one's hope on something solid. What does true assurance look like? On

what is it grounded?

C. A Posteriori Grounds ofAssurance

7
Arminius, Disp. pub. XV.xiv.

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Arminius delineated four testimonies of salvation which could bolster a person's

assurance. They function as grounds of assurance for the Christian who is sick with despair or

negligent in security. They are not the ultimate foundation of salvation, but we may name them

a posteriori grounds that bear witness to and confirm one's salvation. These signs are the good

fruit visible on a good tree.

The first such mark is the sense of faith (sensus fidei). Faith is a sign of a person's

election. A person should ask herself if she has faith. If the answer is affirmative, and if such

faith is a gift of God to the elect, then the she can rest assured of her election, for God saves

believers. This simple introspective exercise is the so-called "reflex act of faith," and is a form

of the practical syllogism (syllogismus practicus) that became prominent among the Puritans.

The second a posteriori ground of assurance is the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit

(internum testimonium Spiritus sancti). The Spirit of God bears witness in our hearts that we are

his children, enabling us to cry out "Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15-16). This adoption as God's

children is one of the benefits that flows from the union and communion of believers with Christ.

The third testimony of salvation is the struggle (lucta) of the Spirit against the flesh. The

fact that one wrestles with worldly temptations, and is not completely overcome without a fight,

is a sign of the sanctifying grace of God. This struggle with sin, which could conceivably lead a

person to discouragement, is interpreted as an indication of a healthy spiritual life that is seeking

righteousness.

The final indication of salvation is the desire to engage in good works (bona opera). This

testimony is perhaps the external counterpart to the internal struggle against the flesh. The true

child of God wants to show love to neighbors; this is the proper effect of faith.

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These four testimonies of salvation are not distinct to Arminianism. Reformed

contemporaries of Arminius appealed to the same four marks of salvation to confirm and assure

one's election. The difference lies especially in the a priori assumptions about the God who

grounds salvation and its assurance.

D. A Priori Ground ofAssurance

These four a posteriori testimonies are never described as the foundation of salvation.

But in his search for assurance between the two extremes of despair and careless security,

Arminius turned his attention to a matter that is fundamental, namely, the doctrine of God. The

significant distinction between Arminius and his Reformed contemporaries begins here with

their contrary views of God and his intentions for creation. As it turns out, theology proper has

an enonnous impact on the doctrine of salvation.

In several places throughout his writings, Arminius assumes two objects of the divine

love. God primarily loves himself and the good of righteousness (or justice), and he secondarily

loves the creature and its blessedness. The origin of this notion goes back to Thomistic

intellectualism, where the will is directed toward the known good. By implication, not only is

God good, but creation, the object of God's willing, is also good. Therefore, God's will inclines

toward himself first, and toward other things second. Creation is not a primary end in itself or on

an equal plane with God, but it does enjoy status as a secondary end within the will of God, who

wills the blessedness of the creature. In other words, God's will tends toward himself and his

creation, and since God's will is loving, his love inclines toward himself and his creation.

Arminius calls this the twofold love of God (duplex amor Dei).

The Refonned are more reluctant than Arminius to describe God's affection toward the

whole human race as "love." For Arminius' opponents, God's ~oving will does not extend to all

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humanity for the purpose of salvation. His will concerning election and the basis of this will are

inscrutable. This fact is especially prominent in the supralapsarian form, in which God creates

the reprobate only as a means for their destruction. Arminius disagrees when he writes, "God's

first action toward some object, whatever it may be, cannot be its casting away or reprobation to

eternal misery." 8 Rather, God loves good before hating evil, and only hates evil because he first

loves good. 9 God has freely-not of necessity--obliged himself to creation as an object of his

loving will. Although God has the ability per se, he relinquishes the right or authority to do

unjustified harm to the creature. The basis of divine election is God's good pleasure

(beneplacitum), which Arminius defines as God's "benevolent affection." 10

God's love of righteousness and his love of the creature have priority in his will and

decree, but the love of righteousness comes first. As such, God hates no creature, except because

of sin. 11 Just as God antecedently wills all humanity to be saved, but consequently wills to

punish unbelievers, his antecedent love is for the salvation of all, but, after sin, his saving love is

consequently directed toward those who are in Christ through faith. Although all are not

consequently saved, all are equally loved antecedently by God for the purpose of eternal

fellowship.

Arminius appeals to Heb. 11 :6 as a reflection of God's twofold love of righteousness and

the creature, and as a guard against the two fiery darts of Satan-security and despair. The

passage declares that God is a rewarder of those who seek him <;mt. On the one hand, if one truly

believes that God will reward only those who seek him, a belief based on God's love of

righteousness, which is greater than his love of the impenitent creature, then seeking God is

8
Arminius, Exam. Gom., 76; Works 3:590.
9
See Arminius, Exam. Gom., 59; Works 3:574-75.
10
Disp. pub. XV.iv.
11
Arminius, Art. non., in Opera, 949; Works 2:707.

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encouraged and careless security is prevented. On the other hand, if one truly seeks God, he

should not despair, because God has promised the reward to seekers. The believer who seeks

God has no need to worry about a secret will of God to reprobate, for God is eager to reward the

faithful. Where the Reformed appeal to mystery concerning God's will to elect, Arminius said

God's desire to save all people is well known.

The Dutch scholar C. Graafland admits that, vis-a-vis Reformed theology, Arminius

introduced a "deeply radical variation" in the doctrine of God. In sum, Arminius' claim is that

God's act of creation is an act of love and grace for the purpose of eternal communion, an act in

which God obliges himself to creation for its benefit. His love of the creature, however, is

second only to his love of justice, with the result that he will never condemn a believer or ignore

the sins of the impenitent unbeliever. With this affirmation about God, believers may rest

assured that God loves them and genuinely desires their salvation.

III. Practical-theological Reflections

In view of Arminius' doctrine of the assurance of salvation, it is appropriate to close with

some prescriptive suggestions toward a healthy, biblical perspective on assurance. First of all,

this question of assurance is one of sanctification and concerns only people who are already

Christians. One way to frame the issue is to consider the difference between becoming a child of

God and remaining a child of God. We may call this the distinction between "getting in" and

"staying in," or between justification and sanctification. Evangelical Christians often emphasize

what it takes to get in (that is, justification). But how does one remain a child of God (that is,

sanctification)? What is the relationship between justification and sanctification?

One option bases sanctification entirely on the past event of justification. This option

puts all the focus on justification, which results in a reductionistic view of sanctification. Such a

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view ends up collapsing sanctification into justification. A person is thought to be sanctified

enough simply by virtue of justification. Perhaps another way of considering this is that

sanctification is completely severed from justification. In any case, this reductionistic view of

sanctification expects little or no progress in Christian holiness. If unchecked, this perspective

could produce the kind of presumptuous security against which Arminius warned. This is

expressed popularly as "once saved, always saved."

A second way of thinking about the relationship between justification and sanctification

is to base justification on sanctification. This option makes sanctification a pre-condition for

justification; one is justified by virtue of sanctification. If assurance is based on the quality and

quantity of good works, then one will never be assured. This perspective could produce a feeling

of despair that we can summarize as "once saved, barely saved.~' Therefore, Anninians agree

that justification cannot be conditioned on good works. The apostle Paul states that we are saved

by grace through faith, created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Eph. 2:8-10). In other words,

good works are not a causal factor in obtaining or maintaining salvation. We are already saved;

therefore, we want to do good works, and we do them.

Instead, a balance must be sought. Just as justification is predicated on faith,

sanctification must also be based on faith. The relationship is this: Faith is the link between

justification and sanctification. Faith is the condition of election and justification, and it is a

necessary part of sanctification. As Arminius noted, it is when active faith ceases in the life of

sanctification that a person's salvation is in jeopardy. Sin out of weakness can be consistent with

active faith; sin out of malice is not. The motivation the heart is the key. The criterion for

sanctification is not its quantity, but its motivation, holiness being pursued out of true faith and

fervent love. This faith is one that works, as the Epistle of James reminds us.

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It is interesting that the four testimonies of salvation enumerated by Arminius parallel the

three offered in the book of 1 John. The first is faith (cf. 1 Jn. 4:2-3; 1 Cor. 12:3). Since faith is

the condition of election, one should ask, "Am I a believer?" If the answer is yes, then the

inquirer is one of God's children. This faith is not the kind designated by older theology as

"historical faith," by which even the demons believe. This saving faith looks to Christ for

redemption. The second testimony in 1 John is observing God's commandments (cf. 1 Jn. 2:3-6;

3: 16-18). It corresponds to Arminius' category of struggle against the flesh and the desire to do

good works. Those who do not practice good works do not belong to God. Such works are not

the ground, but the evidence of salvation. Finally, 1 John mentions the testimony of the Holy

Spirit (1 Jn. 4: 13; Rom. 8: 15-16). This is the testimony of comfort that God loves all people for

the purpose of eternal salvation and desires a relationship with his children. Christ abides in

God's children through the Spirit he has given. It is not simply an introspective look, but the

indwelling Spirit points his people to the Word of God and his promises. 1 Jn. 3:23-24 sums up

these three testimonies, which are still a powerful comfort to God's people: "And this is his

command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he

commanded us. Those who keep his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we

know that he lives in us. We know it by the Spirit he gave us."

When a person can look to good works, assurance is natural. But what is a person to do

when the consciousness of evil deeds is overwhelming? If, with Arminius, we acknowledge the

possibility of apostasy, does this undermine any real sense of assurance? Does this lead to

constant anxiety?

Take this illustration based on Mt. 7:13-14, which speaks of the two ways--one narrow

way to life, and the other broad way to destruction. These two ways are often depicted as two

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separate roads (sometimes beginning together at a fork) that go in very different directions. But

perhaps these are not two different roads, but two different directions. Rather, there is one road

with people moving in two opposing directions or ways. The crowd is rushing downhill in one

direction, but the narrow road consists of a few people pressing on the upward way against the

crowd. A person may slip and slide and even fall back a few steps, but he is facing the right

direction.

This illustration also shows that there is not a constant variation in direction, where one

day a person is going against the crowd and the next day she is facing the opposite direction and

walking with the crowd. In other words, one does not fall in and out of grace every time a sin is

committed and then repented of. A change of direction would entail a deliberate, tremendous

change of heart and life that reflects more than a sin out of weakness. Generally speaking, this

change of direction is not something that happens more than once or twice in a lifetime. It is

definitely not a daily occurrence.

How can one know he is headed in the right direction? Along with the testimonies given

in 1 John and repeated by Arminius, another illustration may be helpful. Imagine you are a

smoker, but you really want to quit smoking. You go all day at work without smoking. Yet you

go home, and when no one is looking, you go in your backyard and smoke a cigarette. The

temptation is powerful. The habit is powerful. Your body's reaction to the nicotine is powerful.

You want to quit; yet you want a cigarette, too. The question is this: If you were promised a

patch that would enable you never to smoke again, indeed, that would take away all desire for

cigarettes and nicotine, would you accept the offer? Would you choose to give up smoking

forever? Or do you really not want to give it up?

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Think of the sin that tempts the most, the vice that entices you, the trap into which you

most frequently fall. Now, like the smoker who is tempted, ask yourself: If you could choose to

be rid of this temptation forever, and you would never commit this sin again, what would you

choose? Some would refuse because they genuinely enjoy the sin too much. Those who would

choose to be rid of the sin and its temptation, who would gladly give it up forever, are probably

headed in the right direction. This illustration points to the goal of sanctification-not even

wanting to sin anymore.

Christians need to be assured of salvation. But the danger that Arminius underscores is

the same kind of arrogance that the Israelites of the Old Testament had. In 1 Corinthians 10,

Paul says that, even though God's people were "baptized" in the sea and ate "spiritual food and

drink," they continued to rebel against God, so God judged and destroyed them. Paul is

obviously pointing out that participation in the sacraments with God's people does not provide

license to sin. He then writes, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't

fall!" (1 Cor. 10:12). This is not a statement against assurance, but against arrogance. Paul is

not saying one cannot be assured about salvation. He is warning Christians not to be arrogant or

presumptuous about salvation, which carries the danger of falling.

Finally, it is worth summarizing the contrast between the Arminian and the Reformed

accounts of assurance. The Reformed, once assured, should ha-ye a kind of permanent assurance,

a final assurance that election renders a fall impossible. The problem, as Arminius has

convincingly shown, is that such assurance is difficult if not impossible to attain, particularly

since the matter of God's desire for the salvation of any given individual is inscrutable.

The Arminian may not have final assurance of what the future holds, but the decisive

advantage over the Reformed is with regard to present assurance. For the Arminian, one point is

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indubitable and unassailable: God loves each person for the purpose of eternal fellowship and

desires the salvation of all. The divine "yes" that initiates and completes the process of salvation

is, by God's grace, answered by the human "yes." Agnosticism about the future state of one's

faith should not undermine present assurance. This fact should not be troubling, for this is how

every other relationship in life is handled. For example, despite my intentions and vows, I

cannot absolutely guarantee permanent commitment to my wife in the future or know with

certainty my level of commitment to her fifteen years from this moment. It is enough to know

that I am committed right now and that I have a say in the relationship and that I have no

intention of shirking the commitment.

In conclusion, Arminius discerned and described two common dangers with respect to

assurance, both of which he witnessed as prevalent in Reformed churches. His attempt to chart a

middle way between despair and careless security, to reinstate a healthy doctrine of assurance in

the church, is worthy of our consideration. Arminius reminds us that not only can we look to the

fruit of the Spirit in our lives, but we also look to the God who has created us for eternal

communion, accomplished redemption to reconcile us, and provided grace to draw us into his

presence. Proclaiming the truth about God and his works of love in creation and predestination

will lead to this salutary assurance.

22
INCARNATION, DEATH, AND ENTHROMENT:
ATONEMENT AS A NARRATIVE

Angel Manuel Rodriguez


Biblical Research Institute
Silver Spring, MD

Introduction

I was specifically asked to preach and not to give you a lecture. In obedience to the

organizers of this important symposium I shall try to preach. This is what I will do: I will tell you

a well known story whose basic plot is generally accepted by the Christian community (there are

diversity of views with respect to some of its details and its interpretation). The story is a story of

love; it is an adventure, and perhaps a thriller. It is fundamentally a story of self-sacrifice; it is an

essential part of the history of God's interaction with His creatures. It is an exceptional narrative

in that every human being plays a role in it. Listening to our story is not like watching a TV

movie, where we are being entertained by what we watch. In our story, we are part of it; we are

one of the characters. It is an interactive story in which I can choose how I want it to end for me.

So, let me tell you the story as I understand it.

Before the Cross: Promise

The story begins at the very beginning: "In the beginning God created ... " (Gen 1:1). We

begin with God, the Creator. Excellence characterized the essence, form, function and nature of

His creation. It was conceived in the mind of a loving God and was objectified through the

spoken word; there was order and intelligibility. He created intelligible, free creatures that could

enjoy fellowship with Him and also the glory, beauty, and mysteries of creation. The law oflove

ruled a universe characterized by perfect harmony and balance. All creatures found their

fulfillment in serving God and others.

1
Then, without any reason, the astonishing happened. One of God's creatures, a cherub,

chose a path of self-corruption that would lead him to question the integrity of the divine

government, the order established by the Creator, and the loving and righteous character of God.

His real aspiration was to evolve from the level of the creature to that of the divine. Evil and sin

were mysteriously developing inside him. A cosmic conflict was gestating within him that would

result in a rebellion against the Creator and His will for His creatures. Every effort was made to

abort the rebellion, to restore peace among the heavenly beings, but finally the inner nature of the

rebellious angels reached a point of absolute corruption making it impossible for them to co-exist

within the order and harmony of God's cosmic kingdom. There'was war; a war of ideologies

related to the nature of order, to ontology and epistemology, to teleology, and to a new ethical

system in opposition to the divine law. The cosmos was now the arena of a conflict.

The story was soon to take another surprising turn. It happened on this planet. Persuaded

by the forces of evil that God's will for them was restrictive and oppressive, Adam and Eve

violated the divine commandment and joined the enemy in the conflict; a planet had been

conquered. The human race became an endangered species in the universe, destined to die.

Should this bring our story to an end? The New Testament informs us that this question had

already been answered within the very being of God, in the depth of Trinitarian deliberations,

long before there was a "beginning." And now, at the moment of hopelessness, when humans

could only anticipate their extinction, the solution to their predicament reaches them in the form

of a divine promise: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed

and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel" (Gen 3: 16;

NASB). The gospel-the good news of salvation-was first proclaimed to them. By placing

enmity in the human heart against the enemy the Creator/ Redeemer was setting limits to the

2
enslaving power of sin in the hwnan heart. He preserved hwnan freedom in order for the offer of

salvation to be meaningful. Salvation itself would come through a unique Descendant of the

woman; the Son. This promise of the Son controlled the plot of the story from the Garden of

Eden to the Incarnation, and from there on the cross was to totally control the plot and its

resolution. The story I am telling you is not a tragedy but a story of hope, victory, and love.

Before the cross, the salvation promised reached hwnans by faith in the coming Savior.

The story continued to develop through the patriarchs, and the promise particularly

entrusted to Abram: "In you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (Gen 12:3). He was

soon to learn that such a salvation was only possible through the Lamb provided by God (Gen

22). The saving power of the Son was to reach all the nations of the earth; no one was to be left

out by accident or by design. This glorious promise was kept alive in Israel through the

typological significance of the Exodus from Egypt, through the sacrificial system-pointing to

the substitutionary death of the Son of God-, and through the daily and annual work of the

priest in the Israelite temple, representing the Son's high priestly work of reconciliation and

judgment on our behalf in the heavenly temple. As the plot of the story developed, the promise

was kept alive in the memory of Israel through its social institutions, particular through the

institution of kingship. The anointed ones were types of the Anointed One. All of them pointed

to the coming of the new David, the true Servant of the Lord.

The prophets reminded the people, through their messages of judgment and salvation,

that they were involved in a conflict against false gods, false hopes, and deceptions. They

revealed to the people God's plan of hope and joy for Zion, the universal saving work of the

Messiah, the coming of a new heaven and a new earth, the final victory over war, and the death

of death itself. It was Isaiah who in a particular way revealed aspects of the plot of the story that

3
surprised his audience. He told them about the coming of the Servant of the Lord who, although

despised by humans, would become the only means of atonement. He would give His life in

place of the life of sinners, bearing their sins, and would be resurrected to rule forever as their

eternal king.

Daniel, in his apocalyptic visions, saw the coming of the Messiah, His sacrificial death,

His victory over evil powers, His enthronement as universal king, His role as mediator, and His

eschatological work of judgment that would result in a universe free from the contaminating

power of sin and evil. The story is a glorious one! The Old Testament ends immersed in hope,

looking forward to the fulfillment of the promise of the Son.

At the Cross: Fulfillment

Then, it happened! An angel sent from God went to Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a

man called Joseph, and said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you will conceive in your womb

and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will ... be called the Son of the Most High;

and the Lord will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of

Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end" (Luke 1:30-33). This was the fulfillment of

the promise and also a preview of the development of the plot of the story. The future of the

Child was announced in order to establish that the plot of the story was under divine control. His

kingdom was to be eternal.

The cosmic conflict was going to be resolved through the life and ministry of this Child.

Through His ministry, characterized by absolute submission to the will of the Father, He

revealed His power over the forces of evil and death and the loving and righteous character of a

God who had been maligned by His enemy. Through His teachings and self-sacrificing service to

others, Jesus-God in human flesh-revealed the nature of truth and the loving essence of God's

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law. By becoming human, the Creator assured the universe that the human race was going to be

preserved. Had all humans chosen to join the forces of evil, the Son of God would be forever the

representative of the human race.

What is surprising, as the plot of the story develops, is that the preservation of the human

race was to take place through the unfathomable death of the Son of God. This death was not

required, but was voluntarily accepted by the Godhead in order .to atone for the sins of humanity

and unmask the true nature of the forces of evil. The cross was a battle for the life of the Son of

God. Shortly before the cross He informed His disciples that Satan was coming but that he had

nothing in Him! But he came anyway, claiming ownership of the life of the Son of God. He used

the cruelest type of death available to him in an attempt to take by force the life of the Son of

God. But, glory to God, this was impossible. Satan had no right to take the life of the Savior. He

was without sin and therefore death had no power over Him.

Yet, He died. His death was of a different nature than the death we experience. He who

had no sin had chosen to become sin or a sin offering for us (2 Cor 5 :21 ). He was our atoning

sacrifice. He experienced in our place our eternal death, our eternal separation from God as the

Incarnate God. Since the unity of the two natures was permanent, it was not possible to suspend

it on the cross. Therefore, on the cross the human and the divine natures in one person,

experienced separation from God. The disjointing of the Son of God from the other members of

the Godhead resulted in indescribable suffering not only to Jesus but also to the Godhead. Jesus'

cry of dereliction points to a voluntary breach within the Godhead, to the sundering of the Trinity

as Christ voluntarily surrendered His life for you and me. Atonement is a Trinitarian event and it

took place in the mystery of the divine sundering. God voluntarily assumed responsibility for our

sins and in His Son experienced the penalty for our sin: God was in Christ reconciling the world

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to Himself (2 Cor 5: 19). The problem of evil, sin, and death was universal in scope and the

resolution of the plot of the story required a remedy that was un,iversal in extent. Where sin

abounded, grace abounded all the more (Rom 5 :21 ).

In our story, the cross is a cosmic singularity. Its uniqueness and finality cannot be

questioned. Jesus' atoning death does not need to be supplemented in order for it to have full

saving power. It is by itself more than enough. We should take seriously His words on the cross:

"It is finished!" All was needed to resolve the cosmic conflict and preserve the human race

happened on the cross. Yet, in our story, His death is followed by His resurrection, His

ascension, enthronement, the mediation before the Father, and the promise of His return in glory!

The story did not end on the cross. He was resurrected Sunday morning and hundreds saw the

resurrected Lord; they also saw Him ascending to heaven. The Father said to Him, "You are a

priest forever according to the order of Mechizedek" (Heb 5:5-o). He was appointed by the

Father to be our Mediator.

But His mediation should not be understood as an addition to the cross. That would be a

fatal mistake. His mediation is so intertwined with His atoning death on the cross that it derives

its meaning and effectiveness from the cross. It is not a new chapter but a development of the

chapter on the cross. After the cross everything else that Christ is doing for us before the Father

through mediation and judgment is an unfolding of the meaning of the cross. It is a gradual

disclosure of the power and effectiveness of the cross. It may sound a little prosaic but allow me

to use a phrase from science without attempting to legitimize any scientific theory. Here it is, the

cross was the spiritual "big-bang" of the new creation. Every element of the divine plan of

salvation was compressed in that glorious event. The significance and power of the cross is

constantly expanding and will continue to expand and deepen throughout eternity as we study the

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magnificence of the atonement. The cross is indeed a cosmic singularity; unrepeatable in the

history of the universe. Therefore the mediation of Christ for us in the heavenly temple does not

add anything to the saving power of the cross, to its finality and singularity. It reveals how the

fullness of the atoning death of Christ reaches us and is made available to every human being.

In our story, the work of Christ before the Father is inseparable from the work of the

Spirit in the human heart. Again, the work of the Spirit is not an addition to the cross but it is

dependent and determined by the cross. The cross makes possible the work of the Spirit. The

Spirit descended as a result of the work of mediation of Christ. Peter narrated this part of the

story to his audience during Pentecost saying: "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are

witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the

promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear" (Acts 3:33; cf. John 15:26;

16:7; NIV).

After the Cross: Consummation

But Peter and the rest of the Scriptures have more to say about the story I am narrating

this morning. According to him, Jesus "must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to

restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets" (Acts 3:21). God

provided for us, through His prophets, an outline or a sketch of the rest of the story in order for

us to know what is our role within it. Through the prophets God alerted the church about

unexpected turns in the history of the church and the coming apostasy. He told His people how

the gospel was going to be clouded by human traditions and how He was going to work in its

restoration. But above all, the Lord Himself, promised them His return in glory and a new earth

and a new heaven.

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This new creation is already a here. Atonement could be seeri as a process, but as a

process through which the power of the cross to save sinners unfolds within human history

bringing into existence an expanding new creation. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new

creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor 5:17; NIV). The expanding universe of the

cross will replace the old world of sin and death. In that process, even the final judgment is

directly connected to the cross and is not something we add to enhance its saving power. The

cross is the revelation of the judgment of God against evil powers. Their fate was determined

there and will find its fullest manifestation or consummation in their eternal extinction from the

universe. With respect to the people of God their eschatological verdict before the divine tribunal

is ~lready theirs through justification by faith. In our narrative, the final judgment will reaffirm

this divine decision, unless a believer falls from God's grace. The divine decision is not an

arbitrary one; it is based on the love and justice of God as He grants to every human being what

they chose based on their works.

With respect to the people of God, the closing chapter in our story takes place at the

moment of the parousia. At the present time it is a promise, but soon it will be a reality: "He will

appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him"

(Heb 9:28). "The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with

immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with

immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in

victory"' (1Cor15:53-54). We will join the heavenly family free from a sinful human nature.

But the story does not end there. The cosmic conflict must be resolved. It is through the

cross as the place where the glory, love, and justice of God was revealed that the cosmic conflict

will be resolved. The cosmic Day of Atonement, the final judgment through which the people of

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God are vindicated, also brings the cosmic conflict to an end. The books will be opened before

the divine tribunal and the forces of evil will see their own lives and what God did through the

cross for sinners. They will see the love of God manifested there in a unique way and they will

realize that they are indeed guilty as charged. And as the story of the cosmic conflict comes to an

end, we will witness a doxology of judgment; the whole universe, including the powers of evil,

bowing down before the Lord acknowledging that God is indeed a God of love and justice as

revealed on the cross of Jesus.

Conclusion

Paul summarizes the story saying that Jesus "who, being in very nature God made

himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being

found in appearance as man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even the death

of the cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above

every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under

the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:6-

11).

I am in the story; I am also on my knees proclaiming that Jesus is indeed the Lord. And

as I turned my head around, I see you there on your knees. The conflict is over; but this is not the

end of the story. John says, "Then I say a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev 21 :1). The story

will go on forever and ever, for endless ages; all made possible through the revelation of the love

of God on the cross of Christ. In a sense this story is my story, your story, because Jesus

incorporated us into His story. We have chosen to end this portion of the narrative in union with

Him; the rest of the story is in His loving hands. The adventure is just beginning. Amen!