Apologetics · Calvinism

An Opportunity to Interact with an Arminian

In a recent blog, I wrote that “the Arminian paves the way for Universalism by teaching that Christ has made atonement for all sins of all men. If that is true, then on what basis is anyone condemned?”

A reader took issue with the blog and wrote the following which provides an opportunity for interaction with an Arminian.

The Arminian.

“But the problem is that you are understanding salvation in purely legal terms.”

A Biblical Response.

It is scripturally proper to understand salvation in legal terms for justification is a legal term which declares a person righteous in the eyes of the law. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

The Arminian.

“It is perfectly possible for Christ legally to bear the sins of all people (meaning every single member of the fallen human race), while at the same time allowing that some people are eternally condemned.”

A Biblical Response.

Imagine a courtroom wherein a judge declares a defendant who is standing before him to be “not guilty” of a certain crime. But instead of letting the man go free, the judge proceeds to sentence the defendant—the same one he just moments before declared to be not guilty—to be executed for his crime. The absurdity of this thought experiment is obvious. Similarly, it is just as absurd to say Christ “legally” bore the sins of all humanity without exception while those same sinners still suffer the penalty for the sins which Christ bore. If Christ legally took upon himself the sin of all people, then there is no basis for God to punish sinners—because there would be, legally speaking, no law violated. There would be no basis or foundation for God to punish. It would be tantamount to a Father arbitrarily and capriciously beating his children . . . just because. Not that they had committed any wrong doing, not that they had violated any rule or command—just because.

Instead, the only pertinent question here to ask is did the Father send His only begotten Son to Calvary to legally bear all the sins of all humanity without exception?

The Biblical answer is, “No!” The Bible declares that on the night of His birth the angels said that the Messiah would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Jesus said He came to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). In John 17 Jesus did not pray for everyone. In fact He specifically said He would not pray for everyone, but only for those whom the Father has given to Him (John 17:9). Had Jesus actually and legally paid for every sin of every single member of the fallen human race so that their sins are forgiven, then surely He would have prayed for them, and beyond that claimed His redemption, for Jesus said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” (John 6:37). If there is a single person that is lost for whom Jesus paid the legal redemption price, then He has failed to secure that which He has obtained by His precious blood. The soul of Christ could not be satisfied if someone for whom He has paid the redemptive price is lost. But we read that Jesus is to see the travail of His soul and be satisfied (Isaiah 53:11).

The Arminian.

“If I pay the fine incurred by someone else, then that person is free from that penalty, but he may utterly despise me for my act of mercy. My act of mercy may indeed torment and humiliate him. A proud, arrogant and evil man may have had the legal penalty for his sins removed by the atoning work of Christ, and, in that sense, he may be ‘saved’ from a legal point of view, but if he is unrepentant, then the reality of the love of God will be a torment for him.”

A Biblical Response.

It is inconsistent with logic to talk about a person being “saved” from a legal point of view, and then being utterly and forever damned. It is illogical to speak of a person being legally “saved” because their “fine,” which is death (Romans 6:23), has been paid when the basis of ultimate condemnation is the legality of the law.

Every person who rejects Christ as personal Saviour wants to be judged by their good works believing that the law of God, if it even exists, will uphold them and they will yet be saved. But the ungodly, the unbelieving, the wicked, the rejecters of Christ will not be “saved” legally in the eyes of the law. The law will serve to condemn such wretched souls, for “by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God” (Romans 9:32). A person cannot be legally justified, and guilty at the same time. That is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

If it is the position of this Arminian that Christ has paid the “fine” of all sinners, if Christ has legally borne “the sins of all people (meaning every single member of the fallen human race)” and yet they are still damned because they do more evil, then of what value is it to have paid the fine? Christ has died in vain if such souls are left to be ungodly still.  That is a position that should cause the angels to weep, and the heart of every truly born again Christian to shudder. Such a teaching is contrary to the biblical revelation for “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30). Christ came to redeem souls and to set the captive free from sin, not to leave a “saved” soul wallowing in hatred and hostility to God.  Whatever teaching this Arminian is advocating, it is not the biblical doctrine of justification of faith, it is not redemption, it is not salvation—logically, legally, practically, or otherwise.

The Arminian.

“Hebrews makes clear that “it is a fearful thing to fall INTO the hands of the living God” and “Our God is a consuming fire,” indicating that God Himself, the God of love (whose mercy endures forever, whose mercy triumphs over judgment and whose perfection is manifested in His love for His enemies, as Jesus made clear) is the agent of torment in hell.”

A Biblical Response.

If this Arminian truly believes that it is possible for Christ to legally bear all the sins of all people so that their sins are forgiven in the eyes of the law because their “fine” has been paid, then on what basis is any person to be the object “of torment in hell”? Before the bar of divine justice, the justified person cannot be found guilty for the very same transgressions of which the law has declared him righteous and for which his penalty has been paid. The legally “saved” person of which this Arminian hypothesizes cannot fall into the hands of the living God for punishment. The soul for whom Christ has legally paid his “fine” has nothing to fear. In fact, the soul of which this Arminian writes could sing with impunity, and in mockery, “Free from the law, O happy condition, sin as you please for there is remission.” After all, according to this Arminian, even these sins have been paid for.

The Arminian.

“What is ‘evil’ if it is not a deep-seated and utterly committed hatred and contempt for the love of God? For an evil person, it makes no difference what the legal position is: that person’s experience of God will be hell.”

A Biblical Response.

The Arminian is wrong.  It does make a difference what the legal position is, for the Bible says that God is just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus (Romans 3:26).  That is a legal position that the Scriptures are careful to protect and advance as the ground of salvation.

The Arminian.

“(and, by the way, it makes not a shred of difference whether that person subscribes to Calvinist or Arminian doctrine or any other view of reality. Doctrine does not save. Christ saves.)”

A Biblical Response.

It is true that Christ saves, but all that is known about Christ, and salvation, is based on doctrine, or Biblical teaching. Sound doctrine may not be important to this Arminian, but it is important to God. The believer is to be able to “speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Paul was careful to correct Peter when he was swept away by the Judaizers. Christians should be alarmed at any theological construct that makes man the final arbiter of his own salvation, robs God of His sovereignty, diminishes His free grace, and exalts the will of man over the will of God. Arminianism logically and consistently leads to Universalism, if Christ has truly paid the “fine” for “all people (meaning every single member of the fallen human race).” It does not matter if the fine is even “accepted” or not by the object of grace, not in the eyes of the law. The fine is paid. The prisoner is free to go. He is under no obligation and will receive no penalty from a just court.

The Arminian.

“The doctrine of limited atonement is fraught with difficulties. Essentially it undermines not only the mercy of God, but also His justice.”

A Biblical Response.

Whatever the doctrine of limited atonement is believed to be by this Arminian, the Biblical teaching is that of a definite atonement, or a definite redemption. Jesus did not come to make salvation possible, He came to save (Luke 19:10). Jesus did not die to make individuals redeemable, He came to redeem “us,” those who are saved (Galatians 3:13). When Jesus cried at Calvary, “It is finished!” He did not mean the great work of atonement was now available, but that it had been accomplished. The death Christ died, the blood He shed, is applied to all whom the Father has given to the Son. They and they alone are to be covered by the blood, and justified before God (1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 1:7). “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

The Arminian.

“To argue that everyone deserves hell anyway because of the fall does violence to the idea of just desserts. If a person is conceived with a sin nature as a result of the effect of original sin, and is thereby “totally depraved” and unable to save himself, and God has decreed that that person should never be offered any hope of salvation, then clearly, to all intents and purposes, God has created that person for absolutely no other reason than to condemn him (even though one may try to sweeten the pill by the use of the word ‘infralapsarianism’). This soul had no hope and opportunity of ever being anything other than depraved. And, of course, he never chose to be conceived and born into this world.”

A Biblical Response.

There are many great mysteries about God, life, sin, salvation, election, and eternity. The truth of the matter is that no one has asked to be conceived and born into this world. No one has been given a choice to be born male or female, rich or poor, wounded or whole. Many decisions are made by the Creator on behalf of His creation. However, every person is responsible for the knowledge they have received in spiritual matters. The rest, “the secret things belong to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

No one should tell a person they are not among the elect, and no person should ever consider themselves to be among the non-elect. What every person should do is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ with the promise, they will be saved (Acts 16:31). What the church should do is to go into the entire world, to every person, to every nation, and preach Christ crucified, dead, buried, and raised from the dead. Christ is to be preached as the only Saviour of the world. He is to be offered to every soul by sin oppressed.

Trying to figure out who specifically has no hope, and who has hope, is a discussion in futility. The gospel message is simply put. Let every soul know there is mercy with the Lord (Psalm 146:5). Trust Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-38).

The Arminian.

“In no way does Scripture support the idea that God has created some people for no other reason than to damn them.”

A Biblical Response.

The Protestant Reformation was based on the idea that the chief end of every person is to know God and enjoy Him forever. That is a positive message. The Biblical doctrine of a chosen people, an elect people, the doctrine of a definite atonement accomplished and applied, is designed to comfort the hearts of people. What is certain is that the God of the universe will do right by every person He has created.

The Arminian.

“Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God after he had already hardened his own heart.”

A Biblical Response.

This Arminian may want to read Exodus 4:21. Err before we read of Pharaoh hardening his own heart nine times, God foretold what He was going to do. “And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21).

The Arminian.

“An already evil man was used for God’s purposes. In Genesis chapter 4 God affirmed that even Cain was not “totally depraved”, but could choose to do good.”

A Biblical Response.

The doctrine of total depravity, when properly understood, does not teach that individuals are so bad they cannot do any good. Cain could have chosen to do good. Judas did do good as an official apostle of Jesus Christ. What the doctrine of total depravity does teach is that individuals are as bad off in unbelief as they can be. Their understanding is darkened (Ephesians 4:18), their emotions are perverted (Romans 1:24), and they are dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 4:1). They are helpless and hopeless in and of themselves and need a Saviour.

The Arminian.

“Verse 7 indicates that sin’s desire is for Cain, but God told him that he should rule over it. Romans 9, which appears to support the Calvinist view, is actually specifically about the election of Israel, and we read in Genesis 12:3 that “in you (Abraham and thus by extension Israel) all the families of the earth will be blessed”. In other words, Israel was chosen, in order to bring blessing to others, not with the result that others are damned.”

A Biblical Response.

The personal pronouns of Romans 9 argue in favor of individuals being in view, as well as the subsequent history of Jacob, Esau, and the Pharaoh of the Exodus. In other words, God did love Jacob. God did hate Esau. God did raise the Pharaoh up for divine purposes. It does no good to argue for national Israel being in view in Romans 9, for if it is wrong for God to choose one person over another, it is equally wrong for Him to choose one nation over another. Besides, nations are made of individuals, so again, it is a meaningless shifting of emphasis.

The Arminian.

This is further affirmed in Psalm 67:1-2, a prayer that God would bless His people in order that His salvation should be known among all nations. Does this mean that God’s plan was that every nation should become “Israel”?

A Biblical Response.

Actually, it was God’s plan for every nation to be “Israel,” not ethnically, or racially, not even religiously, but spiritually. This divine desire is accomplished in the church whereby Jews AND Gentiles are united in Christ. The true seed, the true children of Abraham are those who are in Christ by faith!  “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7).

The Arminian.

“No, Israel’s election was a positive thing: they were called in order to bless others. Likewise with the Church. We are not elect in preference to others, but in order to bless others. The former idea appeals to human pride, but the latter encourages humility and a recognition of the true sovereignty of God.”

A Biblical Response.

National Israel was chosen to be a blessing to others. The church is to be a blessing to others. But it must not be denied that God says plainly He preferred Jacob over Esau, so we cannot change the Word of God (Romans 9:13).

That God has an elect people is also the plain teaching of Scripture, and of Jesus (Matthew 24:24), which means that God has a chosen people in the Lord (Romans 16:13) who will come to Christ. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

I, for one, am grateful God has chosen me for salvation for I know that in the flesh, I would never have chosen Christ. It was not in my heart to choose Him, or in my nature. Like Nicodemus, I needed to be born “from above”. “He love me err I knew Him and all my love is due Him.” With George Whitefield I am willing to pray, “Oh God, save the elect, and then elect some more!”

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