Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Brief Refutation of Amyraldism

In the mid-1600's, French Reformed Pastor and Professor of Theology Moises Amyraut (sometimes latinized to Amyraldius) created a controversy in the Reformed Church of France by suggesting a reform of Calvinist theology. He opposed the teaching of a particular atonement (the "l" in TULIP, for "limited atonement"), while maintaining the doctrines of election and reprobation. His views came to be known as "Amyraldism" (or "Amyraldianism"), or as "four-point Calvinism." This view can often be found professed by individual Calvinists. However, as far as I have been able to determine, only the Grace Brethren Churches hold it as official denominational doctrine.

I have written several times on the biblical case for particular atonement, so I won't attempt to do so again here. Use the tag at the bottom to go to those posts. Rather, here I will deal specifically with Amyraut's attempt to remove the doctrine from the Calvinist system.

Amyraut's view boils down to this: 1) the Father has foreordained a certain number of individuals to salvation; 2) the Son died to atone for every sin of every member of the human race, without distinction; and 3) the Holy Spirit applies that atonement only to the elect. I think that the obvious reaction to this combination of precepts is that the Persons of the Trinity are put at cross purposes. However, the orthodox view of the Trinity forbids this. And Scripture concurs.

Jesus testified that He, the Second Person of the Trinity, does only the will of the Father, the First Person. See Luke 22:42 and John 5:19-24. And He further testified that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person, acts only in accord with the word of the Son (John 16:7-15). To have any contrary acts or intent within the Trinity is thus impossible. I consider this flaw to be fatal to any system of Calvinism which tries to incorporate the Arminian doctrine of universal redemption (except for the one who holds to universal salvation, which is a separate issue altogether.)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

An Answer to a Pentecostal Minister Regarding Predestination

I was recently watching a roundtable discussion on TV among several Pentecostal ministers. An emailer wrote in and asked the opinion of the panel regarding the doctrine of predestination. Among the responses was one by a panel member, in which he snorted, "'Whosoever will' is all you need to know." I believed that such a vacuous answer could not go unchallenged, so I emailed him the brief argument below. Due to his particular biases, I used the King James Version, rather than my usual ESV.  I will give his response at the bottom.

First, no one "wills" to come to God naturally, because we are all "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). As such, Paul says that "no one seeks God" (Romans 3:11). So you used that phrase to mean something that Scripture says is impossible. Rather, God must take the initiative to give us a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19-20 and 36:26-27).

In John 6:44, Jesus says, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." And Paul makes the same point in Philippians 2:13, "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." It is God that creates the will in us to respond to the Gospel. It isn't something that we have in us. Yes, it is "whosoever will," but only because God gives us that will to begin with. What He requires, He provides (John 1:13). Paul says that God even gives us the very repentance which is a part of our response to the Gospel: "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth..." (II Timothy 2:25).

This is why I believe in predestination, because I have experienced the truth that it is only by God's ordination that I believed (Acts 13:48), and because my Jesus chose me, I did not choose Him (John 15:16). That is my assurance, that He is faithful and unfailing, regardless of how frail and faltering I am (John 6:39, 10:28-29).

Edited to remove identifying remarks, he responded, "Sir I am sorry to say but you follow false doctrine and obviously lack an understanding of God 's Holy Word. May I suggest you get the Expositors Study Bible from then you will understand scripture. I will not debate this with you because I am very busy and if I need to be corrected on scriptures and doctrine then My pastors... will do that . Thanks"

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Problem of Evil: A Biblical Answer

A common argument against Biblical Christianity goes something like this: A good, omnipotent, and omniscient God is incompatible with the presence of evil in the world. Ironically, this argument from atheists is something that a Christian can actually agree with: evil is incompatible with the nature of God! However, the atheist then goes a step further and adds, there is evil in the world; therefore, there cannot be a good, omnipotent, and omniscient God, i.e., the God of Biblical Christianity.

The biblical answer to this dilemma must begin in Genesis, where God creates both the physical universe and mankind. These creations, by His own testimony, were "very good" (Genesis 1: 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and 31). There was no aging, sickness, death, or futility, in the lives of men. However, Adam chose to reject the goodness of the world and rebel against God (Genesis 3:1-19). Thus, Man chose to bring the debilitation of age, sickness, death, and futility, both for himself and for the physical world over which God had given him dominion. See the explanations of these curses in Romans 5:12 and 8:22.

So, the response of the Christian to this challenge of the atheists is straightforward: God did not create a world containing evil. Rather, mankind chose to reject the good world we had been given, for a world of hardship. And, out of justice, God allowed Man to have the world he preferred.

Now, we can turn this question back on the atheist: by what standard do you claim that some of the conditions in this world are evil? Afterall, the atheist rejects the overarching authority of God to define good and evil. This is what apologists call "precept stealing." The atheist actually requires the truth of Christian theism to provide his understanding of evil. His very question assumes the truth of what he seeks to undermine! By positing the very idea of "evil," the atheist demonstrates the truth of Paul's words in Romans 1:18-19, "[They] by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them." That word "atheist" is a misnomer, in fact, a deception. The atheist knows the truth of the existence and righteousness of the triune God of the Bible. He then suppresses that knowledge, because he commits that sin of Adam all over again: he chooses to be his own god, but refuses to confess the consequences of that choice.

[This argument is borrowed, in part, from Scott Oliphint, the Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.]