Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

Theology Corner

1.)  CAN GOD'S WILL BE THWARTED?

2.)  DID GOD ELECT ONLY A FEW FOR SALVATION WHILE CONDEMNING THE GREATER PART OF MANKIND TO HELL?

3.)  FAITH OR SALVATION: WHICH COMES FIRST?

4.)  DID GOD THE FATHER BEGET JESUS CHRIST?

5.)  WHAT ARE THE TWO NATURES OF CHRIST?

6.)  WHAT IS ANTINOMIANISM?

7.)  WHAT IS SABELLIANISM?

8.)  WHAT IS PELAGIANISM?

9.)  DOES LOVE REALLY WIN?

10.)  IS YOUR WILL REALLY YOUR WILL?

11.)  CAN TWO THEOLOGIES BE TESTED FOR COMPATIBILITY?

12.)  WHAT IS THE FRAUD OF FIDEISM?

13.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES THEOLOGY?

14.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH CHRISTIAN SCIENCE THEOLOGY?

15.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH MORMON THEOLOGY?

16.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS THEOLOGY?

17.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH SCIENTOLOGY THEOLOGY?

18.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH UNIFICATION CHURCH THEOLOGY?

19.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH THE WAY INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGY?

20.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD THEOLOGY?

21.)  IS REPENTANCE REALLY NECESSARY?

22.)  WHAT ARE SOME MUSINGS OF A METHODIST THEOLOGIAN ON LIMITED ATONEMENT?

23.)  WHAT ARE SOME QUESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO TEACH A LIMITED ATONEMENT PROVIDED ONLY FOR THE ELECT OF GOD?

24.)  WHAT WERE CALVIN'S ACTUAL WORDS?

25.)  WHAT IS GNOSTICISM?

26.)  WHAT IS THE UNPARDONABLE SIN?

27.)  IS CLASSICAL CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY?

1.)  IS CHRISTIANITY COMPATIBLE WITH POSITIVE TOLERANCE?

2.)  CAN WE HAVE A FORM OF GODLINESS, BUT DENY THE POWER THEREOF?

3.)  WHAT IS THE GREAT WAR?

4.)  SHOULD PRESIDENT TRUMP HAVE BEEN IMPEACHED FOR IMMORALITY?

5.)  WHO SAID MOSES WAS HUMBLE?

6.)  COULD CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE BENEFIT FROM WOKE REVISION?

7.)  DID EINSTEIN BELIEVE ALL CHRISTIANS WERE CALVINISTS?

8.)  WHY IS MARXISM A MAGNET?

9.)  WHAT IS TRUE SCIENCE?

10.)  CAN YOU LOSE YOUR SALVATION?

11.)  WHAT ARE THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS?

12.)  WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS?

13.)  WAS PAUL ENTIRELY SANCTIFIED?

14.)  ARE YOU LIVING IN A WORLD AT WAR?

15.)  WHAT IS THE DIRECT METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

16.)  WHAT IS THE CONTRAPOSITIVE METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

17.)  WHAT IS THE CONTRADICTION METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

18.)  WHAT MIGHT A METHODIST THEOLOGIAN SAY ABOUT PURGATORY?

19.)  WHICH BIBLE PASSAGES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

20.)  DO SELECTED NIV VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

21.)  DO SELECTED AKJV VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

22.)  DO SELECTED YLT VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

23.)  DO SELECTED 'VOICE' VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

24.)  COULD THE CONCEPT OF 'SALVATION ONLY FOR THE ELECT' HAVE BEEN ROOTED IN THE MIND OF AUGUSTINE BEFORE HE EMBRACED CHRISTIANITY?

25.)  DID AUGUSTINE RECEIVE PUSHBACK FOR HIS TEACHING OF 'SALVATION ONLY FOR THE ELECT' DURING HIS LIFETIME?

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REFORMATION?

Within sixty years of its birth, the fortress of Reformed Theology was deftly undermined from within by James Arminius (1560 – 1609), a newly installed professor of theology at Leyden University (1603).  Here were the general sentiments of Arminius; the five points of the Remonstrants are clearly visible in the text:

 

“That God, foreseeing the apostasy of the human race, [total depravity] out of his abundant mercy and loving kindness decreed the appointment of a universal remedy, that should be adequate to the restoration of all men, by the removal of that liability to destruction to which they had become awfully subject through sin.  This restoration was to be effected by the mediation of Jesus Christ His Son, whom he appointed to be delivered up to death, as a propitiation for the sins of all mankind; and upon this propitiation, as a basis of reconciliation, he resolved to enter into a covenant with the whole of the human family, by which he decreed that all those who should believe in His Son [unlimited atonement]  and embrace the conditions of this covenant [conditional election], should receive the forgiveness of all their sins.  And for the purpose of enabling them to submit to its terms, and participate its blessings, He determined and commanded that it should not only be announced, by His messengers and servants, to all men in general, but also that its promulgation should be accompanied by, and ratified with that efficacious grace by which all those to whom it should be published might be able to embrace and receive it. [prevenient grace]  Nevertheless, this grace was not to act upon them with such a mighty and irresistible power as to preclude the possibility of its being opposed [resistible grace]; but, on the contrary, should leave them free agents to resist its influence, which, under the dictate of depravity, is not only done, but in too many fearful instances is awfully and obstinately persisted in.  So that although the existence of faith and obedience in man must be traced up to the grace of God, powerfully operating on his mind, yet his unbelief and continued disobedience are from himself, an awful evidence of which is seen in his slighting and neglecting this grace. And while its operation is thus necessary to the production of faith and obedience, so its influence is amply sufficient to enable those who are its subjects so to profit by it, as to abide in a state of salvation, even to the end.”

But whether they could finally fall from a state of faith, was a point on which he felt himself unable fully and positively to decide, to the satisfaction of his own mind.  He asserted, therefore, that the decree of Divine predestination especially related to, and consisted in, the purpose of God determining that “all those to whom the blessing of this grace was offered, should in consequence of believingly receiving it, and continuing therein to the end, be saved; while on the contrary, those who rejected it, and continued in unbelief should be damned.” [non-perseverance of the saints] (Arminius, Recorded in Calder, p 47-48)

 

A framework, for the Five Points of the Remonstrants, is nestled in this statement by Arminius. The actual Five Points were delivered to Reformed authorities in 1610 after his death.  When Arminius presented a more formal version of his sentiments to the States-General Assembly, Franciscus Gomarus, a Calvinist colleague of Arminius at Leyden, responded to this theological summary of Arminius by angrily telling the assembly that with such opinions he should be afraid to appear in the presence of God. The theology of Gomarus was diametrically opposed to that of Arminius.  The five points of the TULIP are clearly visible in the following  text of Gomarus:

 

“That God, alike to make known his tender mercy and inflexible justice, did of his own mere good pleasure divide, from all eternity, mankind into parts; the one, and that by far the less, he predestinated to eternal salvation; and the other, necessarily the greater, he reprobated to everlasting damnation.  [unconditional election]  And for the accomplishment of his decree, founded thereon, he resolved to create man, and prescribe to him the observance of a law, but so arranging the circumstances of his condition, that he must unavoidably, with all his posterity, be involved in a state of sin, and thereby with them justly become liable to eternal damnation. [total depravity] Nevertheless, in accordance with his purpose of grace toward the elect, God decreed to send Jesus Christ his Son into the world, who should make a full and perfect satisfaction to Divine justice, for all their sins, that they might thereby be brought into a state of reconciliation with him.  [limited atonement]  And in order that these persons, thus redeemed by his Son Jesus Christ might be effectually made the subjects of faith and repentance, he would by a powerful and effectual calling, which it would be impossible for them to resist, [irresistible grace] so operate on their minds as necessarily to produce in them genuine faith and conversion; which mighty power, in its continued and irresistible operations would preserve them to the end, so that they could not again fall into a state of sin, which is inconsistent with genuine faith, and the enjoyment of salvation: or, in the event of their falling, yet they should not be left to continue therein to the end of life; but through the powerful influence of Divine grace, should be recalled to repentance before death, and consequently be brought to partake of eternal salvation. [perseverance of the saints]”

 

Gomarus denied that God had sent his Son into the world for the reprobate, or indeed that he ever intended to afford them any assistance, by which they should become the subjects of repentance and conversion.  From hence it followed, that being left in their depravity, and without the means of salvation, and that to the end of life, they must inevitably die in their sins, and suffer eternal damnation.  (Gomarus, Recorded in Calder, p 46-47)

 

A conference was held shortly after the Remonstrants delivered their 5 points but it ended without any definite results. The feud smoldered with increasing vitriol for another 10 years.  In 1618 – 1619, a synod was triggered, known as the Synod of Dort, which met on November 13, 1618 and continued until May 9, 1619 – a total of 154 sessions.  The Remonstrants appeared in the person of thirteen deputies, headed by Simon Episcopius who had assumed a position of leadership after the death of Arminius.  The Remonstrants lost this battle.  The synod drew up 93 canons developing more thoroughly the Calvinistic system. The persecution of Arminians by Calvinists exploded for decades after the Synod.  Arminians were beheaded, tortured, imprisoned, executed, subjected to property confiscation, and expelled from their homelands; all this because they dared to believe the great gift of salvation was offered to all mankind.  An account of this carnage is given in the 1837 book entitled “Memoirs of Simon Episcopius” by Frederick Calder.  The cover page of this book has an appropriate quote by Sir J. Mackintosh:

 

“The Calvinists now punished with death those dissenters who had only followed the examples of the most renowned of Protestant reformers, by a rebellion against authority, for the sake of maintaining the paramount sovereignty of reason.”

 

Why did this persecution happen?  The short version is that Luther and Calvin were attempting to alter the course of Christianity after centuries of Roman Catholic corruption (e.g. Luther’s 95 Theses).  Unfortunately, they took the wrong fork in the road.  They followed Augustine.  In particular, Calvin unswervingly followed Augustine’s logic: the unconditional election by God of only a few to salvation, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ only for these elect individuals, the irresistible grace of God only for the elect and eternal security only for the elect.  Those who followed James Arminius and Simon Episcopius were trying to make a course correction for the newly created Protestant Church and return to the theology of the Apostles and Apostolic Fathers.

Why does this have any relevance today?  After all, we have many non-denominational, inter-denominational and even denominational churches who claim to be above such conflict.  Perhaps the Five Points of the Remonstrance and the Five Points of the TULIP can be intermingled to synthesize a super theology – perhaps a 3-point Calvinist and a 2-point Arminian theology.  Unfortunately, those who follow this path do not think clearly.  Every Christian church must embrace either Arminian Theology (Wesleyan/Arminian)  or Calvinist Theology (Reformed).  The points of both theological systems cannot be changed, separated or mixed. The two sets are mutually exclusive.  Also, this issue cannot be avoided by focusing on other matters as a distraction.  The issue can only be avoided by keeping the congregation ignorant or following a path which is not Christian at all (See also Sections 1.3, 2.13, 2.14, 2.15, 2.16, 2.17, 2.18, 2.19, 2.20, 2.27 and 13.6 of Theology Corner)!

Is this a fight which should be fought?  What would Jesus do?  Did Jesus and the apostles sacrifice truth on a glorified altar of peace and unity (Mat 10:34; 1 John 4:1-4; 2 Pet 2:1)? Is the history of the Christian church one of theological appeasement (1 Thes 5:21)? Did the church welcome the beliefs of the Gnostics, Docetists, Ebionites, Arians, Apollinarians, Nestorians, Eutychians and Sabellians in the name of peace and unity? When Marcion demanded that Polycarp recognize his teaching, did Polycarp embrace him in the name of peace and unity or did Polycarp respond, "I recognize you as the first-born of Satan?" 

(See also Sections 1.21, 1.22, 2.1, 2.22, 2.23, 2.24, 3.16, 4.9, 4.10, 7.15, 10.17, 13.24 and 13.25 of Theology Corner)