Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Remonstrance Returns: A Response to Michael D. Williams' Article, "The Five Points of Arminianism" by Deidre M. Richardson

“The will of God cannot, according to Arminius, circumscribe human choices such that any particular choice is metaphysically necessary. Divine determination of any degree or stripe is a violation of the integrity of the human free will. To be free, the will must be free from all coercion. The integrity of the autonomous creature is the one irreducible theological principle of Arminius’s thought…if it is appropriate to speak of a doctrine of sovereignty here, it appears that it can only be the sovereignty OF THE HUMAN WILL. In Arminian thinking, God can only get his way IF HE HAPPENS TO BE TRAVELING IN THE SAME DIRECTION AS WE ARE.”

First, I would like to applaud Michael Williams for completing his work, “Why I Am Not An Arminian.” Roger Olson praises him highly for his remarks regarding Arminians—that they are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. However, in this essay, I will critique Williams’ analyses of the five points of Arminianism and show why, scripturally, Williams’ Calvinist leanings cannot be correct.

Arminian Article One states:

“That God by an eternal and immutable decree has in Jesus Christ his Son determined before the foundation of the world to save out of the fallen sinful human race those in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ who by the grace of the Holy Spirit shall believe in this his Son Jesus Christ and persevere in this faith and obedience of faith to the end; and on the other hand to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath and condemn (them) as alienate from Christ—according to the word of the holy gospel in John 3:36, ‘He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life, and whosoever is disobedient to the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him,’ and also other passages of the Scriptures.”

Regarding Article One, Williams writes:

“While the intention here is to reject any notion of salvation by works, a salvation by merit, Arminius’s doctrine of election through foreseen faith cannot fully escape the allegation that merit is intrinsic to his understanding of salvation. John Frame states the Calvinist analysis here most succinctly: ‘The Arminian wants to have it both ways. He wants to say that faith has no merit, but he also wants to say that our faith somehow motivates God to save us, that God chooses us on the basis of our choosing him. But if faith motivates God to save us, then it must have merit in his eyes’.”

The first error Williams makes in his assessment of Arminius (a typical Calvinist attack) is that he labels faith as a work (“merit is intrinsic to his[Arminius] understanding of salvation”). Read what the apostle Paul writes regarding faith:
“This is the message of faith that we proclaim: IF you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Let’s look at this passage. First, note that Paul calls the message “the message of FAITH” that “we PROCLAIM.” The message is ALL ABOUT FAITH! This is what Paul preached, no matter where he went, regardless of who he met. For Arminius, faith was central to salvation—for faith in the work of Christ is what is required, as Romans 10:8-9 demonstrates. Next, note that Paul says, “IF you confess with your mouth,” and “IF you believe in your heart” (the word “if” serving as the initial word for both actions). The text does not tell us that God has decided to save some and damn others. If anyone confesses and believes, he or she is saved. Salvation comes through these two steps—confession and belief; and there are no others to perform.

Paul also speaks of faith (as distinguished from merit) earlier in the book of Romans:

“What should we say then? Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness—namely THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES FROM FAITH. But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the law. Why is that? BECAUSE THEY DID NOT PURSUE IT BY FAITH, but as if it were by works" (Rom. 9:30, NASB)

Paul contrasts the Jew and the Gentile here: the Gentiles have received righteousness without the works of the law, while the Jews have gotten nothing for their human efforts—because they were still trying to “earn” their salvation through the law.
Paul gives us an interesting statement: “the righteousness that comes from faith.” The Gentiles have received God’s righteousness THROUGH FAITH. Faith then, is not a work, for the text does not say “the righteousness OF faith,” but “the righteousness that COMES FROM faith.” It is not the faith that makes a believer righteous—it is the work of Christ that a believer RECEIVES by faith that makes the believer righteous. Paul explains this to the Corinthians:

“He[God] made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

We have an opportunity to become righteous because He “traded places” with us—while He hung on the cross, we went free. He became the sin that we committed so we could become the righteousness God demanded.

Now, with 2 Corinthians 5:21, let’s approach the John Frame quote:

‘The Arminian wants to have it both ways. He wants to say that faith has no merit, but he also wants to say that our faith somehow motivates God to save us, that God chooses us on the basis of our choosing him. But if faith motivates God to save us, then it must have merit in his eyes’.

I’ve never read where an Arminian ever said that our faith motivates God to save us. Williams (nor Frame) have paid attention to Arminius’ Article One: it clearly states that those who believe “by the grace of the Holy Spirit” will be saved. Our faith can’t motivate God to save us because it takes God’s GRACE before we can ever come to faith!! Our faith, then, is DEPENDENT upon God’s grace, not INDEPENDENT of it. If faith could be demonstrated independently, then grace would not be needed. This hypothetical independence of faith is of the semi-Pelagian heresy, which Arminians do not believe. Read the words of Roger Olson (quoting Arminius):

“In 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…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…BUT YET NOT WITHOUT THE CONTINUED AIDS OF DIVINE GRACE.”

So our faith does not motivate God. God gives grace independent of whether or not we are motivated to choose Him.

However, while God’s grace is first applied before faith can even become possible, the Lord DOES expect us to come to Him with faith. The writer of Hebrews states:

“Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.”

If we don’t have faith we cannot please the Lord. Our coming to Christ is of null effect if we don’t have faith. Notice that this verse is in the midst of Hebrews 11, the famous chapter so dubbed as “The Role Call of Faith.” Those who were accepted in God’s sight were those whose faith was supplemented by works. The existence of faith is predicated on what we do. It shows whether or not we really believe what we say we do. Look at Hebrews 11:6 again—it says that the Lord rewards “THOSE WHO SEEK HIM.” This tells us that God does not “pull” people like a magnet into the Kingdom of God. The Lord does not force people to accept Him, or put some secret “force” behind them that makes them do what is right. No—He extends the invitation to come receive His righteousness by faith—and whether or not we come is up to us.

Frame’s last statement is puzzling: that, if faith must come prior to salvation, then it must have merit in God’s eyes. It very well may have merit; but even our faith is given by God Himself:

“For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly then he should think. Instead, think sensibly, AS GOD HAS DISTRIBUTED A MEASURE OF FAITH TO EACH ONE.”

Everyone has been given a measure of faith. Because everyone has faith, and faith comes from God, then God has extended His kindness to ALL. So everyone has been given faith by which to please Him.

Article Two:

“That in agreement with this Jesus Christ the Savior of the world died for all men and every man, so that he merited reconciliation and forgiveness of sin for all through the death of the cross; yet so that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer—also according to the word of the gospel of John 3:16, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ And the first epistle of John 2:2, ‘He is the propitiation for our sins; and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world.’”

Regarding Article Two, Williams writes that the article was written against the Calvinist position, “in conformity with Arminius’s notion of a GENERAL DECREE OF REDEMPTION (which compels me to say only that Christ died for sins).”

But Christ did die for the sins of the whole world. I am a believer and have faith in Christ, but Christ did not die just for me, or for a special group—but for all. As Paul wrote in Romans,

6 For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, (K) Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. 8 But God proves (L) His own love for us (M) in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

In the midst of our sin, Christ gave His life for us. Were believers the only sinners at that time? No—we stood condemned ALONG WITH ALL THE WORLD in sin. The Arminian can still say that Christ died for him, but not only for him. As 1 John 2:2 tells us (Arminius quoted this in his second Article), “He is the propitiation for our sins; AND NOT ONLY FOR OURS, BUT ALSO FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD.” Who did John write this letter to? The believers. What evidence is there?

“Dear friends, WE ARE GOD’S CHILDREN NOW…”

“I am writing to you, little children, BECAUSE YOUR SINS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN ON ACCOUNT OF HIS NAME. I am writing to you, fathers, because YOU HAVE COME TO KNOW THE ONE WHO IS FROM THE BEGINNING…I have written to you, children, BECAUSE YOU HAVE COME TO KNOW THE FATHER.”

Therefore, when John says that Christ didn’t die for our sins, he is telling us that MORE THAN JUST THE BELIEVER is involved—the sinner is as well.

Article Three:

“That man does not have saving faith of himself nor by the power of his own free will, since he in the state of APOSTASY and sin cannot of and through himself think, will or do any good which is truly good (such as is especially saving faith); but that it is necessary that he be regenerated by God, in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, affections or will, and all powers, in order that he may rightly understand, meditate upon, will, and perform that which is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John 15:5, ‘Without me ye can do nothing.’”

Look back at the first words of Article Three:

“That man does not have saving faith of himself nor by the power of his own free will, SINCE HE IS IN THE STATE OF APOSTASY AND SIN…”

Before someone comes to Christ, he or she “is in the state of apostasy.” Wait a minute! Before Christ, we’re in APOSTASY? But, we aren’t saved! We haven’t had a chance to walk away, have we?

This is where Romans 5 comes to the rescue:

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because ALL SINNED.”

So we strayed from God IN ADAM! Adam was the representative of the human race, and his sin we all were partakers of. We shared in the transgression—all of humanity, despite the fact that we weren’t born yet, or hadn’t done any wrong (“those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam’s transgression,” Rom. 5:14, HCSB).

The word “apostasy” comes from the Greek verb “aposteisontai,” meaning “to depart.” So when Arminius writes that we are in “apostasy and sin,” he is saying that, not only are we unbelievers before we accept Christ, but that we are in such a state BECAUSE WE ABANDONED CHRIST ONCE BEFORE—IN ADAM, in the Garden.

Williams asks the question, “But how does this third article fit with Arminius’s OPTIMISTIC VIEW of human free will and his SYNERGISTIC view of redemption WHICH INSISTED THAT MAN’S ACCEPTANCE OF THE GOSPEL IS A NECESSARY CONDITION FOR REGENERATION?” We read of Arminius’s answer in Article Four:

“That this grace of God is the commencement, progression, and completion of all good, also in so far that regenerate man cannot, apart from this prevenient or assisting, awakening, consequent and cooperating grace, think, will or do the good or resist any temptation to evil; so that all good works or activities which can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. BUT WITH RESPECT TO THE MODE OF THIS GRACE, IT IS NOT IRRESISTIBLE, since it is written concerning many that they resisted the Holy Spirit. Acts 7 and elsewhere in many places.”

While everything good the believer does is attributed to the grace of God, grace is not irresistible—this means that people can resist this grace and choose not to accept it. Arminius doesn’t leave us to wonder whether or not the Spirit can be resisted. He gives us an example of Spirit resistance in Acts 7:

“You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always RESISTING the Holy Spirit; as your forefathers did, so do you.”

In Acts 7 Stephen is preaching a long sermon at the “Freedman’s Synagogue, composed of BOTH Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia” (Acts 6:9). It is after they hear part of his sermon that they began to accuse him of speaking blasphemy against God (Acts 6:11-14).

Arminius believes that the Spirit of Grace can be resisted. Williams’ answer?

“At the end of the article, we read that grace can be resisted by the recalcitrant human will. Grace is not efficacious as in the Augustinian and Calvinist sense that by God’s power his grace effects its goal, namely, the redemption of sinners such that their redemption comes by no power of their own but is due solely to the power and work of the triune in the Remonstrance, however, GRACE IS NOT CAUSAL BUT MERELY PERSUASIVE IN NATURE…the call of the gospel is not YOU WILL but rather YOU SHOULD.”

Although Williams labels Arminianism as possessing a “synergistic” view of redemption, this in and of itself is not true. No one is arguing that the work of salvation is solely the work of the Lord—only the Lord could save us from our sins (we were unable to do so).

“In Him we have REDEMPTION through HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of our trespasses, ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GRACE, that He lavished on us WITH ALL WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING.”

Why would the Lord give us grace IF we didn’t need to accept Him THROUGH FAITH? After all, Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that it takes both grace and faith to receive salvation.

However, what Arminius (and his followers) are saying is that, while the redemption has been wrought by God alone, it is not IMPARTED to a person UNTIL that person receives it BY FAITH. There is no other way to receive the work.

Secondly, Arminius does not possess optimism about free will—rather, he has a realistic view of human free will:

“That man does not have saving faith of himself nor by the power of his own free will, since he in the state of APOSTASY and sin cannot of and through himself think, will or do any good which is truly good (such as is especially saving faith); but that it is necessary that he be regenerated by God, in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, affections or will, and all powers, in order that he may rightly understand, meditate upon, will, and perform that which is truly good, according to the word of Christ…”

Arminius argues here that it is NECESSARY for a man to be changed by the Holy Spirit. Notice that when the man is regenerated, he is not only given the ability to meditate and will those things that are good, but he is also “renewed in understanding.” This is confirmed by the apostle Paul:

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, WHO IS BEING RENEWED IN KNOWLEDGE ACCORDING TO THE IMAGE OF HIS CREATOR.”

When we have come to faith because of God’s Holy Spirit, then we receive a new man. And the new man is “being renewed in knowledge.” This tells us that the old man had “his practices,” things he did because of his old nature. But the new man now has a choice—he is not an automaton, doing what he is forced to do, as if some “secret impulse” is guiding him towards righteousness. No—he is now freed to CHOOSE whether to do the deeds of his flesh, or to do the deeds that accompany someone possessing the Spirit of God.

The one who puts on the new man is seeing his knowledge renewed, or “made new again,” which implies that at one point, his knowledge was complete (ours was complete in the Garden of Eden). The knowledge is being renewed, even as the image of God, planted on humanity, is being renewed. The image is being made anew, so that one can begin to “see” clearly the things of God and discern what is right and wrong. Why would God give us this knowledge IF we didn’t have a responsibility to make an educated choice that would be most pleasing to God?

The next charge made by Michael Williams is that Arminians assert that “grace is not causal but PERSUASIVE.” However the charge was made, Williams is right. Arminians are not going to say that grace is causal. Grace is there as an aid, the lens through which the believer “sees” God (“the door” according to John 10), but grace is not going to MAKE the believer walk to “the door”[Christ] and open it[receive salvation]. Paul talks about the persuasive nature of the gospel:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad. Knowing, then, the fear of the Lord, we PERSUADE people.”

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul makes the point that everyone will stand before Christ to be judged in the end—for everything that they have done. Why are we to be judged, IF, as the Calvinist says, God has already chosen some to be saved and others to be damned? Notice, too, that Paul said that he and others PERSUADE all people. What does the word “persuade” mean? This is what I gathered, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary online:

“To move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a BELIEF, position, or COURSE OF ACTION.”

So when Paul writes that he and others PERSUADE men, he is stating the fact that, while God’s grace is there for every man, that grace is not CAUSAL—it doesn’t move people to belief. Only by employing man’s rational component, his intellect and reason, can a person receive salvation by faith. If grace were causal, there would be no need to persuade men—for grace would win them over, whether or not it was against their will or intellect.

Grace IS PERSUASIVE; for, if it were CAUSAL, what would be the need for faith? Both grace and faith are needed in order to receive salvation. If the Calvinists have it their way, Ephesians 2:8 will read, “Now by grace are ye saved; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” If it is just grace, and grace is given to every man (as Scripture tells us), then God would ELECT EVERYONE TO SALVATION! However, God doesn’t pick EVERYONE to be saved; why? Because of faith, belief. And God knows, as well as we do, that some will accept the faith while others reject it. God doesn’t handpick everyone to be saved, and He doesn’t handpick SOME to be saved; He allows everyone to receive salvation by grace through faith. And whether or not one receives it is up to them.

Paul also tells us how a sinner comes to salvation in Christ:

“’For EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord WILL BE SAVED.’ But how can they call on Him in whom THEY HAVE NOT BELIEVED? And how can they believe without HEARING ABOUT HIM? And how can they hear WITHOUT A PREACHER? And how can they preach unless they are sent?...but ALL DID NOT OBEY THE GOSPEL. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has BELIEVED our message?’ So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. But I ask, ‘Did they not hear?’ Yes, they did:
‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the inhabited world.’
But I ask, ‘Did Israel not understand?’ First, Moses said:
‘I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that lacks understanding.’
And Isaiah says boldly:
‘I was found by those who were not looking for Me; I revealed Myself to those who were not asking for Me.’
But to Israel he says: ‘All day long I have spread out My hands to a disobedient and DEFIANT people.’”

First, for someone to accept the Gospel, he or she has to hear the Word from a preacher (Rom.10:14), who is sent (Rom. 10:15); then, once the Gospel has been preached, the sinner has to make a choice based on what they heard. Based on their hearing, they have to choose whether or not to believe. And once they believe, they then call on the name of the Lord and are saved (Rom. 10:13).Why would Paul go through this process IF everyone was elected, some to eternal life and others to eternal reprobation and torment?

But, Paul asks, “Have they not heard?” In other words, a person would surely believe if they heard the message, right? To this answer, Paul quotes Psalm 19:4. This Psalm discusses the general revelation of God as well as His Word. Paul says, yes, they have heard the message because Scripture foretells that they would.
If Israel heard the message, then, did they understand it (understanding being next in the process of belief)? Paul quotes from Deut. 32:21 to let them know that “a nation that lacks understanding,” in this case, the Gentiles (context of Romans), would come to faith—while the nation that had understanding (the Israelites) wouldn’t come to faith because of their unbelief.

In verse 26, Paul uses Isaiah 65 to say that “those who were not looking for Me,” i.e., the Gentiles (those for whom salvation was not given originally) would find the Messiah.
In verse 27, the Lord has an altogether different response for Israel: although they have heard the message and have fully understood it, they have become a “disobedient and defiant people,” who refuse to believe. Notice that the Lord says, “ALL DAY LONG I HAVE SPREAD OUT MY HANDS” to such people.

Michael Williams responds to Article Four:

“…the Arminian notion of prevenient grace DE FACTO nullifies the doctrine of depravity that was affirmed in the last article. The spiritual inability spoken of in the third article becomes an empty shell, a purely hypothetical notion. If all people have sufficient free will that they are able to respond believingly to the gospel, then when or where does anyone exist who lives under the conditions described in the article on the Fall—that is, devoid of ‘the power of his own free will’ and ‘in the state of apostasy and sin?’ What was lost in the third article—the freedom of the will—is reinstated in the fourth.”

Williams is wrong, once again. Article 3 tells us that

“That man does not have saving faith of himself nor by the power of his own free will, since he in the state of APOSTASY and sin cannot of and through himself think, will or do any good which is truly good (such as is especially saving faith); but that it is necessary that he be regenerated by God, in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, affections or will, and all powers, in order that he may rightly understand, meditate upon, will, and perform that which is truly good, according to the word of Christ…”

The third article of Arminianism tells us that the man “in the state of apostasy and sin” cannot bring himself to saving faith. However, look back at Article Four. Article Four is not talking about the same thing as article three. Article Three is talking about that a man cannot come to saving faith APART FROM the grace given to him by God. However, in order for man to make a choice of whether to accept or reject, his will must be “freed” so that he can make a decision. Once his will is freed to make a decision, the choice is up to him. This is what we call “Grace through faith”—grace is supplied so that FAITH IS POSSIBLE!

There are quite a few passages of Scripture that show the connection between grace and faith, but I’ll provide two:

23for(A) all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24(B) and are justified(C) by his grace as a gift,(D) through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God(E) put forward as(F) a propitiation(G) by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in(H) his divine forbearance he had passed over(I) former sins.

8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift—

Notice that in both examples, grace comes BEFORE faith. What is faith? Faith is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary online as:

3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction.
I also looked up a definition for the word “belief”:
3: conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence.

Both definitions use the word “conviction” when talking about faith. And what does it mean to be convince someone? to overcome by argument.
So, someone who is convinced comes to faith because of a powerful argument or strong evidence attesting to the truthfulness of something.

To say it best, faith is what happens when I use my intellect and reason to examine the Gospel for myself and see whether or not Christ really came to earth as God in the flesh, Immanuel, and whether or not He really did die for the sins of the whole world (including my sin). Being saved is not some mental relaxation process where my mind isn’t engaged in the Good News about Christ. If it is, then I should question why my intellect was even given to me in the first place. The Calvinist would like to have us believe that grace pulls “the elect” along a tidal wave, whose end is salvation and glory; however, if this is so, then man is no more than a machine—and God becomes the “machine operator” who pushes certain buttons to get certain reactions. We become His puppets, and He becomes abusive and rapist. Remember what I stated earlier about the image of God being renewed? Let’s read it again:

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, WHO IS BEING RENEWED IN KNOWLEDGE ACCORDING TO THE IMAGE OF HIS CREATOR.”

Because the new man is renewed (made new) IN KNOWLEDGE, it seems as if the Lord doesn’t just throw our minds out of the window. Contrary to Calvinist thought, the Lord can still (and does) use our minds for His glory, once we “awaken” out of the “slumber” of sin and apostasy and by faith accept Him as Lord and Savior. The God image that we bear starts to be restored day-by-day once we accept Christ. God, then, doesn’t eliminate the image of Himself that we bear, nor does He do away with our faculties that were given to us BY VIRTUE OF being created in His image and having His likeness. God particularly restores the mind once grace is accepted because of the pivotal role of mankind in God’s plan. Let’s go back to see how important the mind of man was:

19 So the LORD God formed out of the ground each wild animal and each bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. (S) And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal;

Man is so pivotal to God’s plan in the world that man was allowed to demonstrate His intellect in the Garden of Eden. Adam didn’t have to wonder how he got all the knowledge he had to name the animals—for God implanted the knowledge in Adam when He created him. Adam, bearing an intellect because His Creator does, was able to act in his role as “lord” (lowercase) over the earth—by naming the animals. And as the human head of creation, Adam gets to name his wife Eve as well.

If the intellect and will were of such pivotal importance in the Garden of Eden, why would they be ANY LESS IMPORTANT when man professes faith in Christ? If the image of God is being restored in man every day, and that image was connected with the intellect and will, then why wouldn’t the intellect and will be restored also? Calvinism portrays human beings as animals who live off of instinct—but we were made for more than this! As the crowning creation of all God made, WE have been given a mind and will LIKE GOD so as to be able to do things the rest of creation cannot do. And “eliminating” these in salvation, when God has created us to be in fellowship with Him, is to place mankind among the beasts of the field and the creatures that crawl on the earth.

Let’s read Arminius’s Article Five:

“That those who are incorporated into Jesus Christ and thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit have abundant strength to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh and to obtain the victory; it being well understood (that this is) through the assistance of the grace of the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends the hand, and—if only they are prepared for welfare and desire his help and are not negligent—keeps them standing, so that by no cunning or power of Satan can they be led astray or plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the word of Christ, John 10, ‘No one shall pluck them out of my hands.’ But whether they can through negligence fall away from the first principle of their life in Christ, again embrace the present world, depart from the pure doctrine once given to them, lose the good conscience, and neglect grace, MUST FIRST BE MORE CAREFULLY DETERMINED FROM THE HOLY SCRIPTURES before we shall be able to teach this with the full persuasion of our heart.”

Williams responds to Article Five with the following:

“It is expected because it fits the Arminian dictum of the SOVEREIGNTY OF THE HUMAN FREE WILL. Human choice, even a choice which consists of negligence in the things of God, is determinative. Free will trumps all else, even the grace of God. When man has veto power over the redemptive work of God, the power of determination is always in the hands of man and never in God’s…Perseverance in the faith may be enabled by grace, but IT IS FINALLY DEPENDENT UPON OUR OWN ACHIEVEMENTS AND STRIVINGS.”

Arminius believed perseverance was important for the believer. While he believed someone could neglect their relationship with Christ, he didn’t go so far as to say that someone could depart from the faith. Arminius believed that to make this point would require greater study of the Word of God. Another article will be needed to examine this tenet of Arminianism, but for now, one verse of Scripture will suffice:

“Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some WILL DEPART FROM THE FAITH, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons...”

The Greek word for “will depart” is “aposteisontai”; its parent word is “aphistamai,” which can mean “to go away,” “to desert, to withdraw from one,” or “TO FALL AWAY, TO BECOME FAITHLESS.”

Our English word “apostasy,” is a derivative of the Greek word. Looking up the English word “apostasy,” I got these definitions:

1 : renunciation of a religious faith
2 : abandonment of a previous loyalty : DEFECTION

Looking up the word “defection,” I got the following:

: conscious abandonment of allegiance or duty (as to a person, cause, or doctrine)
Apostasy, therefore, involves a “conscious abandonment,” a decision of the will to walk away from something. It is an intentional departing from what one has known (in this case, the Christian faith).

The evidence is in the Greek, but Arminius left this question open.
So Williams and other Calvinists can assert that Arminians praise free will as the center of their theology, but linguistically, willful abandonment and departure from the faith seem to be an apparent reality.

It is my hope that after this long study, it has been shown that the Calvinist attacks on Arminius’s Five Points is unwarranted. While I respect Michael Williams for his work on “Why I Am Not an Arminian,” I think his work left me confident about being one.


(1) Williams, Michael D. “The Five Points of Arminianism.” Presbyterion 30/1 (Spring 2004):26.
(2)While the five points of Arminianism are contained in other sources, I will cite Williams’ work where he prints them (will be so throughout this article).Williams, “Five Points,” page 27.
(3)Ibid., 28.
(4) Romans 10:8b-9 (Holman Christian Standard Bible). All verses in this article will come from this version unless otherwise stated.
(6)2 Corinthians 5:21.
(7)Olson, Roger.”Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.” Downers Grove: IVP, 2006, page 42. Here he quotes from Arminius’s “Works,” this one being “A Declaration of the Sentiments of Arminius.”
(8)Hebrews 11:6.
(9)Rom. 12:3.
(10)Williams, “Five Points,” page 29.
(12)Rom. 5:6-8.
(13)1 John 3:2.
(14)1 Jn. 2:12-14.
(15)Williams, “Five Points,” page 29.
(17)Williams, “Five Points,” page 29.
(19)Acts 7:51 (HCSB).
(21)Ephesians 1:7.
(23)Colossians 3:9-10.
(24)2 Corinthians 5:10-11.
(26)Romans 10:13-21.
(27)Rom.10:27, HCSB.
(28)Williams, 31.
(29)Rom. 3:23-25, ESV.
(30)Eph. 2:8, HCSB.
(34)Colossians 3:9-10, HCSB.
(35)Gen.2:19-20, HCSB.
(36)Williams, 32.
(38)1 Timothy 4:1, HCSB.

(1) Brand, Chad Owen, E. Ray Clendenen, Paul Copan, and J.P. Moreland, eds. The Apologetics Study Bible. Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.
(2) Olson, Roger.”Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.” Downers Grove: IVP, 2006.
(3) Williams, Michael D. “The Five Points of Arminianism.” Presbyterion 30/1 (Spring 2004).

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