Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Somewhere In The Middle," Part III-B: "T" is for "Total Depravity"

In my last post, I stated that there is no “middle” theology between Calvinism and Arminianism...but that there is one between Calvinism and Pelagianism---which is called Classical Arminianism. I also stated in my last post that Calvinism and Pelagianism are the two extreme theologies, and that Classical Arminianism is not an extreme theology. It is not man-centered (that would belong to Pelagianism); and, contrary to misconceptions about Classical Arminianism, it affirms that man’s will is imprisoned, infirm, maimed, and bent as a result of the fall...and that, without grace, the will cannot make ONE TINY STEP toward God!!! Arminius (as I quoted from Olson’s work “Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities”) did not agree with Pelagius and actually separates himself from Pelagian theology. This should dispel of the notion that Classical Arminianism is man-centered and heretical. Chances are, most people who make such claims are ill-informed of Classical Arminianism itself; and I would say to such people, “Shame on you for bashing a view you know nothing about”...

In today’s post, I will begin to cover the details of Arminius’s five-point Classical Arminian theology. I will address the tenets in the order of Calvinist theology, since “TULIP” remains the most beloved five-point acrostic between Calvinist and Arminian theologies (although Arminians rely on the “FACTS” acrostic---see Billy Birch’s blog site “Classical Arminianism” for more information).
First, I will begin with “T” for “Total Depravity.” Regarding the will, Arminius wrote:

“...having turned away from the light of his own mind and his Chief Good, which is God...he transgressed the command given to him for life. By thus foul deed, he precipitated himself from that noble and elevated condition into a state of the deepest infelicity, which is 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 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: for Christ has said, ‘Without me ye can do nothing’” (Arminius, “Works,” 2:192).

Arminius makes it clear here that man MUST have God’s grace, or else he will never believe. He writes about the depravity of man:

“The mind of man, in this state (the dominion of sin), is dark, destitute of the saving knowledge of God, and, according to the Apostle, incapable of those things which belong to the Spirit of God: for ‘the animal man has no perception of the things of the Spirit of God;’ (1 Cor. ii, 14;) in which passage man is called ‘animal,’ not from the animal body, but from ‘anima,’ the soul itself, which is the most noble part of man, but which is so encompassed about with the clouds of ignorance, as to be distinguished by the epithets of ‘vain’ and ‘foolish’;’ and men themselves, thus darkened in their minds, are denominated ‘mad’ or foolish, ‘fools,’ and even ‘darkness’ itself” (2:193).

Arminius uses 1 Cor. 2:14 as proof of his statement. The verse itself in Scripture tells us that “the natural man” cannot “receive” or “know” the spiritual things “because they are spiritually discerned.” In other words, the natural man does not possess the Spirit, and, thus, cannot know the things of the Spirit.
Arminius cites other texts as well: “Rom. i. 21, 22; Ephes. iv, 17, 18; Titus iii, 3; Ephes. v, 8)”(2:193).

Ephesians 5:8 says, “for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (NKJV). Ephesians 4 states, “you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their minds, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart...” Paul tells us that the understanding of the sinner is darkened because of sin. Notice he says that these Gentiles “have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Eph. 4:18). These Gentiles (unbelievers) have “given themselves over,” turned themselves over to all manner of sin. There is no limit to just how much sin these sinners will commit. The phrase “given themselves over” is reminiscent of Paul’s words to the Romans in Romans 1:

“because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools...therefore GOD ALSO GAVE THEM UP to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves...for this reason GOD GAVE THEM UP to vile passions...And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, GOD GAVE THEN OVER TO A DEBASED MIND, to do those things which are not fitting” (Rom. 1:21, 22, 24, 26,28).

Mankind willingly fell into sin; and, from that day forward, man has continued to sin. Notice in Romans 1 above that man comes to desire sin so much that he “did not like to retain God in...knowledge” (Rom. 1:28). Men’s minds, then, are truly “darkened.” This is the result of man turning against God and attempting to make himself “God.” In the same way that Nebuchadnezzar became an animal the moment he glorified himself above God (Daniel 4:29-33), so also do we become “animals” when we attempt to live without God. For it is God who “enlightens” our minds and hearts and gives us rationality and righteousness.

Those who desire to read more on the depravity of man should consult Billy Birch’s blog on Classical Arminianism (http://classicalarminianism.blogspot.com/) as well as “The Works of Arminius” section at the top of the CTS blog page, on the right. Click on “Works of Arminius” to the right under the contributors section. As an aside, Billy Birch also has a blog devoted to James Arminius and his theology. Check that out at his sight.

My refusal to remain so long on the issue of total depravity stems from the fact that all camps involved (Calvinist, Arminian, and Molinist) all affirm that man is unable to accept Christ without grace and faith being given (all groups accept this minus Pelagianism).

In my next post, I will tackle the issue of election (that being the “U” in the Calvinist system for “Unconditional Election,” “S” in the Molinist system for “Sovereign Election,” and “C” in the Classical Arminian system for “Conditional Election”).

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