Category Archives: Predestination and Free Will

And I Will Lose None of Them

Dear hijas,

The in TULIP stands for ‘the Perseverance of the Saints’.

TULIP Calvin's

What the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) sought to demonstrate and affirm against the Arminian Remonstrants was God’s total control over the outcome of those He has elected. It is a bringing to fruition by grace His Sovereign plan to those He has chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), to and for those He has chosen to be holy and walk blameless before Him, to and for those He predestined to adoption as beloved sons and daughters through Jesus Christ according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:5).

The Perseverance of the Saints affirms Jesus’ words in John 10: 27-29, that His sheep hear His voice, He knows them, and they follow Him. He gives eternal life to them, they shall never perish, and no one will snatch them out of His hand.

It affirms the author of Hebrews in 12: 2 who says that Jesus is the author and perfecter of (the elect’s) faith, and Phil. 1: 6 that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

It affirms Jesus’ words in John 6:39 that the will of the Father who sent Jesus was that of all He (the Father)  has given Him (Jesus), He (Jesus) will lose none of them, but raise them up on the last day.

It affirms Paul’s words in Romans 8: 29-30:

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

So what can one say? Romans 8: 31-ff:

If God is for us who can be against us?…Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Can you see what powerful testimony this is, mis hijas, to God’s sovereignty and complete control and direction of His divine plan for His elect? What an awesome God is this!

The leaders at the Synod of Dort were reacting to the Arminian Remonstrant position that it was possible to fall from grace; that one could lose their salvation if not dutifully and diligently keeping oneself in the fold. The Remonstrants sided with the Roman Catholic church that one cannot be truly sure of one’s salvation (Council of Trent, Canon on Justification, Article 14).

What ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ addresses, therefore, and what the Synod of Dort affirmed, is that it is not what man does to keep his salvation, but what Christ has already accomplished. Christ has forgiven past, present, and future sins. There’s no need for worry that your post-regeneration sins will lose you your salvation. In God’s eyes they’re washed away in the same way our pre-conversion sins are washed away. Christ’s sacrifice paid them all. Our assurance of salvation then, never rests in what we do or in what we don’t do, but on Him and His perfect sacrifice. This indeed is pure love to behold!

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

God or Chance: Irresistible or Resistible Grace

Dear hijas,

How can sinners dead in their trespass and sin come to a saving knowledge in Christ? Since Christ died and purchased salvation to those the Father had given him (John 17: 2, 12), was it inevitable that these elect would come to faith in Jesus?

The question goes to the heart of the sovereign nature and power of God. Who’s ultimately and finally in control here, God or sinners themselves? Is God completely sovereign and powerful enough to choose a people for Himself? Can His decisions, His will be thwarted?

The Calvinists at the Synod of Dort said “YES”, those whom the Father had given and which Christ had purchased would inevitably come to faith in Jesus. Since God has chosen you, elected you, then you will inexorably come to faith. His decisions and will cannot be thwarted. His power cannot be contested, His sovereignty cannot be challenged. ‘…For who resists His will’ (Rom. 9:19)?

The Arminian Remonstrants said “NO”, it is not inevitable that man would come to faith in Christ. Man’s will is free from the effects of the Fall and therefore can accept or reject God’s offer of grace. Man is only ‘wounded’ and still has a conscious choice to take the ‘medicine’ of Jesus if he so chooses.

Calvin's TULIP

The Calvinists replied that when man fell, he died both physically and spiritually and is incapable by himself of choosing God, without God first initiating and regenerating his spirit. He’s dead, not sick or wounded, and it is the Holy Spirit which makes him alive. It is then the irresistible grace of God that the heart is changed, the mind is opened, and the will is transformed. It is this initial act of God that man is able, by the Spirit to come to faith. The outward call of the gospel must be accompanied by the inward call of the Spirit that a man “dead” in trespass and sin, now comes “alive” in Christ.

What the Synod of Dort said was that the grace of God is irresistible; that as a result of God’s mercy and regenerating power, the elect will repent and believe in the Son. This act of regeneration is monergistic–the work of God alone. ‘No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day’ (John 6:44).

By rejecting irresistible grace, the Arminian Remonstrants made man and his will ultimately sovereign. God’s glory and power are compromised, reduced to a mere vice-regent, roaming the earth knocking on the door of people’s hearts, hoping that people would see the wonder of His plan and accept Jesus as their personal Savior.

But this view is not the sovereign and Almighty God of power that created everything from nothing, mis hijas. God doesn’t ‘hope’ that you come to Him, as if He is wringing His hands in anxiety waiting for you to do so; as if exhibiting divine angst about which way you will go. No, He has divinely chosen you, elected you, by an act of His sovereign will to be His beloved child, reconciled you back to Him through an act of love that sent Christ to pay for your sin problem by His death on the cross, and is fulfilling His plan for you right now through to eternity. This is marvelous, wonderful to behold! And as we will see in the last letter of TULIP, His choosing you means He will never let you go. What love is this!

As always, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas!

Limited or Unlimited Atonement, Particular or Universal Redemption

Dear hijas,

Atonement: reparation made for a wrong or injury.

5 Points Calvinism TULIP

The Synod of Dort in their rejection of the 5 points of Arminianism taught that salvation, from beginning to end, was a work of God’s grace alone. Their answer in the L of TULIP was Limited Atonement. What does that mean?

For starters, why was reparation needed for a wrong committed? Answer: the Fall of Adam into sin and rebellion and our inheritance of that sin nature. “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) “Each of us has turned aside; together we have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Ps. 14:3). “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–” (Rom. 5:12).

Who needs to do the repairing, the atoning? Answer: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Gen. 3:15). “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Is. 53:5). “…and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

So the question the Synod of Dort had to deal with here was whether this atonement of Jesus was universal and general as the Arminian Remonstrants posited, or whether it was particular and limited. Their answer, from Scripture, following Calvin, was limited and particular. How does this play out?

The question before us now is “What did Jesus accomplish on the cross?” “For whose sins did He atone?” Calvin believed, from Scripture, that it was limited to the elect. Christ’s death on the cross was for certain specified sinners. His purchase, or redemption (a buying back) was for those who were, are, and would be ‘born from above’, ‘chosen in Him before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4). Calvin believed that Christ’s death was substitutionary and propitiatory for those whom God gave Him to save (John 17:9), and that Christ’s work on the cross secured everything necessary for their salvation, including the faith that would be given as a gift (Eph. 2:8). In essence, Christ died to atone for specific sins of specific sinners.

The Arminian Remonstrants believed just the opposite. They believed that Christ, as Savior of the world,  died for all men and for every man, but that it was not designed to purchase a specific people for Himself, nor to secure salvation for any particular sinner, only to make salvation “possible” for any person who would of his or her own free will repent and believe. It’s a view that denies that Christ paid a ‘penalty’ for us, but that He only ‘suffered’ for us. It’s universal and general in its scope. In this view, Christ’s work on the cross, His atonement, only becomes effective if man chooses to accept it.

The Synod of Dort in addressing this point of the Arminian Remonstrance, (that Jesus’ death was only a potential, symbolic atonement for anyone who might possibly, in the future accept Him) believed that it trivialized Christ’s work on the cross and was Scripturally incorrect. Their answer was Limited Atonement, and because it is Scriptural, should be ours as well.

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand (John 10:27, 28).

With love, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas

Election: Conditional or Unconditional

Johannes Calvin

Dear hijas,

How is one chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), predestined to adoption as daughters and sons through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5)? Conditionally or unconditionally?

This brings us to the U in TULIP: Unconditional Election. TULIP Calvin

Why did the Synod of Dort think it was important to clarify this? It was because the Arminian Remonstrants thought that ‘election is a result of God looking down through the corridors of time, and forseeing that a sinner will accept Christ. Therefore, God elects those who first elect Him.’ Scripture does not support this view.

Unconditional Election seeks to answer the question raised by Nicodemus in John 3: “How is the sinner ‘born again’, so that he can (ability) have faith?” Nicodemus didn’t ask it just that way, but if you remember, he said, “…He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he” (John 3:4)?

Remember in an earlier post I said that being ‘born again’, or ‘born from above’ is not something you contribute to. Just like your physical birth in which you didn’t participate, your spiritual birth works in the same way. God is the one who wills unconditionally for you to be ‘born from above’ enabling you to have faith in Christ. This is something you can never do while ‘dead’ in trespass and sin. Being ‘born from above’ must of necessity precede faith, and this happened before God put His creative work in motion back in Genesis 1. It is the first act of God’s grace.

Mark 13:27 speaks to this:

And then He will send forth the angels, and WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect FROM THE FOUR WINDS, FROM THE FARTHEST END of the earth, TO THE FARTHEST END OF HEAVEN.

Luke 18:7:

now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?

and convincingly, John 15:16:

You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.

See also Romans 9:21-24, Ezk. 36:26, Matt. 22:14.

The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (www.reformed.org) puts the Arminian view into focus:

2. Conditional Election

God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world was based upon His foreseeing that they would respond to His call. He selected only those whom He knew would of themselves freely believe the gospel. Election therefore was determined by or conditioned upon what man would do. The faith which God foresaw and upon which He based His choice was not given to the sinner by God (it was not created by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit) but resulted solely from man’s will. It was left entirely up to man as to who would believe and therefore as to who would be elected unto salvation. God chose those whom He knew would, of their own free will, choose Christ. Thus the sinner’s choice of Christ, not God’s choice of the sinner, is the ultimate cause of salvation. (http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/trf/index.html?mainframe=/calvinism/trf/part_6.html)

They also put the Calvinist view into focus:

2. Unconditional Election

God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response of obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause of God’s choice. Election therefore was not determined by or conditioned upon any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus God’s choice of the sinner, not the sinner’s choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

Total Inability (Depravity) vs. Human Ability (Free will)

Dear hijas,

Calvin's TULIP

The T in TULIP (the five points of Calvinism) stands for Total Depravity or Total Inability. It is probably the most misunderstood tenet in Calvinism. When Calvinists speak of total depravity they are saying that the Fall of Adam affected man in the totality of his being (his will, his emotions, his intellect). Every component of man and his personality was affected, and nothing was unaffected. They are not saying that man is intensely sinful, or as totally depraved as he could be (on the bad end of a sliding scale for instance), but that sin has extended to his entire being, affecting the entirety of who he is as man. It stems from the recognition that man is born ‘dead’ in trespass and sin (Eph. 2:1, Ps. 51:5), that none are righteous not even one (Rom.3:10), and loves darkness rather than light because his deeds are evil (Jn. 3:19), and because of the hardness of his heart (Eph. 4:18), not accepting the things of the Spirit (1 Cor.2:14), having no fear of God before his eyes (Rom. 3:18).

Total Depravity stresses the fact that the unregenerate man is dead, blind and deaf to the message of the gospel; that he has lost the ability, outside the influence of God’s grace, to choose the perfect good in relation to the spiritual realm. It recognizes that man’s fallen will is ultimately grounded in self; a self-directed will that is corrupt and cannot please God. Total depravity/total inability stresses that in the end, man is free to choose, but can only choose of necessity from among the things his fallen nature of its own accord will consider. It recognizes that “no one can (ability) come to Jesus, unless the Father who sent Jesus draws him” (John 6:44).

In contrast, J.I. Packer in his book, ‘Knowing God’, says the Arminians put this point forth thusly (a Partial Depravity or Wounded Man theory):

Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him.

From the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/trf/part_6.html, on its discussion of Calvinism and Armianism and the two systems contrasted from Dr. Loraine Boettner’s (1901-1990) work ‘The Reformed Faith‘, we find this about the Arminian view on this point:

1. Free-Will or Human Ability

Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does not interfere with man’s freedom. Each sinner posses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man’s freedom consists of his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God’s Spirit and be regenerated or resist God’s grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit’s assistance, but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man’s act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner’s gift to God; it is man’s contribution to salvation.

Can you see the differences here, mis hijas? Total Depravity or Partial Depravity? A ‘dead’ man or a ‘wounded’ man? Can you see what each side is saying in regards to ‘free will’, and the ‘ability to choose’?

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

Synod of Dort – Monergistic

Dear hijas,

TULIP

The importance of what the Synod of Dort in 1619 accomplished in response to the protest or Remonstrance of the Arminians is seen in the acrostic: TULIP. These 5 points of Calvinism have historically been held by Presbyterian and Reformed churches and by many Baptists and are the backbone of Reformed Theology.

It’s not enough to know that God loves you and sent His Son to die for your sins, but to know why your redemption has been accomplished and how it is made effective. Since Christianity is a system of thought, not just and ‘only’ the way of salvation, it is important to link the truths of Scripture into a complete unit which ties these truths together into a systematic whole. It is only when we do this that the strength and beauty of our Judeo-Christian system of thought is clearly seen. These five points of Calvinism do that for us in answer to the questions we raised in ‘Predestination and Free Will: Some Preliminary Questions‘, my post of Feb. 21 found here: https://luvnotestodaughters.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/predestination-and-free-will-preliminary-questions/.

What we will attempt to do now is compare and contrast the 5 points of Calvinism with the 5 points of Arminianism. At first, we must realize that there is some disagreement today about what exactly the Arminian Remonstrants were positing. Many modern-day Arminians don’t understand the implications of what their historical brethren, the Historical Arminians, actually believed in their Remonstrance of 1610. This has caused some confusion. However, we can be assured that the church leaders at the Synod of Dort, and the canons that came out of the Synod of Dort, were not confused. They clearly understood the five articles the Remonstrants posited, and refuted each one, one by one, with TULIP, or five points of Calvinism.

An important aspect of this debate, like that with Luther and Erasmus, has to do with the nature of the Fall of Adam. We must remember this critical point, for it pops up again and again throughout history. Was Adam’s Fall complete ruin in body, soul, and spirit (intellect, will, emotions), or did man only have a partial Fall, affecting only part of his being, while retaining other aspects of his being intact? The Biblical-Augustinian-Lutheran-Calvinist-monergistic position, and that affirmed by the Synod of Dort, was that the Fall had ruined the whole human race, and plunged man into physical and spiritual death, entangling his will into bondage to sin. The Synod of Dort condemned the idea that man could save himself by an exercise of his will apart from the grace of God (Pelagius), or that man could contribute to his own salvation by cooperating with the grace of God (semi-Pelagianism), labeling them both heresy; a step away and in the other direction from that of the Reformation, and back to Roman Catholicism.

With love, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas!

Arminian/Calvinist Controversy

John CalvinJacob Arminius

Dear hijas,

Remonstrance: The act of expressing earnest opposition or protest.

James Arminius was a Dutch theologian living from 1560 to 1609 who studied, taught, and eventually broke with Calvinism. He rejected many of the Reformed teachings through to his time and returned to the semi-Pelagianism particular to Roman Catholicism and that of Erasmus. The line of Biblical-Augustinian-Lutheran-Calvinist-monergistic teaching is come under attack once again.

From the Wesley Center Online, http://wesley.nnu.edu/arminianism/the-works-of-james-arminius, and the United Methodist Church, http://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/Global-Praise—Worship-and-Spiritual-Growth/The-Wesleys-and-Their-Times/What-Is-an-Arminian, comes this definition from John Wesley, himself an Arminian:

5. The rise of the word was this: JAMES HARMENS, in Latin, Jacobes Arminius, was first one of the Ministers of Amsterdam, and afterwards Professor of Divinity at Leyden. He was educated at Geneva; but in the year 1591 began to doubt of the principles which he had till then received. And being more and more convinced that they were wrong, when he was vested with the Professorship, he publicly taught what he believed the truth, till, in the year 1609, he died in peace. But a few years after his death, some zealous men with the Prince of Orange at their head, furiously assaulted all that held what were called his opinions; and having procured them to be solemnly condemned, in the famous Synod of Dort, (not so numerous or learned, but full as impartial, as the Council or Synod of Trent,) some were put to death, some banished, some imprisoned for life, all turned out of their employments, and made incapable of holding any office, either in Church or State.

6. The errors charged upon these (usually termed Arminians) by their opponents, are five: (1.) That they deny original sin; (2.) That they deny justification by faith; (3.) That they deny absolute predestination; (4.) That they deny the grace of God to be irresistible; and, (5.) That they affirm, a believer may fall from grace.

The above describes, from Wesley’s point of view, what happened in the Arminian/Calvinist controversy. I will summarize as follows: one year after Arminius’ death (1610), followers of Arminius drafted five articles of faith based on Arminius’ teachings and presented them to the Reformed church in Holland. These five articles were called the Remonstrance, and/or later ‘the 5 points of Arminianism.’ His followers wanted the Belgic Confession (1561) and Heidelberg Catechism (1563), both decidedly monergistic, to be adapted and conform to these 5 points of Arminianism. They were protesting, and thus a remonstrance.

A synod of church leaders (synod is another word for ‘court’) was called in November of 1618 to examine the views of the Arminian party. It met in the city of Dort, and thus was called the Synod of Dort. Meeting from Nov. 1618 to May 1619, the Synod of Dort responded to each of the 5 points of Arminianism with 5 points of their own; the 5 points of Calvinism, known as TULIP. They overwhelmingly reaffirmed the confessional statements that already existed in the Dutch Reformed church, and reaffirmed it in light of the particular objections that the Remonstrance had brought against it.

So what were the 5 points of Arminianism, and why did the Synod of Dort produce the 5 points of Calvinism, known as TULIP?

5 Points Calvinism TULIP

And what does this have to do with free will?

As always, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas!

Monergistic – The Book of Concord

Book of Concord German Editionthe book of Concord

Dear hijas,

After the death of Luther, the German church forged a statement of faith that outlined the distinctives of the Lutheran Church. The Book of Concord or Concordia (1577) was and is the standard statement of faith for all Lutheran churches even today. It confirms the monergistic view as Luther had so carefully expounded in his writings and debate with Erasmus. An interesting website and intro can be found at: http://bookofconcord.org/intro.php.

In ‘Article II – Free Will’, the Book of Concord declares this:

…Man of himself, or from his natural powers, cannot contribute anything or help to his conversion, and that conversion is not only in part, but altogether an operation, gift and present and work of the Holy Ghost alone, who accomplishes and effects it by His virtue and power, through the Word, in the understanding [of the] heart and will of man.

In contrast, the Roman Catholic Church, previously at the Council of Trent, convened by Pope Paul III in response to the challenge and growth of the Reformation, meeting over 18 years (1545-1563) had reaffirmed their commitment to the semi-Pelagian view that man’s free will was not lost and destroyed in the Fall of Adam. In the 5th canon of the 6th session of the Council of Trent we find an anathema (a condemnation):

If anyone says that after the sin of Adam, man’s free will was lost and destroyed…let him be anathema.

We’ve got a dilemma, haven’t we? The Reformation marched on however. The decisively monergistic creeds that flowed out of the Reformation can be seen as follows:

1561 – The Belgic Confession

1563 – The Heidelberg Catechism

1563 – The 39 Articles of the Church of England

1577 – The Formula of Concord (Book of Concord)

1647 – The Westminster Confession of Faith

1689 – The Baptist Confession of 1689.

Luther’s statement is instructive: “If any man doth ascribe aught of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright.”

What we will see, is that the controversy didn’t end with Luther and Erasmus. The next characters in this story are Calvin and Arminius, and to them we must turn.

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

The Monergistic/Synergistic Controversy over Free Will

Dear hijas,

Let’s review. We’ve been speaking to what became known as the Monergistic/Synergistic Controversy concerning free will as it came out of the positions of Luther and Erasmus.

If we remember, for purposes of definition:

Monergism: Regeneration, or new birth (birth from above) is the work of God alone. It is only God that can bring a man “dead” in trespass and sin back to life. It is only God that resurrects this dead man from spiritual death to spiritual life, and this He does through the work of the Holy Spirit. This monergistic view is the Biblical-Augustinian-Lutheran-Calvinistic-monergistic position concerning salvation. It is this position that honors God completely, giving Him the total glory, and is the foundation for the sola, ‘Soli Deo Gloria’.

Luther’s monergistic position was that fallen man does not have faith ‘in order to’ be born again, but that man is ‘born again’ (regenerated, quickened, and this the work of God alone) and as a result has ‘faith’, the gift of God (Eph. 2:8,9). Do you see the difference?

It is best seen, among other places, in John 3 and Jesus’ interchange with Nicodemus. If you read this account starting in John 3:1 you cannot help but be struck by the analogy of birth. The whole point of Jesus’ teaching here to Nicodemus and to the rest of us, is that you did not cooperate in your own natural birth. You didn’t participate in any way to your own conception and birth, as if you told yourself, “I think I want to be born, so I’m gonna help my Mom and Dad, be part of the whole thing, you know, and then grow as a fetus for nine months and come into the world, thereby existing as myself.” NO, you didn’t cooperate or participate in any way. Spiritual birth, regeneration, or being ‘born again’ (literally, born from above) works in the same way. YOU don’t participate. YOU don’t cooperate. It’s solely the work of God ALONE. This is the whole point of Jesus’ analogy here to Nicodemus.

What we can draw from this is that salvation, God’s kingdom, is only for those to whom God gives it, to those ‘He’ has given new life. You are ‘His’ new creation, born from above by God’s will, not your will. As you play no role in your physical birth, you play no role in your spiritual birth. This is the monergistic position, and is in that line that goes through Augustine-Luther-and Calvin. It is the consistent Biblical view which understands the Fall of man rightly and completely. On the flip side is the synergistic view of Erasmus and Roman Catholicism, a semi-Pelagian view.

Synergism: Regeneration is a ‘cooperation’ between God and man. They both do their part; man does his part, God does His. God and man work together to bring about the latter’s conversion. The relationship is synergistic: together with, at the same time, working together. Man exercises his free will to ‘choose’ God, and God ‘rewards’ him with salvation. The grace of salvation from God, is a ‘reward’ for man’s ‘faith’. Man can say about his own conversion, “I helped, I’ve done something(my choice) and some things(my works) to help myself. I can take credit for part of it.”

The two views couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to one another. Protestants and Catholics are on opposite sides of the coin still today, and as we will see, so are Arminians and Calvinists.

With love, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas

Erasmus vs. Luther on Free Will

Erasmus and LutherLuther and Erasmus

Dear hijas,

Desiderius Erasmus:

By free will in this place we mean a power of the human will by which a man can apply himself to the things which lead to eternal salvation, or turn away from them.

Erasmus, a Roman Catholic apologist, in 1524 published ‘Diatribe Concerning Free Will‘, or in English commonly called ‘The Freedom of the Will’. His view and that of the Roman Catholic clergy he represented was nothing less than the Pelagian heresy, condemned in the councils of Carthage, dressed up a bit. It became known as semi-Pelagianism.

Martin Luther, a German monk, responded in 1525 with his book ‘The Bondage of the Will‘. In it he drew a line in the sand between the Roman Catholic view of justification and the newly forming Reformed view. Their dialog and the debates that followed became known as the Monergistic/Synergistic Controversy. You can see in Luther’s title his premise: the will is in bondage. Bondage to what you ask? Bondage to sin.

Why was this important?

Well, Erasmus in ‘Diatribe Concerning Free Will’ said that God offers us grace, but we still have some element of freedom within us, by which we can either choose or reject this grace. It is our ‘choice’ then that God rewards with eternal salvation. He further said that man has the ability to initiate the relationship with God through faith, the ability within himself to believe and then through that faith to access all that goes with faith and justification and reconciliation with God.

Erasmus’ view is nothing more than synergistic: God and man cooperate in the initiation of faith. God does his part, and man does his. It’s a cooperative work. God and man work together to bring about man’s conversion. Instead of being ‘dead’ in trespass and sin (Eph. 2:1), Erasmus saw man as only ‘wounded’, and therefore could help himself by helping God. Grace was a reward for our faith and so man deserves some of the credit for his own salvation.

Luther, on the other hand, recaptured Augustine’s thought that we are absolutely and utterly dependent upon the sovereign working of God and that we have nothing to contribute to our own salvation. That even our will had been affected by original sin and was in bondage to sin, a slave to evil, unable to choose the right except God intervening. He saw Erasmus’ view (and that of Roman Catholicism in general) as little more than a works-based salvation. He believed that it is only God that can bring a man dead in trespass and sin back to life and resurrect him from spiritual death. That even the ‘faith’ that we exercise in Jesus is itself a gift of God, produced by the work of the Holy Spirit. That regeneration is the work of God alone, and is not a “cooperation” between God and man. Luther believed that sola fide depends upon sola gratia.

One sees a distinct monergistic (mono: one, alone, ergos: work) view in Luther, and a synergistic (syn: together with, at the same time, ergos: work) in Erasmus and thus the Monergistic/Synergistic Controversy. The Reformers and the Protestant Reformation went one way and the Reformers view that of the Roman Catholic church’s works-based salvation went another.

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad