What Is Arminianism? ~ J. I. Packer

What Is Arminianism?1

Historically, Arminianism has appeared as a reaction against Calvinism, affirming, in the words of W. R. Bagnall, “conditional in opposition to absolute predestination, and general in opposition to particular redemption.”2 This verbal antithesis is not in fact as simple or clear as it looks, for changing the adjective involves redefining the noun. What Bagnall should have said is that Calvinism affirms a concept of predestination from which conditionality is excluded, and a concept of redemption to which particularity is essential, and Arminianism denies both. The difference is this. To Calvinism, predestination means foreordination, whereas to Arminianism it means only foresight of events not foreordained. On the Calvinist view, election, which is a predestinating act on God’s part, means the foreordaining of particular sinners to be saved by Jesus Christ, through faith, and redemption, the first step in working out God’s electing purpose, is an achievement actually securing certain salvation—calling, pardon, adoption, preservation, final glory—for all the elect. On the Arminian view, however, what the death of Christ secured was a possibility of salvation for sinners generally, a possibility which, so far as God is concerned, might never have been actualized in any single case; and the electing of individuals to salvation is no more than God noting in advance who will believe and qualify for glory, as a matter of contingent (not foreordained) fact. Whereas to Calvinism election is God’s resolve to save, and the cross Christ’s act of saving, for Arminianism salvation rests neither on God’s election nor on Christ’s cross, but on a man’s own cooperation with grace, which is something that God does not Himself guarantee.

Drawn from Packer’s excellent introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (first published in 1647). The title to this introduction is simply “Arminianisms.” The work is also found in this collection of Packer’s writings: Puritan Papers – Vol. 5, 1968-1969. We hope to continue to pull some quotations from this work in the next few months, and you will see why in the next paragraph.

This week we will be focusing on some Canons of Dordt items in connection with the 400th anniversary (1618-19/2018-19). There are some new and exciting resources available on the “great Synod” and its work. Watch for these posts in the days to come!

If you wish to continue reading Packer’s essay, visit the link below.

Source: Arminianisms | Monergism

WORLD’s Top 25 articles for 2018 – WORLD

As we near the end of the year of our Lord 2018, it is good to reflect on all that has transpired according to the sovereign plan and providence of our almighty God in this year. That, after all, is what we believe all the events of history are – the unfolding of our God’s perfect plan through His mighty providential hand. And, we also add this, that all these events of history – of 2018 too – are for the salvation of Christ’s church and the good of His redeemed and renewed people.

Many news sources produce year-end summaries of the year’s major stories, which are useful in helping us to reflect on the more significant events of the year. World Magazine (a Christian news source) has also produced its summary of the major stories it reported online throughout 2018. It included this list of 25 items today as part of its “Saturday Series” (which often feature books, writing, reading), and I thought it worth your while to point you to it here.

What follows here is the little blurb that introduced the list; after that I post here the last five news items (which were published at the “top” of the list on their website).

In 2018, WORLD’s online readers were drawn to major cover stories and timely features from the magazine, daily news reports from The Sift, and insightful Saturday Series essays. But issues related to marriage, family, and sexuality were often foremost in the minds of our readers this past year, as the website’s weekly Relations roundup makes multiple appearances in our countdown of the 25 articles that grabbed your attention the most.

25. A long way from home

Before getting lost in a cave, Adul Sam-on found direction for his future at a Thai church and school

by Angela Lu Fulton
July 13 | WORLD Magazine | Features

24. Moody Bible Institute leaders resign amid turmoil

Moody Bible Institute announced Wednesday the resignation of President J. Paul Nyquist and Chief Operating Officer Steve Mogck amid ongoing turmoil following staffing cuts

by Leigh Jones
Jan. 11 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

23. Willow Creek elders respond to new Hybels accusations

The elders of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago said in a letter Saturday they could have done a better job holding former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels accountable for inappropriate behavior toward women

by Lynde Langdon
April 23 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

22. Facing cultural storms

Six trends that are rapidly reshaping the lives of American Christians

by John S. Dickerson
Nov. 24 | WORLD Digital | Saturday Series

21. Turkey seeks life sentence for U.S. pastor

Turkish prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for a U.S. pastor accused of participating in the 2016 coup that attempted to oust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

by Leigh Jones
March 13 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

Find the other 20 top stories at the link below.

Source: WORLD’s Top 25 articles for 2018 – Media – WORLD

The Perfect Wisdom of Our God

At the “Evening of Praise” program tonight at Grandville High School Auditorium (an annual fundraiser for Heritage Christian School Foundation) we were privileged to hear a variety of vocal and instrumental music again. From piano duets to strings to voices in trios and groups, young and old joined in praise to God.

One of the numbers the Daling Family Trio sang was a song written by Stuart Townend and composed by the Gettys (Keith and Kristyn). The title is “The Perfect Wisdom of Our God,” (from their album “Hymns for the Christian Life”) and is based on a variety of Bible passages that speak of God’s wisdom , especially Rom.11:33.

Here are the beautiful lyrics to the song:

The perfect wisdom of our God
Revealed in all the universe:
All things created by His hand
And held together at His command.
He knows the mysteries of the seas,
The secrets of the stars are His;
He guides the planets on their way
And turns the earth through another day.

The matchless wisdom of His ways
That mark the path of righteousness;
His word a lamp unto my feet,
His Spirit teaching and guiding me.
And O the mystery of the cross,
That God should suffer for the lost,
So that the fool might shame the wise,
And all the glory might go to Christ!

O grant me wisdom from above,
To pray for peace and cling to love,
And teach me humbly to receive
The sun and rain of Your sovereignty.
Each strand of sorrow has a place
Within this tapestry of grace;
So through the trials I choose to say:
“Your perfect will in Your perfect way.”

The video below records Kristyn singing the song and shows the lyrics.

It was a good night for leading us into the worship of the day of our risen Lord tomorrow.

The Destructive Power of Idols – Derek Thomas

The three cultural giants of the nineteenth century – Ludwig Feuerbach, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche – insisted that mankind is fueled by a propensity to idolatry. Of course, in their eyes, Christianity is an example of such idol worship. But they were right in pointing to this human weakness and failure. Calvin said the same when he wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that the human mind is a perpetual factory of idols.

An idol is something or someone inflated to function as God. Sometimes conservative Christians are little better at identifying idols than modern secular individuals.

Yet the prohibition is clear.

You shall have no other gods before me. (Ex.20:3)
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

Isaiah will return to this theme again in chapter 45, speaking of those who carry gods around, praying to those that have no power to save (Isa.45:20).

Ancient idols required the sacrifice of a life. Make no mistake: modern idols do too. Idols want all of you. They promise everything and deliver nothing. We sacrifice to them, and they in turn manipulate and control. Idols are abusive and tyrannical. They cheat like the characters in a trashy daytime soap opera.

Not only that, they are powerless to save, heal, or restore. They offer hope and a purpose but return only disappointment and guilt. Like the One Ring, so captivatingly referred to as ‘the Precious’ in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, idols allure and beckon only to return to total, uncompromising evil.

We may find it hard to believe that Israel would be so allured by man-made objects so as to displace the Lord who had saved them. But the truth is, we give our allegiance to idols, too. We sacrifice to them. We believe they will bring us true and lasting purpose. They go by different names: money, power, houses, ambition, sports, or leisure.

As an antidote to this idolatry, Isaiah called upon God’s people to consider the Lord. He alone offers something better and surer – a new thing [Isaiah 43:19-21]:

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.
This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

Strength-weary-thomas-2018Taken from Derek W.H. Thomas’ new book Strength for the Weary (Reformation Trust, 2018), chapter 2 “Who Rules the World?” based on Isaiah 43:10-11 (pp.28-30).

The Wonder of a Sprouting Bean | Aeon Videos

 

Two days ago I referenced Aeon Essays for the first time year. Today, for our “Friday Fun” item we point you to Aeon Videos for the first time. They have some wonderfully inspiring clips of the simplest things, but things that make you say “Wow!” all over again.

Such as the miracle of a bean kidney seed sprouting. I realize there are thousands of such videos on the Internet, but Aeon does some unique things with theirs, such as adding classical music to the sprouting bean.

So, enjoy the amazing growth of a bean plant, bottom to top. And stand in awe not just of “nature” but of nature’s God. For this is our Father’s world and He is Designer, Maker, and Sustainer of every such little bean seed. Watch His work and wonder!

Here is Aeon’s brief introduction:

Though it’s rather more ordinary than its Jack and the Beanstalk cousin, the kidney bean in this timelapse video puts on quite a performance as it sprouts, breaks through the soil’s surface and springs upward into a plant. Just as enchanting is its development below ground, where a single tendril expands into a complex and deeply embedded root system.

Whimsically employing Johann Strauss’s famous waltz ‘The Blue Danube’ (1866), the video puts one of nature’s unsung spectacles front and centre stage.

Source: It might not be magic, but a sprouting bean can still hold you under its spell | Aeon Videos

Published in: on September 28, 2018 at 9:25 PM  Leave a Comment  

Book Alert! New Release from the RFPA – “Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt”

While the Reformed Free Publishing Association was heralding the news of the arrival of their newest book last week on their blog, I had to wait until yesterday to receive my personal copy and the copies for the PRC Seminary library. And, yes, the book is a “beauty,” inside and out.

Grace_and_Assurance_mcgeown-2018The new release is Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt, written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor laboring in Limerick Reformed Fellowship on behalf of Covenant PRC in Ballymena, N. Ireland.

The title is clearly timed to coincide with and celebrate the “great Synod” of Dordt (1618-19), the four-hundredth anniversary of which is being marked by many Reformed churches and Christians this Fall and into next year. (Just a reminder that the PRC Seminary is sponsoring a special conference on Dordt next Spring.)

The publisher gives this brief description of this wonderful volume:

In 1618-19 the great Synod of Dordt met to counter the Arminian error that was threatening the peace and welfare of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands. The fruit of their deliberations was the Canons of Dordt, a creed which has defined the Calvinist, Reformed faith for centuries.

This accessible commentary on the Canons leads readers through the comforting message of the creed: being wholly saved by God’s grace—not one’s own merit—comes with the steadfast assurance of eternal and unchangeable election.

  • 384 pages
  • hardcover
  • ISBN 978-1-944555-39-9

At the beginning the book includes a “historical introduction to the Synod of Dordt” as well as a introductory section on “the importance of creeds.” The end of each main section of commentary (on the five “heads of doctrine”) includes study questions, enhancing the books use and encouraging careful study of the main points of Calvinism treated by the Canons and explained in the commentary.

The end of the book includes a section on the “conclusion to the Canons” and three appendices:

  • The Remonstrance of 1610
  • The Opinions of the Remonstrants 1618
  • The Judgment of the Synod of Dort Concerning the Five Articles of the Arminians

To close tonight’s introduction to the book, we give you this brief quote made about Article 2 of the First Head (on predestination and salvation being rooted in God’s love):

It is striking that the Canons treatment of salvation begins with the love of God. Perhaps if you are new to the Reformed faith or if you have only encountered caricatures of it, you are surprised because you have heard that the Reformed faith makes little of the love of God. But the Reformed faith actually extols and highly celebrates the love of God.

…According to article 2, God’s love was ‘manifested.’ God’s love cannot remain hidden eternally within the mind of God, but it must display itself. The chief display of God’s love, declare the Canons, is in the sending of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, into the world to save sinners [pp.30-31].

Look for more on this book in the months to come as we too commemorate Dordt’s 400th.

“Look at Him! Take a long, hard look at Him!” ~ Derek W. H. Thomas

Strength-weary-thomas-2018Reflecting on “the plaintive cry of abandonment felt by Judah’s exiles during the sixth century BC” as found in the last chapters of Isaiah, Derek Thomas has this to say in his new book Strength for the Weary (Reformation Trust, 2018):

Perhaps they thought that their circumstances were too complicated for God to unravel and fix. What they needed, therefore, was a reminder of God’s sovereignty and power.

Perhaps a subtler thought occurred to them: the suspicion that they were unworthy of God’s attention. How can the infinite God of heaven and earth be concerned with ‘little ol’ me’? My issues seem so trivial by comparison [He then quotes Is.40:27, which in the KJV reads, “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?”]

God seems to be dismissing me. My prayers are not answered but ignored and disregarded. It feels unjust, unfair, and unwarranted.

And it is this that the sixteenth-century Reformer Martin Luther was getting at when he made the accusation to Erasmus, ‘Your thoughts of God are too human.’

Unbelief is a withering sickness that ultimately destroys faith. And what is the remedy? Waiting on the Lord. [Is.40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength.”]

…What kind of waiting is in view here? …In this passage, waiting involves looking away from ourselves and our troubles and looking to the Lord in faith and with expectation. And not just looking, but expectingtrustingbelieving. Taking a long, hard look at who God is: His character, His being, His word, His promise, His commitment. His covenant, His unchanging determination to do what He said He would do. [Is.40:28 – “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.”]

Isaiah’s prescription for this withering sickness of unbelief is a dose of God’s magnificent majesty, power, and glory. The promises of God are guaranteed by who and what He is. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the world and His people.

A single verse encapsulates what Isaiah elaborates on throughout the chapter. Exploring the character of God, Isaiah seems to be saying, ‘Look at Him! Take a long, hard look at Him!’

 

Abraham Lincoln’s Moral Constitution – Lecture by Allen Guelzo

Today Kevin Rau (my library assistant) and I took in a special lunch-time lecture at the Acton Institute in downtown Grand Rapids. We did one last you too and enjoyed it, so we thought we would try another. The advertised subject and speaker drew us in – a talk on a prominent president’s faith by a prominent American Civil War historian and Lincoln scholar.

This was was held in the Murray Auditorium in the lower level of the Acton Institute and featured Dr. Allen C. Guelzo speaking on “Abraham Lincoln’s Moral Constitution.” As noted on the Action website for this lecture, “Allen Guelzo, Ph.D. is the Director of Civil War Era Studies and the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During 2017-18, he has served as the Wm L. Garwood Visiting Professor in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.” And as for his topic, this brief description too is given on the website:

As one of only two presidents to have never formally joined a church, people have wondered just how much Abraham Lincoln himself was under God when he said that the United States should consider itself as such as it strove for a new birth of freedom.

However, the Civil War shifted the ground decisively under Lincoln’s feet. In the cauldron of war, he discovered that God was not merely a remote force or a faceless universal power, but a personal, intelligent, and willing God who intervened in the affairs of men, to direct them in ways that they could not even begin to imagine.

This was a God whom he wanted his nation to be under.

We both found the speech interesting and edifying. Guelzo is an gifted and engaging speaker. He knows the history of the Civil War period well, is an expert in all things Lincoln, and communicates in a lively manner. The Q&A period was filled with good questions and wonderful anecdotal stories on Lincoln by Guelzo.

Guelzo is the author (among other books) of the award-winning book Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, part of the “Library of Religious Biography” published by William B. Eerdmans here in GR. The book won prestigious the 2000 Lincoln Prize. Amazon has the new paperback edition (2002) listed at 55% off.

And we close with a few good Lincoln quotes, perhaps showing that Lincoln was indeed more than a “Calvinist Deist” (as Guelzo refers to him in his biography, a description that was the subject of one of the questions today.)

I am much indebted to the good christian people of the country for their constant prayers and consolations; and to no one of them, more than to yourself. The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay.
Letter to Eliza Gurney on September 4, 1864 (CWAL VII:535)

I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years struggle the nation’s condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.
Letter to Albert G. Hodges on April 4, 1864 (CWAL VII:282)

Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”
Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865 (CWAL VIII:333)

Source: Abraham Lincoln’s Moral Constitution | Acton Institute

The Power of Books in China – Even Calvinist Ones

souls-of-china-2017Last week I ordered a new book for the PRC Seminary library, one that has received some attention since its publication last year. It is titled The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao by Ian Johnson (New York: Pantheon Books, 2017).

The author’s website gives this description of the book:

The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao (2017) tells the story of one of the world’s great spiritual revivals. Following a century of violent anti-religious campaigns, China is now filled with new temples, churches and mosques–as well as cults, sects and politicians trying to harness religion for their own ends. Driving this explosion of faith is uncertainty–over what it means to be Chinese, and how to live an ethical life in a country that discarded traditional morality a century ago and is still searching for new guideposts.

This book is the culmination of a six-year project following an underground Protestant church in Chengdu, pilgrims in Beijing, rural Daoist priests in Shanxi, and meditation groups in caves in the country’s south.

Along the way, I learned esoteric meditation techniques, visited a nonagenarian Confucian sage, and befriended government propagandists as they fashioned a remarkable embrace of traditional values. These experiences are distilled into a cycle of festivals, births, deaths, detentions, and struggle–a great awakening of faith that is shaping the soul of the world’s newest superpower.

That may strike you as a rather broad look at the revival of religion in this vast land, maybe even disappointing. But did you know there is also a Calvinist resurgence in China and that the Reformed church is growing? I discovered this to my own surprise as I was cataloging it.  When I catalog a book, I always look at the chapters for subject ideas. When I did so with this book, I was surprised to see a chapter on Calvinism. But there it was – chapter 21 – “Chengdu: The New Calvinists.”

In the chapter Johnson focuses on three different men who are involved in growing Calvinism and the Reformed church in this city of Chengdu. There are some fascinating references to their solid creedal Christianity; one of the churches, for example, has this as one of  their statements:

We are Reformed-denomination Protestants. We accept the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), as the complete, balanced and authoritative expression of Christian faith.

And another congregation spent a summer reading and studying the Heidelberg Catechism.

But what also caught my attention was the importance of Calvinistic literature in that place. One of the men had a special vision and gifts, and used them to open Trinity Bookstore and begin Enoch Publishing. Johnson tells the amazing story of Peng Qiang:

After graduating in 1994, he returned to Chengdu and fell in with friends who had found an unusual niche publishing books. Most publishing houses were government run, and they were allotted a certain amount of ISBN numbers each year, allowing them to publish books. But these state-run companies had little idea what would attract readers. Most lost money. Some started selling their ISBN numbers to middlemen who used them to publish popular titles on doing business, self-help, and psychology. This was Peng’s role: a broker trying to figure out what excited and moved Chinese people, without running afoul of government censors.

…Peng began to hone his business model. Many books related to Christianity could be sold through the same model he used to sell pop-psychology books. All books still had to pass censorships, but a book on church history would be approved if given a straight historical title. But unlike most history books, these had a broad audience of Christians, making the publication profitable. So, too, books on Christian ethics or historical figures like Calvin and Luther. A book on Chinese theology would be banned, but if presented as part of Western history, ideas like Calvinism could be printed.

Amazing, the power of Reformed books in Communist China! A testimony to the sovereign grace for which Calvinism is known. Not surprisingly, given the greatness of our God, the church of Christ is being gathered and being reformed in that land.

The Good God and the “Problem” of Evil (3)

no-other-macarthur-2017We conclude tonight our look at chapter three of John MacArthur’s recent book None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible (Reformation Trust, 2017). In this chapter MacArthur presents the biblical reply to the perennial question of how the good and powerful God of the Christian faith relates to all the evil, pain, and suffering in the world.

Last time we looked at this chapter we saw how the author explained that God is absolutely sovereign over all things, including evil – evil events, evil people, and evil angels (Satan and his host – he points to Job and Peter as biblical examples). But we also said we would return to hear his answer to the questions of why and to what end or purpose God determines and controls evil. In his own words, “Why did God permit evil in the first place? Why does He sovereignly, willingly allow it to keep infecting and distorting His creation? In His unfolding, preordained plan, what is the presence of evil accomplishing?”

To which he answers in the first place:

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul gives us the answer. He writes, ‘If our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say?’ (Rom.3:5). Our unrighteousness demonstrates (Greek sunistemi) the righteousness of God.

…Unrighteousness therefore puts God’s righteousness on display. Paul again says, ”But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while were were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom.5:8). The presence of sin allows God to demonstrate His righteousness and love. How else could He show the character of His great love that rescues enemies and sinners if there were no enemies and sinners? ‘What if God, although willing [i.e., determining] to demonstrate [Greek endeiknumi] His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?’ (Rom.9:22). He demonstrates His righteousness against the backdrop of sin and evil, showing, by contrast, how utterly holy He is. God demonstrates His love at a level that would have been impossible without sin. We see and appreciate the radiance of God’s love more, having endured the darkness and distress of a universe cursed by evil. ‘The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them’ (Isa.9:2). The presence of evil provided the perfect opportunity for God to display His wrath and justice along with His redeeming grace and infinite mercy, as He loved sinners enough to send His Son to die in their place.

And, as he goes on to show, the second and more important reason is that God might glorify Himself. Referring again to Romans 9:22, he writes:

Literally, the verse’s phrasing is ‘God determined to demonstrate for Himself.’ God demonstrates His attributes for the sake of His own glory. Without sin, God’s wrath would never be on display. Without sinners to redeem, God’s grace would never be on display. Without evil to punish, God’s justice would never be on display. And He has every right to put Himself everlastingly on display in all the glory of all His attributes. [pp.62-63].