Arminianism and Pelagianism

Last week we looked at Calvinism and the potential towards bad theology. Today, however, we turn to Arminianism to study its one pitfall. Arminianism historically was part of the Reformed tradition. I tend to stand with theologians such as Stanley Grenz in thinking that it still should be considered a part of that tradition. In this tradition, there is an alternative view of God’s planning in that it is not set in utter stone from the beginning of time or directly after the fall. God is still sovereign since he gets what he wants by working more creatively with humans. God, however, chooses the grouping of people who will be saved and the other groups will be condemned (The God followers vs. the God opposers). This is a form of predestination different than Calvinism. To be saved, one must choose the group to be in, and in a sense chooses the salvation, but only since God has foreordained the route to salvation. Also, no one can choose God without God first doing a work in them.

The last point is important since it points to a weakness in Arminian circles. This weakness that you will find in Arminian groups is Pelagianism. Pelagianism teaches that all are able to choose good on their own. They have the power in themselves to choose God and choose their very salvation. Works and the individuals ability becomes the basis of salvation. This is a problem in good Christian theology, since we must believe that God initiates the salvific act. According to Genesis, we see that man chose evil, but God promised ultimate salvation. When Christ came, he came calling people to Him. In Romans 12:1, we see that God must transform us, albeit, if we let Him. We do not do this ourselves!

We want good theology. That does not mean a theology that sounds good. There are many things that are sweet to are ears, but true theology is challenging. It is not easy to hear that we had to be rescued. It might strikes us as unfair that someone had to call us from our state or we would have stayed there, but we must remember that the Scriptures repeatedly speak of God as coming into our history and starting a work in us. We still have to choose to accept and allow His transformative work, but He must begin it. John Wesley, a major influence of modern Arminian theology used a term called Prevenient Grace (that grace which cames before salvation). In this aspect of grace, Wesley taught that God is trying to reach to us and transform us before our moment of accepting Jesus as Lord. This counters the twisted view that we can approach salvation and righteousness on our own. Any good work is by hearing the Spirit of God’s guidance and taking the direction that He instructs.

What’s more, the way of righteousness, as long as the fallen order of the world is still in existence, is a difficult path. Jesus once said that this way is narrow, meaning that it is difficult and unattractive. That means that the natural inclination is to choose the well beaten path of the world. We need God’s intervention so that we are able to choose the right path, even to be saved. May God guide us in the way of righteousness.

What is your perception of God? Are you able to do what  you need to do without God? Or is God necessary to our holy living? Are you using your own effort as the way to heaven? Or allowing God to guide your steps?

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9 thoughts on “Arminianism and Pelagianism

  1. “They have the power in themselves to choose God and choose their very salvation. Works and the individuals ability becomes the basis of salvation.”

    How does being able to choose whether or not you believe in Jesus (as opposed to being forced to it by determinism) result in believing that salvation is by works? It doesn’t. These are two distinct things. Some people believe in salvation by faith alone and yet assert that one arrives at faith by a freewill decision, and never include works in the equation. Others may assert that one arrives at faith by a freewill decision and then go on to include works also. And others still may deny the need for faith altogether and make salvation by works alone. But all of these are distinct positions. The problem with the Calvinists, and with you, is that you guys uncharitably conflate htem: so that to you, a person who says “justification is by faith alone but whether or not you believe involves a freewill decision” is attacked as if he had said salvation was by works alone! That is not Christian charity!!!!!

    • First, I am not a Calvinist, but an Arminian in the Wesleyan tradition. Also, please look at Philippians 1:6, since that clearly states that God begins the work, which means that without God, we would not even have the free will to choose. All of our choosing is response. To God alone is the initial call to respond.

      • “without God, we would not even have the free will to choose.”

        That;s a fairly obvious tautology considering that without God we would not exist at all: not even Pelagius himself would disagree with you here.

      • But Pelagian stops at the decision towards good, which is not in Scripture. The over all arch and some specific passages are very explicit that God is active in a way that requires God to be active in spurring us on to make the decision. Even the Early Church preached this message that without God (and even Calvinists like John Calvin and Arminianist like John Wesley taught this) no one could climb out of the pit of sin and death. The truth of soteriology is that none can save but God alone, which includes even the will to choose. However, God can enable someone (an I believe has enabled all humans to do so) to choose Christ and eternal life. If Pelagian ends up correct, then not even the great Incarnation is necessary, but is an arbitrary killing where God sent his son on a suicide run for no point whatsoever. We have to stay away from this because the Apostle’s Creed states that Jesus “was crucified, dead, and buried. And on the third day rose from the grave.” This is the very reason why we must avoid Pelagianism and Deism, because neither make room for such a thing.

      • “But Pelagian stops at the decision towards good, which is not in Scripture.”

        What does “stops at the decision towards good” even mean?

        “Even the Early Church preached this message that without God (and even Calvinists like John Calvin and Arminianist like John Wesley taught this) no one could climb out of the pit of sin and death.”

        But we don’t live in a world where God does not exist so how is this a problem?

        “However, God can enable someone (an I believe has enabled all humans to do so) to choose Christ and eternal life.”

        He could also enabled everyone to do so, without them actually choosing to do so after being enabled.

        ” If Pelagian ends up correct, then not even the great Incarnation is necessary, but is an arbitrary killing where God sent his son on a suicide run for no point whatsoever.”

        If one is capable of arriving at this conclusion with Pelagianism, one is also capable of arriving at this conclusion with Calvinism. Calvinism doesn’t require Jesus at all: its all about predestination. In Calvinism, If one is predestined, God will give them faith (in whatever they need faith in) and they will be saved; if one is not predestined God wont give them faith (in whatever the object might be) and they wont be saved. There is no reason why the object of faith in Calvinism has to be Jesus’ death; it could be any object that God arbitrarily “by his good pleasure” chooses; all that matters in Calvinism is that one is not allowed to believe in the object unless predestined. Quite frankly Pelagianism requires the incarnation and the cross to a greater extent that Calvinism, since it actually cares about what Jesus taught while in the flesh (rather than just “faith alone”) and he could not have taught those things in the flesh without the incarnation; further, the cross as an example of martyrdom, of faithfulness to the point of death has a great deal of importance in Pelagianism that it lacks in Calvinism. Pelagius was no Deists; you are conflating Pelagianism and Deism. Pelagius taught grace just like Augustine did, but he put it at a different stage. To Augustine grace come first and enables us to believe, and after that it has very little to do. To Pelagius one hears the gospel and believes by free will , gets baptized, and then grace begins to become active and enable them to keep the commandments “more easily.”: that’s clearly not just Deism which recognizes no sacraments. Nor should you think that because I explain this I am in full agreement with Pelagius or something. But its clear you are stretching.

      • “I am uncertain on your quarrel then. Do you actually have anything against the post or are you trolling?”

        Yes I do: You’re one of those nutters who will accuse Arminians of being Pelagians without a second thought, but then tell Arminians its illegal or something for them to call Calvinists heretics.

      • You have not paid any attention to the posts or my comments here.
        Here are some suggestions for you. Read more of my blog, it will help you understand what I am really saying. Read my responses, since they might have more information on my individual posts. Let it formulate your response. This is simple logic 101. If you want belligerence and affirmation of your irate behavior, go elsewhere. If you continue trolling, then I will have no choice but to erase your comments. However, if you want to have a logical conversation, which you are more than capable of (and which I highly want for your life since I think it will further your serving God’s kingdom), I will more than gladly converse with you. Thank you and God bless you.

  2. Good post. Salvation by grace alone requires one thing of us: a simple yes to God’s leading. We do none of the work, we only agree to let him do it.

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