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?