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Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism Pt 8

Conclusion

The Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace is fraught with serious problems. It has a deficient view of human depravity allowing its view of divine grace to mitigate the effects of depravity. It does so by enabling all human beings with an ability to “seek” after God contrary to the Bible’s descriptions of corruption and spiritual inability in the natural man. Subsequently, the doctrine under-girds a deficient view of the natural human will by saying it is freed from the bondage of sin and capable of acting contrary to the unbeliever’s sin nature. It has a deficient view of regeneration by failing to recognize that apart from receiving a new nature the natural man cannot and will not believe upon Christ for salvation. Finally, the doctrine has a deficient view of God’s grace and the unmitigated power it has to transform sinners. Rather, Arminians believe divine grace can and must be resisted placing the final determining power for salvation in the hands of the man who wills not the God who has mercy upon spiritually impotent and recalcitrant creatures. The natural man is depraved, his will enslaved by an unregenerate nature and incapable of exercising faith in Christ apart from the monergistic transforming irresistible grace of God. These conclusions place the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace under the essential rubric of semi-Pelagianism under which it is difficult for it to escape.

Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

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Joel Osteen likes God, he just doesn’t like Jesus

August 12, 2014 2 comments

OsteenJoel Osteen is always quick to point us to God. He wants us to claim that we are somebody and that we can reach for the stars. Nevertheless, we have to ask ourselves: Is the god of Osteen’s self help messages really God?

The God of the Bible gave revelation throughout scripture that pointed to Christ. Jesus Christ was the fulfillment and revelation of all that God proclaimed throughout the Old Testament. Yet Osteen’s messages are Christ-less. Joel Osteen hardly ever mentions Jesus Christ.

If God points us towards Christ as the second Adam, and points us towards Christ in the passover, in the priesthood, etc, etc….and then reveals him in the New Testament as the High Priest and the substitutionary atonement that takes away sin, then why isn’t Osteen interested in proclaiming this to the world? Is it because Osteen doesn’t really see mankind as fallen depraved sinners? Is Osteen really speaking of the God of the Bible when he speaks every Sunday?

Is Osteen’s self-help messages Christ-less and do they contain no gospel message for the world?

I leave you to decide by clicking right here.

Joel Osteen’s Theology of Glory

August 12, 2014 2 comments

OsteenI have friends and family who are captivated by Joel Osteen. They love to see a man every Sunday smiling at them, telling them that they are better than what they believe themselves to be. I mean who wouldn’t want to hear this? We all want to be encouraged and compelled on to bigger and better things. We all want to feel important and strive to look important when others are around. We even try to win God’s favor by presenting ourselves as holy and righteous around church members and boasting of what we have done in Christ name. Yet we never always feel the way we present ourselves to others.

And this is where Osteen comes into the picture. The reason Osteen holds multitudes captive is because he speaks to their sin nature and encourages them in their sin. The problem is not that they are corrupt, depraved, wretched sinners and that they don’t love themselves to much, but they miss the blessings of God because they have low self esteem and don’t love themselves enough. This is the message that Osteen preaches to thousands, if not millions every Sunday.

Is this our problem? Do we have low self esteem and belittle ourselves to much? Do we miss God’s favor because we haven’t claimed more importance and glory for ourselves? Or do we miss God’s favor because we haven’t viewed ourselves the way God’s word proclaims that we are? Do we miss God’s favor because we are trying to steal what rightfully belongs to him? We try to glorify ourselves and leave God to be just our eternal provider. We want him to recognize our importance and if we will just rise up above our present state of mind and proclaim that we are somebody, then we can have even more from his eternal storehouse of goods.

Osteen is a charlatan. He is a self help guru, who encourages everyone to reach for more glory. The glory that we do not rightfully deserve. His methods and words are never from scripture, but instead are from what we already claim for ourselves. It is part of our corrupt sin nature to boast and think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.

Osteen never quotes scripture. He instead provides quotes that we already conceive in our own minds. Our hearts are idol factories and produce more corrupt and vain thoughts of ourselves than what he could ever provide.

What we have got to ask ourselves is: Does Osteen’s quotes actually work in the real world? Can we rise up out of our so-called comfortable state and reach for God’s glory and gain his eternal favor? Or should we be examining what he states with scripture and recognize that what he says comes from the very root of the sin nature?

Here are some quotes by Osteen and I leave you to decide for yourself.

Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism Pt 6

August 4, 2014 1 comment

A Deficient View of Regeneration

This leads to a further problem. The Arminian view of prevenient grace undermines a proper view of regeneration. Arminianism says that prevenient grace enables all men with the power of libertarian free will such that they can exercise faith by non-resistance to divine grace or resist it by the same power of free choice. If they choose not to resist grace, then they are afforded the opportunity to provoke more grace that then leads to saving faith. Once saving faith is exercised then God regenerates the believing person.31 Thus, in Arminianism faith precedes regeneration. Even though the Arminian argues that it is God who regenerates and not faith, faith is a necessary prerequisite to the reception of the new nature. Thus, it is difficult to escape the charge that faith invokes the divine response bringing us back to the charge of semi- Pelagianism. But once again, Arminians will respond that faith cannot be exercised without prior prevenient grace.32 This is immaterial since it has already been pointed out that semi- Pelagianism does not deny such a construct. The main distinctive of semi-Pelagianism is its insistence upon synergism – God’s grace and man’s free will must cooperate together in order to procure salvation.33 Which comes first is not at issue because the human response in the end has the last word finally prompting God to act with saving/ regenerating/ converting grace. The charge against Arminianism is simply that it is not monergistic. Subsequently, any form of synergism seems inevitably to lead us back to semi-Pelagianism. The Scripture’s teaching on regeneration contradicts the synergistic understanding of prevenient grace. Furthermore, the nature of regeneration has a direct bearing upon how one understands the sin nature and its grip upon the unbeliever.

Paul makes a distinction between the natural man and the spiritual man in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. His teaching here is critical for understanding the Spirit’s role in transforming the nature of those whom God has chosen for salvation. In support of what has already been said, the absolute resistance of the natural man to anything spiritual is reinforced by Paul’s teaching in these chapters. He says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). Note the contrast between those who are perishing and those who are being saved. The perishing are those who are unregenerate. Their minds are blinded to the truth (2 Cor. 4:4). The gospel has no compelling force to any such person. The gospel has nothing but the appearance of obscurity and absurdity. But those who are being saved experience the unmitigated power of the cross. There is no middle ground. Paul says for the believer that, “[God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (vss. 30-31). There is no sense in which the one who believes can claim that he arbitrated the grace of God via his own self-determining freedom of choice. John says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Again Paul says, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Salvation is monergistic. God does all the work necessary for salvation to obtain. Of course, that does not mean humans are passive recipients of His work. Rather divine grace is the necessary cause of human faith.

1 Corinthians 2:14 continues Paul’s argument. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” In other words, unless one has the Spirit indwelling him he cannot ascertain spiritual realities. In this way, one’s faith is completely dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit (vss. 4-5). The “wisdom” Paul preached to the Corinthians (vss. 1-5) was the gospel – “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (vs. 2). This is not a wisdom that comes naturally to men. It is wisdom born of the Spirit. Paul says the Corinthian believers have received this wisdom of the gospel that led to their faith because they have received the Spirit Himself (vs. 12). Elsewhere, Paul says if a person does not have the Spirit of Christ he does not belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9). Paul is simply describing the power of the Spirit to transform the natural man into a spiritual man (vs. 15; cf. 1 Cor. 3:1). In this regard, Paul uses the word “spiritual” to mean one who is of the Spirit. That is not the description of the unregenerate person because Paul has used the word “natural” to refer to such a person. Thus, anyone who is enlightened with the wisdom of the gospel is in fact one who has already received the Holy Spirit and become the recipient of the Spirit’s power to transform one’s nature from a natural unregenerate state to the spiritual regenerate state. But according to the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace one can be enlightened concerning the wisdom of the gospel but still reject it. Paul allows for no such possibility here. True enlightenment concerning the wisdom of the gospel comes necessarily and inevitably from the power of the Spirit which leads necessarily and inevitably to the transformation of regeneration and subsequent saving faith. Such gracious power is irresistible as an unbroken chain of cause and effect.

Likewise, Jesus is also clear that apart from regeneration one is neither able to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3) nor “enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). In other words, the natural disposition of the unregenerate person is such that he is incapable of understanding the gospel in a spiritually enlightened manner nor is he capable of exercising faith so as to enter the realm of God’s kingdom. The perquisite of spiritual enlightenment and saving faith is to have one’s nature transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit such that the person is willing and able to repent and believe. But again what is necessary to understand here is that the grace that attends regeneration is an absolutely efficacious and irresistible grace. The primary contention of Arminianism is that any grace leading to salvation is resistible. All prevenient grace does is liberate the will from bondage to sin such that it is free to choose contrary to either influence – grace or sin. In other words, the will is free to resist the forces of the sin nature or concur with them. Likewise, it is free to resist divine grace or concur with it. Saving grace can only be efficacious for the person who wills it to be so. Thus, salvation is ultimately centered and dependent on a particular person’s choice of God not God’s choice of a particular person.

James makes it clear that regeneration is due to the sovereign will of God in the life of its recipients. “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures” (James 1:18). First of all, God’s will here speaks of his irrevocable sovereign will. Secondly, the phrase “brought us forth” literally means “gave us birth.” The means by which He unconditionally willed believers to be born again was through the instrument of His word of truth, the message of the gospel. This gospel message is the same “wisdom of God” Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 2:7 that is distinguished from the wisdom of men. Paul’s message is the wisdom of God and that same message, called the word of truth by James, is applied in regeneration to those God willed to be saved and is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. He says, “My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5; cf. Rom. 1:16). Again, salvation is monergistic, but not passively received. Regeneration always efficaciously results in the conversion of its recipients. Regeneration is God’s work in the recipient and conversion (i.e. faith and repentance) is the inevitable active response of the person who has been regenerated. The synergistic view of Arminianism says God does His part in prevenient grace, but if the recipient doesn’t do his part in exercising his free will, he cannot be saved. The Scripture nowhere teaches this concept.

Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

 

31 See for example the order of salvation (ordo salutis) given by Forlines, Classical Arminianism, p. 84.
32 Ibid., p. 22.
33 Most Arminians readily admit that their soteriology is synergistic. E.g. Forlines, Classical Arminianism, p. 24; Olson, Arminian Theology, p. 39. Picirilli rejects the synergism label as he believes this implies that faith is a work and salvation is not by works (Grace, Faith, p. 36, 96, 146). Nonetheless, his understanding of prevenient grace is in no way substantially different from other articulate Arminians.

Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism Pt 4

July 21, 2014 1 comment

A Deficient View of the Sin Nature

First of all, prevenient grace has a deficient view of the sin nature and its impact on the unbeliever. It does not comport with a faithful understanding of Total Depravity as taught in Scripture and consistently held by Calvinists. Do all men in their natural state of inherited sin (Rom. 5:12, 18, 19) have some ability to move toward the good and to exercise saving faith? Before answering this question, it should be made clear that the question regards all people not some people (i.e. the elect only). In other words, Calvinism and Arminianism are in full agreement that grace is necessary for a person to exercise saving faith. In fact, there is no substantial difference in their respective interpretations of Eph. 2:8-9. Even Arminians admit that faith is a gift of God’s grace.26 Faith cannot be exercised apart from prevenient grace. This is not where the problem lies. Rather the issue lies in the fact that Arminianism asserts that all men are afforded this grace to believe and each has the equal capacity to exercise their wills to that end. But is that the teaching of Scripture?

The Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace nullifies the effects of the Fall such that men are enlightened concerning the truth that leads to the gospel and that all men have the capacity for “seeking” God. But Paul makes it clear in Romans 3 that: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (vss. 10-12). The present active verbs in this passage indicate the present status of all unregenerate human beings. There is no mitigation of the Fall here. According to Romans 8:8, those in the flesh (i.e. in the natural sinful state) are both unwilling and incapable of pleasing God. This is the thrust of Paul’s argument in the previous verse: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law [it is unwilling]; indeed, it cannot [it is incapable]” (vs. 7).

Paul is at pains to describe the life of the unbeliever as being spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1, 5; cf. Col. 2:13). He says to the believer: “We all once [i.e. when spiritually dead] lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3). If the state of the unbeliever (the rest of mankind) is by nature dead and considered as children of wrath, then in what sense are they also recipients of enabling grace that frees them to act in accordance with that grace toward procuring salvation? How can one be a child of divine wrath and the recipient of his grace at the same time? The only way to be relieved of death and wrath is not by prevenient grace, but by being made alive together with Christ which Paul equates in the same verse as being saved by grace. “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved” (vs. 5; cf. Col. 2:13). In other words, grace is in fact the act of being made alive in Christ. Notice also the work of salvation here, which is a resurrection from spiritual death, is accomplished solely by God. Nothing is said about the instrument of faith at this point. One does not make himself alive from the dead. It is a supernatural work of divine grace. Prevenient grace cannot be described as making unbelievers alive together with Christ. This is exclusive language for believers only. The grace spoken of here is a grace that can only be said to affect the believer. It is a grace that necessitates the actual salvation of its recipients not providing potential salvation to those who do not resist it.

Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

 

26 See for example Arminian theologian. Picirilli, Grace, Faith, p. 165-67. Picirilli quotes Arminius to this effect as well (p. 161). Also see F. Leroy Forlines, Classical Arminianism (Nashville: Randall House, 2011), p. 257-60.

Question 65-Puritan Catechism

Spurgeon 1Q. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?

A. No mere man, since the fall, is able in his life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, (Ecclesiastes 7:20) but does daily break them in thought, (Genesis 8:21) word, (James 3:8) and deed. (James 3:2)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine-15-Good Works

January 30, 2014 1 comment

Good Works

 

1. Has not God offered life and happiness upon the performance of good works?

He has.

2. Have any of mankind ever been justified in that way?

None have been thus justified.

3. Why is this?

Because, having a sinful nature, no man can perform good works in an acceptable manner.

4. Since, then, we are saved by faith alone, does God still require good works?

He does, and gives us grace to help us do them.

5. Are they to be performed with any hope of attaining salvation?

They are not; for we can never perfectly perform them in this life.

6. From what motive then?

From a spirit of love and obedience.

7. What, then., is the position of works in God’s way of justification?

They are the fruits and evidence of a change of heart and of love to God.

8. With what motive should we let men see our good works?

With the hope that thus they may be led to glorify God.

 

James P. Boyce-A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine