Arminian Evangelism

Don’t the Arminians say that all the sins of all sinners have already been credited to Christ, and that this is ineffective? Well, no, they would not agree that it’s ineffective.

Arminians simply say that the whole thing is also conditioned on faith. While the Calvinist disagrees with the Arminian about the source of this faith, as long as the Calvinist does not talk of a federal union in which God has already credited the sins of the elect to Christ, they can share the same gospel.

They can also agree not to mention that the non-elect sinner cannot believe the true gospel. They can agree not to mention that the non-elect CAN believe the false gospel that God loves everybody and that “Christ” died for everybody.

Arminians live with a contradiction between the idea that the sinner decides if Jesus has died for her and the idea of assurance that “One has been sacrificed to pay your penalty.” But the non-Christian is not commanded to believe what may not be true. Even if a non-Christian is elect (so it’s then true that Christ died for her), that is not what we can or should be telling the non-Christian.

We can tell non-Christians about Christ’s effective death for the elect without telling them if they are elect or not. We don’t know if they are elect. We do know that Christ saves all for whom He died! Therefore it is not true or biblical to say that Christ “laid down his life for us if we would trust him”.

Because the elect’s sins were credited to Christ by the Triune God, Christ died for them so that they would believe the gospel.

An atonement has already been made for the elect alone. It is not true to say to the unbeliever: “or you can trust that someone else has suffered for your sins and paid the penalty for them.” An unbeliever can believe that, and also believe that her believing is what made that penalty to be effective in her case, but if she does that, she is still in her sins, and still worshiping a false God who cannot save.

The true gospel tells sinners that God is the one who put Christ to death for the sins of the elect, and that this same Christ will return a second time “without sin”, all the future sins of the elect having been paid.

We must be careful not proclaim the false Arminian gospel. The Bible talks about “us” and “our” sins, but it never resorts to an Arminian logic. Let us try to do the same thing. When we tell people that God saves “as many as” (whosoever) has faith in Jesus, let us make sure that we tell them for whom Jesus died. Faith is not what makes Christ’s death effective for us: the Holy Spirit is not the One who makes the atonement work.

Faith is not a qualification, but a result of Christ’s death, a benefit of Christ’s righteousness. (II Peter 1:1) It is true to say that “without trust we will know no benefit through his death” , but it not the whole truth, and it becomes a lie when we do not rule out the idea that trust is what makes the death work. And we cannot rule out trust as what makes the death work, unless we teach that trust is a result given to the elect because of Christ’s death for the elect.

My worry is not that some of the non-elect will be saved. But neither should anybody worry that the elect will not be saved if they told the truth that God has a non-elect and that God does not love all sinners.

Arminians assure their non-Christian friends that “God wants you to wake up to the spiritual peril you are in”. Certainly God commands in God’s law what God has not ordained to happen. But God’s gospel does not include any idea that God “wants” things to happen that will not happen.

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4 Comments on “Arminian Evangelism”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    We need to talk about a federal union before we talk about an union by faith, and we need to talk about faith being a benefit given to the elect because of Christ’s obedience even to death.

    If the death of Jesus is sufficient to save the non-elect, then saving faith cannot be a result of Christ’s death. And when that is so, you are left with an evangelism in which union with “Christ” (the false one who died for everybody) because of faith becomes everything.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Justification is not procured by faith as a human attitude or virtue (inner works) in lieu of justification by external works of piety. There is nothing at all that faith contributes in the way of completing a subjective process which culminates finally in justification.

    The relation between grace and faith is the other way around. Grace creates faith. It creates the means by which it shall be received. We need to become new creatures because we have no remaining capacity to trigger off the event which effects our justification.

    If faith is the prior condition of justification, how does a person get that necessary faith? The sinner’s will has inherently only the ability to resist, and is in fact converted while it is resisting.

    Carl Braaten

  3. David Bishop Says:

    I appreciate the fact you wrote “a federal union”, because the idea of federal union also consists of the fact that Adam’s guilt has been imputed to all men. And though it’s a generalization to say all Arminians have a problem with a federal union that has all the sins of the elect have already been laid to Christ, it’s nevertheless a true generalization. I also appreciate that you suggest the death of Jesus is insufficient to save the non-elect (which is true, I agree). However, what I think you miss saying is that the death of Jesus is also insufficient to save the elect. Justification saves the elect. Certainly the justification is not possible without the death, but it’s still justification that saves.

    I don’t know what precisely you mean when you say all the sins of the elect have already been laid to Christ. Keeping with the idea of federal union, I fail to see how the elect can be born with Adam’s guilt already imputed to them, and at the same time this guilt laid to Christ, and with the result that the laying of the elect’s imputed guilt to Christ has no effect until a later date. In my opinion, this makes the cross void and of no effect, even if only temporarily.

    Certainly He became sin on the cross, but if we’re going to talk about salvation, and namely justification, I have to ask, when? As far as I can tell, His becoming sin at the cross doesn’t get credited to the elect until it gets credited to the elect. Justification is about bookkeeping; about proper and legal bookkeeping. God doesn’t do His accounting on a curve. You’ve said somewhere before that we should think of there being two kinds of union, or two separate elements to union. I agree. But I disagree that we can take this to mean, “the true gospel tells sinners that God is the one who put Christ to death for the sins of the elect, and that this same Christ will return a second time without sin, all the future sins of the elect having been paid.” I think instead, the true gospel tells sinners that God is the one who put Christ to death for the sins of the elect in order to justify the elect, and that when Christ, who is without sin, returns, all the elect will have been justified.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Protestant Reformed people are supralapsarians, deny common grace and offer, but they accept Arminians as Christians and their gospel can sound like that of the Arminians, except they presume their covenant children to be regenerated.

    d; it can be taken the exchanged life way,

    mark: right, as in, we are the exchangers, if we impute, then God will exchange and impute. Romans 6 does tell us to reckon ourselves: but we can’t do that until after we have believed the gospel, until after we know that we have believed the gospel. Believing the gospel is not that reckoning, not that imputing.

    d: like saying that after our faith God then jots Christ’s righteousness down into the elect’s column.
    Justification is salvation, or at least the first and most important part.

    mark: But this is the trickiness of a lot of Reformed people; reminding us that justification is not all of salvation, then they say that sanctification is synergism (defined of course not as man’s part and God’s part but rather as God doing all and also man doing all!)


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