Re: [asa] Wells and traditional Christianity

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Fri Sep 01 2006 - 10:49:29 EDT

At 08:44 AM 9/1/2006, Chris Barden wrote:
>I share in the concerns that Iain and Merv put
>forward. ...But isn't "traditional
>Christianity" going too far the other way,
>holding up a world without Christ's sacrifice as
>the way things should have been? ~ Chris

@ That view isn't one of "Biblical Christianity"
(The God-centered religion) - but it is the view
held by the adherents to any one of the thousands
of variations of the "man-centered"
religion. The two are contrasted here, quite well:

A Brief Look at James Arminius and His Doctrine
of God’s Providence by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

             James Arminius wrote a theological
summation (somewhat sketchy but poignant) of his
positions to Hyppolitus A. Collibus, an
ambassador of the seven Dutch provinces. Here
Arminius lays forth all the basic doctrines which
he embraces and states his disagreements with
“orthodox Christianity” of the time on various
issues. It is here that most of the comments
will be made on this theological view.

Arminius did not believe the orthodox consensus
concerning the providence of God.

First, what might be considered as the orthodox consensus?

I quote the
Confession of Faith on this point in 5:1, “God
the great Creator of all things doth uphold,
direct, dispose, and govern all creatures,
actions, and things, from the greatest even to
the least, by his most wise and holy providence,
according to his infallible foreknowledge, and
the free and immutable counsel of his own will,
to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power,
justice, goodness, and mercy. (Neh. 9:6; Psa.
145:14-16; Heb. 1:3; Dan. 4:34-35; Psa. 135:6;
Acts 17:25-28; Job 34:1-41:34; Matt. 6:26-32;
10:29-31; Prov. 15:3; I Chr. 16:9; Psa. 104:24;
145;17; Acts 15:18; Isa. 42:9; Ezek. 11:5; Eph.
1:11; Psa. 33:10-11; Isa. 63:14; Eph. 3:10; Rom. 917; Gen. 45:7; Psa. 145:7)

Arminius denied this assertion. As a cornerstone
to understanding the manner in which God
providentially oversees but does not directly
control all things, either freely, contingently,
or through secondary causes, Arminius was sure to
make the plain statement that God does not
“necessarily” have providence over certain acts – like the fall of Adam.

He says, “On this account, therefore, I declare I
am much surprised, and not without good reason,
at my being aspersed with this calumny – that I
hold corrupt opinions respecting the Providence
of God. If it be allowable to indulge in
conjecture, I think this slander had its origin
in the fact of my denying, that, with respect to
the decree of God, Adam necessarily sinned; an
assertion which I constantly deny…” (3:698)

Arminius denied the necessity of the fall. (This
alone impinges him on his vies of the necessity
of all other actions, including the Father’s
determination to send the Son to die for the sins
of the elect. Was the atonement, then, not
necessary?) This is something that his statement
on the issue plainly sets forth.

In repudiating this, he denies that God is not
providentially governing all things
necessarily. Some of his verbiage in describing
this in his letters and theological treatises
seem orthodox. He will say that God had
providence over the direction of sin, to the
direction of sin that God wills, and the
determining times when those sins occur (3:697).

However, as is his usual demeanor, he will
blatantly contradict himself, demonstrating his
confusion of the issue and his weak systematic
approach. It would seem at first glance by the
skimming reader that Arminius says much that is
good about the Providence of God, yet, when all
is considered, his stance is quite defective.

Why could we not believe that God is directly
responsible for overseeing the necessity of the
fall? In Arminius’ mind this would make God the
author of sin – something he “noblely” desires to
avoid, but at the cost of the character of
God. “Necessity,” Arminius says, “is an
affection of being…(3:698).” In other words, for
something to occur necessarily, God would have to
be author of it since He is the first cause of
all things – which seems to be a contradiction
waiting to happen in the mind of Arminius. This
is not true in the manner in which Arminius is thinking.

In summating the orthodox position, the
Westminster Confession asserts, “Although, in
relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God,
the first Cause, all things come to pass
immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same
providence, he ordereth them to fall out,
according to the nature of second causes, either
necessarily, freely, or contingently. (Acts 2:23;
see Isa. 14:24, 27; Gen 8:22; Jer. 31:35; Isa.
10:6,7; see Exod. 21:13 and Deut. 19:5; I Kings
22:28-34) God, in his ordinary providence,
maketh use of means, yet is free to work without,
above, and against them, at his pleasure. (Acts
27:24, 31, 44; Isa. 55:10-11; Hosea 1:7; Matt.
4:4; Job 34:20; Rom. 4:19-21; II Kings 6:6; Dan.
3:27) (WCF 5:2-3).” Free and contingent actions
are allowable under the providence of God. The
Lord makes use of those actions in order that all
necessary causes fall out in the manner in which
fits into the divine plan. To deny these in any
way is to deny the Godhood of God. It is a
direct siege to the effectual nature of the
divine decrees – i.e. that He decrees all things.

In denying the necessity of the decree in this
way, i.e. that Adam did not fall by necessary
consequence of the decree, Arminius denies both
the orthodox ideas surrounding providence as well
as the decrees of God (something to briefly look
at alter on). He denies that God really does
order all things, a point that rubs him the wrong
way concerning the free will of men. Adam,
possibly, may not have sinned, and God had no
power over the being of Adam to guide the action
one-way or the other. God can hinder evil
(3:165) or place an impediment around the action
of it (3:165), He can even test wicked men to see
whether they will sin or not (3:171), but he
cannot ordain that it be so and Providentially
guide the wicked to sin. No, Arminius will have
none of that. In his mind, men are free, and not
necessarily bound to anything (3:190) but their own judgments and desires.

In conclusion, Arminius denies that God declares,
“the end from the beginning, and from ancient
times the things that are not yet done, saying,
My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my
pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east,
the man that executeth my counsel from a far
country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring
it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do
it. (Isaiah 46:10-11).” In this the orthodox
disagree with him, and this is why the
at Dordt disagreed with his children, the
who propagated the same errors he did on the
subject of God’s decree and counsel.

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Received on Fri Sep 1 10:49:36 2006

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