March 10, 2009

Who's Really Holding the Daisy

Kangaroodort (Arminian Perspectives) has an interesting series regarding Craig Brown's book The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism. I haven't read the book myself, so I cannot give say whether or not it is an accurate report (though from the quotes and from what I know about Ben, I trust it).

However, in this post I wanted to point out his most recent entry in this series: Who's Really Holding the Daisy? I had to identify the doctrine that seems to be the most important to Calvinists, it would be Perseverance of the Saints: that those who have been elected unto salvation are guaranteed by God's gracious deterministic providence to persevere to the end. Calvinists hold to this for both a biblical reason (that we are to be assured of our salvation) and for a personal one (the personal comfort in knowing that one cannot fall away).

But many Arminians have pointed out that this assurance is not real assurance. The observation that there are those who have been devoted to Christ in deed and word sometimes turn their back to God, never to return. This reality stands in stark contrast to the promise of the Calvinist doctrine.

To deal with this reality, all Calvinists that I am aware of have stated that though there are some that seem to fall away, those people were never truly saved to begin with. This does tremendous damage to assurance, for what assurance do you have that you are truly saved? Maybe you are one of the reprobate who simply think that they are saved.

In Arminianism, (well at least most Arminians. There are Arminians who accept Perseverance of the Saints) it is possible for one to lose their salvation, so there is always an evaluation that takes place. But at least we can evaluate. The Calvinist can simply hope that they are really saved. Most Calvinists simply believe that they (and those around them) are saved, and only employ their "never saved" theology when faced with an example of apostasy. This seems like an inconsistency to me.

I believe that the "Arminian" viewpoint better gives the kind of assurance the Bible talks about. This is mostly clearly shown in the book of I John, where over and over again John tells us that we can know that we are indeed saved by examining our works. Our works do not save us, but they do tell us what is going on inside. The logical result of Calvinist theology says that our behavior does not tell us what is really going on inside, something which we cannot even know about ourselves. Where is the assurance of that?

I do not believe that Calvinists are assured because of their theology, but in spite of it. Many of my Arminian brothers have said that a Calvinist cannot being assured of their salvation, but I must interject and say that they are. But, their present salvation must be accepted without referring to what their theology says, for their theology makes no promises there. Instead it is accepted in the same way that Arminians accept theirs, but acknowledging the manifestation of God's grace in our lives. This assurance is in contradiction to their theology, but in compliance with Scripture, and for that, they have my respect.


Anonymous said...

We've got Eternal Security going over at Unravel at the moment and I've noted that personal assurance seems to make "P" redundant. I think it's important to remember that God's promises are always conditional on our loyalty to Him - he did not bless Israel unconditionally nor hold covenant promises unilaterally.

We need to regain some of what the reformation obscured: the idea that saving belief is Allegiance to the True King and not some brief religious experience, doctrinal correctness or other intellectual exercise. If we succeed we will be able to make sense of passages like Phil 2:12 where God works in and with us for our salvation which is not a guarantee, set in stone of eternal life.

bethyada said...

I agree, I said as much on kangaroodort's post.

I think Calvism's errors stem in part from over extending biblical principles. In this case we have the assurance that nothing can interfere with the hold that Christ has on us (Romans 8). This is to assure us that God is stronger than anything else and is able to keep us. Yet Calvinists extend that to ourselves suggesting that we aren't able to remove ourselves from Christ. But this is not what the passage is teaching, and elsewhere it is clear we can apostate.

Mason said...

"saving belief is Allegiance to the True King and not some brief religious experience"

I think you make a good point there cawoodm. Faith has been watered down to mean 'assent to propositional statements' or 'a profession of faith at an alter call/ CCM concert/ small group'. Real faith is beyond assenting to a fact, it is about trusting in and giving allegiance to Jesus the Messiah.

Though we don’t agree on preservation, as we went back on forth on earlier, I do see where you are coming from.
I’d be curious how you’d articulate the possibility of losing your salvation/apostatizing. Is it like if you sin enough times or badly enough you’re out? Or is it more along the lines of being able to leave if you so desire?

Jc_Freak: said...


You are right. So many Protestants confuse what the true nature of faith is. Faith is trust in the person of God, and allegiance to Him, it isn't simply believing certain ideas. I'm not sure if that is based off of the Reformation though. I suspect that it is more grounded in the adoption of Enlightenment epistemology, where everything is perceived in a somewhat cognitive fashion. I am just speculating however.


I am not entirally sure how to answer your question, because I dont think things are clear cut enough to define it the way you are asking.

I would say this though: if salvation is based upon faith and not works, it follows that so is apostasy. I cannot believe that justification is recieved by faith and maintained by works. It is unScriptural (and anti-Arminian).

The idea of just leaving when you want to doesn't truly make sense either. It must be some kind of rejection of God and His Son. But the specifics are probably too case-specific to resolutely define.

Mason said...

"I would say this though: if salvation is based upon faith and not works, it follows that so is apostasy."

So apostosy would then involve losing faith as opposed to reaching some sort of in/out boundry with sin?
I ask because many of the Arminians I've known portray losing your salvation primarally as the result of sin in ones life, and this always seems to lead to an apprehension as to whether or not that specific sin pushed you over the edge.

Jc_Freak: said...


I'm not sure if one could call someone with such a belief Arminian. I know I wouldn't. The label is used far to liberally, and it is one of the objectives of SEA to see to it that the label is used properly.

Arminius himself would be appalled by such an idea. So would Wesley and every other classic Arminian.

Mason said...

Thanks for the clarification. That you would disagree with such an understanding, and other notable Arminians would as well, is quite reassuring.
The label is used to liberally (as is Calvinist I would think) but for the examples I was reffering to the people were in fact claiming the label for themselves as opposed to being described that way.

Jc_Freak: said...

"for the examples I was reffering to the people were in fact claiming the label for themselves as opposed to being described that way."

Oh, I'm sure. But the same can be said about many of those false Calvinists.

TrueHope said...


I believe salvation is by grace through faith from start to finish. Therefore, attaining salvation is through having faith, and forfeiting salvation is through abandoning the faith.

In other words, we were saved through faith and we remain saved through faith. It is not as though we were saved through faith and remain saved through works. Neither Arminius nor Wesley nor anyone I know believe in that.

Dan Martin said...

Hey JC et al.,

I was actually going to post this over at your Calvinism's Wall of Shame blog but I see that one's not open to comments. . .

I'm interested to see what you guys do with that. . .amplifying, I'm sure, posts like this one.

If I may offer a dare, you might start with the concept of limited atonement. This, of all the major Calvinist doctrines, strikes me as the most offensive to the basic character of God as revealed both in the Father and the Son, and the most obviously refuted with the plain language of Jesus and the Apostles.



Jc_Freak: said...

Actually, the point of that blog was for SEA members to expose certain teachers in the Neo-reformation movement. However, no one really did anything with it. I was mostly helping to set it up, I never intended to post in it. I think Billy and I might make it private again until we can get more than just the two of us on board.