I’ve never blogged about this issue explicitly since I’m still learning about textual criticism and the like, but attending the annual Keach Conference this past weekend shook up my thinking quite a bit. And that’s as it ought to be. The Christian life is not about staying in our comfort zones. At sundry times and divers manners, God sends things our way which help to shape our thinking. Those of us who came out of Arminianism into accepting the doctrines of grace know this very well.
The conference topic was the doctrine of providence (chapter 5 of the Confession) and part of this included a discussion on the providential preservation of the holy Scriptures. Prior to this conference, I was a typical 20-something Calvinist who used the ESV. I try not to be overly dogmatic when it comes to different translations, but I really liked the ESV. Such is not the case anymore, for textual bombshell was thrown in my lap which made me rethink my stance.
One of the speakers, Rev. Malcolm Watts, addressed the issue of God preserving His word over time. It was immediately apparent that he was an advocate of the Majority (or Byzantine) Text. He explained much of the history behind the competing Critical (or Alexandrian) Text and why he believes this text to be inferior–indeed, utterly corrupt. I had only a minimal understanding of these issues prior to the conference, but his presentation really popped some breakers in my mind. Continue reading
Today is John Calvin’s birthday, so I decided to present a quote from this saint who was used so wonderfully by God to reform His church. One of the many corrections in doctrine made during the Reformation was the proper relation between faith and works. In the following quote, Calvin expounds upon the reality that the Christian is sanctified by faith in order that he may obey God’s law:
Christ, by his righteousness, intercedes for us before the Father, so that we might be declared righteous, he being our advocate. In just the same way, by making us participants in his Spirit, he sanctifies us, in order to make us pure and innocent. For the Spirit of the Lord came upon him without measure–the Spirit of wisdom, of understanding, of counsel, of strength, of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord–in order that we might all draw from his fullness and receive grace from the grace given to him (cf. John 1:16).
Those, then, who boast of their Christian faith while being at the same time entirely without the Spirit’s sanctification, deceive themselves. For the Scripture teaches that Christ has not only been made righteousness for us, but also sanctification. As a result, we cannot receive his righteousness by faith without embracing at the same time that sanctification. The Lord, by that covenant which he made with us in Christ, promises that he will both take away our sins and write his Law in our hearts (Jer. 31:-34; Heb. 8:6-12 and 10:11-18).
Obedience to the Law is not, then, a work within our power to accomplish. The power to accomplish this work comes from the Spirit who cleanses our hearts from their corruption, and softens them to be obedient to righteousness.
Now the Law is of no use at all for Christians, outside of faith. In former days the outward teaching of the Law did nothing but accuse us of weakness and transgression. But since the Lord has engraved a love for his righteousness in our hearts, the Law is a guiding lamp to keep us from leaving the right road. It is the wisdom which trains us, instructs us and encourages us to become upright. It is our rule, and it will not tolerate being destroyed by wrongful liberty.
(From Calvin’s work, Truth for All Time, translated by Stuart Olyott)
After sitting through church history class last night, I got a much better picture of the various soteriological positions presented at the Synod of Dort in 1618-19. This was the first time I heard of the phrase “hypothetical universalism” used to describe one of the viewpoints. I don’t want to confuse anyone, so let me lay out the ground of these four main soteriological views:
1. “Straight” universalism: everyone is saved and heading to heaven.
2. Synergistic universalism: Christ died for everyone, making it possible for them to go to heaven if only they will believe.
3. Hypothetical universalism: Christ died for everyone, but the Holy Spirit applies that salvation to the elect only.
4. Particularism: Christ died for His elect and the Holy Spirit applies that salvation to the elect only.
It is apparent to me that the “synergistic universalism” could conceivably apply to both Pelagianism as well as Arminianism. That’s why it makes sense to me that many Arminians end up moving over into outright Pelagianism. Some self-described Arminians I know are actually closer to Amyraldianism which falls under the category of “hypothetical universalism.” Continue reading