I have tried for a bit now to stay out of the Arminianism-Calvinism debate due to the rancor and division that it creates within the Church but this post on Steve Camp’s site has been eating at me for a few weeks since I first read it. It is typical of the arguments that are arrayed against Arminianism that reveal a lack of thorough scholarship about the subject and a reliance on second-hand or anecdotal evidence, or worse yet, an arrogant dismissal of the soteriological system by associating it with some piece of pop culture.
He starts off on the wrong foot by stating clearly that a thorough examination of the Arminian tenets is not worthy of examination (since they are so obviously wrong?):
Here is the essence of an easy believism gospel. This is not meant to be an exhaustive treatment of Arminianism, but a thumb nail approach.
Simply out of respect for the millions of brothers and sisters whose side of the church you are condemning to perdition, a more respectful approach would be to provide the theologian and quote to which you ascribe the statements you are trying to refute. Instead, we get the anecdotal, ‘I heard this is what Arminians believe’ version. Not the basis for a theological discussion where the eternal souls of men and women are involved. But hey, when you’re right you’re right, right?
I is for Initiated by Man
Camp proposes this fallacious argument:
Initiated by man
Salvation by Arminianism is dependent on man accepting Christ; being a seeker; and responding to the gospel because he chose to do so out of his own free volition. IOW, the A.I. rendering of 1 John 4:19 reads, “He loves us, because we first loved Him.” We were not chosen before the world began (elected); Jesus did not actually redeem us on the cross (particular redemption); and the Holy Spirit didn’t actually regenerate us prior to faith being exercised (1 Cor. 12:3; Titus 3:6-7); or that it was God alone Who must grant to us saving faith to receive Christ as Lord of our lives (Eph. 2:8-9); but Jesus only provided a way of salvation for us at the cross and now sits in the heavenlies waiting for lost people to seek Him, choose Him, find Him, accept Him and “select Him”. This is a picture, beloved, of an impotent Lord–not the great omnipotent Sovereign of the universe.
This is almost a non-starter because of the disheartening rewriting of scripture that the author attempts to attribute to Arminians. I’ve never read Scripture rewritten in any of the Arminian literature so I think Camp needs to provide his source or remove this. Putting this aside, this myth about Arminian theology is simply wrong. Salvation in Arminianism is initiated by the sovereign God, not man. It is God who extends the salvific, prevenient grace to man who is dead in sin. Source please, Steve, where Arminius states otherwise. Suggested reading (by Camp): Ephesians 1:4-14. This passage has to do with election, in which Arminius was in full agreement. The difference between Calvin and Arminius was the basis for election. Where is this discussion?
D is for Dependent on Free Will
The next point is another misstatement of Arminian theology. Arminians do believe in libertarian free will while Calvinists also believe in a form of free will called compatibilist (if they are willing to enter the discussion at all). Why no mention of this? Because it messes up the acronym? Here is what Camp says about this:
Dependent on free will
Man is not so depraved and lost that he cannot, once presented with the right truth by compelling methods, accept Christ by his own merit and choosing. Man is not solely drawn to Christ by the Father (John 6:44), but decides of his own free volition to follow Jesus. We’ve all sung it a myriad of times haven’t we? “I have decided to follow Jesus…” In the Arminian school, man’s will is not so bound and corrupted by original sin or by the penalty and guilt of Adam’s disobedience and sin (Rom. 3:10-18; 5:12-17); nor is he so completely dead in trespass in sin, or by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3) as to be restricted from “choosing Christ” as his Savior.
Oops, more reference to election (John 6:44) meant to infer that Arminius did not support election when, if the time is taken to fully understand the theology, you discover that Arminian theology does accept and believe in the sovereign election of God. His second statement regarding the lesser depravity supposedly promulgated by Arminians is also mythology. Arminius himself says ” In his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affection, or will and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, conceive, will, and perform whatever is truly good.” (Arminus writings 1:252)
L is for Lip Service is Enough
Here is Camp’s take on repentance:
Lip service enough
Repentance is a verbal assent to the truth–not a change of mind and life. It is, for example, a common sinner’s prayer that I was taught in my church as a child was, “Jesus I believe in You, Jesus I receive You…” and if you really meant it, you’re born again – that’s all it took. (But is that really how someone becomes a follower of Jesus Christ?) You are now free to baptize them, put them on the roll, have them serve in missions; even teach a Sunday School class or go to seminary. No repentance required (the non-Lordship position), just come as you are in the rags of your own righteousness. If you’re really sincere when you said that prayer, you are now a Christian–welcome to the family of God. Compare that with Matthew 16:24-26; Luke 14:25-30.
Wait, is Camp saying that Arminians do not believe in the necessity of repentance? I’m not sure how he supports this unless I missed something in the Calvinist doctrine in which proof of personal repentance generates a special birthmark or something that proves their personal repentance. (Or can the Calvinist too say they have repented while secretly, or not so secretly, be living an unrepentant lifestyle?) If he is referring to the practices of various churches, then that is one thing, but it is certainly not true of the theological system. This is a very irresponsible statement.
But wait again, doesn’t the act of repentance indicate free will (compatibilist or libertarian)? If God in his grace wills me to salvation and yet I continue on without repentance, does that indicate that God failed? Or, am I incapable of sinning further once I have been saved? This is a very complicated discussion that deserves much more than a cutesy toss off.
E is for Evidence is Not Necessary
Again Camp leads the reader down a rabbit hole, away from true Arminian theology:
Evidence not necessary
Once you have made a verbal profession of faith you are saved for eternity. If you bear fruit or no fruit to that end in your life (John 15:1-5) it is deemed as non-essential. If you were sincere in saying your sinners prayer, then you are saved forever – regardless of how you live. Sanctification is divorced from justification and an elective in the school of Arminian theology and gospel preaching–not a necessary by-product of salvation. IOW, a verbal profession of faith secures your “fire insurance.” Carnal Christianity is an acceptable state for some and ultimately leads to an antinomian view of grace. But I like what Dr. Tozer used to say, “to speak of a carnal Christian is to talk of a heavenly devil.” In Arminianism, here is how 2 Cor. 5:17 reads, “if any man is in Christ Jesus he can remain the same; old things don’t necessarily pass away, behold, nothing needs to become new.” Remember the true words of John Jasper: “If you is, what you was, you ain’t.”
Compare that with Titus 2:12; Matt. 7:21-23; Col. 3:1-14.
This argument can certainly be turned back against the Calvinist who believes he or she is elected and therefore the recipient of God’s grace and the gift of eternal salvation, can’t it? Certainly, Camp does not mean to say that there are not deluded Calvinists does he? Arminian theology never contradicts the simplicity of John 15:1-5 or, even better, Romans 8:13. To lump Arminians in with carnal Christianity is a false association. And again with the rewriting of Scripture that no Arminian theologian has ever engaged in just to support his false argument?
I too stand against easy believism that requires no repentance and produces no fruit. Those who propagate such systems of belief will answer to God but Arminius is not one of them. To associate a theology that has an equal amount of biblical support with easy believism is malicious slander that breaks the unity of the Church, not something I would want to face my Lord with.
God Bless you Steve but this is not the way to approach this topic.