To my Arminian Friends
aymon de albatrus
"And she will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." (Mat 1:21)
Come now; let us then reason together in a logical and rational manner avoiding personal idiosyncrasies and cognitions of self-importance.
We all agree that God has to have some absolute and infinite attributes to be God; failing those, well, then, He is no God, by definition.
Of course Gods attributes are infinite but we shall consider the 3 fundamental essentials:
Omnipotence: He has the power to do anything He desires. He can do absolutely ALL that He wants to do, without any limits whatsoever and nobody can stop Him (Job 42:2; Luk 1:37; Dan 4:35).
Omnipresence: He is in ALL places, all the time. The Universe of Universes does not contain Him He is everywhere (Jer 23:24; 1Ki 8:27; Psa 90:2).
Omniscience: He knows All things. He knows all the most intimate details of everything, from the beginning of time to the end, nothing left out (1Jo 3:20; Psa 94:9-11).
Now, all are agreed on these attributes. Things being so, let us Postulate:
"If God is Omniscient then He must have seen ALL the events in His Creation from Beginning to End given also that He is Omnipresent and Omnipotent".
"If Postulate one above is true, then it follows that NOTHING of what God saw, at the beginning, in His Creation can possibly change, as the events unfold, otherwise God did not see right and therefore He is not Omniscient and consequently NOT God".
"If Postulates one and two are true, then ALL is fixed from the beginning in Time and Space then Gods decree cannot change and we can say that All things are in effect -- Preordained".
These Postulates are to be so for God to be God. Surely we are all agreed on this; otherwise the story ends here.
The logical conclusion is that that famous statement used ad-nauseam in our Evangelical churches: "Prayer changes things" is TOTALLY false, for things cannot change from what God has seen before time began, as proven above. To us they may seem to change, but if they do, it was already so in the scheme of things, before creation.
No doubt as a natural response to this statement someone will ask: "In that case what is the point in praying?" It is certainly NOT for changing Gods purposes, nor His mind, for that is impossible but the most accurate response to the question is twofold:
We are commanded to do so to align ourselves with the will of God, and
For our own benefit and comfort.
Dear friends, let us be honest, how many hundreds of requests to the Lord have we uttered, and of those how many have been fulfilled? Just a fraction of them, right! And why? Because: "You ask, and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order that you may spend on your lusts." (Jam 4:3) And why we pray amiss? Because we are not praying according to His will: "And this is the confidence we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." (1Jo 5:14)
And here is the first reason for prayer, so that our will be aligned with the Will of God, that we may grow to mature Christians: "until we all may come to the unity of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," (Eph 4:13). God requires us to pray that we might change [or be changed] to be in accord with His plans. We are the one's who change when we see His plans unfolding. Prayer changes us, not what God saw at the beginning, and of course even our prayers and our changing are included in God's prescience.
Our Lord command us to: "Watch and pray, that you do not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mat 26:41) so being fully spiritually aware we may not fall to the ruses of the Evil one and we will be able to discern what is godly from what is not.
The second reason for praying is for our comfort. Jesus Himself prayed very often for strength and even asked if He could avoid the Cross: "And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to You; take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will." (Mar 14:36) It is quite all right to feel down at times and indeed we must bring all our discomforts to our Heavenly Daddy, thus: "casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (1Pe 5:7) These days many people go to the psychiatrist do deal with their life problems, but we have our heavenly physician that has the perfect cure for us and understand us completely. Indeed, what comfort. Praise the Lord
Matthew Henry, the famous Bible expositor, a Puritan, said this about prayer: "When God wants to bless His people with something, He set them apraying for that very thing".
This is a perfect summary for the practice of praying.
This concept does lead quite naturally to that much-battered old hypothesis of "FREEWILL".
The definition of "freewill" depends on what kind of mental set one has:
The Secular, Liberal and Evangelical view:
Human beings are able to choose what they want and God cannot interfere with their decisions.
The Classical Reformed Christianity view:
Defines "freewill" as the ability of been able to equally choose good and evil.
The Bible has this to say in (Rom 3:10-12):
There is none righteous, no, not one
There is none that understands
There is none that seeks after God
They are together become unprofitable
They are all gone out of the way
There is none that does good, no, not one
Obviously the Bible does not believe that unregenerate man has "freewill" for it states that "no, not one" is able to choose and do good and certainly unable to choose God.
Now we must take a look at the definition that most people give to "freewill". Most equate the ability do act on what comes to mind as "freewill", and in that context, indeed people have "freewill" but the Biblical definition is: "the ability to equally choose and do good and evil". Now people make decisions based on their mental set, e.g. what they really are. For example an Amazon savage will act differently to a modern urban man when faced with the same situation.
We know that an unregenerate man is spiritually dead: "and He worked in you who were once dead in trespasses and sins," (Eph 2:1). An unsaved person will always make decisions based on his make up and being dead spiritually all his decisions will be evil, no not one will be good. Yes! If we take the secular definition of "freewill" this unsaved person has "freewill" for he decides all he wants, but that is not the Biblical definition of freewill for he cannot choose good and evil equally, but only and always evil, therefore Biblically the unregenerate has a "will", but not "freewill".
The usual cavilling question: "well, if the unregenerate man cannot choose God by his own make up (freewill), how can he possible respond to the Gospel call and be saved, by himself?" Good question, but the Bible answers it very neatly: "God regenerates whom He wants onto salvation" "26 And I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them." (Eze 36:26-27) And with that new "heart" that person will be enable to seek God unto salvation, but this receiving (born again) has to come first.
Which indeed it is amply supported by the New Testament:
"who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (Joh 1:13)
"No one is able to come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day." (Joh 6:44)
"And He said, Because of this, I have told you that no one is able to come to Me except it is given to him from My Father." (Joh 6:65)
"And hearing, the nations rejoiced and glorified the Word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." (Act 13:48)
"We love Him because He first loved us." (1Jo 4:19)
It is interesting to note an incongruence in our circles. For example, how many times have we prayed the Lord that He may save people dear to us. But what have we really asked the Lord? We have asked Him to interfere with this people's "Freewill". The very thing we so violently defend with all our being. If we were truly coherent with ourselves we should pray that person directly that he may convert himself seeing that God cannot do anything about that according to our doctrine. Tilt, Tilt.
So much for "freewill" from a theological point of view.
But we have also evidence from the scientific secular world; a German scientific documentary (Deutsche Welle) was presenting a group of German and American scientists studying the brain of compulsory criminals. According to them many of them had experienced big traumas in their early age developing a warped brain with low sensitivity to the suffering of others. Thus they say that these people to be stimulated need strong emotions, like killing someone.
But this is not the point that drew attention, but that they stated categorically that from their studies it became evident that FIRST the brain formulates an action and THEN the will makes the decision to act on it. Someone asked the scientists: "But then there is no freewill?". Without hesitation the scientist responded: "NO, absolutely."
It is stupefying that a scientist (probably unbeliever) with natural facts and proofs in hand would affirm with absolute certainty that every action of man is FIRSTLY formulated by the brain and AFTER the human's will decides to put it into action, and ONLY that action.
Of course the argument about free will leads quite naturally to soteriology, (order of salvation). The classical evangelical statement apropos the order of salvation is this: "By His Foreknowledge God Foresaw before time began who will come to Him by their own "freewill" and therefore He elected them to salvation." But this is a circular argument for if they elected themselves to salvation by their freewill what need is there of God to elect them to salvation when they had already elected themselves by their freewill??
Million of volumes have been penned about this question and surely we will not resolve it here, but one thing we can say: "Regardless of what Soteriological view one holds, the inescapable conclusion must be that whatever God "Foresaw" before the Creation drama began, that CANNOT change as the events unfold for if they do from what God "saw" then God is not God, and that cannot be, by definition.
Regarding the other bone of contention in the Evangelical view: "Jesus Christ on the cross paid (atoned) for the sins of the whole world (nobody excluded) and potentially saved everyone on the condition that they choose Him".
But we say: "For a man to believe and to seek God, FIRSTLY God has to change the programming of his brain with the gifting of a new heart (the essence of a persons ego, the ID)".
In contrast to this Evangelical view of Universal Atoning, we offer an interesting reasoning by a famous Puritan:
The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:
All the sins of all men, or
All the sins of some men, or
Some of the sins of all men.
In which case it may be said:
That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
That if the second were true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
But if the first were the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins? For we know that not all men are saved.
You answer, "Because of unbelief."
I ask, is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? (Joh 3:36) If it were, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not? If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, then He did not die for all their sins and therefore not all of these are saved (for this list includes the elect).
And there it is, an inescapable logic.
The purpose of these few words was to prove two points:
Independently of ones view, whether Arminian of Reformed, the inescapable truth is that, given the 3 fundamental attributes of God, whatever God saw (Foresaw) before the foundation of the world, before anything at all, once set into motion (time) nothing can change from that and therefore it can be said that it is Foreordained. For God to be God, that is, until the heaven and the earth pass away, in no way shall one iota or one tittle pass away.
"Freewill" as defined by the Bible "the ability to choose equally good and evil" is not found in the unregenerate man and therefore the unregenerate man cannot choose God for he will always choose according to his make-up which is evil. To be able to choose God, first he must be borne from above, i.e. must receive a new heart from the Lord.
A word from the theologian:
FOREKNOWLEDGE AS EQUIVALENT TO FOREORDINATION:
While, therefore, the foreknowledge of God in the sense of prescience is asserted in the New Testament, this is not the meaning of the term when used to translate the Greek words proginoskein and prognosis. These words which are translated in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) by the word foreknowledge, and once by the word foreordain (1 Peter 1:20 the King James Version), mean much more than mere intellectual foresight or prescience.
Both the verb and the noun approach the idea of foreordination and are closely connected with that idea in the passages where these words occur. Thus, in Peters speeches in Acts the predestination which finds expression in 4:28 is practically identified with the term prognosis in 2:23. Everything, which happened to Jesus, took place in accordance with the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, so that nothing happened except that which God had foreordained. In this verse the term foreknowledge is an expansion of the idea of Gods counsel or plan, regarding it as an intelligent prearrangement, the idea of foreknowledge being assimilated to that of foreordination.
The same idea is found in 1 Peter 1:20. Here the apostle speaks of Christ as a lamb foreordained by God before the foundation of the world. The Greek verb proegnosmenou, meaning literally, foreknown (as in the Revised Version (British and American)) is translated foreordained in the King James Version. It is evidently Gods foreordination of Jesus as Saviour which Peter has in mind. Also in 1 Peter 1:2 those to whom the apostle is writing are characterized as elect according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God, where the election is based on the foreknowledge.
By the prognosis or foreknowledge, however, far more is meant than prescience. It has the idea of a purpose which determines the course of the Divine procedure. If it meant simply prevision of faith or love or any quality in the objects of the election, Peter would not only flatly contradict Paul (Rom 9:11; Eph 1:3,4; 2 Timothy 1:9); but also such a rendering would conflict with the context of this passage, because the objects of election are chosen unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of .... Christ, so that their new obedience and relation to Christ are determined by their election by God, which election springs from a foreknowledge which therefore cannot mean a mere prescience.
In view of the fact that there was a classical use of the simple verb ginoskein in the sense of resolve, and more especially of the fact that this word is used in the New Testament to denote an affectionate or loving regard or approbation in accordance with a common use of the Hebrew yadha` (Mat 7:23; 1 Corinthians 8:3; Gal 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:19), there is nothing arbitrary in giving it this sense when compounded with the preposition pro when the context clearly demands it, as it does in the above passage (compare Johnstone, Commentary on Peter in the place cited.: per contra Meyer on passages in Acts and Romans).
1The word prognosis is, however, discriminated from predestination. It is that loving regard in God from which the Divine election springs, which election Peter evidently regarded as sovereign, since sanctification is only a confirmation of it (2 Peter 1:10), and stumbling and disobedience are referred to `appointment to unbelief (1 Peter 2:8). Here, then, we have a pregnant use of foreknowledge in which it is assimilated to the idea of purpose, and denotes a sovereign and loving regard.
James Orr, M.A., D.D., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia : 1915 Edition, ( ed. James Orr; Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1999).