Always Reforming- Confusion, Clarity, & Controversy

We can’t help but acknowledge the seemingly prophetic words of William Tyndale, the Christian reformer, who in the mid-16th century proclaimed to the then Catholic Pope, “I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you!”

The Protestant Reformation which I believe should be properly be attributed to the glory of God, however can be traced back to the use of Jan Hus as a vessel used by God. So erupted the challenge, that the “average Christian” is called to be apart of the ‘Priesthood of Christ’ and not some religious elite. The Bible was put in the comman mands hands, and thus began the confusion. Denominationalism is what occured as many servants of God began to understand various truths contained in the Scriptures. The Reformed churches placed importance on doctrine, while the anabaptists sought to throw the government off of the people of God. The Anglicans would have their own perspective, and even some within the Catholic Church sought reform (i.e. Erasmus).

As I preached this last Sunday, it would be the God-led work of John Calvin who would seek to offer clarity in the midst of confusion. Surely the 21st century Christian Church can understand that sentiment, amen?

John Calvin which initiate a deeper look at the story of Scripture in what would come to be known as “Systematic Theology”. You can listen to my past sermon on these details by visiting the following link, http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630/239650-closing-up-with-clarity-on-calvinism

Since the time of reformation, there has been plenty of controversy and disagreement within the Church. Clarity is surely not all that easy, as anyone who has discussed any topic in public, especially in our post-modern society, should know. There is always that person that will disagree, and you know what? They may have a good argument. I personally have begun a discussion with a brother named Jason Watt on an area similar to the whole John Calvin/ Jacob Arminius controversy. Jason holds to a view called “Open Theism” while I would be more in line with “Calvinism”. We both are diligent students of the Word, we both agree on many areas, however this topic, which we both deem to be pretty darn important, we find controversy. As I detail the history of this historic doctrinal controversy, I am excited to display brotherly love, humility, and respect as we deal with the details in regards to the glory of God. You can read Jason Watt’s article here, http://fulfilledfocus.blogspot.com/2015/01/conversations-with-pastor-miano.html

I follow John Calvin’s line of thinking in the regard that to even think it is possible for man to contemplate or ponder approaching the grace of God, in other words giving man the ‘choice’, is simply put “robbing God of His sovereignty”. If you go about reading John Calvin’s Commentaries of the “Providence” of God, or read through his, Institutes on the Christian Religion, you will find despite the mass confusion regarding the doctrines that follow Calvin, his goal was to defend the sovereignty of God.

In his day, due to the revolt against the Catholic doctrines of Popery and clergy, penance, as well as the very doctrines of man’s understanding of salvation, John Calvin sought to put the details in their right place- taking the false authority the Catholic Church had given to man. Instead, throughout his writings, John Calvin sought to demonstrate the ‘total depravity’ of man as revealed through the narrative of Scripture, nothing good can come from him, and all the good decisions outside of his “carnal nature” is immediately given back to God.

Why would someone want to argue this? Calvin would have simply pointed out that the “innate idolatry” ever present within man causes man to always endeavor to bring glory back to himself- therefore arguing against the very purposes and will of God.

In this article, I want to demonstrate how the Arminian Remonstrance indeed comes off in that manner.

The Arminian Remonstrance was a response to the Belgic Confession (1561) which was drawn up in 1610. The followers of Jacob Arminius, in an effort to memorialize the teachings of their leader after his death, drew up the ‘Five Arminian Articles’ in 1610, in an effort to dispute the Belgic Confession (1561). For some history, information, and a read through this Confession visit the following link, http://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/confessions/belgic-confession

You can read these 5 Artictles themselves by visiting this link:

http://www.esvbible.org/resources/creeds-and-catechisms/article-the-five-arminian-articles-1610/

Something that seems to not come up enough in the Calvinist-Arminianist debate is that both sides believe in “election”. Election is simply the view that God has chosen some and not others. What ‘Article 1’ of the Arminian Articles does it takes the authority away from God and gives it to man. Man is the author of his salvation and God simply follows suit. If only Adam had wandered into the garden on his own….however that did not happen (see, Genesis 2:15; Hebrews 12:2).

Instead, a proper view of “predestination” as originally posited by St. Augustine, then outlined by John Calvin in his Commentaries, and furthered by Ulrich Zwingli gives all authority to God in regards to His Elect.

Much of the confusion comes from “proof texts” instead of understanding the full force of the Biblical narrative. When we open our Bibles, we are reading God reaching down and bringing clarity/order to man, not man pondering the clarity/order he so desires. Simply put, ‘total depraved’ man cannot do good, which means man cannot ponder approaching God unless God acts first. That is the narrative of Israel being drawn out through the Scriptures, being highlighted through the necessity of the Incarnation. God must do something because we simply can’t. Far too many Christians seem to be reading their Bibles from a bottom to the top mindset, putting themselves in charge, rather than top to bottom, properly recognizing the sovereignty of God.

This is exactly what John Calvin was going against. The dangers of such a system is it makes man the author of his own destiny, which understably is an exciting concept, yet again, I posit it robs God of His Rulership.

Following such logic, than robs the Elect of all that God did for them and makes what I can a “Big G God” into a little “g” god. ‘Unlimited Atonements’ means that Christ came and died for all, and we all have an opportunity to partake. This completely removes the story from the narrative of Scripture. It was Israel that needed atonement from the Law they were under. It would be the grace & faithfulness of God fulfilling the promises of intervening on Israel’s behalf that would explode to the surrounding nations and cause them to glorify Him (see, Romans chapters 9 & 15). Again the use of “proof texts” in the Arminian Articles brings much confusion.

Honestly, a simple read through the Arminian Articles should cause one to shudder at how we are putting man in control, all in an effort to give man “free will”, and taking the control that God has and is drawn out through the narrative of Scripture.

I firmly believe that is the key and am willing to walk worthy. In settling alot of these disputes, we must come from a “full gospel” perspective. In noting the harm of “proof texts”, I believe we must follow the narrative of Scripture and if we truly do not believe that God has retired or changed (see, Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6 ) then we must allow the narrative to inform our view of how it is that God works in and through our lives.

Remember this…..the carnal mind is at war with God (Romans 8:7). This is displayed through the story of Scripture, in that for no other reason than bestowing grace upon man, God has chosen to create “covenant”. He did it with Adam, yet Adam chose his own way. He did it with Israel, and Israel again chose their own way. Through Christ the opprotunity has been make known, not simply to the tribes of Jacob, but to all who are called by Him (Isaiah 49:6; John 1:13).

Recognizing the story through the narrative of Scripture, I surely do not endeavor to walk the lines of fallen Adam and judged Israel, instead recognizing the sovereigty of God and the depravity of man (innate idolatry), I would much rather not exalt my “free will” and give in to idolatry, than to attribute the proper sovereignty to the God who desveres it.

As I sum up my thoughts on the Calvinist-Arminian debate that is still ongoing to our day, I simply want to posit my presupposition that this God is to amazing and sovereign for me to even begin to ponder approaching Him, and God fobid that I think such a grace that He bestows upon man is ressistible (see, Isaiah 55:11; James 4:15) . Which therefore makes an “open theism” completely impossible. For some Calvinst “proof texts”, visit the following link, http://www.calvinistcorner.com/verses-gods-sovereignty.htm

In His Service & For His Glory,

Pastor Michael Miao

(P.S.- This is not the full response I would like to give to Jason Watt’s article, that will be coming soon…)

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Always Reforming- Confusion, Clarity, & Controversy

  1. Have you considered the Molinest account of freedom? Many heavyweight Christian philosophers (Bill Craig and Alvin Plantinga) use this to resolve various doctrinal difficulties.

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