The Truth of Arminianism: Part 2
We are continuing our discussion with one of the five tenets of the Arminianism, which overlap the “TULIP” of Calvinism. This acronym is abbreviated as FACTS.
Freedom by Grace to believe
Atonement for All
Security in Christ alone
The FACTS are historically held views, which are backed by scripture. Many of my arguments will contain scripture, but all of them will be logical in nature. We are told in I Thes 5:21, “Test all things and hold tight to what is good.” When we are commanded to “test” something we are checking statements against God's word to see if they pass the truth test. This “checking” is a logical process. If a contradiction is found, the view is rejected as false. We must remember that God does not change, his word is eternal, and he does not contradict himself. Testing our beliefs for contradictions is how we protect ourselves from holding and teaching false views.
Today we will be looking at Total Depravity.
It may come as a surprise, but Arminians believe in total depravity. This is one of those misconceptions that many Calvinists have about free-will thinkers. Arminians, just like Calvinists, hold that human beings were originally created good, as God said in Genesis, but fell from grace through the original act of sin committed by Adam and Eve. This willful disobedience separated man from God and condemned humanity as we know it.
Total depravity does not mean that human beings are as bad as they possibly could be. We actually come to find that many people, all things considered, are actually pretty decent folks, but we are infected with a sin nature. This corruption goes right to the heart of every human being, leaving us selfish and hence, inherently evil, though the level in which such attributes manifests themselves vary. Some people are “very evil” (commit more sins), while others are “kind of evil” (commit less sins), and so on, but all are “evil” to some degree.
The reality is we see that many non-believers are great husbands, fathers, mothers, and wives, but this is why people struggle with the need for Christ in the first place. We see in scripture that the distinction between a “good” parent who is saved and a “good” parent who is not, but still follows biblical principles is simply divided by motivation. We realize that service not done with God as its ultimate purpose is inherently selfish. The life of a non-believing wife, though seemingly “good,” is inevitably idolatry, because the focus is not on the one who created what it means to be a “wife.” The non-believer lifts up and sacrifices to false idols, false hopes, and false dreams laying their daily devotion to creation rather than the Creator.
This next point is the most surprising aspect for people who are unfamiliar with Arminian theology. Arminianism teaches that total depravity also entails that God needs to take the first step towards man. Despite what people think about Arminianism, we believe that people would never serve God were it not for God taking the initiative. We, left to our own devices, will always wonder, “What's in it for me?” We recognize that selfishness is our default setting.
It is because of this that we believe we are not saved by works. God is not a passive thing that can be manipulated through our efforts. It is through God calling the heart of man to himself that we have any chance of reconciliation. There is no work done on the part of man toward salvation, it is purely through God's grace that man is saved. The difference between the Calvinist and the Arminian is what this grace actually does. The Calvinist believes that a person must first be “regenerated” to believe. To the contrary, the Arminian definition of “grace” teaches that grace is the conduit through which we are given the opportunity to accept the gift of salvation. This aspect of the Calvinist's total depravity is rejected by the Arminian as will be outlined in later articles on election and atonement.
In the end we come to find that we are sinners in need of a savior and Jesus calls us all to repentance. On the road to Damascus Paul was confronted by the living God. We see this encounter recorded by Luke in Acts 26:18, he writes that God saved Paul, “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
You were born a sinner and that seems unfair to some, but God has given you the power to reject sin through the death of Jesus. Christ paved the way to salvation, all you have to do is choose to accept the path. If you do not know the Lord turn from the darkness, be saved, and be free. Jesus promises that whomsoever asks for forgiveness will receive it. Just ask him now. Accept this gift and use your time, words, and actions wisely. If you serve him you will hear the words of our savior calling to you on judgment day, those sweet words that every child of God aspires to, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Next month we will discuss God's sovereignty.