Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Does Arminianism make Jesus a colossal failure?

After one of my posts titled:"Not all for one but one for all", where I argue that Jesus died for all people and that this sacrifice becomes effectual for those who believe, against a limited atonement model, one of my readers, Larry, commented:

"The only problem - and I know I throwing the cat amongst the pidgeons here - is that if you take those verses to mean that Jesus died with the intention of saving the entire world, then Jesus is surely a colossial failure."

What we need to ask here then is "What was Jesus' Mission?" Otherwise we cannot denote whether he failed or succeeded. Firstly Jesus came as a fulfillment of Scripture including various prophecies: Succeeded (as much as I'd like to spend time explaining them all now isn't suitable). Secondly He came to preach repentance and the coming of the kingdom: Succeeded (Mk 1: 14-15). Thirdly He came to be a visable witness to the Father: Succeeded (Jn 14:9). Fourthly He came not only to the Jews but also the Gentiles, inviting them into the Kingdom: Succeeded (Matt 15:26ff). Fifth He came to be beaten, to be hanged on a cross and die as our penal substitution: Succeeded (Rom 3: 23-26). Finally he came to be resurrected and defeat the power that death had over us: Succeeded.(1 Cor 15:21-22). All smells of success to me!

Larry made a specific comment about coming to save the whole world. Thats not quite true. Jesus came to defeat sin and death so the whole world can be saved. The sacrifice is made effectual in recieving it by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:25) but it was made for all people that they may recieve, or for that matter reject it, when enable by the spirit(1 John 2:2). This then means that it is not God who is the failure but rather mankind.

Larry further Comments:

"Problem - and thus it begins - is that the Bible talks about Jesus having accomplished something in the past tense. Nothing left to be added to it. If Jesus died to enable our forgiveness only then the Biblical authors fail a basic grammar test, and Jesus becomes nothing more than a tool, with the real importance and saving action being my choice (yes or no) thus I am my own saviour and Jesus is just a tool.

No longer then could we affirm Jesus loved us and freed us from our sins, Jesus was the propitiation for our sins, Jesus died to bring us to God.
Rather we would have to say Jesus enabled our freedom from sin, Jesus enabled God to be propitiated for our sins, Jesus died to enable us to be brought back to God.

The Bible does indeed talk about past tense for 3 reasons 1) God has planned that Jesus would be sent i.e. Promises to Abraham and 2) Jesus has indeed died to be a propitiation and atoning sacrifice, and 3) It is nearly always directed towards believers and therefore is talking of thier salvation that has already happened. Accepting it is merely the means by which this becomes effectual towards us.

It is like a rich, kind man who has a friend in great debt. The Rich man gives his friend a cheque, signed, for the full amount and says to him "My friend here is a gift to you to pay off all your debt, please pay it into your account". The man in debt looks at his frind and replies, "Do I look like a charity case? I can do this my self. Any way this is obviously a joke cheque. I do not trust that it would work" So he ignores his friend and shuns his help. The rich man tells his friend that he has set the money aside especially for him and whenever he needs it he can come and collect it but the man never did. Eventually he was arrested until he could pay all his debts off. The price had been paid. If only he had taken the gift and make it effectual by cashing it!

In terms of Jesus only enabling salvation this is also true of Calvinism. It is the process by which God can save and still be Just.(I say this assuming that a penal substitution stance is held.) The difference comes with the calling we recieve by the spirit. Can we choose to reject the gift or are we forced to take it?

It is also a good example of how Calvinists often confuse Arminianism with a form of Pelagianism. This isn't necessarily thier fault as many people twist what we say as a form of propaganda and is often used in books written by other Calvinists. Christ is the one who fully saves us. The Sacrifice is his, the calling and the enabling, throught the spirit, is given by him also. I have nothing to give except myself. This is my and I'm sure all your offerings (albeit insufficient) to him too .

In Summary Jesus is not a colossal failure but rather a spectacular Champion. The only failure is on our part.

Special thanks to Larry from Photizo blog. Check it out here

1 comment:

  1. 'What we need to ask here then is "What was Jesus' Mission?" '

    That is what I like to call hitting the nail on the head.