Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Did John Wesley hold to the doctrine of Imputed Righteousness? John Piper says "Yes".

Here is an excerpt from Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness? by popular Calvinist pastor John Piper (the full book is available for free from the Desiring God website here), pages 35-36 & 37-38, bold mine:
The imputed righteousness of Christ has been a great cause of joyful worship over the centuries and has informed many hymns and worship songs. The theme has cut across Calvinist-Arminian, Lutheran-Reformed, and Baptist-Presbyterian divides. As we look at some examples of hymns and worship songs, I admit that it is possible to put a different, newer meaning on some of these words, but they were not written with the newer meaning, and, as a people, we would be dishonest to treat them as if they carried the new meaning.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown through Christ my own.
We may take John Wesley for an example to support our claim that these songs are built on the historic understanding of Christ’s imputed righteousness, rather than on more recent reinterpretations. Wesley himself was passionate about this doctrine, and probably more so than anywhere else in his sermon titled “The Lord Our Righteousness” (1765). He is defending himself against attacks that he did not believe this doctrine. Part of his defense is to refer to the hymns he has published. He translated Nicolaus L. Von Zinzendorf’s hymn “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness” and commented on it and the others he had published like this:
The Hymns . . . republished several times, (a clear testimony that my judgment was still the same,) speak full to the same purpose [of my belief in the imputed righteousness of Christ]. . . . Take one for all—
Jesu, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress: ’Midst flaming worlds in these array’d, With joy shall I lift up my head.
“The whole hymn,” he says, “expresses the same sentiment, from the beginning to the end.” He goes on in this sermon to make clear what his hymns and essays mean: “To all believers the righteousness of Christ is imputed; to unbelievers it is not.” [Note 15] 
From these few examples, we can see that the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness has not been experienced as marginal or minor in the worship of Christ. It has been explosive with revival power, personal comfort, and deep, biblically-rooted joy in worship.

Within footnote 15, on pages 38, Dr Piper adds:
Then, to make things as clear as possible, he [John Wesley] quotes from his own Treatise on Justification published a year earlier (1764):  
“If we take the phrase of imputing Christ’s righteousness, for the bestowing (as it were) the righteousness of Christ, including his obedience, as well passive as active, in the return of it, that is, in the privileges, blessings, and benefits purchased it; so a believer may be said to be justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed. The meaning is, God justifies the believer for the sake of Christ’s righteousness, and not for any righteousness of his own.”  
Further, “. . . the righteousness of Christ, both his active and passive righteousness, is the meritorious cause of our justification, and has procured for us at God’s hand, that, upon our believing, we should be accounted righteous by him.
Wesley’s view developed over the years on this issue, but he seems to have landed in the traditional Protestant position on imputation in the latter half of his ministry, as evidenced by the sermon “The Lord Our Righteousness” (cited above) and “The Wedding Garment” (1790).

Later still, Dr Piper writes, “John Wesley made the doctrine more and more central to his ministry over time” (p 43, note 4), and on page 123, at note 6 (bold mine):
John Wesley observed, “But as the active and passive righteousness of Christ were never, in fact, separated from each other, so we never need separate them at all, either in speaking or even in thinking. And it is with regard to both these conjointly that Jesus is called ‘the Lord our righteousness.’” John Wesley’s Sermons, Sermon #20, “The Lord Our Righteousness,” preached at the Chapel in West-Street, Seven Dials, on Sunday, November 24, 1765

Further reading:

Saturday, August 27, 2016

From Cage-stage to "Arminian Calvinist or a Calvinistic Arminian": Charles Spurgeon's theological journey

On Twitter, I recently got into an exchange with someone who posted Spurgeon's troubling statement
I do not serve the god of the Arminians at all! I have nothing to do with him and I do not bow down before the Baal they have set up! He is not my god, nor shall he ever be! I fear him not, nor tremble at his presence. A mutable god may be the god for the Arminian—he is not the god for me.
In looking up the source, I noticed the year this sermon was preached: 1858, the same summer that Spurgeon turned 24 years old.  At this point, he had been preaching for just 4 or 5 years, and had been a Christian for only 8 years.

Author Dave Hunt has noted, “especially in his later years, Spurgeon often made statements that were in direct conflict with Calvinism.” (What Love Is This?, p 38).  When I began to look at which year each of his other sermons were preached, I noticed this trend holds true: 

Any sermon from the 1850s shows Spurgeon as hostile towards Arminians, especially on the doctrine of perseverance. 

But by 1860, someone had apparently given him a translation of Arminius' works (from which he quotes), and—perhaps as a resultinstead of attacking Arminians we find Spurgeon defending Arminians from the charge that we deny Total Depravity.

By 1862, when Spurgeon was 28 years old, we find him saying that there is truth in both Calvinism and Arminianism, and that we should not go to either extreme (bold mine):
That "salvation is of the Lord" is as plainly revealed in Scripture as anything that we see in nature! And that destruction is of man, is equally plain, both from the nature of things and from the teaching of Scripture! Hold the two Truths of God—do not try to run to the extreme, either of the Hyper-Calvinist or of the ultra-Arminian. There is some truth in Calvinism and some in Arminianism, and he who would hold the whole Truth of God must neither be cramped by the one system nor bound by the other, but take Truth wherever he can find it in the Bible—and leave it to the God of Truth to show him, when he gets into another world, anything that is beyond his comprehension now.

By the time Spurgeon is 42 (in 1876), he would say that Calvinism is wrong on some points when compared with Arminianism (bold mine): 
There has long been a great doctrinal discussion between the Calvinists and the Arminians upon many important points. I am myself persuaded that the Calvinist alone is right upon some points, and the Arminian alone is right upon others. There is a great deal of truth in the positive side of both systems, and a great deal of error in the negative side of both. If I was asked, "Why is a man damned?" I should answer as an Arminian answers, "He destroys himself." I should not dare to lay man's ruin at the door of divine sovereignty. On the other hand, if I were asked, "Why is a man saved?" I could only give the Calvinistic answer, "He is saved through the sovereign grace of God, and not at all of himself." I should not dream of ascribing the man's salvation in any measure to himself. I have not found, as a matter of fact, that any Christian people care seriously to quarrel with a ministry which contains these two truths in fair proportions. I find them kicking at the inferences which are supposed to follow from one or the other of them, and sometimes needlessly crying to have them "reconciled;" but the two truths together, as a rule, commend themselves to the conscience, and I feel sure that if I could bring them both forward this morning with equal clearness I should win the assent of most Christian men.

Finally, by 1881, when Spurgeon is now 47 years old, he says that he has been called "an Arminian Calvinist or a Calvinistic Arminian" and he does not seem to mind either label:
What a host of revised versions we have! Everybody has one of his own. Certain texts which will not fit into our system must be planed and cut down. Have you ever seen the hard work that some Brethren have to shape a Scripture to their mind? One text is not Calvinistic, it looks rather Arminian—of course it cannot be so and, therefore, they twist and tug to get it right. As for our Arminian Brethren, it is wonderful to see how they hammer away at the 9th Chapter of Romans—steam-hammers and screw-jacks are nothing to their appliances for getting rid of Election from that chapter! We have all been guilty of racking Scripture, more or less, and it will be well to have done with the evil, forever! We had far better be inconsistent with ourselves than with the Inspired Word of God. 
I have been called an Arminian Calvinist or a Calvinistic Arminian and I am quite content so long as I can keep close to my Bible. I desire to preach what I find in this Book whether I find it in anybody else's book or not.

Related Posts:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Great Quotes: Charles Spurgeon, "Arminius speaks right well upon this point. I quote his words"

From Charles Spurgeon’s 1860 sermon on John 15:5, “Without Me you can do nothing" (bold mine):

And now, having thus sought to explain the text in regard to the Christian, let me try to support it. I would support it, first of all, by the common consent of all Believers in all ages. With the exception of ancient Pelagians and their modern off-spring, I do not know that the Church has afforded any instance of any professors who have doubted the inability of man apart from God the Holy Spirit. Our confessions of faith are nearly unanimous upon this point. But I hear someone say—"Do not the Arminians believe that there is natural strength in man by which he can do something?" No, my Brothers and Sisters, the true Arminian can believe no such thing! Arminius speaks right well upon this point. I quote his words, as I have them in a translation—
"It is impossible for free will, without Grace, to begin or perfect any true or spiritual good. I say, the Grace of Christ, which pertains to regeneration is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is that which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will, which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the affections, and leads the will to execute good thoughts and good desires. It goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, works in us to will, and works with us that we may not will in vain. It averts temptations, stands by and aids us in temptations, supports us against the flesh, the world, and Satan; and in the conflict, it grants us to enjoy the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and fallen; it establishes them and endues them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. It begins, promotes, perfects and consummates salvation. I confess that the mind of the natural and carnal man is darkened, his affections are depraved, his will is refractory, and that the man is dead in sin."

Richard Watson, who among modern Arminians is considered to be a standard divine, especially in the Wesleyan denomination, is equally clear upon this point. He fully admits that, "The sin of Adam introduced into his nature such a radical impotence and depravity, that it is impossible for his descendants to make any voluntary effort (of themselves) towards piety and virtue," and then he quotes with warm approval, an expression of Calvin's, in which Calvin says that, "Man is so totally overwhelmed, as with a deluge, that no part is free from sin, and therefore, whatever proceeds from him is accounted sin." It is very satisfactory to have these testimonies to the common Doctrine of the Church. I know that some Arminians are not so sound, even as Arminius or Richard Watson; I know that some of them do not understand any creed at all, not even their own, for in all denominations there are men so ignorant of all theology that they will venture upon any assertion whatever, claiming to be Arminian, or Calvinistic, without knowing what either Calvin or Arminius taught! Arminians would be much better, even if they were as good as Arminius! Much as he swerved from the faith in some respects [...] but in many points would be as stern and unflinching a defender of the faith as John Calvin, himself!

Related Posts:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Does a Wesleyan view of grace lead to a more missional worldview?

*For Part 2, "Does a Corporate View of the Doctrine of Election lead to a more missional worldview?" click here.

In his “Framework for Missional Christianity” series, Missional leader Alan Hirsch writes (bold mine):
One of the most basic assumptions of the incarnational missionary is to assume God is already involved in every person’s life and is calling them to himself through his Son. Our mindset should not be the prevalent one of taking God with us wherever we might go. Instead, our mindset should be that we join God in His mission.

This means that the missionary God has been active a long time in a person’s life. Our primary job is to try to see where and how God has been working and to partner with him in bringing people to redemption in Jesus.
This is basically the Wesleyan understanding of prevenient grace.

Of course, there is no need to call it Wesleyan. Nor is it unique to John Wesley. But unfortunately, this is not an assumption that all Christians share.[1]

How does Wesleyan Theology change our worldview?

I have written before that compared with Calvinism, I have found that Arminianism/Wesleyanism tends towards a more missional and evangelism-focused worldview.

While Calvinism tends towards a deterministic worldview, leading to what I and others have called a “theology of resignation”, Arminian theology encourages us to wear a “Gospel-lens” over all of our interactions, and thereby becomes a "theology of practice".[2]

As another Arminian blogger points out:
Arminianism, and especially Wesleyan-Arminianism, is missional in nature.  […] Arminianism very naturally gives expression to missionary endeavors, as God loves each and every person, and desires, according to Scripture, the salvation of each and every person. This biblical truth motivates the believer to witness to her or his faith in Christ toward the salvation of others. Evangelism is the heart of God and of Arminian theology.
United Methodist Pastor Omar Rikabi likewise has written,the gospel doesn’t discount anyone from grace and salvation […] If we believe in prevenient grace—that Jesus is pursuing every person—we can only know what he’s up to by entering into their story through holy love.

Arminianism, then, drives us, everyday and with every part of our lives, to engage those around us with the Gospel, knowing that God is already seeking them and we are cooperating in His pursuit.

What about Calvinism’s worldview?

Calvinist theologian Wayne Grudem, in his popular Systematic Theology, writes that Calvinism should encourage evangelism since it “guarantee[s] that there will be some success” (p 674):
Election is Paul’s guarantee that there will be some success for his evangelism, for he knows that some of the people he speaks to will be the elect, and they will believe the gospel and be saved. It is as if someone invited us to come fishing and said, “I guarantee that you will catch some fish – they are hungry and waiting.”
But does this actually work out in practice? In my estimation, this turns evangelism into a game: to a Calvinist’s mind, evangelism never really “snatch[es] them out of the fire” of judgment (Jude 23), since only those elected from eternity will respond, and those same will respond eventually to God’s irresistible grace/effectual call regardless. At best the Calvinist can take comfort in that they were the means God used to save the elect.  However, with this view, it is understandable why there is little real motivation for evangelism, especially in the face of persecution.  If it is only a game, maybe some might opt to play, but most seem content to pass.

What about those great gospel preachers Whitefield and Spurgeon?

As I’ve written before, both of these men were accused by the other Calvinists in their day of being “Arminian”-ish.

Leading Calvinist John Piper writes that to the Calvinist Baptists, “Whitefield’s Calvinism was suspect, to say the least, because of the kind of evangelistic preaching he did. The Particular Baptists spoke derisively of Whitefield’s ‘Arminian dialect.’”

Of Spurgeon, Baptist historian AC Underwood wrote (A History of English Baptists):

His sermon on “Compel them to come in” was criticized as Arminian and unsound. To his critics he replied: “My Master set His seal on that message. I never preached a sermon by which so many souls were won to God.... If it be thought an evil thing to bid the sinner lay hold of eternal life, I will yet be more evil in this respect and herein imitate my Lord and His apostles.”
Given these accusations from their contemporaries, it is obvious that Spurgeon and Whitefield were the exceptions to Calvinism’s practice of evangelism, rather than any sort of rule.

[1] While most Calvinists hold to "common grace", that is, grace common to all, this is not understood to have any salvific purpose.  As leading Calvinist scholar Tom Schreiner has written, "The Wesleyan understanding of prevenient grace differs from the Calvinistic conception of common grace in one important area. In the Calvinistic scheme common grace does not and cannot lead to salvation. It functions to restrain evil in the world but does not lead unbelievers to faith. For Wesleyans, prevenient grace may lead one to salvation."; see also: Ben Witherington, “The Reformed View of Regeneration vs. the Wesleyan Theology of Prevenient Grace”.

[2] For more on Wesleyanism vs Calvinism in practice, I recommend: Don Thorsen, Calvin vs Wesley: Bringing Belief in Line with Practice (Find in a library). You can read a review from Seedbed here, and one from Dr Olson here. There is also a short article online by the author here.

More resources:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dr David Allen on the Double Payment argument's "Faulty View of Imputation"

I was re-reading Charles Spurgeon’s famous sermon “A defense of Calvinism” and found that he makes the same old argument against unlimited atonement that we so often hear--the “double payment” argument--that, as Spurgeon says:
To think that my Savior died for men who were, or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain!  [...] that God, having first punished the substitute, afterwards punished the sinners, seems to conflict with all my ideas of divine justice; that Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity [...]

In his review of Chapter 18 of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, Dr David Allen takes on the double payment argument and convincingly shows that this view fails to understand the true nature of atonement and imputation; it wrongly sees the atonement as a commercial transaction wherein “so much is owed and so much is paid”.

Dr Allen writes, in part:

Like Owen, Williams appears to be operating from a sort of quantitative transference view of imputation: specific guilt for specific sins of the elect alone is laid on Christ. But this is problematic.
While our sins are imputed to Christ, before our conversion we remain under the wrath of God as Paul states in Eph. 2:1-3. As Dabney says, God holds the unbelieving elect subject to wrath until they believe. Williams mentions this problem (486) but fails to address this objection by Dabney and others that the living unbelieving elect are under the wrath of God.
Williams also fails to address how God can justly postpone the grant of faith to the people for whom Christ died, if Christ literally “purchased” faith for them. Hodge says,
“The moment the debt is paid the debtor is free, and that completely. No delay can be admitted, and no conditions can be attached to his deliverance.”
Owen & Williams’ Faulty View of Imputation.
Would Owen consider the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers as the transference of so many acts of law-keeping? It would seem not. Are believers credited with specific acts of righteousness on Christ’s part? No, we are credited with a quality of righteousness, or treated as though we had obeyed God’s law categorically by virtue of our union with Christ. All of Christ’s acts of obedience fall under the somewhat abstract class or moral category of “righteousness.”
Just as believers are not imputed with something like so many particular acts of righteousness but rather with righteousness categorically, so also Christ was not imputed with all the particular sinful acts of some people, like so many “sin-bits,” but rather with sin in a comprehensive way. He was treated as though he were sinful, or categorically guilty of the sin of the whole human race.
Owen, and it would seem Williams as well, has a faulty notion of imputation. The truth is, Christ died one death that all sinners deserve under the law. In paying the penalty of what one sinner deserves, he paid the penalty of what every sinner deserves. He suffered the curse of the law as defined by the law. Owen’s double payment and trilemma arguments undermine the true meaning of imputation and operate on the assumption of the transference of specific sins.
Owen’s trilemma necessarily operates on the assumption that there was a quantitative imputation of sins to Christ. The biblical idea of imputation does not work that way, and Reformed people do not even think of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers in that quantitative way.
Charles Hodge, in contrast, has retained the proper understanding of imputation:
What was suitable for one was suitable for all. The righteousness of Christ, the merit of his obedience and death, is needed for justification by each individual of our race, and therefore is needed by all. It is no more appropriate to one man than to another. Christ fulfilled the conditions of the covenant under which all men were placed. He rendered the obedience required of all, and suffered the penalty which all had incurred; and therefore his work is equally suited to all.
Williams is at odds with Hodge. 

You can read the full review here. The full list of chapter-by-chapter reviews is here.

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