A Humanist Theology
Arminianism is the product of humanism, which exemplifies the sinful pride of depraved man since the Fall. In humanism, everything begins and ends with man. Man is at the center of his own existence, not God. Fallen human nature longs to be autonomous–a law unto itself in all things. The Renaissance between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries produced many good results, of which the Reformation is a part. But, negatively, it placed the abilities and inherent freedom of man as a central part of its thinking. This played into the hands of fallen man’s thinking–to be as wise as God. It became extremely popular to apply humanism’s teachings to theology. Men have clamored for the freedom to make their own sovereign choices ever since the Garden of Eden.
Sin has so blinded man that he does not realize that the only freedom he has as an unregenerate man is the freedom to sin, since he is in bondage to sin. Yet, Scripture tells us that real freedom can come only to the disciple of Jesus Christ who knows the Truth. John 8:31, 32, 36 teaches, “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Real Christian freedom is the freedom to submit to the Word of God. The freedom that man longs for comes only through the redemption of Jesus Christ, when man becomes free from sin and bondage to Satan. Even after redemption, man becomes a servant. “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Rom. 6:18, 22). Man’s will is never free to do as it pleases. It is either in bondage to sin or to Christ.
No fallen human being wants to admit that he is a slave or is in bondage–especially, to say that their will is in bondage to Satan. The Jews of Jesus’ day claimed that they were free and never in bondage to anyone, just because they were the children of Abraham. “They answered Him, We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, You will be made free?” (Jn. 8:33). Jesus was talking about a greater emancipation–namely, a freedom from the curse and power of sin and bondage to Satan so that man can serve God as He was created to do, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Arminianism denies the bondage of the will, which causes us to ask, how can man truly rejoice in the redemption and freedom that Christ speaks about?
While we cannot say that all those who hold to the teachings of Arminianism are lost, we must at least conclude that if they are saved it is in spite of their theology. What they attribute to themselves is in fact a work of God’s grace in them. Many Arminians still trust that it is the blood of Jesus Christ alone that cleanses them from sin. They do say that salvation comes by grace through faith (howbeit they define these terms quite differently). It is not our purpose or prerogative to judge another’s ultimate salvation. We will leave it to God to judge whether a person who denies His sovereign grace will inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Our purpose in this study is not to judge the salvation of others, but to exalt and glorify God as He should be in the salvation of His people. Yet, we certainly can judge whether a theology is right or wrong by the teachings of Scripture. We must have a concern for the Truth. And we must unashamedly tell the Truth as the Scriptures reveal it.
It is our hope that anyone who has accepted the Arminian theology will search the Scriptures again to re-examine the basis for true faith. Is it not the proper attitude for sinners to totally humble themselves and confess that they are unable to love God until He has first loved them? What could be so painful about relying totally on the grace of God for salvation? Is it so difficult to say, “Nothing in my hands I bring”? Or, is it really so dreadful to confess that our God is sovereign? Is it not biblical to give God all the glory for our salvation?
Arminians often label Calvinists as being “determinists” (God has determined all things, so man is nothing more than a mere puppet). This is a false label. It is the intention of Calvinists to simply declare the things that God has determined which can neither be denied, deleted, or destroyed (Dan. 11:36; Acts 2:23; 4:28; 17:26; etc.) Every Christian, not just the Calvinist, is called to give witness to those truths.
To our Arminian friends, we hope that a study of the teachings of Calvinism will help to alleviate these misapprehensions. It is our ardent desire that you will join us in this most precious faith. We confess that we need to search the Scriptures daily and continue to grow in knowledge and trust. If Calvinism is the teaching of Scripture, as we believe it is, then every Christian must accept it. When we say that the Reformed faith is the truest expression of biblical Christianity, this is not out of boastfulness, but out of a deep sense of reverence and humility. Because the doctrines of our faith are derived from the Word of God, we neither doubt them nor apologize for them. It is our greatest joy to receive them and teach them.
Questions to Ponder
- How would you answer the charge that Calvinism is “deterministic?”
- According to the Bible, where does true freedom come from?
- How are the teachings of “humanism” and “Arminianism” similar as to their basis?
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism, available for purchase. It is posted here with the gracious permission of the author.