Sunday, October 19, 2014

Total Depravity

We attended church service yesterday evening and spent the day today resting and relaxing at home--it is different and I am not used to it.

Anyway, yesterday's sermon was on Total Depravity. As an Arminian, I could agree with most that was preached, especially on the parts where we as human are total depraved, there is nothing good in us.

But as much as we are in ourselves unable to receive the gift of life, God enables and persuades us to receive him through his prevenient grace. Calvinist will accuse us of work righteousness, but where is works in the decision of receiving of a gift? The glory still resides with the giver, not the receiver.

I was conversing with a Calvinist to find out his stand and find that in general, the Calvinists I know usually do not really know who we are as Arminians, in the classical sense, they do not know what we stand for, and they do not read or find out what we actually believe in. Most of what they say of us are wrong most of the time. Which is sad. I feel that they should at least find out exactly what we believe before "attacking" us, the worst in labeling us Semi-Pelagians, which we are not.

I have read this article written by Roger E. Olson some time ago:
Don't Hate Me Because I'm Arminian
My Reformed friends sometimes treat me like the enemy, but actually we need each other.

Again I reiterate, we need to dialogue. We need to first study and read reliable sources of what we each are, sit down and discuss, not fight or argue or accuse.

There isn't a more comprehensive volume on Classical Arminianism than Roger E. Olson's Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities.

I challenge you to read it--for Arminians or if you suspect you are one, you will get a deeper understanding of what you already know and correct some views as well. For Calvinists, you will at least know what we actually believe in.

Arminian Theology, Myths and Realities
by Roger E. Olson

The 10 myths that Olson interacts with are:

1. Arminian Theology is the Opposite of Calvinist/Reformed Theology.
In reality, Jacob Arminius and most of his faithful followers fall into the broad understanding of the Reformed tradition; the common ground between Arminianism and Calvinism is significant.

2. A Hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism is Possible.
In reality, in spite of common ground, Calvinism and Arminianism are incommensurable systems of Christian theology; on issues crucial to both there is no stable middle ground between them.

3. Arminianism is not an Orthodox Evangelical Option.
In reality, Classical Arminian theology heartily affirms the fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy and promotes the hallmarks of evangelical Protestant faith; it is neither Arian
nor liberal.

4. The Heart of Arminianism is Belief in Free Will.
In reality, the true heart of Arminian theology is God's loving and just character; the formal principle of Arminianism is the universal will of God for salvation.

5. Arminian Theology denies the Sovereignty of God.
In reality, Classical Arminianism interprets God's sovereignty and providence differently than Calvinism without in any way denying them; God is in charge of everything without controlling everything.

6. Arminiansism is a Human-Centered Theology.
In reality, an optimistic anthropology is alien to true Arminianism, which is thoroughly God-centered. Arminian theology confesses human depravity, including bondage of the will.

7. Arminianism is not a theology of Grace.
In reality, the material principle of classical Arminian thought is prevenient grace. All of salvation is wholly and entirely of God's grace.

8. Arminians do not believe in Predestination.
In reality, predestination is a biblical concept that classical Arminians accept, though they interpret it differently than Calvinists. Predestination is God's sovereign decree to elect believers inJesus Christ, and it includes God's foreknowledge
of those believers' faith.

9. Arminian theology denies justification by Grace alone through faith alone.
In reality, Classical Arminian theology is a Reformation theology. It embraces divine imputation of righteousness by God's grace through faith alone and preserves the distinction between justification and sanctification.

10. All Arminians believe in the governmental theory of the atonement.
In reality, there is no one Arminian doctrine of Christ's atonement. Many Arminians accept the penal substitution theory enthusiastically, but others prefer the governmental theory.


Update 3/11/2014: I now need to review my thoughts on Total Depravity. I found myself nodding my head during this sermon and subsequently in CG during the bible study on the same subject. And yet, I'm now convinced that the Calvinist and Arminian understanding of Total Depravity is different. I need to mull more on it to know exactly how it is different, so I will not think about the Calvinist's Total Depravity in the Arminian way.


  1. Good. I would like to dialogue on this issue that has been bothering for many years. My experience with arminianism with other methodist pastors was bad ...because, in practice, they alleviate the confidence of human works, undermining the human tendency to sin and upholding the philosophy of pragmatism over the Scripture. I think it's good to read the source as well Jacob Arminius and John Wesley on Arminianism which yet I have found any time to read. Generally, I feel that the Arminianism is overreacting against hyper Calvnism. I suspect that they overreact until bending it that they have nothing to do with Calvinism. I am quite disappoint with Roger Olson as I feel that he argues using the philosophy of human logic for his Armnianism rather than using biblical logic. Do include me in for the dialogue. I used to think it doesn't matter where you stand on this matter but in my experience of Christian ministry, it tells me otherwise like I mention above.

  2. With your experience with Arminian Methodist pastors, again as I have mentioned in your other comment, I feel they have yet to fully understand what Jacob Arminius and even John Wesley said about salvation. There is definitely Total Depravity to the human race and therefore no such thing as a humanistic free-will that alleviate the standing of human and our actions. Nothing we do can match up to the holiness of God -- only by his enabling prevenient grace can we even say, Yes Lord, and we can never account for any boasting except on the cross and work of Christ.

    Yes, I have yet to read on those primary sources too. But here are three good books you can read:
    Roger E Olson's Arminian Theology
    Mildred Bangs Wynkoop's Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology
    Norman Geisler's Chosen but Free

    I have read the first one and just purchased the second one, all ready to read it as soon as I can muster the mood for another serious reading!!! I have been reading too many serious books one after another :D The one from Geisler is as "moderate" as you can get from a Calvinist and I can actually agree with most of what he said, but still remaining an Arminian.

    With regards to Olson arguing from philosophy rather than bible proof text, if you are referring to his Arminian Theology, then yes I agree but I will have to say that the book is a systematic theology kind of book and therefore bible proof text may not be as widely used as you would wish. If you refer to his Against Calvinism, I would say that for a polemic work, he did use biblical text but not as extensively as you would wish either. In general, what I can say is that I think I understand why he does not fall too much on biblical proof text, because both Calvinists and Arminians can interpret those verses to their own camp, and there will be no end to it. Except that Olson did mention in Against Calvinism that most Calvinist scholars seem to be silent on some verses, and I wonder if Horton said the same Arminian - I shall watch out for it when I read For Calvinism.

    You say Arminians are overreacting to Calvinism? In what way? For the most part, for me, it is the other way round. I am always taking the stand to agree to disagree but I get sneers when I talk about Arminianism from those who does not understand what it is and their disrespect and rudeness it affect me a lot, especially since we hold on the same cross and call on to the same Lord.