Saturday, November 25, 2006

Definitions of terms

One thing often done for clarity in discussion is to give definitions of terms. It should be helpful to define some of the terminology that we Christians throw around. Perhaps we do not all use the terms in the same way and it causes confusion. I will present my understanding of some of these terms and give you the opportunity to tell what you understand in them. I do not take credit for all the material below. It is from a text document I have that contains cut and pasted materials from different sources, mingled with definitions and comments of my own. At this point, I do not have sources to credit in most cases, but I hope this will make a contribution. (Where known, I will give credit)

1. General Atonement/Redemption (Hypothetical universalism) - this view holds that Christ’s death makes provision for the salvation of all men. The atonement paid for the sins of the whole world, but each individual must appropriate that payment through faith. Unlimited redemptionists are not universalists. They do not believe that all will ultimately be saved.
2. Limited Atonement/Particular Redemption (Reformed particularism) - this view holds that the atonement is limited in scope in that Christ's death actively redeems only those for whom He particularly died (the elect).
3. Universal Atonement/Redemption (Universalism) – this view holds that Christ's death guaranteed salvation for every member of the human race -- past, present, and future.

Follows the teachings of Jacobus Arminius in general, and probably in particular the Articles of Remonstrance:
- God has decreed to save through Jesus Christ those of the fallen and sinful race who through the grace of the Holy Spirit believe in him, but leaves in sin the incorrigible and unbelieving. (In other words predestination is said to be conditioned by God's foreknowledge of who would respond to the gospel)
- Christ died for all men (not just for the elect), but no one except the believer has remission of sin.
- Man can neither of himself nor of his free will do anything truly good until he is born again of God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. (Though accused of such, Arminius and his followers were not Pelagians.)
- All good deeds or movements in the regenerate must be ascribed to the grace of God but his grace is not irresistible.
- Those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith have power given them through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit to persevere in the faith. But it is possible for a believer to fall from grace.
(As noted in yesterday's blog, I question whether most of those described as Arminians actually hold to “original” Arminianism.)

Follows the teachings of John Calvin in general, and probably in particular the Canon/Synod of Dort:
- that fallen man was totally unable to save himself (Total Inability)
- that God's electing purpose was not conditioned by anything in man (Unconditional Election)
- that Christ's atoning death was only for the elect (Limited Atonement)
- that the gift of faith, sovereignly given by God's Holy Spirit, cannot be resisted by the elect (Irresistible Grace)
- that those who are regenerated and justified will persevere in the faith (Perseverance of the saints)

Modified Calvinist/Calvinism
This is a common terminology to refer to those who hold total depravity and eternal security in combination with general atonement and election conditioned on repentance and faith. It is intended to demonstrate a church/denominational/teaching with historical roots in Calvinism which has been modified over the course of a number of years.

Everyone that is more Calvinistic than you are! This term probably does not have a fixed meaning, but maybe most often refers to those that believe we should not command and call the sinner to come to Christ. This is sometimes applied to those who hold “Spirit regeneration” as opposed to “gospel regeneration”.

Follows the teachings of Moyse Amyraut, who, according to Curt Daniel, “posited that Christ died for all men because of universal grace. Christ died equally for all in order to provide a basis for the universal part of the Covenant of Grace. This provision was universal, but the application was particular and limited to the elect. Amyraut felt that this was the view of Calvin and the early Reformers.” This is also called Hypothetical Universalism (but the general atonement version of Hypothetical Universalism appears to be different from Amyraut's Hypothetical Universalism, in my opinion; to me, Amyraldism stands somewhere between definitions 1 & 2 in my "atonement" list above). “The theory basically is…two kinds of grace: universal grace for all men and special grace only for the elect. Because of universal grace and the universal aspect of the Covenant of Grace, it is hypothetically possible for the heathen to be saved without hearing the Gospel…in fact none of these have ever been saved because it is only through the Gospel that saving faith is given. Further, God is said to have two wills: a universal conditional will and a particular unconditional will.” The view of Andrew Fuller (Fullerism) seems to accord well with Amyraldism (or Amyraldianism) and is often so called. Fuller reasoned that on the one hand, Christ died to atone for all men; and on the other hand, as the Father saw in advance that no one would wish to accept Christ of their own free will, He only guaranteed that certain sinners would follow their inner sense of duty and repent and believe. Christ still died for all men, though His Father restricted salvation to the elect. The thought that “Christ’s death is sufficient for all, but efficient for only the elect” is part of this system.

Pelagius combatted the doctrine of original sin. He and his followers framed these six doctrines for example:
1. That Adam would have died even if he had not sinned
2. That the sin of Adam injured himself, not the human race
3. That newborn children are in the same condition as Adam was before the Fall; that infants have eternal life
4. That the whole human race does not die because of Adam's death or sin, nor will it rise again because of Christ's resurrection
5. That the Old Testament Law, as well as the New Testament Gospel, gives entrance to heaven
6. That even before the coming of Christ there were men who were entirely without sin.
(It should be noted that some present day “Arminians” are followers of Pelagius rather than Arminius on the ideas of original sin and depravity.)

Other terms we sometimes encounter include:

Historical Manichaenism probably does not exist among Christians, but any form of dualism is often referred to as Manichaenism. Possibly most notable among Baptists has been/is the teachings of Daniel Parker which posited that among the human race there is a seed of God and a seed of the Devil (and that the Devil is an eternal, though lesser, being). The "elect" would be those who have the seed of God.

Some people would connect this term to those who hold to predestination. The ancient idea (of Greeks and others) is that man is a helpless creature borne along by some unknown force (destiny, fate). Some versions of absolute predestinarianism may reach a similar conclusion, but replacing fate with God.

Antinomian comes from the Greek ‘anti’ and ‘nomos’, meaning against law. It refers to the doctrine that it is not necessary for Christians to obey the moral law. Faith frees the Christian from such obligations. Or, put another way, antinomianism is a system of doctrine that leads naturally to licentiousness. This is often charged to any who hold to eternal security, perseverance, or "once saved/always saved". It is said that such doctrine allows the Christian to do “whatever he wants.”

Sandemanianism may not be specifically related to the Calvinism/Arminianism debate, but it is a form of soteriological belief. Robert Sandeman taught that the faith which saves is nothing other than the "bare belief of the bare truth." Sandemanianism is the name which is usually identified with the idea that saving faith consists of "merely believing facts." It is simply "taking God at His Word" (bare belief of the bare truth).

Two related terms are:

"This position teaches that salvation is entirely a work of God; That man can contribute nothing to his salvation and that one is saved wholly and unconditionally by grace through faith."
"Synergism comes from two Greek words meaning 'to work together with.' So when speaking of salvation it refers to a cooperation between God and man. In other words, man works together with God to effect his salvation. There seems to be two strains of this teaching; the Semi-Pelagian form which teaches that man takes the initiative and then is helped by divine grace. And then there is the more prevalent form among evangelicals which teaches that God, the Holy Spirit, takes the first step (toward all members of the human race) but cannot effect the completion of the work of regeneration without the cooperation and consent of the sinner."

The definitions of monergism and synergism are taken from Monergism vs. Synergism by John Hendryx.


Anonymous said...

Christ came to save HIS people from their sins. HIS people were chosen in Him before the world began. His people are the ones He was referring to when He said unto the Father, " Father,I will that they also, whom thou hast given Me be with me where I am; that they behold My Glory, which thou hast given Me before the foundation of the world".God and Christ know them that are His.God gave to His Son power over all flesh that He should give eternal life to as many as the Father gave to Him. The rest is speculation of men.

amity said...

I am on a Calvinist listserver where someone did recently print a good number of quotes from Calvin that made him seem definitely Amyraldian (if that were possible). I realize anyone's thinking evolves over a lifetime, and Calvin's probably included. And of course it would be necessary to take all that in the context of whatever else he wrote, which I am not competent to do, never having read much of anything by Calvin. But at any rate, at some point he did definitely seem to believe in general atonement, much to my surprise.

We shouldn't spend too much time on exegesis of Calvin, should we? This is not scripture.

R. L. Vaughn said...

In answer to your question, "We shouldn't spend too much time on exegesis of Calvin, should we?"

The obvious answer to the question, as phrased, is no. We shouldn't spend too much trying to draw out the all the meanings of what Calvin (or any extra-Biblical writer) has written. As you say, what he wrote "is not scripture" and as clj wrote, anything that is not Scripture "is speculation of men" -- whether it is John Calvin, Alexander Campbell, B.H. Carroll, Keach, Kiffin, Knollys, or clj, or amity or R.L. Vaughn.

But let us be very careful here. If we are not careful we seem to begin to imply that we shouldn't read them at all. On discussion boards, listserves, and blogs I've often seen the implication that we should only read the Bible and not read Christian writers. Then I wonder why they're on the boards, blogs, and lists? Reading what others say the Bible means is not necessarily the equivalent of displacing what the Bible means with what they have written. If we go the extreme, we actually should not even listen to preachers preach, for they are just men and not the Scriptures.

It seems to me that no one reads the Bible 24 hours a day, or even spends all their "extra" time doing it when not doing the "necessities of life". Just about everybody I know has something they do besides eat, work and sleep -- including watching TV, reading romance novels, deer hunting, attending sports events, exercising, shopping, golf, and on and on. Though some may "spend too much time" exegeting Calvin instead of reading their Bibles, probably most people who read a lot of Calvin are doing that instead of watching TV or doing the kinds of hobbies that other people have.

As for me, I'm not going to read too much Calvin, because I'm not all that interested in what he had to say!