In this episode Phylicia discusses soteriology – the perspectives on salvation within Christianity. We talk about what it means to be “justified”, why changed identity is central to salvation, and the four major viewpoints about being saved.
Is God choosing who is saved, or can we respond to God?
We’ll learn a little about both sides and also discuss the origin and importance of denominations.
Welcome to Verity podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer. I’m here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey, because every woman is a theologian.
Hello friends and welcome back to Verity podcast. This week we are tackling a massive topic. I know for a lot of people it can be really sensitive. If you’re a new listener and someone sent you this episode hello, nice to meet you. I’m Phylicia Masonheimer, and what I specialize in here at Every Woman a Theologian is sharing a variety of perspectives on theological issues. Now, we always want to stay true to the core issues of Christianity, the core doctrines, those are what we unite around. We can’t unite around things that aren’t true. We can’t unite around what’s unbiblical, but we can unite around the core and then we can seek understanding on the different expressions of Christianity through the denominations. In this episode going to be talking about a variety of issues related to Soteriology or Salvation. This is a very important thing to understand because when we’re communicating the gospel and understanding how it impacts our daily life. It comes back to our salvation theology, but when you see a title of an episode like Is God Choosing Who Will Be Saved? That can be really triggering in one of two directions. If you do believe that God is intentionally electing who will experience salvation, then you can get a little up in arms at the idea that there are believers in the world who don’t agree with that theology.
If you do not believe God is specifically electing certain people to salvation and not others, you can feel angry or protective of God’s character, and feel like this theology is something that no Christian should hold too. So on both sides, there can be a lot of defensiveness. I want to just cut through that right now and say, this is an age-old discussion since the early church, since Augustine really. There have been faithful Christians on both sides of this issue and there still are today. I strive to be as fair and balanced on this as I can, obviously, I have my own perspectives. And at the same time, I think that this is why it’s important to read widely and to listen widely from a variety of Christian teachers and thought leaders, and especially those who have written about this throughout time. One of my favorite commentaries is a Parallel Commentary on the New Testament by Spurgeon, Wesley and Matthew Henry. Spurgeon and Wesley had two very different approaches to salvation theology. Charles Spurgeon was reformed, Calvinistic, he believed God elected people to salvation individually, whereas Wesley, took more of a corporate election view. He believed that God elected all people who responded in faith to Jesus Christ.
In this episode, I’m going to get into some of the different perspectives on salvation theology including those two views. But it’s important to remember that your view on this, while very important, and you should know where you land on it. Your view on this does not kick you out of the church. It does not make you not a Christian. It does not make you not theological. It’s very important that we be gracious to other Christians on this. Okay, stump speech over. Let’s start with an overall understanding of salvation, because to get to this other question, I want to start there.
The Bible talks about salvation, often using this legal language to describe it, and the process by which Jesus bridged the gap between us and God. We see this phrasing that’s like guilt, payment, freedom, judgment to tell us what salvation does. Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, all tell us that there’s a gap between us and God, and through Jesus it’s closed. Through Christ, we are justified before God, we’re no longer guilty. This is an important thing for us to consider because the fall of humanity in Genesis 3, which I talked about in the episode about evil, the fall of humanity enslaved humanity to evil. Ever since evil was chosen by Adam, we’ve experienced the pain of a fallen world. We’ve been separated from God’s perfection. We’re not able to dwell with Him the way he intended.
Jesus’s life and death and resurrection were God’s rescue plan and this rescue plan was mobilized in Genesis 3, when God says, “There will be a snake crusher coming, a messiah coming to the line of Eve, who will make all things right? Who will defeat the enemy for good?” So, salvation theology and we’re talking about this when we’re sharing the gospel with somebody and we’re saying, this is how you become a Christian. Can really be divided into three elements Justification, which is a change of identity from sinner to saint Sanctification, which is the process by which we become like Jesus, and Glorification, which is the final result of the Christian life. It will not happen in this life, but it will happen in the next. Christian thought on these things is very diverse. There’re a lot of different perspectives on how this works. When we look at the gospel and its presentation of salvation, we’re basically seeing a combination of our theologies of the Bible, of God, of the universe, of sin, all combined together to explain God’s ultimate goal, restoring people to Himself.
Let’s start with what justification does. So, if you’re like that’s a big word. I’ve never even heard it used. That’s okay. It’s probably been expressed to you in this way, when Christ saves you, he treats you as his own, He adopts you as His own. You are a co-heir with Christ. Your sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west, and you are viewed as a pure child of God. All of that is describing justification. It’s a change of status before God. This comes from in the book of Romans where Paul says, “To the one who does not work but trusts God, who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” This is the exact same way that Abraham was saved. His faith was credited as righteousness and in the New Testament it’s the same thing. Old Testament saints, New Testament saints, both saved by faith, and that faith is credited as righteousness. Looking at this verse in its context, we see that Jesus atoning sacrifice saves us not by any work of our own, because we can’t reach God on our own strength. But our shift in allegiance from self to God grants us a righteousness we could not earn by all the good deeds in the world. Have you ever noticed when you’re witnessing to somebody who is not a believer, that they tend to be completely work spaced. They truly believe that if they do enough good things, live a good enough life, that they can earn their way to maybe not heaven, but at least like some reward or peace or whatever it is they’re after. They are trying to make morality or goodness happen on their own strength. But the beauty for the Christian is that we completely flip that script. We are called to holiness and morality, we are called to purity and goodness, but we don’t work to earn that. It proceeds from us. It flows from us naturally because we undergo an identity change. That’s what happens in justification.
I love how the 19th century Anglican Bishop Handley Moule says this. He says, “To be justified is more than being forgiven by God. It means being received by Him as if we had not grieved Him.” Isn’t that beautiful? You are being received by Him as if you had never grieved Him. It goes back to that verse that says that,” Our sins are separated from us as far as the east is from the west.” They’re nowhere near us. They’re completely gone because of what Christ did. So, Christ is the catalyst to this complete identity transformation and Jesus’ death on the cross was effectual for all who put their faith in Him. The grace that He gives us removes that past life and identity and completely absorbs us, brings us into the arms of God and allows us to be completely forgiven. Even then, Handley Moule says we need more than forgiveness. We need more than just an escape route from sin. We need “The voice which says not merely you may go, you are let off your penalty, but you may come, you are welcomed into my presence and fellowship.” So, justification is both the clang of freedom’s bell but also the shout of welcome home, like the father in the Story of The Prodigal Son. As this light little sidebar here, notice that in the story of the prodigal son I think I talked about this in the legalism episode. In The Story of The Prodigal Son, the father ran to both the prodigal when he was far off and to his legalistic rule following older son when he was far off. Outside the party, not wanting to celebrate, the father went to both of them. I think that is something we as Christians need to keep in mind, because we love the story of the prodigal. Like, you can always come home, no matter how dirty you are, no matter how fallen you are. We like to say that God doesn’t run to the legalist, and He does. So, keep that in mind.
If someone ask you to explain the gospel, could you do it? If your co-worker came to you with questions about why Jesus had to die or your child asked you to define the Trinity, could you provide an answer? Regardless of whether or not we are in formal ministry, all of us are called to be witnesses for Christ. If you’re nervous, you’re not alone. The ministry of Every Woman a Theologian exists to equip you for this task. Now we have a cornerstone resource to make that happen. My brand-new book and video study is available for preorder January 9th. Every Woman a Theologian, Know What You Believe, Live It Confidently, And Communicate It Graciously is almost here. This book is everything you need to know in order to share your faith without anxiety in today’s world. I wrote this to equip you with a confident and educated faith. The workbook and eight-week video study will also be available, and you can preorder through Christian Book, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local Indie Bookstore and lock in the lowest launch price. We are the generation that will stand on both conviction and love. Because we know what we believe, and why we believe it, and how to explain it well to the world. Join me this spring by ordering, Every Woman a Theologian at bookstores near you.
The atoning sacrifice of Christ gives a final verdict that those in Christ are part of a new family. They’re released from sin. They’re gathered to God’s arms. Titus 3:4-7 says, “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Salvation is not something we receive because we’re good enough or wise enough, or fast enough, flashy enough. Righteousness is by faith and grace, and through the justification of God, we receive eternal life. I love this image of an inheritance. I don’t know if you’re like me, if you like the PBS Masterpiece theatre dramas, but I’m obsessed. I love movies like North & South, Mansfield Park, Little Dorrit, The Whole Nine Yards, I love them all. War and Peace, by the way, really great adaptation. In these movies, there’s often a main character whose future depends on an inheritance. It might be a son, it might be a daughter. Typically, if you don’t get an inheritance and at this point in time, you need to marry someone who does. If you do the wrong thing, you could be disinherited. How many times in these movies is I’m thinking of like Emma, Pride and Prejudice? How many times is a female character passed over for the girl with the bigger inheritance?
An inheritance was protected both in Paul’s day and in the era of Jane Austin with certain laws and regulations to make sure the correct person received the estate. Sometimes it required a coming of age, other times it was dependent on your career choice. If your parents wanted you to become a lawyer and you became a clergyman, you could forfeit your inheritance. If the person fulfilled the requirements of the law, they could receive their inheritance. But this is not so with God. The inheritance that we don’t deserve, we could never earn. It becomes ours through Christ. It’s as if the true heir drapes his royal robes over your shoulders and says, “You are one of mine.” Not just that, you reign with me. You are co-heir. I am letting you participate in my inheritance. So, you are being declared righteous not by anything you did. Again, depending on what your theology is, only participation you have is your faith in God, your allegiance to Him. You are saying, I submit to you, you are my king, all of my life revolves around you. My faith in Him is credited to me as righteousness. That’s what’s happening, all of the rewards of this, everything that we get peace, joy, security, reconciliation, forgiveness from sin, no guilt, no burden on us, all of that’s accessible through our new identity as heirs in Christ.
To be a Christian, is to embrace a new identity. We are completely forgiven given this inheritance, invited into fellowship with God just like Adam and Eve had in Eden. We have been changed and this should change everything. This is why the gospel is compelling, because in no other religion can you simply say, “God, I believe you loved me enough to make a way for me.” I believe that you loved me enough that all I have to do is say, “You are God, and Lord of my life, and you will accept me into your family.” You only ask me to say that, to come to you in that way because you’ve already initiated it. You’ve already sought me and called to me and enabled me to continue walking in this faith, by the power of your Holy Spirit. This is the core of it. This is the gospel. This is the compelling thing that we should desire to share with other people.
Here’s the thing, you guys, theology matters so much because everything that I’ve described to you, if you’re a Christian, this is true for you. This is what you believe about yourself. If you’re saved, this is the guts of it. This is how you are a Christian; this is how you’re able to say that. So, it’s important because you need to be able to communicate this to other people in a clear and effective manner. But at the same time, you are going to run into Christians who have different perspectives on how salvation theology plays out. I want you to imagine your family tree of faith. It’s old, it’s strong, and your Christian family involves more than you and your immediate biological family. It includes the entirety of the church, every believer from past, present, future and so many of those believers belong to different types of churches than you. And these are called denominations. So how would we understand these? I want you to think of Christianity as a trunk of the tree. Each denomination, which simply means out of the name, is a subgroup within Christianity. It’s a branch on that tree.
Now, most of these groups did not develop simply because of petty fights or a church split over the color of the carpet. Most of these denominations formed because of very serious theological issues. Sometimes a church would branch off and become like a cult, like it truly was embracing heretical teaching and it’s no longer considered a Christian denomination. This would be Church of Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example. Now, the rest, these other churches, you will have a wide range. You’re going to have your Baptists, you have your Anglicans, you have your Methodists, you have Presbyterians, you have your Reform Baptists, your Dutch reform, you have your nondenominational who’s just Baptist. So, you have a wide variety of people in churches that have been born as a result of the development of Christianity over the years. So, how do we know what the core is? Now, I’m going to have a whole episode again talking about the Core Doctrines of Christianity. You can go back to the episode determining Core Doctrine for more on that, but the creeds sum up the Christian fundamentals. It’s the creeds and the historic behavior of those who held to the creeds, the core doctrines of Christianity and I’d like to always point to Acts 15. What are the first things that new converts were taught? They were taught sanctity of life, sanctity of sex, sanctity of worship, pointing back to the Ten Commandments. So, you’ve got the Creeds, the Ten Commandments for your behavior and your belief.
That’s the trunk of the tree, the branches of the tree are formed when intelligent Christians ask the question, how? How does baptism work? How did God save his people? How does the Holy Spirit grant spiritual gifts? Depending on how you answer that question, a church may look different and that’s a good thing. Now, certainly there are people who misuse denominations, who abuse it. But here’s a beautiful thing, the Holy Spirit is given to us so that the gospel is put out among many reasons. The gospel is brought to the world, to every culture, every people, everywhere. It’s not meant to only look one specific way, to only fit the white European experience. That means that certain denominations have strengths that others do not. They also have weaknesses, but they have strengths. When you look at the world and you look around and you see how is the church reaching certain countries in certain ways, you’ll see that some denominations are better at reaching certain cultures than others, often because of certain theologies they hold. For example, I don’t want to get on a tangent too much, but I want to address this. I’m often asked, “Do spiritual gifts continue today?”
This is a question of cessationism, spiritual gifts like tongues, prophecy, God speaking through dreams. Does that continue or does it end? That question is mainly being asked only by Westerners living in America. It’s not really being asked by missionaries in Iran and Asia. Because in those places, God is still speaking through dreams because oftentimes you cannot communicate the gospel as clearly and freely as you can in America. Recently got a prayer guide for a missionary in Afghanistan who follows me. She sent me this prayer guide for how to pray for them as they minister in Afghanistan. One of her specific prayers for the women of Afghanistan was that Jesus Christ would speak to them through dreams. Why do you think that is? Because those women are not free to have these conversations. They’re not as free as a woman in America. So, my point here is when we say denominations are awful, look, they’re a reflection of division. Sometimes that’s true, but oftentimes it’s not. Oftentimes it was the result of study of scripture and then that study of scripture led a specific denomination to impact their world in a very powerful way.
That little blip of history in which they did that was powerful. It changed church history. It brought people to the gospel. [Chuckles] As someone who is ecumenical, who is pro, the universal church, the whole church in all of its orthodox forms, I am always going to be on the side of people coming to Christ, whether they come to it through a Pentecostal church or a reformed one. Think of this as the trunk of the tree with the branches asking how do we baptize babies? Do we baptize believers, adults? How does God save his people? Does he regenerate them and then elect them or does he sovereignly permit them to respond in faith? Does the Holy Spirit grant spiritual gifts like tongues and prophecies still today or does he not? You can be a Christian and believe different things about these topics as long as you hold to the core. All Christians must agree salvation, baptism, Holy Spirit, all essentials to our faith. We might differ on how those things function. When it comes to salvation, people have theorized about the process for entire 2000 years of church history. These debates have never threatened the trunk of the tree when they’re taking place in healthy Christian contexts. As long as a Christian unites around the core truths of the creeds and the historic behavior of those who held to the creeds, sanctity of life, sanctity of sex, sanctity of worship one God, then our branches can intertwine and mingle peacefully. When we don’t expose ourselves to the other branches, when we only read material in our denominational comfort zone, we don’t understand how the other branches arrive at their biblical conclusions. We’re very quickly apt to fight and argue and lose our love.
In the rest of this episode, I’m going to share with you some perspectives on salvation from a couple of different church traditions. In sharing these with you, I am not endorsing these particular denominations wholesale. I am not saying I think everyone in them is a believer. I’m not saying I agree with the doctrines that they teach, but I’m going to be focusing on salvation, specifically what they teach on it. We’re going to start with the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholic Church has a long Christian history. Catholics believe that their first Pope was Peter, according to Matthew 16, and upon his death, a succession of Popes acted as the Bishop of Rome. Roman Catholics view salvation as initiated by God, and this is taken directly from their catechism and their writings. God is the one who draws us to repentance and this is an act of grace towards sinful humans. But what happens at the cross was this deposit of grace kind of like the inheritance analogy. Humans may receive that grace or reject it. God’s grace is not restraining the human will. The human will can respond; however, the sacraments of the church are used by the Holy Spirit to Catholics to continue dispensing this deposit of grace into the lives of believers. While the Holy Spirit resides in every Catholic, and I’m recently actually studying a theological Catholic book on the sacraments written by Scott Hahn, who’s a Catholic.
The Holy Spirit is given at confirmation when a Catholic truly embraces their baptism, their infant baptism at confirmation, that’s when the Holy Spirit will indwell them according to Catholic writer Scott Hahn. The indwelling Holy Spirit resides in every Catholic, but the sacraments are this vital material way to experience God’s salvation in an ongoing fashion. There’s this partnership between the person and God and working out their salvation Philippians 2:12. That makes it effective. Justification and sanctification go hand in hand for Catholics. God’s salvation must be worked out and will be worked out by those who are truly saved. Some of you who are listening used to be Catholic, some of you are currently Catholic. I have Catholic followers. I personally do not agree with Catholic doctrine. I will not be converting anytime soon. I live in a highly Catholic area, but I think it is important to go directly to Catholic sources when you are trying to critique that theology and be careful when talking with your Catholic friends from saying it’s all works based, it’s all guilt based, because when you actually read the doctrine, it’s not that simple. Now, how it manifests in a lot of lives of Catholics that may be true. That if I don’t do X, Y and Z, I lose the favor of God. You don’t have this peace and security in your salvation. Some don’t, but same could be said of many Baptists or many Methodists. So be gracious in your conversations there.
Now, I want to talk about Eastern Christianity, their view on salvation. So, Eastern Christian tradition is often forgotten in the American discussions of theology. It’s kind of ironic because Christianity began in the Middle East and Eastern Christianity has four main branches. You have the Eastern Orthodox church headed by the Patriarch in Constantinople or Istanbul, The Oriental Orthodox, The Assyrian Church of the East and The Eastern Catholic. So, while the Roman Catholic churches are headed by the Pope, the Patriarch of Eastern Orthodoxy holds the office of the Apostle Mark. If you think of Roman Catholicism being headed by the office of Peter, The Eastern Orthodox would say they’re headed by the office of Apostle Mark. When Christianity began, Rome was the important government center. But after the fall of the Roman Empire, the church was rebuilding and developing civilization in the west. Roman Catholic Church was the Latin-speaking branch. The Eastern Orthodox Church spoke Greek, so there were a lot of other differences theologically between the two and eventually there was a split and the churches separated in 1054, it was called the Great Schism and that separated the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches for good. So, they operate as separate entities today.
In Eastern Christianity, salvation theology is pretty similar to Catholicism in respect to relationship of works and faith. Eastern churches affirm original sin so do Catholic churches. We cannot do a spiritual good that will save us from judgment. But this sin didn’t destroy human ability to choose God’s salvation through Christ. So, humans must cooperate with God on his salvation and good works are the outworking of true faith and this is from Eastern Orthodox source, which says, “We regard works not as witnesses, certifying, or calling, but as being fruits in themselves through which faith becomes effective.” So, in Eastern tradition, God’s salvation is available to all who respond to His grace, and God desires for all to be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4. He knew who would respond to Him before the world was created, and he elects those who respond. This is very similar to the Wesleyan Arminian provisionist kind of view of salvation and how it works. A couple other distinctives of Eastern Christianity they use icons in worship. These are elaborate paintings or pictures of Christ, Mary and the saints as a reminder of the incarnation. That Christ came in a body and was manifested in the flesh in an image and so these images are reminders of Christ. This is actually kind of distinctive to the Catholic Church too, in the sense that you see a lot of decoration. It’s very elaborate, very beautiful. Art is a way of kind of manifesting the beauty of God on earth. I must say I appreciate that about the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches, that appreciation for beauty and sanctity has been preserved.
Okay. The next one we’re going to look at is the Calvinistic Reformed view. The early church laid a foundation for the truths of Jesus life, hope of salvation, and the creeds and the councils cemented those truths. But, over time theology unchecked can go in ungodly directions, and this is actually what happened to the church. The Latin speaking Roman Catholic church began to teach ideas beyond what the Bible said about faith and good works. Some of their priests and scholars spoke out about it. You have Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc. This clash of theology resulted in what’s known as the Protestant Reformation. So, this eventually resulted in the development of a salvation theology that’s often called reformed theology or Calvinistic Reformed. Though the words Calvinist and Reformed are often used interchangeably, they do mean slightly different things. A Calvinist adheres to principles of faith systemized by John Calvin, who was a famous reformer in the church. Calvin and Martin Luther, who attempted to reform the Catholic church but ended up breaking from it, wrote prolifically, they have so many materials. I’ve read and appreciate many of them. The reformers formed churches outside of Catholic oversight. All Calvinistic churches are reformed because Calvinism is kind of a subset of reformed theology, but not all reformed churches are Calvinistic. You could have a Lutheran church that has little bit less of the actual Calvin’s influence. You could have a Dutch Reformed Church that’s more influenced maybe by Zwingli’s ideology.
Anglican Churches have reformed influences. It’s an overarching theology that differs a lot from Catholicism. Even underneath reformed theology, you’ll have a few subtle differences in practice. Calvin’s theological work sought to describe salvation through faith and grace alone. After experiencing these spiritual abuses by the Roman Catholic Church of the time, Protestants returned to a more biblical narrative of salvation based on faith and grace. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion summarized these concepts and many, many more. So, when I was studying in college, I was at a Baptist college and I had professors who were reformed, and I had professors who were not reformed. It was in college that I became reformed and I learned a whole lot about this Calvinistic approach to salvation. And it really appealed to me, it made so much sense because it’s very systematic and it uses scripture. It is devoted to scripture and so what I’m going to look at now is called TULIP. This is the core of Calvinistic theology. Now, not all reformed Christians would hold to this, but this is where we’re getting into the question of “Is God choosing who is saved or not?” I know I’ve taken you on a long journey here. I promise it’s worth it
Their TULIP acronym stands for total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. What these are basically describing is the essentials of salvation in Christ. How does it work? Again, remember, the question of how does salvation work is what divides different denominations from one another. So total depravity really means total inability. It means you are not able to reach or respond to God. He has to reach you first. He has to regenerate you, wake you up, and then save you. That’s Total depravity or Total Inability. Unconditional election means it’s the process of God choosing someone for salvation. Because humans can’t respond to God, His election is unconditional. It’s not affected by human response. God chooses who will be saved based on His sovereign will. Before he even made the world, he predestined these individuals to be saved, and those are the ones he’s elected to salvation. The L in TULIP is limited atonement, so this follows directly from unconditional election. The atonement of Christ on the cross applied only to those who got elected, or chose to be saved. So, the atonement isn’t like for every single person in the world because God is only choosing certain people to experience it. It wouldn’t make sense for the atonement to be completely open. It’s effective only for those God has said, “These are my elect.” The eye is irresistible grace because God’s word cannot return, void those who God elects and then atones for will, of course, embrace His grace. Again, this follows from the previous two points, that if God is the one electing and God is the one saving, then you’re not going to resist his grace, because if you were doing so, you would be greater than God.
Finally, the P is perseverance of the saints. This really just means once saved, always saved. If you are truly saved, God has grasped you. You will remain in the faith because Christ will not lose any of His own. So, this is a short summary. It doesn’t do justice to the range of work Calvin did, but TULIP is important because it’s distinctive to Calvinistic thought in the reformed view of salvation. When people say, do you believe in election or predestination? Oftentimes they’re coming from this viewpoint and the reality is that the Bible talks about both election and predestination. So, if you’re a Christian, you have to believe in it, but there are different ways to look at it, as we just saw with the Eastern view and the Roman Catholic view that you are responding to God and you’re participating in your salvation with Him.
Let’s look at Wesleyan-Arminian and Anabaptist theology. We could call these the Provisionist theology. They believe that God is providing salvation to all who call upon the name of the Lord. He’s not specifically electing individuals, but there are differences between these two groups. Wesleyan-Arminians are what eventually will become the Methodists, some Baptists, the Wesleyans, the Charismatic Pentecostals, the Nazarenes, the Holiness groups and the Anabaptists become the Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren communities. These two groups began at the same time as the Reformation. The Reformed Calvinistic group that sprung up very quickly also had the Anabaptist, which means the rebaptizers spring up too. I’m trying to restrain myself you guys. I want to just go on a church history rant right now, but I know you don’t have time. All this to say these groups are arising all at the same time. Arminius, who founded Arminianism, was alive at the same time as a reformer. All of these people are looking at scripture and they’re saying the question of how to baptize, how salvation works. They’re coming to conclusions that I believe the Holy Spirit allowed them to come to. Because he was going to use those individual churches and traditions to reach certain people in certain ways and equip certain parts of the world in certain ways. Maybe a part of the world needed the structure and the love for the Word that the reformed Calvinistic groups had. Maybe parts of the world really needed the pacifism and the community of the Anabaptist movement. Maybe parts of the world really needed the mission’s focus and the holiness center of the Wesleyan-Arminians. Whatever it is, there’s something beautiful in what’s happening in these salvation theologies.
All of these are arising at this time and Arminius, founder of Wesley Arminianism, presented a different view of salvation from the reformers. So, he started out as a reformer. He was actually preparing to defend Calvinism in a debate. When he went to the Word and studied it, it changed his mind. He came to believe that God is not choosing who would be saved, but instead he is calling to us by His grace. It’s called prevenient grace and then in his sovereignty allowing man to respond to that. So, election then applies to those who are in Christ. It’s corporate election, God is electing a church of people who have responded freely to Him. Calvinists are looking at individual election, God is choosing individual people. Arminians Anabaptists are looking at a corporate election view, where God is electing his church and anyone can freely respond. The Remonstrance or followers of Arminius outlined their own principles in response to Calvinistic theology in the articles of Remonstrance. Their summary of theology has been articulated with the acronym facts.
Instead of TULIP you have FACTS, which is not like a subtle flex, I promise. [Laughs] Just how it worked out, freed by grace to believe F. God and his sovereignty freed his creation to respond to his salvation or reject it. A, atonement for all, God desires all people to be saved. John 3:16. His atonement is available for anyone who calls on the name of the Lord. Only those who respond to that salvation offer will be saved. This is not universalism. C, conditional election, God decided to save or elect only those who put their faith in Christ. While there are different views on election among Arminians, most believe that God elects to salvation those who respond to his offer, so he’s the initiator still. Total depravity, all humans are separated from God by sin, they can’t save themselves. John Wesley, who followed up and built on Arminius’s teachings, John Wesley was one of the hardest voices on original sin. If you don’t believe me, go read his work on it. He came down on sin like nobody’s business because he believed holiness was so important.
And so, Wesleyan-Arminians very much believe in total depravity, but it’s not total inability, you can still respond to God. Security in Christ is the S in fact, Jesus secures our salvation and the Holy Spirit empowers us to remain in Him. Most Wesleyan-Arminians not the holiest movement or charismatics, true Arminians believe that you can’t lose your salvation. You can’t just be like living your life and oh shoot, I left it in the dryer. It’s not like that. You can reject it according to Hebrews 6, but if you do that, you either were never saved or it’s a willful rejection that is lasting your life. So, there’s none of this like, “I think I’m saved, I think I’m not saved, I’m going to pray 800 times to make sure that I am.” Typically that happens when salvation is not taught correctly from the get go. If it’s like, “Oh, I sinned, I can lose my salvation.” You’re not teaching that salvation at that crisis point is a shift of allegiance. It’s not a feeling, it’s not a vague belief that God exists. It’s not even a belief that Jesus died and rose again. That’s not what saves you, it’s God. Not only did you do that, but because of that I give you my allegiance. You are the Lord of my life. It’s not confessed with your mouth that Jesus existed. It’s confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. That’s what it is. So, if that’s the case, then we will work out our salvation with fear and trembling and if you reject it, you’re either never saved or quenching the Spirit. Only if a person dies in that rejection are they blaspheming the Spirit and remaining separated from him.
All of this to say. You’re like, Phylicia, this is like, literally so much information, I didn’t think I would ever need it. I promise you; it’s going to come in handy, it is. It’s going to come in handy with some of your conversations. Maybe when you’re talking to a friend from a different denomination, and they say something about Christ or salvation and it might just remind you of this, and you’ll go you know what? I remember hearing that they view things differently. Is God choosing who will be saved? Well, it depends on your theology of salvation. When we look at scripture, when we look at Romans 9, we look at Ephesians 1, it’s clear that God is predestining something or someone, before the foundation of the world. We see that God is the initiator, right? We go back to the episode about Cosmology, about God setting humans up to fail. He gives humanity this choice in the garden and they choose sin and what does God immediately do? He sets up the rescue plan. He says, “I am putting in motion a plan to save you.” And so, the Reformed group would look at that and say, the plan to save is God’s going to give us Christ and he’s going to choose individuals and enable them to respond to Christ, because we’re dead, we’re separated from God, we’re unable to respond. So, God’s got to pick who he’s going to save and then in his sovereignty, save them. The beginning of that is Genesis 3.
Whereas a Wesleyan-Arminian and actually pretty much all the other traditions would look at that, Genesis 3, and they would say, “Yes, God did predestine something in that moment before the foundation of the world He predestined something. That something was Jesus Christ, the rescue plan.” All who respond to God’s initiating Spirit with the will that he sovereignly granted them, they will be saved. All who call upon the name of the Lord because God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in Him would have everlasting life. As a Wesleyan-Arminian obviously, I have a stance, but it’s so important that when we’re talking about this, we keep in mind two things. We never want to sacrifice the sovereignty of God to preserve human will and we never want to sacrifice the love of God to preserve his sovereignty. I think a lot of times reformed groups will look at the others and say, “You’re just trying to make sure that humans have enough will.” And you’re making God small but that’s a misunderstanding of Arminian theology, because in Arminianism we believe that God is so sovereign, so great, He’s like the king who gives some of his authority to the knight and says, “Go out and choose to do good in my name.” But that knight can abuse his authority. He can abuse his will. That was granted to him by the king. giving that will the king, giving that will to the knight didn’t take away any of his sovereignty. It just imparted some authority by his own will and power.
This idea of God’s sovereignty, it’s not diminished by humanity having the ability to respond to God? Because God gave him the ability. He’s still the sovereign one. Understanding one another’s views on this is so important to having fruitful conversations and also just knowing, “Hey, we can both be believers who love God and love the Word of God,” and look at scripture and say, “Wow, what grace. We are saved by faith and grace and we are given the opportunity to walk in that grace, and become more and more like Jesus, our sanctification.” You guys, I know this is a jam-packed episode and I get into all the details and so much more in this chapter of Every Woman a Theologian. So, if you want this in written form, you want to read it for yourself and figure out where you land, and understand how our salvation changes us that’s the place to go. I hope most of all that this leads to fruitful conversations
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