Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Deistic Undercurrent of Arminianism

Before I get accused of an anachronism is applying an anti-Pelagian argument to Arminianism, let me hasten to point out that I am not the first to do so. Not only am I following Reformed precedent of the highest pedigree, I am theologically justified in doing so. Arminian is nothing but Pelagianism with a few clever additions intended to mask its heretical nature.

Read carefully the following paragraph of B.B. Warfield and pay close attention to his logic. This is one of the most powerful anti-Arminian arguments I have ever read.

“Genetically speaking, Pelagianism was the daughter of legalism; but when it itself conceived, it brought forth an essential deism. It is not without significance that its originators were, ‘a certain sort of monks,” that is, laymen of ascetic life. From that point of view the Divine law appears as a collection of separate commandments, moral perfection as a mere complex of separate virtues, and a distinct value as a meritorious demand on Divine approbation is ascribed to each good work or attainment in the exercises of piety. It was because this was essentially his point of view that Pelagius could regard man’s powers as sufficient to the attainment of sanctity, and could even assert it to be possible for man to do more than is required of him. But, this is an essentially deistic conception of man’s relations to his Maker. God has endowed His creature with a capacity (possibilitas) or ability (posse) for action; and it is for him to use it. Man is thus a machine, which, just because it is made well, needs no Divine interference for its right working; and the Creator, having once framed him and endowed him with the posse, henceforth leaves the velle and the esse to him.” B.B. Warfield, Introductory Essay on Augustin and the Pelagian Controversy

Why do I think this is such a powerful blast at Arminianism? Think about what deism presupposes. It postulates a god who has created everything with built-in abilities and therefore it is inconsistent with his nature to intervene. For the god of deism to intervene, miraculously or any other way, is to admit a flaw in his creation that needs his attention. What does that have to do with soteriology? At this point Arminianism applies the same logic as deism. Arminians assert that man has the innate ability to use his will to “decide” or “accept” Christ savingly. Indeed they see no value in a salvation in which the recipient does not actively participate. What else is this but the deistic assumption that God does not need to intervene in His creation because He created it with innate capacities and abilities? Here’s the rub: No Arminian would ever hold to the deistic conception of God. Indeed, Arminians specialize in teaching God’s active participation and work in the world’s affair (though certainly not to the same extent as the Reformed doctrine of the Sovereignty of God), nevertheless, they unconsciously operate on deistic principles when dealing with the doctrine of salvation. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Visitor Counter

Flag Counter