Combating a New Arminianism

The Arminianism of our day is decidedly not the Arminianism of centuries ago. Anyone who has studied the Five Articles of Remonstrance knows this. Yet we argue against Arminianism today according to the old arguments and paradigms.

The new root of Arminianism seems to be this: coming to God for salvation counts even if it is done sinfully. By this, the Arminian undermines all of reformed thought. The modern Arminian says, it may be true, that we are so sinful as to make us unable turn to God sinlessly, but God is glorified in us as we believe in Him, even if that belief is itself not a perfectly sinless one.

I bring this up not to show how we can better argue against heterodoxy (though that is important) but as this is something all churches need to think about (reformed and non alike).

Our churches are full of men who believe that going to church, singing, praying, tithing even if done partially sinfully, even if done lazily or routinely, is acceptable before the Lord. God HATES sinful sacrifice (Prov. 15:8). We see it in giving (Acts 5:3), in communion (1 Cor. 11:29), in prayer (Prov. 28:9), and in the feasts and festivals (Isa. 66:3).

Rather, we should offer up pure and perfect worship before him. How? By faith. Do you not know that the blood of the lamb can cover our sinful worship so that it is holy and acceptable before God Almighty? Believe this. Rise thyself up to faith in your worship or it does not count, just like praying the sinners prayer for fire insurance does not count.

How are we any less Arminian when we follow their same principles in our day-to-day lives? We try to rouse ourselves to the work of worship as if it was the work that God finds acceptable, just like the Arminian sees himself as rousing himself up to the act of faith. I claim that such acts are an abomination. What God finds acceptable is not the part of worship that we give (Acts 17:24-25, Mark 10:45, Psa. 50:9-12, 1 Cor. 10:26), but the part of worship that we receive.

To make sense of this, look at Andrew Fuller’s combat against Sandemanianism. Sandeman (1718-1771) asserted that faith must not be a work, for then we would be saved by works. Sanderman’s faith thus had no activity to it, it was instead a passive persuasion of the truth.

To combat this, Fuller introduced an analogy of a magnet:

Whatever holiness there is in [faith], it is not this, but the obedience of Christ, that constitutes our justifying righteousness. Whatever other properties the magnet may possess, it is as pointing invariably to the north that it guides the mariner; and whatever other properties faith may possess, it is as receiving Christ, and bringing us into union with him, that it justifies. -Andrew Fuller

Just like that magnet there is a part of faith that makes it saving, and that part is not to be found in us. A humble and receiving faith is that which saves. But that does not mean there is no part for us to play in our faith. Faith that saves is always working (Gal. 5:6), even though it is not the working part of faith that saves.

Now worship, like faith, must act. It must act love. Yet, also like faith, our acting is not that which makes it good and acceptable before God. Left to itself our actions are an abomination before him. Holiness can only be found in our actings as they are covered by the blood of Him who was slain. This blood is not our gift to God, but His gift to us. Thus, even though worship acts, holiness is not to be found in the acting and working but in the receiving.

Stated another way, worship should never be passive, but it is the passive part of worship that is pleasing to God. Love should never be without work, but it is the non-working part of love that fulfills the command. We are saved by faith alone, but faith that saves is never alone.

We cannot add to the holiness that we have in Christ.

A brief history of Fuller’s fight with Sanderman can be seen here.

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