Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we bessech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gordon H. Clark Sermon: The Holy Wisdom of God

College will give one knowledge, but not wisdom.  -- Dr. Gordon H. Clark

The Gordon H. Clark Foundation posted this sermon at their site.   The sermon was recently discovered in the Clark family archive of unpublished papers.  Here is a quote from the sermon:

Undoubtedly this passage from Job implies that the study of minerals, the study of geology, indeed all academic study is not the method of obtaining wisdom. In college young men and women may obtain knowledge; and by knowledge they can accomplish their aims in life far better than they could without knowledge. But whether their aims in life are wise or foolish, good or evil, is an entirely different matter. A man may know physics and mathematics, but no knowledge of mathematics will teach him how to make use of his mathematics. In college I learned a lot of French, but no college course taught me whether I should use it in the Folies Bergeres or in the study of theology. College will give one knowledge, but not wisdom.
The last verse of Job 28 puts us on the right track. “Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, that is understanding.”

It is therefore essential to recognize that wisdom is not to be studied like courses in college. Wisdom is a gift of God. Prov. 2:6 says, “For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.”

From:  The Holy Wisdom of God

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What Is a Parable? A Clarkian Analysis of Dr. Robert A. Traina's Comment

It may truly be said that the context of each term of a book is the book itself.  --  Dr. Robert A. Traina

I never took any classes with Dr. Robert A. Traina.  However, when I was a young Pentecostal and Arminian student at Asbury Theological Seminary, Dr. Traina's book on inductive biblical exegesis, Methodical Bible Study, was a standard textbook and still is today in many seminaries across the nation.  At Asbury in the early 1990s I took several classes called English Bible, which were really a form of literary criticism and inductive Bible study.  My professors were Dr. Joseph Dongell and Dr. David Bauer.  Both men were very good at inductive Bible study and making the logical and literary connections in the text, despite their Wesleyan Arminian presuppositions which influenced their overall interpretations of the biblical texts.

However, there is a problem with inductive Bible study and the problem is that the systematic whole often gets lost in the overall context, despite the fact that inductive Bible study is supposed to fit with the context of the whole Bible as well as with the context of the book, chapter, pericope and the paragraph in which the verse occurs.  Also, without logic and the law of contradiction language itself has no particular meaning.  When equivocation and analogical analysis is the beginning axiom of literary criticism, and an appeal to the neo-orthodox view of Scripture as merely the framework for the keryma of the early church, then the problems with inductive Bible study from an Arminian and Evangelical perspective become paramount. Furthermore, I was shocked to discover that Wesleyans do not believe in plenary verbal inspiration, even though the doctrinal statement at Asbury purports to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.  This an equivocation because it turns out that Asbury believes that only the theological concepts of the Bible are without error:

Asbury Theological Seminary, which is one of the preferred seminaries of The Wesleyan Church, has a helpful statement on inerrancy: the Bible is “without error in all that it affirms.”  The important question is thus, “What was God affirming when He inspired this particular passage?”  For example, was the point of Philippians 2:10 that the earth is flat and that there are beings under and above the earth: “that at the name of Jesus every knee might bow—of those in the skies and on the earth and under the earth”? . . .

* * *

The idea that the Bible is inerrant in all that it affirms captures the Wesleyan sense of inerrancy well.  Certainly God’s word could never be in error.  The challenge is in determining what the Bible affirms rather than in acknowledging its inerrancy.  Certainly when God’s Spirit truly reveals something to an individual through the words of Scripture, this affirmation will be without error.  And anything that God has authentically revealed to the Church, to a specific church group or specific individuals, is an affirmation without error.

 Ken Schenck, What Wesleyans Mean By Inerrancy.  [I took my summer Hebrew courses with Ken Schenck when he was still a professor at Asbury.  John Walters, another professor at Asbury, said openly that the concepts of the Bible are inspired and inerrant but not every single word of the Bible.]

Please note well that Schenck appeals directly to existential encounter and personal illumination rather than to an objective and propositional revelation in the Scriptures:

Certainly when God’s Spirit truly reveals something to an individual through the words of Scripture, this affirmation will be without error.  (Schenck, Ibid.).
Schenck's view is practically identical with the neo-orthodox view.  If the Bible is not an objective revelation instead of a framework that needs personal revelation, Christianity is completely destroyed.   [He also places more authority in the church than in the Holy Scriptures.  Whatever happened to sola Scriptura?]

Also, as an aside, I should mention that no literary analysis of the Bible can be done in exactitude without knowing the biblical languages sufficiently to read and exegete the syntactical information in the original languages.  Although this method works for the layman who is reading the Bible in an English translation, the layman should be comparing various translations to see what translation issues become immediately apparent.  A further complication is the issue of textual criticism and what is considered to have been originally in the autographs. (Logical Criticisms of Textual Criticism).  [Note well that when I was a student at Asbury from 1992-1995 Hebrew was no longer required for the fulfillment of the degree for a master of divinity.  As stated above, I had to do Hebrew as a summer elective.]

First of all, Dr. Traina does not properly define his terms when he makes a distinction between the concrete details of a parable and the spiritual main point of the parable.  What is a "spiritual truth"?  Dr. Traina never defines this term for us; and worse, his definition of Scripture is that Scripture is a two fold revelation of truth.   Also, he thinks that scholarly articles are necessary to interpret the text.  This is only true in a secondary sense because the Protestant principle of interpretation is that Scripture alone is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16).  Scripture interprets Scripture first and any difficult passage of Scripture is to be interpreted by other more plain Scriptures.  This second point is what is generally called by Reformed scholars the perspicuity of Scripture.

To show what I am talking about I will quote the lengthy passage from Dr. Traina's book on pages 148 to 149:

(4) Connotations of General Literary Forms

Some of the intepretative implications of general literary forms were indicated in their previous treatment.  The purpose of the discussion at this juncture is to supply one or two illustrations which will clarify some of the means by which the utilization of literary forms will have a serious bearing on exegesis, and to suggest articles and books which may be read in order to broaden the reader's understanding of their exegetical importance.

Let us consider, for example, one of the factors involved in the interpretative significance of the parabolic form.  As was indicated previously, the parable is based on an analogy between the physical narrative and a spiritual truth.  Now such an analogy does not imply that the spiritual truth and the physical illustration are absolutely identical, since spiritual and physical truth are on two different planes and can never be equated.  Nor need they be, for all that is demanded of an analogy is similarity at certain points.  In fact, it is safe to limit the place of intersection between the spiritual truth and the physical illustration to one main point.

If this analysis is true, one of the factors involved in the exegetical significance of the parabolic form become abundantly clear.  The physical aspects of the parable should never be pressed in all its particulars in order to discover its meaning.  For the parable may be likened to a husk containing a kernel.  The husk must be removed until the kernel alone remains, because it is for the sake of the kernel that the husk exists.  The kernel may be compared with the one, main spiritual truth for which the parable is given.  When this kernel is discovered, the physical aspect, like the husk, may be set aside.  For to treat the physical factor of the parable as identical with the spiritual truth it carries, and consequently to find spiritual meaning in every of the narrative, is to misuse the parabolic form."

Robert A. Traina.  Methodical Bible Study.  1952.  1980.  Reprint.  (Grand Rapids:  Francis Asbury/Zondervan, 1985).  Pp. 148-149.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark, on the other hand, defined his terms carefully.  He said that behind every metaphor, simile, and parable there is a logical proposition.  The term "spiritual truth" is vague and not carefully defined.  A logical proposition is a logical statement that is composed of a subject and a predicate joined by a copula.  Dr. Clark's example of this is, "David was the king of Israel."  Even a basic English grammar student can see what this means because the grammar of a sentence and a logical statement are exactly identical in this case.  Parables are therefore not a contradiction to the principle of propositional revelation when we say that all knowledge is propositional.  The distinction between literal and symbolic or literal and analogical is therefore misleading.

However, to say that we can set aside the parable once we know the "spiritual truth" is dangerous.  The parable stands as God's written word and the meaning of the parable cannot be understood apart from the symbolic statements that lead us to the propositional statement behind the parable.  Dr. Traina's statement that the parable is just a husk while the truth within is the kernel and that we can dispose of the husk is nothing more than neo-orthodoxy.  All Scripture is inspired by God and all Scripture is profitable for doctrine.  (2 Timothy 3:16; Matthew 4:4; John 10:35).  Scripture stands as a totality, a systematic whole and no parts of the Scriptures may be discarded as husks just because we think we have arrived at the proper interpretation of the text.

According to Roger Johnson, Bultmann "rejected every effort to identify keryma with any past confession of faith."  (Roger Johnson, "The Relation Between Theology and Proclamation," in Rudolf Bultmann:  Interpreting Faith for the Modern Era, (San Francisco:  Collins, 1987), p. 235).  Bultmann completely rejected not only dogmatics and systematic theology but also propositional revelation.  This means that systematic organization of basic Christian doctrines into creeds or extended confessional statements is impossible.  For Bultmann truth is an existential encounter between an individual person and what that person perceives God is saying to him through direct encounter:

Bultmann's consistent focus on the New Testament kerygma as the locus of faith suggested to some a very specific and limited formulation of that kerygma, as if it could be defined in terms of certain core New Testament beliefs:  e.g., the confession that Jesus is Lord, that God has raised up this Jesus who was crucified, etc.  Bultmann, however, rejected every effort to identify the kerygma with any particular past confession of faith.  Since the keryma is nothing else than God's word of address to a particular person, no formulation of it can ever be regarded as complete.  It will always find expression in new forms of speech appropriate to the concrete situation of the person addressed.   (Roger Johnson, Ibid.).

Bultmann in his own words rejects the doctrine of dogmatic theology and propositional truth or any idea that theology or biblical theology can be systematized into a summary of biblical doctrine:

The science called New Testament theology has the task of setting forth the theology of the New Testament; i.e. of setting forth the theological thoughts of the New Testament writings, both those that are explicitly developed (such as Paul's teaching on the Law, for example) and those that are implicitly at work in narrative exhortation, in polemic or consolation.  The question may be raised whether it is more appropriate to treat the theological thoughts of the New Testament writings as a systematically ordered unity--a New Testament system of dogmatics, so to say--or treat them in their variety, each writing or group of writings by itself, in which case the individual writings can be understood as members of an historical continuity.

The second procedure is the one chosen in the treatment here offered.  By this choice the opinion is expressed that there can be no normative Christian dogmatics, in other words, that it is not possible to accomplish the theological task once for all--the task which consists of unfolding that understanding of God, and hence of the world and man, which arises from faith, for this task permits only ever-repeated solutions, or attempts at solution, each in its particular historical situation.  Theology's continuity through the centuries consists not in holding fast to once formulated propositions but in the constant vitality with which faith, fed by its origin, understandingly masters its constantly new historical situation.  It is of decisive importance that the theological thoughts be conceived and explicated as thoughts of faith, that is: as thoughts in which faith's understanding of God, the world, and man is unfolding itself--not as products of free speculation or of a scientific mastering of the problems involved in "God", "the world", and "man" carried out by the objectifying kind of thinking.

Theological propositions--even those of the New Testament--can never be the object of faith; they can only be the explication of the understanding which is inherent in faith itself.  Being such explication, they are determined by the believer's situation and hence are necessarily incomplete. . . .  

Rudolf Bultmann, quoted in "The Relation Between Theology and Proclamation," Rudolf Bultmann:  Interpreting Faith for the Modern Era.  (San Francisco:  Collins, 1987).  Pp. 235-236.

The similarities between the Wesleyan rejection of plenary verbal inspiration and their affirmation of the theological concepts only should be apparent.  Bultmann calls the thoughts of the New Testament the kerygma but he rejects any attempt to systematize the doctrines of the Bible into creeds or confessions.  Although the Wesleyans do not go that far, it should be noted that John Wesley never wrote a systematic theology.  His 52 standard sermons serve as the only systematic theology Wesley ever produced.  Unfortunately, modern Evangelical Wesleyans have used this as an excuse to dismiss the systematic theology of the Reformed scholars as overly scholastic.  This same tendency to endorse both higher and lower biblical criticism and to reject propositional revelation and confessional dogmatics and systematics has infiltrated not only the Wesleyan seminaries but by and large the majority of the Reformed and Evangelical seminaries due to the influence of Cornelius Van Til, who largely agreed with the neo-orthodoxy of G. C. Berkouwer.  Van Til most famously said that all Scripture is apparently contradictory:

Now since God is not fully comprehensible to us we are bound to come into what seems to be contradiction in all our knowledge. Our knowledge is analogical and therefore must be paradoxical. -Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 61.

while we shun as poison the idea of the really contradictory we embrace with passion the idea of the apparently contradictory. Van Til, 
Common Grace and the Gospel, 9.

All teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.  Ibid., 142.  (Quoted and cited by Patrick McWilliams, Cornelius Van Til vs. Zacharias Ursinus).

Dr. Traina at least acknowledges that inductive Bible study must have some connection to the overall structure of the book being studied and to the Bible as a whole:

. . . It may truly be said that the context of each term of a book is the book itself.

The purpose of emphasizing the complexity of contextual relations and their interpretative significance is to encourage the reader to be constantly on his guard lest he forget to utilize some important structural connections in the process of exposition.  For such an oversight will eventuate either in erroneous interpretation or at least incomplete interpretation.  In fact, it was because of this that the suggestion was made that an entire passage be observed before a serious attempt be made to interpret any of its parts.  It might even be added that the exegesis of each unit within a given book should remain tentative until the entire book is studied in order to give full consideration to the broader structural relations, which are frequently so important for proper exposition.  Traina, Ibid., pp. 145-146.

I will not quote Dr. Gordon H. Clark here because I have already quoted at length both Bultmann and Dr. Traina.  But suffice it to say that Dr. Clark believed that the Bible consists of propositional revelation that is univocally the very words of God.  These propositions in isolation would be meaningless apart from their systematic organization into a system of epistemological truth.  Verses of the Bible are not isolated aggregates that stand alone.   They appear in the total context of the pericope, chapter, book, and the whole Bible.  The old arguments between biblical theology, which is allegedly focused on inductive Bible study, and systematic theology is pertinent here because systematic theology is not merely proof texting out of context.  In fact, the proper exegesis of the proof texts is based on inductive study of the Bible and how all the parts fit together not only in a structural analysis of the biblical texts but also how all those parts fit together into a systematic summary of the doctrinal statements of the Bible.  Dr. Clark rejected the neo-orthodox distinction between kerygma and Scripture (Is There a Distinction Between Church Doctrine and Kerygma?, and  The Gospel Includes the Five Points of Calvinism), yet he supported proof texting as a legitimate method of supporting systematics and dogmatics.  Every scholar of Aristotle and Shakespeare proof texts those writers to show what their views were.  So why should Reformed Christians be prevented from proof texting?

The neo-orthodox attack on propositional revelation is prominent not only in Arminian seminaries but in practically every so-called Reformed seminary in the nation today.  Evangelicalism is infected with relativism and situational ethics and morality because it has as a movement rejected the dogmatic and systematic interpretation of Scripture as the univocal revelation of God in the very words of God.  Unless and until there is a return to classical Reformation theology and the doctrine of propositional and systematic revelation, the slide into apostasy will continue in Evangelicalism and in the so-called Reformed denominations.  While Asbury and other seminaries put on a show of their commitments to conservative theology and traditional Evangelicalism, the truth is that they equivocate significantly on the definitions of these terms.  Ken Schenck's article on biblical inerrancy cited above is just one example of that.  My own understanding of what Asbury stands for is that Asbury has long ago rejected the authority of Scripture and instead teaches neo-orthodox views of Scripture, including rejecting Genesis 1-11 as inspired myth rather than propositional revelation.  Reformed seminaries are now just as enamored with higher and lower biblical criticism as any openly liberal seminaries these days.

Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Roger Olson Continues to Equivocate and Mislead

"It should be clearly understood that even faith itself is not the basis of justification."    -- Dr. Gordon H. Clark

"James Arminius was born in 1560, in Oudewater, the Netherlands. In 1582, he studied under Beza in Geneva, the successor to John Calvin. There he met Uitenbogaert, who would later become one of his staunchest allies and promoters of his heresy. When asked in 1591 to study and refute the views of Coornhert and some ministers of Delft who fiercely opposed Calvinism, Arminius was converted to their errant views instead. But Arminius tried to hide his defection from Calvinism. He delayed indefinitely the requested refutation, making many excuses."

- See more at: Five Points, by G.A. Chan

In a recent post over at the Society of Evangelical Arminians, Roger Olson said:

“I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers [italics added], I conclude that in this sense it may be well and properly said, To a man who believes Faith is imputed for righteousness through grace,–because God has set forth his Son Jesus Christ to be a propitiation, a throne of grace [or mercy-seat] through faith in his blood.” (p. 700)

What more or different could Reformed or any other critics want from Arminius on this subject? This statement blatantly contradicts the common Reformed calumny that Arminius did not believe in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in justification. It even affirms, as Reformed critics want, that Christ’s active obedience is imputed to believers in justification.   (See: Roger Olson, “Arminius’s Reformed Doctrine of Justification”)

Of course, John Wesley also claimed to believe in justification by faith alone and imputed righteousness.   But the issue is not that Arminius and the later Arminianism of John Wesley did not "claim" to believe in imputed righteousness.  The issue is the theological system deduced by the Arminians.  And in the quote above we can see plainly that Olson avoids using the word "elect."  He says that Arminius said "believers" are the sole recipients of imputed righteousness.

But this is a petitio principii, or begging the question.  Arminius managed to conceal his true position through equivocations and misdirection.  So saying that Arminius believed in imputed righteousness seems correct until we look into the total system that Arminius was teaching.  The Canons of Dort rejected Arminianism for a reason.  But if we take Olson at his word, the Reformed divines at the Synod of Dort did not know what they were talking about.  Arminius and the Remonstrandts were Reformed and the Calvinists were not.  How ridiculous!  All the Protestant Reformers, including Martin Luther, believed in absolute predestination.

So the doctrine of imputed righteousness, if interpreted according to Arminianism, would reject the system of theological and propositional truth deduced from the Scriptures.  The doctrine of imputed righteousness according to the Arminians says that man has the power to choose capriciously and arbitrarily whether or not he or she will believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is nothing to determine anyone to believe or not believe the Gospel.  The Arminians say that original sin and total inability is canceled out by prevenient grace that restores every sinner to a place where he or she has libertarian free will.  This is a version of the ancient Pelagian heresy that says that no one is a sinner.  Arminians concede that people are born with a natural bent toward sinning but they are not really blinded by sin or enslaved by it.  What they have is libertarian free will.  So prevenient grace does not cause anyone to believe.  It frees them from God's irresistible grace so now they must decide for themselves apart from anything determining them to sin or to faith.  It's nothing more than Pelagianism. 

So the good work that folks must do, according to the Arminians, is the good work of causing themselves to believe.  They are neutral and can choose either way.  Faith is the one good work you must do in order to be imputed righteous.

In short, the cause of imputed righteousness in the Arminian scheme is not all of God's grace at all.  Instead it is a generic grace that restores the Pelagian view to prominence.  Can you say semi-pelagianism?  

In the Bible, however, we learn that men are all given over to original sin because of Adam's federal headship over the whole human race:

Romans 5:12 (KJV 1900)
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Worse, God cursed the souls of everyone born from Adam by causing that sin to be passed on from the souls of the parents to every child born to them.  Traducianism means that no one is born without a sinful soul:

Psalm 58:3 (KJV 1900)
3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
Psalm 51:5 (KJV 1900)
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me.

According to Scripture, no one is able to seek God:

Psalm 14:1–3 (KJV 1900)
1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, There is none that doeth good. 2 The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. 3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: There is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Romans 8:7 (KJV 1900)
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
John 6:44 (KJV 1900)
44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

So in regards to Olson's remarks above, it can be clearly seen that Olson conditions imputed righteousness upon the doctrine of libertarian free will:

I conclude that in this sense it may be well and properly said, To a man who believes Faith is imputed for righteousness through grace....  Ibid.
Olson's clever misdirection is a petitio principii because he thinks the Arminian system of theology teaches the doctrine of justification by faith alone.   But the real question is what is the propositional system of doctrinal truth taught in Scripture?  Scripture teaches the doctrine of unconditional election in eternity before time.  Olson is teaching that election is conditioned on God's looking forward in time to see who will believe.  This is a direct contradiction of the eternal being of God who never changes.  God is eternally immutable and so is God's omniscience or knowledge.  God never learns anything new.   To say that men elect themselves and cause God to impute righteousness to them is itself a form of works righteousness.  Worse, it is the same doctrine taught by the Roman Catholic Church!  Olson should do the right thing and stop being a schismatic and go back to Rome.

Imputed righteousness is not based on libertarian free will, according to the Scriptures.  Instead, the Bible teaches that God from all eternity elected individuals by name and that He will cause all of them to believe.  The goats cannot believe because they are not sheep who belong to Jesus, who were given to Jesus by the Father:

John 10:11 (KJV 1900)
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
John 10:15 (KJV 1900)
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
John 10:25–30 (KJV 1900)
25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. 26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and my Father are one.

The elect are elect from all eternity and their salvation was eternally decided in the covenant of redemption made before the foundation of the world.  (Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:20).  Since faith is a gift of God, it follows that Olson's entire argument falls of its own weight.  (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Faith is not a work we do to save ourselves.  No, the Bible says that faith is the result of regeneration, a monergistic work of God in the hearts of believers and that effectual call is not cooperated with by way of a common or generic faith but is instead a monergistic work of God apart from any synergistic cooperation whatsoever.  (John 6:29; John 3:3-8; Matthew 22:14; Ezekiel 11:18-19; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Titus 3:5-7).

Salvation is all of God's grace, not partly your efforts and partly God's efforts to save you.  God saves apart from any conditional election or cooperation of the will:

John 1:13 (KJV 1900)
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Romans 9:16 (KJV 1900)
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
The Bible stands as the whole counsel of God.  (Acts 20:26-27).  So for Arminians like Olson to pull a few verses out of context and then divorce those verses from the system of theological and propositional truths revealed in all the inspired Scriptures, which are all profitable for doctrine, is to promote a broken and contradictory theology that is self-refuting in light of the Scriptures.  As the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark once said:

What should be particularly noted in this section is how the doctrine of perseverance fits with all the other doctrines.  God is not irrational or insane.  What he says hangs together; it forms a logical system.  Election, total depravity, effectual calling, sovereign grace, and perseverance are mutually consistent.  God does not contradict himself.   [Gordon H. Clark. Philippians.  (Hobbs:  Trinity Foundation, 1996).  P. 16].

The doctrine of imputed righteousness must fit with the entire system of propositional truths taught in the Bible, not isolated as a stand alone aggregate out of context of the system.   What Olson does not say above is that he also believes that faith is defectible and that salvation can be lost.  So imputed righteousness does not, according to Olson's theology, ultimately save.  Election is conditional and therefore election itself can be lost tomorrow.  The Arminians can offer no true assurance of salvation because capricious sinners could change their mind, being indued with libertarian free will.  Salvation is all a matter of which way the capricious will of man falls.  After all, God cannot seal His own unto eternal salvation.  But is that what the Bible says?  (John 3:16).

Even in the light of the foregoing, if we take Olson at his word, Arminians do not hold the same view of justification that the Protestant Reformers held.  Arminians make justification contingent on the work of faith that they do for themselves.  Faith, according to Olson, is not the result of a monergistic regeneration, but a work done by free will that causes God to impute righteousness to the libertarian believer who operates independently of God.  Worse that than, the Arminians agree with Rome that God does not require perfect sinlessness or perfect obedience:

The Arminians, even though they were born Protestants, broke away from the Lutheran and Calvinistic teaching and took one or more steps backward toward Rome.  They held that the demands of the law were lowered to the level of "evangelical" obedience and on the basis of this quite human obedience, we are justified.  But in addition to running counter to the previous references which exclude works, this impinges on the holiness of God by picturing him as satisfied with less than perfection.  The Scripture does not teach that God lowers his requirements.  On the contrary, God requires and supplies complete sinlessness.  Christ not only bore our penalty on the cross, but in his life he perfectly obeyed his Father.  It is the personal righteousness of Christ's sinless obedience that is put to our account, on the basis of which we are declared not guilty.  Read the same references again. Cf. also Titus 3:5-7; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9; and even Jeremiah 23:6, for, remember, the Gospel is in the Old Testament and with it justification by faith.  [Gordon H. Clark.  1965.  2nd edition. What Do Presbyterians Believe?  (Unicoi:  Trinity Foundation, 2001)  P. 124.]

As a final note, do not overlook that since Arminians place faith in the Pelagian ability to choose to believe or not to believe, their definition of imputed righteousness by faith makes faith itself the basis of imputation, not the cross:

. . . A judge acquits a man when he declares that the man is not guilty.  Justification then is a judicial act.  It is God's declaration that this sinner is not guilty, but righteous.

But how can this be so?  How can the sinner be righteous?  It should be clearly understood that even faith itself is not the basis of justification.  The ground or basis of justification is the object in which the faith rests;  that is, Christ and his righteousness.  God acquits a sinner, declares him not guilty, on the basis of Christ's righteousness having been imputed to him.

The Arminians then do not believe in the same doctrine of imputed righteousness that the original Reformers believed.  Their view is more in line with Rome's view that God does not expect perfect obedience after all.  Worse, the Arminians do not believe that salvation is a gift of God at its initial beginning by way of regeneration.  Instead, not only do Arminians make election conditioned on faith but they make--by implication--faith the basis or ground of justification.  Olson nor Arminius therefore do not believe in the doctrine of imputation by faith alone. A further error of the Arminians is making faith itself the basis of justification.  That could not be further from the truth.  I can confirm this by quoting Olson's own words:
"I conclude that in this sense it may be well and properly said, To a man who believes Faith is imputed for righteousness . . ."  Roger Olson, Ibid.

Therefore, by Olson's own admission his view is not Reformed.  The Reformed view is that faith is the instrumental means by which God applies the benefits of Christ's active and passive obedience to the elect believer.  Faith does not justify!  The cross justifies.  The benefits of the cross are the objective basis for justification.

CHAPTER XI—Of Justification

  1.      Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth: (Rom. 8:30, Rom. 3:24) not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, (Rom. 4:5–8, 2 Cor. 5:19,21, Rom. 3:22,24–25,27–28, Tit. 3:5,7, Eph. 1:7, Jer. 23:6, 1 Cor. 1:30–31, Rom. 5:17–19) they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God. (Acts 10:44, Gal. 2:16, Phil. 3:9, Acts 13:38–39, Eph. 2:7–8)
  2.      Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: (John 1:12, Rom. 3:28, Rom. 5:1) . . .

The Westminster Confession of Faith (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

Salvation is all of God!  Soli Deo Gloria!

Charlie J. Ray

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