back to theology home page
back to Roman Catholicism home page
back to Arminianism home page
Differences between Pelagianism, its derivatives
A system of theology which denies absolute predestination and make salvation in part dependent on the free will of Man. Strictly speaking, it affirms justification by faith alone and affirms justification as imputation of Christ's righteousness to us and our sins to Him.
(1) (Common) The giving by God of things like air, water, food, existence to his creatures.
(2) (Pelagian usage) The giving of God of a moral example for Man to follow and help for those who sin.
Compatiblist Free Will:
A theory of free will that postulates that Man's will is free to make decision but constrained by external circumstances and considerations, and by God's Sovereign decree
The system of theology regarding the church
A term which denotes the liberty of Man to do things without being subject to external forces.
The giving by God of something which a person doesn't deserve.
Liberterian free will:
A theory of free will that postulates that Man's will is free to make decisions free from but considering all external forces, circumstances and considerations, and free from God's sovereign plan
A heresy in which salvation is by Man's effort alone and God's grace is only present through giving us an example to follow
A system of theology, ecclesiology and living which conforms to the view of the Roman Catholic Pope and Magisterium.
The Grace which God gives to certain individuals unto salvation.
1) a heresy in which grace is not necessary for the initial stage of salvation
and will be imparted after the person has come to faith in Christ
2) (small letters) any system which has pelagian tendencies, i.e. ascribing to salvation any effort on Man's part
The system of theology which deals with the issue of salvation .
Pelagianism is the direct antithesis of true biblical Christianity. It was advanced by the British monk turned heretic Pelagius in the 5th century AD1. Basically, its main error lies in making Christianity into a moral religion, where Man can do good on his own and earn his way to heaven. In this article, I would compare pelagianism and its derivatives with Christianity regarding their soteriology (the nature and progression (or order) of salvation, Ordo Salutis). Specifically, I would compare Pelagianism, Semi-pelagianism, Roman Catholicism and Arminianism with biblical Christianity. To this end, I would use charts to plot the different soteriologies of each system.
Pelagianism, as stated above is a damnable heresy. Basically, it confuses God's command for people to be holy with Man's capability to do so; to put it succinctly, it presupposes that responsibility implies capability. Thus, when Man is commanded by God to love Him, he must be able to love God with his own strength without the aid of anyone, let alone God. Therefore, Man is said to be able to be held responsible for everything he does, whether in the doing of good works unto salvation or evil deeds (sins) unto damnation 2. Jesus is thus held up to be the perfect moral teacher to show us the route for salvation, while his death was to procure the common grace needed for Man to come to him. This common grace is thus to be found in the example that Jesus had set for us.
Consistent with his own moralist philosophy, Pelagius denied the doctrine of original sin and thus he said that Man are not born sinful. Pelagius's teaching was a strict teaching of self-reliance. Pelagius phrased it as: homo libero arbitrio emancipatus a deo: "man, created free, is with his whole sphere independent of God and the Church, the Living Body of Christ—though Christ, Church, and sacraments mightily teach and help"3. In all, he proposed a series of statements 4:
1. That Adam would have died even if he had not sin;
2. That the sin of Adam injured himself alone, not the human race;
3. That newborn children are in the same condition as Adam was before the Fall; corollary; that infants, though unbaptized, 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; and
6. That even before the coming of Christ there were men who were entirely without sin.
Of course, all of these statements are easily shown to be nonsense from Scripture. Rom. 5:12 immediately falsifies statement 1,2 and 6, as it is stated that 'Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned' In this one verse alone, it is stated that (1) Death is the result of sin which falsifies statement 1, and (2) that it 'came to all men' which falsifies statement 2, and (3) 'because all sinned' which falsifies statement 6. Statements 3 and the first part of statement 4 are therefore falsified since they are logically dependent on the truth of statement 1,2 and 6. Verses like Rom. 3: 12 similarly shows statements 3 and 6 to be unscriptural. From 1 Cor. 15:16-23, we can see that there is a resurrection of the dead, in this case for all Christians who believe in Christ, because Christ has risen from the dead, which immediately falsifies the second part of statement 4. In Rom. 7:10, it is written that the Old Testament law is said to bring death though it was intended to bring life. Therefore, statement 5 is falsified as the Law could not grant entrance to heaven. All of these statements proposed and promoted by Pelagius are immediately shown to be unbiblical and, since they touch on fundamental Christian teachings, heretical.
Historically, this Pelagian heresy was espoused by Pelagius and his disciple Celestius. His heretical views were met with wide support from the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. However, it came against the formidable foe of the premier theologian of that time, Augustine of Hippo, who taught that Man was born dead in trespasses, echoing the biblical teaching in Rom. 5:12 quoted earlier. As a result of the widespread support of this heresy from the eastern churches, and Augustine's biblical refutation of the heresy, a council of church leaders was convened in which Pelagius and his heresy were condemned. Subsequent councils confirmed the anathemas (Gr. literally accursed, to be cut off from the Church without any hope of salvation) placed upon any who believed in Pelagianism, most notably the ecumenical council of Ephesus where the heresy was officially eradicated from the eastern churches in 431AD. (Pelagius and Celestius were excommunicated in 418AD)5.
The entire soteriology of Pelagianism is expressed in the chart above. As Pelagius denied original sin, it is shown in the chart that all Man start off in the middle, so to speak, and then either increase in their salvation or decrease in it by sinning. Along the way, some who were increasing their salvation may sin and thus start decreasing whereas some of them that were sinning may accept God's help and grace by following Jesus's moral example and thus start increasing in their salvation.
As we can see, Pelagianism as such is totally a works-based moral religo-philosophy. It is heathen humanism in its Christianized form. As such, it is totally alien to the Bible and makes God's grace a mockery. In fact, being a religion for natural, carnal Man, it has similarities with other man-made religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, which teaches salvation by works.
Pelagianism did not die easily. After the anathemas of the councils on Pelagius, followed by the death of Pelagius and Celestius, the heresy was maintained by Julian of Eclanum, an Italian bishop who was likewise excommunicated and who systematize Pelagian 'theo'-logy6. After his death, the heresy slowly died down. However, there were still a group of monks in Southern Gaul (what is now Southern France) who held out and modified their theology as a compromise system between pure Augustinianism and pure Pelagianism 7 . This modified system became known as Semi-Pelagianism.
In Semi-Pelagian theology, unlike pure Pelagianism, Man is born sinful. Thus, Semi-Pelagianism at least contains a veneer of Christianity. It likewise affirms that Jesus came to die for our sins. However, in pandering to the carnal mind, it proposes that Man can seek after God without God's grace and seize hold of God's grace through faith. God's grace would then save the person by applying Christ's work on the cross to him/her. This could be seen in the Semi-Pelagianism chart above where the Man could either seek God or don't seek Him. Those who don't seek him are doomed to hell whereas those who do would one day use their faith to find him apart from grace which would lead to God's grace saving the person. The person would thus either remain saved by doing good works or lost his salvation by not doing good works.
Therefore, in the Semi-Pelagian system, faith precedes grace. God's grace thus become a reward for a person's faith in Him and is dependent on it. This is heretical as 1) God is totally sovereign (Job 42:2; Mt. 19:26) and thus not dependent on anybody to do anything and 2) Grace is unmerited (Eph. 2:4-5). This would be discussed further in the Christianity section below.
Historically, this heresy was condemned by the ecumenical Council of Orange of 529AD. The relevant canon read thus8:
CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism -- if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers. (Canons of the ecumenical Council of Orange)
From this canon, we can see that the council refutes the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism whereby it is possible to have faith initially in God which is independent of God's grace.
During the Pelagian controversy, there was a change in the leadership of the church from Bishop Innocent I to Zosimus9. Zosimus, whether unintentionally deceived (as the Catholics would have us believe) or not, temporarily ruled in favour of Pelagius and Celestius and demanded that the African pastors and bishops reverse their condemnation of Pelagius and Pelagianism. With the authority of Scripture behind them, the African pastors stood their ground. This temporary favour of the bishop of Rome towards Pelagius did not bode well for the growing church. It sets precedent for the pelagianizing tendencies of the Bishops (and then popes) of Rome10. This pelagianizing tendencies, which are of course perfectly natural for fallen Man, continue to metastasize through the centuries inside the Roman Catholic church, as Western Christianity came under the control of the popes of Rome. Despite the denunciation of the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism in the Council of Orange of 529AD, the tendencies did not go away but instead sought to find a niche within Christianity. It was to find its niche in the Roman Catholic idea of free will, good works, penances and indulgences.
Roman Catholicism is the most prevalent Christian heresy in this age. She inherits the apostolic church's rich history and officially embraced their doctrines. She counts herself as the only true church out of which salvation is not found anywhere else. She even have her own undefined Tradition which is supposed to be binding on all Christians (or at least Catholics), equal in authority as the Bible itself. Due to her rich history, her errors have multiplied and became even more deadly to true Christianity. For information on Roman Catholicism and her heresies and errors, click here.
I would only concentrate on the Roman Catholic heretical soteriological view here. The major problem with Roman Catholicism is that they confuse justification with sanctification and of course have an elevated view of Man. As you can notice from the chart, her soteriology is very complicated, thanks to having about 1400+ years to develop her errant doctrine. From the chart, we can see that in Roman Catholicism, there is first of all, common grace or natural grace which is given to each Man whereby they can do what is right according to their nature, then actual grace is given such that Man could do salutary or good works 11. The Roman Catholic process of salvation for an individual is stated thus12:
The Council of Trent describes the process of salvation from sin in the case of an adult with great minuteness (Sess. VI, v-vi).
It begins with the grace of God which touches a sinner's heart, and calls him to repentance. This grace cannot be merited; it proceeds solely from the love and mercy of God. Man may receive or reject this inspiration of God, he may turn to God or remain in sin. Grace does not constrain man's free will.
Thus assisted the sinner is disposed for salvation from sin; he believes in the revelation and promises of God, he fears God's justice, hopes in his mercy, trusts that God will be merciful to him for Christ's sake, begins to love God as the source of all justice, hates and detests his sins.
This disposition is followed by justification itself, which consists not in the mere remission of sins, but in the sanctification and renewal of the inner man by the voluntary reception of God's grace and gifts, whence a man becomes just instead of unjust, a friend instead of a foe and so an heir according to hope of eternal life. This change happens either by reason of a perfect act of charity elicited by a well disposed sinner or by virtue of the Sacrament either of Baptism or of Penance according to the condition of the respective subject laden with sin. The Council further indicates the causes of this change. By the merit of the Most Holy Passion through the Holy Spirit, the charity of God is shed abroad in the hearts of those who are justified.
From the chart, it is shown that in Roman Catholicism, God's (actual) grace is given to all, whether they respond to it or not, with some resisting that grace and falling away. For an individual who is seeking, there comes a point whereby they will be saved. That person must accept Jesus by faith in Him, which is supposed to be manifested by joining the Roman Catholic church and accepting all her teachings without exception as truth, including her Marian dogmas, transubstantiation etc. This is known as Dogmatic faith which is supposed to put the person on the path to salvation, without which there is no salvation 13. This is implicitly stated in the Council of Trent as it anathemizes all who disagree with its teachings. For example, in one of the canons on Justification, it hereby states 14:
|CANON IV.- If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema|
Of course, the teaching which this council anathemize is the biblical teaching of salvation by faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9), therefore this should suffice to show that Roman Catholicism is heretical.
Besides natural and actual grace, there is also sanctifying grace which is supposed to be the permanent state of grace. Consistent with Rome's distortion and twisting of terms, this 'permanent grace' is not truly permanent at all; it is only as permanent as the duration in which the person perseveres in it. This is because in Roman Catholic theology, good works is awarded a special status in that a person must do good works in order to continue in justification, not as a fruit of justification, which is seen in Canon XXIV of the 6th Session of the Council of Trent, On Justification 15:
|CANON XXIV.- If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.|
This is shown in the chart where those who do good works remain justified whereas those who don't 'lose their salvation', so to speak.
Another aspect of salvation is the grace imparted through the sacraments, or sacramental grace. As seen in the above quoted Canon IV of the seventh session of the Council of Trent, Rome proclaims that the Sacraments, of which she names seven, are necessary for the impartation of the grace of God. This is also shown in the chart above. Thus, those who don't receive the sacrament don't have this grace of God and thus can't remain saved.
I will only touch on the justification/ sanctification part of Roman Catholicism here, while I will address the others under the Christianity section.
In Roman Catholic soteriology, the most important confusion lies in the equivocation of justification with sanctification. Roman Catholics subscribe to the following two points 16:
The first point is called justification by infusion and the second point confirms that both are the same thing, just two different aspects. The reason for the error of the latter is due to the misunderstanding of justification in the Roman system.
In Roman Catholicism, justification is understood as a process. Therefore, when a person is undergoing justification, he/she has grace infused into him/her from God which enables the person to perform deeds of righteousness. The Reformed view and the biblical view has always been that justification is the process by which God proclaims Man righteous, without any input from the person or any change for that matter. Thus justification involves imputed righteousness, and not the Roman Catholic view of infused righteousness. From the Bible, it could be seen that justification is a legal declaration. In Rom. 4:2-5, justification is seen to be not of works but of God's grace. This could be aptly seen in Rom. 4:5
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness
Throughout the entire book of Romans and in fact the whole Bible, justification always involves God declaring someone or counting someone as being righteous, without any regard to their good works or their lack of it. The only place where there seems to be a contradiction is found in the book of James (James 2:14-26). In this passage, James seems to be teaching that faith alone will not save you. Thus, this verse has often been cited as a proof text by Catholics and all legalists. However, is that what James is teaching here? Careful examination will show this to not be the case. This can be proved by looking at the entire passage within its context, and the true meaning of the text could be seen in James 2:18
But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
As it could be seen from the passage, James is not talking about the same subject matter as Paul. James is here talking about certain people reducing faith to merely an intellectual assent to the Gospel which is not faith at all. His response to these people is seen in this passage, where James says that his faith is expressed and shown by what he does, i.e. his good works. Therefore, the solution to this alleged contradiction between Paul and James is that Paul was saying that we are justified by faith alone while James was saying that we are saved by a faith that is alive and will work itself in good works and not just comprising of mere intellectual assent.
Back to the issue of justification, we can see that the biblical view is the Reformed view where justification comprises the imputation of righteousness to the sinner where he/she is counted righteous by Christ. Because of their errant view of justification, Roman Catholicism confuses justification and sanctification and thus their entire soteriological system collapses in unbiblical heresies.
[Link article: Is Roman Catholicism semi-pelagian?]
The Reformation in the 16th century recovered the obscured Gospel of Christ and true Christian soteriology. However, Man by nature is carnal and despises the sovereignty of God. It would perhaps come as no surprise that sooner or later, Man would try to make room for him/her to contribute something to his/her salvation. Arminianism was thus born in the early 17th century as a theological system which does just that, while avoiding the unbiblical practices and excesses which marked the by then apostate Roman Catholic church.
Arminianism was founded by a Dutch theologian by the name of Jacobus Harmensz (aka James Arminius in Latin) (1560 - 1609)17. He was schooled in the University of Leyden and also in the University of Geneva for a short time under Theodore Beza, before returning to Holland where he was a minister in the Dutch church of Amsterdam. He was married there to Elizabeth Real. In the year 1603, he was elevated to the position of Professor of Divinity in the University of Leyden, in which the majority of the controversy between him and the other Dutch Reformed pastors happened until his death. [For more details on his life, look at James Arminius: A Sketch of the life of James Arminius.] For the record, Arminius refused to neither answer his critics nor clarify his beliefs before the Church of Jesus Christ. In his own words, he maintained that18:
But I was deterred from adopting that method,
on account of three inconveniences, of which I was afraid:
As we will see, the ultimate reason why Arminius did not want to submit his views for scrutiny is that he is afraid of being condemned for his views and that his views would be scrutinized openly by others (reason two). Obviously, this shows something must be wrong about his theological view, since a person who is correct has nothing to conceal and will set forth the truth plainly (2 Cor. 4:2ff). Conversely, the devil is the one who conceals his tactics and will not be willingly exposed (John 10:1, 1 Cor. 4:5). The people of God are to welcome scrutiny of their teachings just like how the Bereans scrutinize that of Paul (Acts 17:11).
In this section, we will first look at the controversial views of Arminius and his disciples, the Remonstrants, who after the death of Arminius in 1609, instigated and resulted in the condemnations of their heretical views in the Synod of Dordt. The view of Arminius will be primarily based on the writings of James Arminius19 and that of the Remonstrants will be based on the The articles and opinions of the Remonstrants20. The view of modern day Arminians would be looked at later, which will be based on several sources including modern day Arminian books and websites.
Classical Arminianism is based on the writings of Arminius and his disciples the Remonstrants. Arminius in his writings broke off from the Reformed faith and its emphasis on the sovereignty of God in Predestination. From his writings, we can see that the reasons why he did so were primarily philosophical, centered on free will or his concept of the love of God, and pragmatical, due to the increase in members it is giving to the Roman state-church, with the very idea of predestination itself being repugnant to the natural Man 21. In place of a Predestination that operates without the consent of Man, he substituted a predestination which is based on the foreknowledge of Man's faith in God 22. Furthermore, Arminius wrote that Man could reject God's saving grace 23. However, Arminius did mention he was uncertain whether a believer could totally fall away from the faith and judge that worthy of further consideration 24.
The Remonstrants, on the other hand, broke even more sharply with Reformed theology. They agree with Arminius' errant doctrines and totally reject the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, even though Arminius himself did not do so. Their teaching is thus laid out as such 25:
(1) Partial depravity
(2) Conditional election
(3) Universal Atonement
(4) Resistable Grace
(5) Conditional perseverance in the faith
The Remonstrants had submitted these articles and opinions to the Council of Dordt after they were forced to do so. These articles and opinions, after much searching of the Scriptures, were deemed heretical and thus their adherents were excommunicated from the Dutch Reformed church of that time. In response to this attack on Reformed, Christian soteriology, the Council of Dordt set forth what became as the 5 pints of Calvinism, as opposed to the 5 points of Arminianism. The 5 points of Calvinism would be addressed in the next section on Christian soteriology. In the meantime, suffice it is to just state that the 5 points of Calvinism or Christianity are:
(1) Total depravity
(2) Unconditional election
(3) Limited (or Definite) Atonement
(4) Irresistible Grace
(5) Perseverance (or Preservation) of the Saints
In the diagram above for this section, classical Arminian soteriology is expressed in chart (a). As it can be seen, the soteriological chart is much less messy than that of Roman Catholicism, as it rejects many of Rome's theological innovations. It believes in justification by faith alone, theoretically, and that grace precedes faith 26. Since Arminianism states that predestination to salvation is by foreseen faith, Man must be able to seek after God and thus allow God to give them more grace to seek him such that Man would finally be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is shown in the diagram where seekers would due to God's common grace initiate their seeking after God, after which God would impart more of His grace, which they will or will not reject until some of them may be saved. Afterwards, they may continue in their salvation or lose their salvation, by the presence or absence of good works respectively.
After the defeat of Arminianism, Arminianism went underground. However, it was not allowed to take root during that period due to the stringent care of Reformed churches at that time to keep it out of their churches. In England, the Puritans who were heirs of the Reformation attack the heresy viciously as it crept into the Anglican church, as can be seen in John Owen's The Display of Arminianism. Over in America, the first pilgrims were strict Puritans who did not allow the heresy to take root at all. Arminianism in a diluted form caught hold of the evangelist John Wesley who, together with the Calvinist evangelist George Whitefield, co-founded the Methodist denomination. However, it was not until the heretic Charles Finney arrived at the scheme that Arminianism and other heresies prevailed and overthrow biblical Christianity 27. However, there are still orthodox Christians around and therefore classical, historic Arminianism is not espoused by most modern day evangelicals, partly due to its obvious opposition to Scripture and the influence of orthodox Christians but mainly due to ignorance and anti-intellectualism on the part of most believers today. Besides the few hard-core 5 point Arminian heretics around (e.g. Dan Corner of 'Evangelical outreach'), most Christians today are confused about what they believe in, with people subscribing to any number of points of Arminius' teachings. I would look only at the more prominent 'moderate' Arminians, who are actually 4-point Arminians in such a scenario. Such 4-point Arminians are seen in the cases of so called 'moderate Calvinist' Christian apologist Dr. Norman Geisler, author of the Arminian book Chosen but free 28, and Mr. Dave Hunt of The Berean Call ministries, where the Arminian doctrine of the conditional perseverance in the faith is rejected in favour of the inconsistent Arminian doctrine of 'once saved, always saved'.
I will focus on the views of Dave Hunt as representative of most modern-day 'moderate Arminians'. In the book coauthored by him and Calvinist James White29, Dave Hunt argues vehemently for his 4-point Arminianism. He affirms partial depravity in his response in chapter 2 as opposed to James White's affirmation of total depravity, affirms conditional election in his response in chapter 3, affirms universal atonement in his response in chapter 6, and affirms resistable grace in his response in chapter 7. He affirms the Arminian doctrine of 'eternal security' or 'Once saved, always saved (OSAS)' in chapter 14, which is substantially different from the Christian doctrine of 'Perseverance of the Saints'. [For the difference between these two similar but different doctrines, click here.] Thus, from this book, Dave Hunt shows himself to be a 4 point Arminian teaching false doctrine.
The soteriology of these inconsistent, very confused modern-day Arminians are shown in chart (b) above. Since they are 4 point Arminians, their soteriological charts are very similar to that of classical Arminians. However, as they reject conditional perseverance but accept the Arminian doctrine of eternal security, they have a slight difference in their soteriology as they don't have the part where believers who are Christians could fall away if they don't do goodworks. Instead, in their soteriology, both believers with or without works would continue in their salvation.
I would just like to end this section with a small observation: note just how similar the soteriologies of Semi-Pelagianism, Roman Catholicism and Arminianism are to each other. Granted, there are differences, some rather significant, but at the core of it, they are alike. What all of these three systems share in common is the heresy of synergism, where Man and God both must make their own contribution towards the former's conversion. This is opposed to the monergism of biblical Christianity, where God alone is the worker of Man's salvation.
[Link article: Is Arminianism the same as semi-pelagianism?]
Christian soteriology is the soteriological system found in the Bible as taught by Jesus and the apostles. Despite Man's continual attempt to silence its voice, the invincible Gospel of Jesus Christ marches ahead. The powerful Roman empire could not stop it, nor can its reincarnation the Roman state-church. Unable to destroy it head on, the devil and Man could only try to infiltrate and corrupt it, and sometimes they would succeed. However, God is sovereign and after some time, he would bring forth a new reformation to break the power of the lie in the corruption of scriptural doctrines. This He has done through the early, apostolic church before Constantine and then at the Reformation to injure the Roman state-church and bring forth true revival in the hearts of Man.
Christian soteriology is sometimes nicknamed Calvinism or the doctrines of grace. It is named after the Reformer John Calvin only because Calvin was the person who wrote the first Reformed Christian Systematic theology in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Being a faithful expositor of Scripture, Calvin recovered the lost Christian doctrine regarding salvation, resulting in the highly unpopular but entirely biblical doctrine of salvation being called Calvinism, yet this doctrine was neither his invention nor was he the first to espouse it. Martin Luther can also rightly be called a 'Calvinist', as with Augustine of Hippo, the early church father, as with the Apostle Paul and Jesus himself.
Christian soteriology is based on the Bible and on it alone, without any philosophical assumptions smuggled into the formulating process so as to be true and honoring to God as revealed in His Word. It is thus hard to come out with as we all have our own presuppositions which we use to interpret God's Word. Only by saturating ourselves in the Word of God and heeding its voice alone could we come forth, by God's grace, with a biblical view of salvation. It is my opinion that the system known as Calvinism is the only consistent biblical system and I would prove it in my articles and linked articles in the Arminianism home page and the theology home page. For a biblical soteriology, click here. In this part of the article, I would just like to set forth the points of contention between Christianity and the different soteriological heresies as shown above.
The main point of contention regards the sovereignty of God and the nature of the grace of God. From the Bible, we can see that God is totally sovereign, not depending on circumstances or the responses of people to do what He does. Verses that testify of God's sovereignty over nations and individuals without regard to what they do are:
From these verses, we can see that the Bible proclaims the absolute sovereignty of God; that he does whatever he pleases according to His good pleasure without asking our permission and without consulting our 'free will' choices, in fact directing them wherever he wants.
As I have said against Arminianism, the 5 points of Arminianism were rebutted with the 5 points of Calvinism in the Synod of Dordt. As stated, the 5 points of Christianity or Calvinism are:
(1) Total depravity as opposed to partial depravity
(2) Unconditional election as opposed to conditional election
(3) Limited (or Definite) Atonement as opposed to Universal atonement
(4) Irresistible Grace as opposed to Resistible grace
(5) Perseverance (or Preservation) of the Saints as opposed to Conditional perseverance in the faith
Total depravity basically states that Man is dead in sin (Rom. 5:12) and is thus unable to do good or even seek God (Rom. 3:11-12). It takes seriously the Word of God which states that nobody can come to the Father... unless God the Father draws him (Rom. 6:44), showing that Man of his own accord is unable to even turn to God and doesn't want to. Unconditional election states that the election of God's people or true Christians by the decree of predestination is unconditional in the sense that God does not chose someone based on what the person had or had not, has or has not and will or will not do, in other words, regardless of the 'goodness' or 'badness' of the individual (Rom. 9:11, 12, 18) (See my article regarding soteriology here), and even regardless of the faith of the person. This is of course based on the doctrine of Total Depravity, as since Man cannot and will not chose God of their own accord, and thus have not faith in God in and of himself, God must elect them by drawing them to himself in order for anyone to be saved.
To counter this fact that Man is saved by God only because God chooses him first, it has been suggested that although Man is totally depraved, all Man have been drawn by God and therefore they all can be saved, if they put their faith in Christ. Scripture agrees with the latter that all who put their faith in Christ are saved (John 3:16b). However how is it that these people would put their faith in Christ? What make them 'chose' Christ, so to speak? In other words, what gives rise to their faith in Christ? Their free will or the regeneration (being born-again) by the Holy Spirit alone? The biblical answer to this is of course the regeneration by the Holy Spirit alone while the typical synergistic response is because their autonomous free will chooses Him.
The key question asked regarding true Christians having faith in Christ is why they are saved whereas other people who are non-Christians are not saved. What is the determining factor in their salvation? According to the synergist, God has elected everyone for salvation or has drawn all Man, since they accept the biblical fact that unless a person is drawn, no one can come to God (John 6:44). However, if God draws all Man, then why does one choose Christ whereas the other doesn't? What makes Man to differ? For the synergist, then, they would be pressed into saying that it is due to Man's free will or autonomous choice. Since that is the case, one has already rejected total depravity in favour of partial depravity, since there is still one area that Man is not depraved in, and that is his free will which can choose God or reject him. Therefore, all who ascribe their choice as the deciding factor in their salvation have rejected total depravity, regardless of their lip service to it. Never mind that God does most of the work and maybe 99.9999999999% of the work or even higher. Even if Man's work were to contribute only 1× 10-500000% to their salvation, by virtue of the fact that this small amount decides between whether the person is saved or not would give those that are saved something to boast about as so to speak, their salvation is due to their correct choice of Christ. The only biblical solution is to place the deciding factor of salvation into the hands of God, where God is said to choose whether a person is saved or not saved by predestining them for salvation or passing them over in reprobation to hell, without any input or conditions for them to achieve. Thus, the doctrine of total depravity leads logically to the doctrine of unconditional election.
The doctrine of Limited (or Definite) atonement states that the intent of Christ's work on the Cross was to purchase salvation for the elect only. This does not say that Christ could not save every Man if He so wishes to, which he can, but that the benefit of the atonement on the Cross was to purchase salvation for the elect only, who will turn to Christ. This is not explicitly stated in Scripture but is a valid logical deduction from Scripture, as it is it is written that Jesus' death will justify many (Is. 53:11). From other similar verses also, it could be seen that Christ's death secured the salvation of many people. Since those for whom Christ died are saved, Christ's death cannot be for all Man, since otherwise all will be saved (Universalism). Therefore, Christ's work must be only for the elect, who will turn to Christ. The Arminian, in order to get round this, make the atonement a hypothetical one where God make Man savable through his death so as to avoid this dilemma. This doctrine of hypotehtical universal atonement, however, fails because the Bible specifically writes that the atonement of Christ DID concretely purchase salvation for those who believe in him (Rom. 3:24).
This brings us to another of the 5 points: Irresistible Grace. Irresistible grace DOES not say that Man does not resist God's grace most or all of the time. It says that the saving grace of God which is intended to bring about salvation of his elect is irresistible. This concept is found in John 6:37 where all people that God gives to the Father, the elect, will come to Him. Irresistible grace logically follows the doctrine of total depravity, unconditional election and definite atonement, since if Man can come to God only because they have been chosen by God, and the atonement of Christ did secure salvation for the elect, then the saving grace of God to the elect cannot fail in its intent.
The final point is the Perseverance of the Saints. This states that all the elect will persevere to the end, following Jesus' teaching in John 6:39. Note that this does not say that all who call themselves Christians will persevere to the end ,for Christ himself say that there are tares among the wheat (Mt. 13:24-30) and thus all who call themselves Christians may not be of the elect. For those who fall away, Scripture says in 1 John 2:19 that those who do so and not persevere are in actuality not saved at all. For an elaboration of this, click here.
The full Christian soteriological system is represented in the chart above. Non-seekers and those who appear to be seekers but are not regenerated by God and thus do not actually seek God are shown as the bottom line. So-called Christians who do not have works are also placed in the bottom category as per 1 John 2:19. The elect are, however, regenerated by God and brought to faith in Christ alone. There are no dotted lines in this system as all who are elect are justified and thus saved (Rom. 8:30). Furthermore, all who come to Christ will persevere in the faith and will not fall away (John 6:39), with the elect showing works as the fruit of their salvation (Rom. 6:22, Eph. 2:10, James 2:18), as shown in the chart above.
 'Pelagianism' from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelagianism [Accessed July 8, 2005]
 Pelagianism < http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/p/pelagianism.html> [Accessed July 8, 2005]
 "Pelagianism" Britannica Concise Encyclopedia from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. < http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article?tocId=9374807> [Accessed July 8, 2005]. Quoted from Pelagianism < http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/p/pelagianism.html>
 "Pelagianism" Britannica Concise Encyclopedia from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. < http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article?tocId=9374807> [Accessed July 8, 2005].
 V. Controversies on anthropology < http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/sheldon/anthropology.html>
 'Semi-pelagianism' from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semipelagianism> [Accessed July 8, 2005]
 Canons of the Council of Orange < http://www.reformed.org/documents/canons_of_orange.html>.
 Catholic Encyclopedia: Pelagius and Pelagianism <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11604a.htm>
 DVD: Amazing Grace: The history and theology of Calvinism, by the Apologetics Group. For a review of the DVD, click here.
 Catholic Encyclopedia: Actual Grace <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06689x.htm>
 Catholic Encyclopedia: Salvation <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13407a.htm>
 Rome's new and novel concept of Tradition < http://www.the-highway.com/tradition_Webster.html>
 The Canons and Decrees of the sacred and ecumenical Council of Trent: The seventh session. Taken from http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct07.html
 The Canons and Decrees of the sacred and ecumenical Council of Trent: The sixth session. Taken from http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct06.html
 Catholic Encyclopedia: Salvation <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13407a.htm>
 James Arminius: A Sketch of the life of James Arminius http://www.apuritansmind.com/JamesArminius/McMahonSketchOfArminius.htm
 Arminius, James (1560 - 1609), The Works of James Arminius, vol. 1, 3:1:8 A Declaration of the sentiments of Arminius on Revision of the Dutch Confession & Heidelberg Catechism, My reasons for refusing a conference, republished by Christian Classics Ethreal Library, Grand Rapids, MI on the 18th July 2002. Public domain. Found in http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius/works1.all.html
 Arminius, James (1560 - 1609), The Works of James Arminius, vol. 1,2 & 3, republished by Christian Classics Ethreal Library, Grand Rapids, MI on the 18th July 2002. Public domain. Found in http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius/works1.all.html, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius/works2.all.html and http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius/works3.all.html.
 The Remonstrant Articles < http://www.apuritansmind.com/Creeds/ArminianArticles.htm> as quoted from Phillip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Volume 3, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI: 1996. Pages 545ff, and The Remonstrant Opinions < http://www.apuritansmind.com/Creeds/ArminianOpinions.htm> as quoted from Peter Y. DeJong, Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dordt, 1618-1619, Reformed Fellowship, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI: 1968. Pages 220ff. Both of these documents are heretical.
 Arminius, James (1560 - 1609), The Works of James Arminius, vol. 1, 3:2:3 On Predestination, I reject this Predestination for the following reasons ...
 Ibid, 3:6:1 My own sentiments on predestination
 Ibid, 3:6:4 My own sentiments on predestination: The Grace of God
 Ibid, 3:6:5 My own sentiments on predestination: The Perseverance of the Saints
 The Remonstrant Opinions < http://www.apuritansmind.com/Creeds/ArminianOpinions.htm> as quoted from Peter Y. DeJong, Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dordt, 1618-1619, Reformed Fellowship, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI: 1968. Pages 220ff.
 Man does not have saving faith of himself, nor out of the powers of his free will, since in the state of sin he is able of himself and by himself neither to think, will, or do any good ... It is necessary therefore that by God in Christ through His Holy Spirit he be regenerated ... to ... carry out the good things which pertain to salvation. (The Remonstrant Opinions C1)
 See A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing — How Charles Finney's Theology Ravaged the Evangelical Movement by Phillip R. Johnson <http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/finney.htm> and The Legacy of Charles Finney by Michael Horton <http://reformednet.org/refnet/lib/docs/Finney.htm> (Both accessed August 9, 2005)
 For a rebuttal of Geisler's book Chosen But Free, look at White, James R. (2000), The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation (Amityvile, N.Y.: Calvary Press)
 Hunt, Dave & White, James R. (2004), Debating Calvinism: Five points, Two views, Multinomah Publishers Inc, Sisters, Oregon.