ardent Arminians

Last night I preached on predestination from Romans 9, which reminded me again of Charles Wesley’s anti-Calvinist hymn, “The Horrible Decree.” It’s hard to imagine anyone singing all 15 stanzas, even to the tune of Gilligan’s Island, but you can read the entire thing here.

Wesley’s passion for Arminianism seems equal to John Piper’s commitment to Calvinism, and I suspect that the fun of watching them debate might partially answer the question, “What will we do forever on the new earth?” I’m confident that Piper will win, though he may be forced to give up a couple of his seven points of Calvinism.

Here are a few of Wesley’s stanzas, and note how he builds to martyrdom. He will fight his friend Whitefield even if it costs his life.

[1] Ah! Gentle, gracious Dove,
And art thou griev’d in me,
That sinners should restrain thy love,
And say, “It is not free:
It is not free for all:
The most, thou passest by,
And mockest with a fruitless call
Whom thou hast doom’d to die.”

[2] They think thee not sincere
In giving each his day,
“ Thou only draw’st the sinner near
To cast him quite away,
To aggravate his sin,
His sure damnation seal:
Thou shew’st him heaven, and say’st, go in
And thrusts him into hell.”

[6] Sinners, abhor the fiend:
His other gospel hear—
“The God of truth did not intend
The thing his words declare,
He offers grace to all,
Which most cannot embrace,
Mock’d with an ineffectual call
And insufficient grace.

[7] “The righteous God consign’d
Them over to their doom,
And sent the Saviour of mankind
To damn them from the womb;
To damn for falling short,
“Of what they could not do,
For not believing the report
Of that which was not true.

[14] My life I here present,
My heart’s last drop of blood,
O let it all be freely spent
In proof that thou art good,
Art good to all that breathe,
Who all may pardon have:
Thou willest not the sinner’s death,
But all the world wouldst save.

[15] O take me at my word,
But arm me with thy power,
Then call me forth to suffer, Lord,
To meet the fiery hour:
In death will I proclaim
That all may hear thy call,
And clap my hands amidst the flame,
And shout,—HE DIED FOR ALL.

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16 Responses to ardent Arminians

  1. Todd says:

    Brings a tear to the eye, don’t it?

  2. W. Wilkening says:

    Goes right along with J. Welsey’s equally horrid sermon, Christ Stabbed in the House of His Friends, a screed against the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in the reformed doctrine of justification.

  3. Barbara says:

    Sounds like he bought the same straw man that’s still going around today.

  4. Trevor Lloyd says:

    I know exactly how he feels! And would gladly and confidently sing all those stanzas you have posted!

  5. Amy says:

    What a beautiful hymn of precious, eternal truth worth dying for!

  6. M J Spaulding says:

    Well I am an Arminian and I do think it is a horrible decree. How anyone could believe that God could allow billions to be born that had no chance to accept his beautiful and gracious offer for salvation is a sin against God. Of course God would give everyone a chance. You may not see how but with God all things are possible. As I see it, it goes like this. I am convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, I repent, I accept Jesus as my savior and God adds my name into the book of life.

  7. Scott Kiddle says:

    Wesley clearly had a passion for the lost and a love for the gospel to which we should all aspire. Very humbling.

    Unfortunately, the Calvinist position is often painted in a way such that Wesley’s poor, rejected sinners are running to the cross, earnestly seeking God and His grace in Christ, but the God of Calvin is angrily denying them access.

    However, the testimony of Scripture paints a different picture. The Apostle Paul states “there is none that seeketh after God.” (Rom 3:11) There’s not a single sinner running to the cross seeking mercy; they’re all running madly away from Him in rebellion and hatred. God in His grace reaches out and lays hold of some and moves irresistibly on their hearts to transform their rebellion and hatred into submission and love. If He did not do so, there would be no one saved. No one at all.

  8. Tom Harmon says:

    I would simply challenge the author, and all, to read the recently departed Dave Hunt’s book..”What love is this”. It so nails it, as regards..God “knows who will be saved”(omniscience)..but predestined no one heaven, or hell. He predestined those who “chose” His grace to be conformed to the image of His son. What kind of love is it, that God would predestine some to Hell!!!??

  9. JD says:

    What kind of creation would reject so awesome a Creator? We are the sinners, not God. God’s not on trial here…

    None whom the Father draws will leave His side. No one seeking salvation will be denied. That in no way contradicts the doctrine of election, whereby God graciously adopts and saves His children. No one seeks God whom He does not draw there in the first place…

    Reformed folks should have the heart of Wesley that drives them to evangelize with fervency. You don’t know who the elect are. Evangelize like there’s no tomorrow. Name something better to do!
    Arminian folks should ease up on emotionalism, and trust that God is in control. The words “I could never believe in a God that…” should be followed by a Biblical account of who of God is. It doesn’t matter what you want to believe about God, but rather who He really is.

  10. Scott Kiddle says:

    JD – The words “I could never believe in a God that…” comes dangerously close to fashioning God into an idol. Those words attempt to elevate our sense of justice over God’s flawless, infinite justice. You’re right, brother – God is NOT on trial here, or anywhere.

  11. Mike McCrumb says:

    MJ Spaulding – I hope you just chose your words loosely, but do you really mean you “accept” Jesus as your Savior? That sounds as if you are the one deciding if Jesus is enough for you, or that you have decided the Bible is acceptable in revealing God’s will. If you meant “accept”, I wonder by what conditions you made this acceptance? What standards did Jesus meet for you to “accept” Him? Did you also have to “accept” the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin? When we put ourselves in the position of arbiter of salvation, we have stepped dangerously close, if not with both feet, into heresy…you have now decided to be saved…you have done the “work” of “accepting.” John 14:6, Jesus states, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The Bible speaks of “believing” and repenting, not “accepting” the gospel (Rom. 10:9; John 3:16; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; etc…). If it is believing, and not accepting, then it is by faith, which is a gift of God…who receives all credit and glory for our salvation (Eph. 1:7, 11; 2:5, 8, 13; John 6:37, 65). I am not making a Calvinist versus Arminian point here, rather hoping your language was just sloppy, and you truly were not giving yourself credit for accepting His grace.

  12. Scott Kiddle says:

    Mike – I agree wholeheartedly with the theological trajectory I sense in your comments. The language of “accepting Jesus” seems to come from certain interpretations of John 1:12 and Rev 3:20. I personally avoid the “accepting Jesus” language, myself.

    However, it can be said that our *human experience* of the invisible work of grace is that we accept Jesus into our hearts – inviting Him into our lives as Lord and Savior, welcoming His saving work. It can also be said from the perspective of human experience that we were searching for God, and found Him in Christ.

    What we don’t see, from our human experience, is that we only sought Him and accepted Him because His grace irresistibly acted upon our hearts, granting repentance and faith. We had the experience of seeking Him because His grace had already been working on us. We had the experience of “accepting Jesus” because grace granted us the gifts of repentance and faith.

    I look forward to your perspective. God bless.

  13. Mike McCrumb says:

    Scott -

    Thank you for the response, and I apologize beforehand, as you hit on another hobby-horse statement that just doesn’t square with Scripture. You said that “it can be said that our *human experience* of the invisible work of grace (I presume you are referring to prevenient grace) is that we accept Jesus into our hearts – inviting Him into our lives as Lord and Savior…” Again, I don’t see any reference to “accepting Him into our hearts” or “inviting Him into our lives” anywhere in Scripture.

    You brought up John 1:12, and it is interesting that you chose this text. If we look at the context, the “receive” in 12 is used in distinction to verse 11 where ‘His own people did not receive Him.” This is likely referring to the majority of Jewish people who rejected Him, used in contrast to those who did “receive Him” in verse 12. Those who did receive Him are those “who believed in His name” which of course brings us back to faith, not intellectual ascent or agreement with certain facts. In fact, in verse 12 we still see God in control of those who would believe, or receive, in that “He gave the right to become children of God,” removing all authority and control from the human, and placing the gift of faith in the hands of the Creator, which John 1 is so concrete in proclaiming. So, this text does not support a “I receive, or accept into my heart” position.

    Secondly, Revelation 3:20. Not ignoring immediate context, these statements are addressed to a church, not an individual (and not an atrium or ventricular compartment of the cardiovascular system). The aim of these letters to churches is corporate communion with God, not individual conversion per se. The “him” used in 21 and 22 is likely speaking of a composite unity of the church; specifically those who will repent for their lukewarmness. Close fellowship, communion with Christ is being discussed, and again, note God’s control by stating just one verse later, “I will grant him to sit with me on my throne…”

    I’m not denying a human experience in conversion, just acknowledging my own sinful perspective of that experience, and rely totally on the truth of Scripture for it’s interpretation. I would deny that we are searching for God. Following the fall, why would any one of us “search for God” as you put it. Reading Romans 3:11, which is from Psalm 14:2; 53:2, “no one seeks for God.” So, there would be another view that from our perspective, we think we are seeking God, but in all reality the Bible contradicts such notions. Since, my perspective is marred with sin, I trust not in my own understandings.

    If it is a matter of experience, in shaping theology, I’ll continue to wade through Scripture, and let that be the lens through which I prayerfully discern doctrine. Thanks for the discussion!

  14. Scott Kiddle says:

    No disagreement at all, brother. When describing my own conversion, I do not use the language of “asking Jesus into my heart”, nor “I was looking for God”. God is entirely sovereign in salvation, and I was entirely powerless. However one attempts to describe their experience of conversion, in the end, it must always be measured by what saith the Scriptures. As you said so well, “Since, my perspective is marred with sin, I trust not in my own understandings.”

    God bless you as you seek to know Him and serve Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Scott

  15. Mike McCrumb says:

    as the great “theologian” English songwriter David Essex would say, “rock on.”!

    Glad to hear!

    In Him,
    Mike

  16. kevinjandt says:

    I see so many that misunderstand election and God’s grace. “If God elects” = “God also condemns”. (Double predestination) Not so! Man is responsible for his rejection of God. See Romans 1:18-21

    Then God is put on trial for His “unfairness” Without God’s grace we are all condemned to hell but in His mercy He saves some for His glory. Because He’s God and He does all His good pleasure (Ephesians 1:14).

    Ezekiel 33:11 I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live, turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

    Repent from your sin and live! it’s that simple.

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