Thursday, May 27, 2004

Confessional Lutheran, Arminian, and Melanchthonian Soteriology Compared (Are Philip Melanchthon and Arminians Semi-Pelagians?)

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Philip Melanchthon, painted by Lucas Cranach in 1543

From a public Internet discussion board dialogue, with a Missouri Synod Lutheran (his words will be in blue; and words of a person he cites will be in red). Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was Martin Luther's associate for 28 years, and successor. After Luther's death some of Melanchthon's views on salvation were considered controversial and were opposed by Lutheran theologians like Martin Chemnitz, whose views prevailed in the confessional statement, Formula of Concord (1580).

* * * * *

Arminianism and Pelagianism (and/or semi-Pelagianism) are not the same, though they are commonly equated by Calvinists with an either/or mentality and a seeming inability to make the proper and relevant crucial distinctions. Lutheran Arminianism (rooted in the Lutheran confessions) is very similar to Catholic soteriology (which is precisely why agreements on these issues have been achieved in the ecumenical dialogue).

Catholics, like Lutherans, utterly reject the so-called "saving power" of men. Man can do nothing. This is Pelagianism. See my paper: A Primer on Semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism. Catholics also believe in the predestination of the elect, but not of the reprobate -- again like confessional Lutheranism. See: Catholic Predestination (Ludwig Ott).

The Lutheran Formula of Concord rejects predestination of the reprobate or damned and asserts universal atonement:



AFFIRMATIVE: Pure and True Doctrine concerning this Article.

2. . . . This foreknowledge is not a cause of evil or of sin which compels anyone to do something wrong; the original source of this is the devil and man's wicked and perverse will. Neither is it the cause of man's perdition; for this man himself is responsible . . .

4. Predestination or the eternal election of God, however, is concerned only with the pious children of God in whom he is well pleased . . .

11. The passage, "Many are called, but few are chosen," does not mean that God does not desire to save everyone . . . The fault does not lie in God or his election, but in their own wickedness.

ANTHITHESES: False Doctrine concerning this Article

1. The doctrine that God does not want all men to come to repentance and to believe the Gospel.

3. Furthermore, that God does not want everybody to be saved, but that merely by an arbitrary counsel, purpose, and will, without regard for their sin, God has predestined certain people to damnation so that they cannot be saved.

. . . These are all blasphemous and terrible errors, for they rob Christians of all the comfort that they have in the holy Gospel and in the use of the holy sacraments. Hence they should not be tolerated in God's church.



. . . the eternal election of God or God's predestination to salvation does not extend over both the godly and the ungodly, but only over the children of God, who have been elected and predestined to eternal life . . .

The reason why all who hear the Word do not come to faith and therefore receive the greater damnation is not that God did not want them to be saved . . .

Hence Paul very carefully distinguishes between the work of God, who alone prepares vessels of honor, and the work of the devil and of man, who, through the instigation of the devil and not of God, has made himself a vessel of dishonor . . . The apostle says in unmistakable terms that God "endured the vessels of wrath with much patience" [Rom 9:22-23]. He does not say that God made them vessels of wrath . . . Everything which prepares and fits man for damnation emanates from the devil and man through sin, and in no way from God. Since God does not want any man to be damned, how could he prepare man for damnation? God is not the cause of sin, nor is he the cause of the punishment, the damnation . . . He does not will that "any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (II Pet 3:9).



. . . we must begin by earnestly criticizing and rejecting the false Epicurean delusion which some dream up that it is impossible to lose faith and the gift of righteousness and salvation, once it has been received, through any sin, even a wanton and deliberate one, or through wicked works; and that even though a Christian follows his evil lusts without fear and shame, resists the Holy Spirit, and deliberately proceeds to sin against his conscience, he can nevertheless retain faith, the grace of God, righteousness, and salvation . . .

[goes on to cite 1 Cor 6:9, Gal 5:21, Eph 5:5, Rom 8:113, Col 3:6]

(From: The Book of Concord, translated and edited by Theodore G. Tappert, in collaboration with Jaroslav Pelikan, Robert H. Fischer, & Arthur Carl Piepkorn, Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, 494-497, 617, 629, 556)

According to Mead's Handbook of Denominations, the Missouri Synod Lutherans accept the Formula of Concord (among other works) as a standard of orthodoxy and doctrine.

Contrast this view with that of John Calvin:

. . . whence does it happen that Adam's fall irremediably involved so many peoples, together with their infant offspring, in eternal death unless because it so pleased God? . . . The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess. Yet no one can deny that God foreknew what end man was to have before he created him, and consequently foreknew because HE SO ORDAINED BY HIS DECREE . . . God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his descendants, but also METED IT OUT IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS OWN DECISION.

(Institutes of the Christian Religion, III, 23, 7, McNeill / Battles edition, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, v. 2, 955-956; emphasis added)

Alister McGrath -- certainly no enemy of Calvin (he published a biography of him in 1990) -- writes:

Predestination, for Augustine, refers only to the divine decision to redeem, not to the act of abandoning the remainder of fallen humanity.

For Calvin, logical rigour demands that God actively chooses to redeem or to damn. God cannot be thought of as doing something by default: he is active and sovereign in his actions. Therefore God actively wills the salvation of those who will be saved and the damnation of those who will not.

. . . Salvation thus lies outside the control of the individual, who is powerless to alter the situation.

(Reformation Thought, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993, 125, 127)

John Calvin:

As God by the effectual working of his call to the elect perfects the salvation to which by his eternal plan he has destined them, so he has his judgments against the reprobate, by which he executes his plan for them. What of those, then, whom he created for dishonor in life and destruction in death, to become the instruments of his wrath and examples of his severity? . . .

The supreme Judge, then, makes way for his predestination when he leaves in blindness those whom he has once condemned and deprived of participation in his light.

(Institutes, III, 24, 12, vol. 2, 978-979)

For an in-depth discussion of Calvin and predestination, see: Calvin, Supralapsarianism, and God's Sovereignty. For related Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, see:

Lutheranism vs. Catholicism (Particularly Regarding Original Sin and Faith Alone, and Including Extensive Catholic Commentary on the Book of Concord)

Rick Ritchie, a contributing author to Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

A Lutheran Response to Arminianism
The issues involved concern more than Calvinists

By Rick Ritchie

. . . If a five-point summary is an awkward way to present Calvinism, it is downright foreign to Lutheranism. This is not because Lutheranism lacks a defined doctrine of election. (It certainly has one.) God's gracious election of certain individuals to salvation was affirmed in Article X of the Formula of Concord, the last of the Lutheran confessions. The darker side of predestination has also been considered. As the great Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse wrote, Lutheran theology knows about the God of Predestination: This God who makes us responsible for demands which we cannot fulfill, who asks us questions which we cannot answer, who created us for good and yet leaves us no other choice than to do evil--this is the Deus absconditus. This is the God of absolute Predestination. This is the God who hardened Pharaoh's heart, who hated Esau even before he was born, the Potter who fashions pots and before whom one shrinks-and who, nevertheless, thunders in pitiless sovereignty at these unhappy creatures, 'Tua culpa!' Thine is the guilt!

But this is not the view expressed in the Formula of Concord, as I have shown. Double predestination is expressly denied.

Arminian Principles Rejected

The best way to compare two theological positions is to compare their underlying principles. According to J.I. Packer, the theological position of the Remonstrants came from two philosophical principles:

first, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility; second, that ability limits obligation. (The charge of semi-Pelagianism was thus fully justified.) From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions: first, that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of Him; second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal.

But this is simply incorrect (and inexcusably so) as to what Arminians believe. And one need only go to the famous Remonstrance (1610, a codification of the teachings of Jacob Arminius --1559-1609). of the Arminians to see that it is a false portrayal. Here are the 3rd and 4th articles of five (emphasis added):

III.That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the working of his own free-will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can for himself and by himself think nothing that is good--nothing, that is, truly good, such as saving faith is, above all else. But that it is necessary that by God, in Christ and through his Holy Spirit he be born again and renewed in understanding, affections and will and in all his faculties, that he may be able to understand, think, will, and perform what is truly good, according to the Word of God [John 15:5].

IV.That this grace of God is the beginning, the progress and the end of all good; so that even the regenerate man can neither think, will nor effect any good, nor withstand any temptation to evil, without grace precedent (or prevenient), awakening, following and co-operating. So that all good deeds and all movements towards good that can be conceived in through must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of operation, grace is not irresistible; for it is written of many that they resisted the Holy Spirit [Acts 7 and elsewhere passim].

Nor does Philip Melanchthon hold the views attributed to him (semi-Pelagianism or something akin to it):

. . . through the powers of nature all men are truly and always sinners and they commit sins [goes on to cite Gen 6:5, 8:21, Is 9:17, 41:29, 53:6, Ps 14] . . .

What will you say to this, hypocritical theologians? What works of free will (arbitrium) will you preach to us, and what power of man? Do you imagine that you are not denying original sin when you teach that a man is able to do something good in his own strength? A bad tree cannot bvring forth good fruit, can it? . . .

I hope you are definitely convinced that nothing good nor meritorious can be done by men through the power of nature, since Scripture certainly says that every imagination of the thoughts of the human heart is vain and depraved (Gen 6:5) . . .

Now, Paul in nearly all his letters, but especially in Romans and Galatians, does hardly anything but teach that all works and all efforts of human power are sins or vices (peccata or vitia) . . .

For the same reason they have inverted free will (arbitrium), for they have seen that in certain spheres of external works there is a kind of freedom. For thus the flesh judges external works, On the contrary, the Spirit teaches that all things come to pass necessarily according to predestination . . .

Therefore, when justification is attributed to faith, it is attributed to the mercy of God; it is taken out of the realm of human effort, works, and merits.

(Loci Communes Theologici, 1521 edition translated by Lowell J. Satre, with revisions by Wilhelm Pauck, in Melanchthon and Bucer, edited by Wilhelm Pauck, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969; "The Power of Man, Especially Free Will" / "Sin" / "The Power and Fruit of Sin" / "Justification and Faith"; 34-37, 48, 106)

Views similar to these can be found throughout the Augsburg Confession, which Melanchthon wrote. Compare the soteriology and anti-Pelagianism of the Council of Trent:

Chapter V, Decree on Justification:

. . . Man . . . is not able, by his own free-will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.

Canon I on Justification:

If anyone saith that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

[as opposed to the twisted caricature of Catholic soteriology presented in the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord: II. Free Will, or Human Powers: ". . . the error of the Papists and scholastics, who have proceeded in a somewhat more subtile manner, and have taught that man from his own natural powers can make a beginning of doing good and of his own conversion, and that then the Holy Ghost, because man is too weak to bring it to completion, comes to the aid of the good begun from a person's own natural powers."]

The two positions of Lutheranism and Arminianism are clearly different at each point, even where there are some similarities. The guiding motif in Arminianism is the free will of man, but in Lutheranism this is rejected. God is the main actor in Lutheranism.

This surely appears not to be the case, in light of Articles III and IV of the Remonstrance, above.

What was more insidious was that some theologians saw faith to be a human contribution to salvation. It was not a work of God the Holy Spirit who brought a person to faith through the message of the Gospel, but a work of man--man's small contribution to his salvation. This resembled the Arminian argument that God had lowered the cost of salvation to bargain-basement prices; instead of keeping the law, now God just required faith. This type of faith was no faith at all. It was a hindrance to faith!

But this is a distortion of the Arminian and Melanchthonian positions, as shown.

This matter had come up in the Lutheran church more than once before. Philip Melanchthon, Luther's co-reformer and one of the authors of the Lutheran confessions, had in his later career said that there were three causes of election, man's non-resistance to grace being one. Later theologians sometimes fell into speaking of conversion being the result of "new powers imparted by grace," or "right conduct over against grace." This always turned out to be the grossest form of moralism. The "faith" that is required bears an uncanny resemblance to works. In each case the sinner is thrown back onto himself for deliverance.

A person's stand on unconditional election is indicative of his true adherence to salvation by grace alone through faith alone. If non-resistance or right conduct become the grounds of election, you can bet that the "faith alone" which is being talked about is not faith at all, but a work of man.

Not necessarily, if one takes a Molinist position, whereby God elects as a result of His middle knowledge (scientia media) whereby He has the knowledge -- as a function of His omniscience -- which includes conditional and theoretical or hypothetical knowledge as well. In this view, human "non-resistance or right conduct" is still entirely a result of God's grace and not man's natural powers; therefore, God is still electing and granting grace as He wills. It is neither Pelagianism nor Semi-Pelagianism because man can do nothing to contribute to his own salvation. God does all.

Credit may be given to God after the fact for giving us this power, but who could see in this type of faith the empty hand of which the reformers spoke?

This is precisely the unnecessary false dichotomy. Men are not robots. We cooperate with the grace only God can grant.

A new power from God may sound like a gracious gift, but beware! If the new power is the ability to save oneself by following the right principles, it is best left unwrapped.

But it is not "saving oneself"! This is the whole point. God is saving and man is merely cooperating, much like a prisoner cooperates with a pardon from the governor. He didn't pardon himself. But if he refuses to cooperate and walk out the door of the jail, the pardon will be of none effect.

The Missouri-Synod theologians were very careful to ensure that gifts remained gifts and good news remained good news. If we wish to do the same, we had better guard our doctrine of unconditional election.

Good for them. Catholics agree with unconditional election of the righteous saved.

If you want to discover just how pervasive Arminian principles are, just check to see how many clear biblical passages you have been systematically taught to misinterpret. How many times has the verse "Behold I stand at the door and knock..." (Rev. 3:20) been taken to be Christ standing at the door of our hearts asking us if we will let him save us, when it is Christ standing at the door to the church in Laodicea? How often have we heard that "God has voted for us, Satan has voted against us, and we cast the deciding vote" when Romans 8:31 teaches that if God is for us who can be against us? We are told to make a decision for Christ, but we say that we do not want to be bothered with hearing about what he has decided about us.

But again, this is a distortion and caricature of the actual theological position of Arminianism. As always, one cannot do theology by consulting the man on the street or old ladies in purple tennis shoes at some storefront church in Podunk. Theological systems must be compared by recourse to their founders or best exponents.

The old Adamic nature loves itself above God and wants to be captain of its own destiny.

So the straw men and quixotic battles continue on. It is implied that this is what Arminianism teaches. It's amazing how people continue to insist on distorting views which they do not hold. One doesn't have to adhere to a viewpoint in order to simply understand it and present it accurately.

Lutherans reject cooperative grace views hence they do not fit under Arminian label.

That depends on what you mean by "cooperative grace."

. . . the article did NOT affirm double predestination. Just because it cited the one passage Calvinists used to "prove" double predestination does NOT mean it affirmed double predestination.

The article alluded to such things as:

The darker side of predestination" and "Lutheran theology knows about the God of Predestination: This God who makes us responsible for demands which we cannot fulfill . . . the Deus absconditus . . . the God who hardened Pharaoh's heart, who hated Esau even before he was born, the Potter who fashions pots and before whom one shrinks-and who, nevertheless, thunders in pitiless sovereignty at these unhappy creatures, 'Tua culpa!' Thine is the guilt!"

And as to your "robot" charge for denial of Arminianism, that proves my point. Since you ascribe "robotic" charges to those who hold differently from any form of Arminianism, what does that say about the book of Concord which denies even the smallest amount of cooperation?

That comment leads into a huge discussion on free will and God's sovereignty. I'm not interested in doing that discussion; only in pointing out how Arminians (and perhaps Melanchthonians) are being misrepresented -- and Catholics insofar as their views are virtually identical with Arminians and/or Lutherans.

You should read the book of Concord instead of prooftexting to make it agree with Arminians on cooperation for conversion.

I have not argued that Lutherans believe we "cooperate" in our conversion. I have argued the exact opposite: that neither confessional Lutherans nor Arminians nor (at least the early) Melanchthon nor Catholics believe this is possible, and that it is a Pelagian view and a denial of original sin, which all of these camps alike reject and deny. This is where I think your confusion lies. It's a very common error.

And the article does not say Melanchthon was Pelagian. He was close to semi-Pelagian in terms of almost making faith as cause of election LATER IN LIFE.

Your earlier statement (in a post you provided a link for) was:

Melanchthon and his followers hold to our faith as the cause of election.

The article did NOT say Melanchthon held to semi-Pelagianism EARLY IN LIFE, but quite the OPPOSITE.

It says:

. . . some theologians saw faith to be a human contribution to salvation. It was not a work of God the Holy Spirit who brought a person to faith through the message of the Gospel, but a work of man--man's small contribution to his salvation . . . Melanchthon, Luther's co-reformer and one of the authors of the Lutheran confessions, had in his later career said that there were three causes of election, man's non-resistance to grace being one . . . In each case the sinner is thrown back onto himself for deliverance . . . If non-resistance or right conduct become the grounds of election, you can bet that the "faith alone" which is being talked about is not faith at all, but a work of man.

This is describing Pelagianism, and the writer associates Melanchthon with that view. Arminians do not hold such a view (nor do Catholics), as I have shown from the Remonstrance and Trent. I think there is a confusion of category in your arguments and the author's. I don't think Arminianism and Pelagianism are being defined properly.

I also deny that "non-resistance" is the equivalent of "cause." I dealt with this in my analogy of the prisoner who is pardoned. He doesn't cause his pardon. But it won't take effect if he refuses to leave the prison. Likewise, we don't cause our salvation or first steps to salvation. But we can resist God's grace which alone causes this. In other words, this is simply a denial of the Calvinist irresistible grace. Men can refuse the grace which alone saves them. To not resist this grace is not a "cause" of regeneration or justification. It is merely allowing the sole cause: God's grace, to take effect, by not obstructing it.

To give another example: if we tore down a dam that was holding a huge body of water back, we don't say that this "caused" the water to flow downstream. What caused that was the law of gravity and the laws of physics concerning the behavior of water molecules under particular circumstances. It's the same with God's grace and our resistance. If we remove a roadblock from a road, we don't describe the resulting traffic as "caused" by the removal of the roadblock. Etc., etc. So non-resistance is not properly labelled "semi-Pelagian."

If this was all the later Melanchthon taught, then he was not a semi-Pelagian, in the right definition of that word and heresy. But my primary concern in this disussion is not Tridentine soteriology, but Arminian and Melanchthonian. I think I have pointed out some factual errors in your presentation. I would like to learn from you as well: more about internal Lutheran disputes.

Now be good enough to apologize for YOUR caricatures of "robots" and making Concord into agreement with Arminianism on cooperation and synergism.

I see no need for apologizing for the "robot" thing. It was simply a passing comment. As already stated, I did not argue that either Concord or Arminians believe in initial cooperation in salvation. Neither does. As for synergism, that can be defined variously as well. The type I believe in as a Catholic is that which is mentioned in the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration Article II: Free Will or Human Powers:

. . . the power and operation of the Holy Spirit, who through the Word preached and heard illuminates and converts hearts so that men believe this Word and give their assent to it . . .

But after a man is converted, and thereby enlightened, and his will is renewed, then he wills that which is good, in so far as he is reborn or a new man, and he delights in the law of God according to his inmost self (Rom 7:22) . . .

From this it follows that as soon as the Holy Spirit has initiated his work of regeneration and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that we can and must cooperate by the power of the Holy Spirit, even though we still do so in great weakness. Such cooperation does not proceed from pour carnal and natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts which the Holy Spirit has begun in us in conversion, as St. Paul expressly and earnestly reminds us, "Working together with him, then, we entreat you to not accept the grace of God in vain" [2 Cor 6:1]. This is to be understood in no other way than that the converted man does good, as much and as long as God rules him through his Holy Spirit, guides and leads him, but if God should withdraw his gracious hand man could not remain in obedience to God for one moment. But if this were to be understood as though the converted man cooperates alongside the Holy Spirit, the way two horses draw a wagon together, such a view could by no means be conceded without detriment to the divine truth.

(Ibid., 531-534)

This is good Arminian and good Catholic Tridentine theology! Catholics don't disagree with a word of this. For example:

CANON XXII on Justification.-If any one saith, that the justified, either is able to persevere, without the special help of God, in the justice received; or that, with that help, he is not able; let him be anathema.

I would like to see you define, and compare and contrast Pelagianism and Arminianism, so I can see what definitions you are utilizing. I think you are confused, from what I have seen.

Lutherans reject cooperation of man in salvation in any MIMIMAL way.

So do Arminians and Catholics. This is not at issue. You have not shown me that they believe any other. I would love to see the documentation.

As to your quotes from book of Concord, the quote did not say synergism takes place at conversion.

Yes, we hold to grace is universal and RESISTIBLE.

I distanced myself (as well as book of Concord Lutherans) from Melanchthon on the basis of his SEMI-Pelagian type sounding views, NOT Pelagianism.

Pelagianism means man has no original sin and was born innocent since Adam fell.

Semi-Pelagianism means man has something in him despite being fallen, by which he can [respond] when God shows grace to him.

Arminianism is like that but slightly different. Arminianism means, at least in the classical sense, [that] man is depraved from fall and cannot turn to God on his own, but with grace can make choice for or against God of his own freewill.

. . . Nothing in man whatsover before and even when grace is given is involved to turn himself to Christ. God does all that. You would see my views of conversion as ROBOTIC, too.

I need much more documentation from Melanchthon's own words in order to properly conclude whether he was an Arminian or a semi-Pelagian (my guess would be the former, which was then misunderstood by his critics, just as Arminius and the Catholic position habitually were and are misunderstood). I have not seen nearly enough yet to come to any conclusion. Much more context is needed to see how he would deal with the relationship of God's grace to man's actions, original sin, etc.

I then proceeded to do more research on the "later" Melanchthon's views:

From: Melanchthon on Christian Doctrine: Loci communes 1555, translated and edited by Clyde L. Manschreck, Oxford University Press, 1965; reprinted by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1982 (the only English translation of the final revision of the Loci communes):

Preface (Clyde L. Manschreck: pp. vii-viii, xii-xiv):

Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) . . . is accused of weakening the evangelical stand at Augsburg in 1530 by his compromising negotiations with the Roman Catholic contingent; and he appeared to be theologically subversive by changing successive editions of the Augsburg Confession. Differences between the early and the lateLoci caused some contemporaries and later researchers to say that Melanchthon drifted away from the evangelical foundations established by Luther. When he sought to explain that the human will is not a stone and at least has to accept whatever is wrought by the word and the Spirit in conversion, he was labeled a synergist.

. . . he did alter his thought on several controversial points of theology and seemed to veer away from Luther . . .

In 1521, in the first Loci, he asserted that God controls everything through the mystery of divine predestination, but he sidestepped a discussion of it on the grounds that man should not be overly curious about God's mysteries. After 1527 and when he wrote the last editions of the Loci, he rejected the idea that "God snatches you by some violent rapture, so that you must believe, whether you will or not" . . . Two things bothered Melanchthon. First, he could not accept "stoical fatalism," or determinism . . . He could not find determinism in Scripture, nor could he tolerate the idea inherent in determinism that God is responsible for man's sin. Second, predetermined election seemed to undercut the Biblical message of salvation for all men. Also, a divinely forced justification would mean that man participated no more than a stone; he felt that man is responsible for accepting or rejecting the promises of God and that God does not force salvation upon a man as if he were inanimate.

. . . In his Commentary on Romans, 1532, Melanchthon assrted that in justification "there is some cause in the recipient in that he does not reject the promise extended." Melanchthon was trying to assess the individuality and responsibility of man; he was not claiming that man is the author of justification. The fact that man preaches the word and calls upon man to repent implies that the hearer does something . . . the Holy Spirit and the word are first active in conversion, but the will of man is not wholly inactive; God draws, but draws him who is willing, for man is not a statue . . . Melanchthon expressed this position in the 1535 Loci, and berated those people who refused to try to live morally on the grounds that, no matter what they did, they were either elected or not . . .

Melanchthon could not accept a secret decree in God that inexorably meant some were saved and others damned . . . In 1558 he declared that "Stoic necessity is a downright lie and a reproach to God," . . . and that man is not a synergistic co-worker with God in conversion, nor does God force a man to accept grace . . . Similar thought appeared in the 1544-45 Loci, which Luther knew about and to which he did not object.

Introduction (Hans Engelland: pp. xxxvii-xl):

He made several statements which, though misunderstood, in any case occasioned the suspicion of synergism, especially in his assertion of the three causes concurrently working together -- the word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the will of man, which agrees with and does not resist the word of God. Yes, . . . the will is free in its ability to conform to grace . . . "that is, it hears the promise and tries to agree and to end its deliberate sinning against conscience." However, Melanchthon is speaking in the first assertion about the three causes which concurrently work together, not of a natural will but of a will that agrees, and he is thinking in the second of one who is already reborn, as a conversation recorded by Jacob Runge shows. Many similar remarks corroborate this. "Trust and joy in the heart are the immediate works of the Holy Spirit." The will is active in conversion "in so far as God has healed it" . . . Any nonresistance of the will results from the inducement of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God works during and after the conversion, and so the will is not active; it remains purely passive . . . "God effects much wonderful enlightenment and activity in conversion and throughout the lives of saints, which the human will only accepts, in which it is not a co-worker but holds its own passively . . . "

These and similar assertions make it appear questionable that Melanchthon really advocates a form of synergism when he speaks of the activity of the will. The assertions in which he speaks unqualifiedly and mistakenly are to be understood in accordance with the context in which he stood . . . he energetically rejects the misunderstanding that the Holy Spirit deals with man as with a statue, a piece of wood, or a stone . . . faith in one dimension appears to be the decision of the Holy Spirit, and in the other dimension, the decision of man. But in Melanchthon's speeches about the activity of man still another motive appears. Many assertions have a pastoral character; he intends them to help in time of despondency and resignation, to assist in a resolution unto faith. "I cannot, you say. On the contrary, you can, in a certain manner. When the voice of the gospel rises in you, then ask God for help and comfort yourself that the Holy Spirit is active in this, that in this way God wants to convert. In view of his promises we should make an effort, call on him, and struggle against our mistrust and other destructive emotions."

A second question is whether Melanchthon later gave up the unity of justification and sanctification, which he originally taught when he joined Luther, thereby separating regeneratio from iustificatio itself as a mere imputatio of the aliena iustitia Christi, as mere forgiveness of sins . . . That basically he did not separate sanctification from justification is plain from the manner in which he speaks of Christ's mission . . .

. . . The new obedience must begin "because we are justified and our sins are annulled, and with that the new and eternal life actually begins in us, which is a new light and obedience toward God." However, sanctification is not only the goal of justification but also its content. "Justification itself always brings new life and obedience with it," and "the beginning of renewal always happens at the same time as justification." Those who believe in the gospel "are justified, that is, through the Son and for the sake of the Son are received in faith and through him by virtue of the Holy Spirit are sanctified to eternal life" . . .

Melanchthon, therefore, stands theologically nearer to Luther than the traditional view indicates. The important theological deficiencies of the time following Melanchthon are more the responsibility of students who fragmented what he had fused.

Philip Melanchthon: Loci communes, final 1555 edition:

Of Human Strength and Free Will, pp. 57-61, 63, 65-66:

No man by his natural power can take away death and the inborn evil tendency of his nature. Only the Son of God can do this . . . Man has no power to accomplish this. Further, it is also certainly true that no man can merit forgiveness of sins, as is clearly indicated in Titus 3:5, "Not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, he saved us."

. . . we still do not have enough power to keep God's law; we cannot begin inward obedience in our hearts without divine help and without the Holy Spirit.

We should be warned and with great earnestness repudiate the lies and blasphemy of Pelagius, who taught that man in his own natural strength can fulfill the law, merit forgiveness of sins, be righteous before God, and merit eternal life.

Without this activity of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, there is no true faith and comfort and love to God.

We should not think that a man is a piece of wood or a stone, but as we hear the word of God, in which punishment and comfort are put forth, we should neither despise nor resist it.

Chrysostom says that God draws man. However, he draws the one who is willing, not the one who resists.

[sources in footnote: Homilies on St. John, 5 (St. John 1:3-5), 10 (St. John 1:11-13), 45 (St. John 6:28-40), 46 (St. John 6:41-53); Homilies on First Corinthians, 2 (1 Cor. 1:4-5).]

And Basil says that God comes first toward us, but nevertheless that we should also will that he come to us.

In those who have turned to God regeneration has begun, and after that heart and will are active. The Holy Spirit is not a lazy being; he kindles light and fire in the soul and heart in such a manner tat the soul and heart also possess a better knowledge of God and an initial love and longing for him . . .

. . . divine grace and help move men to good works, but nevertheless so that the will follows and does not resist.

. . . we should not extend this passage [Ecclesiasticus 15:14], as the Pelagians and monks do, to mean that man can fulfill God's law by their own natural powers, without divine activity within. The Pelagian meaning is contrary to the whole of divine teaching . . .

. . . all sayings about the obedience which is pleasing to God must include the grace of Christ.

. . . Pelagius and similar Pharisaical teachers . . . who have spoken in the same heathenish way, saying that we can entirely keep God's law in our hearts and in exsternal works, without the aid of the Holy Spirit. In other words, they are saying that man can merit forgiveness of sins with such works. These lies and blasphemies should be known, condemned, and execrated.

Thus it is seen that Philip Melanchthon (even in "later years") is no semi-Pelagian. His soteriology is, rather, Arminian.

I conclude the following four things:

1. I don't see how the Formula of Concord and Melanchthon's views in Loci (1555) are all that different. I think it is mostly a discussion of semantics concerning one of the most difficult things for anyone to understand (free will and God's sovereignty).

2. To the extent that they are different at all, I think Melanchthon's views (on predestination and election) are superior to those of Concord.

3. I see both views as slightly different brands of Arminianism.

4. Melanchthon's views are not semi-Pelagian. To think that they are is an exercise, I think, of "either/or" thinking, which does not adequately take into consideration biblical paradox and divine mysteries.


The following is one of two documents held by the Remonstrants (Arminians) as a statement of their faith in response to "reformed" teaching. This document has been condemned as heresy by the reformed churches at the Synod of Dordt, 1618-1619.

The Remonstrant Opinions

Only with difficulty did the Synod obtain from the Remonstrants, who had been charged by the political authorities to appear before the synod, a statement of their convictions on the points in dispute. After appearing a day later than scheduled and holding conferences among themselves, they presented their opinions on the first article at the 31st session, on December 13, and on the other articles at the 34th session, on December 17. The Sententiae are essential to a proper understanding and evaluation of the Canons, since at many points the latter are so phrased as to show clearly wherein the synod was convinced that the Remonstrants erred.

The Latin Edition of this material can be found in Acta Synodi Nationalis, pp. 113, 116-118; in Bakhuizen vanden Brink: De Nederlandsche Belijdenisgesschriften, pp. 283-288; and the Dutch edition in Acta ofte Handelinghen des Nationalen Synodi (ed. Canin, 1621), pp. 138-139; 152-158. For the translation provided here we are indebted to Dr. Anthony A. Hoekema, professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary.

A. The Opinion of the Remonstrants regarding the first article, dealing with the decree of Predestination.

1. God has not decided to elect anyone to eternal life, or to reject anyone from the same, prior to the decree to create him, without any consideration of preceding obedience or disobedience, according to His good pleasure, for the demonstration of the glory of His mercy and justice, or of His absolute power and dominion.

2. Since the decree of God concerning both the salvation and perdition of each man is not a decree of the end absolutely intended, it follows that neither are such means subordinated to that same decree by which the elect and the reprobate are efficaciously and inevitably led to their final destination.

3. Therefore God has not with this plan created in the one Adam all men in a state of rectitude, has not ordained the fall and the permission of it, has not withdrawn from Adam the grace which was necessary and sufficient, has not brought it about that the Gospel is preached and that men are externally called, does not confer on them any gifts of the Holy Spirit by means of which he leads some of them to life, but deprives others of the benefit of life, Christ, the Mediator, I not solely the executor of election, but also the foundation of that same decree of election: the reason why some are efficaciously called, justified, persevere in faith, and are glorified is not that they have been absolutely elected to eternal life. That others are left in the fall, that Christ is not given to them, that they are either not called at all or not efficaciously called � these are not the reasons why they are absolutely rejected from eternal salvation.

4. God has not decreed to leave the greatest part of men in the fall, excluded from every hope of salvation, apart from intervening actual sins.

5. God has ordained that Christ should be a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and by virtue of that decree He has determined to justify and to save those who believe in Him, and to provide for men means necessary and sufficient for faith in such a way as He knows to be in harmony with His wisdom and justice. But He has by no means determined, by virtue of an absolute decree, to give Christ the Mediator solely to the elect, and through an efficacious calling to bestow faith upon, justify, preserve in the faith and glorify them alone.

6. No one is rejected from life nor from the means sufficient for it by an absolute antecedent decree,, so that the merit of Christ, calling, and all the gifts of the Spirit can be profitable to salvation for all, and truly are, unless they themselves by the abuse of these gifts pervert them to their own perdition; but to unbelief, to impiety, and to sins, a means and causes of damnation, no one is predestined.

7. The election of particular persons is decisive, out of consideration of faith in Jesus Christ and of perseverance; not, however, apart from a consideration of faith and perseverance in the true faith, as a condition prerequisite for electing.

8. Rejection from eternal life is made on the basis of a consideration of antecedent unbelief and perseverance in unbelief; not, however, apart from a consideration of antecedent unbelief and perseverance in unbelief.

9. All the children of believers are sanctified in Christ, so that no one of them who leaves this life before the use of reason will perish. By no means, however, are to be considered among the number of the reprobate certain children of believers who leave this life in infancy before they have committed any actual sin in their own persons, so that neither the holy bath of baptism nor the prayers of the church for them in any way be profitable for their salvation.

10. No children of believers who have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, living in the state of infancy, are reckoned among the reprobate by an absolute decree.

B. The Opinion of the Remonstrants regarding the second article, which deals with the universality of the merit of the death of Christ.

The price of redemption which Christ offered to God the Father is not only in itself and by itself sufficient for the redemption of the whole human race but has also been paid for all men and for every man, according to the decree, will, and the grace of God the Father; therefore no one is absolutely excluded from participation in the fruits of Christ�s death by an absolute and antecedent decree of God.
Christ has, by the merit of his death, so reconciled God the Father to the whole human race that the Father, on account of that merit, without giving up His righteousness and truth, has been able and has willed to make and confirm a new covenant of grace with sinners and men liable to damnation.

Though Christ has merited reconciliation with God and remission of sins for all men and for every man, yet no one, according to the pact of the new and gracious covenant, becomes a true partaker of the benefits obtained by the death of Christ in any other way than by faith; nor are sins forgiven to sinning men before they actually and truly believe in Christ.

Only those are obliged to believe that Christ died for them for whom Christ has died. The reprobates, however, as they are called, for whom Christ has not died, ore not obligated to such faith, nor can they be justly condemned on account of the contrary refusal to believe this. In fact, if there should be such reprobates, they would be obliged to believe that Christ has not died for them.

C. The Opinion of the Remonstrants regarding the third and fourth articles, concerning the grace of God and the conversion of man.

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 (which would indeed to be saving good, the most prominent of which is saving faith). It is necessary therefore that by God in Christ through His Holy Spirit he be regenerated and renewed in intellect, affections, will, and in all his powers, so that he might be able to understand, reflect upon, will and carry out the good things which pertain to salvation.

We hold, however, that the grace of God is not only the beginning but also the progression and the completion of every good, so much so that even the regenerate himself is unable to think, will, or do the good, or to resist any temptations to evil, apart from that preceding or prevenient, awakening, following and cooperating grace. Hence all good works and actions which anyone by cogitation is able to comprehend are to be ascribed to the grace of God.

Yet we do not believe that all zeal, care, and diligence applied to the obtaining of salvation before faith itself and the Spirit of renewal are vain and ineffectual � indeed, rather harmful to man than useful and fruitful. On the contrary, we hold that to hear the Word of God, to be sorry for sins committed, to desire saving grace and the Spirit of renewal (none of which things man is able to do without grace) are not only not harmful and useless, but rather most useful and most necessary for the obtaining of faith and of the Spirit of renewal.

The will in the fallen state, before calling, does not have the power and the freedom to will any saving good. And therefore we deny that the freedom to will saving good as well as evil is present to the will in every state.

The efficacious grace by which anyone is converted is not irresistible; and though God so influences the will by the word and the internal operation of His Spirit that he both confers the strength to believe or supernatural powers, and actually causes man to believe � yet man is able of himself to despise that grace and not to believe, and therefore to perish through his own fault.

Although according to the most free will of God the disparity of divine grace is very great, nevertheless, the Holy Spirit confers, or is ready to confer, as much grace to all men and to each man to whom the Word of God is preached as is sufficient for promoting the conversion of men in its steps. Therefore sufficient grace for faith and conversion falls to the lot not only of those whom God is said to will to save according to the decree of absolute election, but also of those who are not actually converted.

Man is able through the grace of the Holy Spirit to do more good than he actually does, and to avoid more evil than he actually avoids; and we do not believe that God simply does not will that man should do more good than he does and avoid more evil than he does avoid, and that God has decreed precisely from eternity that both should so happen.

Whomever God calls to salvation, he calls seriously, that is, with a sincere and completely unhypocritical intention and will to save; nor do we assent to the opinion of those who hold that God calls certain ones externally whom He does not will to call internally, that is, as truly converted, even before the grace of calling has been rejected.

There is not in God a secret will which so contradicts the will of the same revealed in the Word that according to it (that is, the secret will) He does not will the conversion and salvation of the greatest part of those whom He seriously calls and invites by the Word of the Gospel and by His revealed will; and we do not here, as some say, acknowledge in God a holy simulation, or a double person.

Nor do we believe that God calls the reprobate, as they are called, to these ends: that He should the more harden them, or take away excuse, or punish them the more severely, or display their inability; nor, however, that they should be converted, should believe, and should be saved.

It is not true that all things, not only good but also bad, necessarily occur, from the power and efficacy of the secret will or decree of God, and that indeed those who sin, out of consideration of the decree of God, are not able to sin; that God wills to determine and to bring about the sins of men, their insane, foolish, and cruel works, and the sacrilegious blasphemy of His name � in fact, to move the tongues of men to blasphemy, and so on.

To us the following is false and horrible: that God impels men to sins which He openly prohibits; that those who sin do not act contrary to the will of God properly named; that what is unrighteous (that is, what is contrary to the will of God properly named; that what is unrighteous (that is, what is contrary to His precept) is in agreement with the will of God; indeed, that it is truly a capital crime to do the will of God.

D. The Opinion of the Remonstrants with respect to the fifth article, which concerns Perseverance.

The perseverance of believers in the faith is not an effect of the absolute decree by which God is said to have chosen singular persons defined by no condition of obedience.

God provides true believers with as much grace and supernatural powers as He judges, according to His infinite wisdom, to be sufficient for persevering and for overcoming the temptations of the devil, the flesh, and the world; it is never charged to God�s account that they do not persevere.

True believers call fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently.

True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish. Nevertheless we do not believe that true believers, though they may sometimes fall into grave sins which are vexing to their consciences, immediately fall out of every hope of repentance; but we acknowledge that it can happen that God, according to the multitude of His mercies, may recall them through His grace to repentance; in fact, we believe that this happens not infrequently, although we cannot be persuaded that this will certainly and indubitably happen.

The following dogmas, therefore, which by public writings are being scattered among the people, we reject with our whole mind and heart as harmful to piety and good morals: namely, 1) True believers are not able to sin deliberately, but only out of ignorance and weakness. 2) True believers through no sins can fall out of the grace of God. 3) A thousand sins, even all the sins of the whole world, are not able to render election invalid. 4) To believers and to the elect no sins, however great and grave they can be, are imputed; but all present and future sins have already been remitted. 5) True believers, having fallen into destructive heresies, into grave and most atrocious sins, like adultery and homicide, on account of which the church, after the justification of Christ, is compelled to testify that it is not able to tolerate them in its external communion and that they will have no part in the kingdom of Christ unless they are converted, nevertheless are not able to fall from faith totally and finally.

A true believer, as for the present time he can be certain about his faith and the integrity of his conscience, and thus also concerning his salvation and the saving benevolence of God toward him, for that time can be and ought to be certain; and on this point we reject the pontifical opinion.

A true believer can and ought indeed to be certain for the future that he is able, by diligent watchfulness, through prayers, and through other holy exercises, to persevere in true faith, and he ought also to be certain that divine grace for persevering will never be lacking; but we do not see how he can be certain that he will never afterwards be remiss in his duty but that he will persevere in faith and in those works of piety and love which are fitting for a believer in this school of Christian warfare; neither do we deem it necessary that concerning this thing a believer should be certain.

(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.)

In commenting on the following remarks of yours, I think I can illustrate exactly what I see as the semantic problem in this discussion:

I have read the Remonstrance. It is not as bad as Calvinists make it out to be,

One of my concerns as a Catholic and sometimes "generic Christian" apologist is the tendency of people to exaggerate, misunderstand, or distort the claims of their opponents. Calvinists are notorious for doing this to Arminians, and in turn, Lutherans or Wesleyans often distort the claims of Calvin and Calvinists.

Within Lutheranism, it looks like there is some distortion going on with regard to Melanchthon as well (and no doubt, the "Philippists" or "Melanchthonians" also fall prey to the same tendency of human nature). I'm interested in truth in theological matters and in finding as much common ground as possible, without anyone having to give up cherished distinctives. That is the ecumenist in me.

. . . but not Lutheran either, especially on election. And the statements on conversion leave room for ambiguity on [whether] God's grace makes man able to believe yet [also able to] resist.

I don't understand what the difficulty is if one believes that man can fall away from faith later on, after regeneration or justification. Of course, God's grace makes men able to believe, and their own free will gives them the ability to resist and sin and fall away.

That is what I meant when I said Lutherans don't play by either Calvinist or Arminian rules. We would reject freewill. Period.

But you don't reject free will because you deny predestination of the damned and accept universal atonement and the possibility of falling away from grace. All of that involves free will. If it didn't, then you should be consistent and adopt TULIP and Calvinism, which is internally consistent but ethically questionable and contrary to human self-understanding,experience, and Scripture.

Freewill if it means man can decide for or against grace, once grace is given.

Concord says men can reject grace. I don't get it . . .

. . . But if freewill means man can choose to refrain from resistance, then that is a big no no, for Lutherans, as well as Calvinists.

In what practical sense is "refraining from resistance" any different from "being enabled to will and follow by God's grace"? This isn't biblical language; it's just men weakly trying to explain some of the deepest mysteries in theology.

If the view is [that] man can resist but converts, where NO REFRAINING FROM RESISTANCE is involved, then I agree. But if it means man converts because he refrains from conversion, then Lutherans would object and see it as synergism, as I pointed out from [the] book of Concord.

I think this is just playing around with words. I know you don't mean it that way, but I don't see much difference between the two scenarios. In both views, God's grace is the cause of conversion.

But Lutherans would see any statement saying God's grace allows man to choose to resist or refrain from resistance as saying God's grace is [a] cause but NOT [the] sole cause of conversion.

It remains the sole cause because it causes the will to cooperate. The will is initially passive and only made active by grace. So I fail to see how the will is then a "cause." This is what Melanchthon meant, as shown. The will cooperates, it does not cause any of this. Grace is always the cause. So I see this as much ado about nothing. It's based on misunderstanding and inability to accept biblical paradox and mystery, and unnecessarily dichotomizing, "either/or" thought.

Lutherans definitely reject the idea of refraining from resistance as cause or one of causes of conversion.

But no one is saying it is a cause . . .

Arminians say [that] if one holds to no refraining from resistance as cause of conversion, then that must mean grace is given to [the] elect. Calvinists say if grace is for all and can be resisted, it must mean [that] man can choose for God as well with God's grace. Lutherans would reject both. We don't go beyond Scripture.

No, you contradict Scripture and you go beyond reason, as this is an unreasonable and incoherent (at least how you present it: I am assuming you are accurately representing Lutheranism).

And as documented, the book of Concord would utterly reject election conditional on our faith.

But Arminianism is not election conditional on our faith because God causes the faith! If God makes a decision on election based on His foreknowledge of who will positively respond to His grace and who will not (as in my own Molinist position), that still does not mean that any cause is located in man. The cause still lies entirely with God. It's not a question of God's cause vs. man's cause. It's all God.

[The Book of Concord also] reject[s] the following:

1) God's grace is on the willing (which can mean semi-Pelagian[ism], if intent is to say man is able to be willing before grace comes and only needs grace to enable him to make that decision to come . . .

I think this is logically confused again. What sense does it make to say that man is willing before grace, but needs grace to make the decision? He either needs grace to make the decision or he does not. If he needs it, grace is the cause and man cannot take the first steps at all (as in Arminianism, Calvinism, and Catholicism alike: all are sola gratia positions, much as Calvinists vigorously and wrongheadedly protest that).

Lutherans are "logically confused." We simply refuse to follow either Calvinist or Arminian logic to [their] conclusion[s].

There's no such thing as "Calvinist or Arminian logic." There is only logic (and Scripture). Just like Luther said: Scripture and plain reason" (I guess that was the sort of reason that wasn't the "devil's whore").

We simply say if conversion takes place, it is zero to do with anything man does, not even refraining from resistance to grace. If resistance takes place, it is because man is already resisting apart from grace. And his resistance . . . shows man has no freewill at all to refrain from resistance.

If man is free enough to later resist grace, then he can resist it initially. And he can also cooperate with it, by God's grace.

But Lutherans still would not allow for man to take ANY step once grace is given towards conversion. ZIPPO.

So what happens? Man goes into a coma, and then goes to heaven when he dies, since he does not take "ANY" step, "ZIPPO"? Sounds like irresistible grace / irresistible coma or robot-state to me.

If he doesn't need grace to initiate the process, then it is Semi-Pelagianism or Pelagianism, according to definition:

[Semi-Pelagianism], while not denying the necessity of Grace for salvation, maintained that the first steps towards the Christian life were ordinarily taken by the human will and that Grace supervened only later.

(Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F.L. Cross, Oxford Univ. Press, rev. 1983, 1258)

The Encyclopedia Britannica (1985 ed., vol. 10, 625) states:

The result of Semi-Pelagianism, however, was the denial of the necessity of God's unmerited, supernatural, gracious empowering of man's will for saving action . . . From [529] . . . Semi-Pelagianism was recognized as a heresy in the Roman Catholic Church.

or can mean Arminianism, where man cannot will to come, unless grace is given and once grace is given it can only operate only on those willing, for conversion),

In Pelagianism, man take the first steps towards salvation and regeneration and justification. In Arminianism, he does not.

2) that there are three causes of conversion: word, Spirit, and will of man (Lutherans hold only [the] first two causes, not [the] last cause, which is classical Melanchthon[ian] language later on).

Again, all depends on where human free will is placed relative to God's grace. Arminians, Catholics, and Melanchthon (as far as I can tell) all make God's grace the cause of the initial decision of man to receive the grace, or to cooperate with grace. So grace is the cause, not man's will. And this is Melanchthon's meaning, for he writes:

No man by his natural power can take away death and the inborn evil tendency of his nature. Only the Son of God can do this . . .


. . . we cannot begin inward obedience in our hearts without divine help and without the Holy Spirit.

Melanchthon scholar Hans Engelland clarified this:

Yes, . . . [for Melanchthon] the will is free in its ability to conform to grace . . . However, Melanchthon is speaking in the first assertion about the three causes which concurrently work together, not of a natural will but of a will that agrees, and he is thinking in the second of one who is already reborn, as a conversation recorded by Jacob Runge shows. Many similar remarks corroborate this. "Trust and joy in the heart are the immediate works of the Holy Spirit." The will is active in conversion "in so far as God has healed it" . . . Any nonresistance of the will results from the inducement of the Holy Spirit.

It's not as if the will is autonomous. The Holy Spirit first enables it and then it cooperates. I fail to see how that is logically and metaphysically any different even from God activating a "stone" and enabling it to cooperate. If cooperation is impossible but for God's grace and enabling power, then there is no synergism in conversion. Period. It's a distinction without a difference. In Semi-Pelagianism, on the other hand, man can make the first move without the Holy Spirit. That is rank heresy. But it is not Melanchthon's error, nor Arminian, nor Catholic (once all are accurately understood in what they assert and in what they deny).

But Lutherans would see cooperation towards conversion, even if grace precedes it, as synergism, granted the smallest amount of synergism. But still synergism to us. I see you object to that.

I do. It makes no sense, because you agree that man cooperates after regeneration, and that is basically what we are saying, and what Melanchthon taught, as shown. It's all semantics again.

Lutherans reject freewill plus God's sovereignty in paradox, period.

I don't see that you do, because you are not Calvinists. Calvinists are the ones who reject free will, and do it consistently. Grace is always the cause. Free will merely cooperates, entirely enabled by grace. This is the biblical position, and it solves the dilemma which really isn't one.

Lutherans have as much in common with Arminians on freewill in relations to once grace is given as Calvinists on Christ dying for the elect.

Then you should stop saying you reject free will, as this is what we are talking about: the will, post-grace. Before that it can do nothing good whatsoever.

We saw this denial of initial synergy or autonomy in the will of man to do good or seek God, also in the Arminian statements you cited:

C. It is necessary therefore that by God in Christ through His Holy Spirit he be regenerated and renewed in intellect, affections, will, and in all his powers, so that he might be able to understand, reflect upon, will and carry out the good things which pertain to salvation . . . even the regenerate himself is unable to think, will, or do the good, or to resist any temptations to evil, apart from that preceding or prevenient, awakening, following and cooperating grace.

Therefore, I continue to maintain that the difference in soteriology and predestination of the elect, between the Lutheran factions and between Lutherans and Arminians are quite minor, mostly semantical, and laced with unhelpful misunderstandings. The real differences are those between "free will + God's sovereignty held in paradox" advocates (Arminians, Wesleyans, Thomist and Molinist Catholics, confessional Lutherans, Melanchthonians, and Orthodox) and Calvinists with their views on TULIP and double predestination, on the one hand, and Semi-Pelagians and Pelagians with their heretical notion of works-salvation and denial of original sin and its effects, on the other.

On whether grace is resistible or not, Lutherans would side with the Arminians against the Calvinists. As well as on if grace is for all or not the same way.

This is where I see an internal inconsistency. If you hold to "utter depravity" it seems to me that you must also hold irresistible grace. If God does absolutely all with no cooperation whatever (not even in the sense of a cooperative will fully enabled by divine grace), then free will is denied, and the Calvinist TULIP appears to be the only internally-consistent, coherent solution (i.e., given those premises). In other words, trying to reach an amalgam between the two viewpoints does not work. If one can fall away from grace later, then they can resist it initially and retain a measure of free will. This is why I have concluded after studying this, that Melanchthon is more internally-consistent than confessional Lutheranism.

On whether conversion occurs because man refrains from resistance to grace or not, Lutherans would side with the Calvinists against Arminians (including Melanchthon).

More internal inconsistency or mere semantics with no practical difference from Melanchthon . . .

On if grace makes the unwilling to become willing, Lutherans and Calvinists would define that view of conversion the same way.

But so, too, would Arminians and Catholics, as this entails the sola gratia common to all these viewpoints.

On whether Christ died for all or not, Lutherans would agree with Arminians against Calvinists.

And with Catholics and Orthodox and Scripture.

On the issue of perseverance, Lutherans and Calvinists would agree that the reason for that as well as conversion joined to it, is because God decreed that the elect would both convert and persevere.

Virtually all Christians agree on this as well. Of course the elect will persevere, because that is involved in the very definition of the word: "elect" are those who end up in heaven!

So both Luts and Cals would agree that election is cause of both conversion and perseverance and would reject the idea of election being contigent on either one.

But this causes a contradiction with the Lutheran view that some converted people can later fall away. If they fall away (and never repent) they are not of the elect; therefore, you can't say that all conversion is caused by election. The elect are a smaller class than the converted, because some converted can fall away later. So the Calvinist view is again more consistent and coherent (though I reject it because I deny its premises).

Lutherans would agree with Calvinists that some form of cooperation takes place where man does do good with God's help after conversion.

And with Arminians and Catholics and Orthodox . . . we cooperate with the grace that is the sole cause of our sanctification.

On each of the last three points, Lutherans would look Arminians in some extent (like resistible/universal grace, apostasy, universal atonement) and would look Calvinists at others (perseverance of the elect, conversion and perseverance because God predestined them to, conversion has man as passive the whole time, no refraining from resistance to grace).

To say that God predestines the elect and that some fall away from salvation or grace are not contradictory assertions. This is simply to deny irresistible grace. Grace is given to some men who in fact resist it. Those who resist are not of the elect, by definition.

I still say you are Arminian, but a brand which is more internally-inconsistent than other brands. I don't think the mixture of systems that Lutherans are attempting to pull off, succeeds. Luther was more consistent (but more wrong), as are Calvinists. The other internally-consistent option is Arminianism or Catholicism (either Thomism or Molinism).

Ultimately, [Lutheranism is its] own theological system. [We] see both Calvinists and Arminians trying to make Scriptures "consistent" at the expense of just letting Scriptures say it like it is!

And we respond by saying that the Bible is consistent, because it does not contradict itself (as it is all truth and no falsehood), but it contains paradox (which is different from contradiction). One need not chuck reason at the altar of revelation. There is no need to, as all truth is God's truth.

This was a great discussion. Thanks! I think it proves once again that Protestants and Catholics can dialogue and learn quite a bit from each other (I've learned a lot, for which I am grateful). So I appreciate the opportunity, and commend you. I also respect your firm commitment to a Christian denominational standard, which is all too rare in this age of "non-denominationalism" and doctrinal relativism or "minimalism." I'll take a man who takes a stand for a position and defends it, any day over one who doesn't care what position he holds and thinks all equally plausible or permissible.

Uploaded by Dave Armstrong on 16 June 2003.

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