An Illustration of Arminianism

When we who are Reformed Christians talk about Arminianism we have to be careful not to set up straw men or be misleading when we explain it.  Telling the truth is, of course, what the 9th commandment is all about.  This is one reason I purchased Why I Am Not A Calvinist by Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell.  I realize that there are different groups within the Arminian camp, and I realize that there is more to Walls and Dongell’s argument than the following illustration.  But it is a good basic illustration that explains Arminian soteriology (partial depravity, unlimited atonement, resistible grace).

“The classical Arminian believes that God steals into the prison and makes it to the bedside of the victim.  God injects a serum that begins to clear the prisoner’s mind of delusions and quell her hostile reactions.  God removes the gag from the prisoner’s mouth and shines a flashlight around the pitch-black room.  The prisoner remains mute as the Rescuer’s voice whispers, ‘Do you know where you are?  Let me tell you!  Do you know who you are?  Let me show you!’

“And as the wooing begins, divine truth begins to dawn on the prisoner’s heart and mind; the Savior holds up a small mirror to show the prisoner her sunken eyes and frail body.  ‘Do you see what they’ve done to you, and do you see how you’ve given yourself to them?’  Even in the dim light, the prisoner’s weakened eyes are beginning to focus.  The Rescuer continues, ‘Do you know who I am, and that I want you for  myself?’  Perhaps the prisoner makes no obvious advance but does not turn away.  The questions keep coming: ‘Can I show you pictures of who you once were and the wondrous plans I have for you in the years to come?’”

“The prisoner’s heartbeat quickens as the Savior presses on: ‘I know that part of you suspects that I have come to harm you.  But let me show you something – my hands, they’re a bit bloody.  I crawled through an awful tangle of barbed wire to get to you.’  Now here in this newly created sacred space, in this moment of new possibility, the Savior whispers, ‘I want to carry you out of here right now!  Give me your heart!  Trust me!”

“This scenario, we believe, captures the richness of the Bible’s message: the glory of God’s original creation, the devastation of sin, God’s loving pursuit of helpless sinners and the nature of love as the free assent of persons.  Here also is room for tragedy, for the inexplicable (but possible) rejection of God’s tender invitation by those who really know better and who might have done otherwise.  Sin shows up in its boldest colors when it recapitulates the rebellion of Eden and freely chooses to go its own way in the face of divine love and full provision.  The tragedy of such rejection is the risk God took in making possible shared love between creature and Creator, the very love shared between the Father and the eternal Son (Jn 17:23-26).”

Even though I very much disagree with this illustration, it is a clear and simple picture of Arminian soteriology from the pens of those who hold these views.

Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell, Why I am Not A Calvinist, p. 69-70.

shane lems
hammond wi

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5 comments on “An Illustration of Arminianism

  1. glane8029 says:

    It is amazing the desperation that man will go to reject the true Gospel. In their explanation, they describe a soul that is on life support, not as Ephesians 2:1 describes the soul as dead. Also the absence of the Holy Spirit noted an His operation in a soul being saved. So God the Father crushed His Son (Isaiah 53:10) and put Him to grief, all in Hopes that a soul on life-support, will except His offer. Nothing much said about a sinner being without hope. Jesus isn’t even mentioned just implied. I can’t believe I used to believe this hogwash. But as I have told many Armenian’s I can’t make you believe the “Doctrines of Grace’ only God can open up their eyes to the truth.

  2. Lon says:

    Wow, that illustration was so sentimental that I had to force myself to keep reading it. In this illustration, the savior is certainly noble, courageous, and compassionate. But he is merely, and only that. Not divine. Not divinely powerful. Not the one who weeps and then cries out, “COME FORTH!”

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