20
Jan
13

Arminian Presupposition # 9 Refuted

Arminian Proposition #9–Some sinners are, by nature, worse than others.

As is clear from the statements Arminians make, they believe some sinners are, by nature, worse than others. One hears them speak of “really bad sinners,” as if there were some other kind. The whole idea that all are granted equal grace, but some respond favorably and others unfavorably implies some virtue and malleability in the former and recalcitrance in the latter. Though the original Arminians seemed much closer to biblical truth that those of our day, they stated in the first Article of the Remonstrance, “. . . .God has determined. . .to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath.” From my reading of Scripture, I had the impression that all sinners are by nature incorrigible and unbelieving.

It seems the issue at hand, then, is whether or not all are, by nature, incorrigible and unbelieving. I want to be clear I am not suggesting all act as badly as they are capable of acting or even as badly as others around them are acting. Additionally, I am not suggesting sinners cannot perform actions that are good and laudable in the sight of others. Some sinners live moral and upright lives. The apostle Paul was able to claim, under divine inspiration, that “as to righteousness under the Law, [he was] blameless” (Phil. 3:6). That does not mean, of course, that he was inwardly conformed to the righteous requirements of the Law. It simply means that from outward observation, no one was able to lay anything to his charge.

The argument I am making is that all sinners are the same by nature and by birth. Among the many errors in the reasoning of the Pharisee who accompanied the tax collector to the temple to pray, perhaps the greatest is seen in his statement, “I thank you that I am not as other men. . . .” (Luke 18:11). He clearly erred in making a difference [in terms of sinful nature] between himself and the tax collector.

It is a humbling matter to understand we are, at heart, no different from the vilest sinner who ever lived. If we have not acted as badly as we could have, it is owing completely to the restraining grace of God. When the apostle Paul described God’s work as the sovereign potter, he spoke of both vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor as originating from the same lump of clay. “Of the same lump, he has made one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor” (Rom. 9:21). Additionally, he describes the pre-conversion experience of believers in Ephesus as follows, “we. . . .were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3). That phrase “like the rest of mankind,” is an important one. It tells us not only that we owe all we have and any differences that might exist between us and unbelievers to the sovereign and distinguishing grace of God. It also teaches us that every individual who exists is, by nature, exactly like every other individual that exists. We are all by nature children of wrath.

Paul makes it quite clear in his indictment of the human race that there is no difference [that is between Jew and Gentile], because “all sinned and are falling short of the glory of God” Rom. 3:23).

It is on this basis we believe Christ’s redemptive work, though designed to effectually redeem the elect and them only, is abundantly sufficient for the redemption of all if they would but trust God’s promises. Since all are equally sinners by nature and guilty before God, in accomplishing what one sinner needed to reconcile him to God, Jesus accomplished what every sinner needed. Since that redemptive work is infinitely valuable, it is abundantly sufficient to redeem all mankind.

When Paul instructs the Ephesians in proper conduct as believers, he does not write “You must not conduct yourselves as some of those really bad Gentiles do.” He describes them all as living in the same way. “You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do. . . .” (Eph. 4:17). In this passage, he provides an excellent description of what we mean by the term “total depravity.” Every facet of the sinner’s personality has been radically affected by sin. The intellect has been affected–“in the futility of their minds, they are darkened in their understanding” (17b-18a). The emotions have been affected–“alienated from the life of God [spiritually dead] because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous,” (18b-19a). The will has been affected–“They have given themselves up. . . .” (19b). This is an act of the will.

When we argue that sinners have no “free will,” we do not mean they are not at liberty to choose whatever they wish. Instead, we mean, by sinful nature, we are not free to choose what we ought to choose because sin has alienated us from God.

Unless we believe King David was an exception to the rule, we are all brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin (See Psa. 51:5). We are all born with the same sinful nature. We do not need instruction in iniquity. It is not bad example that causes our waywardness. As it is the nature of sheep to wander out of the way, it is our nature to seek our way as opposed to God’s way–“ALL we like sheep [because it is our nature to do so], have gone astray. Every one of us [there are no exceptions] has turned to his own way. . . .” (Isa. 53:6).

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1 Response to “Arminian Presupposition # 9 Refuted”


  1. January 20, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Yup – this natural inclination to think man inherently good is why the doctrine of Total or Radical Depravity is essential. We think too highly of ourselves and must be shown from Scripture the Truth of how bad we truly are. Soli Deo Gloria!


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