The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Protestant Reformation, Arminianism, And The Doctrines Of Grace



By: Thomas Clayton Booher

The Protestant Reformation and the Doctrine of Justification
Our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), has its theological roots in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, which essentially began when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses (points of dispute) on the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. It was common to post such notices for public viewing. Luther’s theses were directed primarily against the Church’s practice to sell indulgences for the dead. An indulgence, it was said, satisfied the temporary punishment of purgatory[1] so that a departed loved one could be released and enter the glory of heaven.
The sale of indulgences was actually a scheme to fill the coffers of the church to fund lavish building projects. Pope Leo X (1475-1521) needed money to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Pope made John Tetzel the commissioner of indulgences for Germany. Tetzel’s marketing technique included the slogan, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
With the posting of his theses, Martin Luther lit a fire that spread through Europe, and in a few years time, the Protestant Reformation was in high gear.
But Luther eventually confronted an even deeper problem.
The predominant view of the Roman Catholic Church was that through faith and works one could arrive at a state of being righteous. Luther opposed this. He believed the Bible taught that one is immediately righteous at the moment he savingly believes in Christ. He held that when a person trusts in Jesus Christ to save him from his sins through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God not only forgives that person of all their sins, but God also imputes the righteousness of Christ to him. That means that God places Christ’s righteousness on the believer’s account. Thus, when God looks upon him, He sees him as righteous as Christ is. With Christ’s righteousness having been put to his account, God the Great Judge legally declares the believer righteous, and he is thereby justified (Rom 3:20,26,28; Gal 2:16; Phil 3:9). Justification is both the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us and God’s judicial declaration that we are thereby righteous.
Justification also changes our standing before God. Before justification we are fittingly under his wrath and condemnation. But Paul writes, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” (Rom 5:1) Is there any wonder why we now have peace with God? Why we are nevermore at odds with God and the object of his anger? It is because God no longer looks upon us as vile sinners but as holy, righteous saints, as righteous as Christ is, because it is Christ’s righteousness, not ours, that He sees. Because we are at peace with God, we may “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help,” Heb 4:16 (NET).


The Reformation, Arminianism, and the Doctrines of Grace
Perhaps you have heard of the term, “The Doctrines of Grace.” Theologians[2] use it to describe certain teachings that came out of the Protestant Reformation. With the posting of the ninety-five theses by Martin Luther, the Reformation began as a protest against certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church. It soon escalated to objections over certain Church dogma (official and unquestioned teachings). As the Reformation gained momentum, there arose clergy[3] within its own Protestant ranks whose doctrine (theological teachings) were questionable.
One such churchman was Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). Arminius was a Dutchman whose father died early. He became an orphan at age 15 when  his mother was killed in 1575 in a Spanish massacre of Protestants. He studied theology at the University of Leiden, Netherlands. Arminius was ordained in 1588 and took a pastoral call in Amsterdam. In 1602, an outbreak of plague removed two faculty members from the University of Leiden, and in 1603 Arminius was called to fill one of the vacancies.
While a pastor, Arminius preached several sermons on Paul’s letter to the Romans, in particular, Romans 7 and 8. Through this, he developed ideas that were contrary to the mainstream theology of the Reformation. Eventually, Arminius gained a substantial following.
The Reformation theology that Arminius opposed became known as Calvinism, named after a Frenchman, John Calvin (1509-1564). Calvin was a prominent theologian whose writings and sermons had a far-reaching influence over the theology not only of his day, but also of the present. That includes our own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
Arminius called for a national synod[4]  to convene and resolve the conflicts between his movement and the Calvinists. No such gathering took place, and Arminius died in 1609. His followers published the Five Articles of Remonstrance in 1610 in which Arminius’s teachings were systematically explained.
Nine years after Arminius’s death, the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) examined the Five Articles and condemned Arminius’s teachings. It also responded with what is now famously known as The Five Points of Calvinism. These five points are popularly represented in the acronym, TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints). These five points are also known as the Doctrines of Grace.
Most Methodists today are committed to Arminian theology. Free Will Churches of the ‘Bible Belt’ are also heavily influenced by Arminianism.



[1] Purgatory, according to Roman Catholic teaching (since 1033 AD), is a place of temporary punishment for small sins not fully repented of in this life, though their guilt has been eternally forgiven by God. We hold that it is an unbiblical teaching.
[2] A theologian is a person who has spent years in the formal study of theology, that is, the systematic arrangement and exposition of biblical truth.
[3] Clergy are the pastors and theologians of a religious denomination or movement.
[4] A synod is an official gathering of Church leaders to create church policy and examine theological views.

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