4) The condition unto salvation which God chose is, in the first place, the act of faith, which, according to the Arminians, “from its very nature is undeserving.” Notice that all stress is here laid upon the conscious activity of faith, that is, the act of believing, and that this act of believing, even though admittedly undeserving, is nevertheless conceived of as a meritorious work. With the act of faith, moreover, belongs, in the second place, the “incomplete obedience of faith” as a condition of salvation. Again, notice that the Arminian concedes that the obedience of faith is incomplete, that is, it is not the perfect and complete keeping of the requirements of God’s law. But this incomplete obedience is nevertheless a work, or rather, many works, which man must perform in order to obtain salvation.
5) Finally, the Arminian must still face the fact that Scripture teaches us that salvation is by grace. And so he maintains that the gracious character of salvation lies herein, that God, who might righteously insist upon complete obedience, accepts as substitutes for it the undeserving act of faith and the incomplete obedience thereof, counting the latter worthy of the reward of eternal life.
The above erroneous conception of the Arminians is found guilty on the following counts:
1) It makes the good pleasure of God of none effect. This is quite evident. For the total effect of this presentation of God’s good pleasure is such that it has no power at all, as far as any determination concerning the salvation of men is concerned. The outcome is left entirely to man, who will meet or fail to meet the conditions set forth by God.
2) It makes the merits of Christ of none effect. Also this charge is quite evidently correct, serious though it may be. For while the truth is that the merits of Christ are the sole basis upon which we receive from God the reward of eternal life: the Arminian shunts those merits aside, and replaces them by works of men, namely, the act of faith and the incomplete obedience thereof.
3) It draws men away from the truth of gracious justification by useless questions. The useless questions are, of course, the anxious questionings which this error occasions in the minds and hearts of men as to whether they have met and fulfilled the conditions of salvation. For this view can do naught else than to foster doubt and anxiety and terror in the hearts of men. And its effect, even though it speaks of the obedience of faith as being “incomplete,” is always such that it brings men again under the heavy yoke of the law. Thus men are drawn away from the truth of gracious justification, from the truth that God “without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.” Heidelberg Catechism23, 60. To this we may add that men are drawn away from the truth of gracious justification to a figment of Arminian imagination that is neither gracious (since it substitutes works for grace) nor justification (since it attributes to God a most flagrant violation of all justice, claiming that He will accept as deserving that which is undeserving, and as complete that which is incomplete.)
4) It draws men away from the simplicity of Scripture. In other words, the Arminian presentation is not simple, but involved. And with the simple and clear declarations of the Scriptures this Arminian presentation must needs play “hocus-pocus.” No more clear example of this last charge, nor any clearer substantiation of all the charges here brought against the Arminian view could be found than the Word of God as quoted from II Timothy 1:9: “Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal.”
We close with the comment that all who will maintain a conditional salvation, including those who do so under the Reformed flag must necessarily accept the consequence that they stand condemned and that too on the basis of very serious charges, by the greatest of the Reformed synods and without any question, properly so in the light of Scripture.
Article IV. Who teach: That in the election unto faith this condition is beforehand demanded, viz., that man should use the light of nature aright, be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life, as if on these things election were in any way dependent. For this savors of the teaching of Pelagius, and is opposed to the doctrine, of the apostle, when he writes:, “Among whom we all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest; but God being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus; for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory.”
In this article of the Rejection of Errors we find a continuation of the detailed expose of the Arminian heresy which was treated in general in the first two articles of the Rejection. In Article II the idea of “various kinds of election of God unto eternal life” was condemned. And in Articles III to VI the Canons go into detail concerning this error. In Article III, while it rejects the error of a conditional salvation, the error of what is denoted in II as a “general and indefinite election” is at the same time repudiated. There remains to be treated the erroneous distinction of a particular and definite election which is “either incomplete, revocable, non-decisive and conditional, or complete, irrevocable, decisive and absolute.” And, in close connection with this distinction is that between an election unto faith and an election unto salvation. It is with the very deceitful Arminian teaching of an election unto faith that the present article deals.
Apparently the Arminian is very orthodox when he speaks of an election unto faith. He also will speak of faith as a condition unto salvation. Besides, he teaches that the incomplete and non-decisive election of particular persons to salvation (the election unto salvation mentioned in Article II) takes place because of a foreseen faith. But he attempts to camouflage this heresy by speaking of an election unto faith. Such language has a Reformed sound. For the fathers themselves declare in I, 8, that God “bath chosen us from eternity, both to grace and glory, to salvation and the way of salvation.” And in I, 9, they state literally: “But men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness . . . .” How crafty and deceitful, therefore, is the Arminian. He will freely admit that election isunto faith, and that in this sense faith is not a condition of election.
But he multiplies conditions. He has conditions unto salvation and conditions unto election. And of all the various kinds of election which he invents there is only one that is not conditional. And the one that is not conditional is general and indefinite and impersonal, stipulating the conditions unto salvation which God determined upon in His good pleasure.
Let us briefly analyze this present error. For an error it is. When the Arminian speaks of an election unto faith and you inquire as to his meaning, you discover that there are numerous conditions attached to this election. In fact, so numerous are they that one of two things must be true: either a man will never attain to faith and to the election unto faith, or he will be such a perfect man that he is well-nigh in glory before he attains to this election unto faith. The error, therefore, is not in the idea of an election unto faith, but in making that election separate from the rest of God’s elective decree and in presenting the election unto faith as conditional. And the conditions are indeed imposing! Man must use the light of nature aright. That is, he must employ not what are called the “remnants of natural light” of his own nature aright, but he must use the light of creation, which testifies of God’s eternal power and Godhead, to the end for which God has appointed it, namely to glorify and be thankful unto Him. Further, he must be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life (disposed unto eternal life, literally). Remember: all these are required before a man ever is chosen unto faith, and, therefore, before he ever receives the gift of faith itself.
Here the essence of the Arminian position is exposed: it is nothing but the teaching of Pelagius. For, mark you well, the Arminian is not, in his own opinion, speaking of impossible conditions. In the Arminian view it is, of course, presupposed that these conditions can also be fulfilled: otherwise no one would ever receive the gift of faith. And therefore, one must stand on the same doctrinal ground concerning the creation, nature, and fall of man as the fifth century heretic Pelagius. By implication he must also maintain the Pelagian conception of grace as being merely assistant in character. The fathers do not describe the Pelagian error, undoubtedly because to denote anything as Pelagian is to condemn it ipso facto as being contrary to the Christian religion, and, especially, to the Reformed truth. To show how correct the fathers were in this accusation we can do no better than to quote from Pelagius himself. He wrote: “The heathen are liable to judgment and damnation, because they, notwithstanding their free will, by which they are able to attain unto faith and to deserve God’s grace, make an evil use of the freedom bestowed upon them; Christians, on the other hand are worthy of reward, because they through good use of freedom deserve the grace of God, and keep his commandments.” The similarity between this one statement of Pelagius and the error described in this article of the Rejection cannot fail to be noticed.
But once more the fathers, not satisfied with finding Arminianism guilty by association, turn to the Scriptures for proof that cannot be gainsaid. In this quotation from Ephesians 2:3-9 the Arminian position stands condemned: 1) Because in the apostle’s description of our natural estate there is absolutely no room for the fulfillment of the conditions prescribed by the Arminians. Can children of wrath, who live in the lust of the flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, use the light of nature aright, be pious, humble, meek, and disposed unto eternal life? 2) Because the Arminian position is contrary to the apostle’s statement that God loved us even when we were dead through sins. In other words, the love of God, in which He bestows on us the blessings of salvation (including faith) is prior, not our piety, humility, meekness, and disposition unto eternal life. 3) Because the Arminian position is contrary to the plain declaration of the apostle: “By grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory.” This is true even if the pronoun “that” is understood as referring to the entire clause, “By grace ye have been saved through faith.” And this is emphasized by the negative statement, “not of works, that no man should glory.” Certainly, the Arminian error here rejected leaves room for man to glory before the face of God. And the very thought of that is blasphemy.