Special letter and response section

Some Form of Perfectionism?


[Editor's note: The following is a letter from a God-hater and a response.]

I recently ran across your website and read a few articles and reviews.

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that anyone who is an Arminian cannot be saved and anyone who believes Arminians can be saved cannot themselves be saved.

I'm not sure if I understand how this view can be accepted without adopting some form of perfectionism.

You explained that you do not believe a person is regenerated by believing the doctrines of grace. However, your view seems to require that the moment a person is regenerated and given the gift of faith that person must then have a perfect understanding of the doctrines of grace.I don't see how your views leave any room for anything between complete unregenerate ignorance and perfect understanding.

Unless a newly regenerate Christian has a complete and perfect understanding of all of Scripture, there is the possibility that he may be confused or lack mature understanding about particular passages and their theological implications. A newly regenerate Christian who, upon regeneration, desires to read God's word could conceivably come to some passage like 1 Tim. 4:10 and think to himself that Christ did in some sense die for everyone. A new Christian may not immediately recognize all of theological implications of such a statement. Newly regenerate Christians could conceivably come to a confused and immature understanding of several other passages as well.

According to what you've written, however, their confused and imperfect (i.e. Arminian) understanding of those passages is an understanding that requires we see them as unregenerate and unsaved.

If the doctrines of grace are truly the biblical doctrines, then to the extent that a newly regenerate person has a confused and imperfect understanding of Scripture, that person is to that extent an Arminian.

According to what you've written however, any trace of Arminianism is a sign of an unregenerate heart. If that's the case, then a newly regenerate Christian cannot have any confused or imperfect understanding of any of these passages of Scripture. Upon regeneration, his understanding of Scripture and the doctrines of grace would have to be completely perfect.

If the understanding of the newly regenerate Christian does not have to be completely perfect (i.e. if he can have elements of confused Arminian thinking and still be saved), why would the understanding of any regenerate person have to be completely perfect? If we deny perfectionism and allow a place for growth in theological understanding and growth in sanctification, then why would we not expect imperfect Christians to have imperfect understandings of Scripture to varying degrees?

That's why I don't understand how a person could adhere to the views you advocate without also accepting a version of perfectionism. A denial of perfectionism (i.e. an admission of the imperfection of the theological understanding of Christians) would entail accepting the fact that Christians could come to confused understandings of biblical passages as they grapple with the teaching of Scripture.

T. Bombadil

via e-mail


[Editor's response] Thank you for stopping by the web site.

You wrote: "If I understand you correctly, you are saying that anyone who is an Arminian cannot be saved and anyone who believes Arminians can be saved cannot themselves be saved."

I would agree with this assessment only if the word "cannot" is used in a certain way. It is better to say that we believe that anyone who is an Arminian IS NOT saved. Also, the second part needs qualification. We believe that anyone who KNOWS WHAT ARMINIANS BELIEVE and still believes that there are at least some regenerate Arminians ARE NOT saved.

You wrote: "I'm not sure if I understand how this view can be accepted without adopting some form of perfectionism."

We are certainly not perfectionists in any way in any degree. The only way a person can understand how this view can be accepted without adopting some form of perfectionism is if he sees that the difference between Arminianism and Christianity is not a matter of DEGREE but rather is a matter of KIND. The unregenerate Calvinists believe that they believe the SAME GOSPEL as the Arminians and that their knowledge of the gospel only differs from the Arminians in its DEGREE. True Christians who know what Arminians believe realize that the gospel that Arminians believe is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT GOSPEL. The fact that the unregenerate Calvinists believe that they believe the SAME GOSPEL as the Arminians shows that they DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE GOSPEL IS. Whatever they think is the "common gospel" between them and the Arminians is really what they believe the gospel is. And obviously, the gospel they believe is DIFFERENT than the gospel of the Bible. It is not merely a "less consistent" form of the true gospel; it is a DIFFERENT GOSPEL altogether.

Let me give you an extreme example to illustrate my point. Suppose I said on the web site that all Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) are unregenerate. Would you then come to me as you did and say, "I'm not sure if I understand how this view can be accepted without adopting some form of perfectionism"? I hope you can see the absurdity of this. I judge JWs to be lost because they do not believe the gospel.

But wait a minute. Why should I judge JWs to be lost just because they are in error on certain doctrines? JWs do not believe in the deity of Christ, but why should that be a reason to judge them lost? After all, they are just confused about a little doctrine -- the doctrine of the person of Christ. Can't a true Christian be confused about the doctrine of the person of Christ and then, after searching the Scripture, grow into a full knowledge of the deity of Christ? Let's use some of your wording: "Unless a newly regenerate Christian has a complete and perfect understanding of all of Scripture, there is the possibility that he may be confused or lack mature understanding about particular passages and their theological implications." So does this go for JWs? What if they read Scripture that says that Jesus is a man and is the son of man? Could they not interpret this to mean that Jesus was ONLY man? You wrote: "Newly regenerate Christians could conceivably come to a confused and immature understanding of several other passages as well." So can a newly regenerate Christian come to a confused and immature understanding of some Scripture passages that say that Jesus was a man? You wrote, "According to what you've written, however, their confused and imperfect (i.e. Arminian) understanding of those passages is an understanding that requires we see them as unregenerate and unsaved." And what if you had said, "According to what you've written, however, their confused and imperfect (i.e. Jehovah's Witness) understanding of those passages is an understanding that requires we see them as unregenerate and unsaved"? You wrote, "According to what you've written however, any trace of Arminianism is a sign of an unregenerate heart. If that's the case, then a newly regenerate Christian cannot have any confused or imperfect understanding of any of these passages of Scripture." And what if you had said, "According to what you've written however, any trace of JW-ism is a sign of an unregenerate heart. If that's the case, then a newly regenerate Christian cannot have any confused or imperfect understanding of the deity of Christ"? You wrote, "If the understanding of the newly regenerate Christian does not have to be completely perfect (i.e. if he can have elements of confused Arminian thinking and still be saved), why would the understanding of any regenerate person have to be completely perfect?" And what if you had said, "If the understanding of the newly regenerate Christian does not have to be completely perfect (i.e. if he can have elements of confused JW thinking and still be saved), why would the understanding of any regenerate person have to be completely perfect?"

Hopefully you see the absurdity of this argument. A person who is confused about the PERSON of Christ is unregenerate. A person who is confused about the WORK of Christ is unregenerate. It is absurd to argue that a person who does not believe in Christ's deity is merely an immature Christian who is confused about a nonessential doctrine. It is just as absurd to argue that a person who does not believe in Christ's work is merely an immature Christian who is confused about nonessential doctrine. In fact, those who argue that JWs are merely confused Christians show they do not believe the gospel, just as those who argue that Arminians are merely confused Christians.

Arminians certainly talk about Jesus Christ and say that he is God. But what do they say about WHAT JESUS DID? The WORK of Christ is at the very heart of the gospel. If a person does not believe in the WORK of Christ, that person is unregenerate. Do Arminians believe that the WORK of Christ ensured and secured the salvation of all whom Christ represented? No. Do Arminians believe that it is the WORK of Christ alone that makes the difference between salvation and damnation? No. They believe that it is the effort of the SINNER that makes the difference between salvation and damnation. Do Arminians believe that Christ's death actually ATONED? Do they believe that Christ's death actually PROPITIATED? Do they believe that Christ's death actually DID ANYTHING in and of itself? They certainly talk of an atonement and a propitiation, but their atonement and propitiation is universal, meaning that they believe that Jesus Christ ATONED and PROPITIATED for EVERYONE, including those in HELL. So what did this ATONEMENT and PROPITIATION actually ACCOMPLISH for those in hell? True Christians will automatically see this as a false gospel. This is not subtle. This is a blatant denial of the cross. This is a blatant trampling underfoot of Christ. It is as clear to Christians that Arminians are unsaved as it is that JWs are unsaved.

The gospel is about the PERSON and the WORK of Christ. Ignorance of or confusion about the PERSON of Christ is deadly. Ignorance of or confusion about the WORK of Christ is deadly. When God saves a person, he gives that person a knowledge of both the PERSON and the WORK of Christ. That regenerate person will NEVER believe that Jesus Christ is not God, and that regenerate person will NEVER believe that the work of Christ did not secure the salvation of all whom He represented.

So am I a perfectionist for saying that all JWs are unregenerate? If not, I am not a perfectionist for saying that all Arminians are unregenerate.

If you would like to refute the logic of this, be my guest.


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