f The Wittenberg Door: Who is Sovereign in Salvation?- Part 5 – Arminianism: Free Will with Partial Depravity

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Who is Sovereign in Salvation?- Part 5 – Arminianism: Free Will with Partial Depravity

In our last post on this topic we took a look at two analogies (one from Billy Graham and the other from Hank Hanegraaff) that are pressed into service on behalf of the Arminian Free Will with Partial Depravity position. We also considered an excerpt from George Bryson written as part of a Christian Research Journal debate he had with Calvinist James White.

In this post we’ll take a closer look at the two analogies by comparing them to Scripture.


  • Illustration One: Take and Drink
    A man lies terribly ill in a hospital room. Next to him on a table is a medicine that will cure him. All he must do is take the vile, put it to his lips, and drink and he’ll be made well.

  • Illustration Two: The Beggar and the King
    A beggar sits at the side of the road as the king's procession approaches. When the king draws near, he, the king, extends his hand to the beggar and reveals a precious gift. All the beggar must do to avail himself of the treasure is to reach-out and take hold.

The question is, do the above illustrations truly represent the plight of fallen man? Is it the case that man is simply spiritually impoverished or just very ill? To answer these questions we must consider the extent and the result of the Fall.

Guilt Imputed. Corruption Imparted

In the third chapter of Genesis, we read of our first parents’ sin. Because Adam represented us as our federal head, we all sinned in him (Rom. 5:12–19). The resulting corruption is passed on to us all, and its extent is total—every aspect of our being has been affected:

  • Our heart (emotions and affections)—Rom.1:24–27; 1 Tim. 6:10; 2 Tim. 3:4

  • Our mind (thoughts and understanding)—Gen. 6:5; 1 Cor. 1:21; Eph. 4:17

  • Our will (constitution and moral vitality)—John 8:34; Rom 7:14–24; Eph.2:1–3; 2 Pet. 2:19

Furthermore, Scripture teaches that Adam’s sin brought spiritual death to us all (Gen. 2:16–17, 3:1–7; John 11:24-26; Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1–3; Col. 2:13). As a result, men are spiritually deaf, blind, and completely corrupted (Ecc. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14); also, men are slaves of sin (John. 8:34; Rom. 6:20; Tit. 3:3) and children of the devil (Eph. 2:1–2; 2 Tim. 2:25–26; 1 John 3:10).


As we have seen, man is not simply ill or spiritually impoverished—he’s dead. Dead men cannot “take and drink” or accept a free gift from a king, not unless they are first made alive. Crassly put, dead men do what dead men do—they rot; they don’t search for God.

as it is written,

(Rom. 3:10–12)

In the next post in this series we’ll take a look at the Scriptures Mr. Bryson used to support his position to see if they make the case for Free Will with Partial Depravity (i.e., Even though fallen, man can, with God’s help, freely choose Christ) and thus trump the above case made for Total Depravity.

--The Catechizer

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Blogger Nick said...


I think you have a wrong understanding of "dead in sin". Take the parable of the Prodigal Son as an example, he recognized his depraved state in the mud and knew he had to repent and return. Upon returning and being reconciled, the father says the son was "dead" (twice) but now is alive again. Obviously, though spiritually dead in sin, the son was not spiritually unconscious.

3:32 PM  
Blogger The Catechizer said...

Greetings, Nick. First, regarding the parable, there is a lot going on in it, but I think our Lord’s main point is to contrast God’s delight in saving sinners with the Pharisees’ hostility towards the same, all the while providing us with a memorable tale of grace, forgiveness, and God’s love for his lost sheep (and let us not forget about the lesson against works-based righteousness as demonstrated by the brother).

But one thing this parable isn’t meant to do, nor is any parable meant to do, is to provide an in-depth soteriological treatise. Parables are meant to teach general lessons and to illustrate points. They are not meant to be the place where we get our doctrines; the didactic portions of scripture are meant for that, like the passages I use above. In other words, we use the didactic passages (teaching passages) to interpret the parables, not the reverse, just like we use the clear verses to interpret those not so clear (like parables).

“Death” is used twice in the parable as you mentioned. But since how the sinner is made alive isn’t the message of the parable, those details aren’t provided (the hearing of the word, the Spirit working faith in the heart, etc). We have to go to other parts of Scripture for that.

I’m curious, though. If death doesn’t mean death, then what does it mean? It seems to me that if it doesn’t mean death in a way analogous to physical death then “alive” doesn’t mean alive. All throughout Scripture we find life and death contrasted. But if “life” doesn’t mean life and “death” doesn’t mean death, then the scarlet thread of redemption that runs through Scripture becomes unintelligible, and passages that contrast life and death, such as Col. 2:13, become meaningless.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to say that Arminian theology is "The Princess Bride" theology (the Rob Reiner film). "Dead" means "mostly dead." All the sinner needs is a chocolate coated magic pill from Miracle Max.

10:45 AM  
Blogger The Catechizer said...

Great analogy!

9:36 AM  

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