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Monday, March 17, 2008

Roger Olsen & Philip Limborch

In the Book "Arminian Theology" by Roger Olsen I have noticed his dislike of the Remonstrant Philip Limborch when it comes to the issues of the Fall of man, Free will, and Prevenient Grace.

In other areas of the book when Calvinists attack Arminius's view of the Monarchy of the regards to the doctrine of the Trinity. Roger Olsen is quick to defend his view by saying

"Critics may continue to debate whether
Arminius was right about the Monarchy of the Father, but if they declare him
Arian or say that he denied the deity, on that account they will have to say the
same of the early Greek Church fathers and the entire Eastern Orthodox tradition
as well as much of Western theology. Witt concludes that "the position Arminius
defended is, of course, the orthodox Catholic position. It was not Arminius, but
his critics......who were at least confused, if not heterodox in this

page 90 by Roger Olsen, in the book "Arminian
Theology". Copyright 2006 by Intervarsity Press.

Yet he doesn't do it for Phillip Limborch when it comes to the fall of man. Instead, he says:

""Limborch's problems began when he tried to explain the relationship
between grace and faith; faith begins to float away from its Arminian grounding
in grace as its sole cause, and Limborch moves toward grounding it in free will.
Limborch wanted to say that even faith is caused by God. "The primary and
efficient cause of faith is God from whom, asfrom the father of lights, every
good and perfect gift cometh." Unfortunately, he did not leave matters there. He
felt the need to elevate the human being's role in synergism and did so in such
a way that the person becomes an equal partner with God in producing faith. In
fact he seemed to reverse himself and make the human will the ground of faith:
"We therefore say that faith is at the very first an act even of the will, not
indeed acting by its own natural faculty alone but excited and renered capable
of believing by the divine grace preventing and assisting it."

It appears that Limborch believed the will of the fallen human needs only
assistance and not renewal; he seems to have believed that the primary role of
prevenient grace is to strengthen the natural ability of the person and
communicate knowledge and understanding about God and the gospel. Limborch
scholar John Mark Hicks sums up Limborch's doctrine of prevenient grace:

"Grace does not restore freedom to the will, but strengthens the free will
which remains.....Grace, therefore, is only necessary to assist man's fallen
capabilities so that he is able to regain the integrity od Adam. Fallen man is
not substantially different from created man. The only differences are ones of
degree, not kind. Man is weakened in his capabilities (the will has a propensity
to evil, the intellect has lost its "natural guidance" system), but they are
still intact and potent. Consequently, grace simply works with those
capabilities which remain."

In other words, whereas classical Arminianism before and after Limborch
speaks of personal work of the Holy Spirit beginning to regenerate the human
soul, including work of the Holy Spirit beginning to regenerate the human soul,
including the will, through the Word, Limborch spoke only of a boost or assist
of the soul by prevenient grace. The assistance of grace is primarily
information; the unregenerate person needs enlightenment but not regeneration in
order to excercise a good will toward God. Hicks correctly compares and
contrasts Arminius and Limborch:

"Both believe that original sin is fundamentally a deprivation, but their
definition [sic] of deprivation is radically different. For Arminius man is
deprived of the actual ability to will the good, but for Limborch man is only
deprived of the knowledge which informs the intellect, but the will is fully
capable within itself, it is informed by the intellect, to will and perform
anything truly good."

Later Arminians, such as Richard Watson, noted the same error in Limborch's
thinking about grace and rejected his semi-Pelagian slant in favor of prevenient
grace as regenerative. Unfortunately, nineteenth-century revivalist and
theologian Charles Finney followed Limborch's model (as mediated him by
Nathaniel Taylor) and that has come to be misunderstood as the classical
Arminian position. This is simply incorrect insofar as Arminius sets the gold
standard for true Arminianism."

pages 167 -169 by Roger Olsen, in the book "Arminian Theology"

Phillop's view maybe different from Arminius own view, but it's still closer to the Greek Fathers than that of Arminius's............. in whom Dr. Olsen defended in regards to his Greek Patristic view of the Trinity.

Thus, Phillop Limborch....although slightly off was still alot closer to Patristic thought in regards to this issue.

The idea of Prevenient grace as being nothing more than just knowledge is false. So I disagree with Philip in that regard, but everything else seemed to be ok. One must also include the aspect of "healing". The "healing" of the will should be included in ones view of Prevenient grace.



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