Thoughts on Soteriology


I drew this chart after reading just part of “Why I am Not An Arminian” by Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams. To my surprise I found that the authors were not very Calvinistic themselves! I laughed when I found my friend Theodore Zachariades’ review of the book on Amazon calling it “Why I am Almost An Arminian!” On my chart Peterson and Williams would be in the category of “Calvinism Light” which apparently qualified them for teaching at Covenant Seminary.

I hope to come back to this chart from time-to-time to further discuss related questions. Either I’ll include the chart on other posts or return here to add more to this article.

Perhaps a few points of explanation are in order.

I currently have no line separating any of the semi-pelagian positions from the Catholic positions. I am unaware of any difference. Perhaps someone else could note one.

The Arminian position can be differentiated from the semi-Pelagian in that while both are synergistic the former starts with God’s grace and the latter starts with man’s seeking God.

I’ve invented the term “Luther-minian” to describe the view of C. F. W. Walther that I had posted here: The position Walther gives here is a sort of “reverse Arminianism.” That is, rather than the onus of salvation being on the person to believe, it is for him merely a matter of not rejecting God! This is at odds with the standard “paradoxical” Lutheran view. It is possibly that in other places Walther even takes the paradoxical view, inconsistent with his “Luther-minianism”.

I’ve made a distinction between “partial equal ultimacy” and “full equal ultimacy.” Basically this is a distinction along the lines of Calvin’s ultimate/proximate distinction. I find the ultimate/proximate distinction very valuable in understanding soteriology. That is, while God is the ultimate cause of both election and reprobation (and thus there is an “ultimate equal ultimacy”) God is not the author of sin, man is. And so on a proximate level, while Jesus Christ, who is God, died on the cross for man’s sins and so brought salvation to some, the sins of man are the proximate cause of the damnation of others. Lutherans are unwilling to go beyond the proximate level to discuss the ultimate level.

Some of the differences within the Monergist camp are either semantic or can be easily resolved. For example, if someone says they favor “single predestination” but are focusing on the proximate level, they may be able to agree with “double predestination” at the ultimate level. Ultimately, I believe that many who hold to “single predestination” and/or oppose equal ultimacy fail to make Calvin’s ultimate/proximate distinction. Once this distinction is in place, there should be no reason not to agree to double predestination and equal ultimacy on the ultimate level. Differences would still exists within the Calvinists camp between infralapsarians and supralapsarians and regarding the “Well-Meant Offer” or “Free offer of the Gospel.” If infralapsarians could remove temporal ideas that arise in their minds, and properly focus on the logical order of decrees, they would have little reason to hold their position or object to supralapsarianism. As for the “Well-Meant Offer” this just isn’t Calvinism. Even the authors of “Why I am Not an Arminian” (Peterson/Williams) despite their single-predestinarian “Calvinism Light” and support of “Common Grace” appear to be opponents of WMO/FOG.

As for “permission” I find Gordon Clark’s arguments against it devastating. The idea of permission makes no sense when applied to God.
While synergists may believe that God’s grace is necessary for salvation, they do not see it as sufficient for salvation. They thus hold to a low view of God’s grace. In retaining some element of man’s activity in salvation synergists rob God of the glory due solely to him.

In time I will add more Biblical references to show why I hold to the “High Calvinist” position. Romans 9 is key, but I believe the Bible all over attests to the position.

So which theologians would be in each camp. Here are some examples:
Pelagian: Pelagius
Semi Pelagian: John Cassian, Vincent of Lerins.
Catholic: Council of Trent.
Arminian: Arminius, Simon Episcopus, John Wesley, Luis de Molina, William Lane Craig.
Luther-minian: C. F. W. Walther.
Lutheran: The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod
Amyraldianism: Moise Amyraut, Richard Baxter.
Calvinism Light: Peterson & Williams.
Moderate Calvinism: R. C. Sproul, John Murray, Cornelius Van Til, Louis Berkhof, B.B. Warfield, Francis Turretin.
High Calvinism: John Calvin, Theodore Beza, Jerome Zanchius (see his Absolute Predestination), Francis Gomarus, A. W. Pink, Herman Hoeksema, Gordon H. Clark, John Gerstner.
Hyper Calvinism: maybe one “internet theologian” I know of.

9 thoughts on “Thoughts on Soteriology”

      1. Gerstner is a mixed bag. He disagreed with common grace but affirmed the free offer of the Gospel. Gerstner even wrote the foreward to David Engelsma’s book, Common Grace Revisited. I have not had time to read as widely as I would like. I would like to read Bavinck and Muller and these other theologians that are used by the semi-Calvinists so that I do not misrepresent them. I have read Berkhof, so I can have an opinion on his views.
        Also, Gerstner was a student of Jonathan Edwards and thus affirmed Scottish common sense philosophy, empiricism, and evidentialism. Gerstner also approved of Thomas Aquinas’s rationalist arguments for the existence of an all powerful generic God. Which God the arguments prove is the question–if they prove anything at all.

      2. “With tears in my heart, I nevertheless confidently assert that they erred profoundly in the Free Offer of the Gospel and died before they seem to have realized their error which . . . still does incalculable damage to the cause of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of His Gospel.” – John Gerstner, foreword to Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, xii–xiii.

    1. Zanchius is very good. It seems there is some debate whether he was supra or infra lapsarian. I don’t consider that question as fundamental as some the others though. I do think Clark’s “Teleological Supralapsarianism” is the right answer.

  1. Nice!
    Love to see future posts outlining the history/theology/denominations of the various chart positions. E.g. how did the Lutherans get to their current “ultimacy” position?
    Maybe a discussion on where Greek/Russian orthodoxy sit as well.

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