The Human Role in Salvation

(This essay was written for Religious Studies 223.3, University of Saskatchewan, 29 March 1999)

I have decided

I’m gonna live like a believer

Turn my back on the deceiver

I’m gonna live what I believe.

I have decided

Bein’ good is just a fable

I just can’t ’cause I’m not able

I’m gonna leave it to the Lord.[1]

(“I Have Decided,” sung by Amy Grant,

words and music by Michael Card[2])

There is nothing like a little decision theology to cause angst in the heart of a Lutheran theologian.  Yet, there are Lutherans, like myself, who have asked Jesus to come into their hearts and be the Lord and Saviour of their lives and these same people know, from personal experience, that a profound and powerful change slowly began to happen in their lives from that point onward. What is the human role in salvation?  To answer this question, this essay will begin with an historical overview of the debate within the church over this very question.  This will be followed by an analysis comparing the Lutheran theology–which is opposed to decision theology–to decision theology itself.  The essay will make three conclusions.  First, that the process of conversion causes such a profound change that it is far beyond human ability to, in any way, be responsible for such a change.  Second, that because of human frailty and imperfection, any salvation which rests, in any way, on human responsibility is unsound.  Third, that the process of asking Jesus Christ into one’s heart to be the Lord and Saviour of one’s life is best understood, not as an unbeliever making a decision for Christ, but as the prayer of a believer, working under God’s co-operating grace, giving their entire being over to God so that God can work with more power and might in their lives and accelerate the process of sanctification.

First of all, some clarification is required.  Decision theology is most closely associated with Evangelicalism.  However, to equate Evangelicalism with decision theology is imprecise for not all Evangelicals agree with decision theology.  As Alister E. McGrath points out, “Evangelicalism is a world-wide transdenominational movement, which is able to co-exist within every major denomination in the western church, including the Roman Catholic church.  Evangelicalism is not inextricably locked into any specific denominational constituency.”[3] This definition of Evangelicalism can be used to describe people or groups, such as Lutherans or Roman Catholics, who do not profess decision theology.  Therefore, it is more precise to use the term “decision theology” in this discussion.

During the early fifth century, Pelagius, a British monk, and Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, battled each other through a series of tracts over the issue of human responsibility in salvation. Augustine maintained that humans had free will, but that this free will had been severely weakened by sin, so that it had a strong tendency toward sin, just as a pair of balance scales with more weight on one side leans toward that side.[4] Pelagius argued that humanity is born sinless[5] and that human free will is totally free and unencumbered by sin.  Therefore, humans can make free and unbiased decisions regarding their own actions.  Also, God, having made humanity, knows exactly what it is capable of and He has therefore given us commandments to obey which we are capable of perfectly keeping.[6] As a result, humanity is able to achieve salvation entirely through its own merits.  Jesus Christ offers salvation to us only in the sense that he offers an example of a perfect and sinless human life.[7]

Augustine disagreed strongly, arguing that because of its overwhelming predisposition towards sin, humanity cannot possibly achieve salvation through its own merit, but a person receives salvation only as a free and unearned gift from God.  This free and unearned gift constitutes Augustine’s notion of “grace.”[8] Grace liberates humanity from its bondage to sin, thus restoring the balance to the scales of human free will, and heals human nature.[9] In discussing grace, Augustine developed three categories of grace which are widely used in western theology:

1.  Prevenient grace – This is the preparatory grace that God gives to unbelievers before their conversion.

2.  Operative grace – This is the grace which brings about the conversion of the unbeliever.  Augustine argues that this operative grace is the sole work of God and human co-operation has no part in it.

3.  Co-operative grace – Once conversion has been achieved, God co-operates with the believer to work towards sanctification (also called regeneration).  Because the human soul is now liberated from its bondage to sin, it is now able to work with God in this process of growing toward holiness.[10]

Through prevenient grace, God prepares unbelievers for conversion.  Through operative grace, God converts unbelievers. (According to Augustine, this grace is irresistible and is given only to those people who are predestined for salvation.[11])  Because of conversion, the human nature and free will of the believer is now healed and he or she is able to work with God in co-operative grace toward holiness.

Augustine’s views won out, in part.  The views of Pelagius were condemned in AD 417 by Pope Innocent I and again in AD 418 by Pope Zosimus.[12] Augustine’s “doctrine of the primacy of grace in the process of salvation” was upheld by the Synod of Orange in AD 529, but his views on irresistible grace and predestination were not adopted by the church.[13] However, Augustinian thought continued to have a major impact on the medieval church and, later, on the Protestant reformers, as well.  As a result, “Augustine, variously interpreted, has become the most influential theologian in the entire Western church, both Protestant and Catholic.”[14]

By the Middle Ages, salvation was thought of in terms of justification, or “entering into a right relationship with God.” Justification dealt with the questions of how could an individual enter into a relationship with God and what must a person do to be saved.[15] By this time it was generally agreed within the Western church that believing individuals, working under God’s co-operative grace, could gain merit from God through their moral actions.[16] However, such meritorious acts did not give any assurance of salvation.  Such assurance could only be given by a special revelation from God, but individuals were not supposed to seek such a revelation.  The only hope a Christian had was to not commit any mortal sins and to regularly receive the sacraments.  The inability of the church “to satisfy man’s desire for genuine assurance of salvation”[17] resulted in a reliance upon meritorious acts to enhance one’s probability of receiving salvation.  “According to Catholic teaching then and now, man’s justification depends in part on a righteousness to be found in man, and for this righteousness works are of great significance.”[18] During the period 1513-1516, Martin Luther (1483-1546), a Roman Catholic monk teaching theology at the University of Wittenberg, made a breakthrough in the theological understanding of justification.[19] In accordance with the theological understanding of the time, Luther understood “the righteousness of God”[20] as a possession of God by which he judges human sinners and finds them lacking. Therefore, Luther thought that the statement “the righteous will live by faith” meant that he must be righteous to be given faith.  However, in preparing for his lectures on the Psalms (1513-1515) and Romans (1515-1516), Luther came to understand God’s righteousness as a gift God gives to believers through faith and by which he considered them to be justified.[21] Thus, the doctrine of “justification by grace through faith” came about. McGrath explains this doctrine in the following way,

The justification of the sinner is based upon the grace of God, and is received through faith.  The doctrine of justification by faith alone is an affirmation that God does everything necessary for salvation.  Even faith itself is a gift of God, rather than a human action.  God himself meets the precondition for justification.  Thus,… the “righteousness of God” is not a righteousness which judges whether or not we have met the precondition for justification, but the righteousness which is given to us so that we may meet that precondition.[22]

According to Lutheran theology, through faith, this righteousness of God, also known as the righteousness of Christ, is imputed to believers, that is considered by God as though it were theirs.  However, believers never possess this righteousness.  Though counted as theirs and covered by it as a cloak covers their nakedness, it always belongs to God.[23] This contrasts with Augustine’s understanding of this process, for he believed that this righteousness is imparted, or given, to the believer, and that this righteousness is then possessed by the believer.  Luther’s younger colleague, Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560), continued Luther’s work regarding justification and contributed by making a sharp distinction between being declared righteous – which he called “justification” – and being made righteous – which he called “sanctification” or “regeneration.” Melanchthon’s definition of justification, technically referred to as “forensic justification,” became the standard definition used by other Protestant reformers.  Augustine’s understanding was that both processes were two different aspects of the same process, which he called justification. Because the Roman Catholic church, at the Council of Trent (1545-63) affirmed Augustine’s view of justification and condemned Melanchthon’s, the defining of this same term in two different ways became a distinct difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics.[24]

The model of justification that came to dominate non-Lutheran Protestant thought was developed by John Calvin (1509-1564).  Through faith, a believer is united in a “mystic union” with Christ which results in a “double grace.”  First, because of this union with Christ, the believer is justified.  Second, because of this union with Christ, and not because the believer is justified, the process of sanctification occurs.[25]

The doctrine most closely associated with Calvinism is double predestination – that God divinely chooses some people for eternal salvation and others for eternal damnation.  Though it is a central doctrine of Calvin’s, it is obviously not a primary one for Calvin places it near the end of Book III of The Institutes.[26] However, Calvin’s successor as the leader of the Calvinist movement, Theodore Beza (1519-1605), took the doctrine of double predestination and made it a foundational principle from which he systematically derived the balance of his religious ideas.  The result was Reformed Orthodoxy and its five main points were:

T          total depravity of sinful human nature;

U         unconditional election, in that humans are not predestined on the basis of   any foreseen merit, quality, or achievement;

L          limited atonement, in that Christ died only for the elect;

I           irresistible grace, by which the elect are infallibly called and redeemed;

P          perseverance of the saints, in that those who are truly predestined by God cannot in any way defect from that calling.[27]

Jacob Arminius (1560-1609) was a Calvinist preacher and later a professor at Leyden.  Though he trained at Geneva under Beza,[28] by 1600, Arminius was sympathetic to Anabaptist views on grace and free will.[29] While in Leyden, Arminius came under pressure from a colleague, Franciscus Gomarus (1563-1641) to defend Reformed Orthodoxy against the views of one of its detractors, Dirk Volkertz Coornhert (1522-1590).  Arminius finally made his personal position on the matter public in his Declaration on October 30, 1608 to the Lords of the States of Holland.[30] He reacted strongly against the Reformed Orthodoxy of Beza[31] and stated four decrees of his positive understanding of the doctrine of predestination:

1.  God appointed his Son Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Saviour so that salvation might be restored;

2.  God receives all who repent and believe[32] and gives them salvation if they persevere to the end.  However, all unrepentant and unbelieving persons are left in sin, damned and alienated from God;

3.  God will administer the means necessary for repentance and faith “in a sufficient and efficacious [powerful] manner[33] according to the Divine Wisdom and Divine Justice.

4.  The fourth decree concerns predestination,

“by which God decreed to save and damn certain particular persons.  This decree has its foundation in the foreknowledge of God, by which he knew from all eternity those individuals who would, through his preventing [that is, prevenient][34] grace, believe, and, through his subsequent grace would persevere, according to the before described administration of those means which are suitable and proper for conversion and faith; and, by which foreknowledge, he likewise knew those who would not believe and persevere.”[35]

Predestination is reinterpreted by Arminius to be the foreknowledge of God of those persons who will repent and believe, and the result is a theology that is far more optimistic about human nature than Reform Orthodoxy was.  However, Arminius was not Pelagian in his theology.  Regarding human free will, Arminius believed that before the fall, humanity was capable of choosing the True Good, but only with the assistance of Divine Grace.  After the fall, while in an unbelieving and sinful state, humanity is incapable of choosing what is good.  However, a regenerate person (one who believes) “is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace.”[36] Regarding grace, Arminius states,

I ascribe to grace THE COMMENCEMENT, THE CONTINUANCE AND THE CONSUMMATION OF ALL GOOD, and to such an extent do I carry its influence, that a man, though already regenerate, can neither conceive, will, nor do any good at all, nor resist any evil temptation, without this preventing [that is, prevenient][37] and exciting, this following and co-operating grace.   From this statement it will clearly appear, that I by no means do injustice to grace, by attributing, as it is reported of me, too much to man’s free will.  For the whole controversy reduces itself to the solution of this question, “is the grace of God a certain irresistible force?”…I believe, according to the scriptures, that many persons resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace that is offered.[38]

Arminius’ theological understanding of salvation was the inverse of Reformed Orthodoxy. The basis of Reformed Orthodoxy was predestination whereby God chose to save certain individuals and bestowed faith upon them so that they would receive salvation.[39] Arminius takes the Scripture passage “Whoever believes… will be saved”[40] and makes it the foundation of his theological thought.  Faith is the prerequisite required by God for salvation.[41] God provides His preventing, accompanying and succeeding (or subsequent) grace to assist people so that they may believe.[42] This grace is resistible and a person may refuse to believe even though sufficient grace has been given to him or her to believe.[43] When a person believes, their faith is both a gift from God, produced by Divine Grace,[44] and “an act of the believer” who is fulfilling “the requirement of God.”[45]

Arminianism spread through Protestant areas of the world, so that for three centuries after the death of Arminius, “it often seemed that all non-Lutheran Protestantism was divided between Arminians and Calvinists.”[46] There was Arminian influence in Anglican England through Archbishops of Canterbury William Laud (1573-1645) and William Sancroft (1617-1693) and Bishops Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) and George Bull (1634-1710).[47] In 1609, influenced by Arminianism and the Mennonites, John Smyth (c.1554-1612) founded the General or Arminian Baptists.[48] Though the General Baptists show a marked Arminian influence, the Particular Baptists show a strong Calvinist influence.[49] John Wesley (1703-1791) preferred the Arminian position on the questions of predestination and free will and so he parted company with his co-leader in the Methodist movement, George Whitefield (1714-1770).  Whitefield went on to form the Calvinist Methodist Church,[50] resulting in a Calvinist-Arminian split in the Methodists also.  Both the Baptists and the Methodists crossed the Atlantic to America.  Their efforts in the Great Awakening (c.1720-c.1770) and the Second Great Awakening (c.1787-c.1860) made them the two largest denominations in the newly settled areas of America.[51]

In this way, three distinct threads of Protestant theology have resulted.  Calvinist theology states that God in his sovereignty chooses who will believe and he gives them the faith needed to receive justification.  The grace by which God chooses who will believe is irresistible, that it, individuals cannot choose not to believe if they have been chosen by God to believe.[52] Lutheran theology states that God provides universal grace sufficient for all people to believe.[53] However, this grace is resistible and individuals can choose not to believe.[54] Those who do believe, that is, those who have faith, only have it as a gift from God and even their faith is not of their own doing.[55] “The ‘I will’ comes from God, the ‘I will not’ from man’s own free choice.”

Decision theology, which is often called evangelical theology, states that God gives universal grace, sufficient for all people to believe.  Where they differ from Lutherans is that they maintain that, to preserve some element of human responsibility, faith is, at one and the same time, a gift from God and the act of the believer.[56]

In terms of Augustine’s definitions of grace, the Lutheran and decision theology positions can be defined as follows:  The Lutheran position holds that God gives prevenient grace to non-believers to prepare them for conversion.  Then he gives operative grace by which He converts a non-believer into a believer.  This prevenient and operative grace is given to all through His Word, that is, through Scripture, but it is resistible and can be refused by individuals.  Decision theology agrees with Lutheran theology that prevenient grace is universally given to all in preparation for conversion.  However, where they differ is that decision theologians maintain that God also universally gives co-operative grace and that, because of this co-operative grace, individuals can co-operate with God in the act of believing and share in the responsibility with God for their own faith.

I believe that decision theology is flawed in two important ways.  First, though I believe that individual persons are responsible, and will experience eternal consequences, for their own actions with respect to faith, I do not believe that humans can, in any way, be responsible for their own conversion.  The change from being a non-believer to being a believer is so profound and the two states are so distinct and so separate with their orientations and foci directed in such exactly opposite directions that a human could not, in any way, be responsible for such a change.  Such a change could only come about by the direct and powerful intervention of God.  It is analogous to a cat changing into a dog.  Both are carnivorous mammals, but the two animals are obviously so very, very different that a cat could never, in any way, be responsible for changing itself from a cat to a dog.  Such a change, if it were to occur, could only be the result of the direct and powerful divine intervention of God.

I would also argue that the human nature of a non-believer is so diametrically opposed to being a believer that he or she could not even share in any responsibility for even wanting to be a believer.  Such longing or desire can only come about through the direct and powerful intervention of God alone, through His prevenient grace.  The change from a non-believer to a believer is so dramatic and profound that it can only come about through the direct and powerful intervention of God alone, through His operative grace.  I maintain that the only act for which a human being can claim responsibility is to refuse God’s resistible grace.  One can refuse to hear or read God’s Word,  or refuse the Sacraments.[57] One can harden one’s hearts when Christians try to reach them with the Word through personal discussion, radio programs, television programs, books and pamphlets.[58] To refuse God’s grace, which is sufficient and powerful enough to give us faith, is well within the realm of human capability.  That we can do.  Therefore, we are responsible for the eternal consequences which will follow.[59]

It has been suggested that the distinction between the two theologies, on this point, is just playing with words.  Decision theology says that we can choose to believe.  Lutheran theology says that we cannot do that, but we can choose not to believe.  What really is the difference?  To try to clarify the difference, consider this analogy:  Photosynthesis is an amazing process by which plants use the energy from sunlight to create nutrients.  We, as humans, are in no way responsible for that process and yet it happens.  Now imagine a living room with a large picture window and a house plant in the centre of the room.  The sun is brightly shining outside and, as a result, the process of photosynthesis takes place.  However, we, as humans, can install curtains for that window and close the curtains and, as a result, the process of photosynthesis stops.  We can close those curtains and, thus, block the sunlight, but God keeps re-opening the curtains.  When the curtains are open, it is not us who makes photosynthesis happen.  In the same way, Lutheran theology states that we can interfere with or refuse God’s grace (by interfering or refusing the Means of Grace), but we cannot, in any way, make conversion happen.  Decision theology says that human beings do have a role to play in conversion.

The second way that I believe that decision theology is flawed is that it casts doubt upon the assurance of our salvation.  Human beings are not perfect.  If our salvation rests, in any way, upon human action, then our salvation will always be suspect and can never be absolutely assured.  Only if our salvation is solely the work of God, who is the only being who is almighty,[60] eternal,[61] and perfect,[62] and by trusting totally on Him, can we be absolutely assured of our salvation.  Imagine a three legged table that has one leg that we know is faulty.  How can we ever be sure that that table is going to remain standing, especially when it is severely tested?  We cannot.

In spite of all this, the process of asking Jesus to come into one’s heart and be one’s Lord and Saviour cannot be totally discounted for I know that in my life, and in the lives of other people that I know, this process has had, over time, a powerful impact.  Yet, in my case, it was not the cry of an unbeliever turning his life over to God, but the cry of a believer turning his life over to God.

I do not claim that my experience is universal, but perhaps by understanding my experience from a theological perspective, a better understanding of the process of asking Jesus to be one’s Lord and Saviour may be derived.

It is helpful to begin with an understanding of faith.  Faith is often thought of as having three components:

1.  A knowledge of the tenets of Christianity (Rom 10:14);

2.  A belief that the tenets of Christianity are true (Rom 4:20-21);

3.  The main part of faith is a trust in the tenets of Christianity (2 Tim 1:21).[63]

True faith is not a mere matter of the head but of the heart.  It is not a mere intellectual belief that God exists or that Christ lived and died; but it is a firm confidence that Christ is actually our Saviour and that all our sins are washed away by His precious blood [1 John 1:7].  Faith says, “The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.” [Gal 2:20][64]

A problem often arises because we, while still being Christians, so often compartmentalise our faith so that we know, believe and trust the tenets of Christianity but we limit the extent to which we trust them and God.  As Luther says, though we have been declared righteous through faith, we are still sinners and we still struggle with sin.[65] Limiting the extent to which one trusts God is one such sin.  It manifests itself by the way that we limit the areas within our lives where we trust God.  This disjunction of trust–trusting in God for some aspects of our lives, but trusting only in ourselves in other, sometimes most other, aspects–causes a titanic struggle within our lives.  For we know what we ought to do, trust God completely, but we do not do it.[66] We know that “the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace,”[67] yet we feel overwhelmed and distraught.  In desperation, we turn to God and, finally, give control of our entire lives, our own selves, our families, all of our material possessions, our financial concerns, everything over to God and ask Him to be Lord and Saviour of our lives.  These material things, and our sinful desire to control them and manage them so that they turn out the way that we want them to, are, in effect, interfering with God’s grace and we need to turn them all over to God to remove them as roadblocks.

There is a common misconception that by turning over all our material possessions, and by trusting totally in God, He will bless us materially and we will have peace, joy and prosperity.  It is an easy trap to fall into, but it is treating God like a genie who will grant one’s wishes for wealth and prosperity.  No, the Christian, as an heir of God and a co-heir of Christ should expect to suffer, but the sufferings of this life will be inconsequential compared to the glory of the eternal life to come.[68]

When a believer removes the barriers to God’s co-operative grace, then the process of sanctification may proceed unimpeded.  But what does sanctification mean?  It is often defined as growing in holiness.  However, I maintain that sanctification should not be understood as a process of gaining the attributes of God.  That understanding can lead to the temptation of pride.  I am suggesting that sanctification is better understood as a process of changing believers for God’s own purposes.  A cognate definition of the term “sanctification” is “to consecrate,” that is, “to set apart for divine purposes.”[69] This definition is very fitting for the Greek work, used in John 17:17, which is translated as “sanctify” is ¡giazw, which the Langenschiedt Pocket Greek Dictionary defines as “to consecrate.”[70] Perhaps the best way to think of sanctification is as a process with two aspects to it.  First, God, through his grace, works to heal human nature.[71] Second, because the ideal state for a human being is to be in relationship with God,[72] God works to build and strengthen this relationship.  (Both aspects of this process of sanctification, though they progress, will not be complete until the resurrection.)  As healing human beings in a strengthening relationship with God, we are indeed set apart for a divine purpose.  God is able to draw us closer to him.  Through God’s co-operative grace we are able to be a part of this process, as we respond to God’s love for us by shedding our old attitudes of egocentric selfishness and taking on new attitudes[73] of love, obedience and servanthood.  True peace, true joy and true fulfilment can only come about as a result of a relationship with God.  To be merely passive is to hinder God’s efforts, through His co-operative grace, to strengthen that relationship.[74] The hope and the raison d’être of the believer is that, as a result of his or her sanctification, others will believe and God will be glorified.[75]

So what is making a decision for Christ and why does it have a powerful effect?  Perhaps it is best thought of as the prayer of a believer who, working through God’s co-operative grace, removes all barriers to God working in their life, healing their human nature and strengthening their personal relationship with God.  After conversion, humans can cooperage with God in this process.  They gain no merit for doing so, for their salvation is already assured and rests firmly upon the promises of God.  They do it in response to God’s love for them and out of the realisation that they are utterly helpless without God’s help in every aspect of their lives.  Any human striving that is done without God’s direction and guidance is all for naught.  Any material gains that result from such striving are unworthy of any trust and can be wiped out in the blink of an eye.  Only in God do we have unfailing hope and absolute assurance.

A criticism of this argument might be that decision theology is almost the same as the process described except that, in decision theology, the process of conversion and sanctification have been compressed into one process.  I would respond that to do so misrepresents what is actually happening during these processes, obscures the role of God and elevates the human role beyond what it should be.  However, there is a place for asking Jesus Christ to come into one’s life, to turn all that one has over to Him and asking Him to be the Lord and Saviour of one’s life.  It is an action that we as humans can take, working under God’s co-operative grace, in the process of sanctification.  There is a place and a need for it, properly understood, even in Lutheran theology.


“Age to Age” Song List.  [Online] Available: (downloaded March 9, 1999).

Anderson, Charles S.  Faith and Freedom:  The Christian Faith According to the Lutheran Confessions.  Minneapolis:  Augsburg, 1977.

Arminius, James [aka Jacobus or Jacob].  The Writings of James Arminius.  3 Vols.  Vol. 1 & 2 translated by James Nichols, Vol. 3 translated by W. R. Bagnall.  Grand Rapids, Mich.:  Baker Book House, 1977.

Bangs, Carl.  Arminius:  A Study in the Dutch Reformation.  Grand Rapids, Mich.:  Francis Ashbury Press, 1985.

Barth, Karl.  Evangelical Theology:  An Introduction.  Translated by Grover Foley.  London:  Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963.

Bloesch, Donald G.  Essentials of Evangelical Theology.  2 Vols.  New York:  Harper & Row, 1978.

Cooper, J. C., editor. Cassell Dictionary of Christianity.  London:  Cassell, 1996.

Feyerabend, Karl.  Langenschiedt’s Pocket Greek Dictionary.  Maspeth, N. Y.:  Langenscheidt Publishers, [no visible year].

González, Justo L.  The Story of Christianity.  2 vols.  New York:  Harper Collins, 1984.

Grant, Amy.  The Collection.  “I Have Decided.”  7-01-684327-0.  Waco, Texas:  Myrrh Records, 1986.

Kittleson, James M.  Luther The Reformer:  The Story of the Man and His Career.  Minneapolis:  Augsburg, 1986.

Köberle, Adolf.  The Quest for Holiness:  A Biblical, Historical and Systemic Investigation. Translated from the Third German Edition by John C. Mattes.  Minneapolis:  Augsburg, 1938.

Lohse, Bernhard.  A Short History of Christian Doctrine.  Translated by F. Ernest Stoeffler. Revised American edition.  Philadelphia:  Fortress, 1985.

McGlothlin, W. J.  Baptist Confessions of Faith.  Philadelphia:  American Baptist Publication Society, 1911.

McGrath, Alister E.  Christian Theology:  An Introduction.  Second edition.  Oxford:  Blackwell Publishers, 1997.

Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics.  3 vols.  St. Louis, MO.:  Concordia, 1951.

Sell, Alan P. F.  The Great Debate:  Calvinism, Arminianism and Salvation.  Grand Rapids, Mich.:  Baker Book House, 1982.

Stump, Joseph.  An Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism.  Philadelphia:  Fortress, 1960.

Thompson, Della, editor. The Concise Oxford Dictionary.  Ninth edition.  Oxford:  Clarendon, 1995.

Torbet, Robert G.  A History of the Baptists.  Third edition.  Valley Forge:  Judson Press, 1963.

Vidler, Alec R.  The Church in an Age of Revolution.  London:  Penguin, 1990.

Wheddon, D. D.  What is Arminianism?  With a Brief Sketch of Arminius.  Introduction by E. H. Dewart.  Toronto:  William Briggs, 1879.

[1] Lyrics obtained from:  Amy Grant, The Collection, “I Have Decided,” Myrrh Records, 7-01-684327-0, Waco, Texas, 1986.

[2] Information regarding the composer of the song “I Have Decided” is not on the album.  It is was obtained from the Age to Age [Online] Available: (downloaded March 9, 1999).

[3] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology:  An Introduction, second edition, (Oxford:  Blackwell Publishers, 1997), p. 486.  (On pp. 121-122, McGrath states, “The term [Evangelicalism] is now used widely to refer to a transdenominational trend in theology and spirituality, which lays particular emphasis upon the place of Scripture in the Christian life.  Evangelicalism now centers upon a cluster of four assumptions:

1 The authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

2 The uniqueness of redemption through the death of Christ upon the cross.

3 The need for personal conversion.

4 The necessity, propriety, and urgency of evangelism.

All other matters have tended to be regarded as adiaphora, ‘matters of indifference,’ upon which a substantial degree of pluralism may be accepted.”

[4] McGrath, p. 427.

[5] McGrath, p. 429.

[6] Mcgrath, p. 428.

[7] McGrath, p. 432.

[8] McGrath, p. 432

[9] McGrath, p. 433.

[10] McGrath, pp. 433-434.

[11] Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, 2 vols., (New York:  Harper Collins, 1984), Vol. 1, p. 215.

[12] J. C. Cooper, editor, Cassell Dictionary of Christianity, (London:  Cassell, 1996), “Pelagians,” pp. 208-209.

[13] Justo L. González, Vol. 1, p. 215.

[14] Justo L. González, Vol. 1, p. 216.

[15] McGrath, p. 437.

[16] McGrath, p. 436.

[17] Bernhard Lohse, A Short History of Christian Doctrine, translated by F. Ernest Stoeffler, revised American edition, (Philadelphia:  Fortress, 1985), p. 159.

[18] Lohse, p. 159.

[19] James M. Kittleson, Luther The Reformer:  The Story of the Man and His Career, (Minneapolis:  Augsburg, 1986), pp. 87-89.

[20] Romans 1:17 (NIV) states, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:  ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ ”

[21] Kittleson, pp. 88-89, and McGrath, p. 438.

[22] McGrath, p. 440.

[23] McGrath, p. 441.

[24] McGrath, pp. 442-443.

[25] McGrath, p. 443.

[26] Alan P. F. Sell, The Great Debate:  Calvinism, Arminianism and Salvation, (Grand Rapids, Mich.:  Baker Book House, 1982), p. 3.  Also see McGrath, p. 451.

[27] McGrath, pp. 452-453.

[28] Carl Bangs, Arminius:  A Study in the Dutch Reformation, (Grand Rapids, Mich.:  Francis Ashbury Press, 1985), p. 66.

[29] Bangs, p. 170.

[30] Sell, p. 8.

[31] Sell, p. 1.

[32] James [aka Jacobus or Jacob] Arminius, The Writings of James Arminius, 3 Vols., Vol. 1 & 2 translated by James Nichols, Vol. 3 translated by W. R. Bagnall, (Grand Rapids, Mich.:  Baker Book House, 1977), Vol. 1, p. 247.

[33] Arminius, Vol. 1, p. 247.

[34] Arminius appears to use the term “preventing grace” in place of the term “prevenient grace.”

[35] Arminius, Vol. 1, pp. 247-248.  Also see Sell, pp. 10-11.

[36] Arminius, pp. 252-253.

[37] see footnote 34.

[38] Arminius, pp. 253-254.

[39] Arminius, p. 286.

[40] Luke 16:16.

[41] Arminius, p. 287.

[42] Arminius, p. 288.

[43] Arminius, p. 254.

[44] Arminius, p. 366.

[45] Arminius, p. 363.  For additional information about Arminianism, see D. D. Wheddon, What is Arminianism?  With a Brief Sketch of Arminius, introduction by E. H. Dewart, (Toronto:  William Briggs, 1879), pp. 8-16.

[46] Bangs, p. 17.

[47] Sell, p. 26-27.

[48] Sell, p. 27.  For additional evidence of Mennonite influence on the Baptists, see W. J. McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, (Philadelphia:  American Baptist Publication Society, 1911),  pp. 50-54, 94, and Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists, third edition, (Valley Forge:  Judson Press, 1963), pp. 22-37.

[49] Sell, p. 28.

[50] Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity, 2 vols., (New York:  Harper Collins, 1984), Vol. 2, p. 213.

[51] Justo L. González, Vol. 2, p. 230, and Alec R. Vidler, The Church in an Age of Revolution, (London:  Penguin, 1990), p. 238.

[52] McGrath, pp. 451-454.

[53] Adolf Köberle, The Quest for Holiness:  A Biblical, Historical and Systemic Investigation, translated from the Third German Edition by John C. Mattes, (Menneapolis:  Augsburg, 1938),  p. 145, and Charles S. Anderson, Faith and Freedom:  The Christian Faith According to the Lutheran Confessions, (Minneapolis:  Augsburg, 1977), p. 71.

[54] Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols.,  (St. Louis, Mo.:  Concordia, 1951), Vol. 2, pp. 464-465, 469, and Anderson, p. 72.

[55] Joseph Stump, An Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism, (Philadelphia:  Fortress, 1960), p. 89, and Pieper, Vol. 2, p. 466.

[56] Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology:  An Introduction, Translated by Grover Foley, (London:  Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963), p. 101, and Donald G. Bloesch, Essentials of Evangelical Theology, 2 Vols., (New York:  Harper & Row, 1978) Vol. 1, pp. 201-202.

[57] In Lutheran theology, the Word and Sacrements together are often referred to as the “Means of Grace.”  In other words, God gives us His universal grace through the Word, that is, the Scriptures, and the Sacrements, which in Lutheran theology, are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (also called Holy Communion or the Eucharist).

[58]It should be noted that Christians are not the only ones who use personal discussion, radio programs, television programs, books and pamphlets to spread their message.  Therefore, discernment must be used.  However, individuals that I am aware of, who resist the gospel message, seem to have made those distinctions and they are very well aware that it is Christianity that they are resisting.

[59] Köberle, p. 143, and Pieper, Vol. 2, p. 469.

[60] Gen 17:1, Ex 6:3, Ps 89:8, Isa 6:3, Rev 4:8, Rev 19:6.

[61] Gen 21:33, Rom 16:26, 1 Tim 1:17.

[62] 2 Sam 22:31, Ps 18:30, Mt 5:48, Rom 12:2.

[63] Stump, p. 90.  See also Anderson, p. 52.

[64] Stump, p. 90.  Se also Anderson, pp. 51-52.

[65] McGrath, pp. 441-442.

[66] cf. Rom 7:15.

[67] Rom 8:6.

[68] cf. Rom 8:17-18.

[69] Della Thompson, editor, The Concise Oxford Dictionary, ninth edition,  (Oxford:  Clarendon, 1995), “sanctify,” p. 1221 , “consecrate,” p. 283.  (cf. “holy”, p. 648, which can mean “consecrated.”)

[70] Karl Feyerabend, Langenschiedt’s Pocket Greek Dictionary, (Maspeth, N. Y.:  Langenscheidt Publishers, [no visible year] ) “¡giazw,” p.3.

[71] McGrath, p. 433, (The image of God healing human nature is one often used by Augustine). Also see Eph 2:4-10.

[72] cf. 1. The Biblical references where God is referred to as our Father:  Deut 32:6, Isa 63:16, Isa 64:8, Mat 6:9 (the Lord’s Prayer), Mat 6:14-15,18,26,32, John 20:17, Rom 8:15, 2 Cor 6:18;

2. The Biblical references to relationship, fellowship or union with God:  1 John 1:3, 1 John 4:12-16, Eph 2:19-22.

[73] cf. Eph 4:22-24.

[74] cf. Stump, p. 92.

[75] 1 Tim 1:15-17.


  1. Nice post! “….For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things….”–Martin Luther’s Morning and Evening Prayers. In these prayers, Luther seems to advocate “the prayer of a believer who, working through God’s co-operative grace, removes all barriers to God working in their life, healing their human nature and strengthening their personal relationship with God.”


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