Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ames with precision

When dealing with error it is essential to define our terms carefully. Not every error is worthy of an anathema. But some errors will be. Every error though carries within it the capacity to distort faith and life, and to leave our souls impoverished. In 17th Century England being an Arminian was theologically linked with the "usual suspects" of Roman Catholicism and Socinianism. William Ames' comment below is thought provoking in this regard. Even though Ames still considered the Arminian position to be a serious error he recognized that there were variations among this group. They were not to be lumped in the same category.

"The view of the Remonstrants, as it is taken by the mass of their supporters, is not strictly a heresy that is, a major lapse from the gospel, but a dangerous error tending toward heresy. As maintained by some of them, however, its is the Pelagian heresy, because they deny that the effective operation of inward grace is necessary for conversion."

William Ames (From J. I. Packer, "Arminianisms", in Collected Shorter Writings Volume 4, p. 303).

Of course, tending toward heresy is not the not the same thing as being guilty of heresy, and it doesn't mean that it will and must lead to heresy. There are several reasons for that. Even if it is a logical slippery slope, as Packer puts it, the stopping points along the way are quite arbitrary. We are sometimes saved by our inconsistencies. But then someone else comes along and pushes the logic of our position.

And if you have never read it before, or if it has been a long time since the last one, open up Packer's classic Knowing God.

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