Riddlebarger: The Most Pernicious Arminian Error

This particular Arminian error may be the most pernicious, since at first glance. it appears to come close to the truth, but nevertheless bases the ground of our salvation upon an act of the creature, not in the decree of God and the merits of Christ. This argument is often presented by more capable Arminian theologians.

In this instance, the Synod of Dort rejects the error of those who argue that God determines the way of salvation (faith in Christ, not good works), but at the same time also contend that God’s purpose does not involve the election of specific individuals who are to be saved. God’s purpose in election is limited to determining how people are to be saved, not who will be saved. To put the matter another way, God chooses a method of salvation, not the individuals whom he will save.

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Kim Riddlebarger | “‘The Error of Imputing Faith as Righteousness’ — Rejection of Errors, First Head of Doctrine, Canons of Dort (3)” | October 2nd, 2023


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  • Kim Riddlebarger
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    Kim is a graduate of Simon Greenleaf School of Law (M.A.), Westminster Seminary California (M.A., M. Div.), and Fuller Theological Seminary (Ph.D.). From 1995–2020 he was senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church (URCNA) in Anaheim. He was a long-time co-host of the White Horse Inn radio show and is currently Visiting Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary California. Follow his work at The Riddleblog.

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  1. Sadly this error is has become pervasive in modern “Protestantism.” It results in looking to our own choices as the ground of salvation and assurance of being justified, rather than trusting in what God has done in Christ alone. Covenantal nomism, such as the Federal Vision teaches, also falls into this category since it looks to our faithfulness, within the covenant community, in obeying the terms of the covenant as the determining factor of justification at the final judgment. Then there is the John Piper version of final justification and the MacArthur of salvation being available to those who are willing to give up everything for Christ, as well as the Lordship salvation movement. And of course that most popular idea that being born again is the result of my choice. These all have a form of Godliness but deny the power of God by looking to the actions of the creature to determine salvation. 2 Timothy 3: 5-7. They confuse consequent evidences of salvation, and look to them as the cause.

  2. The geographic and ethnic map of God’s true church, especially between the calling of Abraham and AD 1492, should be an indicator that God does not give everyone an equal opportunity to escape the punishment they deserve.
    So should the case of infants, but the heteredox doctrine of an age of accountability disguises this from most Evangelicals.

    • Sam,

      I agree with you and more importantly, the Synod of Dort agrees with you but it is also important to add thatNatural revelation is sufficient to hold everyone accountable before the Lord.

      I’m thinking of the Canons of Dort, Rejection of Errors 1.9:

      Who teach that the cause for God’s sending the gospel to one people rather than to another is not merely and solely God’s good pleasure, but rather that one people is better and worthier than the other to whom the gospel is not communicated.

      For Moses contradicts this when he addresses the people of Israel as follows: “Behold, to Jehovah your God belong the heavens and the highest heavens, the earth and whatever is in it. But Jehovah was inclined in his affection to love your ancestors alone, and chose out their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day” (Deut. 10:14–15Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). And also Christ: “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! for if those mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matt. 11:21Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

      CD 2.5:

      Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.


      CD 5.3:

      In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people he wishes and at the time he wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. For “how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without someone preaching? And how shall they preach unless they have been sent?” (Rom. 10:14–15Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

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