Saturday, September 26, 2009

Empty vessels make the most noise

Scholarly Chew had apparently done intensive research on Arminianism (both classical/historic/reformation and Wesleyan) and Calvinism in the process of writing both “his book” and the recent article published in the Credo500 ecumenical Christian conference.

It is hopeful that he had gone through tomes of good books, articles, journals and references in his quest for the truth. We would then expect – at least on widely read, public Christian theological conferences – that our scholarly Daniel Chew Huicong would have got his basic facts correct.

We would expect – at the very least – basic research with Wikipedia and minimal knowledge on key aspects of Arminianism (both classical/historic/reformation and Wesleyan) before proceeding in his critique of, repudiation of, and condemnation of an alleged Arminian i.e. Rick Warren to the esteemed status of “heretic.”

But lo and behold, our scholarly and well read Daniel Chew Huicong has alas failed to grasp a Wikipedia-level of knowledge that perhaps even prepubescents will be able to understand and appreciate.

In his recent rebuke of a fellow Christian blogger (Dave Chong), Daniel snapped,

“You are confusing Classical Arminianism with Evangelical Arminianism. The Arminianism of the Wesleys is different from the Arminianism of the Remonstrants. For example, Wesley affirmed Total Depravity, while the Remonstrants did not.”

Is it true that blogger Dave Chong is confused, or is our scholarly Chew discombobulated?

Error 1

Watchman Chew wrote, “… Wesley affirmed Total Depravity, while the Remonstrants did not.”


Basic research on Wikipedia would have resolved his bewilderment, but alas, well-researched Chew couldn’t do better than our familiar Wikipedia.

Wikipedia says, “Classical Arminianism (sometimes titled Reformed Arminianism or Reformation Arminianism) is the theological system that was presented by Jacobus Arminius and maintained by the Remonstrants … [In this system of Arminianism] Depravity is total: Arminius states "In this [fallen] state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.’”

You see, Article 3 of the Remonstrants really affirmed “total depravity” [but with a disclaimer; see below] while explaining away its effects through Arminius' doctrine of prevenient grace. If the Remonstrants denied total depravity outright, they would have little need for a doctrine of prevenient grace [1].

A quick research on the WWW would reveal further relevant material for his rebuke of fellow Christian blogger Dave Chong:

Quote – “The Five Articles of Remonstrance contrast with the Five Points of Calvinism on four points and agree on one point (namely, total depravity).”

Quote – “Article 3 [of Remonstrants]. Deprivation - corresponds to the first of TULIP’s five points, Total Depravity.”

It’s really very easy reading. There’s no need for tomes and journals for such simple, rudimentary knowledge on theology. And a little research into commercially available books would reveal clearly that Arminius and the Remonstrants did teach total depravity.[2]

Error 2

Watchman Chew said, “… Wesley affirmed Total Depravity …”

Theologians would attempt to distinguish between a Calvinist’s “Total Depravity” and a Wesleyan’s “Total Depravity.” After all, theology is also about fine concepts and distinctions. But Scholarly Chew falls victim to a common fallacy, the fallacy of equivocation, albeit unintentionally.

What kind of “total depravity” was he referring to? Wesley’s “total depravity” is different from Calvin’s; for example, Theopedia explains, “As John Wesley stated more forcefully, humans were in fact totally corrupted by original sin, but God's prevenient grace allowed free will to operate. Universal prevenient grace is the "hair's breadth" that separates Wesley from the Calvinist view of total depravity.”[3]

Wesley scholar Kenneth J. Collins correctly contrasts Wesley’s teaching with that of Calvin.

“At least initially, there does appear to be great similarity between Wesley’s doctrine of original sin and that of … Calvin, especially in the emphasis on total depravity. Upon closer examination, however, there are important differences to be noted largely due to different conceptions of grace. For instance, when Wesley uses the vocabulary of total depravity, he is referring to what he calls, “the natural man,” that is, to a person who is utterly without the grace of God. But does such a person actually exist? Not according to Wesley, for in the sermon “On Working Out Our Own Salvation” (1785) he states: “For allowing that all souls of men are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing that there is no man that is in a state of mere nature; there is no man, unless he has quenched the Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man living is entirely destitute of what is vulgarly called ‘natural conscience.’ But this is not natural; it is more properly termed ‘preventing grace.’” [4]

So according to Calvin, inability is the condition of actual human beings, and grace, therefore, must be irresistible if anyone is to be saved.

In conclusion, we would therefore appreciate at least a Wikipedia-level of research prior to subjecting a fellow Christian (i.e. Rick Warren) to the charge of heresy. Furthermore, we would truly appreciate if scholarly Chew would meditate upon a common English idiom, “Empty vessels make the most noise.”

Basic Reference:

[1] “Prevenient Grace” is a term that was used in the Remonstrance, a seventeenth-century document formulated by Jacobus Arminius and others, to protest the Calvinistic soteriology of the Reformers. The term itself simply means “grace that comes before”; but the Remonstrance cast it in terms of the grace of God given to all mankind without exception, which enables all men to respond to God's invitation and believe in the gospel. (see

[2]“[Arminius] declared that “nothing can be spoken more truly concerning man in this state, than that he is altogether dead in sin.” Later Arminians, including John Wesley and the main Methodist Arminian theologians of the nineteeth century, agreed completely with Arminius [on total depravity].” Roger E. Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 56-57, quoting Arminius, “Public Disputations,” Works, 2:194. Olsen continued, “Arminians together with Calvinists affirm total depravity because of the fall of humanity in Adam and its inherited consequence of a corrupted nature in bondage to sin. … Arminius’s own account of human fallenness could hardly be stronger if he had been a full-blown Calvinist!” Olson, Arminian Theology, 55-56.

[3]It was also Wesley who “claimed that his own theology was “within a hair’s breadth” of Calvin’s teachings.” Olson, Arminian Theology, 55.

[4] Kenneth J. Collins, Scripture Way of Salvation, pp. 38-39, quoting Wesley, “On Working Out Our Own Salvation,” in The Works of John Wesley, ed. Albert C. Outler (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975-1983), 3:207.


Anonymous said...

What I would like to see from Daniel:

1) I would like to see him spend his hard-earned money to buy the best Reformed books, and start a PROPER personal library. [Downloading free stuff is not the same. Buying books would make him more careful in his own expenditure.]

2) I would like to see him spend more time in prayer than on keyboard. Shall I suggest a ratio of 2:1 (prayer:keyboard)?

3) And finally, I would like to see him HELP his fellow Christians, in a 'face-to-face' manner (i.e. in his own church) - not on blogs.

Not just his own contemporaries about the finer points of doctrine but to ALL ages, and on ALL issues.

A reader said...

A real howler!
Well done... keep up the good work.

The reader

Hedonese said...

I'd also take the position of Charles Simeon when he conversed with the elderly John Wesley (and I believe Rick Warren's answers would be same as his):

"Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

Yes, I do indeed.

And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?


What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother's arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree. (Moule, 79ff.)"


Benson said...


You must be a REAL friend of Daniel.

Truly godly advice.

Hope he discerns godly advice from a friendly (and foolish) pat on the back by his apple polishing "blogging" friends.

The Heretic said...


Some might call you a "compromiser" [or even a New Evangelical 'heretic'], but we know you are being most charitable to those who haven't got all his theological ducks nicely in a row.

A Heretic

A Friend said...


You might want to see what Daniel had replied over at Credo 500 blog.

Daniel wrote:



and by the way, you may want to stop perusing the blog of Neo-Orthdox heretic codenamed "Antithesis". He knows as much about Arminianism as I know about art, which is to say zilch. It is much more preferable to learn about Arminianism from books and especially the Remonstrant Articles and Opinions and the Canons of Dordt rather than Wikipedia. AT says it well: Empty vessels (himself) make the most noise."


Daniel is probably so closed-minded, prideful and unteachable that even when he is exposed to have made obvious, factual theological errors, he would deny it outright.

There's little hope of turning him around. Sigh ...

As usual, his "rebuttal" would be to accuse you of heresy, allege that you are less knowledgeable than he is [he has BSc (Hons), you know?] - all these tactics are known as poisoning the well.

Charlie said...

Good work AT!

Who's your new friend Heretic?

By the way, "A Friend", isn't it all very familiar that this is how the "watchman" works?

He must be infallible, otherwise, how could he watch over the Pope as well?

Anonymous said...

Concerning Daniel's comment to Dave:

"... He knows as much about Arminianism as I know about art, which is to say zilch. It is much more preferable to learn about Arminianism from books and especially the Remonstrant Articles and Opinions and the Canons of Dordt rather than Wikipedia."

Ridiculous! Reading the Remonstrant Articles and Opinions does not make one an Arminian. Just as reading the Canons of Dort make one a Calvinist!

Reading the Bible does not make one a Christian, either! "...the devils also believe, and tremble."(James 2:19).