This is the fictitious account of a debate between a follower of the normalist view of scripture interpretation and a follower of James Arminius.
The time is 1888, the place, central Florida, in a small town called Havens. The location is Fort Desire; a camp ground used by the local militia, at the camp is a large open shed looking building, large enough to hold several hundred people.
Its roof is covered with tin, painted white, the roof supports and poles can be plainly seen for some distance away. The shed is very sparse on the inside, on this occasion there are many rows of seats set up close together. On one end of the room is a large raised platform with a small table and chair in the middle of the platform. On either side of the table is an average sized wooden podium, slightly angled towards the center of the platform.
The flag of the United States and of the state of Florida are in their place on the outside of the platform. The lamps are set in their places, this may be a long debate, the speakers have come from quite a distance to be here, and they also are not the best of friends either, so this could get rather heated!
All is set for the debate; those attending tonight have arrived and taken their places. Men in their finest coats and ties and hats, the women are in the best gowns, one can see their fans are in hand should it get to hot due to the lack of a cool breeze. The children can be seen playing around the outside of the building.
Let’s go inside and take our place, the debate is about to start, we don’t want to miss the introductions!
“Tonight we have for you two of the finest speakers our generation has produced, Mr. Doc Greggs of the Battle Creek, Michigan Theological Society, and Mr. N. W. Ozz, senior pastor of Tabernacle by the Lake Church, here in Havens!” says the host of the gathering.
The host goes on, “Our debate moderator tonight will be Capt. C. W. McKinsy, Chaplin for the Local militia.”
“Let’s give these men a round of applause!”
Since you can’t see the men, let me describe them to you!
Mr. Greggs is the oldest one up there. Solid silver grey hair! A huge deep voice when he speaks and a smile that warms your heart when he draws you into his confidence, yet his face can let you know you have erred in your ways just by a look!
Mr. Ozz is the younger of the two and is slightly taller and thinner. His hair has turned a handsome silver gray, mostly grey! He wears a small set of spectacles when he goes to read, often tossing them around on the podium to make a point! Of the two, he is the more emotional and hot tempered one! Mr. Greggs is mellow, yet can get fired up about his convictions!
They’re going on!
The host continues on, “Both men have agreed to the terms and rules of tonight’s debate before hand.” “Now I turn it over to Capt. McKinsy”
Capt. McKinsy takes over now, “Before we begin, let us pray. . .”
“Gentlemen, let’s start each of you giving a brief opening statement of your belief on the topic of tonight, “Can one Loose their salvation once they are saved?”
“Mr. Greggs has won the coin toss before the proceedings started, he’ll go first.”
Mr. Greggs, big booming voice is about to erupt! His face and lips contort to form the words that are building up from deep within his heart and soul, his hands are on either side of the podium and he is leaning slightly forward as if to get a little closer to his audience. Then he begins!
“It is my deepest heartfelt belief that once a person is saved, nothing they can ever do can ever undo what Christ has done for them. Since we have only to believe on the finished work of the very Son of God, who lived a sinless life, died in our place on that Roman cross, to impute His righteous to our account, then on that third day, bodily arose out of the grave, forever alive. We can do nothing to nullify those facts!”
With that Last word, he takes his hand, palm down and slams it to the podium in emphasis to his last statement!
The crowd responds with cheers and applause! Some rise to their feet, amen’s and hallelujahs can be heard throughout the gathering!
Mr. Ozz during all of this is still seated, shaking his head, with a look on his face of one in total disbelief of what this man has just said! His hands making motions to some unheard thoughts, does he know how stupid he sounds, spurting out that line of garbage?
After the crowd quiets down, Capt. McKinsy goes on, “Thank you Mr. Greggs, now for your opening remarks Mr. Ozz.”
“Thank you ladies and gentlemen, my esteemed Mr. Greggs has filled your ears with all sorts of things you want to hear! He is good at that, after all that’s why he was chosen to be the spokesman for his organization!” he says mockingly!
He continues, “What. . you. . need. . to. . hear. .is. .the. . . .truth!” He bangs his fist on the podium in time with his words, a slight pause is heard as he draws it out on the Last word, then he unleashes his open hand, palm down for maximum sound effects!
“Yes the way to salvation is through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, but once you’re saved, you can lose it! I’ll tell you more later on!”
Even before he had finished speaking, the crowd was on their feet! People are shaking their fists at him; cat calls can be heard above the roar of the group! Those who agree with him are silent in their seats, not daring to bring any attention to themselves in the face of so many in opposition to their champion!
The moderator and host are calling for order in the room! Some of the militia have moved into place just in case the crowd turns ugly!
Once order has been restored, Capt. McKinsy goes on, “Both of you have seen the reaction to you statements, that is a first for this type of gathering!” “Now for your first question. . “
“What method do you use to interpret the scriptures?”
“Mr. Ozz, please take this question first.”
“Thank you Capt. McKinsy, as we all know, the Bible is a good book to read! Maybe that’s why it’s been called the good book. It is the collection of the thoughts of God and of those who have followed him throughout their Lives.
Men such as Abraham, Adam (prior to the fall), Noah and Moses to name just a few. Then we have the stories about Jesus in the gospels. Yes I believe this book is the word and mind of God, a spiritual book, yet you ask how do I interpret this book.
I take allegorical, approach to interpreting the Bible, which is that the literary text regards the literal sense as the vehicle for a secondary, more spiritual and more profound sense.” 
Mr. Greggs interrupts and says, “You read one what is written and if you don’t like it, you change it!”
There are snickers heard around the room as the group interacts with the speakers tonight.
Mr. Ozz is at a loss for words at the comment of his opponent! His eyes flash with fire as he spins around to look at him; his spectacles are off and on the podium in a heartbeat!
“Okay . . . “he says, “Tell us what you think and how you do it, as if we don’t already know!” As he is saying this, he is turning his back to Mr. Greggs and putting his left hand near his mouth as if to try and hide what he is saying.
Now your turn Mr. Greggs.
“Thank you Capt. McKinsy. What I said to Mr. Ozz is true; those who use the allegorical method to interpret the Holy Scriptures run the risk of coming to wrong conclusions.
I use the literal, historical-grammatical method of interpreting.  By using this method, I Look at the literal meanings of the words, their place within the sentence structure and their place in a historical setting, giving consideration to the culture and customs of the time period.”
“God wants us to understand His message, so why not use plain language to do it? Or why else should He hold us accountable for it if we can’t understand it?”
There is not much response from the group as Mr. Greggs is speaking; most are taking in his every word.
“Question number two, gentlemen, what is your view on the depravity of man?
“Which of you men would like to take this one first?” Mr. Ozz is up on his feet first! Mr. Greggs backs away from his podium and returns to his seat.
“Mr. Greggs has been filling your heads with all sorts of old, outdated notions of the way things were long ago! I’m here to tell you like it really is now!
Jacobus Arminius, the originator of what I believe had this to say about the depravity of man. “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 are assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.” 
The condition of the fallen man is that he cannot do anything that can be considered good without first aided by grace to perform that act of goodness.”
“More mumbo jumbo” Says Mr. Greggs! “You don’t have an original thought inside that head of yours!” “To wish to God, that my hair color was not so close to yours!”
“By not sticking closely to the literal method of scriptural interpretation, you leave room for your own ideas, and we know they can be swayed by outside forces!
Romans 3:10, 11 says, “As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”
Romans 7: 15-21 tells us that within us there is a war between our fleshly nature and the new man born of Christ on the day we truly believed.
It is because of Christ that we have the power of do good.”
Next question gentlemen. “Is Christ atonement for all people or some people?”
Mr. Greggs, you go first please.
“Thank you. Christ died for all men, not some, but all! The elect as well as well as those who make the decision not to accept Christ. Romans 5:8 says, “But God commended his Love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
John 3: 16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
This verse does not say that God sent his Son to only those who might believe in him! Never mind sending him to those who won’t believe in him, they’re on their own!
Again, read the words on the page, nothing more!”
Mr. Ozz is keeping quiet for now, waiting for his turn to open up on Mr. Greggs!
“Mr. Greggs,” he begins, “I agree with you on this point. We do not differ on this matter! Arminius says that atonement is intended for all: Jesus’ death was for all people, Jesus draws all people to himself, and all people have an opportunity for salvation through faith.” 
“This is first for the evening!” says Capt. McKinsy.
Your next question is this, “Did Christ’s death, satisfy God’s justice?”
“What we have no takers on this one?” “Mr. Ozz, please start us out on this one.”
Mr. Ozz gets up reluctantly and goes to his podium and slowly begins, “Yes, Christ’s death did satisfy God. We all have heard of the word, “Justification”. The act of God when He imputes the righteousness of Christ to our Life. But it takes faith on our part to receive that justification.
Let me quote Stephen Ashby as he clarifies something for us, “Arminius allowed for only two possible ways in which the sinner might be justified: (1) by our absolute and perfect adherence to the law, or (2) purely by God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness.” 
And before you go and say anything Mr. Greggs”, Mr. Ozz is spinning around to face his opponent, pointing his finger at him, “It is NOT a works based concept!”
Mr. Greggs sounds off now, his eye brows raised, ready to strike at a dangerous foe.
“Based upon your last statement, it sure sound like Mr. Ashby doesn’t know what to believe! He has two ways of being justified, works and grace! It sounds like he was trying to cater to both sides of the issue!
Which one is the correct one? There can be only one, and that is that we are justified by God through faith in Christ. It is all of God and not of man.
Romans 3: 22-24, says that the righteousness was of God and not man. It is acquired by faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe! We are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ.
This is not of man, just Like the Abrahamic covenant, God made with Abraham in Genesis 15, God entered into it alone, without Abraham, yet he was the recipient of that covenant.”
“We have reached the half way point in our proceedings tonight.” Capt. McKinsy goes on, “For those who need it, there are refreshments in the camp mess hall.”
The next question will be, “Can the grace of God be resisted?”
“Mr. Greggs, I’ll let you go first on this one.”
“Thank you Capt. McKinsy, in a word NO! Long before anything ever existed, during the great design session for the ages to come in heaven, the omniscience of God, knew that some would accept His Son Jesus as their Savior and some would not!
The sacrifice of His son, was realized on Calvary when the weight of mans sin was upon Christ and the Father turned His face on the one who throughout all of eternity had been together with, now for the first time, they were apart!
Grace can be defined as unmerited favor; we have no grace because of our own works, because we have no merit for God to find favor with! Isaiah 64:6 says it best, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags;”
Romans 4: 7, 8 says it best, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
Alright, Mr. Ozz, how do you respond to that?”
Mr. Ozz begins, “You have said well, our righteousness is as dirty rags, but it is God who took the initiative in the salvation process, and his grace came to all people that day on Calvary! Yes, we must first believe in Christ to receive that grace. How and when does that grace first appear?
Have you ever heard of the word, “prevenient” or pre-regenerating grace? This grace acts on all people to convict them of the gospel, drawing them strongly towards salvation, and enabling the possibility of sincere faith.
Picirilli states, “Indeed this grace is so close to regeneration that it inevitably leads to regeneration unless finally resisted.” 
Okay gentlemen, your next question, “Does man have a free will?”
Mr. Ozz, “Man has limited free wilt. Free wilt is limited by God’s sovereignty, but God sovereignty allows all men the choice to accept the Gospel of Jesus through faith, simultaneously allowing all men to resist. 
“Your turn Mr. Greggs.”
“Man does have free wilt, a will to choose between good and evil. The earliest example is found in Genesis 3:1-7. We all know the story of Adam and Eve and how they sinned! At the offset of humanity, we chose the wrong thing! God had to many eons later send Christ to redeem us!
Romans 7: 15-24 tells of the dilemma of man as expressed by Paul! We only have victory when we yield our wills to that of the Holy Spirit. God does not force His wilt on us! We are free to make up our own minds.”
Capt. McKinsy, “Only three more questions left before we have our
“Is the election of man to God, conditional or unconditional?”
“Mr. Ozz, your response to this question?”
“Election? Sorry, my mind was someplace else for a moment! Oh yes, Arminius defines election as “the decree of God by which, of Himself, from eternity, He decrees to justify in Christ, believers, and to accept them unto eternal life.” 
God also has determined who will be saved and who will not! God regards no man in Christ unless they are engrafted in him by faith.”
“But doesn’t God want all men to come to Him?” chimes in Mr. Greggs.
“All who do not come to faith in Christ might as well be as Judas the betrayer! They are doomed even before they are born! That is not how loving God operates!”
By now Mr. Ozz has had it with Mr. Greggs and his sharp words, he quickly responds back, “Then if you think you know so much, then pray tell, do tell us how God operates!”
As he is saying this, he has both arms stretched out, palms up, pointing towards Mr. Greggs with his head turned to look at the audience.
“Gods election is unconditional.” Mr. Greggs begins, He sent Christ to us, we did not ascend into heaven, but Christ came to us!
We all know what John 3:16 - 18 says! Ephesians 1:4-5, tells us that God chose us before the forming of the earth! He pre-decided that we would be a part of His family, by being adopted in Christ! He chose all men to come to Him, not all though do, that is not His fault! When the Master says come, shouldn’t we obey?”
“Mr. Greggs, you’re getting ahead of the questions!” says Capt. McKinsy.
The next question is about your take on predestination. “Mr. Ozz, this is yours, we already know what Mr. Greggs thinks about it!”
“Yes, all are to be saved, but being predestined does not mean that all men will be of the elect of God. God gives us a choice in the matter.
Here is what has been said about predestination by David Pawson, “Predestination is not the predetermination of who will believe, but rather the predetermination of the believer’s future inheritance. The elect are therefore predestined to sonship through adoption, glorification, and eternal life.” 
Now the last question of the evening gentlemen! The audience applauds this statement!
“What is your belief about eternal security? Are we as the statement says, “Once saved, always saved?”
“Mr. Ozz, please take this final question first.”
“Our eternal security is conditional!” he starts out saying. “In the process of living our lives, we need to work out our salvation. Picirilli says that, “All believers have full assurance of salvation with the condition that they remain in Christ. Salvation is conditioned on faith, therefore perseverance is also conditioned.” 
“Once we stop doing what God wants us to do or go into apostasy, we have to start all over again. Confess our sin, believe, and so forth. This has to happen when ever we sin! Our Lives are a work in progress.”
Mr. Greggs, has been waiting for his turn, you can see him twisting in his seat, eager to have his say!
“What Mr. Ozz has told you is partly correct, but any error in this belief is still an error! Because it was Gods idea to redeem mankind, would it then, not be logical to believe that once He saves us, He can keep us by His saving power?
The answer should be a resounding yes! Amen and hallelujah! When we do turn our backs on Christ and go our own way, He does not forsake us, just like the story in the gospels of t he prodigal son.
When we do come to our senses, we confess our sins, accept His forgiveness and move on with our life. As we sin daily, we repeat this process.
John 10: 28, 29 say it best! “And I give unto you eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
Romans 8: 35-39 offer more insight as to this matter! We cannot jump out of the hand of Christ or His Father! There is no force in heaven or earth that can separate us from the Love of God!”
Shouts of Amen’s, praise the Lord and other shouts of approval are heard coming from the audience!
“Now men, let’s hear your closing statement before we bring this meeting to a close.”
“Mr. Greggs, since you are the elder of the two, please go first” says Capt. McKinsy.
Once again, the distinguished Looking man grabs the sides of the podium with both hands and leans slightly forwards towards the audience before he begins his statement.
“I want you to keep in mind a few simple things, they will help you as you search out the truths found in the holy scriptures, always look at the context, interpret it literally within known cultural and historical background. Then rely on the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth contained within the passage! That is hard is it gets!
When you become aware of your sin, repent of it quickly, seek Christ’s forgiveness! Don’t build up a large sin account! There can be no peace with God that way!
Now lastly, treat others as you would want to be treated, by doing so, you show forth the spirit of Christ that lives within you to a watching world around you. Always keep in the forefront of your mind that you belong to Christ! We are Christ to a watching world! “
Thank you for coming tonight, now I turn it over to Mr. Ozz.”
“Mr. Greggs has filled your heads with all sorts of scripture references tonight, he is good at that! The Bible is a spiritual book and must be interpreted as such! Not literally, or else passages like 1 Peter 3:8 would take on a vastly different meaning!
“But beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day.”
As times change so does the meaning of God’s Word! It changes to meet the needs of the man who is reading it!
We are to work out our own salvation and do what we must to keep it! Whether by confessing our sins and accepting the justification of Christ for our lives or by trying to live a perfect life in accordance to the law set down countless eons ago!
Those who adhere to a strict form of doctrine are being extremely narrow minded and are out of the mainstream of religious thought of our day! Listen to them at your own risk, the risk of your immortal soul!”
With this the evening’s proceedings are over, there has been no clear winner to this debate. Each man has their own group of followers; both camps of thought remained unchanged in their beliefs. It can be said that the truth of God was presented by Mr. Greggs with as much conviction as he could. Many heard this truth for the first time tonight.
All scripture was taken from the 1917 edition of the Scofield reference Bible, KJV, Oxford University Press
1. Things to Come, J. Dwight Pentecost, page 4, par. 3.
2. Dispensationalism, Charles C. Ryrie, page 40.
3. Arminius, James the writings of James Arminius, tr. James Nichols and W. R.
Bagnall (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1956)
5 Ash by Four Views, 140
6. Piciritli, Robert, Grace, Faith, Free Will: Contrasting Views of Salvation:
Calvinism and Arminianism (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2002) 154ff
7. http: //www.answers.com/topic/arminianism Page 5
8. Arminius Writings, LII: 311
9. Pawsom, David, Once Saved, Always Saved? A Study in Perseverance and
Inheritance (London: Hodder & Staughton, 1996), 109ff
10. Piciritti, Grace, Faith, Free Will, 203
Any physical resemblance to any person or persons or locations is intended. I used my pastor, Nathan 0. Osborne III and Dr. Dick Gregory, his mentor as models for the mannerisms and temperaments of the two men within this paper. The town of Havens and Fort Desire are purely fictitious.
Of theological note, neither man subscribe to nor teaches Arminianism in any way, shape or form.
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