Arminian Theology ~ Part 1
In my last post, we took a brief look at Jacobus Arminius. In this post, we now turn to explore Arminius’ views of Scripture which have been distilled into what has been called Arminian Theology. As a reminder, in order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Calvinistic Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.
Arminianism is a term used to describe the theological views of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) and the movement that followed his teachings. The Arminian position was expressed in detail by followers of Arminius in the Remonstrance, a document produced in 1610, formally protesting the strict Calvinism in the Netherlands. Recall that Arminius died in 1609.
Major theological emphases of Arminianism are:
- Conditional election based on the foreknowledge of God;
- God’s grace can be resisted;
- Christ’s atonement was universal;
- Man has a free will and through prevenient [anticipatory] grace can cooperate with God in salvation;
- And, the believer may lose his salvation.
Although Arminianism is a product of a theological difference within the Reformed church, its theological views are held by diverse groups today. Methodist and Wesleyans adhere to Arminian doctrine, as also do the Holiness movement, many charismatics, and others such as the Free Will Baptists.
Historical Development of Arminian Theology
Although Arminius began as a strict Calvinist (he had studied under Beza, (Calvin’s son-in-law) in Geneva, in defending Calvinism against Koornheert, he believed his opponent more ably defended his views. This defeat led Arminius to reject Calvinism.
Arminius objected to Calvin’s doctrines of predestination and reprobation and sought to modify Calvinism so that “God might not be considered the author of sin, nor man an automaton in the hands of God.” In developing this concept, he wrote a treatise on Romans 9, advocating conditional election. A corollary doctrine he advocated was man’s ability to initiate salvation and cooperate with God in salvation.
In contrast to both Luther and Calvin, who taught that freedom of the will was forfeited at the Fall, Arminius believed that God granted everyone primary or prevenient grace, enabling anyone to respond to the call of the gospel. Arminius also argued against the Calvinistic view that God decreed the salvation and reprobation of certain people prior to the Fall. He believed that view made God the author of sin.
Arminius also taught an unlimited view of Christ’s atonement ~ Christ suffered for everyone. Additionally, he emphasized that God’s grace could be resisted. Arminius also taught that Believers could be eternally lost.
Synod of Dort
Arminius’ views stirred up considerable controversy in Holland, even among his colleagues. Therefore, Arminius appealed to the government to convene a synod to deal with the issue. Arminius died in 1609, nine years before the synod met. The Synod of Dort convened by the States-General on November 13, 1618, until May 9, 1619. Eighty-four members attended, fifty-eight being Dutch. With the president and first secretary being strict Calvinists, and the entire Dutch delegation orthodox in view, the fate of the Remonstrants was sealed. Simon Episcopius, the Arminian leader and Arminius’s successor as professor at Leiden, and twelve other Arminians were summoned as defendants before the Synod. The five articles of the Remonstrants were rejected and five canons of Calvinism adopted, along with the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism.
Persecution followed the Synod’s decision. Two hundred Arminian pastors lost their posts; the statesman John van Olden Barneveldt was beheaded; Hugo Grotius was condemned and imprisoned for life, but he escaped after two years. Many Arminians fled the country.
After 1625 persecution waned, and the Remonstrants returned to Holland, establishing churches and schools permitted by a decree in 1630. A prominent theological school was established in Amsterdam with Simon Episcopius as professor of theology. Episcopius wrote a statement of faith in 1621, which was to have considerable influence in attracting Lutherans and other groups to Arminian views.
CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM CONTRASTED
|Depravity||As a result of the Fall, man has inherited a corrupted nature. Prevenient grace has removed the guilt and condemnation of Adam’s sin.||As a result of the Fall, man is totally depraved and dead in sin; he is unable to save himself. Because he is dead in sin, God must initiate salvation.|
|Imputation of Sin||God did not impute sin to the entire human race through Adam’s sin, but all people inherit a corrupt nature as a result of Adam’s fall.||Through Adam’s transgression, sin was imputed ~ passed to the entire human race so that all people are born in sin.|
|Election||God elected those whom He knew would believe of their own free will. Election is conditional, based on man’s response in faith.||God unconditionally, from eternity past, elected some to be saved. Election is not based on man’s future response.|
|Atonement of Christ||Christ died for the entire human race, making all mankind capable for salvation. His death is effective only in those who believe.||God determined that Christ would die for all those whom God elected. Since Christ did not die for everyone but only for those who were elected to be saved. His death is completely successful.|
|Grace||Through prevenient or preparatory grace, which is given to all people, man is able to cooperate with God and respond to Him in salvation. Prevenient grace reverses the effects of Adam’s sin.||Common grace is extended to all mankind but is insufficient to save anyone. Through irresistible grace God drew to Himself those whom He had elected, making them willing to respond.|
|Will of Man||Prevenient grace is given to all people and is exercised on the entire person, giving man a free will.||Depravity extends to all of man, including his will. Without irresistible grace man’s will remains bound, unable to respond to God on its own ability.|
|Perseverance||Believers may turn from grace and lose their salvation.||Believers will persevere in the faith. Believers are secure in their salvation; none will be lost.|
|Sovereignty of God||God limits His control in accordance with man’s freedom and response. His decrees are related to His foreknowledge of what man’s response will be.||God’s sovereignty is absolute and unconditional. He has determined all things according to the good pleasure of His will. His foreknowledge originates in advanced planning, not in advanced information.|
After the persecuted Arminians returned to Holland, their principles of toleration had an effect on the land, which thereafter became a land of much more religious toleration. Arminianism, however, gradually diminished so that its influence waned in Holland. Its effect, however, went beyond religious and geographic boundaries, preparing “the way for Rationalism which prevailed to a great extent in the Established Churches of Holland, Geneva, and Germany.”
In my next post, we will explore the Doctrinal Affirmations of Arminian Theology and The Remonstrance.