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Arminianism is a branch of Protestantism based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) and his historic supporters known as Remonstrants. His teachings held to the five solae of the Reformation, but they were distinct from particular teachings of Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and other Protestant Reformers. Jacobus Arminius (Jakob Harmenszoon) was a student of Theodore Beza (Calvin's successor) at the Theological University of Geneva. Arminianism is known to some as a soteriological diversification of Calvinism; to others, Arminianism is a reclamation of early Church theological consensus.
Dutch Arminianism was originally articulated in the Remonstrance (1610), a theological statement signed by 45 ministers and submitted to the States General of the Netherlands. The Synod of Dort (1618–19) was called by the States General to consider the Five Articles of Remonstrance. These articles asserted that
- Salvation (and condemnation on the day of judgment) was conditioned by the graciously enabled faith (or unbelief) of man;
- The Atonement is qualitatively adequate for all men, "yet that no one actually enjoys [experiences] this forgiveness of sins, except the believer ..." and thus is limited to only those who trust in Christ;
- "That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will", and unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God's will;
- The (Christian) Grace "of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of any good", yet man may resist the Holy Spirit; and
- Believers are able to resist sin through Grace, and Christ will keep them from falling; but whether they are beyond the possibility of ultimately forsaking God or "becoming devoid of grace ... must be more particularly determined from the Scriptures."
"These points", note Keith D. Stanglin and Thomas H. McCall, "are consistent with the views of Arminius; indeed, some come verbatim from his Declaration of Sentiments. Those who signed this remonstrance and others who supported its theology have since been known as Remonstrants."
Many Christian denominations have been influenced by Arminian views on the will of man being freed by Grace prior to regeneration, notably the Baptists in the 17th century, the Methodists in the 18th century and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 19th century. Some assert that Universalists and Unitarians in the 18th and 19th centuries were theologically linked with Arminianism. Denominations such as the Anabaptists (beginning in 1525), Waldensians (pre-Reformation), and other groups prior to the Reformation have also affirmed that each person may choose the contingent response of either resisting God's grace or yielding to it.
The original beliefs of Jacobus Arminius himself are commonly defined as Arminianism, but more broadly, the term may embrace the teachings of Simon Episcopius,, Hugo Grotius, John Wesley, and others. Classical Arminianism, to which Arminius is the main contributor, and Wesleyan Arminianism, to which John Wesley is the main contributor, are the two main schools of thought. Wesleyan Arminianism is often identical with Methodism. Some schools of thought, notably semi-Pelagianism—which teaches that the first step of Salvation is by human will—are confused as being Arminian in nature. But classical Arminianism holds that the first step of Salvation is solely the grace of God. Historically, the Council of Orange (529) condemned semi-Pelagian thought (as well as Supralapsarian Calvinism), and is accepted by some as a document which can be understood as teaching a doctrine between Augustinian thought and semi-Pelagian thought, relegating Arminianism to the orthodoxy of the early Church fathers.
The two systems of Calvinism and Arminianism share both history and many doctrines, and the history of Christian theology. Arminianism is related to Calvinism historically. However, because of their differences over the doctrines of divine predestination and election, many people view these schools of thought as opposed to each other. The distinction is whether God allows His desire to save all to be resisted by an individual's will (in the Arminian doctrine) or if God's grace is irresistible and limited to only some (in Calvinism). Put another way, is God's sovereignty shown, in part, through His allowance of free decisions? Some Calvinists assert that the Arminian perspective presents a synergistic system of Salvation and therefore is not only by Grace, while Arminians firmly reject this conclusion. Many consider the theological differences to be crucial differences in doctrine, while others find them to be relatively minor.
Jacobus Arminius was a Dutch pastor and theologian in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He was taught by Theodore Beza, Calvin's hand-picked successor, but after examination of the scriptures, he rejected his teacher's theology that it is God who unconditionally elects some for salvation. Instead Arminius proposed that the election of God was of believers, thereby making it conditional on faith. Arminius's views were challenged by the Dutch Calvinists, especially Franciscus Gomarus, but Arminius died before a national synod could occur.
Arminius's followers, not wanting to adopt their leader's name, called themselves the Remonstrants. Arminius died before he could satisfy Holland's State General's request for a 14-page paper outlining his views. The Remonstrants replied in his stead crafting the Five articles of Remonstrance, in which they express their points of divergence with the stricter Calvinism of the Belgic Confession. After some political maneuvering, the Dutch Calvinists were able to convince Prince Maurice of Nassau to deal with the situation. Maurice systematically removed Arminian magistrates from office and called a national synod at Dordrecht. This Synod of Dort was open primarily to Dutch Calvinists (102 people), while the Arminians were excluded (13 people banned from voting), with Calvinist representatives from other countries (28 people), and in 1618 published a condemnation of Arminius and his followers as heretics. Part of this publication was the famous Five points of Calvinism in response to the five articles of Remonstrance.
Arminians across Holland were removed from office, imprisoned, banished, and sworn to silence. Twelve years later Holland officially granted Arminianism protection as a religion, although animosity between Arminians and Calvinists continued.
The debate between Calvin's followers and Arminius's followers is characteristic of post-Reformation church history. The emerging Baptist movement in 17th-century England, for example, was a microcosm of the historic debate between Calvinists and Arminians. The first Baptists—called "General Baptists" because of their confession of a "general" or unlimited atonement—were Arminians. The Baptist movement originated with Thomas Helwys, who left his mentor John Smyth (who had moved into shared belief and other distinctives of the Dutch Waterlander Mennonites of Amsterdam) and returned to London to start the first English Baptist Church in 1611. Later General Baptists such as John Griffith, Samuel Loveday, and Thomas Grantham defended a Reformed Arminian theology that reflected more the Arminianism of Arminius than that of the later Remonstrants or the English Arminianism of Arminian Puritans like John Goodwin or Anglican Arminians such as Jeremy Taylor and Henry Hammond. The General Baptists encapsulated their Arminian views in numerous confessions, the most influential of which was the Standard Confession of 1660. In the 1640s the Particular Baptists were formed, diverging strongly from Arminian doctrine and embracing the strong Calvinism of the Presbyterians and Independents. Their robust Calvinism was publicized in such confessions as the London Baptist Confession of 1644 and the Second London Confession of 1689. The London Confession of 1689 was later used by Calvinistic Baptists in America (called the Philadelphia Baptist Confession), whereas the Standard Confession of 1660 was used by the American heirs of the English General Baptists, who soon came to be known as Free Will Baptists.
This same dynamic between Arminianism and Calvinism can be seen in the heated discussions between friends and fellow Anglican ministers John Wesley and George Whitefield. Wesley was a champion of Arminian teachings, defending his soteriology in a periodical titled The Arminian and writing articles such as Predestination Calmly Considered. He defended Arminianism against charges of semi-Pelagianism, holding strongly to beliefs in original sin and total depravity. At the same time, Wesley attacked the determinism that he claimed characterized unconditional election and maintained a belief in the ability to lose salvation. Wesley also clarified the doctrine of prevenient grace and preached the ability of Christians to attain to perfection (fully mature, not "sinlessness"). While Wesley freely made use of the term "Arminian", he did not self-consciously root his soteriology in the theology of Arminius but was highly influenced by 17th-century English Arminianism and thinkers such as John Goodwin, Jeremy Taylor and Henry Hammond of the Anglican "Holy Living" school, and the Remonstrant Hugo Grotius.
Advocates of both Arminianism and Calvinism find a home in many Protestant denominations, and sometimes both exist within the same denomination. Faiths leaning at least in part in the Arminian direction include Methodists, Free Will Baptists, Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, General Baptists, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Church of the Nazarene, The Wesleyan Church, The Salvation Army, Conservative Mennonites, Old Order Mennonites, Amish and Charismatics, including the Pentecostals. Denominations leaning in the Calvinist direction are grouped as the Reformed churches and include Particular Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists. The majority of Southern Baptists, including Billy Graham, accept Arminianism with an exception allowing for a doctrine of perseverance of the saints ("eternal security"). Many see Calvinism as growing in acceptance, and some prominent Reformed Baptists, such as Albert Mohler and Mark Dever, have been pushing for the Southern Baptist Convention to adopt a more Calvinistic orientation (no Baptist church is bound by any resolution adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention). Lutherans espouse a view of salvation and election distinct from both the Calvinist and Arminian schools of soteriology.
The current scholarly support for Arminianism is wide and varied: Among Baptist theologians, Roger E. Olson, F. Leroy Forlines, Robert Picirilli, and J. Matthew Pinson are four supporters of a return to the teachings of Arminius. Forlines and Olson have referred to such Arminianism as "Classical Arminianism", while Picirilli, Pinson, have termed it "Reformation Arminianism" or "Reformed Arminianism".
Recent Methodist theologians Thomas Oden, Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon affirm also the tenets of Arminianism. Moreover, some "Evangelical Methodists" as Bible scholars Ben Witherington III, I. Howard Marshall, and Christian apologist David Pawson are also generally Arminian in their theologies. Holiness movement theologians Henry Orton Wiley, Carl O. Bangs and Restoration movement theologian Jack Cottrell can also be mentioned among recent proponents of Arminianism. Current theologians B. J. Oropeza, Herbert Mcgonigle and Keith D. Stanglin can be mentioned as well.
Arminian theology usually falls into one of two groups—Classical Arminianism, drawn from the teaching of Jacobus Arminius—and Wesleyan Arminian, drawing primarily from Wesley. Both groups overlap substantially.
Classical Arminianism is the theological system that was presented by Jacobus Arminius and maintained by some of the Remonstrants; its influence serves as the foundation for all Arminian systems. A list of beliefs is given below:
- 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."
- Atonement is intended for all: Jesus's death was for all people, Jesus draws all people to himself, and all people have opportunity for salvation through faith.
- Jesus's death satisfies God's justice: The penalty for the sins of the elect is paid in full through Jesus's work on the cross. Thus Christ's atonement is intended for all, but requires faith to be effected. Arminius states that "Justification, when used for the act of a Judge, is either purely the imputation of righteousness through mercy… or that man is justified before God… according to the rigor of justice without any forgiveness." Stephen Ashby clarifies: "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."
- Grace is resistible: God takes initiative in the salvation process and his grace comes to all people. This grace (often called prevenient or pre-regenerating grace) acts on all people to convince them of the Gospel, draw them strongly towards salvation, and enable the possibility of sincere faith. Picirilli states that "indeed this grace is so close to regeneration that it inevitably leads to regeneration unless finally resisted." The offer of salvation through grace does not act irresistibly in a purely cause-effect, deterministic method but rather in an influence-and-response fashion that can be both freely accepted and freely denied.
- Man has a freed will to respond or resist: Free will is granted and limited by God's sovereignty, but God's sovereignty allows all men the choice to accept the Gospel of Jesus through faith, simultaneously allowing all men to resist.
- Election is conditional: Arminius defined election as "the decree of God by which, of Himself, from eternity, He decreed to justify in Christ, believers, and to accept them unto eternal life." God alone determines who will be saved and his determination is that all who believe Jesus through faith will be justified. According to Arminius, "God regards no one in Christ unless they are engrafted in him by faith."
- God predestines the elect to a glorious future: 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.
- Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer: Justification is sola fide (by faith alone). When individuals repent and believe in Christ (saving faith), they are regenerated and brought into union with Christ, whereby the death and righteousness of Christ are imputed to them for their justification before God.
- Eternal security is also conditional: 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. Apostasy (turning from Christ) is only committed through a deliberate, willful rejection of Jesus and renunciation of saving faith. Such apostasy is irremediable.
On whether a believer could commit apostasy (i.e., desert Christ by cleaving again to this evil world, losing a good conscience, or by failing to hold on to sound doctrine), Arminius declared that this matter required further study in the Scriptures. Nevertheless, Arminius believed the Scriptures taught that believers are graciously empowered by Christ and the Holy Spirit "to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies." Furthermore, Christ and the Spirit are ever present to aid and assist believers through various temptations. But this security was not unconditional but conditional—"provided they [believers] stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling." Arminius goes on to say, "I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding."
After the death of Arminius in 1609, the Remonstrants maintained their leader's view on conditional security and his uncertainty regarding the possibility of believers committing apostasy. This is evidenced in the fifth article drafted by its leaders in 1610. However, sometime between 1610, and the official proceeding of the Synod of Dort (1618), the Remonstrants became fully persuaded in their minds that the Scriptures taught that a true believer was capable of falling away from faith and perishing eternally as an unbeliever. They formalized their views in "The Opinion of the Remonstrants" (1618), and later in the Remonstrant Confession (1621).
Picirilli remarks: "Ever since that early period, then, when the issue was being examined again, Arminians have taught that those who are truly saved need to be warned against apostasy as a real and possible danger."
The core beliefs of Jacobus Arminius and the Remonstrants are summarized as such by theologian Stephen Ashby:
- Prior to being drawn and enabled, one is unable to believe… able only to resist.
- Having been drawn and enabled, but prior to regeneration, one is able to believe… able also to resist.
- After one believes, God then regenerates; one is able to continue believing… able also to resist.
- Upon resisting to the point of unbelief, one is unable again to believe… able only to resist.
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John Wesley has historically been the most influential advocate for the teachings of Arminian soteriology. Wesley thoroughly agreed with the vast majority of what Arminius himself taught, maintaining strong doctrines of original sin, total depravity, conditional election, prevenient grace, unlimited atonement, and the possibility of apostasy.
Wesley departs from Classical Arminianism primarily on three issues:
- Wesley's atonement is a hybrid of the penal substitution theory and the governmental theory of Hugo Grotius, a lawyer and one of the Remonstrants. Steven Harper states, "Wesley does not place the substitionary element primarily within a legal framework...Rather [his doctrine seeks] to bring into proper relationship the 'justice' between God's love for persons and God's hatred of sin...it is not the satisfaction of a legal demand for justice so much as it is an act of mediated reconciliation."
- Possibility of apostasy
- Wesley fully accepted the Arminian view that genuine Christians could apostatize and lose their salvation, as his famous sermon "A Call to Backsliders" clearly demonstrates. Harper summarizes as follows: "the act of committing sin is not in itself ground for the loss of salvation...the loss of salvation is much more related to experiences that are profound and prolonged. Wesley sees two primary pathways that could result in a permanent fall from grace: unconfessed sin and the actual expression of apostasy." Wesley disagrees with Arminius, however, in maintaining that such apostasy was not final. When talking about those who have made "shipwreck" of their faith (1 Tim 1:19), Wesley claims that "not one, or a hundred only, but I am persuaded, several thousands...innumerable are the instances...of those who had fallen but now stand upright."
- Christian perfection
- According to Wesley's teaching, Christians could attain a state of practical perfection, meaning a lack of all voluntary sin by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, in this life. Christian perfection (or entire sanctification), according to Wesley, is "purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God" and "the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked." It is "loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves". It is "a restoration not only to the favour, but likewise to the image of God," our "being filled with the fullness of God". Wesley was clear that Christian perfection did not imply perfection of bodily health or an infallibility of judgment. It also does not mean we no longer violate the will of God, for involuntary transgressions remain. Perfected Christians remain subject to temptation, and have continued need to pray for forgiveness and holiness. It is not an absolute perfection but a perfection in love. Furthermore, Wesley did not teach a salvation by perfection, but rather says that, "Even perfect holiness is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ."
Since the time of Arminius his name has come to represent a very large variety of beliefs. Some of these beliefs, such as Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism (see below) are not considered to be within Arminian orthodoxy and are dealt with elsewhere. Some doctrines, however, do adhere to the Arminian foundation and, while minority views, are highlighted below.
The doctrine of open theism states that God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, but differs on the nature of the future. Open theists claim that the future is not completely determined (or "settled") because people have not made their free decisions yet. God therefore knows the future partially in possibilities (human free actions) rather than solely certainties (divinely determined events). As such, open theists resolve the issue of human free will and God's sovereignty by claiming that God is sovereign because he does not ordain each human choice, but rather works in cooperation with his creation to bring about his will. This notion of sovereignty and freedom is foundational to their understanding of love since open theists believe that love is not genuine unless it is freely chosen. The power of choice under this definition has the potential for as much harm as it does good, and open theists see free will as the best answer to the problem of evil. Well-known proponents of this theology are Greg Boyd, Clark Pinnock, Thomas Jay Oord, William Hasker, and John E. Sanders.
Some Arminians, such as professor and theologian Robert Picirilli, reject the doctrine of open theism as a "deformed Arminianism". Joseph Dongell stated that "open theism actually moves beyond classical Arminianism towards process theology." There are also some Arminians, like Roger Olson, who believe Open theism to be an alternative view that a Christian can have. The majority Arminian view accepts classical theism—the belief that God's power, knowledge, and presence have no external limitations, that is, outside of his divine nature. Most Arminians reconcile human free will with God's sovereignty and foreknowledge by holding three points:
- Human free will is limited by original sin, though God's prevenient grace restores to humanity the ability to accept God's call of salvation.
- God purposely exercises his sovereignty in ways that do not illustrate its extent—in other words, He has the power and authority to predetermine salvation but he chooses to apply it through different means.
- God's foreknowledge of the future is exhaustive and complete, and therefore the future is certain and not contingent on human action. God does not determine the future, but He does know it. God's certainty and human contingency are compatible.
Corporate view of election
The majority Arminian view is that election is individual and based on God's foreknowledge of faith, but a second perspective deserves mention. These Arminians reject the concept of individual election entirely, preferring to understand the doctrine in corporate terms. According to this corporate election, God never chose individuals to elect to salvation, but rather He chose to elect the believing church to salvation. Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Ridderbos says "[The certainty of salvation] does not rest on the fact that the church belongs to a certain "number", but that it belongs to Christ, from before the foundation of the world. Fixity does not lie in a hidden decree, therefore, but in corporate unity of the Church with Christ, whom it has come to know in the gospel and has learned to embrace in faith."
Corporate election draws support from a similar concept of corporate election found in the Old Testament and Jewish law. Indeed most biblical scholarship is in agreement that Judeo-Greco-Roman thought in the 1st century was opposite of the Western world's "individual first" mantra—it was very collectivist or communitarian in nature. Identity stemmed from membership in a group more than individuality. According to Romans 9–11, supporters claim, Jewish election as the chosen people ceased with their national rejection of Jesus as Messiah. As a result of the new covenant, God's chosen people are now the corporate body of Christ, the church (sometimes called spiritual Israel—see also Covenant theology). The pastor and theologian Brian Abasciano claims "What Paul says about Jews, Gentiles, and Christians, whether of their place in God’s plan, or their election, or their salvation, or how they should think or behave, he says from a corporate perspective which views the group as primary and those he speaks about as embedded in the group. These individuals act as members of the group to which they belong, and what happens to them happens by virtue of their membership in the group."
These scholars also maintain that Jesus was the only human ever elected and that individuals must be "in Christ" (Eph 1:3–4) through faith to be part of the elect. This was, in fact, Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth's, understanding of the doctrine of election. Joseph Dongell, professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, states "the most conspicuous feature of Ephesians 1:3–2:10 is the phrase 'in Christ', which occurs twelve times in Ephesians 1:3–14 alone...this means that Jesus Christ himself is the chosen one, the predestined one. Whenever one is incorporated into him by grace through faith, one comes to share in Jesus' special status as chosen of God." Markus Barth illustrates the inter-connectedness: "Election in Christ must be understood as the election of God's people. Only as members of that community do individuals share in the benefits of God's gracious choice."
Arminianism and other views
Understanding Arminianism is aided by understanding the theological alternatives: Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism. Arminianism, like any major belief system, is frequently misunderstood both by critics and would-be supporters.
Comparison among Protestants
The following are Arminian beliefs compared to other Protestants.
|Protestant beliefs about salvation|
|This table summarizes the classical views of three Protestant beliefs about salvation.|
|Human will||Total depravity: Humanity possesses "free will", but it is in bondage to sin, until it is "transformed".||Original Sin: Humanity possesses free will in regard to "goods and possessions", but is sinful by nature and unable to contribute to its own salvation.||Total depravity: Humanity possesses freedom from necessity, but not "freedom from sin” unless enabled by "prevenient grace".|
|Election||Unconditional election.||Unconditional election.||Conditional election in view of foreseen faith or unbelief.|
|Justification and atonement||Justification by faith alone. Various views regarding the extent of the atonement.||Justification for all men, completed at Christ's death and effective through faith alone.||Justification made possible for all through Christ's death, but only completed upon choosing faith in Jesus.|
|Conversion||Monergistic, through the means of grace, irresistible.||Monergistic, through the means of grace, resistible.||Synergistic, resistible due to the common grace of free will. However, irresistible conversion is possible.|
|Perseverance and apostasy||Perseverance of the saints: the eternally elect in Christ will certainly persevere in faith.||Falling away is possible, but God gives gospel assurance.||Preservation is conditional upon continued faith in Christ; with the possibility of a final apostasy.|
- Arminianism is Pelagian (or Semi-Pelagian), denying original sin and total depravity—No system of Arminianism founded on Arminius or Wesley denies original sin or total depravity; both Arminius and Wesley strongly affirmed that man's basic condition is one in which he cannot be righteous, understand God, or seek God. Many Calvinist critics of Arminianism, both historically and currently, claim that Arminianism condones, accepts, or even explicitly supports Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism. Arminius referred to Pelagianism as "the grand falsehood" and stated that he "must confess that I detest, from my heart, the consequences [of that theology]." David Pawson, a British pastor, decries this association as "libelous" when attributed to Arminius' or Wesley's doctrine. Indeed, most Arminians reject all accusations of Pelagianism; nonetheless, primarily due to Calvinist opponents, the two terms remain intertwined in popular usage.
- Arminianism denies Jesus' substitutionary payment for sins—Both Arminius and Wesley believed in the necessity and sufficiency of Christ's atonement through penal substitution. Arminius held that God's justice was satisfied individually, while Hugo Grotius and many of Wesley's followers taught that it was satisfied governmentally.
Comparison with Calvinism
Ever since Arminius and his followers revolted against Calvinism in the early 17th century, Protestant soteriology has been largely divided between Calvinism and Arminianism. The extreme of Calvinism is hyper-Calvinism, which insists that signs of election must be sought before evangelization of the unregenerate takes place and that the eternally damned have no obligation to repent and believe, and on the extreme of Arminianism is Pelagianism, which rejects the doctrine of original sin on grounds of moral accountability; but the overwhelming majority of Protestant, evangelical pastors and theologians hold to one of these two systems or somewhere in between.
- Total depravity – Arminians agree with Calvinists over the doctrine of total depravity. The differences come in the understanding of how God remedies this human depravity.
- Substitutionary effect of atonement – Arminians also affirm with Calvinists the substitutionary effect of Christ's atonement and that this effect is limited only to the elect. Classical Arminians would agree with Calvinists that this substitution was penal satisfaction for all of the elect, while most Wesleyan Arminians would maintain that the substitution was governmental in nature.
- Nature of election – Arminians hold that election to eternal salvation has the condition of faith attached. The Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election states that salvation cannot be earned or achieved and is therefore not conditional upon any human effort, so faith is not a condition of salvation but the divinely apportioned means to it. In other words, Arminians believe that they owe their election to their faith, whereas Calvinists believe that they owe their faith to their election.
- Nature of grace – Arminians believe that, through grace, God restores free will concerning salvation to all humanity, and each individual, therefore, is able either to accept the Gospel call through faith or resist it through unbelief. Calvinists hold that God's grace to enable salvation is given only to the elect and irresistibly leads to salvation.
- Extent of the atonement – Arminians, along with four-point Calvinists or Amyraldians, hold to a universal drawing and universal extent of atonement instead of the Calvinist doctrine that the drawing and atonement is limited in extent to the elect only, which many Calvinists prefer to call 'particular redemption'. Both sides (with the exception of hyper-Calvinists) believe the invitation of the gospel is universal and "must be presented to everyone [they] can reach without any distinction."
- Perseverance in faith – Arminians believe that future salvation and eternal life is secured in Christ and protected from all external forces but is conditional on remaining in Christ and can be lost through apostasy. Traditional Calvinists believe in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, which says that because God chose some unto salvation and actually paid for their particular sins, he keeps them from apostasy and that those who do apostatize were never truly regenerated (that is, born again) or saved. Non-traditional Calvinists and other evangelicals advocate the similar but distinct doctrine of eternal security that teaches if a person was once saved, his or her salvation can never be in jeopardy, even if the person completely apostatizes.
- Related doctrines
- Salvation in Christianity
- Grace in Christianity
- Ordo salutis (Order of salvation)
- Substitutionary atonement
- Free will in theology
- Decisional regeneration
- Apostasy in Christianity
- Related theologies
- Historical movements
- Opposing views
Notes and references
- Magnusson 1995, p. 62.
- Keathley 2014, p. 703, Ch. 12.
- Stanglin & McCall 2012, p. 190.
- Torbet 1963.
- Visconti 2003, pp. 253–.
- Episcopius & Ellis 2005, p. 8Episcopius was singularly responsible for the survival of the Remonstrant movement after the Synod of Dort. We may rightly regard him as the theological founder of Arminianism, since he both developed and systematized ideas which Arminius was tentatively exploring before his death and then perpetuated that theology through founding the Remonstrant seminary and teaching the next generation of pastors and teachers.
- Stanglin & McCall 2012, p. 160.
- Forlines 2011, pp. 20–24.
- Gonzalez 2014, p. 180.
- Wynkoop 1967, chap. 3.
- Gonzalez 2014, pp. 225–226.
- Akin 1993In Protestant circles there are two major camps when it comes to predestination: Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvinism is common in Presbyterian, Reformed, and a few Baptist churches. Arminianism is common in Methodist, Pentecostal, and most Baptist churches
- Olson 2014, pp. 2–3. "Methodism, in all its forms (including ones that do not bear that name), tends to be Arminian. (Calvinist Methodist churches once existed. They were founded by followers of Wesley’s co-evangelist George Whitefield. But, so far as I am able to tell, they have all died out or merged with traditionally Reformed-Calvinist denominations.) Officially Arminian denominations include ones in the so-called “Holiness” tradition (e.g., Church of the Nazarene) and in the Pentecostal tradition (e.g., Assemblies of God). Arminianism is also the common belief of Free Will Baptists (also known as General Baptists). Many Brethren [anabaptists-pietists] churches are Arminian as well. But one can find Arminians in many denominations that are not historically officially Arminian, such as many Baptist conventions/conferences."
- Olson 2012.
- SBC 2000, chap. 5.
- Harmon 1984, pp. 17–18, 45–46.
- Walls & Dongell 2004, pp. 12–13, 16–17.
- Walls & Dongell 2004, pp. 7–20.
- Forlines 2011.
- Olson 2009.
- Picirilli 2002, p. 1.
- Pinson 2002, pp. 149–150.
- Driscoll 2013, pp. 99–100.
- Witherington III 2013. The first and most important reason I'm a Wesleyan is because of the character of God [...] which is love freely given and freely received. [...] According to the Calvinistic message we are saved by grace through faith alone and our actions have nothing to do with it. [...] According to the Wesleyan approach to the gospel, it's not just about notional assent [...] it's about trusting the truth about God and that is an activity.
- Oropeza 2000, p. 33. "[...] Marshall's view [on apostasy] falls much in line with the Arminian Tradition"
- Pawson 1996.
- Oropeza 2000.
- Mcgonigle 2001.
- Stanglin & McCall 2012.
- Pinson 2002, p. 137.
- Arminius 1853a, p. 252.
- Arminius 1853a, p. 316.
- Arminius 1853c, p. 454.
- Pinson 2002, p. 140.
- Picirilli 2002, pp. 154-.
- Forlines 2001, pp. 313–321.
- Arminius 1853c, p. 311.
- Pawson 1996, pp. 109-.
- Picirilli 2002, p. 203.
- Picirilli 2002, pp. 204-.
- Arminius 1853b, pp. 219-220.
- Arminius 1853b. This seems to fit with Arminius’ other statements on the need for perseverance in faith. For example: "God resolves to receive into favor those who repent and believe, and to save in Christ, on account of Christ, and through Christ, those who persevere [in faith], but to leave under sin and wrath those who are impenitent and unbelievers, and to condemn them as aliens from Christ". (Arminius 1853b, pp. 465, 466) In another place he writes: "[God] wills that they, who believe and persevere in faith, shall be saved, but that those, who are unbelieving and impenitent, shall remain under condemnation". (Arminius 1853c, pp. 412, 413)
- Arminius 1853a, p. 665. William Nichols notes: "Arminius spoke nearly the same modest words when interrogated on this subject in the last Conference which he had with Gomarus [a Calvinist], before the states of Holland, on the 12th of Aug. 1609, only two months prior to his decease".
- Oropeza 2000, p. 16. "Although Arminius denied having taught final apostasy in his Declaration of Sentiments, in the Examination of the Treatise of Perkins on the Order and Mode of Predestination he writes that a person who is being 'built' into the church of Christ may resist the continuation of this process. Concerning the believers, 'It may suffice to encourage them, if they know that no power or prudence can dislodge them from the rock, unless they of their own will forsake their position.' (Arminius 1853c, p. 455) compare with (Arminius 1853a, p. 667) A believing member of Christ may become slothful, give place to sin, and gradually die altogether, ceasing to be a member.(Arminius 1853c, p. 458) The covenant of God (Jeremiah 23) 'does not contain in itself an impossibility of defection from God, but a promise of the gift of fear, whereby they shall be hindered from going away from God so long as that shall flourish in their hearts.' If there is any consistency in Arminius' position, he did not seem to deny the possibility of falling away"
- Schaff 2007. The Article reads: That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by not craft or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ's hand, according to the Word of Christ, John 10:28 'Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.' But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with full persuasion of our minds.
- DeJong 1968, pp. 220-. Points three and four in the fifth article read: True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish.
- Witzki 2010.
- Picirilli 2002, p. 198.
- Pinson 2002, p. 159.
- Pinson 2002, pp. 227-.
- Pinson 2002, pp. 239–240.
- Wesley & Emory 1835, p. 247, "A Call to Backsliders".
- Wesley 1827, p. 66, "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection".
- Wesley & Emory 1835, p. 73, "The End of Christ’s Coming".
- Wesley 1827, p. 45, "Of Christian Perfection".
- Picirilli 2002, pp. 40, 59-:Picirilli actually objects so strongly to the link between Arminianism and Open theism that he devotes an entire section to his objections
- Walls & Dongell 2004, p. 45.
- Picirilli 2002, pp. 42–43, 59-.
- Pinson 2002, pp. 146–147.
- Picirilli 2002, p. 40.
- Ridderbos 1997, p. 351.
- Abasciano 2005.
- Walls & Dongell 2004, p. 76.
- Barth 1974, p. 108.
- Table drawn from, though not copied, from Lange, Lyle W. God So Loved the World: A Study of Christian Doctrine. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2006. p. 448.
- "Calvinism and Lutheranism Compared". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
Both (Lutherans and Calvinists) agree on the devastating nature of the fall and that man by nature has no power to aid in his conversions...and that election to salvation is by grace. In Lutheranism the German term for election is Gnadenwahl, election by grace--there is no other kind.
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, III.23.2.
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, II.3.5.
- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, III.3.6.
- WELS Topical Q&A: WELS vs Assembly of God: "[P]eople by nature are dead in their tranbsgressions (sic) and sin and therefore have no ability to decide of Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 5). We do not choose Christ, rather he chose us (John 15:16) We believe that human beings are purely passive in conversion."
- Augsburg Confessional, Article XVIII, Of Free Will, saying: "(M)an's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14); but this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word."
- Henry Cole, trans., Martin Luther on the Bondage of the Will (London, T. Bensley, 1823), 66. The controversial term liberum arbitrium was translated "free-will" by Cole. However Ernest Gordon Rupp and Philip Saville Watson, Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation (Westminister, 1969) chose "free choice" as their translation.
- Stanglin, Keith D.; McCall, Thomas H. (15 November 2012). Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace. New York: OUP USA. pp. 157–158.
- The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Lutheran Church, XI. Election. "Predestination" means "God's ordination to salvation".
- Olson, Roger E. (2009). Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. p. 63.
“Arminians accepts divine election, [but] they believe it is conditional."
- The Westminster Confession, III:6, says that only the "elect" are "effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved." However in his Calvin and the Reformed Tradition (Baker, 2012), 45, Richard A. Muller observes that "a sizeable body of literature has interpreted Calvin as teaching "limited atonement", but "an equally sizeable body . . . [interprets] Calvin as teaching "unlimited atonement".
- "Justification / Salvation". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
Romans 3:23-24, 5:9, 18 are other passages that lead us to say that it is most appropriate and accurate to say that universal justification is a finished fact. God has forgiven the sins of the whole world whether people believe it or not. He has done more than "made forgiveness possible." All this is for the sake of the perfect substitutionary work of Jesus Christ.
- "IV. Justification by Grace through Faith". This We Believe. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends. It is a message relevant to people of all times and places, of all races and social levels, for "the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men" (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for "the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men" (Romans 5:18). We believe that individuals receive this free gift of forgiveness not on the basis of their own works, but only through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). ... On the other hand, although Jesus died for all, Scripture says that "whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). Unbelievers forfeit the forgiveness won for them by Christ (John 8:24).
- Becker, Siegbert W. "Objective Justification" (PDF). Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. p. 1. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
- "Universal Justification". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
Christ paid for all our sins. God the Father has therefore forgiven them. But to benefit from this verdict we need to hear about it and trust in it. If I deposit money in the bank for you, to benefit from it you need to hear about it and use it. Christ has paid for your sins, but to benefit from it you need to hear about it and believe in it. We need to have faith but we should not think of faith as our contribution. It is a gift of God which the Holy Spirit works in us.
- Augsburg Confession, Article V, Of Justification. People "cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. ..."
- Stanglin, Keith D.; McCall, Thomas H. (15 November 2012). Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace. New York: OUP USA. p. 136.
Faith is a condition of justification
- Paul ChulHong Kang, Justification: The Imputation of Christ's Righteousness from Reformation Theology to the American Great Awakening and the Korean Revivals (Peter Lang, 2006), 70, note 171. Calvin generally defends Augustine’s "monergistic view".
- Diehl, Walter A. "The Age of Accountability". Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
In full accord with Scripture the Lutheran Confessions teach monergism. "In this manner, too, the Holy Scriptures ascribe conversion, faith in Christ, regeneration, renewal and all the belongs to their efficacious beginning and completion, not to the human powers of the natural free will, neither entirely, nor half, nor in any, even the least or most inconsiderable part, but in solidum, that is, entirely, solely, to the divine working and the Holy Ghost" (Trigl. 891, F.C., Sol. Decl., II, 25).
- Monergism; thefreedictionary.com
- "Calvinism and Lutheranism Compared". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
- Olson, Roger E. (2009). Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. p. 18.
Arminian synergism" refers to "evangelical synergism, which affirms the prevenience of grace.
- Olson, Roger E. (2010). "One more quick sidebar about clarifying Arminianism". My evangelical, Arminian theological musings. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
Classical Arminianism does NOT say God never interferes with free will. It says God NEVER foreordains or renders certain evil. [...] An Arminian COULD believe in divine dictation of Scripture and not do violence to his or her Arminian beliefs. [...] Arminianism is not in love with libertarian free will –as if that were central in and of itself. Classical Arminians have gone out of our way (beginning with Arminius himself) to make clear that our sole reasons for believe in free will AS ARMINIANS [...] are 1) to avoid making God the author of sin and evil, and 2) to make clear human responsibility for sin and evil.
- The Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch XVII, "Of the Perseverance of the Saints".
- "Once saved always saved". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
People can fall from faith. The Bible warns, "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). Some among the Galatians had believed for a while, but had fallen into soul-destroying error. Paul warned them, "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (Galatians 5:4). In his explanation of the parable of the sower, Jesus says, "Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they fall away" (Luke 8:13). According to Jesus a person can believe for a while and then fall away. While they believed they possessed eternal salvation, but when they fell from faith they lost God's gracious gift.
- "Perseverence of the Saints (Once Saved Always Saved)". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
We cannot contribute one speck to our salvation, but by our own arrogance or carelessness we can throw it away. Therefore, Scripture urges us repeatedly to fight the good fight of faith (Ephesians 6 and 2 Timothy 4 for example). My sins threaten and weaken my faith, but the Spirit through the gospel in word and sacraments strengthens and preserves my faith. That’s why Lutherans typically speak of God’s preservation of faith and not the perseverance of the saints. The key is not our perseverance but the Spirit’s preservation.
- Demarest, Bruce A. (1997). The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation. Crossway Books. pp. 437–438.
- Demarest, Bruce A. (1997). The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation. Crossway Books. p. 35.
“Many Arminians deny the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints."
- Pinson 2002, pp. 138–139.
- Arminius 1853b, p. 192.
- Arminius 1853b, p. 219. The entire treatise occupies pages 196–452
- Pawson 1996, p. 106.
- Pawson 1996, pp. 97–98, 106.
- Picirilli 2002, pp. 6-.
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- Pinson 2002, pp. 140–.
- Picirilli 2002, p. 132.
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