Arminianism

Arminianism, also referred to as Classical Arminianism (sometimes titled Reformed Arminianism or Reformation Arminianism, is attributed to Jacob Arminius [1588-1609]. His views and those of his followers, the Remonstrants, were a reaction to John Calvin [1509-1564] and other Reformation-era theologians which is termed "Calvinism" or more generally ("Reformed Theology"). John Wesley later espoused views quite similar to Arminius which are termed Wesleyan Arminianism. Wesley agreed with most of what Arminius taught except atonement being solely legal (yet they both believed in atonement through penal substitution), apostasy being final, and Wesley believed in entire sanctification.

Arminianism stresses a number of important features. The emphasis on man’s responsibility is surely Biblical: man must believe to be saved (John 3:16; Acts 16:31, etc.). If man refuses to believe, he is lost (John 5:40; John 7:17). Arminianism’s emphasis on the universality of the atonement is also Biblical (1 Tim. 4:10; 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 2:2).

Calvinism/Reformed Theology is typically characterized by the acronym T.U.L.I.P. However, the Reformed argue that the original five points are from the Canons of Dort but was only an exposition on the five points of doctrine that were in dispute. The origin of the TULIP acronym is uncertain, but it was used by Cleland Boyd McAfee as early as circa 1905.[1] Regardless, it is generally accepted by everyone as a summary of the essential points in this difficult subject.

T -"Total Depravity": Arminians mostly agree. 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."[2] Through this grace (prevenient grace), we are able to exercise our free will and believe by faith. So Arminianism agrees with Calvinism/Reformed Theology on "total depravity" but Arminianism essentially adds free will through prevenient grace.

U - "Unconditional Election": Arminians believe 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."[3] 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."[3] Arminians relate predestination to God's foreknowledge of man's actions. They stress that God knew beforehand who would believe, and He elected those. In Arminianism, election and predestination are conditioned by faith. The word foreknowledge (Gk. prognosis), however, is basically equivalent to election (cf. Rom. 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:20). >L - "Limited Atonement": Arminians believe 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.[4] To the Arminian, 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."[5] 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."[6]

I - Irresistible Grace: Arminians believe 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."[7] 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.[8] Mankind has a freed will to respond or resist because of prevenient grace. 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.

P - Perseverance of the Saints: Arminians believe 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.[9] Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer and justification is sola fide (solely by faith). 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.[10] 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.[11] Apostasy (turning from Christ) is only committed through a deliberate, willful rejection of Jesus and renunciation of saving faith. Such apostasy is irremediable.[12] Arminius, himself, said that "I never taught that a true believer can… fall away from the faith… 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 as kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding."[13] Further, the text of the Articles of Remonstrance says that no believer can be plucked from Christ's hand, and the matter of falling away, "loss of salvation" required further study before it could be taught with any certainty.


FOOTNOTES:

1. Wail, William H., (1913). The Five Points of Calvinism Historically Considered, The New Outlook 104 (1913).
2. Arminius, James The Writings of James Arminius (three vols.), tr. James Nichols and William R. Bagnall (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1956), I:316 3. Ibid, III:311
4. Ibid, I:252
5. Ibid, III:454
6. Ashby, Stephen "Reformed Arminianism" Four Views on Eternal Security (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), pg. 140
7. Picirilli, Robert Grace, Faith, Free Will: Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2002), 154ff
8. Forlines, Leroy F., Pinson, Matthew J. and Ashby, Stephen M. The Quest for Truth: Answering Life's Inescapable Questions (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2001), 313–321
9. Pawson, David Once Saved, Always Saved? A Study in Perseverance and Inheritance (London: Hodder & Staughton, 1996), 109ff
10. Forlines, F. Leroy, Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation, ch. 6
11. Picirilli, Robert Grace, Faith, Free Will: Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2002), pg. 203
12. Ibid, pg. 204ff
13. Arminius, James The Writings of James Arminius (three vols.), tr. James Nichols and William R. Bagnall (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1956), I:254


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