Arminianism, Take 1

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Being a Methodist, I am naturally an Arminian but truth be told, I do not know so much about what it is other than the fact that it is an “archrival” of Calvinism especially in the subject of predestination. Over the long weekend, I downloaded Wikipedia’s entry on Arminianism and found out some information about it. Here is a summary of what I read and found out from

In short, Arminianism is a school of soteriological thought or in other words, thoughts on the study of salvation, in Protestant Christian theology.

It originated from the Dutch pastor and theologian Jacobus Arminius in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. His teacher was a hand-picked successor of Calvin, whose teachings Arminius rejected. His teacher’s theology of making God the author of sin was rejected and in return, he proposed that the election of God was of believers, making it conditional on faith. Arminius died before a national synod could occur when his views were challenged by the Dutch Calvinists. Due to some political maneuverings, Arminian magistrates were removed from office and Arminianism labeled a heresy. The five points of Calvinism was a result of its respond to Arminianism. Arminians across Holland were removed from office, imprisoned, persecuted, banished and sworn to silence. It was only until 12 years have passed that they were finally granted protection as a religion. But animosity between Arminians and Calvinists continued.

John Wesley
John Wesley was a champion of Arminius' teachings, defending his soteriology in a periodical titled The Arminian and writing articles such as Predestination Calmly Considered. He defended Arminius 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 characterised 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.

Current landscape
Arminianism is mainly advocated by the Anglicans, Methodists, Free Will Baptists, General Baptists, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals and Charismatics. Calvinist on the other hand are advocated by the Reformed Churches including the Particular Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists. The current scholarly support for Arminianism is wide and varied. One particular thrust is a return to the teachings of Arminius.

While Arminianism is most accurately used to define those who affirm the original beliefs of Jacobus Arminius himself, the term can also be understood as an umbrella for a larger grouping of ideas including those of Hugo Grotius, John Wesley, Clark Pinnock, and others. 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. Critics include Pelagianism but supporters from both primary perspectives would deny this vehemently.

Arminianism holds to the following tenets:
• Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation
• Salvation is possible by grace alone
• Works of human effort are not cause or contribution to salvation
• God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus
• Jesus' atonement was potentially for all people
• God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe
• Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith

I will touch on its theology and comparison with other views tomorrow, God willing.

Picture from Andover-Harvard Theological Library.
The portrait of Arminius is from the Library's Dutch portrait collection which came to the Library as part of the library of Jan Pieter de Bie(1871-1959).

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5 comment(s)

  1. Maeghan,

    Codepoke had some good discussions on this a few months back. It is really interesting how these items cause so much anger.

    I am neither a Calvinsist or Armenian. My views on predestination are... ummmm... different.

    I talked about them on CP's blog. As always, he has got some really interesting, and cool insight on the subject... if you are willing to read a bit.

    God Bless

  2. I like your approach, Maeghan. Not many people come to the subject with a historical look at Arminianism.


    In the tenets, you observe that people cannot come to God on their own, and that people can resist the grace of God. You do not, however, list any way in which God helps/makes/convinces people to come to Him.

    I am curious what will come out on this subject. I believe that no amount of human reasoning will draw a man to God, but that instead something spiritual must happen. I also believe that once that spiritual thing happens, the man will never want anything but God.

    I look forward. :-)

    (When I put up a post in a week or two about this subject, please know that I wrote in back in early August. I am just waiting for the presbuteras discussion to end before I post. It will not be an answer to anything we talk about here.)

  3. Doug,
    Thanks for the heads up. I will do so when I can spare some minutes this evening at home.

    Different, eh? :) OK, I will certainly check them out in CP's.

  4. CP,
    I got those points mostly from wikipedia. I have a sudden interest recently in history. Had hated it during school! LOL
    But now I can see how invaluable it is to understand how things come about.

    You do not, however, list any way in which God helps/makes/convinces people to come to Him.

    That was only "Take 1". But thanks for the pointer. I will have to ensure that is covered.

    (When I put up a post in a week or two about this subject, please know that I wrote in back in early August ...

    And I will look out for it. I certainly can't wait to hear you out especially since your discussion with (was it) your colleague.

  5. Yeah, my "friend of opportunity" on the plane trip with all the delays. His knowledge of scripture was astounding, and I had to take some time away to see the big picture.

    I ended up only more convinced of the basic outline of Calvinism.

    He would be disappointed.