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Arminianism

Arminianism is a school of thought in Protestant Christian theology founded by the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius. It is perhaps most prominent in the Methodist movement.

Not to be confused with Armenians (people from Armenia) or the Armenian language.

Table of contents

Origins

The original Arminian party arose within the Reformed churches in the Netherlands, to advocate a revision of the Reformed doctrine of predestination, in favor of an idea of predestination that was more agreeable to reason and Catholic tradition. They charged that the Calvinist party, especially the followers of Theodore Beza and the University of Leiden professor, Franciscus Gomarus, had developed a system of doctrine that made God the author of evil as well as of good. The Arminians attempted to formulate a consistent system, and proposed five corrections of the Reformed doctrine which would better express the important proposition that all good originates with God, but sin in no sense originates with Him. These became known as the Arminian Articles of Remonstrance (1610) [1], and their proponents became known as Remonstrants (correctors or reformers). The Arminians also question the reformed doctrine of the free will of man and the doctrine of original sin...

Theology

The Arminians suggested five, anti-Calvinist corrections, which are summarized below:

  • Conditional Election: God has decreed to save through Jesus Christ, out of fallen and sinful mankind, those foreknown by Him who through the grace of the Holy Spirit believe in Christ; but God leaves in sin those foreseen, who are incorrigible and unbelieving.
  • Universal Atonement: Christ's death was suffered on behalf of all men, but God elects for salvation only those who believe in Christ.
  • Free Will with Partial Depravity: Freedom of will is man's natural state, not a spiritual gift – and thus free will was not lost in the Fall. The grace of Christ works upon all men to influence them for good, but only those who freely choose to agree with grace by faith and repentance are given new spiritual power to make effectual the good they otherwise impotently intend. Wesley revised this view, stating that humans were in fact totally depraved and completely corrupted by original sin, but that God's prevenient grace allowed free will to operate.
  • Resistible Grace: The grace of God works for good in all men, and brings about newness of life through faith. But grace can be resisted even by the regenerate.
  • Uncertain Perseverance: Those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith have power given them through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit, sufficient to enable them to persevere in the faith. But it may be possible for a believer to fall from grace.

Reformed reaction

The Calvinists responded to the Arminian position at the Synod of Dort, with a rebuttal against the charge that Reformed churches relieve men of responsibility for their own sin, or teach that God is the author of evil. The Synod also rejected the Arminian proposals as a republication of the error of Semi-Pelagianism, and reaffirmed the Calvinist position on the five points of Arminianism, without requiring the doctrine of predestination as advocated by Gomarus. The Synod's point-by-point rebuttal of the five articles have been, since then, popularly referred to as "the five points of Calvinism", commonly abbreviated TULIP.

Wesley and Finney

The Wesleyan revival in England, which was part of the first Great Awakening in America, recovered the Arminian emphasis on personal responsibility; but it did not widely result in the adoption of Arminianism by the traditionally Calvinist denominations. However, the Second Great Awakening, beginning approximately sixty years later, brought a widespread overthrow of Calvinism in favor of Arminianism, especially through the influence of Methodism and the Presbyterian Charles Grandison Finney, who aggressively advanced the Arminian system as an antidote to hypocrisy and religious apathy. Restoration Movement revivalists, Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone popularized an anti-Calvinist, democratic concept of salvation early in the Second Great Awakening, but this can be contrasted with Arminianism on a number of points. Also, their followers typically reject all, Arminianism vs. Calvinism, Augustinianism vs. Pelagianism, and other typical distinctions, as "ecclesiastical idols".

Protestant denominations that traditionally adhere to Arminianism include most Methodist and related denominations. The two early leaders of the Methodist revival were John Wesley (Arminian) and George Whitefield (Calvinist) and the two honed their doctrinal differences by debate, but eventually agreed to disagree. There are still some Calvinistic Methodists who are spiritual descendants of Whitefield, but Wesley's views have predominated.

Atonement

Traditionally, Arminians have held to the governmental theory of the atonement. A substitutionary view, this doctrine says that Christ suffered in order to demonstrate the seriousness with which God views sin. This is in opposition to the Calvinist punishment theory that says that Christ died to substitute his punishment for the sins of the Elect. Arminians generally have believed that if Christ took humankind's punishment, then forgiveness would not be possible. for punishment and forgiveness are mutually exclusive. Arminians have recognized that if the Calvinist idea is true, that Christ substituted for the sins of a man (including presumably the sin of unbelief), he would be infallibly saved.(See Hugo Grotius, John Miley, J. Kenneth Grider)

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