Theology: ARMINIANISM

ARMINIUS 1560-1609

 

Actually his name was Harmen. Arminius was a Latinization of it. Some authors mention him as Jacob or James. He was Dutch. (Thomas, W.H. Griffith; “The Principles Of Theology”; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979, p 245)

 

Steele and Thomas will be mentioned from time to time in this section. They have two books out which compare these two systems.

 

This is what Arminianism teaches however there are some differences with what Mark Arminius taught. His followers set forth “his” doctrine to the church of Holland in 1610, but they were pronounced unscriptural in 1619. Some authors state that the true Arminianism is somewhat different from that presented at Dort. These thoughts were written by Hugo Grotius and others. It is called the Remonstrance which is a presentation of reasons to oppose something.

 

Though condemned, the system of thought spread. Archbishop William Laud (1573-1645) introduced it into the Anglican Church where 100 years later John & Charles Wesley picked it up and used his thinking in establishing the Methodist Denomination. (George Whitefield also was involved.) I should make note however, Laud, I think was a minority and that the Anglican church for the most part was, and is calvinistic. Indeed, some list the Anglican 39 Articles as descending from Calvin’s work.

 

The system teaches the following:

 

1. Free Will: Man is depraved, however not so badly that God can’t help him find God. He is not slave to his sin nature, but can respond to God’s drawing, or reject it. He is not forced against his will to accept God. The Holy Spirit will assist him if he so desires.

 

2. Conditional Election: God chooses people on the basis of his foreknowledge that is he knew before hand that they would respond to His working through the Holy Spirit. He elected only those that He knew would respond to Him. This makes election dependant upon what man would do.

 

 

3. Unlimited Atonement: Christ obtained salvation for everyone on the cross however this does not give everyone salvation. They must respond to God before this is effectual to them.

 

4. Resistable Grace: God the Holy Spirit calls all that are to be saved unto God. That call, however is not compulsory. Man can and does reject that call of the Spirit, thus condemning himself. The Holy Spirit can do nothing without the free will decision of the person.

 

5. Insecurity Of The Believer: The standard Armenian today holds that a person can lose his salvation. This doesn’t seem to be the original position however, as the Armenians when the controversy started stated that this needed more study. Indeed, some Armenians over the years have held to a very strict view of the Security of the believer.

 

The system views God as the instigator of salvation (the call) and man the receptor. Between the two of them they get the job done, so to speak. Man is given the choice between heaven and hell, between peace with God and turmoil, between God and the Devil. He may choose as he wills. (I wonder why anyone would not choose God.)

 

JOHN CALVIN

 

At a meeting with King Charles IX in 1561 the Calvinists claimed the term “reformed” for themselves. They wanted to say by this that they were more reformed than the Lutheran churches were under Luther.

 

Calvin set forth his views in his Institutes in 1536.

 

John Calvin supposedly invented an acrostic to refute the Armenians at the Synod of Dort in 1619.

 

It would be good to point out that Augustine held these truths 1000 years before (according to Griffith Thomas in The Principles of Theology, p 246).

 

Some of the many confessions that grew out of different countries where his followers were located are the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of the Synod of Dort, the Westminster Confession of Faith and in the Church of England the Anglican Confession, or Thirty-nine Articles.

 

 

His acrostic was as follows:

 

T. Total depravity of man.

 

U. Unconditional election.

 

L. Limited atonement.

 

I. Irresistible grace.

 

P. Perseverance of the saints. Let us go through his points.

 

Total Depravity Of Man: We are totally corrupt and unable to respond to God in any way shape or form, unless God does the moving. The strong Calvinist might even suggest that regeneration comes to the person, so that there is enough life within him to respond to the Gospel and call of God. Without this regeneration, it is utterly impossible for the person to respond.

 

Unconditional election: God chose the elect based on nothing but His sovereignty. There is nothing that the man can do at all. He is totally unable to help himself.

 

Limited atonement: Christ died on the cross for only the elect. Christ’s work provided all that was needed for the salvation of man.

 

Irresistible grace: The grace that God extends cannot be rejected. The person must turn to God. There is a call to all to be saved which can be, and is often rejected, however for the elect there is an inner calling which cannot be resisted.

 

I Must Observe For A Moment. The terms “to come freely and willingly” that the Calvinist uses, are hilarious in this discussion. If he cannot resist, and if he cannot respond, and if the Holy Spirit is doing it, and if the man can do nothing except respond Then how can they use “freely and willingly”?

 

Perseverance of the saints: The saved person cannot lose their salvation. They are forever saved by the power of God. Since this salvation is based on the power, election, provision, calling and work of God, how can it fail.

 

 

Once the person is a child of God, there is nothing that can separate him from His God.

 

There is another system that has never been set forth with an official title. It is a system that is held by many theologians.

 

While in a college full of strong Calvinistic professors, some of the students, including myself, became dissatisfied with what was being taught. The professors found that there was a lack of acceptance of their doctrine, so they proceeded to teach Calvinism in every class, in every chapel, and in every other opportunity they had.

 

The result was that the dissenters were very frustrated. I finally wrote an open letter to the faculty asking that the Calpush be stopped. I included a poem of humor, and signed it A. Calmenian. Since, I have used the term to describe what I believe to be the proper mix of Calvinism and Arminianism to be.

 

CALMENIANISM

 

1. Total Depravity: Man is totally depraved.

 

2. Conditional Election: God chose and elected based on His foreknowledge of what a person would do if placed in a certain set of circumstances leading up to the point of a decision about Christ.

 

3. Unlimited Atonement: Christ died for all mankind as John 3:16 states. Christ made universal payment for all of mankind, however we must remember that Christ’s death saved no one. Only applying that work will save.

 

4. Grace:

 

Desired Grace: God has revealed Himself within man and through nature according to Romans 1. This revelation if responded to would, I assume, lead to further revelation, and ultimately a confrontation with the cross of Jesus Christ. (In other words the drawing that brings the person to the decision.) Moving men to an effective faith in Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

Common grace is grace that is extended to all of mankind — rain, sunshine, etc.

 

Convicting grace is grace that convicts man of sin and judgment. This can be resisted even if believed;

 

Confessing grace which brings the person to salvation and is irresistible.

 

5. Security Of The Saints: Saved cannot lose their salvation. This view allows for logically bringing election and freewill together. By free will it is meant that the person has a free choice when he decides for, or against Christ. It is also indicated in Scripture that the person would not choose Christ except for the work which the Holy Spirit has been doing in the life.

 

CALVIN AND ARMINIUS CONSIDERED

 

These thoughts are not designed to prove my view, or anyone else’s view, but are presented for your thought and consideration. I make no condemnation of these men, nor do I want to try to judge them in anyway. I merely want to observe some facts and draw from these facts some possible conclusions.

 

These conclusions may or may not be true, but I think they are worth considering when we are going to study and comment on two men’s theological systems.

 

Calvin studied under the humanist Guillaume Cop at the University of Paris. He also studied law for awhile at the university at Orleans. Then came Calvin’s conversion. To the astute mind that looks at things from the cause and effect point of view, you must wonder if Calvin’s back ground wasn’t very heartily affecting his theological studies.

 

Indeed, Mark Carins gives comment to one occasion which might help us to visualize this possibility more easily. “Forced to leave France in 1534 after he had collaborated with Nicholas Cop, the rector of the University of Paris, in an address that was tinged with Humanistic and Reformation ideology, he went to Basel.” (Taken from the book, Christianity Through The Centureies by Earle E. Cairns. Copyright 1954, 1981 by The Zondervan Corporation. Used by permission.)

 

 

His “Institutes of the Christian Religion” was put out for the first time in 1534-36. It was not into it’s final form until 1559. However, Calvin himself states that the work that he added to it was additions and enlargements — not change of any major approach. This came out when he was 26 years old. Fresh out of a humanist and law education and conversion. There is little doubt that humanism was a factor in his

thinking.

 

“In the first edition of this work, not expecting that success which the Lord, in his infinite goodness, hath given, I handled the subject for the most part in a superficial manner, as is usual in small treatises.” “…In every succeeding one the work has been improved by some further enlargements. But though I repented not the labour then devoted to it, yet I never satisfied myself, till it was arranged in the order in which it is now published;” (Taken from the book, Christianity Through The Centureies

by Earle E. Cairns. Copyright 1954, 1981 by The Zondervan Corporation. Used by permission.)

 

If he felt free to mix his thinking in the early days then you must see the distinct possibility of it later in life. His humanistic training would influence his thought most of his life.

 

Carins further mentions the fact that his first book is very plainly influenced by Luther’s Catechism. He is a man being influenced on many sides.

 

It seems to me that anyone converted from the thinking of humanism might well over react in his thinking where man / God relationships are involved.

 

Carins mentions that Arminius studied at Leyden and Geneva under Beza. Mark Beza, if you have studied Calvin, was the man that took over the banner when Calvin died in Geneva. “Theodore Beza took over his [Calvin’s] work of leadership in Geneva.” (Carins p 338) If Arminius studied under a staunch and strong, freshly cultured Calvinist, is it not somewhat possible that his theology might well be tainted with a pendulum swing of reaction also, and in the other direction?

 

Carins mentions (p 338) that Arminius came under great opposition from his colleague Francis Gomar, and as is seen later in history with others that opposed his teaching. What does the underdog usually do when opposed? Dig in, hold on tight, and look for further proof that he is right. This would not necessarily make for an open mind when looking into Scripture for proof of one’s beliefs.

 

It seems to me that we may well have in Calvinism and Arminianism the two extremes of theological thought that are back swings to humanism. This may well be why today we have most conservative theologians somewhere in the middle — Calmenians.

 

APPLICATION

 

1. When you study these two men be sure you temper what they say with their backgrounds. Indeed, when you study anyone maybe you should look at their backgrounds.

 

2. Indeed, when you listen to someone, temper what they say with their background. To allow you to do this let me tell you my background. I was raised in a Christian Church. I did not hear the Gospel in that church. I received Christ in a Fundamental Bible church. I went to college at Western Bible Institute for two years. The faculty were staunch Calvinists. Indeed, they took several weeks to pound Calvinism into the students minds. Chapel sessions as well as in many of the classes. Out of this I was very frustrated because I had just studied the Word of God to find the answers to these questions and now they were telling me I was completely wrong. I then attended two years at an Independent Baptist College which was also very Calvinistic. Now you know my back ground. Maybe my study of the Word was based on some over reaction, however I don’t think so. My study was done before anyone had told me what they thought to be the proper belief.

 

3. When you get tired of looking at backgrounds and trying to figure out just what is affecting each author you might try going to the Word of God and see what He thinks. He Had A Perfect Background Upon Which To Draw, When He Spoke.

 

4. Is it any wonder that a middle of the road position which mixes the two systems has come on the scene? Maybe, should we say a system which stems from many pendulum swings over the years to a more Biblical accounting of what the Word of God says?

 

CONCLUSION

 

In the dedication of his “Institutes” to “His Most Christian Majesty, Francis, King of the French and his Sovereign” he states, “But our doctrine must stand, exalted above all the glory and invincible by all the power of the world; because it is not ours, but the doctrine of the living God, and of his Christ, whom the Father hath constituted King,…” (Taken from the book, Christianity Through The Centureies by Earle E. Cairns. Copyright 1954, 1981 by The Zondervan Corporation. Used by permission.)

 

This man, as I am sure did Arminius, believe what he taught was the very best they could do with the Scriptures, and that what they believed was the truth that God had revealed.

 

I trust that you will consider what you have read in this section and come to the point that you will center your studies on the Word of God and use the commentaries, and theologies, and the other books as tools to assist you and to check you in your studies. Do not look into these books for your answers but look into THE book. Do not look into these books for your truth but look into the Book of Truth.

 

THE DECREES

 

I will include a brief listing of the positions concerning the decrees. Most theology works have further information, if you would like further study.

 

Rightfully expressed, most feel that God had only one, over all decree, but that for our ease of understanding we break it into several decrees. Four lines of thinking as to the sequence of decrees are to be found. Infralapsarian, Sublapsarian, Supralapsarian, And Arminian. The first three are to be found in the Calvinist camp.

 

The term “lapsarian” comes from the idea of the fall — the lapse.

 

SUPRALAPSARIAN

 

Those holding to this sequence would usually be the Ultra or High Calvinist. They would place the order of the decrees as follows:

 

 

1. Decree to elect some to be saved and to reprobate all others.

 

2. Decree to create men both elect and non-elect.

 

3. Decree to permit the fall.

 

4. Decree to provide salvation for the elect.

 

5. Decree to apply salvation to the elect.

 

INFRALAPSARIAN

 

Those holding to this order are usually moderate Calvinists.

 

1. Decree to create all men.

 

2. Decree to permit the fall.

 

3. Decree to provide salvation for men.

 

4. Decree to elect those who do believe and to leave in just condemnation all who do not believe.

5. Decree to apply salvation to those who believe.

 

SUBLAPSARIAN

 

Those holding to this order would be classified as moderate also. There is little difference between the Infra and Sub. That difference being that the Sub. place the decree to elect after the one to allow the fall.

 

1. Decree to create all men.

 

2. Decree to permit the fall.

 

3. Decree to elect those who do believe and to leave in just condemnation all who do not believe.

 

4. Decree to provide salvation for men.

 

5. Decree to apply salvation to those who believe.

 

ARMINIAN

 

The Arminian view is as follows.

 

 

1. Decree to create all men.

 

2. Decree to permit the fall.

 

3. Decree to provide salvation for men.

 

4. Decree to elect those who do believe and to leave in just condemnation all who do not believe.

 

The election that they speak about is based on the foreknowledge of God. That is the foreknowing of “human virtue, faith, and obedience” (Chafer Vol. III, p 182) The election in the Calvinist camp is based upon God’s choice only.

 

5. Decree to apply salvation to those who believe.[1]

 


[1] Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. B.A. (n.d.). DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.

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