Complied and edited by David J. Stewart

Arminian Basics

Arminianism was started by Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). He was born slightly before John Calvin died and was actually taught by Calvin's son-in-law. He was a Calvinist until one day when forced to defend his beliefs and found that his opponent could more ably defend his views against Calvinism. This caused Arminius to reject his Calvinistic background and “sought to modify Calvinism so that ‘God might not be considered the author of sin, nor man an automation in the hands of God.’”

Arminius’ views stirred up controversy in Holland, his home.  Arminius asked to speak to the government on the issue but it was never brought before them until 1618, nine years after his death.  It was soundly rejected and his followers faced persecution from Calvinists; 200 pastors losing their posts, statesman John van Olden Barneveldt beheaded, Hugo Grotius imprisoned for life but escaping two years later.

By 1625 the persecution had waned and followers began to return to Holland once again.  They spread a principle of toleration throughout the churches in Holland so that there was much more religious toleration.

England had been Arminian to some extent before Arminius was born but faced the struggles of the Purituan revolt, Oliver Cromwell, and the Glorious Revolution.  This caused “Charles II, who despised the Presbyterians, to reinstitute Arminian doctrine in the Church of England.”  This Arminianism wasn’t exactly the same as that taught by Arminius but was similar.  John Wesley (1703-1791) later championed the Arminian beliefs, “traveling more than 250,000 miles and preaching 40,000 sermons.”

Arminians followers responded to the five points of Calvinism (see Calvinistic basics for more explanation) with five points of their own. The following explanation of the five points is as per The Moody Handbook of Theology.

Election Based on (fore) knowledge- God elected those whom He knew would of their own free will believe in Christ and persevere in the faith
Unlimited Atonement- In His atonement, Christ provided redemption for all mankind, making all mankind savable. Christ's atonement becomes effective only in those who believe
Natural Ability- Man cannot save himself; the Holy Spirit must effect the new birth
Prevenient Grace- Preparatory work of the Holy Spirit enables the believer to respond to the gospel and cooperate with God in salvation
Conditional Perseverance- Believers have been empowered to live a victorious life, but they are capable of turning from grace and losing their salvation

* selected quotes taken from The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns.

Arminius Taught Heresy

Many believers do NOT understand the doctrines of Arminius.  Let me clarify my statement by saying that Arminius came much closer to being correct than Calvin did, BUT BOTH MEN TAUGHT HERESY.  Why look to dead men for our doctrines when the Living Holy Spirit is available to teach us the Word of God, " But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things..." -John 14:26.  1st John 2:27 reads, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you."  We need to stop arguing over whether Calvin or Arminius was correct and start studying the Word of God for ourselves.  The Bible is very clear in It's Teachings.  The Word of God blows Calvinism to pieces, and exposes the lie of Arminianism that a believer can lose eternal security.  BOTH Calvin and Arminius were guilty of speaking lies against the Word of God.

Please note the following heresies by Arminius:

For just as any one may be unwilling to be built thereon, so may the same man, if he has begun to be built, fall away, resisting the continuation and confirmation of that building. But it is not probable that Christ wished to signify by those words that believers cannot fall away from the faith, because that seems useless. For, since it is necessary for them to have their stability in the rock, and therefore always to rest and lie upon the rock, they will be more slothful in their care to adhere firmly to the rock in temptations, if they be taught that they cannot fall away from the rock.(1)

As regards the opinions of the Fathers, you doubtless know that almost all antiquity is of that judgment, that believers may fall away and perish.(2)

If you affirm that it is here said respecting all who are born of God, that they sin not, and that the seed of God remains in them, I shall take the word "remains" as signifying indwelling, but not the continuation of indwelling. But, so long as the seed of God is in him, he sins not unto death; yet, by degrees, through his own fault and negligence, that seed may be taken away out of his heart; and so that second communication may perish, just as his first creation in the image of God has died away. But this argument, I allow, is the strongest of all which can be adduced to this purpose.(3)

As to the sixth reason: As long as the members continue in Christ like branches in the vine, so long can they not die away; the life-giving power of Christ, to wit, dwelling in them. But if they have not borne fruit, then they shall be cut off. (John xv. 2.) But it may happen that the branches bear no fruit, even when grafted into the vine, not by the fault of the root, or of the vine, but of the branches themselves.(4)

No one, however, exists in Christ except by faith in Christ, which is a necessary means of our union with Christ. But, if it happens that any one falls away from the faith, he falls away from that union, and consequently from the favour of God wherewith He before embraced him in Christ. Whence also it is apparent that there is in this solution a begging of the question. For it is inquired "whether believers can fall away from the first grace," that is, "from the favour of God wherewith He embraces them in Christ." It is certain they cannot while they remain faithful, because just so long are they in Christ. But if they fall away from faith, they fall away also from that first grace.(5)

The example of David proves nothing. For, even if it be granted that David after commission of adultery and murder had not lost the Holy Spirit, it does not thence follow that He cannot be lost. For a man may sin still more grievously, and on this account lose the Holy Spirit. But what if I shall say that David did lose the Holy Spirit, after he had committed adultery and murder? You will reply that it appears from Psalm li. that the matter stands otherwise. I respond that that Psalm was sung by David after that, having been admonished by Nathan, he had repented of those crimes; but that God, at that time, upon the preaching of Nathan, restored the Holy Spirit to David.(6)

If David had died in the very moment in which he had sinned against Uriah by adultery and murder, he would have been condemned to death eternal.(7)

Neither has that which AFFIRMS the contrary ever been reckoned as an heretical opinion; nay, that which affirms it possible for believers to fall away from the faith, has always had more supporters in the church of Christ, than that which denies its possibility or its actually occurring.(8)

Clearly, Arminius DIDN'T believe in the eternal security of the believer. 

History of the Arminians

"A theological movement in Christianity, a liberal reaction to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. The movement began early in the 17th century and asserted that God's sovereignty and man's free will are compatible.

The movement was named for Jacobus Arminius (q.v.), a Dutch Reformed theologian of the University of Leiden (1603–09), who became involved in a highly publicized debate with his colleague Franciscus Gomarus, a rigid Calvinist, concerning the Calvinist interpretation of the divine decrees respecting election and reprobation. For Arminius, God's will as unceasing love was the determinative initiator and arbiter of human destiny. The movement that became known as Arminianism, however, tended to be more liberal than Arminius.

Dutch Arminianism was originally articulated in the Remonstrance (1610), a theological statement signed by 45 ministers and submitted to the Dutch states general. The Synod of Dort (1618–19) was called by the states general to pass upon the Remonstrance. The five points of the Remonstrance asserted that: (1) election (and condemnation on the day of judgment) was conditioned by the rational faith or nonfaith of man; (2) the Atonement, while qualitatively adequate for all men, was efficacious only for the man of faith; (3) unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God's will; (4) grace is not irresistible; and (5) believers are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from grace. The crux of Remonstrant Arminianism lay in the assertion that human dignity requires an unimpaired freedom of the will.

The Dutch Remonstrants were condemned by the Synod of Dort and suffered political persecution for a time, but by 1630 they were legally tolerated. They have continued to assert effective liberalizing tendencies in Dutch Protestant theology.

In the 18th century, John Wesley was influenced by Arminianism. In The Arminian Magazine, edited by him, he stated that “God willeth all men to be saved, by speaking the truth in love.” Arminianism was an important influence in Methodism, which developed out of the Wesleyan movement. A still more liberal version of Arminianism went into the making of American Unitarianism." -Encyclopedia Britannica

The Heart of the Matter

Arminius didn't really teach anything, he simply refuted the heresies of Calvinism.  Although I do agree with the first four refutes of Calvinism by Arminius, I certainly cannot accept his heresy that the believer can lose salvation.  Calvin wasn't correct on this issue either.  Although I DO agree that a believer can never lose their salvation, NO matter what depth of sin they choose to go into, I do NOT accept the unbiblical heresy by Calvin that we should "persevere" to the end to be saved.  In Calvin's commentary on 1st John 3:9, he uses the word "perseverance", clearly stating:

"the hearts of the godly are so effectually governed by the Spirit of God, that through an inflexible disposition they follow his guidance." (John Calvin)

"the power of the Spirit is so effectual, that it necessarily retains us in continual obedience to righteousness." (John Calvin)

This is not eternal security.  Rather Perseverance of the Saints is a perseverance in a behavior consistent with that expected of a child of God.  However, Calvin failed to accept the FACT that believers DO sin, sometimes horribly so.  Sometimes believers go into a life of sin and never get right with God.  Their fellowship with God is broken, but their relationship is not.  David committed adultery and then killed the woman's husband.  David was unrepentant for one year.  If David would have died in that unrepentant state, he would have gone straight to Heaven, NOT Hell as Calvin taught.  Fortunately for David, he did repent.  However, Solomon lived a wicked life of rebellion against God until the end.  Calvin's teachings are nonsense.  Calvin's teachings were indeed a form of Lordship Salvation.  There is much confusion on the last point of Calvinism.  Some believe that Calvin taught unconditional eternal security.  Others believe that Calvin taught eternal security conditioned upon the perseverance of the believer.  Clearly, from Calvin's own statements, he believed in Lordship Salvation, that a believer cannot simply trust Christ to be saved, but that a life of commitment and perseverance was also necessary as proof of conversion.  These are damnable heresies.

It is woefully tragic that so many professed believers are making the same mistake which the Apostle Paul rebuked the believers at Corinth of making, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.  For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.  Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name" -1st Corinthians 1:10-15.  I am NOT an Arminian or a Calvinist, I am a born again Christian!  Let this be our stand!

End Notes

1. Jacobus Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, trans. James and William Nichols [Baker Book House, 1986], Vol. 3, p. 455.

2. ibid., p. 455.

3. ibid., p. 457.

4. ibid, p. 457.

5. ibid., pp. 460, 461.

6. ibid., p. 463.

7. ibid., Vol. 2, p. 725.

8. ibid.

What a Mess!

John Calvin Exposed!

Was Spurgeon a Calvinist?

Introduction to Calvinism

Calvinism and Baptists

Why I Disagree with All 5 Points of Calvinism

Eternal Security