09
Feb
15

What do Arminians Truly Believe?

I thought it might be helpful to write a short article explaining what Arminians truly believe. Now, I understand that most who reject Calvinism do not like to be called “Arminian,” and I think they are right in rejecting that nickname as I shall explain below. Just understand that for the purpose of this article I am using that designation for convenience sake. The following propositions are a few of the things these folks believe:

1. They believe that everyone has the innate ability to believe the gospel without any divine assistance whatsoever and that “Total Depravity,” is a damnable doctrine Calvinists have fabricated to cause division in the church.

2. They believe that the Bible says nothing about God choosing anyone. That is another Calvinist lie.

3. They believe that since God is love, and since Jesus died for everyone, he will ultimately save everyone in the end and no one will be lost.

4. They believe that any works of obedience a believer performs, he performs by the power of his free will and without any assistance from God at all.

5. They believe that God has absolutely no control in the universe at all. He may have set things in motion when he created, but now he is a passive and silent observer who never becomes involved in governing the world.

Now, if I were an Arminian reading this, I would be outraged and rightly so, since every one of my statements is a misrepresentation of the Arminian belief system.

My question is why any of them should be surprised when those who believe and teach the Sovereignty of God object to their prodigious misrepresentations of our views.

Just yesterday I read the following on a blog where the vitriol is so thick one could cut it with a knife:

“John Piper worships Calvin as God.”

“Calvinists believe God forces people to sin and then sends them to hell for doing it.”

“Calvinists believe God forces people to be saved.”

“John Piper believes it is God who does that [“that” being the proclamation of the gospel].”

“Calvinists believer sinners have no will.”

“Calvinists believe we are just puppets or robots.”

“Calvinists believe God causes all the evil in the world.”

And, it just goes on and on.

I stated earlier that I think these people are right in saying they are not Arminian in their theology. The original Arminians [Remonstrants] were far closer to biblical truth than any of these people seem to be. Frankly, most of the non-Calvinistic evangelicals I have encountered seem closer to a Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian view than to an Arminian view.

To show what Arminians truly believe, I am posting below the Five Articles of the Remonstrance.

 Article I — That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John iii. 36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” and according to other passages of Scripture also.
 Article II — That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins, except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John iii. 16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”; and in the First Epistle of John ii. 2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
 Article III — That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John xv. 5: “Without me ye can do nothing.”
 Article IV — That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of a good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without that prevenient or assisting, awakening, following, and co-operative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, in as much as it is written concerning many that they have resisted the Holy Ghost,—Acts vii, and elsewhere in many places.
 Article V — That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the word of Christ, John x. 28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before they can teach it with the full persuasion of their minds.

It would be refreshing if these non-Calvinists, who feel no compunction about spewing their venomous lies about Calvinistic doctrine, would actually make an effort to understand what we truly believe.

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37 Responses to “What do Arminians Truly Believe?”


  1. 1 Peace and Grace
    February 9, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    http://www.rachelheldevans.com/blog/calvinismmakesmecry

    This post, along with the comment section, is an interesting insight into why people fear reformed theology.

  2. 4 Peace and Grace
    February 9, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    She ( and others) get angry that the Reformed doctrine they don’t understand might be true. She tries to make sense of God by making Him into a God who thinks and behaves like a human. What I see missing with Arminians is a Creator/creature distinction. But, deep-down, the non-Calvinists are fearful their “I made a choice” might not be the truth afterall. They seem to not want to believe in a God Who holds all things in His hands.

    We must be able to correct their misconceptions about Reformed theology, but also understand why they hold the misconceptions. Many a Reformed theologian has recounted the throwing of his Bible across the room as he struggled with doctrines of grace.

    • February 9, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      The first time I was confronted with these doctrines (as much as I hate to admit it, it was over 50 years ago now) I became angry. As I look back on it now, I think for the first time I saw God for who he is, and I didn’t like him very much. Psa. 50:21–“You thought I was altogether like you.”

  3. 6 Peace and Grace
    February 9, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    That’s the key. We need to remember back to when God reached out to us and showed us who He really is….and the pilgrim journey.

  4. February 9, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    I agree. My fear is that part of the problem may be totally unrelated to spiritual and theological issues. It appears to me that some of these folks display an unsettling inability to understand the plain meaning of words and the value of reasoning. To hear them tell it, one would think logic was invented by the Devil himself.

  5. 8 Peace and Grace
    February 9, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    And what you have described is unrelated to spiritual issues in what way? 🙂

    How difficult is it for a creature to admit they are wrong?

    The non-Reformed think they are the ones reading the plain words of the Bible. They proof-text without realizing they are doing so. They have no idea what reading in context means. You would not treat a book of great literature in such a fashion and expect to understand it.

    I mentioned in a comment to a Pentecostal on Facebook, the verse quoted wasn’t quoted in entirety. The resulting popular truism didn’t exist in the Bible. (For example: God helps those who help themselves.) She insisted it did…and provided the verse when I asked her. It took a few further exchanges, but she did admit the truism was what “most people think the verse means”.

    • February 9, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      Everything ultimately comes back to a spiritual problem. My point was that I am not sure some of these people could read a grocery list and interpret it properly.

      I was interacting with a woman who had commented on a tweet by Piper. He had tweeted something like (Don’t have the exact quote in front of me) “Sinning is any thought or desire that prefers anything above God.” She continued to insist that Piper meant that a person is sinning if they ever think of or desire anything (such as filing taxes, washing dishes, making love to ones spouse, eating a meal). It seemed the phrase “PREFER anything ABOVE GOD” did not register with her. It would seem to me the most ungodly pagan should be able to grasp the basic meaning of words and phrases. Just a dab of common sense should tell one that when driving a car, it is a good idea to concentrate on driving. And, you can still prefer God above everything and everyone else while you are doing it.

  6. 10 Peace and Grace
    February 9, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Wish this interaction had not been because of a Piper tweet. Communicating with the general public with 120 word limits has not served Piper well. Misconstruing his tweets is legendary, with the result being people insisting they know “what Piper means”. So, it could go either way in this person’s ability to understand the plain meaning of words. But I do agree with your frustration in the low level of communication seen on a daily basis.

    • February 9, 2015 at 10:41 pm

      I agree in regard to some of his tweets, but this one was abundantly clear. In some of them, I am not even sure he would know what he was trying to say. There is only so much one can say accurately in 140 characters.

  7. 12 Peace and Grace
    February 9, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    50 years ago, what was it you didn’t like very much about God as He reveals Himself in Scripture?

    • February 9, 2015 at 11:18 pm

      That is a question that might require a long story. The short version is that I was brought up in a Fundamentalist home and church and was exposed regularly to an Arminian (though at the time I had no idea there was such a theology) approach to evangelism with its accompanying ideas about God’s genuine desire to save but inability to do so without the all important human decision. The real upshot of that is that people are in charge of salvation and not God. The whole idea that God was in control of anything was a really new concept to me and I didn’t thing it was fair that everyone didn’t get an equal chance.

      It was probably a full year after that initial experience that I began to examine the Scriptures in search of the truth. It probably took two additional years of study before I began to see the truth in a cohesive way.

      Understand that at that time, Calvinists were almost as scarce as hens teeth, The first book I ever bought was “All of Grace” by Spurgeon. I bought it when I still believed in decisionism and was in my possession for about three years before I read it. I still remember that one of my favorite lines in the book was, “If you will have Christ, he has you already and I tell you you cannot go to hell for that would be to make the sacrifice of Christ of none effect.”

      I will be eternally grateful that God not only made himself known to me through the Scriptures but also that he caused me to love him.

      I know that is more of an answer than you asked for, but it is sweet to remember those early days.

  8. February 10, 2015 at 3:19 am

    I taught on the doctrine of soteriology a while back, and made a nifty chart showing the 5 points of both sides next to each other. Some of the wording in the Arminian view is verey subtle – one actually has to read it to understand it. http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=10213138350

    • February 10, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks for sharing the sermon, You are right. Their articles are so subtile, you and I could agree with most of what they posited on its face, and the average pew warmer today would likely either disagree with the statement or be absolutely clueless about its meaning. What the Canons of Dort really did, in my opinion, is to say, “Yes, what you are saying here is true to a certain extent, but there is far more to be said,”

      In our day, as I suppose has been true in every age, people are too prone to say, “If you believe that (whatever that is), then you must reject this (Whatever this is). It is the task of systematic theology to take what one learns in Biblical Theology and understand it in a cohesive way. We must develop the ability to hold the antinomies of revealed truth in tension. Some would call that “Doublespeak;” I call it “doing theology.”

      By the way, I think it would do some people good to notice that in these articles, and as a decisive consideration in their view of one of the more controversial points, the Remonstrants used a proof-text (Acts 7:51) that had absolutely nothing to do with whether the special and saving grace of God will ultimately be effectual. The verse could well have been used to support the obduracy and depravity of the natural heart, but it says nothing about whether God will ultimately conquer the hearts of his elect people.

      • February 10, 2015 at 2:47 pm

        I want everyone to be aware that I summarily delete comments that are frivolous and unprofitable. Some clown wrote that he thought Arminian was a designer shirt. Don’t waste your time trying to post such nonsense.

      • February 10, 2015 at 2:59 pm

        Randy, Randy, Randy…I know that this will prob be in moderation. I was not being a clown. I was making a point that the majority of Christendom in today’s generation, with the exceptions of those in debate mode, have no clue as to what an Arminian is. So, in my view, it’s a waste of time telling people what they believe, because no one echos what they believe. I do not agree with their doctrine, and I don’t agree with yours. I know yours, but I don’t know any Arminian. Can you see my point without badmouthing me of my joking about an expensive shirt? Do you have a sense of humor, or do you have a dry sense of humor? What makes you laugh? Come on, Randy. Smile.

      • February 10, 2015 at 3:09 pm

        That you are ignorant of such people says nothing about their existence or non-existence. Simply because the majority of bench warmers are biblically and theologically ignorant, we should not avoid such discussions. It is just for that reason we do need to discuss such matters.
        I have a great sense of humor, but apparently you don’t. Don’t post again unless you have a helpful comment to make.

  9. February 10, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    So that people know Jacob Arminius was not a clothing designer, here’s a link to the handy chart I used in conjunction with my message on soteriology: http://media.sermonaudio.com/mediapdf/10213138350.pdf

  10. February 10, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    The majority of bench warmers? Now you are badmouthing Christians, let alone me. You are an angry old man, Randy. This isn’t the first time that I have told you that, and I am sure that I am not the only one who recognizes your anger issues.

  11. February 10, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Who is a true believer? I said that the majority of Christians have no clue, and then you come back with “majority of bench warmers are biblically and theologically ignorant”. Majority, being the key word. So, of those bench warmers, who is a true believer? Is it OK to be ignorant of Arminians, and still be a true believer? Does one have to be theologically educated to be saved? When I debate Catholics, all they want to talk about is “church fathers”. They don’t seem to have an opinion of their own. I could care less about what dead people agreed to at a meeting 1700 years ago. My question to them is “what is YOUR opinion?”. Jesus took the time with one person to ask , in the KJV, “How do you read it”, meaning, “what is your understanding of it?”. Is it really profitable to teach people what the Arminians believed? I’ve been accused by you long ago of being one, and I argued the point that I don’t even know what they believe, and when I found out, I KNOW that I am not one. But when I debate Calvinists, I always get accused of being one. The Cavlinists are the only ones who mention that word. WHY?

    • February 10, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      That was before I understood what you believe. Now, I understand that your views are more in line with Pelagianism. No, I don’t think the theological terms are important. Additionally, I believe it is unfortunate that they ever came into existence. I don’t think you are a disciple of Pelagius any more than I am a disciple of Calvin. But, the reality is that the terms are with us. For that reason, it behoves us to understand what they mean. A person can be a Christian without knowing the terms, but a failure to understand the distinctions they represent may lead him to believe a false gospel.

      Sent from my iPad

      >

  12. February 11, 2015 at 1:01 am

    Well, Randy, I want to thank you for your kind responses back to me. But, just for the record, I don’t base my beliefs on what others decided hundreds of years ago. I make that clear on any blog that I go to. I could care less as to what dead people decided at meeting that I was never invited to. I didn’t get the memo. Never made the hotel reservation. I am a Berean at heart. I never knew that there was such a thing as Calvinism until about 6 months prior to Julie Anne’s case over at Spiritual Sounding Board. And I’m 50 years old. If one is a Berean, they don’t search commentary, they go to the source, and decide for themselves. As Fox News states, The Preacher reports, I decide. That is what the Bereans did.

    • February 11, 2015 at 1:10 am

      I don’t base my beliefs on what they decided either. If I don’t believe the Bible teaches a doctrine, I don’t believe it. At the same time, I believe it is a mistake to discard the wisdom and understanding God has granted to others. If we stand on their shoulders, we may be able to catch a glimpse of glorious things they were not privileged to see.

      Sent from my iPad

      >

  13. 29 Peace and Grace
    February 11, 2015 at 1:20 am

    The Councils, Creeds, and Catechisms are things Christians 2,000 years ago, 1,000 years ago used for worship, to train new converts, to teach their children the faith…..and that’s my family history. A lot of church history has influenced what’s happening now. So, what does it have to do with me? It has A LOT to do with me…because I am standing on the shoulders, of the people who stood on the shoulders, who were influenced by the apostles, who were trained by Christ.

    We keep falling into the same errors, because there really aren’t a lot of errors that haven’t been made in the past. A lot of the errors are rehashed old heresies and we already have the answers hammered out and laid out very clearly.

  14. 33 Peace and Grace
    February 11, 2015 at 1:32 am

    Hmmm….in my life I have found the people who know the creeds and the confessions care more about the Bible that the people who have disdain for them , and proclaim loudly they believe in nothing but the Bible.

    • February 11, 2015 at 1:46 am

      Think of this– 1618-19. I can sit down as an individual Christian and write a post that I hope will make a modicum of sense. Apart from the few good people who visit my blog, I usually don’t have many folks who will say “but what about this?” But for parts of two years these theologians were going at each other, hammer and tong. What they produced gives us a wealth of information that is eloquently stated.

      Synods and Councils provide us a wealth of wisdom that we should not despise. If we believe the Holy Spirit can lead us, why should we assume He did not lead them?

      Sent from my iPad

      >

  15. February 15, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Randy,

    Great article!

    This cuts both ways and we can all be guilty of this. I think it stems from the fact that many of us just talk amongst ourselves. We listen to others who hold similar beliefs and we accept their critique of apposing views as fact. We seldom, if ever, interact with those opposing views. That is the main reason I prefer to read and engage in brotherly discussion with people who hold different views.

    If you are Arminian in outlook, you should definitely spend time reading reformed blogs and books and interacting with reformed views. Why wouldn’t you? You should read The Institutes for yourself. Calvin’s ideas might surprise you, when you read them for yourselves. Don’t let the Arminian camp set up Reformed straw men and tear them down for you. Go to the their sources and let them speak on their own terms, unfiltered by bias. Interact with them and then come to your own conclusions. I can always tell when someone is simply repeating what another person has told them. It is obvious when they haven’t truly thought through both sides of the argument.

    I think the Reformed should do the same. Go to Arminian sources and let them argue their points straight to you, without being filtered through the bias of those who already oppose it. Clarity is more important here that getting others to come over to our side, which is often a futile exercise. Before we reject something, we should at least have the wisdom to interact with the idea on its own terms.

    • February 15, 2015 at 12:35 am

      Jim,

      I could not agree more. I find people on both sides of the aisle who misrepresent the opposing viewpoints. I often visit blogs of people I thoroughly disagree with because I find it focuses my thoughts. If you want to know what an Arminian believes, it is a good idea to ask an Arminian. If you want to know what a Calvinist believes, it is a good idea to ask a Calvinist. Our goal must be to “. . .all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. . . .)

      Sent from my iPad

      >

  16. February 15, 2015 at 12:30 am

    Chapman:

    “But, just for the record, I don’t base my beliefs on what others decided hundreds of years ago. I make that clear on any blog that I go to. I could care less as to what dead people decided at meeting that I was never invited to. I didn’t get the memo. Never made the hotel reservation.”

    You would be surprised by how much of what you believe has come to you from the past. The very Bible you hold in your hands for starters.

    Many of those dead people lived and died for their faith. There is much we can learn from them. I always find it baffling when believers of today don’t care at all about what those who have gone before us have learned about following the Master. Some of these guys were disciples of the Apostles, or their disciples. I read their stuff all the time, and I am always challenged to follow Christ more faithfully.

    Those people that you are so willing to throw under the bus, lived and died to follow Christ. We owe them respect and honor, not derision. Now that is just my humble opinion


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