July 27, 2009

What is Classical Arminianism?

I'm frustrated with a conversation that I've been having about someone who claims to hold a position between Arminianism and Calvinism. Though I've already said that I don't think it's possible, I don't particularly care if someone does hold such a position, or if they think they do. That's fine. My issue is that all this person has been doing is giving me links to sites that inaccurately describe Arminianism to make his point.

Let me explain a few things real quick about what Arminianism is:
  1. Arminianism is not the opposite of Calvinism: Do not just list the five points of Calvinism and then describe Arminianism as the opposite of each one of these. Arminianism holds Total Depravity, is tolerant of Preservation of the Saints (though most reject it) and believes in the necessity of God's grace.
  2. The central tenant of Arminianism is prevenient grace: not free will! We don't even believe in free will as most define it. We don't hold that each person is born with a free will, and has the power to effect their destiny. We hold that each person is incapable of coming to God on their own and it is only through the prevenient grace of God that our will are freed to turn to God.
  3. Arminianism is a grace-based theology: Salvation is from the beginning to the end a work of grace by God alone. The only part that we have to play is only possible because of God's grace, and that part is a passive action, rather an effectual one. Faith is all that we do, and faith is trusting in the work of Christ to save us rather than doing it on our own.
  4. Arminianism is not a system: So often Calvinism and Arminianism are projected as two opposing systems, but neither Arminius nor Wesley ever wrote a systematic theology. Arminianism is a pastoral theological bent: it is a collection of various positions that hold certain perspectives about grace. However, every aspect of Arminian theology has radically different viewpoints on it represented under the label.
  5. Arminianism is a historically Reformed movement: The Reformation was not based around TULIP, but was based on the centrality of Scripture and the high view of God's role in salvation. Despite recent historical revisionists, Jacob Arminius worked and wrote within the Reformed tradition, and Calvinism was never the central view within Protestantism. It merely had a lot of scholastic power due to Geneva.
  6. Arminianism is most properly defined historically: Anyone can claim what a position is. I can claim that Calvinism believe that the Calvin and Hobbes comic books represent a fifth gospel, and if its said often enough, people will believe it. The only objective way to define what Arminianism is, is to evaluate the historical standards: Jacob Arminius, the Remonstrants, and the Wesley brothers. If you are not basing your definition on them, then you don't know what you are talking about.
I'm sorry that I don't have any links. This was more of a rant to get this off my chest. But please, do not reject Arminianism because it is an "ism" or because of what opponents claim it to be. To do so is unfair, and immoral.


bossmanham said...

Great post, JC. I loved the part about Calvin and Hobbes, haha. It is very frustrating to constantly correct the same misconceptions about Arminianism almost every time I debate with a Calvinist. I fear Arminians have let people like Sproul and Piper define US for far too long. I'm glad we're finally kicking ourselves into gear, but it's going to take time to clear up all the silliness Calvinists spread.

Kevin Jackson said...

I hope that this person hasn't been reading John Hendrix's stuff. His caricatures of Arminianism are awful.

Dan Martin said...

Funny thing is, in clarifying Arminianism you have helped me to see that not only am I not a Calvinist, I'm not an Arminian either...because I DON'T buy either Total Depravity OR Prevenient Grace as I understand them, and I DO believe in free will.

Of course Arminius would likely have had no truck with the Open View of God either, so it's appropriate for me to understand this. I'm aware that most Arminians, as well as essentially all Calvinists, consider Open Theisim to be heretical, but it's nice to have it clarified nonetheless! ;{)

Jc_Freak: said...


I'm glad you said that. It is not my intention to try and convince everyone who claims to be neither that they are really Arminian. I would find that self-defeating. I would prefer that Arminians and only Arminians are called Arminian. Much of the Calvinist power is in rhetorically conflating every non-Calvinist position under the Arminian title.

DonaldH said...

Loved it. I believe this is an excellent post!