A system of doctrine, named after a Dutch theologian Jacob Hermann Arminius, which rejects the Reformed view of God's sovereignty. It is worth noting that the position of Arminius himself was less objectionable than that of his later followers—and he certainly evidenced no animosity toward Calvin, whose writings he esteemed second only to Scripture itself. His theological position was almost the same as John Wesley's. He held proper views of man's depravity and inability, and because of this, of the need for supernatural grace to effect salvation. This contrasts with the position adopted by later Arminians (see below, points 4, 5, 6; also The Five Points of Controversy).
It is usual, but wrong, to think of Arminianism as merely the doctrine that Christ died for all men, without distinction, or that it is possible to lose justifying grace. These are tenets of Arminianism, but there are others of great significance, as for example:
1. God's knowledge of the future acts of free agents is mediate (see Scientia Media).
2. The decrees of God are conditional on some thing or things not themselves absolutely decreed. Particularly it is held that election is on account of foreseen faith (see Conditional Decrees).
3. God created Adam merely innocent, not in holiness—i.e., his will* was in a state of balance between good and evil, not positively inclined toward good.
4. Sin consists in acts of the will (see Pelagianism).
5. Only the pollution, not the guilt, of Adam's sin is imputed to his descendants.
6. Man's depravity is not total. He is able to incline his will toward God and good.
7. The atonement,* which was not necessary but merely one way which God chose to show His love without prejudice to His righteousness, was offered equally for each and every man.
8. The atonement does not actually effect the salvation of those for whom Christ offered it, but merely makes their salvation possible.
9. Salvation becomes effectual only when accepted by the penitent sinner, whose repentance and faith precede his regeneration.*
10. The human will is one of the causes of regeneration (see Synergism).
11. Faith is a good work and a ground of acceptance with God.
12. There is no such thing as common grace* as distinct from special grace. The external call of the gospel is accompanied by a universal sufficient grace which may enable the sinner to repent and believe, but which may be resisted.
13. The righteousness of Christ is not imputed to the believer.
14. A believer is able to attain to perfect conformity to the divine will in this life; he may also fall from grace and be lost eternally.
Some Arminians went even further and became very rationalistic. Arminius's original views were adopted by the Dutch Remonstrants whose position was condemned by the Synod of Dort.* The Remonstrants still hold to Pelagian notions and have lax views of the doctrine of inspiration* and the Trinity.*
Wesleyan Methodism adopted Arminianism in a revised form known as Evangelical Arminianism, in which points (5) and (6) above are restated so as not to be so openly in conflict with the Reformed position.
Cairns, A. (2002). In Dictionary of Theological Terms (pp. 41–42). Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International.
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