So, You Think You Know Me? asks Arminius

From The Works of Arminius, as well as a few other resources, this first-person monologue takes an autobiographical sketch into the thoughts and beliefs of Jacob Arminius. The misunderstandings and misrepresentations of his theology are rife, not merely from his opponents or detractors, but even from those who agree with him on many theological points.

In our present culture there is no viable excuse for ignorance of his works, nor for the various misrepresentations of his theology, when such are available online for free (see here, here, herehere, here). In case anyone is interested in the original sources, for the statements made below, I will give brief end notes throughout the text and a full resource list at the end. Some information is common knowledge and I do not grant any source information for such.


My father, Harmen Jacobszoon, died before I was born, 10 October 1559, in Oudewater, Holland, to my mother Engeltje, or Angelica, and was given the name Jacob Harmenszoon, the last name rendering, lit., son of Harmen. My mother fell on very hard times financially, with the death of my father, and I was cared for by friends before a local holy and pious priest named Theodore Aemilius, sympathetic toward Protestants, acted in loco parentis (in place of a parent), taking me into his care. He fed and clothed me, and gave me an outstanding education in Utrecht. Though studies were long, from early morning until seven in the evening, Latin and Greek being taught to young boys during this time, I was grateful to God for His providence in using His servant, Aemilius.

In 1575, while studying at the University of Marburg (in Germany) -- founded by Philip I. of Hesse, a convert of Luther and Melanchthon -- reports arrive that the Catholic Spaniards have ransacked my home village, massacring my entire family. Distraught beyond comprehension, I am determined to visit my home village one final time, even though doing so will require the trip be made on foot, some 250 miles. (Carl Bangs, Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation, 37)

Odd, I think, that I am later charged as being a Roman Catholic sympathizer by not only one of my students but also my Calvinist colleagues at the Synod of Dordt (Richard A. Muller, God, Creation, and Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius, 28-29); especially in light of not only my ill thoughts toward the office of the Pope, which I declare publicly -- an office which I insist relegates the individual fulfilling the office as being spiritually adulterous, a false prophet, the destroyer, subverter, and pimp of the Church, the enemy of God, and the anti-Christ (Works, 2:264-65) -- but also religious Catholic zealots attacking and killing my entire family. No, I am not a crypto-Catholic nor a Catholic sympathizer.

Later, at the University of Leiden, founded by William, Prince of Orange, I graduate at age 22, am informed I have "a reputation for brilliant scholarship," but confess that I am just too young to engage in pastoral duties. (Bangs, 64). I decide to earn my doctorate in Geneva, and am tutored by John Calvin's supralapsarian (near hyper-Calvinistic) successor, Theodore Beza. (67-68) I find supralapsarianism heretical, as did the early Church fathers (Council of Orange in 529 CE), since the justice of God is compromised under such a heinous notion. (Keith Stanglin and Thomas McCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace, 112) This is the environment in which I am educated in Geneva.

However, prior to learning from Beza, I was immersed in the logic of Petrus Ramus, a fact which incites a bit of controversy among followers of Aristotle in Geneva, especially when I begin to publicly defend Ramus, whose sole thesis was that everything which Aristotle taught was incorrect. Because of this initial conflict, which arises as a result of defending Ramus, I and some of my companions depart Geneva for a season to study in Basel. (Bangs, 71) Here, at Basel, under the tutelage of Johannes Jacobus Grynaeus, with whom I find high favor, I am selected to present public theological disputations and biblical expositions; and here is where I first expound upon Romans, chapters 7 and 9, and conflict between myself and some Calvinists ensues. (71-72)

I do not view God's election unto salvation in terms of my mentor, Beza, that God first decided to save and to damn and then decided to create people in order to fulfill that decree; nor do I agree with Beza's predecessor, Calvin, that God unconditionally elected to save only some, and to condemn the greater part of humanity, allegedly for His glory. I insist that, according to His exhaustive foreknowledge, which belongs strictly to His essence as God (Works, 2:341), God's knowledge is certain and infallible; He knows all that is possible to know in its own perfection, even what is impossible, and this includes exhaustive knowledge of future decisions made by relatively free creatures who have been freed by God's Spirit (R.C. Sproul, Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, 125-27) to render faith in Christ for the salvation enacted by God alone (Stanglin and McCall, 113-15): only God can regenerate the soul.

This infallibility regarding God's exhaustive knowledge depends on the infinity of the essence of God, yet not on His unchangeable will or decree. (Works, 2:341) Does this indicate, then, that I am the anti-Calvin? Of course not. Everyone, including my students, knows full well that I exhort all to
read the Commentaries of Calvin, on whom I bestow higher praise than Helmichius ever did, as he confessed to me himself. For I tell them that he is incomparable in the interpretations of Scripture; and that his Commentaries ought to be held in greater estimation than all that is delivered to us in the writings of the Ancient Christian Fathers: So that, in a certain eminent Spirit of Prophecy, I give the pre-eminence to him beyond most others, indeed beyond them all. (1:295)
I also add that, with regard to Martin Luther's successor Philipp Melanchthon's Common Places, Calvin's Institutes should be read, alongside the Heidelberg Catechism, as a more ample interpretation of the scriptures. Yet, I also insist that these should be read with caution, like all other human compositions (1:296), since Scripture alone is of infallible veracity, having an inerrant God as its author. (2:80) The Bible alone is to be received as if it were delivered unto each person by God Himself, personally; and such persons should approve of it, publish it, preach it, interpret and expound upon it, as well as distinguish and discriminate it from all other words or writings. (2:81)

I believe, as do my orthodox Christian colleagues, the Remonstrants, that the free will of fallen creatures is imprisoned, destroyed and lost due to the fall (2:192); that the mind, as well as the heart, of all fallen creatures is destitute, and incapable of responding to the Spirit of God apart from the inner work of the same. (2:192-93) The election and predestination of God is personal, or individual, and God will save perfectly all who respond to His Spirit, who must initiate an aggressive yet gracious energy in freeing one from one's bondage to sin in order for that person to freely trust in Christ. (Roger Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, 181) God alone saves; no one can save him- or herself; and God has elected to save the one who will believe. (Olson, 185) 

That Jesus died to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29), died for all (2 Cor. 5:14, 15) or died for the whole world (1 John 2:2) is easy enough to deduce from a plain reading of Scripture. The person attempting to redefine or rejects the plain indication of such passages, is a daring individual, one who sits in judgment on the scriptures and is not an interpreter of them. (Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will, and the Nature of God, ed. John D. Wagner, 328)

Though I do not explicitly deny the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (2:725), I do believe that an inherent danger exists in teaching the saints that once they have received Christ they can never fall away from Him. This type of assurance tends to breed a spiritual apathy, and an enticement to sin, and is directly opposed to that most salutary fear with which we are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (2:726)

I will admit, however, that in Calvin and Beza's theology, both the assurance and the knowledge of present and future salvation is sacrificed at the altar of the secret decrees of God, by which no one can genuinely know whether or not he or she is among the unconditionally elect. (Stanglin and McCall, 177) Yet we are commanded to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10). If we cannot peer onto the eternal scroll, wherein the names of the unconditionally elect were penned by God Himself from before time began, then no one can obey this verse.

I believe, therefore, that faith is the key! As long as one abides in Christ, in the faith of Christ, then he or she can be assured that such a one is the elect of God, being united by grace through faith in the Elect One of God the Father, Jesus Christ our Lord. Scripture grants examples of those who abandon the faith, and are lost, and even warns believers against the same. (Stanglin and McCall, 172-75)

I never tire of rightly framing the issue of the sovereignty of our great God. (Olson, 120-21) After all, in God our Creator, we all live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28) No person can perform any act, even sin, without God's divine concurrence, meaning, His absolute sustenance of our existence -- concurrence being properly defined as the
necessary (element in the producing of) every act; because nothing whatever can have any entity except from the First and Chief Being, who immediately produces that entity. The Concurrence of God is not His immediate influx into a second or inferior cause, but it is an action of God immediately flowing into the effect of the creature, so that the same effect in one and the same entire action may be produced simultaneously by God and the creature. (2:183)
I argue, however, that no mortal performs any act because such was decreed by God for him or her to enact. Be not deceived: God hates the sins of the regenerate and of the elect; and, indeed, so much the more as those who thus sin and yet have received more benefits from God and a greater power of resisting sin. (2:725) God, so I insist, is omnipotent, and His authority over creation is ultimate. (Stanglin and McCall, 105) The sovereignty of God is properly contextualized as
the solicitous, everywhere powerful and continued oversight of God, according to which He exercises a general care over the whole world, and over each of the creatures, their actions and passions, in a manner that is befitting Himself and consistent with the welfare of His creatures, especially for the benefit of pious men, and for the declaration of the divine perfection. (Muller, 244)
Whatever God can do, with regard to His creatures, what He cannot do is behave in a manner inconsistent with His nature -- His holy, loving, and just nature. (2:366) God alone is objectively just; and, if a creature sins against God's standards, He, as Lord, King, and Father reserves the right of treating such a one as a sinning creature, and of inflicting on the person due punishment. (2:366)

I believe in only two sacraments, because only two are explicitly mentioned in Scripture, baptism and the Lord's Supper. (2:439) I argue that infants are proper candidates for baptism into the body of Christ and should receive the sign of the new covenant as did the children of believers under the old covenant. (2:441) The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is not transubstantional in nature but, rather, representational. (2:442-43)

I think that the Church is an assembly of believers in God, and that this Church of God was present in the old covenant, beginning with Adam and Eve, operative through the Israelites, confirmed in and through Jesus Christ, and is comprised today, under the new covenant, of both Jews and Gentiles. This Church is defined as a congregation of believers who have been called by the saving vocation of God from the state of corruption to the dignity of the sons of God through the Gospel, and are by a true faith ingrafted into Christ, as living members are to the Head, to the praise of the glorious grace of God. (2:243-52)

The efficient cause of the existence of this Church of God in Christ Jesus, that produces her by regeneration and preserves her by daily education, and that perfects her by an immediate union of her to Himself, is God the Father, in His well-beloved Son Jesus Christ, by the Spirit of Christ who is the Redeemer and the Head of the Church. (2:246) The instrumental cause of the existence of this Church of God in Christ is the Gospel, that is, the
incorruptible seed by which the church is born again. Hence those persons also whom God appointed to be ministers of the Gospel were the Instrumental Causes, and are called "workers together with God" (2 Cor. 6:1), of whom some are employed in laying the foundation, others in raising the superstructure (Rom. 15:18-21; 1 Cor. 3:5, 10; Eph. 2:20). They are indeed the founders of many particular churches, by their oral preaching; but by their writings which have been delivered down to us, they are the founders of all churches and of the whole Universal Church: On this account the entire church of Christ is called Apostolical. (2:246-47)
Those who enter this Church must be born again. This occurs by the grace of God through the faith of and trust in Christ. Such a one is justified by a gracious act of God as a Judge, by which, from the throne of His grace and mercy He alone absolves from sins men and women, sinners, but who are also believers, on account of Christ, and the obedience and righteousness of Christ alone, and considers such to be righteous, to the salvation of the justified, to the glory of divine righteousness and grace. (2:406)

Whatever more can be said of my life, and of my theology, may I be approached by others with the same grace with which I endeavor to engage others, or as others would have us interrogate their life and teachings. I am not a perfect man, but I trust in a perfect Savior. In closing, I long for unity in the body of Christ, for union is
a great good: it is indeed the chief good and therefore the only one -- whether we separately consider each thing of which it is composed, or more of them contained together by a certain social tie or relation between themselves. For all things together, and each thing separately, are what they are by that very thing by which they are one; and, by this union, they are preserved in what they really are. Of such certainty is this truth that even the blessedness of God consists in that union by which He is One and always present with Himself, and having all things belonging to Him present together with Him. Nothing, therefore, can be more agreeable or desirable than union. (1:437)
Even in our various disputes I seek for the union for which Christ prayed over us to His Father (John 17:20, 21, 23). In like manner that union is also more excellent which consists of a thing of greater excellence, belongs to many, is more durable, and unites itself most intimately with the Deity. The union of true religion is, therefore, one of the greatest excellence. (1:438)



Arminius, James. Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will, and the Nature of God. Ed. John D. Wagner (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2011).

Bangs, Carl. Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998).

Muller, Richard A. God, Creation, and Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius: Sources and Directions of Scholastic Protestantism in the Era of Early Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991).

Olson, Roger E. Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006).

Sproul, R.C. Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006).

Stanglin, Keith D., and Thomas H. McCall. Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace (New York: Oxford, 2012).

Works of Arminius, the London edition, three volumes. Trans. William and James Nichols (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996).


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.