The Five Points of Arminianism

If not for the early Dutch Reformed Arminians rejecting five tenets of Calvinistic ideology, there would be no TULIP today, as TULIP is merely a reaction to Arminian theology. After the death of Arminius, in 1609, the Arminians continue the work of their colleague and construct the Remonstrance of 1610, remonstrance being a protest, and the protest concerning five points advocated by Calvinists. In the Canons of Dordt, the Calvinists begin with positive statements regarding Calvinist orthodoxy, and then refute the respective notions granted by the Arminians and name them as a "Rejection of the Errors" at the conclusion of each affirmation. The Arminians assume a different tack.

In their Remonstrance, the Arminians list five Calvinistic points they reject, and then construct affirming statements of Arminian orthodoxy. Instead of footnoting each section quoted, I decided to inform the reader that the texts of the five points rejected, and the five points of Arminianism, are taken from Frederick Calder, Memoirs of Simon Episcopius (Charleston: BiblioLife, 2009), 119-20. This particular English translation is taken from Chamberlayne's rendition of the work of Dutch church historian, naval historian, preacher, scholar, playwright, poet, biographer and artist Gerard Brandt (1626-1685), whose work of the Remonstrance of 1610 is nearly literal in nature.

THE FIVE POINTS REJECTED
1. That God, as some assert, of His own will, by an eternal and irreversible decree, had ordained some from amongst men who were not yet created, much less considered as fallen [emphasis added], to everlasting life, and the others, by far the greater part [or majority], to eternal damnation, without any regard to their obedience or disobedience, and that for the purpose of manifesting His justice and mercy, and for the effecting this purpose, He had so appointed the means, that those whom He had ordained to salvation, should necessarily and unavoidably be saved, and the others necessarily and unavoidably be damned.
Here, the Arminians rightly reject the heresy of supralapsarian Calvinism, as do the early Church fathers at the Council of Orange (529 CE). Noted Professor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Dr. Kenneth D. Keathley, who confesses that Arminianism is the theological system of the early Church fathers prior to the advent of the erroneous and novel theologians Sts Jerome (347-420 CE) and Augustine (354-430 CE),1 also confesses that Jacob Arminius' Declaration of Sentiments, a lengthy declaration against supralapsarian Calvinism, is the most devastating and finest in publication.
2. Or as others taught, that God had considered mankind, not only as created, but as fallen in Adam, and consequently liable to the curse, from which fall and condemnation He determined to redeem some, and, for the display of His mercy, make them partakers of salvation; and to leave others, even children of the covenant, under the curse, for the manifestation of His justice, without any regard to their belief or unbelief. And for the accomplishment of His will, He hath instituted the means by which the elect should necessarily be saved, and the reprobates necessarily be damned.
Here, the Arminians also reject the more popular theory of infralapsarian Calvinism, which advocates a softer albeit inconsistent form of determinist theology. Though infralapsarians insist that God unconditionally elected some unto salvation, the rest unto reprobation, He did so in consideration of all humanity already fallen. Still, if the Cross of Christ carries any sentiment of displaying the wrath of God against sin and sinners, then God had no need to display His justice in reprobating anyone, to say nothing of the greater part of humanity, since Christ's Cross meets the justice of God against sin and rebellion.
3. That consequently, Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world, did not die for all men, but only for those who were [unconditionally and arbitrarily] elected [unto salvation], as stated in the first or second [lapsarian] manner [above].
Limited atonement theory is rejected next and, as anyone familiar with Church history must confess, the notion proffered is entirely absent in the theology of the early Church fathers. Moreover, as we discover with the Remonstrants on this issue, the notion of general atonement does not infer or necessitate application of universal redemption. Furthermore, we cannot reconcile universal statements in Scripture with any conception that the atoning death of Jesus for "the world" is intended to convey the atoning death of Jesus for the unconditionally elect. (See footnote 6.)
4. That the Spirit of Christ worked with irresistible force on the elect, in order to beget faith in them [a central tenet of Calvin2], that they might be saved, but from the reprobates, necessary and sufficient grace was withheld.
Again, for the Remonstrants, any notion of irresistible grace runs contrary to any plain sense of too many passages throughout the Bible. That this concept is married to the theory that regeneration must precede faith also betrays not only passages throughout Scripture but also the nature and character of God. When God complains about individuals not doing what He wanted them to do (cf. Isa. 1:2; 30:1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13; Jer. 2:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 29; Ezek. 2:4, 5, 7; 3:7, 18, 20, 26, 27; 5:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11), what can one conclude but that God does not exert an exhaustive and almighty power over His creatures, but grants an allowance for a relative free will?
5. That those who had once received true faith, however they might afterwards awfully sin, could never wholly or finally lose it.
This final point is a thorn in the side of the Arminians in 1610, as is obvious below, and they confess that the issue needs further study. I will address this point in its place. The notion of necessary perseverance should be a given within a Calvinistic scheme: if God unconditionally elected to save someone, and sent Christ to die for that person and caused the Holy Spirit to bring him or her to Himself irresistibly, then of course that person's ultimate perseverance is guaranteed by God's own decree, desire, and efficacious work.

DE OUDE KERK, ARMINIUS' DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH

THE FIVE POINTS OF ARMINIANISM
1. That God, from all eternity, hath decreed to elect to everlasting life, all those who, through His grace, believe in Jesus Christ, and in the same belief, and obedience of faith, persevere to the end. But the unconverted and unbelieving He had resolved to reject to everlasting damnation. [cf. John 3:16, 17, 36]
Why, one may ask, do the Arminians not begin with the doctrine of Total Depravity and its corollary Total Inability? Is the reason not because they reject the doctrine? No, on the contrary, we discover their affirmation of the doctrine at point three. Arminius clearly believes in the doctrine of depravity, and its corollary inability, by explicit confession that, in a depraved state, free will is "imprisoned, destroyed, and lost."3 The Remonstrants maintain the same affirmation in the strongest terms possible.4

Therefore we are saddened, grieved, and angry when Calvinists continually misrepresent us on this issue. For example, David Steele, Curtis Thomas, and S. Lance Quinn insist, based on a quote from J.I. Packer, that the Remonstrants teach that "Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him."5 As a matter of fact, there are so many errors regarding Arminian theology in this little book that a separate book is necessary in order to set those matters aright.

Tragically, what these Calvinists claim to be Arminian theology on free will is repeated ad nauseum by other Calvinists; for example, Calvinist Michael Marlowe states the following on Arminianism and free will, "Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness" (link); Martin Zender repeats the error, "Free will is a doctrine that teaches that man can act independently of God" (link); and a host of other Calvinists too numerous to cite perpetuate the same.
2. That in consequence of this decree, Christ the Saviour of the world, died for all and every man, so that by His death, He hath obtained reconciliation and pardon of sins for all men, nevertheless, in such a manner that none but the faithful really and effectually enjoy the benefits thereof.
Here we discover an honest consent to the general atonement6 so painfully obvious in the New Testament (Rom. 5:15; 1 Tim. 2:6; cf. John 1:29; 3:16; 6:51; Rom. 14:15; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15, 19, 20, 21; 1 Tim. 4:10; Heb. 2:9; 2 Pet. 2:1 1 John 2:2; 4:14) without conceding applicatory universalism: "none but the faithful really and effectually enjoy the benefits thereof." A general atonement is provided by God, in Christ, and a general atonement is offered to all.
3. That man could not [i.e., does not possess the capability to] obtain saving faith of himself, or by the strength of his own free will, but stood in need of God's grace, through Christ, to be made the subject of its power.
This accords with and merely affirms the doctrine of Total Depravity and its corollary Total Inability. This doctrine has already been addressed above.
4. Therefore this grace is the cause of the beginning, the progress, and the completion of man's salvation, in so much that no one could believe, or persevere in faith, without this operating grace, and consequently, that all good works must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. Nevertheless, the manner of the operation of this grace was not irresistible.
Obviously, this point rejects the unwarranted theory of irresistible grace (cf. Isa. 1:2; 30:1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13; Jer. 2:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 29; Ezek. 2:4, 5, 7; 3:7, 18, 20, 26, 27; 5:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11), that regeneration must precede faith in Christ (contra John 1:12, 13; Col. 2:13), an eminently philosophical notion without a biblical context, which is, then, a mere pretext in search of a proof-text. God has decreed to save and thus regenerate by grace those who believe in Christ: faith and grace, then, precede salvation and regeneration. (John 3:15, 16, 36; 4:14; 5:24, 40; 6:47; 6:50-58; 20:31; Rom 3:21-30; 4:3-5; 4:9, 11, 13, 16; 4:20-24; 5:1, 2; 9:30-33; 10:4; 10:9-13; 1 Cor 1:21; 15:1-2; Gal 2:15-16; 3:2-9; 3:11; 3:14, 22, 24; 3:26-28; Eph 1:13; 2:8; Phil 3:9; Heb 3:6, 14; 3:18-19; 4:2-3; 6:12; 1 John 2:23-25; 5:10-13, 20)
5. That true believers had sufficient strength, through divine grace, to resist and overcome Satan, sin, the world, and their own lusts, but whether they might not, through their negligence, apostatize and loose the power of holy saving truth, the testimony of a well-directed conscience, and forfeit that grace, must first be more fully inquired into, under the guidance of the holy scriptures, before they could, with confidence and unhesitating minds, assert and teach it.
This fifth point is dated at 1610; by 1618, in The Opinions of the Remonstrants, the Arminians conclude their study of the holy scriptures with the following affirmation on the subject of perseverance and apostasy: "3. True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently." They also argue: "4. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish." Such has been "the Arminian" view on the subject since 1618. More so, this view is also advocated by the early Church fathers, though Calvinists will argue otherwise.

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1 Kenneth D. Keathley, "The Work of God: Salvation," in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 703.

2 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993), 3.2.11, 479.

3 Jacob Arminius, Twenty-Five Public Disputations: Disputation XI. On the Free Will of Man and Its Powers," in The Works of Arminius, the London edition, three volumes, trans. James and William Nichols (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 2:192. He adds: "The Mind of man, in this state, is dark, destitute of the saving knowledge of God, and, according to the Apostle, incapable of those things which belong to the Spirit of God;" and also, "To this Darkness of the Mind succeeds the Perverseness of the Affections and of the Heart, according to which it hates and has an aversion to that which is truly good and pleasing to God; but it loves and pursues what is evil;" as well as, "Exactly correspondent to this Darkness of the Mind, and Perverseness of the Heart, is ... the utter Weakness of all the Powers to perform that which is truly good." (2:192-93) (emphases original)

4 The Arminian Confession of 1621, trans. and ed. Mark A. Ellis (Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2005), 63-69. They conclude: "It was from this [sinful, depraved state] that the highest necessity and also advantage of divine grace, prepared for us in Christ the Savior before the ages, clearly appeared. For without it we could neither shake off the miserable yoke of sin, nor do anything truly good in all religion, nor finally ever escape eternal death or any true punishment of sin. Much less could we at any time obtain eternal salvation without it or through ourselves." (68-69)

5 David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas, and S. Lance Quinn, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing Co., 2004), 3.

6 Dr. Terry L. Miethe argues that the doctrine of Limited Atonement assumes "that because Christ's death was 'sufficient' to save all for whom he died, then it must save all for whom he died." (emphasis added) See "The Universal Power of the Atonement," in The Grace of God and the Will of Man, ed. Clark H. Pinnock (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1995), 73. Dr. Miethe continues: "Again, this is an important assertion. The question is, Where does the burden of proof lie [regarding the relation between "the world" and the atonement]? Douty mentions the following works: Trench's Synonyms of the New Testament, Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Robinson's A Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, Thayer's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Souter's Pocket Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Berry's Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Arndt-Gingrich's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Abbott-Smith's Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, Tasker's New Bible Dictionary, Everett F. Harrison in Baker's Dictionary of Theology, and John D. Davis in his Dictionary of the Bible (both Harrison and Davis list John 3:16 as referring to mankind, though both are Presbyterians)." Not one of these sources will substantiate "the world" to refer to "the unconditionally elect." (74)

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ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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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.