Arminianism, an Overview
Compiled by Lewis Loflin
Arminianism is a Protestant Christian theology founded by the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius. The Arminian party arose within the Reformed churches in the Netherlands, to advocate a revision of the Reformed doctrine of predestination, in favor of an idea of predestination that was more agreeable to reason and Catholic tradition. Armanians reject the system of Calvinism of Theodore Beza and Franciscus Gomarus. They had developed and their system of doctrine that made God the author of evil as well as of good.
Calvinism with its emphasis on predestination and total depravity, produced a system where the believer could do nothing right and all moral conduct meant nothing. Drawing from former Manichaean Gnostics like St Augustine (based on Paul alone), Jesus' death mean nothing for the vast majority of humanity. This produced two reactions: Armanianism in Holland, and Unitarianism in Poland, Transylvania, and America. (Unitarianism would be transplanted to England from Holland) See Unitarianism Armanianism also influenced some Unitarian Christians as well.
The Wesleyan revival in England, which was part of the first Great Awakening in America, recovered the Arminian emphasis on personal responsibility; but it did not widely result in the adoption of Arminianism by the traditionally Calvinist denominations. However, the Second Great Awakening, beginning approximately sixty years later, brought a widespread overthrow of Calvinism in favor of Arminianism, especially through the influence of Methodism and the Presbyterian Charles Grandison Finney, who aggressively advanced the Arminian system as an antidote to hypocrisy and religious apathy. Restoration Movement revivalists, Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone popularized an anti-Calvinist, democratic concept of salvation early in the Second Great Awakening, but this can be contrasted with Arminianism on a number of points. Also, their followers typically reject all, Arminianism vs. Calvinism, Augustinianism vs. Pelagianism, and other typical distinctions, as "ecclesiastical idols".
Today, most Protestant churches in America Armanian in some form.
Governmental theory of the atonement: This doctrine says that the purpose of Christ's death is that all will see that forgiveness is costly and will strive to cease from anarchy in the world God governs. This is in opposition to the Calvinist substitutionary theory of the atonement that says that Christ dies to substitute his punishment for the sins of believers only.
Compare to Calvinism
Arminianism, another view and history.
Jacobus Arminius was born in Holland in 1560, and grew up in a land that jealously guarded the faith for which so many had shed their blood. By this time, the majority of the Protestants in the Netherlands were Calvinists. Personal views of Scripture were allowed, but there was little toleration for anything but Calvinist views to be publicly expressed.
But this was also a land where humanistic traditions from the Renaissance period had never died out and where Anabaptism was widely spread. Some people felt there needed to be a greater emphasis on the practical aspects of religion, less emphasis on finely distinguished doctrine, and a more tolerant attitude. Arminius, whose relatives were killed in the Netherlands' struggle for independence, was educated through the support of friends, at the University of Leyden.
Later Arminius went to Geneva, where he was greatly influenced
by Beza. After Calvin's death, Beza assumed Calvin's mantle and
took full leadership of the Academy at Geneva. It was Beza who
developed the doctrine of predestination a step further than
Calvin, in what is known as the supralapsarian view. This has to
do with the order of divine decrees.
In 1588, Arminius entered a pastorate in Amsterdam, winning distinction as a preacher and pastor. Later he was chosen to succeed Franz Junius as professor of theology in Leyden, where he remained till his death. Dirk Koornhert, a scholarly layman, who wrote against Beza and all strict predestinarians, rejected the notion of predestination, demanding a revision of the Belgic Confession (the Netherlands' own reformed confession, similar to Westminster Confession).
Arminius, who was known as a strict Calvinist and an apt scholar, was called to reply to Koornhert and to defend the supralapsarian position. As he studied the problem, Arminius came to doubt the whole doctrine of unconditional predestination and to ascribe to man a freedom which, however congenial to Melanchthon (a disciple of Martin Luther) had no place in pure Calvinism. The essential dispute that Arminius had with Calvinism was regarding the doctrine of predestination.
He did not deny predestination altogether, but denied that predestination was unconditional. A bitter controversy sprang up between Arminius and his supralapsarian colleague at the University of Leyden, Franz Gomarus, who was later the leading spokesman for the Calvinists at the Synod of Dort. The conflict between the two men resulted in a schism affecting the whole church of Holland.
One commendable legacy of Arminius was his call for theological perspective. During a period of intolerant dogmatism, when battle lines were drawn over subtle differences in creeds and confessions, Arminius wrote:
"There does not appear any greater evil in the disputes concerning matters of religion, than the persuading ourselves that our salvation or God's glory are lost by every little difference. As for me, I exhort my scholars, not only to distinguish between the true and the false according to Scripture, but also between the essential articles of faith, and the less essential articles, by the same Scripture."
Arminian Articles of Remonstrance
After Arminius' death, his views were championed and further developed and systematized by two men, Simon Episcopius, and Jan Uytenbogaert. Under their leadership the followers of Arminius in 1610 set forth their views in five articles called Arminian Articles of Remonstrance, (a remonstrance is a reproof, to remonstrate is to reprove or correct) which gave them the name 'Remonstrants'. In substance the articles teach as follows:
The Synod of Dort
The dispute soon became involved in politics. The Netherlands
were divided between the supporters of "states rights",
which included the wealthier merchant class (to which most
Remonstrants belonged) and the national party (to which most
The Synod of Dort was convened to resolve the
Arminian/Calvinist controversy. It lasted from November 1618 to
May 1619, seven months. It was the largest and, next to the
Westminster Assembly, the most imposing of all synods of the
The Canon of Dort ("The Five Points of Calvinism")
Five theological points were formulated to answer the Remonstrants in a document known as the Canon of Dort, which declared:
These doctrines have been called the five points of Calvinism
and are often symbolized by the well known acronym TULIP.
However, by themselves they are not a full exposition of Calvin's
theology, but a caricature.
The Calvinists were rather heavy-handed in their dealings with
their 'Arminian' brethren. For refusing to subscribe to the Canon
of Dort, some 200 ministers were deprived of their positions,
eighty were banished from the country.
What good there is to be expected from such brethren, may easily be gathered from the Synod of Dort and their proceedings.
A period of persecution followed until 1632. Since then the
state has extended toleration to the group. Since 1795, the
Remonstrants have been recognized in Holland as an independent
church body. The present membership is 21,500.
The real significance of Arminianism lies in the wider field of English and American church history. The evangelical tenets of Arminianism found a forceful expression in the teachings of John Wesley and the Methodists, with its emphasis on the moral responsibility of man, the need of a new birth, and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.
To quote the Catholic Encyclodedia,
The defection of the popular and gifted divine was a severe blow to the rigid Calvinists and started a quarrel which eventually threatened the existence of the United Netherlands. His (Armanius) reputation was greatly enhanced by his heroic fidelity to pastoral duty during the plague of 1602, and the following year, through the influence of admirers like Grotius, he was, notwithstanding fierce opposition, appointed professor of theology at the University of Leyden.
Other references, Wikipedia, my college textbooks, etc.
If using this material on another site, please provide a link back to my site.