Arminianism Explained

I have mentioned in the past and have been noticing to a great degree lately that Calvinists and Arminians almost always misrepresent each other in the blogosphere. As Gordon Fee says,

Before you can say, ‘I disagree,’ you must be able to say, ‘I understand.’

As far as I can tell, 98% of people in each group misrepresent the position(s) of the other. And on top of that, the majority of Calvinists don’t really know what classical Calvinism is and haven’t read much of Calvin himself. I would guess the same might go for some who would call themselves Arminians. In addition, Arminianism is very different from Semi-Pelagianism or Pelagianism.

I also don’t believe it’s the job of the Calvinist to convert other Christians to Calvinism. We are to proclaim Christ and the basic sound doctrine clearly laid out in Scripture. There is a place for debate and some are gifted in presenting the case of Calvinism or Arminianism to a contemporary audience for the education of the listener or reader.

I think it’s important for us Calvinists to learn not only what Calvinism really is but also to understand what Arminianism is to dispel any misconceptions we may have and understand their position may not be as different from ours as we may have thought.

I came across this paper and thought I would pass it on:
A COMPARATIVE EXAMINATION OF SEMI-PELAGIANISM WITH THE TEACHINGS OF JAMES ARMINIUS: PRESENTED TO DR. RUSSELL WOODBRIDGE ~ CHR. THEO. I.

This deals with the difference between Semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism but also speaks pretty fairly of Calvinism. It’s interesting to read about how some Calvinists like John MacArthur may misrepresent Arminianism (which I’ve heard myself) but R.C. Sproul seems to have a better grasp of what it really is.

Also of interest is how Arminius admired Calvin’s writings:

Next to the study of the Scriptures which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s Commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself [a Dutch divine, 1551-1608]; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison . . . in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent spirit of prophecy . . . His Institutes ought to be studied after the [Heidelberg] Catechism, as containing a fuller explanation, but with discrimination . . . , like the writings of all men.

I’ve started to read more of Calvin and will have a book review coming up within a week.

5 Responses to “Arminianism Explained”


  1. 1 Nick Norelli

    No one would call themself an “Arminianist” but plenty of folks call themselves “Arminians.” 😉  I can say with complete sincerity that I have never come across a Calvinist who has fairly or accurately represented Arminianism, and I’ve come across a lot of Calvinists.  On the flip side I have come across many (probably a majority) of Arminians who have fairly and accurately represented Calvinism and simply disagree with it. 

  2. 2 Stan McCullars

    I have been reading Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities by Roger E. Olson. I am finding it helpful as I try to increase my understanding of Arminianism. His writing style, for me at least, is very inviting.

  3. 3 Scripture Zealot

    Nick thanks for the correction. I changed that in my post. Guess I exposed my weakness there. I used to be Arminianismisticalist but didn’t know what it was called. I haven’t found the representations that you have online but maybe you have found that with people that you know personally which I wouldn’t doubt.

    Thanks for the book suggestion Stan.
    Jeff

  4. 4 Robert Jimenez

    Jeff,I have found the same experience to be true.  I will give you one example from a text book that is used at seminaries that teach from a Calvinist perspective.  From “The Cross and Salvation, by Bruce Demarest”  “The main features of Arminianism pertinent to the topic at hand are “partial depravity, … universal resistible grace, … a Semi-Pelagian cooperation of a person with God’s grace…Accordingly, some Reformed authorities judge Arminianism has revived the Semi-Pelagian formulation of grace”He does not bother to refute or clarify this statement, just leaves it as is.  There are other areas in this book where he makes similar accusations.  Trust me we believe that man is totally depraved, it’s what the scriptures teach.  There is none righteous no, not one.Yes I own the book and have read about half of it.  It is a good book and I do my best to try to understand.  I will probably finish it in the next few months as I will be teaching on Salvation at PBI, next semester.  So I want to be sure that I am fair and properly represent both positions.Be hey, you are one of the good guys!  That’s why I read and follow your blog.

  5. 5 Scripture Zealot

    Man, that’s even worse if it’s in a textbook. You would think they would know better.
    Jeff

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