We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

Monday, December 20, 2021

How does Arminianism Contribute to Open & Relational Theology?


How does Arminianism Contribute
to Open & Relational Theology?

by R.E. Slater


The question posed today has most probably been answered in many ways through this website's preservation of the preeminent Arminian Theologian, Roger Olson, who was recorded for several years in his responses to current evangelical church trends in the early years of Relevancy22's development.

However, reading the question now, many years afterwards, I might suggest several perspectives which may be relevant to today's discussion:

  • Firstly, Arminian Theology has served in my experience as a former Calvinist as a precursor to a fuller discussion on the separate topics of an open future and how all things are in relationship to one another.
  • Secondly, as an important difference from Calvinism's world of exclusionary preconditions, prerequisites, and predeterminations. Arminianism approaches the same subjects in an inclusionary manner in tones of "welcoming and embracing" rather than as a set of divine rules measuring the fatalism of our actions. Calvinism seems to me more fearing and fatalistic, whereas Arminianism feels much more hopeful.
  • Thirdly, one gets the sense that certain of God's children require rules to live by to help firm up their assurance of God's love and heavenly destiny. The sense in Arminianism seems more like one built upon personal relationships centered in love and not by religious Christian laws. Hence, early Arminian communities might cast out all fears and motivate each other towards the fulfillment of loving one another, being humble and peaceable in community, etc (sic, Jesus' Beatitudes) while sowing kindness, generosity, etc (sic, the Fruits of the Spirit). For such qualities cannot be quantified in legalistic living as they were by Calvinistic assemblies per their regard for Divine command and control.

There are most probably additional helpful differences between the two theological approaches to God but allow me to bring you into a recent discussion between myself and another Open Theist to help show how Calvinistic approaches have permeated - and modified - Arminian theology with unnecessary claims. Claims which have then unfortunately seeped into Open Theism positions. Hence, Calvinism and neo-Calvinism sentiments have syncretized the historical and present day doctrines of Arminian and Open Theologies with their own biases:


Here is an example of a Syncretizing Statement by a former Calvinist turned Open Theist re comparison memes between Arminianism, Molinism, and Open Theism:
  • Calvinism: God chose who to save. Many people CAN'T and WON'T be saved.
  • Arminianism: God knows who will be saved. Many people WON'T be saved.
  • Molinism: God looked at all possibilities then chose one to create. Many people COULD but WON'T be saved.
  • Open Theism: ANYONE COULD be saved.

My Response - I'm not sure but the Arminian meme doesn't seem correct. Open theism is built upon Arminianism and freewill with open-ended futures as a large part of Arminian theology. I think its more accurate to state of Arminianism the following: "Creation has the freedom granted by God - but not by divine fiat - but by God's Essence (aka Image: "God is Free in Himself, in His Person") and Self-Giving Love (sic, the idea of servanthood or Divine Kenosis) to choose to cooperate with the Divine as we each together bring redemption into action by Christ's atoning work. God by His Godness and we through God's Godness. Hence, God enables all forms of atoning recreation through all forms of willing, cooperating creation in lively partnerships imparting wellbeing. There is no divine foreknowledge of who, or what, will be saved, and there is no divine guesstimates of responsive numbers of salvific outcome.

CB - In Arminianism God knows every person who will ever be saved and everyone who won't be before the foundation of the world. He's watching a replay. The outcome can't change. If He influences anyone to be saved who wouldn't have been already then His foreknowledge would be wrong. It's fatalism like Calvinism, it's just determined by man instead of God.

My Response - Thanks, but I feel these statement are filled with Calvinistic outcome and not true Arminian portent. I looked up the classic definition on Wikipedia and found this statement with nine other statements of classic Arminianism. None refer to numbers or outcome, just the possibility of being saved: “Arminianism,” [...] is simply a term we use in theology for the view, held by some people before Arminius and many after him, that sinners who hear the gospel have the free will to accept or reject God’s offer of saving grace and that nobody is excluded by God from the possibility of salvation except those who freely exclude themselves. But true, historical, classical Arminianism includes the belief that this free will [to repent and believe unto salvation] is itself a gift of God through prevenient grace. Here's the link - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism

CB - Most Arminians reconcile human free will with God's sovereignty and foreknowledge by holding three points:

  • Human free will is limited by original sin, though God's prevenient grace restores to humanity the ability to accept God's call of salvation.
  • God purposely exercises his sovereignty in ways that do not illustrate its extent—in other words, He has the power and authority to predetermine salvation but he chooses to apply it through different means.
  • God's foreknowledge of the future is exhaustive and complete, and therefore the future is certain and not contingent on human action. God does not determine the future, but He does know it. God's certainty and human contingency are compatible.

My Response - Thanks. I do agree with the first statement but the next two are more informed by Calvinism. More importantly, whether Arminius did this or the Open and Relational Theologians did this, I cannot remember, but perhaps a bit of both led to the contribution that God's "Sovereignty" is Supremely Unimportant as a marker for Christianity. Rather, as a fuller replacement to this classic Christian sentiment, God's Love is the marker by which all things are measured. And if I were to wander off the Arminian trail a bit, the ORT community is less interested in God's power than they are God's enablement of His love into-and-through His followers. Back in Arminius' day "sovereignty" (sic, as divine "strength" or "power") was the main argument for God's Godness; today, in ORT it's much less so. Sovereignty now is perceived in terms of God's love rather than by His power or ability to "control" outcome. Which is another reason ORT's lean into creational chaos and randomness as the preferred way to describe an evolving creation. The completion to both Arminian theology and Open & Relational Theology is Process Theology which uplifts both towards all these ideations of the Christian faith and presents God-given possibilities which inherently flow within the self-giving kenotic telos of creation.


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Arminianism

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Arminianism is a major branch of Protestantism based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) and his historic supporters known as Remonstrants. Dutch Arminianism was originally articulated in the Remonstrance (1610), a theological statement submitted to the States General of the Netherlands. This expressed an attempt to moderate the doctrines of Calvinism related to its interpretation of predestination. The Synod of Dort (1618–19) was called by the States General to consider the Five Articles of Remonstrance.

Classical Arminianism, to which Arminius is the main contributor, and Wesleyan Arminianism, to which John Wesley is the main contributor, are the two main schools of thought.

Many Christian denominations have been influenced by Arminian views on the will of man being freed by grace prior to regeneration, notably the Baptists, the Methodists, and the Pentecostals.

History

Precursor movements and theological influences

According to Roger E. Olson, Arminius’ beliefs, i.e. Arminianism, did not begin with him.[1] Denominations such as the Waldensians and other groups prior to the Reformation have similarly to Arminianism affirmed that each person may choose the contingent response of either resisting God's grace or yielding to it.[2] Anabaptist theologian Balthasar Hubmaier also promoted much the same view as Arminius nearly a century before him.[1] The soteriological doctrines of Arminianism and Anabaptism are roughly equivalent.[3][4] In particular, Mennonites have been historically Arminian whether they distinctly espoused the Arminian viewpoint or not, and rejected Calvinism soteriology.[5] Anabaptist theology seems to have influenced Jacobus Arminius.[3] At least, he was “sympathetic to the Anabaptist point of view, and Anabaptists were commonly in attendance on his preaching.”[4] Similarly, Arminius mentions Danish Lutheran theologian Niels Hemmingsen as holding the basic view of soteriology he held and he may have been influenced by Hemmingsen.[6]

Emergence of Arminianism

Portrait of Jacobus Arminius, from Kupferstich aus Theatrum Europaeum by Matthaeus Merian in 1662

Jacobus Arminius was a Dutch pastor and theologian in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He was taught by Theodore BezaCalvin's hand-picked successor, but after examination of the scriptures, he rejected his teacher's theology that it is God who unconditionally elects some for salvation. Instead Arminius proposed that the election of God was of believers, thereby making it conditional on faith. Arminius's views were challenged by the Dutch Calvinists, especially Franciscus Gomarus, but Arminius died before a national synod could occur.[7]

Arminius died before he could satisfy Holland's State General's request for a 14-page paper outlining his views. Arminius's followers replied in his stead crafting the Five articles of Remonstrance, in which they express their points of divergence with the stricter Calvinism of the Belgic Confession.[7] This is how Arminius's followers were called Remonstrants, and following a Counter Remonstrance in 1611, Gomarus' followers were called Counter-Remonstrants.

After some political maneuvering, the Dutch Calvinists were able to convince Prince Maurice of Nassau to deal with the situation. Maurice systematically removed Arminian magistrates from office and called a national synod at Dordrecht. This Synod of Dort was open primarily to Dutch Calvinists (102 people), while the Arminians were excluded (13 people banned from voting), with Calvinist representatives from other countries (28 people), and in 1618 published a condemnation of Arminius and his followers as heretics. Part of this publication was the famous Five points of Calvinism in response to the five articles of Remonstrance.[7]

Arminians across Holland were removed from office, imprisoned, banished, and sworn to silence. Twelve years later Holland officially granted Arminianism protection as a religion, although animosity between Arminians and Calvinists continued.

Baptists

The debate between Calvin's followers and Arminius's followers is characteristic of post-Reformation church history. The emerging Baptist movement in 17th-century England, for example, was a microcosm of the historic debate between Calvinists and Arminians. The first Baptists—called "General Baptists" because of their confession of a "general" or unlimited atonement—were Arminians.[8] The Baptist movement originated with Thomas Helwys, who left his mentor John Smyth (who had moved into shared belief and other distinctives of the Dutch Waterlander Mennonites of Amsterdam) and returned to London to start the first English Baptist Church in 1611. Later General Baptists such as John Griffith, Samuel Loveday, and Thomas Grantham defended a Reformed Arminian theology that reflected more the Arminianism of Arminius than that of the later Remonstrants. The General Baptists encapsulated their Arminian views in numerous confessions, the most influential of which was the Standard Confession of 1660. In the 1640s the Particular Baptists were formed, diverging strongly from Arminian doctrine and embracing the strong Calvinism of the Presbyterians and Independents. Their robust Calvinism was publicized in such confessions as the London Baptist Confession of 1644 and the Second London Confession of 1689. The London Confession of 1689 was later used by Calvinistic Baptists in America (called the Philadelphia Baptist Confession), whereas the Standard Confession of 1660 was used by the American heirs of the English General Baptists, who soon came to be known as Free Will Baptists.[9]

Methodists

This same dynamic between Arminianism and Calvinism can be seen in the heated discussions between friends and fellow Anglican ministers John Wesley and George Whitefield. Wesley was highly influenced by 17th-century English Arminianism and thinkers such as John GoodwinJeremy Taylor and Henry Hammond of the Anglican "Holy Living" school, and the Remonstrant Hugo Grotius. Although Wesley knew very little about the beliefs of Jacobus Arminius and arrived at his religious views independently of Arminius, Wesley acknowledged late in life, with the 1778 publication of a periodical titled The Arminian Magazine, that he and Arminius were in general agreement. Theology Professor W. Stephen Gunther concludes he was "a faithful representative" of Arminius' beliefs.[10] Wesley was a champion of Arminian teachings, defending his soteriology in The Arminian and writing articles such as Predestination Calmly Considered. He defended Arminianism against charges of semi-Pelagianism, holding strongly to beliefs in original sin and total depravity. At the same time, Wesley attacked the determinism that he claimed characterized Calvinistic doctrines of unconditional election and reprobation and maintained a belief in the ability to lose salvation. Wesley also clarified the doctrine of prevenient grace and preached the ability of Christians to attain to perfection (fully mature, not "sinlessness"). His system of thought has become known as Wesleyan Arminianism, the foundations of which were laid by Wesley and his fellow preacher John William Fletcher.[11]

Current landscape

Advocates of both Arminianism and Calvinism find a home in many Protestant denominations, and sometimes both exist within the same denomination. Faiths leaning at least in part in the Arminian direction include MethodistsFree Will BaptistsChristian Churches and Churches of ChristGeneral Baptists, the Seventh-day Adventist ChurchChurch of the NazareneThe Wesleyan ChurchThe Salvation ArmyConservative MennonitesOld Order MennonitesAmish and a part of the Charismatics including the Pentecostals.[12][13][14] Denominations leaning in the Calvinist direction are grouped as the Reformed churches and include Particular BaptistsReformed BaptistsPresbyterians, and Congregationalists. The majority of Southern Baptists, including Billy Graham, accept Arminianism with an exception allowing for a doctrine of perseverance of the saints ("eternal security"),[15][16][17] though many see Calvinism as growing in acceptance.[18]

The current scholarly support for Arminianism is wide and varied: Among Baptist theologians, Roger E. Olson, F. Leroy Forlines, Robert Picirilli, and J. Matthew Pinson are four supporters of a return to the teachings of Arminius. Forlines and Olson have referred to such Arminianism as "Classical Arminianism",[19][20] while Picirilli, Pinson, have termed it "Reformation Arminianism"[21] or "Reformed Arminianism".[22]

Methodist theologian Thomas Oden,[23] "Evangelical Methodists" Bible scholar Ben Witherington III,[24] and Christian apologist David Pawson[25] are generally Arminian in their theologies. Holiness movement theologians Henry Orton Wiley, Carl O. Bangs and J. Kenneth Grider can also be mentioned among recent proponents of Arminianism. Various other theologians or Bible scholars as B. J. Oropeza,[26] Keith D. Stanglin,[27] Craig S. Keener, Thomas H. McCall,[27] and Grant R. Osborne can be mentioned as well.

Theology

Definition

The original beliefs of Jacobus Arminius himself are commonly defined as Arminianism, but more broadly, the term may embrace the teachings of Simon Episcopius,[28] Hugo GrotiusJohn Wesley, and others. Arminian theology usually falls into one of two groups—Classical Arminianism, drawn from the teaching of Jacobus Arminius—and Wesleyan Arminian, drawing primarily from Wesley. Both groups overlap substantially. Arminianism is known to some as a soteriological diversification of Calvinism;[29] to others, Arminianism is a reclamation of early Church theological consensus.[30]

Arminianism is based on fundamental postulates stemming from God's character: Divine election must be defined in such a way that God is not in any case, and even in a secondary way, the author of evil. It would not correspond to the character of God as fully revealed in Jesus Christ. On the other hand, man's responsibility for evil must be absolutely preserved.[31] Thus, Arminianism can be fundamentally defined by God's limited mode of providence and by God's predestination by foreknowledge mode of election.[32] Roger Olson expressed it in a more practical way:

"“Arminianism,” [...] is simply a term we use in theology for the view, held by some people before Arminius and many after him, that sinners who hear the gospel have the free will to accept or reject God’s offer of saving grace and that nobody is excluded by God from the possibility of salvation except those who freely exclude themselves. But true, historical, classical Arminianism includes the belief that this free will [to repent and believe unto salvation] is itself a gift of God through prevenient grace."[33]

Classical Arminianism

Portrait of Simon Episcopius, (Anonymous)

Classical Arminianism is the theological system that was presented by Jacobus Arminius and maintained by some of the Remonstrants.[34] His teachings held to Sola fide and Sola gratia of the Reformation, but they were distinct from particular teachings of Martin LutherHuldrych ZwingliJohn Calvin, and other Protestant Reformers.[35]

Classical Arminianism was originally articulated in the Five Articles of Remonstrance. "These points", note Keith D. Stanglin and Thomas H. McCall, "are consistent with the views of Arminius; indeed, some come verbatim from his Declaration of Sentiments."[36] Classical Arminianism serves as the foundation for all Arminian systems. A list of beliefs is given below:

  • Depravity is total: Arminius states "In this [fallen] state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace."[37]
  • Atonement is intended for all: Jesus's death was for all people, Jesus draws all people to himself, and all people have opportunity for salvation through faith.[38]
  • Jesus's death satisfies God's justice: The penalty for the sins of the elect is paid in full through the crucifixion of Christ. Thus Christ's death atones for the sins of all, but requires faith to be effected. Arminius states that "Justification, when used for the act of a Judge, is either purely the imputation of righteousness through mercy [...] or that man is justified before God [...] according to the rigor of justice without any forgiveness."[39] Stephen Ashby clarifies: "Arminius allowed for only two possible ways in which the sinner might be justified: (1) by our absolute and perfect adherence to the law, or (2) purely by God's imputation of Christ's righteousness."[40]
  • Grace is resistible: God takes initiative in the salvation process and his grace comes to all people. This grace (often called prevenient or pre-regenerating grace) acts on all people to convince them of the Gospel, draw them strongly towards salvation, and enable the possibility of sincere faith. Picirilli states that "indeed this grace is so close to regeneration that it inevitably leads to regeneration unless finally resisted."[41] The offer of salvation through grace does not act irresistibly in a purely cause-effect, deterministic method but rather in an influence-and-response fashion that can be both freely accepted and freely denied.[42]
  • Man has a freed will to respond or resist: Free will is granted and limited by God's sovereignty, but God's sovereignty allows all men the choice to accept the Gospel of Jesus through faith, simultaneously allowing all men to resist.
  • Election is conditional: Arminius defined election as "the decree of God by which, of Himself, from eternity, He decreed to justify in Christ, believers, and to accept them unto eternal life."[43] God alone determines who will be saved and his determination is that all who believe Jesus through faith will be justified. According to Arminius, "God regards no one in Christ unless they are engrafted in him by faith."[43]
  • God predestines the elect to a glorious future: Predestination is not the predetermination of who will believe, but rather the predetermination of the believer's future inheritance. The elect are therefore predestined to sonship through adoptionglorification, and eternal life.[44]
  • Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer: Justification is sola fide (by faith alone). When individuals repent and believe in Christ (saving faith), they are regenerated and brought into union with Christ, whereby the death and righteousness of Christ are imputed to them for their justification before God.[45]
  • Eternal preservation is also conditional: All believers have full assurance of salvation with the condition that they remain in Christ. Salvation is conditioned on faith, therefore perseverance is also conditioned.[46]

On whether a believer could commit apostasy (i.e., desert Christ by cleaving again to this evil world, losing a good conscience, or by failing to hold on to sound doctrine), Arminius declared that this matter required further study in the Scriptures.[47] Nevertheless, Arminius believed the Scriptures taught that believers are graciously empowered by Christ and the Holy Spirit "to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies."[47] Furthermore, Christ and the Spirit are ever present to aid and assist believers through various temptations. But this security was not unconditional but conditional—"provided they [believers] stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling."[48] Arminius goes on to say, "I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding."[49][51]

After the death of Arminius in 1609, the Remonstrants maintained their leader's view on conditional security and his uncertainty regarding the possibility of believers committing apostasy. This is evidenced in the fifth article drafted by its leaders in 1610.[53] However, sometime between 1610, and the official proceeding of the Synod of Dort (1618), the Remonstrants became fully persuaded in their minds that the Scriptures taught that a true believer was capable of falling away from faith and perishing eternally as an unbeliever. They formalized their views in "The Opinion of the Remonstrants" (1618),[54] and later in the Remonstrant Confession (1621).[55] Picirilli remarks: "Ever since that early period, then, when the issue was being examined again, Arminians have taught that those who are truly saved need to be warned against apostasy as a real and possible danger."[56] The remonstrants believed that, though possible, apostasy was not irremediable.[57] However, other Classical Arminians as the Free Will Baptists have taught that apostasy is irremediable.[58][59]

  • Arminians affirm the substitutionary effect of Christ's atonement and that this effect is limited only to the elect. Arminius held that God's justice was satisfied by Penal substitution.[60] Hugo Grotius taught that it was satisfied governmentally.[61] According to Roger Olson, historical and contemporary Arminians have held to one of these views.[62]

Wesleyan Arminianism

Portrait of John Wesley, by George Romney

John Wesley has historically been the most influential advocate for the teachings of Arminian soteriology. Wesley thoroughly agreed with the vast majority of what Arminius himself taught, maintaining strong doctrines of original sin, total depravity, conditional election, prevenient grace, unlimited atonement, and the possibility of apostasy. Here are mentioned the positions within Wesleyan Arminianism on more specific issues:

Steven Harper proposed that Wesley's atonement is a hybrid of the penal substitution theory and the governmental theory.[63] However, theologians as Robert Picirilli and Roger Olson consider that the view of Wesley concerning atonement is by penal substitution.[64][65] Wesleyan Arminians have historically adopted either penal or governmental theory of the atonement.[66]

Wesley fully accepted the Arminian view that genuine Christians could apostatize and lose their salvation, as his famous sermon "A Call to Backsliders" clearly demonstrates. Harper summarizes as follows: "the act of committing sin is not in itself ground for the loss of salvation [...] the loss of salvation is much more related to experiences that are profound and prolonged. Wesley sees two primary pathways that could result in a permanent fall from grace: unconfessed sin and the actual expression of apostasy."[67] Wesley believed that such apostasy was not irremediable. When talking about those who have made "shipwreck" of their faith,[68] Wesley claims that "not one, or a hundred only, but I am persuaded, several thousands [...] innumerable are the instances [...] of those who had fallen but now stand upright."[69]

One issue that typify Wesleyan Arminianism is Christian perfection. According to Wesley's teaching, Christians could attain a state of practical perfection, meaning a lack of all voluntary sin by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, in this life. Christian perfection (or entire sanctification), according to Wesley, is "purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God" and "the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked." It is "loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves".[70] It is "a restoration not only to the favour, but likewise to the image of God," our "being filled with the fullness of God".[71] Wesley was clear that Christian perfection did not imply perfection of bodily health or an infallibility of judgment. It also does not mean we no longer violate the will of God, for involuntary transgressions remain. Perfected Christians remain subject to temptation, and have continued need to pray for forgiveness and holiness. It is not an absolute perfection but a perfection in love. Furthermore, Wesley did not teach a salvation by perfection, but rather says that, "Even perfect holiness is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ."[72]

Other variations

Some doctrines adhere to the Arminian foundation and, while minority views, are highlighted below.

Open theism

The doctrine of open theism states that God is omnipresentomnipotent, and omniscient, but differs on the nature of the future. Open theists claim that the future is not completely determined (or "settled") because people have not made their free decisions yet. God therefore knows the future partially in possibilities (human free actions) rather than solely certainties (divinely determined events).[73] Some Arminians, such as professor and theologian Robert Picirilli, reject the doctrine of open theism as a "deformed Arminianism".[74] Joseph Dongell stated that "open theism actually moves beyond classical Arminianism towards process theology."[75] There are also some Arminians, like Roger Olson, who believe Open theism to be an alternative view that a Christian can have. The majority Arminian view accepts classical theism—the belief that God's power, knowledge, and presence have no external limitations, that is, outside of his divine nature. Most Arminians reconcile human free will with God's sovereignty and foreknowledge by holding three points:

  • Human free will is limited by original sin, though God's prevenient grace restores to humanity the ability to accept God's call of salvation.[76][77]
  • God purposely exercises his sovereignty in ways that do not illustrate its extent—in other words, He has the power and authority to predetermine salvation but he chooses to apply it through different means.
  • God's foreknowledge of the future is exhaustive and complete, and therefore the future is certain and not contingent on human action. God does not determine the future, but He does know it. God's certainty and human contingency are compatible.[78]

Corporate view of election

The majority Arminian view is that election is individual and based on God's foreknowledge of faith, but a second perspective deserves mention. These Arminians reject the concept of individual election entirely, preferring to understand the doctrine in corporate terms. According to this corporate election, God never chose individuals to elect to salvation, but rather He chose to elect the believing church to salvation. Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Ridderbos says "[The certainty of salvation] does not rest on the fact that the church belongs to a certain "number", but that it belongs to Christ, from before the foundation of the world. Fixity does not lie in a hidden decree, therefore, but in corporate unity of the Church with Christ, whom it has come to know in the gospel and has learned to embrace in faith."[79]

Corporate election draws support from a similar concept of corporate election found in the Old Testament and Jewish law. Indeed most biblical scholarship is in agreement that Judeo-Greco-Roman thought in the 1st century was opposite of the Western world's "individual first" mantra—it was very collectivist or communitarian in nature.[80] Identity stemmed from membership in a group more than individuality.[80] According to Romans 9–11, supporters claim, Jewish election as the chosen people ceased with their national rejection of Jesus as Messiah. As a result of the new covenant, God's chosen people are now the corporate body of Christ, the church (sometimes called spiritual Israel—see also Covenant theology). The pastor and theologian Brian Abasciano claims "What Paul says about Jews, Gentiles, and Christians, whether of their place in God’s plan, or their election, or their salvation, or how they should think or behave, he says from a corporate perspective which views the group as primary and those he speaks about as embedded in the group. These individuals act as members of the group to which they belong, and what happens to them happens by virtue of their membership in the group."[80]

These scholars also maintain that Jesus was the only human ever elected and that individuals must be "in Christ"[81] through faith to be part of the elect. This was, in fact, Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth's, understanding of the doctrine of election. Joseph Dongell, professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, states "the most conspicuous feature of Ephesians 1:3–2:10 is the phrase 'in Christ', which occurs twelve times in Ephesians 1:3–14 alone [...] this means that Jesus Christ himself is the chosen one, the predestined one. Whenever one is incorporated into him by grace through faith, one comes to share in Jesus' special status as chosen of God."[82] Markus Barth illustrates the inter-connectedness: "Election in Christ must be understood as the election of God's people. Only as members of that community do individuals share in the benefits of God's gracious choice."[83]

Arminianism and other views

Divergence with semi-Pelagianism and Pelagianism

Allegory of the theological dispute between the Arminianists and their opponents by Abraham van der Eyk (1721), allegorically represents what many Arminians thought about the Synod: the Bible on the Arminian side was outweighed by the sword, representing the power of the state, and Calvin's Institutes on the other

Some schools of thought, notably semi-Pelagianism, which teaches that the first step of Salvation is by human will,[84] are confused as being Arminian in nature. But Classical Arminianism and Wesleyan Arminianism hold that the first step of Salvation is through the prevenient grace of God, though "the subsequent grace entails a cooperative relationship."[85][86] Historically, the Council of Orange (529) condemned semi-Pelagian thought and predestination to damnation, and is accepted by some as a document which can be understood as teaching a doctrine between Augustinian thought and semi-Pelagian thought, relegating Arminianism to the orthodoxy of the early Church fathers.[30]

Some have alleged that Arminianism is Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian, (denying original sin and total depravity). No system of Arminianism founded on Arminius or Wesley denies original sin or total depravity;[87] both Arminius and Wesley strongly affirmed that man's basic condition is one in which he cannot be righteous, understand God, or seek God.[88] Many Calvinist critics of Arminianism, both historically and currently, claim that Arminianism condones, accepts, or even explicitly supports Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism. Arminius referred to Pelagianism as "the grand falsehood" and stated that he "must confess that I detest, from my heart, the consequences [of that theology]."[89] David Pawson, a British pastor, decries this association as "libelous" when attributed to Arminius' or Wesley's doctrine.[90] Indeed, most Arminians reject all accusations of Pelagianism; nonetheless, primarily due to Calvinist opponents,[91][92] the two terms remain intertwined in popular usage.

Divergence with Calvinism

The two systems of Calvinism and Arminianism share both history and many doctrines, and the history of Christian theology. However, because of their differences over the doctrines of divine predestination and election, many people view these schools of thought as opposed to each other. The distinction is whether God desires to save all yet allows individuals to resist the grace offered (in the Arminian doctrine) or if God desires to save only some and grace is irresistible to those chosen (in the Calvinist doctrine). Many consider the theological differences to be crucial differences in doctrine, while others find them to be relatively minor.[93]

Similarities

  • Total depravity – Arminians agree with Calvinists over the doctrine of total depravity. The differences come in the understanding of how God remedies this human depravity.

Differences

  • Nature of election – Arminians hold that election to eternal salvation has the condition of faith attached. The Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election states that salvation cannot be earned or achieved and is therefore not conditional upon any human effort, so faith is not a condition of salvation but the divinely apportioned means to it. In other words, Arminians believe that they owe their election to their faith, whereas Calvinists believe that they owe their faith to their election.
  • Nature of grace – Arminians believe that, through grace, God restores free will concerning salvation to all humanity, and each individual, therefore, is able either to accept the Gospel call through faith or resist it through unbelief. Calvinists hold that God's grace to enable salvation is given only to the elect and irresistibly leads to salvation.
  • Extent of the atonement – Arminians, along with four-point Calvinists or Amyraldians, hold to a universal atonement instead of the Calvinist doctrine that atonement is limited to the elect only, which many Calvinists prefer to call particular redemption.[94][95] Both sides (with the exception of hyper-Calvinists) believe the invitation of the gospel is universal and "must be presented to everyone [they] can reach without any distinction."[96]
  • Perseverance in faith – Arminians believe that future salvation and eternal life is secured in Christ and protected from all external forces but is conditional on remaining in Christ and can be lost through apostasy. Traditional Calvinists believe in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, which says that because God chose some unto salvation and actually paid for their particular sins, he keeps them from apostasy and that those who do apostatize were never truly regenerated (that is, born again) or saved. Non-traditional Calvinists and other evangelicals advocate the similar but distinct doctrine of eternal security that teaches if a person was once saved, his or her salvation can never be in jeopardy, even if the person completely apostatizes.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Jump up to:a b Olson 2014, p. 1.
  2. ^ Visconti 2003, pp. 253–.
  3. Jump up to:a b Sutton 2012, p. 86.
  4. Jump up to:a b Bangs 1985, p. 170.
  5. ^ Bender 1953. Mennonites have been historically Arminian in their theology whether they distinctly espoused the Arminian viewpoint or not. They never accepted Calvinism either in the Swiss-South German branch or in the Dutch-North German wing. Nor did any Mennonite confession of faith in any country teach any of the five points of Calvinism. However, in the 20th century, particularly in North America, some Mennonites, having come under the influence of certain Bible institutes and the literature produced by this movement and its schools, have adopted the Calvinist doctrine of the perseverance of the saints or "once in grace always in grace." In doing so, they have departed from the historic Arminianism of the Anabaptist-Mennonite movement."
  6. ^ Olson 2013b. "I am using “Arminianism” as a handy [...] synonym for “evangelical synergism” (a term I borrow from Donald Bloesch). [...] It’s simply a Protestant perspective on salvation, God’s role and ours, that is similar to, if not identical with, what was assumed by the Greek church fathers and taught by Hubmaier, Menno Simons, and even Philipp Melanchthon (after Luther died). It was also taught by Danish Lutheran theologian Niels Hemmingsen (d. 1600)—independently of Arminius. (Arminius mentions Hemmingsen as holding the basic view of soteriology he held and he may have been influenced by Hemmingsen.")
  7. Jump up to:a b c Wynkoop 1967, chap. 3.
  8. ^ Gonzalez 2014, pp. 225–226.
  9. ^ Torbet 1963.
  10. ^ Gunter 2007, p. 82.
  11. ^ Knight 2018, p. 115.
  12. ^ Akin 1993. "In Protestant circles there are two major camps when it comes to predestination: Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvinism is common in Presbyterian, Reformed, and a few Baptist churches. Arminianism is common in Methodist, Pentecostal, and most Baptist churches"
  13. ^ Olson 2014, pp. 2–3. "Methodism, in all its forms (including ones that do not bear that name), tends to be Arminian. (Calvinist Methodist churches once existed. They were founded by followers of Wesley’s co-evangelist George Whitefield. But, so far as I am able to tell, they have all died out or merged with traditionally Reformed-Calvinist denominations.) Officially Arminian denominations include ones in the so-called “Holiness” tradition (e.g., Church of the Nazarene) and in the Pentecostal tradition (e.g., Assemblies of God). Arminianism is also the common belief of Free Will Baptists (also known as General Baptists). Many Brethren [anabaptists-pietists] churches are Arminian as well. But one can find Arminians in many denominations that are not historically officially Arminian, such as many Baptist conventions/conferences."
  14. ^ Olson 2012.
  15. ^ SBC 2000, chap. 5.
  16. ^ Harmon 1984, pp. 17–18, 45–46.
  17. ^ Walls & Dongell 2004, pp. 12–13, 16–17.
  18. ^ Walls & Dongell 2004, pp. 7–20.
  19. ^ Forlines 2011.
  20. ^ Olson 2009.
  21. ^ Picirilli 2002, p. 1.
  22. ^ Pinson 2002, pp. 149–150.
  23. ^ Driscoll 2013, pp. 99–100.
  24. ^ Witherington III 2013. "The first and most important reason I'm a Wesleyan is because of the character of God [...] which is love freely given and freely received. [...] According to the Calvinistic message we are saved by grace through faith alone and our actions have nothing to do with it. [...] According to the Wesleyan approach to the gospel, it's not just about notional assent [...] it's about trusting the truth about God and that is an activity."
  25. ^ Pawson 1996.
  26. ^ Oropeza 2000.
  27. Jump up to:a b Stanglin & McCall 2012.
  28. ^ Episcopius & Ellis 2005, p. 8. "Episcopius was singularly responsible for the survival of the Remonstrant movement after the Synod of Dort. We may rightly regard him as the theological founder of Arminianism, since he both developed and systematized ideas which Arminius was tentatively exploring before his death and then perpetuated that theology through founding the Remonstrant seminary and teaching the next generation of pastors and teachers."
  29. ^ Magnusson 1995, p. 62.
  30. Jump up to:a b Keathley 2014, p. 703, Ch. 12.
  31. ^ Olson 2013a. "Basic to Arminianism is God’s love. The fundamental conflict between Calvinism and Arminianism is not sovereignty but God’s characterIf Calvinism is true, God is the author of sin, evil, innocent suffering and hell. [...] Let me repeat. The most basic issue is not providence or predestination or the sovereignty of God. The most basic issue is God’s character."
  32. ^ Olson 2018c. "What is Arminianism? A) Belief that God limits himself to give human beings free will to go against his perfect will so that God did not design or ordain sin and evil (or their consequences such as innocent suffering); B) Belief that, although sinners cannot achieve salvation on their own, without “prevenient grace” (enabling grace), God makes salvation possible for all through Jesus Christ and offers free salvation to all through the gospel. “A” is called “limited providence,” “B” is called “predestination by foreknowledge.”"
  33. ^ Olson 2017a. "“Arminianism,” [...] is simply a term we use in theology for the view, held by some people before Arminius and many after him, that sinners who hear the gospel have the free will to accept or reject God’s offer of saving grace and that nobody is excluded by God from the possibility of salvation except those who freely exclude themselves. But true, historical, classical Arminianism includes the belief that this free will is itself a gift of God through prevenient grace; it is not a natural ability every person has of himself or herself. All people have free will to do many things, but free will to repent and believe unto salvation is always a gift of God’s grace."
  34. ^ Pinson 2002, p. 137.
  35. ^ Pinson 2003, p. 135, 139.
  36. ^ Stanglin & McCall 2012, p. 190.
  37. ^ Arminius 1853a, p. 252.
  38. ^ Arminius 1853a, p. 316.
  39. ^ Arminius 1853c, p. 454.
  40. ^ Pinson 2002, p. 140.
  41. ^ Picirilli 2002, pp. 154-.
  42. ^ Forlines 2001, pp. 313–321.
  43. Jump up to:a b Arminius 1853c, p. 311.
  44. ^ Pawson 1996, pp. 109-.
  45. ^ Forlines 2011, Ch.6.
  46. ^ Picirilli 2002, p. 203.
  47. Jump up to:a b Arminius 1853b, pp. 219–220.
  48. ^ Arminius 1853b. This seems to fit with Arminius’ other statements on the need for perseverance in faith. For example: "God resolves to receive into favor those who repent and believe, and to save in Christ, on account of Christ, and through Christ, those who persevere [in faith], but to leave under sin and wrath those who are impenitent and unbelievers, and to condemn them as aliens from Christ". (Arminius 1853b, pp. 465, 466) In another place he writes: "[God] wills that they, who believe and persevere in faith, shall be saved, but that those, who are unbelieving and impenitent, shall remain under condemnation". (Arminius 1853c, pp. 412, 413)
  49. ^ Arminius 1853a, p. 665. William Nichols notes: "Arminius spoke nearly the same modest words when interrogated on this subject in the last Conference which he had with Gomarus [a Calvinist], before the states of Holland, on the 12th of Aug. 1609, only two months prior to his decease".
  50. ^ Jeremiah 23
  51. ^ Oropeza 2000, p. 16. "Although Arminius denied having taught final apostasy in his Declaration of Sentiments, in the Examination of the Treatise of Perkins on the Order and Mode of Predestination he writes that a person who is being 'built' into the church of Christ may resist the continuation of this process. Concerning the believers, 'It may suffice to encourage them, if they know that no power or prudence can dislodge them from the rock, unless they of their own will forsake their position.' (Arminius 1853c, p. 455) compare with (Arminius 1853a, p. 667) A believing member of Christ may become slothful, give place to sin, and gradually die altogether, ceasing to be a member.(Arminius 1853c, p. 458) The covenant of God[50] 'does not contain in itself an impossibility of defection from God, but a promise of the gift of fear, whereby they shall be hindered from going away from God so long as that shall flourish in their hearts.' If there is any consistency in Arminius' position, he did not seem to deny the possibility of falling away"
  52. ^ John 10:28
  53. ^ Schaff 2007. The Article reads: That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by not craft or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ's hand, according to the Word of Christ,[52] 'Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.' But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with full persuasion of our minds.
  54. ^ DeJong 1968, pp. 220-. Points three and four in the fifth article read: 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. 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.
  55. ^ Witzki 2010.
  56. ^ Picirilli 2002, p. 198.
  57. ^ DeJong 1968, pp. 220-, chap. 5.5. "Nevertheless we do not believe that true believers, though they may sometimes fall into grave sins which are vexing to their consciences, immediately fall out of every hope of repentance; but we acknowledge that it can happen that God, according to the multitude of His mercies, may recall them through His grace to repentance; in fact, we believe that this happens not infrequently, although we cannot be persuaded that this will certainly and indubitably happen."
  58. ^ Picirilli 2002, pp. 204-.
  59. ^ Pinson 2002, p. 159.
  60. ^ Pinson 2002, pp. 140–.
  61. ^ Picirilli 2002, p. 132.
  62. ^ Olson 2009, p. 224, ‌.
  63. ^ Pinson 2002, pp. 227-. "Wesley does not place the substitionary element primarily within a legal framework [...] Rather [his doctrine seeks] to bring into proper relationship the 'justice' between God's love for persons and God's hatred of sin [...] it is not the satisfaction of a legal demand for justice so much as it is an act of mediated reconciliation."
  64. ^ Picirilli 2002, pp. 104–105, 132–.
  65. ^ Olson 2009, p. 224. "Arminius did not believe [in the governmental theory of atonement], neither did Wesley nor some of his nineteenth-century followers. Nor do all contemporary Arminians"
  66. ^ Olson 2009, p. 224, ‌‌.
  67. ^ Pinson 2002, pp. 239–240.
  68. ^ 1 Tim 1:19
  69. ^ Wesley & Emory 1835, p. 247, "A Call to Backsliders".
  70. ^ Wesley 1827, p. 66, "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection".
  71. ^ Wesley & Emory 1835, p. 73, "The End of Christ’s Coming".
  72. ^ Wesley 1827, p. 45, "Of Christian Perfection".
  73. ^ Sanders 2007, Summary of Openness of God.
  74. ^ Picirilli 2002, pp. 40, 59-. Picirilli actually objects so strongly to the link between Arminianism and Open theism that he devotes an entire section to his objections
  75. ^ Walls & Dongell 2004, p. 45.
  76. ^ Picirilli 2002, pp. 42–43, 59-.
  77. ^ Pinson 2002, pp. 146–147.
  78. ^ Picirilli 2002, p. 40.
  79. ^ Ridderbos 1997, p. 351.
  80. Jump up to:a b c Abasciano 2005.
  81. ^ Eph 1:3–4
  82. ^ Walls & Dongell 2004, p. 76.
  83. ^ Barth 1974, p. 108.
  84. ^ Stanglin & McCall 2012, p. 160.
  85. ^ Schwartz & Bechtold 2015, p. 165.
  86. ^ Forlines 2011, pp. 20–24.
  87. ^ Pinson 2002, pp. 138–139.
  88. ^ Arminius 1853b, p. 192.
  89. ^ Arminius 1853b, p. 219. The entire treatise occupies pages 196–452
  90. ^ Pawson 1996, p. 106.
  91. ^ Pawson 1996, pp. 97–98, 106.
  92. ^ Picirilli 2002, pp. 6-.
  93. ^ Gonzalez 2014, p. 180.
  94. ^ Spurgeon 1858.
  95. ^ Olson 2009, p. 221.
  96. ^ Nicole 1995.

Sources

Gunter, William Stephen (2007). "John Wesley, a Faithful Representative of Jacobus Arminius" (PDF)Wesleyan Theological Journal42 (2): 65.

Schwartz, Wm Andrew; Bechtold, John M. (2015). Embracing the Past--Forging the Future: A New Generation of Wesleyan Theology. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Further reading

External links