Thursday, April 7, 2011

Old School Arminianism I

A lot of us know about Calvinism and its acronym, TULIP. However, few of us understand the scenario in which this nifty 5-point theology-in-a-flower was created.

John Calvin lived from 1509 to 1564 and during that time, he, alongside Martin Luther and other Reformers, did some amazing things for the Kingdom of God. Calvin was devoted to theology and his devotion led to a view of heavy divine sovereignty and limited human free will called "Calvinism."

Jacobus Arminius lived from 1560 to 1610 and was taught a Calvinistic view of predestination. He was eventually convinced otherwise, however, and formed his own theology on the matter, putting more emphasis on human free will, and this has come to be known as "Arminianism."

In the same year that Arminius died, some Dutch Protestants who followed his teachings decided to condense these thoughts and take them to the States of Holland and Friesland in opposition to Calvinism. These five articles have come to be known as the Remonstrants of 1610. In response, around 1618 at the Synod of Dort, a group of men met many times (around 140 times, I believe) in order to establish their own solid five points of Calvinism. This eventually became TULIP, which is the English way of understanding this Dutch decision (although the points are in a different order than the original).

What I would like to do for my next five blog posts is examine these original five articles that reflect Arminius' teaching and explain why I choose to hold to them instead of the extreme Arminianism of today or the extreme Calvinism that is so prominent.

Article I

That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ's sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John 3:36: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him," and according to other passages of Scripture also.  

It is so great to look at this original article of doctrine which answers some common misconceptions about Arminianism. True Arminianism includes the election of specific persons to Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1). The difference between this and Calvinism is that this view states that those who were elected were elected in accordance with God's foreknowledge of their "belie[f] on this his Son Jesus." 

It is important to note that election is not based on foreknowledge and foreknowledge is not based on election. God is an indivisible, simple Being. None of His attributes can be separated, divided, raised or lowered. The Lord is perfect and equal in everything. This means that in eternity past, God did not foreknow something, then predestine, and just the same, He did not predestine, then know. The two attributes of God work perfectly together simultaneously. 1 Peter 1:2 expresses this in saying that the recipients of that letter were "elect according to the foreknowledge."

Secondly, this first article shows that classic Arminianism is in no way liberal in core doctrines. The men who compiled this come out swinging from the start, mentioning the wrath of God from the get-go. It may just be me, but it seems like Arminianism is often associated with more liberal denominations and beliefs. And in case anyone else has this same feeling, you would do well to note that these people in church history were just as serious about the fallen state of Man and the reality of hell as the strictest Calvinist is today.

I'll keep it brief for this first article since I had an introduction as well. I do welcome conversation about these things as long as the talk is kept gracious and lovingly. It is possible. Whether you agree with this or not, I want you to know that the most important thing is knowing gospel of Christ. Know that Jesus died on the Cross to take the penalty for our sin, that we do not have to perish, living in eternal, conscious torment apart from God, but we can spend forever with Him if we believe. Read Romans 10:9-10. 

Jesus loves you, my friend. God bless you!


  1. Just some food for thought here...

    1. You do gotta be careful you don't add to Scripture something it doesn't say. Yes, it is natural to ask the question, "What was God foreknowing?" But we have to be careful to say "he foreknew those who would believe" when the Bible doesn't actually say that.

    but 2. Perhaps 1 Peter 1:20 helps us out with the interpretation, after all Peter uses the exact same word in just different form (participle vs. verb, yadda yadda): proginosko, but there it is applied to Jesus specifically in reference to his sacrifice for our redemption. "He was foreknown before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times..." Obviously in the Godhead that has to be something more than the Father looking ahead and seeing that Jesus would indeed die for our sins... but it was something planned, purposed, chosen, and destined.

    Just something to keep in mind that foreknown has a deeper meaning than looking ahead.


    --Mike Bergman

  2. 1. I don't think I added anything to Scripture. Unless one takes an open theism position, it is understood that God is omniscient from eternity. So, even though the Word may not explicitly say word for word that "God foreknew those who would believe," it is obvious from Scripture (all the prophecies, etc) that God knew who would believe from all eternity (regardless of one's position on the timing of regeneration).

    2. Although the core of the verb, "ginosko," takes on the meaning of ordination in 1 Peter 1:20, that does not set the standard for all other uses in the Bible. For example, John 5:42 uses the same word "ginosko" in this sentence from Jesus,

    "But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you."

    Therefore, we cannot assume that "know" in 1 Peter 1:2 naturally means ordain, choose or love. And even if it did mean any of these things, further explanation would be necessary.

  3. First off good post and I look forward to learning the history and beliefs of Arminianism. The following is what I believe about foreknowledge and predestination, as it is found in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions.
    I too believe that God is Omniscient and thus has foreknowledge of who will believe in Christ. The distinction between foreknowledge and predestination is where I will start. God’s foreknowledge is that God knows all things before they happen (Concordia FC Pc XI 3). God’s foreknowledge covers the godly and wicked, but does not cause people to do evil (Concordia FC Pc XI 4). Predestination only covers the godly (Concordia FC Pc XI 5). God does not destine others to hell. Some verses I found useful in understanding this are Ezekiel 18:23 and 33: 11, 2 Peter 3:9, and Romans 11:32.
    I hope the above was clear and understandable and again I look forward to future posts.
    In Christ,