What is Arminianism, and is it biblical?
Question: "What is Arminianism, and is it biblical?"
Answer: Arminianism is a system of belief that attempts to explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free will, especially in relation to salvation. Arminianism is named after Jacobus Arminius (1560—1609), a Dutch theologian. While Calvinism emphasizes the sovereignty of God, Arminianism emphasizes the responsibility of man. If Arminianism is broken down into five points, similar to the five points of Calvinism, these would be the five points:
(1) Partial Depravity – humanity is depraved but still able to seek God. We are fallen and tainted by sin but not to the extent that we cannot chose to come to God and accept salvation, with the help of prevenient grace from God. Given such grace, human will is free and has the power to yield to the influence of the Spirit. Note: many Arminians reject partial depravity and hold a view very close to Calvinistic total depravity. (2) Conditional Election – God only “chooses” those whom He knows will choose to believe. No one is predetermined for either heaven or hell. (3) Unlimited Atonement – Jesus died for everyone, even those who are not chosen and will not believe. Jesus’ death was for all of humanity, and anyone can be saved by belief in Him. (4) Resistible Grace – God’s call to be saved can be resisted and/or rejected. We can resist God’s pull toward salvation if we choose to. (5) Conditional Salvation – Christians can lose their salvation if they actively reject the Holy Spirit’s influence in their lives. The maintenance of salvation is required for a Christian to retain it. Note: many Arminians deny "conditional salvation" and instead hold to "eternal security."
The only point of Arminianism that four-point Calvinists believe to be biblical is point #3—Unlimited Atonement. First John 2:2 says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Second Peter 2:1 tells us that Jesus even bought the false prophets who are doomed: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” Jesus’ salvation is available to anyone and everyone who will believe in Him. Jesus did not just die for those who will be saved.
Four-point Calvinism (the official position of Got Questions Ministries) finds the other four points of Arminianism to be unbiblical, to varying degrees. Romans 3:10–18 strongly argues for total depravity. Conditional election, or election based on God’s foreknowledge of human action, underemphasizes God’s sovereignty (Romans 8:28–30). Resistible grace underestimates the power and determination of God. Conditional salvation makes salvation a reward for work rather than a gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8–10). There are problems with both systems, but we see Calvinism as more biblically based than Arminianism. However, both systems fail to adequately explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free will—due to the fact that it is impossible for a finite human mind to discern a concept only God can fully understand.
Recommended Resource: Chosen But Free, revised edition: A Balanced View of God's Sovereignty and Free Will by Norm Geisler and The Potter's Freedom by James White
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