Jacob Arminius (courtesy Wikipedia)
By Spencer D Gear
If you want to read some of the theological misrepresentations of Arminianism, take a visit to the ‘Soteriology’ directory of Christian Forums on the Internet. It was here that I met jamantc whose icon told me that he was an ‘elected predestinarian’. My alarm bells began to ring because my experience on this forum was with Calvinists who tended to be dogmatic TULIP advocates and anti any other view. They especially detested the theology of Arminians like myself.
Jamantc wrote (take note of his misspelling of Abel):
Cain and Able (sic)
Two things I notice on all forums that debate Calvinism and Arminianism is that they resemble Cain and Able (sic). Like Arminianism Cain was a man of the world that held back from God because he seemed to think it was about himself and who God created man for his own glory and not God creating man for His Own glory. Able (sic) was like a Calvinist, He brought everything to God as a first offering, knowing that everything was about God and what God had done for him that he could never do on his own and lived a life that glorified God and made God the center and not himself. Cain destroyed Able (sic) from jealousy and if the Arminian could, he would wipe Calvinism from the face of the earth as well. Like Able (sic), Calvinist are hated for giving God all glory and taking the center off himself and knowing that he was created for God’s glory alone. I really do enjoy being hated for giving God all the glory for who I am and for all He has done for me that I couldn’t do myself. Me being hated for God sake tells me that I am not of the world as Cain (or the Arminian). If one hates me for giving God the glory for all I am and all I have, then their issue of hate is not with me, but with God Himself since He created me to give Him all the glory. A man centered gospel in not of God and glorifies only man and not God. Thank You Lord for making me who I am and one that takes no credit for that and give You all the glory as you don’t merely suggest, but as You command! The Arminian hating the Calvinist is like Cain hating Able (sic), his problem wasn’t with Able but with God for making Able (sic) glorify Him for who He is.
A. How bad can a Calvinist distort Arminian theology?
My response was:
Please, please learn to spell Abel. You have wrongly spelled his name 7 times in your post.
Here you have given a blatant misrepresentation of Arminianism by associating it with “A man centered gospel in not of God and glorifies only man and not God”. You have flamed Arminians to boot!
I as a Reformed/classical Arminian take the Fall into sin and its consequences very seriously. It is simply false to state that Arminianism is ‘a man-centred Gospel’. You don’t know Arminianism very well for you to misrepresent the Arminian Christian like this.
In his ‘Declaration of Sentiments’ that were delivered to the Dutch government state officials about a year before his death, Arminius made this declaration of human beings to make it VERY CLEAR that Arminianism is NOT a man-centred Gospel:
in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace’ (Arminius, Works of Arminius, v 1, 3.6.3, ‘The free will of man‘).
Could anything be clearer? Arminius believed in regeneration ‘by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit’. That is NOT a man-centred Gospel.
I asked him: ‘Would you please quit your misrepresentation of Arminians on Christian Forums?’
B. What others thought of the Calvinist’s false views
Others in this thread on the forum noted the disparaging comments towards Arminianism by this poster:
‘A sad form of misinformed prejudice from someone supposed to be filled with the Spirit of Christ. And this response from one who is neither Cal nor Arm. But I must say such a misrepresentation always only comes from this side. OP’s intended to provoke from contentious spirits wanting to rekindle the 500 year old war they started. Sad, really sad, confess your sin to God, He will forgive you and cleanse you. So why do you hate them so while accusing them of being the ones who hate?… Do you have a persecution complex? I will pray for you’.
‘Well, I’m speechless. Anyone else?’
‘You shouldn’t be surprised if you get an indignant reaction to suggesting that God decided who would and who would not believe (and have eternal life) irrespective of God’s foreknowledge of men’s choices.
Your OP [original post] is unnecessarily inflammatory’. 
‘Forced analogy. No thanks’.
‘It is a rather glaring false analogy and fallacious association all rolled into one’.
‘Love one another….. nah, not today’.
‘I weep…truly….though if I were an Arminian I would be offended by this provocative misrepresentation of their view, but then they usually do not file complaints with the Mods so I will weep for Jam… praying for him since yesterday’.
C. How Arminius promoted God-centred salvation
Let’s check out a few quotes from Arminius himself to refute the human-centred view of the Calvinist concerning Arminian salvation. I was alerted by these by a leading Arminian theologian, Roger E. Olson, in his chapter, ‘Myth 8: Arminianism is a human-centered theology’ (in Olson 2006:127-157). Olson’s sub-heading of the chapter is, ‘An optimistic anthropology is alien to true Arminianism, which is thoroughly God-centered. Arminian theology confesses human depravity, including bondage of the will’ (Olson 2006:137).
Let’s look at Arminius’ theology of salvation.
1. Salvation and grace
I ascribe to grace the commencement, the continuance and the consummation of all good, and to such an extent do I carry its influence, that a man, though already regenerate, can neither conceive, will, nor do any good at all, nor resist any evil temptation, without this preventing and exciting, this following and co-operating grace. From this statement it will clearly appear, that I by no means do injustice to grace, by attributing, as it is reported of me, too much to man’s free-will. For the whole controversy reduces itself to the solution of this question, “is the grace of God a certain irresistible force?” That is, the controversy does not relate to those actions or operations which may be ascribed to grace, (for I acknowledge and inculcate as many of these actions or operations as any man ever did,) but it relates solely to the mode of operation, whether it be irresistible or not. With respect to which, I believe, according to the scriptures, that many persons resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace that is offered (Arminius n d, vol 1, 3.6.4, ‘The grace of God’, emphasis added).
Arminius promoted support of the need for grace to free the will, but this grace from God is resistible. Therefore, Arminius most certainly was God-centred in his approach to the grace of God and salvation.
2. Grace to free the will
Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it. I confess that the mind of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins (Arminius n d, vol 2, 9.6, ‘Grace and free will’).
The grace of Christ is needed to bring salvation according to Arminius, thus making Arminianism a God-centred theology. This grace from God commences salvation; promotes it; perfects it, and consummates it. Arminianism is God-centred theology but this grace from God is resistible.
3. Children of wrath unless liberated by Christ Jesus
All men “are by nature the children of wrath,” (Ephes. ii. 3,) obnoxious to condemnation, and to temporal as well as to eternal death; they are also devoid of that original righteousness and holiness. (Rom. v. 12, 18, 19.) With these evils they would remain oppressed forever, unless they were liberated by Christ Jesus; to whom be glory forever (Arminius n d, vol 1, 5.8, ‘The effects of this sin’).
All people are by nature children of wrath and cannot be liberated from such oppression unless they are liberated by Christ Jesus who is to be glorified forever. Arminianism again endorses a God-centred approach to liberation leading to salvation.
4. God’s preceding grace needed for salvation
Arminius maintained that ‘no man believes in Christ except he has been previously disposed and prepared, by preventing or preceding grace, to receive life eternal on that condition on which God wills to bestow it, according to the following passage of Scripture: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John vii. 17.)’ (Arminius n d, vol 2 9.8.19, ‘On faith’).
So God wills preceding grace that leads to eternal salvation, thus confirming that Arminianism is God-centred theology.
Jamantc is not the only kind of person to misrepresent Arminianism in print, on the Internet, or elsewhere. Roger Olson demonstrated how well-known Calvinists have done this. He gives examples that ‘some Calvinist accusations against Arminian theology demonstrate a nearly complete lack of knowledge or understanding of classical Arminian literature’ (Olson 2006:137). He mentions:
- Edwin H Palmer in Five points of Calvinism (1972:19, 27; in Olson 2006:137-138);
- James Montgomery Boice in Whatever happened to the Gospel of grace (2001:167; in Olson 2006:138);
- Michael Horton, ‘Evangelical Arminians,’ Modern Reformation 1 (1992:15-19; in Olson 2006:139);
- W Robert Godfrey, ‘Who was Arminius?’ Modern Reformation 1 (1992:7, 24; in Olson 2006:139-140);
- Richard A Muller, God, creation, and providence in the thought of Jacob Arminius (1991:234, 271; in Olson 2006:140);
- Robert A Peterson and Michael D Williams, Why I am not an Arminian (2004:39, 115-117; in Olson 2006:141).
When these leading authors misrepresent the teachings of Arminius, what hope does a person have in a Christian forum on the Internet? However, it is a warning for me as a convinced Reformed Arminian that when I critique Calvinism, I need to be accurate in the Calvinistic theology I am criticising. These misrepresentations of Calvinists of the views of Arminius and Arminianism I have taken as a warning to the possibility of any one of us to not know the opposition’s point of view.
It is a serious sin to misrepresent another’s theology.
A person would have to be ignorant of Arminius’ writings or set out deliberately to misrepresent his works, for that person to conclude that Arminius promoted ‘a man centered gospel [that is] not of God and glorifies only man and not God’.
Therefore, jamantc was promoting a false representation of the Arminian view of salvation (a straw man logical fallacy). Roger Olson’s conclusion applies to jamantc as much as to any others who misrepresent Arminianism:
The only conclusion possible is that many Calvinist critics of Arminianism have wittingly or unwittingly borne false witness against Arminius and Arminians: they have distorted beyond recognition Arminian theology about humanity. Anyone who reads real, historical Arminian literature on this subject [whether Arminianism promotes human-centred theology] will be amazed at the discrepancies between what is widely said about Arminian doctrine and what Arminians have actually written about humanity (Olson 2006:141).
I highly recommend Roger Olson’s book (Olson 2006), as it sets out to correct the myths of Arminianism that are so often promoted in theological circles and provides the correct Arminian position (realities), quoted from primary Arminian sources – including Arminius himself.
Arminius, J n d Works of James Arminius (online), 3 vols. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius/works1 (Accessed 22 December 2013).
Olson, R E 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.
 Ibid., pshun2003#2.
 Ibid., Ignatius21#3.
 Ibid., janxharris#4.
 Ibid., drstevej#5.
 Ibid., Tzaousios#6.
 Ibid., Sayre#8.
 Ibid., pshun2003#10.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.