Arminius on perseverance of the saints

James Arminius 2.jpg

Jacob Arminius (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

This is straight from the Works of James Arminius, vol 1 (online):


My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies—yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual.

Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, 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. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration.

So Arminius’ view was that:

1. It is not possible for Christian believers, through the work of Satan, to be dragged out of their salvation in Christ. So a true Christian believer can never finally fall away from the faith.

2. BUT, there are some passages of Scripture that give us the aspect of falling away from the faith.

3. BUT, there are also some passages that support the unconditional perseverance that are worthy of much consideration.

His writings that follow the above statement give some further clarity on his views. But from his own exposition on ‘Perseverance of the saints’, he was not prepared to state categorically that a person can fall away from the faith, but there were verses that indicate both ways – conditional perseverance and unconditional perseverance. I find that fence-sitting view not to be helpful. But I have more work to do on understanding Arminius’ views on continuation of salvation – especially on how he understood the Scriptures.

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.