I’ve heard Scotty refer to Arminianism from the pulpit and someone in our small group used the word recently. I am curious as to what it means?
That is a great question! Arminianism refers to a theological thought within Christianity that is based on the teachings and ideas of Joseph Arminius, a Dutch theologian (1560-1609). This particular theology is in direct opposition to the basic foundations of Reformed Theology - especially that of Calvinism - the primary theological roots of Presbyterianism. The Arminian doctrine continues to stretch through present-day Christian denominations and evangelical churches. It is a very flawed doctrine and, in this elder’s opinion, inconsistent with the Holy Scriptures.
Joseph Arminius was born just before John Calvin died. He actually was educated in the school Calvin founded in Geneva and was instructed by Theodore Beza - Calvin’s hand-picked successor. As the years progressed, he began to reject many of the teachings of Calvin and created a new theological thought that directly competed with the principals of Calvinism.
He believed that God had a “two-way street” of salvation by looking down the passageway of history, saw those would choose Him and then He, in turn, would choose them. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, later preached the idea that God opens up the possibility of the sinner making a free will choice for God.
Arminius’ followers gathered at 1610 at the Remonstrance (meaning protest) protesting the popularity of Calvinistic and other Reformed teachings. They developed the Five Points of Arminianism based on the teachings of Arminius. In response, the Calvinists gathered at the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619 meeting 154 times creating the Canon of Dort responding to the Five Points of Arminianism with the Five Points of Calvinism.
The basic contrasts between these two views lies in God’s sovereign will of salvation versus man’s free will of salvation.
The Five Points of Calvinism (TULIP):
1. Total Depravity – we are born into sin and it has affected all parts of man.
2. Unconditional Election – God saw from the beginning who He would call to himself and is not based on any merit of or in man.
3. Limited Atonement – only the sins of those God has elected are atoned by Jesus’ death on the cross.
4. Irresistible Grace – God’s grace is irresistible to those He has called and, through the Holy Spirit, causes man to repent, worship and glorify God.
5. Perseverance of the Saints – those He has called will continue in faith until the end.
The Five Points of Arminianism:
1. Free Will – We have the ability to choose or not choose God.
2. Conditional Election – you choose God-God chooses you. (Free will)
3. Universal Atonement – Jesus died for everyone and makes salvation available for all.
4. Resistible Grace – through free will you can choose the salvation God offers or reject it.
5. Perseverance of Some Saints – it is up to man to keep up his faith. You can choose to be a Christian and then decide not to be, fall away and not go to heaven.
Wesley was one of the most famous and influential advocates of Arminian theology. The Methodist movement was founded based on his teachings. Modern day denominations influenced by Arminianism include the Methodists, the Free-Will Baptists, Pentecostals, the Four-Square churches, the Calvary Chapels, etc. Many of the Reformed denominations such as the Presbyterian Church in America, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Reformed Baptists and non-denominational Reformed churches (example-Mars Hill Church in Seattle) are Calvinistic in their theological doctrine.
Hopefully, this answers your question. I would encourage you to read one of my favorite books Loraine Boettner's "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination." This book provides great insight into Calvinism and Reformed Theology and the contrast to the theology of Joseph Arminius.
Grace and peace.