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The Origin of Arminian Theology

Under Martin Luther and John Calvin, theology moved away from Pelagianism, or the belief that man was solely responsible for his spiritual direction. In its place, Luther and Calvin suggested that determinism (or pagan fatalism) was the most appropriate description of how God relates to the world. That is, the doctrine of determinism taught that God preordained everything that occurs in the world—something taught also by paganism. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, a movement arose that resisted the deterministic teaching of Luther and Calvin and returned to the teaching of the early Church, and most importantly, to the teaching of Scripture. That movement assumed the name of the man who initiated and waged the greatest effort against determinism; his name was James Arminius. The account below is a brief thumbnail sketch of the rise and progress of Arminianism.

Table of Contents

The Prelude to Arminianism

I. Reformed Church Formed (1549)

The followers of Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin merged in 1549 to become the Reformed Church. From Geneva, Calvin and his followers influenced a large portion of Europe, as well as the British Isles and the colonies of America.

II. Beza Leads at Geneva (1558)

In the fall of 1558, Theodore Beza (1519-1605), friend and biographer of John Calvin, moved to Geneva from Lausanne to be a professor in Calvin’s Academy. Prior to becoming a Christian, Beza had lived a vial life. Through the influence of Calvin, Beza came to faith in Christ, professed him openly, and became professor of Greek in the Academy of Lausanne prior to his moving to Geneva.

III. Final Edition of Institutes (1559)

Calvin’s final edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion was completed in 1559 and published in 1560. Calvin’s Institutes shaped the thought and practice of the Reformed Church and those churches and traditions which have descended from this theological tradition.

IV. Beza Leads Reformed Church (1561)[1]

In a passionate appeal on behalf of Protestantism before an assembly of nobles and clergy at the Abbey of Poissy near Paris, Beza established himself as a leading figure of the Reformed Church.

V. Calvin Dies (1564)

John Calvin passed away May 27, 1564 and was succeeded by Beza as the leader of the Reformed Church.

VI. Beza Resigns Leadership (1600)

Beza resigned his official positions within the Reformed Church and breathed out his devoted Christian life five years later (1605).

VII. Origin of Divine Decrees in Calvinism

John Calvin did not express himself consistently as to whether he believed the decrees of God concerning the salvation of the elect occurred before or after the fall of man. However, the majority of Theodore Beza’s more mature writings are weighted toward supralapsarianism,[2] though some of his sentiments are not irreconcilable with infralapsarian­ism (or sublapsarianism).[3]

Protestantism in Holland

I. Catholicism of Philip II (1555)

Philip II, ascended the Spanish throne following his father’s abdication in 1555. As a loyal Catholic, he was determined to bring the Spanish Netherlands back to the fold of the pope.

II. Protestants Protest Inquisition (1565)

The Noblemen of the Netherlands formed the Compromise of Breda in 1565 and petitioned King Philip to suspend the Inquisition and the laws against heretics.

III. Flanders and Holland Uprisings(1565-66)

Uprisings in Flanders (1565) and in Holland (1566) by Protestants. King Philip responded by appointing the Duke of Alva as the regent of the Netherlands in 1569. Between 1567 and 1573 Alva had executed nearly two thousand people, and by the end of the century, forty thousand had migrated to other countries.

IV. William of Orange Revolts (1568)

William of Orange, known as the Silent, raised the standard of revolt against Spain in 1568. But William was no match for Alva’s soldiers, and was forced to retire to Germany.

V. Dutch War at Sea (1569)

Because war against Alva and his Spanish troops on land appeared hopeless, the Dutch took to the sea in 1569 in an attempt to prey on Spanish commerce.

VI. Spanish Driven Out (1576)

The city of Antwerp was captured, looted, and seven thousand were killed by the Spanish soldiers under Alva’s successor. This act so infuriated Holland, Zeeland, and other provinces that they united in the Pacification of Ghent in 1576 to drive out the Spanish.

VII. Dutch Union Formed (1579)

Seven northern Dutch provinces signed the Union of Utrecht in 1579, and in 1581, the sovereign­ty of the Spanish King was formally refuted.

William of Orange was assassinated in 1584. He is responsible for having laid the foundation for the modern state of Holland. Eventually the Dutch won their freedom from Spanish domination.

VIII. English Defeat Spanish Armada (1588)

In 1588, the English defeated the Spanish Armada, ensuring ensured that the Dutch would be relatively free from Spanish efforts to recapture them.

IX. Independence Ensured by Westphalia (1648)

The end of the war with Spain was not formally recognized until the signing of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. In 1689, Holland gave England a King.

The Life of James Arminius (1560-1609)

I. 1560 Arminius’ Birth

Jacobus (or James) Arminius (1560-1609) was born at Oudewater, a small town in Holland. This term is Dutch for “Old Water,” the Latin being Veteres Aquae. In his works, Arminius occasionally used Veteraquinas as a surname. Having lost his father, a cutler, while he was in his infancy, Arminius enjoyed the patronage of several, first in Theodorus Aemilius, who had once been a Roman Catholic priest. Aemilius took Arminius with him to Utrecht and sent him to school there.

II. 1575-ca. 1585 Education

A. 1575-1581 Studies at Leyden

At the age of fifteen, Arminius lost Aemilius to death, but he was soon received into the care of another patron, Rudolph Snellius, who took him to Marburg. Arminius had barely arrived at Marburg when he learned that his hometown had been sacked by the Spaniards. Quickly returning to Oudewater, he found his mother and other relatives had been killed. He returned to Marburg before moving on to Rotterdam where he was invited into the home of Peter Bertius, a pastor in the Reformed Church. That same year (1575), he was sent with the pastor’s son, also named Peter, to the newly established University of Leyden. Here Arminius studied for the next six years.

B. 1582-ca. 1585 Studies at Geneva

After completing his studies at the University of Leyden, Arminius accepted an offer from “the directors of the body of merchants” of Amsterdam to pay for his education to enter the ministry on the condition that he would not serve a church in any other city without the consent of the burgomasters of Amsterdam. In 1582, he began his studies in the famed academy of Geneva which Calvin had founded and which was now dominated by Theodore Beza. While at Geneva, Arminius forged a close friendship with Hans Uyttenbogaert (1557-1644) of Utrecht. His preference for the philosophy of French humanist Petrus Ramus (1515-1572) in opposition to Aristotle resulted in great tension between himself and some of his instructors. Ramus, who was killed in Paris in the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre, had declared that deduction was the final scientific method.

Tension rose to such a height for Arminius that he felt compelled to leave Geneva and go to Basle. There the divinity faculty was so impressed with his abilities that they offered to confer upon him the degree of doctor gratis, but regarding himself to be too young for such an honor, refused their offer. In 1583, he returned to Geneva and continued his theological studies for three more years.

III. 1586 Trip to Italy

At the invitation of the famed Zabarella, professor of philosophy at Padua, Arminius journeyed to Padua before continuing on to Rome. After this journey, Arminius returned to Geneva where, in only a short time, he received an order from the burgomaster of Amsterdam to return to that city to fulfill the pledge he had made four years earlier.

IV. 1587-1603 Pastor in Amsterdam

From 1587 to 1603, Arminius assumed the responsibilities of a pastor in Amsterdam, receiving ordination on August 11, 1588. He quickly distinguishing himself as a preacher but the legacy which he would leave to the world would begin to take its shape only two years after returning to Amsterdam.

Also in Amsterdam lived Dirk Volckertszoon Coornhert (1522-90),[4] a lay Dutch theologian who early in life was an engraver. In the course of time, Coornhert distinguished himself as a civic official[5] and advanced liberalism against the hyper-Calvinism of the Netherlands. Having been influenced by the writings of Sebastian Castellio (1515-1563), and especially by the Theologia Germanica,[6] he advocated toleration by opposing the death penalty for heretics, criticized the Heidelberg Catechism especially at the point of predestination, urged the necessity of interior piety nurtured by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, rejected the idea of a visible church, and maintained the sufficiency of a faith informed by Scripture and the Apostle’s Creed. He further rejected the doctrine of original sin, stressed the freedom of the human will, and strongly emphasized the ethical nature of the Christian faith.[7]

In 1585, the extreme predestinarianism prevalent in the Netherlands had been for ten years so effectively attacked by Richard Coornhert, an eminent patriotic and acute layman of Amsterdam, that Arminius was invited by the city to refute him. In a debate at Delft between Coornhert and two high Calvinistic clergymen, the latter were so hard pressed that they yielded, and took the lower or sublapsarian ground, and published a pamphlet against the higher view. The extreme Calvinists called upon Martin Lydius, professor of theology in Friesland, to refute them, but he handed over the task to Arminius, who had thus a double request on his hands. He bravely undertook the task, but was soon convinced of the untenableness of either the higher or lower predestination. At the expense of an ignominious failure in even attacking Coornhert, he resolved to pursue the light of honest conviction. Avoiding the entire subject in public, he prosecuted his investigations with earnest study. Yet, in lecturing on Romans vii, having given the non-Calvinistic interpretation, he found himself generally assailed by the high Calvinists as a Pelagian and Socinian. He was arraigned before the ecclesiastical courts, where he successfully defended himself on the ground that, though adverse to the prevalent opinions, his interpretation contradicted nothing in the standards; namely, the Belgic Confession and the Catechism. Being questioned as to predestination, he declined to answer, as no fact was alleged against him.[8]

A. 1589 Coornhert Attacks Predestination

In 1589, Coornhert launched an attack by publishing several works in Amsterdam against the doctrine of predestination as Beza and the academy at Geneva interpreted it. Coornhert’s works sent a tremor of fear through the Calvinistic ranks. To avert Coornhert’s objections to predestination, some ministers of Delft proposed that a change to Beza’s doctrine of supralapsarianism be changed so that the divine decree concerning the salvation or damnation of each individual would become subordinate the divine decree of creation and fall of man. In short, the adopted sublapsarianism in opposition to the supralapsarianism of Calvin and Beza. The Delft ministers believed that this minor change would deflect Coornhert’s charge that supralapsarianism made God the author of sin.

Their view were published under the title Responsio ad argumenta quaedam Bezae et Calvini, ex tractatu de Praedestinatione, in Cap. IX ad Romanos. This work was sent to Lydius, a professor at Franeker, who in turn requested Arminius to refute the Delft ministers. Arminius accepted the charge, but as he studied the matter, he began to doubt which of the two views to accept. Finally, he embraced the position which he had agreed to refute.

B. 1593 Arminius Interprets Romans 9

On September 16, 1590, Arminius married Elizabeth Reael, the daughter of Laurent Reael, a judge and senator of Amsterdam. In the course of his homiletical responsibilities, he began a series of sermons at Amsterdam which offered him the opportunity to express some of his new ideas. In 1593, he published a series of lectures which questioned Calvin’s and Beza’s interpretation of Romans chapter nine. Disputes followed and the consistory of Amsterdam permitted both factions to voice their differences and concluded that each party should cease to debate the subject until a general synod could be convened for the purpose of rendering a decision on the matter.

C. 1602 Plague Strikes Leyden

In 1602, a severe plague struck the Netherlands. As pastor, Arminius ministered to the sick without regard for personal danger. He ministered to the sick through­out the city of Amsterdam. When two professors at the University of Leyden (or Leiden), Lucas Trelcatius and Francis Junius (professor of divinity), succumbed to the plague, the curators of the University turned their attention to Arminius as a fit successor for Junius. Only after repeated approaches to the authorities at Amsterdam were University curators able to secure his release.

V. 1603 Appointment to University of Leyden

On April 15, 1603, Arminius was granted permission by the authorities of Amsterdam to leave his pastoral ministry and assume a post of divinity at Leyden. Before Arminius was fully appointed to his seat at the University, a conference was held between himself and Franciscus Gomarus, who had been teaching exegesis and dogmatics at the University since 1594. Arminius had been charged with Pelagianism and compelled to submit his views to Gomarus before the appointment could be completed. On May 6, Gomarus declared that his conference with Arminius proved that the charge of Pelagianism was groundless. However, both the curators of the University and Gomarus were aware that Arminius differed from Calvin and Geneva on the question of predestination. Gomarus would become Arminius’ chief protagonist at the Hague.

Before assuming his responsibilities, Arminius underwent yet another examination at the hands of Gomarus. This examination was for the sake of conferring the D.D. degree. On July 11, 1603, the University conferred the D.D. degree upon Arminius, the first such degree to be given by the University.

A. 1604 Controversy Begins

Not long after assuming his professorial responsibilities, Arminius perceived that his students were more deeply dedicated to scholastic subtleties than the study of Scripture. In 1604, he undertook the interpretation of Old Testament passages and on occasion, portions of the New Testament. Gomarus took exception to Arminius’ attempts at the interpretation on New Testament passages, insisting that the right to interpret the New Testament belonged to Gomarus himself as Primarius Professor of Sacred Theology, as this title was given to him a short time before Arminius’ arrival by the Senatus Academicus. Arminius countered Gomarus’ charge by insisting that the curators had granted him liberty to teach on selected themes from both the Old and New Testaments, provided those themes did not encroach upon the subject which Gomarus might be lecturing.

On February 7, 1604, Arminius began to lecture on predestination. Rather than advocating that God chose, from all eternity, who would be saved and who would be condemned, Arminius taught that God, from all eternity, determined what would be the blessing which would rest upon those who would be saved by faith and what would become of those who, of their own will, rejected God’s grace:

Divine predestination is the decree of God in Christ by which he has decreed with himself from eternity to justify, adopt, and gift with eternal life, to the praise of his glorious grace, the faithful whom he has decreed to gift with faith. On the other had, reprobation is the decree of the anger or severe will of God, by which he has determined from eternity, for the purpose of showing his anger and power, to condemn to eternal death, as placed out of union with Christ, the unbelieving who, by their won fault and the just judgment of God, are not to believe.[9]

On the last day of October, Gomarus openly attacked Arminius’ understanding of predestination, igniting a firestorm of controversy. The students of the two professors became bitterly divided, and soon predestination became a fiercely discussed subject for much of Holland.

In 1605, Arminius was created rector magnificus of the University, but in the heat of controversy stepped down from this office on February 8, 1606. Conflict escalated so that deputies from the Synod of Leyden and provinces throughout Holland required a conference with Arminius concerning his views. He was attacked from the pulpits of Holland as a Pelagian, or worse. In a short time, the controversy became so heated that many anticipated civil war. Finally a national synod was demanded to settle the questions of difference.

B. 1607 Plans for National Synod

On May 22, 1607, an assembly was convened at the Hague, which Arminius attended, for the sake of establishing the procedures which should accompany a national assembly attempting to address the divisive question. Arminius expressed his opinion that a National Synod should be a free convention of Christians where participants might speak freely according to the dictates of conscience, Scripture alone being the only basis for truth.

C. 1608 Before the Supreme Court

In 1608, Arminius and Uyttenbogaert applied to the States of Holland to convene a synod which would address the subject which had inflamed the nation. Gomarus and Arminius also held a conference before the Supreme Court at the Hague, which rendered a report finding that these two professors differed on points of little consequence which were of little importance to religion.

On October 30, 1608, Arminius appeared before the States of Holland (at the Hague) and delivered his Declaration of Sentiments(see Appendix A below), which delivered a complete exposition of his thought. Gomarus was anxious to appear before the States to warn the members against the Pelagiani­sm and Jesuitism of both Arminius and Uyttenbogaert. Arminius had been scheduled to appear a second time before the States, but was forced by illness to return to Leyden.

Arminius was proscribed by the clergy, harassed by irresponsible deputations, and his students were subjected to persecutions and exclusions from the ministry. The more intelligent laity, including the magistracy, and especially the chief magistrate, Olden Barneveldt, were favorable to Arminius, who at length appealed to the national legislature (called the States-General) for protection. That body appointed a committee or council, who, having heard both Gomarus and Arminius in full, reported that the latter taught nothing but what could be tolerated. Before the States-General themselves Arminius delivered a full oration, expounding his entire views, which is published in the American edition of his works. The clergy demanded the appointment of a national synod, consisting purely of ecclesiastics, but the States-General, well knowing what would be the fate of Arminius in their hands, refused. Under the constant pressure of these years of persecution the gentle spirit of Arminius at length sunk. He was taken from the bloody times that followed the Synod of Dort. His nervous system was prostrated, and, attended by his faithful pupil, the afterward celebrated Episcopius, he died in the faith he had maintained, October 19, 1609, a martyr to his views of truth.[10]

VI. 1609 Arminius Dies

A disease which had long laid dormant in Arminius finally broke out on February 7, 1609. He sufficiently recovered for a period of time to continue his responsibilities at the University, though he was greatly weakened. Finally, after enduring great physical suffering and mental anguish at having his religious opinions and character assailed, Arminius died on October 19, 1609. To the credit of the University, the curators gave his widow and children a pension to meet their needs.[11]

The Rise of Arminianism

I. 1609 Simon Episcopius Succeeds Arminius

Following the death of Arminius, Simon Episcopius (1583-1643) at the young age of twenty-nine was elected to succeed Arminius as chair of theology and a spokesman for Arminius’ followers.

II. 1610 The Remonstrance Signed

In January 1610, soon after Arminius’ death, a statement of Arminian teaching was drafted by Jan Uyttenbogaert who had been a close friend of Arminius. Forty-four ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church[12] who were adherents to the doctrines espoused by Arminius signed the document. In a slightly altered form, this declaration was presented a few months later to the States of Holland in a plea for greater theological toleration. The latter document contained the five celebrated articles, which were taken in large part from Arminius’ Declaratio Sententiae (Declaration of Sentiments, 1608), which has become known as the Remonstrance[13] of 1610 (Articuli Arminiani sive Remonstrantiae). These ministers sought to settle the theological disputes which were dividing the country by requesting that five theological points be officially recognized. The five points of the Remonstrance are summarized below:

1. Those who have faith in Christ are saved, and those who do not are damned; neither is the result of divine predestination.

2. Christ died for all people, not just the “elect.”

3. Man receives saving faith from God, not from his own free will.

4. All good works are the result of the grace of God.

5. It is possible, through abuse of grace, to loose one’s salvation.

III. 1618-1619 Council of Dort Convened

The Synod or Council of Dort convened on November 13, 1618 and remained in session until May 9, 1619; during this time, 154 sessions and a large number of conferences were convened. Representatives from Reformed churches in Switzerland, Bremen, Hesse, Nassau, East Friesland, the Palatinate, Scotland, and England gathered in Dort, Holland to put an end to the debate which had been raging. However, the followers of Arminius were excluded from the discussions at Dort and were paraded with hand-cuffs, as criminals, before the Synod. The result of the Synod of Dort was the condemnation of the five articles of the Remonstrance.

Arminianism Moves Toward Rationalism

I. The Beginning of Rational Arminianism

In many respects, the Arminianism in early seventeenth-century Holland foreshadowed the theological liberalism which would characterize later Arminianism. The currents for change were set in motion soon after the passing of Arminius through the efforts of those who succeeded Arminius.

II. Jan Uyttenbogaert (1557-1644)

Jan Uyttenbogaert friend of Arminius, functioned as the leader of the Remonstrants when the Articles of Remonstrance were drafted in 1610. While the Bible was to be authoritative, confessions were to have no binding force.

III. Conrad Vorstius (1569-1622)

Conrad Vorstius having nurtured a relationship with the Socinians, was called upon to defend himself against the charge of Socinianism in 1599 at Heidelberg. In 1610, he was appointed Arminius’ successor at the University of Leyden, but due to the publication of his Tractatus de Deo which contained questionable positions concerning the nature and attributes of God, he was vigorously opposed by the Gomarists. He developed antipathy for the theology of the Reformed Church, especially the traditional concept of the atonement. As was characteristic of other Arminians, he protested against doctrine which was in conflict with reason. Vorsti­us was condemned and expelled from Leyden when James I was called upon to umpire between the two parties. He was later condemned as a heretic at the Synod of Dort and banished from the States in 1619, and after a time, found refuge in Sleswick.

IV. Simon Episcopius (1583-1643)

Simon Episcopius studied at Leyden under Arminius and Francis Gomarus, and when the great controversy arose between the Arminians and Gomarists, Episcopius took a stand with the Arminians. In 1611, he was appointed to succeed Gomarus who retired from his chair. Initially, there was little opposition to him, but as his fame spread and the cause of Arminianism grew, he endured opposition from the Gomarists. At the Synod of Dort, he was the principle spokesman for the Arminians, but he met with little success. The synod condemned and banished him and twelve other Arminian theologians from the country. Episcopius then went to Spanish Netherlands, settling in Brussels, where he penned his Confessio (1622), defending all Arminian theologians. After moving to France for a time, he was permitted to return to his homeland in 1626 and was appointed preacher at the Remonstrant Church in Amsterdam, and in 1634 was appointed professor of theology in the Arminian college of that city. During this latter period of his life, he wrote his two principle works, Apologia pro Confessione and Versus Theologus Remonstrans, and two additional works which became standards of Arminian theology, Institutiones Theologicae and Responsio ad Quaestiones Theoligicas. In a well balanced way, Episcopius addressed all the characteristic tenets of Arminianism.

V. Stephanus Curcellaeus (1586-1659)

Stephanus Curcellaeus (or Etienne de Courcelles) studied theology under Beza. In 1621, he refused to subscribe to the decrees of the Synod of Dort and was deposed as pastor at Amiens. He later gave qualified assent and was appointed pastor at Vitry, but gave up this position to move in Amsterdam in 1634, and subsequently was appointed Episcopius’ successor in 1637 as professor of theology in the Remonstrants’ College. Curcellaeus was a relentless critic of traditional dogmas, but contributed positively to the teaching of Arminians, especially to the concept of subordinationism in relation to the Trinity.

VI. Philip van Limborch (1633-1712)

Philip van Limborch was the only Arminian to leave a systematic theology. His Complete System or Body of Divinity, Both Speculative and Practical, Founded on Scripture and Reason, was the first attempt to systematize Arminian theology. However, Limborch and Episcopius initiated Arminianism’s movement toward rationalism. It is likely that Erasmus (ca. 1466-1536), the Dutch humanist, exercised influence upon Episcopius’ thought. As time progressed, Episcopius leaned more and more toward humanistic learning and philosophical interpretation of faith. Rationalism made inroads into Remonstrant Arminian thought soon after Arminius’ death.

VII. Jean Le Clerc (or Clericus; 1657-1736)

Jean Le Clerc was schooled in philosophy and theology at Geneva, but through the reading of the works of Curcellaeus and Episcopius was drawn over to the Remonstrants. He became professor of philosophy and belles-lettres at Amsterdam, and after the death of Limborch, became professor of church history there.

Descartes’ influence was strongly felt among the Remonstrants in the latter half of the seventeenth century. At the Remonstrant seminary in Amsterdam, Stephanus Curcellaeus and Jean Le Clerc educated future ministers in accordance with rationalistic principles. Descartes represented the dawn of modern Western philosophy. Jean Locke’s thought also wielded influence upon the Remonstrants. Limborch and Le Clerc had befriended Locke while he was in exile from his own country.

Arminianism in England

I. Introduction of Arminianism to England

In the British Isles, Arminianism assumed two forms. The first led to Arianism, Socinianism, and Unitarianism and decreased in adherents and influence. The second remained Trinitarian and evangelical and extended its influence.[14]

Calvinists in England included Matthew Parker (1504-1575), Archbishop of Canterbury, under whom Convocation approved the Thirty-nine Articles (1562); Edmund Grindal (1519?-83), Archbishop of Canterbury; John Jewel (1522-71), Bishop of Salisbury and apologist for the antiquity of the Church of England; John Whitgift (1544-1600) and Richard Bancroft (1544-1610), both of which were also Archbishops of Canterbury. The nine Lambeth Articles, defending Calvinistic supralapsarianism were composed in 1595. Soon after these articles were approved, the doorway for the entrance of Arminianism into England was opened.

Calvinism sustained enormous influence over the British Isles following the Protestant Reformation. However, Calvinism’s doctrines relating to the temporal ruler created a climate which was conducive to the emergence of Arminianism. Calvinism insisted that the head of the state could not also be head of the church. During the early part of his reign, James I was a high Calvinist, but increasingly he realized how Calvinism threatened his position as monarch and head of the Anglican Church. The political tension which Calvinism created with James I created the opportunity for the introduction of Arminianism into England.

II. Influential “Arminian” Leaders

Among those the English churchmen who advanced the cause of Arminianism in England were Richard Montague, Bishop Morley, and Archbishop Laud. But Arminian­ism not only found friends within the Church of England, it also found sympathy in dissenters such as John Goodwin and Richard Baxter. In Bishop Jeremy Taylor and John Milton the rationalizing tendency of Arminianism in England found greater proponents. By the time of the English Civil War (1642-1649), three prominent figures continued the rationalizing trend of Arminianism: Lord Falkland, John Hales, and William Chillingworth.

III. Latitudinarianism

Latitudinarianism was the position taken by those men who sought to establish the church polity of the Laudian School and opposed the doctrinal strictness associated with the Puritans. The Latitudinarians were rationalistic Arminians. Opposing Calvinism, they preached the freedom of the will and universal redemption through Christ. Their rationalism was reflected in the belief that nothing be true if it was inconsistent with philosophy–theology was to be harmonized with philosophy. The Latitudinarians attempted to mediate between the Episcopalians and Presbyterians, especially between 1689 and 1699, but they failed in their endeavor and were crushed between the two extremes. Representative Latitudinarians were Bishop Burnet, Tillotson, Whiston, Spencer, Norris, Gale, and Cumberland.

IV. John Locke’s Reasonableness of Christianity

John Locke (1632-1704) insisted upon the supremacy of human reason, and in so doing, sought to lay the foundation for a comprehensive church. He argued that religion must not contain anything that is against reason. He refused to believe that “innate ideas” about religion were given by God and, therefore, incontestable. Rather, he believed that the mind of man was a “blank slate” which was written upon sensation and combined by the mind into ideas. He reasoned that since various sensations produce numerous ideas, the Church should be tolerant and inclusive of all religious views.

Arminianism in Wales

I. 1726 Jenkin Jones Espouses Arminianism

In Wales, Jenkin Jones began to espouse Arminian doctrine in 1726. In 1733, Jones erected “the first Arminian chapel in Wales.” Jones’ nephew and successor, David Lloyd, turned toward Arianism. Several generations passed and Arianism gave way to Unitarianism; this was the beginning of Unitarianism in Wales.

II. 1844 Presbyterianism Turns to Unitarianism

By 1844, nearly all of the Presbyterian churches in England had fallen to the attack of Unitarianism.

Why Wesley Adopted Arminianism

I. Arminianism in Lincolnshire

There are two reasons why John Wesley adopted Arminianism for his theological framework. First, Wesley grew up in an area that was favorably disposed to Arminianism. Nearly a century before Arminianism reached Wales, it had found a haven in Lincolnshire, the shire (county) in which Wesley was raised. English General Baptists had brought Arminianism to Lincolnshire before 1651.

II. Arminianism in Wesley’s Home

Second, Wesley’s parents were Arminian. Both his mother and father had left the Calvinistic dissenting positions of their parents and had returned to the Established Church.

Responding to Calvinism and Arminianism

Two alternatives which developed in response to both Calvinism and Arminianism. They are Amyraldism and Federalism.

I. Amyraldism

Moise Amyraut (1596-1664), the most eminent disciple of John Cameron (1579-1625), attempted to mediate between scholastic Calvinism and Arminianism. Amyraut taught that the atonement was universal in its scope, but was only effectual in the case of the elect. This position, however, did not solve the tension between the teaching of universal atonement and God’s electing grace.

In England, Richard Baxter (1615-1691) cordially embraced Amyraldism. In his Catholic Theology (1675), Baxter contended that God’s predestinating decree had reference only to the elect and not to the reprobate.[15]

II. Federalism

Puritan Federal theology (Federalism) was expressed in the Westminster Confession. Great emphasis was placed upon the work of the Spirit in effectual calling, justification, adoption, sanctification, saving faith, repentance unto life, good works, and perseverance. This, however, is placed within the Calvinistic framework of election and reprobation and the two covenants of works and grace.

For Further Reading

A Declaration of the Sentiments of Arminius

The Remonstrance (1610)

The Canons of the Synod of Dort (1618)



This concludes another episode from our podcast library, entitled, The Origin of Arminian Theology .

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[1]This assembly occurred September 9th.

[2]The belief that the decrees of God originated prior to creation.

[3]The belief that the decrees of God were made after the Fall of Adam and Eve.

[4]Also spelled Cornhert and Koornhert.

[5]In 1590, Coornhert became secretary of the States of Holland.

[6]Late-fourteenth-century anonymous mystical work which greatly influenced Martin Luther.

[7]The complete works of Coornhert were published in 1630 (3 vols.).

[8]Daniel D. Whedon, Essays, Reviews, and Discourses (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1887), 74.

[9]Quoted in McClintock and Strong, Encyclopedia, s.v., “Arminianism.”

[10]Daniel D. Whedon, Essays, Reviews, and Discourses (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1887), 77.

[11]See Arminius’ Works at Wesley Center for Applied Theology (http://wesley.nnc.edu/ Arminius/).

[12]The Remonstrant Brotherhood, which was initiated in 1610, continues as a denomination.

[13]Remonstrance means an expression of protest, complaint, or reproof, which may be expressed through a formal statement of grievances, as was true for the Arminians.

[14]Neve, History of Christian Thought, 2:27-37.

[15]Alan P. Sell. The Great Debate: Calvinism, Arminianism and Salvation (West Sussex, England: H. E. Walter, Ltd., 1982; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983), 31-32.

Among the more notable individuals who opposed Baxter were Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), who was Supralapsarian, John Brown of Wamphray (1610?-1679) whose Life of Justification Opened (published in 1695) attacked Baxterianism, and Robert Traill (1642-1716).

* Arminian Theology *

* Arminian Theology *

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Written by Dr. Stephen FlickNumber of posts: 220
Concerned with the cultural decay of America, Dr. Flick has sought to provide answers to fellow Christians (and unbelievers) concerning the questions and objections to Christianity often posed by secularists and the irreligious. Dr. Flick is Christian Heritage Fellowship’s executive director and resides in East Tennessee with his wife, Beth. He spent 12 years as a Seminary professor and has been a licensed minister for more than thirty years, during which time he has served as pastor, revival and camp meeting evangelist, interim pastor, and other ministerial roles. He has authored numerous articles concerning America’s Christian heritage. Dr. Flick earned his Ph.D. from Drew University in theology and church history.

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