My (half-hearted) Apology to Jacob Arminius

Dear Mr. Arminius,

I am truly sorry for your loss. Your reputation over the past century has been diminished at the hands of believers everywhere who hold to free-will and Calvinist theology. I, along with multitudes of others, have used your name in vain. We have ascribed the fruits of your theological studies to the works of another man, much more notorious than yourself. Many adherents to modern evangelicalism’s methods of bringing souls to Christ by a simple act of the will apart from a work of grace are lumped together in a category of aberrant theology we call Arminianism. I have realized, to my chagrin, this is giving them far more credit than they deserve. To call preachers who ask lost souls to recite a canned sinner’s prayer devoid of repentance an Arminian is an insult to your good name. Preachers who teach, either directly or indirectly, man’s innate ability to choose Christ contrary to his sinful nature, should not be labeled with your name but with the name of a heretic from ages ago; Pelagius.

Pelagius long ago swung open the gate to the religious broad road leading to destruction. It is paved with his theology of self-righteousness that many people today find smooth and luxurious. Many who call themselves ‘seekers’ will turn down this path, convinced by pastors everywhere they can follow Jesus and reach Heaven, only without all that ‘denying yourself and taking up your cross’ business that the narrow road demands. These seekers believe they have found the inroad to lasting happiness, peace, health, wealth and heavenly reward. This theology, born in the pit of hell, does not remotely resemble your beliefs. I regret ever having called it so. You believed in man’s total depravity. So do I. You believed that no man comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him. I agree. Where we differ lies in the meaning of ‘draw’. Sadly, this is where my apology to you must halt. I believe as the bible speaks, that all who the Father gives to the Son will come to him. You believed in prevenient grace, whereby the Father, through the act of the Holy Spirit, loosens the heart from its bondage in sin, thus allowing man to freely choose to accept or reject the offer of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ.

That all sounds well and good, my dear sir, but I cannot agree with a saving grace that is resistible. In such a scenario why would anyone so touched by grace then refuse it? What causes these souls to differ from those who accept salvation? Are they simply smarter, or wiser than the multitudes that don’t? Is there some inherent quality in the character of those who believe? Do they simply have more faith built into their constitutions?

Is it not more believable to say God has chosen some to be saved and left others to wallow in their sins? That the only factor causing men to differ is the sovereign grace of God, who brings all those he has predestined and called to glory? I believe so. Man has no island of righteousness within his corrupt heart, no matter how small you may make it appear, in which he can stand and freely choose to serve God. Teaching this error creates a small hairline fracture in the foundation of orthodox Christian doctrine. Admittedly, it appears to many an insignificant flaw, but as history has proved, the crack widens over time, threatening to collapse the whole structure.

While I do not blame you personally for the heretical teachings on salvation and grace prevalent in the modern church, I do believe your theology left enough wiggle room for false teachers to diminish God’s glory and ascribe some, if not most of it, to man and his greatly touted freedom of choice. I’m sure a man of your reasoning, if allowed to gaze into the future, would have seen the grievous error of defending man’s autonomy in salvation and would have renounced it. Alas, hindsight is 20/20, if I may be allowed to indulge the cliche’. This is why I cannot apologize to you in full for your beliefs. Being dead, you can neither accept nor reject it, but hopefully I have cleared your name, in certain regards, to those who read this letter. I will endeavor in all my future communications to refrain from using the term Arminianism when discussing the graceless doctrines of salvation rooted in the teachings of Pelagius. I will give credit where credit is due. Please, forgive my past misrepresentations of your beliefs.

Sincerely,

A Believer in God’s Sovereignty in Salvation

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10 thoughts on “My (half-hearted) Apology to Jacob Arminius

  1. Arminius saw salvation as thoroughly ‘Christocentric’. By that he meant that Christ rather than the act of election was the foundation of the church and that salvation is by Christ. Calvin’s view of a detached election turned Jesus and His work at the cross into nothing more than a tool of salvific history.
    ~Peace~

  2. Interesting. I appreciate Arminius’ aim to be thoroughly Christocentric, which further demonstrates the great chasm between his theology and modern Evangelicalism’s self-o-centric soteriology. However, I cannot agree that Calvin’s view of election is detached. Salvation is an intimate work undertaken by all three members of the Trinity working together effectually to bring many sons to glory. The Father chooses for himself a people to set apart for his very own, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, before the foundations of the world were laid. The Son died on a cruel Roman cross to secure their salvation by his blood atonement for their sins. The Holy Spirit then effectually applies the gift of The Father’s salvation through the Son’s sacrifice by regenerating the heart of the elect and bringing them to repentance and faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.
    I believe the doctrines of Grace to be very Christocentric. Election is never discussed without looking toward the cross as its fulfillment. Regeneration is never discussed without looking back at the cross as its source of power. . Christ’s death on the cross is the centerpiece of redemptive history and I never gloried in that until I embraced Calvinistic doctrine. For my first 11 years as a believer I focused on everything but the cross. I was into eschatology, spiritual gifts, spiritual warfare, etc. etc. I never contemplated the glories of the cross of Christ until I began to understand God’s sovereignty over all things, including my own redemption. I now meditate on Christ’s atonement with great awe and humility. I now realize the power of Christ’s shed blood once and for all cleanses me of sin and its penalty, that I as a lost sinner surely deserved to bear.
    I haven’t read a great deal of Calvin’s writings yet, but the fruit of his theological studies has helped me in my walk with Christ tremendously over the past 2 years.
    Blessings
    BTW – Your picture frightens me…

  3. Well written article. Having read this article and skimmed others, it seems that you are highly value doctrinal soundness, which is, of course, valuable. But perhaps you are emphasizing it a bit too much. We probably disagree fundamentally on a great many “particulars” but my hope and prayer is to see people come to know and love Jesus. I think we agree on that. I’m not sure why it’s that important to offer the apology to Arminius and level the blame in the direction of Pelagius. You say that the minor errors introduced have produced a minor crack which, as “history has proved, the crack widens over time, threatening to collapse the whole structure.” I’d like to see this expanded upon, and I find the unsubstantiated claim dubious. Given the growing number of Open-Theistic/Arminian/Pelagian/Kenotic leaders and believers we see emerging we will someday see the results of such thinking. I personally think there are much more important efforts to be had than attempting to preserve doctrine. Right doctrine is a good thing, but I haven’t seen the accurate belief of information alone yielding transformed lives of those who love Jesus and have decided to live their lives with him and in the same fashion in which he lived.

  4. I will post an article answering your concerns on doctrine sometime soon (hopefully).

    I think my letter contained the substantiation of my claim that Arminianism weakens the theological foundation of Christian doctrine. An act of free will, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear has been inflated over time where the likes of Charles Finney created an entirely new system of evangelism called the ‘altar call’. He used psychological and emotional manipulation to move his hearers to action right then and there, not allowing God to sovereignly change their hearts in his time, but to call them to an act of faith that very hour as if salvation was something they could choose freely at anytime. Finney himself said “There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means….’
    The church as a whole has adopted his philosophy of revivalism ever since – with catastrophic consequences. The source of this heresy? Pelagianistic doctrine of free will. In the final analysis Arminius also believed in free will. Though he believed a work of God must precede it, this aspect over time gets lost in the ballooning arrogance of men boasting in their own autonomy. Forgetting that God must perform a work in the heart before coming to faith transforms a professing Armianian into a full-fledged Pelagian. Calvinism has a built in defense against this heresy, there simply is no place for it. God’s sovereignty is an impenetrable rock that no free-will heresy can take root in.

  5. I found that response to be excellent and helpful in understanding where you are coming from. I look forward to your response on doctrine in the future. As an interesting side-note, are you familiar with Dallas Willard and if so, what is your opinion of his work? Hope you’re doing well, have a good day!

  6. I’m glad you gained some insight from my article/response, that’s the kind of response I hope to receive.
    I will post on the importance of doctrine after I finish my series on leaving my old church. It may be another week or so before I get to it so please be patient.
    Dallas Willard? The name rings a bell – a warning bell – in my mind but I can’t honestly tell you anything about him right off the top of my head.
    Hope you a good day as well.
    God bless.

  7. Hebrews 13:1 “Let brotherly love continue.” KJV
    As an AG minister I must say that Iim sorry that you have been hurt. I hope the scar that seems to be doing part of the talking will heal. I haven’t mailed to debate or to cast blame. You seem very sincere in your love of God. I appreciate that and I offer a blessing to you from God’s Word.

    Numbers 6:24-26 “May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you His peace..” NLT

    Have a great day!

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