20 May, 2018

FAQ—Arminianism and the Arminians/Remonstrants

Q. 1. “What did the Arminians write concerning God’s will in the preaching of the gospel?”

In the “Opinions of the Remonstrants” (1618), the Arminians wrote in their opposition to the orthodox Calvinist position thus:

“Whomever God calls to salvation, He calls seriously, that is, **with a sincere and completely unhypocritical intention and will to save** ...” (Peter Y. De Jong (ed.), “Crisis in the Reformed Churches” [Grand Rapids, MI: Reformed Fellowship Inc., 1968], pp. 226-227.)


Q. 2. “What did they mean by that?”

By that statement, they meant that God earnestly desires to save everyone who is outwardly called by the preaching of the gospel. God, in other words, desires all that hear the outward proclamation of the word to be saved.


Q. 3. “What does that have to do with the free or well-meant offer?”

That is what the “well-meant offer” IS: a desire/will/wish of God for all to be saved, expressed in the outward call.

The fact that the Arminians wrote this in response to the orthodox Calvinists constitutes proof that the idea is not orthodox Calvinism. If (as some say) the idea right at the heart of the well-meant offer was and is the official and historic Calvinist position all along, then the Arminians would not have written that statement, in the first place. There wouldn’t have been a need to.

Additionally, if “a desire of God for all to be saved” really was the historic and official position of the church back in the day, then words to the effect that “We have no idea what you are talking about, you Arminians. We HOLD that view!” would have been written in the Canons of Dordt, the official response to the teachings of the Arminians. But the Canons are completely silent as to “a sincere and completely unhypocritical intention and will to save all who are outwardly called.”



Q. 4. “If Arminianism is a ‘false gospel,’ and only a ‘true gospel’ saves, what are we to say with regards to Arminians themselves? Are they Christians? Are we to consider them to be ‘brothers in the Lord’? or are we to consider them to be unsaved?”

God calls us to judge doctrines and “gospels,” not persons. A confessed Arminian may be saved, but not by the false gospel he professes. If he is saved, he is saved in spite of his heresy, by trusting in Jesus alone as a sufficient Savior, and not in his supposed free will. A confessing Calvinist may be lost, but not due to the falsity of the gospel he professes. He perishes by his unbelief.
We Reformed judge doctrines, and we do so in light of the creeds which are derived from the Bible. The Canons of Dordt condemns the Arminian theology as the error of Pelagius out of hell (Head II, Rejection of Errors 3). The Heidelberg Catechism calls free will theology a denial of the only Savior (Lord’s Day 11, Q&A 30). Romans 9:16 denies that salvation is by the working and willing of the sinner. It affirms that salvation depends on the mercy of God, which is also the message of the entire book of Romans.
My warning to adherents of Arminianism, which is incipient Pelagianism, is that their gospel is false and does not save. This is not to say that God cannot save in spite of their profession of and adherence to a false gospel.
And then I would respond by asking them whether the main thing for them is the possibility of their salvation. A genuine, sound Christian is concerned also, and more, about the glory of God. Does the Arminian “gospel” glorify God, with its teaching that salvation depends on the free will of the sinner, rather than on the sovereign will of God? (Prof. David J. Engelsma, 25/09/2018)

It depends what one means by an Arminian. Is the person only just converted or a long time professing Christian? What teaching has the person received, much or little, solid or weak? Is he open to correction? Is he an office-bearer? What is the creed of his church? Etc. Certainly, someone who believes all the distinctive points of Arminianism, like Arminius, and is admonished for it and yet disseminated heresy is an unbeliever. More info is needed with others. Not that we are especially interested in prying into men's hearts. We teach the truth and pray, and leave it to God to harden or soften. (Anon.)


Q. 5. “How is it possible for one who has Arminian beliefs to be saved in light of, for example, II John 9 (‘whoever does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God’)? Surely ‘doctrine,’ in this text, refers to the spiritually-imparted knowledge of limited substitutionary atonement? God gives this knowledge to ‘everyone’ He regenerates, and no one who does not have this knowledge is a true Christian.
Doesn’t Galatians 1:8-9 say that ‘whoever preaches another gospel ... let him be accursed’? If Arminianism is ‘another gospel,’ must not all Arminians therefore be ‘accursed’? (or ‘not saved/unregenerate’?)
Is not the idea that Arminians/Roman Catholics can be saved ‘in spite of’ the heresy of their churches an attack upon the clarity of God’s revelation to His elect?
Is not the idea that an Arminian can still be saved ‘in spite of’ his heresy a ‘denial of the gospel’?
John 17:3 says everlasting life is ‘knowing’ God and Jesus Christ. We cannot ‘know’ someone without truth (in this case, ‘doctrine’), and the true Christ, whom to know is eternal life, is the One who is taught in the true gospel of limited substitutionary atonement—and a Christ who ‘died for all men’ is *not* the true Christ; and, therefore, anyone who believes Christ died for all men surely *does not* have ‘everlasting life’ (and is still unregenerate)?
I John 5:20 says that the Son of God gives to all who are regenerate ‘an understanding that we may know the true One ...’ Is not this ‘understanding’ nothing else than the truth that the atonement is limited, definite and particular, and not universal? And, since Arminians believe in a death of Christ for all men, surely we must judge that they *do not* possess this ‘understanding’ and consequently *do not* ‘know’ the true One? (Cf. also Hebrews 8:11; John 6:45; Isa. 54:13)”

These arguments are strong and, in a certain respect, conclusive.  They are certainly a warning to every Arminian, as also to every Reformed believer who is inclined to take a weak position with regard to Arminian heresy.
My response is that despite their church membership and the official stand of the church to which they wrongly belong and from which they ought to leave, they themselves in reality believe salvation by grace alone.  And they themselves, despite the official teaching of their minister, believe in Christ alone for salvation.  Basically they are ignorant with regard to the theology of their church.  They are saved ‘in spite of’ the theology of their church.  In general, whereas the Arminian theologians, who sin against better knowledge, are certainly lost, some of the people can be saved by believing the true gospel despite the teaching of the church.  I hope so.  And as I said before, I leave this in the judgment of God.  I judge ‘doctrine.’
The scanty biblical evidence for this position, which I take with hesitancy, would be General Naaman in the Old Testament.  He lived in Syria, not in Judah, and outwardly he went through the motions of false religion without embracing that religion, but believing in the one true God of Israel.  (Prof. David J. Engelsma, 08/10/2018)

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