Arminianism is a 500years+ Protestant Christian denomination often contrasted with the Calvinism religious belief. Arminianism holds the belief that explains the existing relationship between humankind’s free will and the sovereignty of God and how these two relate to salvation. This religious belief was created by Jacobus Arminius (Dutch-reformed theologian) between 1560 and 1609 and now boasts a few Arminian denominations. But many wonder: what Christian denominations are Arminian?
The main Arminian denominations worth noting are Methodist-Wesleyan traditions-based, like the United Methodist Church. Pentecostal denominations like the Church of God, Assemblies of God, or the Foursquare Gospel are Arminian. Notably, some of the Baptist denominations are Arminian.
So, what exactly is the concept of Arminianism? Why do some Pentecostal and Protestant churches have both Arminian and Calvinist beliefs? Well, keep reading for answers to these and other questions.
What is the concept of Arminianism?
Arminianism, not to be confused with Calvinism, represents a belief system that attempts to explain spiritual relationships between the Sovereignty of God and humans’ free will; and how these relate to free will.
While often contrasted with Calvinism, created by John Calvin, Arminianism is a belief founded by a Dutch theologian called Jacobus Arminius, who lived between 1560 and 1609. With the founders’ knowledge in mind, it is worth noting that while Arminianism primarily focuses on man’s responsibility for gaining salvation, Calvinism is focused on God’s sovereignty. But there is much more to Arminianism, which is broken down into 5 primary concepts.
But before looking at the tenets of Arminianism, it is worth noting that this religious belief represents a theological movement within Protestant Christianity which came to be as one of the liberal reactions towards the infamous doctrine of the Calvinist relating to predestination. Also, this movement took root in the the17th century when they preached their convictions around man’s free will and the sovereignty of God and the fact that these two are compatible.
At the start of the movement, Arminius was a theologian teaching at the University of Leiden. He engaged in a considerable debate with Calvinism follower Franciscus Gomarus on the interpretation of divine decrees in relation to reprobation and elections. From the debate, Arminius’ convictions around God’s will being a never-ceasing love and God as the judge and initiator of man’s destiny gave rise to the Arminianism movement. Interestingly, Arminianism ended up becoming much more liberal than Arminius himself.
What are the five points of Arminianism?
Partial Depravity (Human’s Free Will)
One of the concepts or points that sets apart Arminianism is the belief in Partial Depravity. This is the Arminian belief that despite the depraved state of humanity, humanity is still capable of seeking God and his Mercies. This belief system outlines that human beings are tainted by sin and have fallen into sin, but despite the level of sinfulness, humans can still choose to go to God, to seek and then accept salvation, thanks to God’s Prevenient grace. Note that prevenient grace refers to a term that describes the theological concept that demonstrates the Grace of God upon someone’s life, something that precedes and also prepares a person for salvation. This term was first used by Augustine of Hippo and was later affirmed in the Second Council of Orange. After, it appeared in and became a part of Catholic theology.
Additionally, Arminianism holds the belief that as a result of this Grace from God, mankind has free will, as well as the power to willingly yield and answer to any influences from the Holy Spirit.
Despite this staunch belief, many Arminianism believers don’t support the principle of partial depravity. Instead, they hold closely the Calvinistic principle of total depravity – a Biblical teaching also called radical or pervasive depravity which believes that all humans have fallen (since the Fall from the Garden of Eden), and they inherited guilt and sin from Adam and so, everything about mankind is affected by this original sin. While it doesn’t mean that everyone is as sinful as imagined, it means everyone is corrupted somehow.
The second principle of Arminianism is that of Conditional Election. Conditional Election describes the belief that God Chooses the human being that He (predetermines) Knows will have faith in Him. On the same breath, Conditional Election means that No human being is predetermined to go to hell or heaven.
The third principle of Arminianism is that of Unlimited Atonement, which holds the belief that Jesus Christ died on the cross for all humankind, including the men and women not chosen or the ones who may never believe. With this Arminian belief, Jesus Christ’s death was fulfilled for the sake of all humankind. So, anyone who believes they can be saved will be saved as long as they believe. This is implied in 1 John 2:2 and 2 Peter 2:1
The other notable principle or doctrine the Arminian Christian follows is that of Resistible Grace. With this belief, God’s call for people to be saved is optional and can be rejected and/or resisted. Arminianism believes anyone has the will and the power to resist the pull towards salvation – it is entirely their decision.
The last Arminian doctrine is that of Conditional Salvation, which holds that any Christian can potentially lose their salvation should they reject the influence of the Holy Spirit. This belief further determines that Christians must work on maintaining their salvation to keep it. It’s worth noting that what the Arminian believers call Conditional Salvation is referred to as Eternal Security – Eternal Security represents the belief in believers in Christ, as implied by Scripture in John 10:28.
Of these 5 points, Calvinism only supports the Arminian belief in Unlimited Atonement, which they believe is inferred in 1 John 2:2 – where Christ died for all humankind. Calvinism rejects the other 4 points and considers them unbiblical, noting that total depravity is against the scripture as implied in Romans 3:10-18. They also believe that Conditional Election underplays the sovereignty of God, while Resistible grace goes against God’s determination and powers. Also, Calvinists argue that Conditional salvation portrays salvation as a form of reward for work done, not a gift of God’s grace.
Why do some protestant denominations believe in Arminianism?
The main reason why some Protestant denominations believe in and support Arminianism is that Arminianism is the theological movement founded within Protestant Christianity’s traditions and the protestant beliefs or takes on salvation. This is a belief that contrasts Calvinist beliefs around predestination.
Here are the main reasons why a number of protestant denominations support Arminianism:
For starters, Arminianism’s emphasis on humans being responsible for their salvation is supported by protestants. Arminian theology notes that God availed salvation to all human beings, but everyone then chooses to accept or reject salvation. This aligns with the Protestant belief that humans bear responsibility in their priesthood and that all Christians can access God and receive salvation through faith in Christ – Christians don’t need an intermediary like a priest.
Also, some of the protestants have adopted the Arminian belief allowing for a deeper understanding of the Grace of God, which Arminian theology infers is available to all mankind rather than being a predestined thing.
Then you have the inclusive understanding of the love of God, which is a belief supported by both religious groups. Arminian theology emphasizes that God’s Love represents a consistent idea of a merciful and ever-loving God – as do the protestants.
As a result, Protestants like the Methodist Founder John Wesley all believe in Arminianism’s beliefs and their importance for the spiritual growth and maturity of all believers. The consistency of the Arminian teachings is why the Methodists and other protestants support Arminianism. This and the fact that Arminianism and Protestants believe in God’s grace being available to all beings and that everyone has the right to accept or reject salvation make some protestants support Arminian theology.
In other words, the Arminian beliefs about the importance of personal human responsibility for salvation, the dynamic understanding around the grace of God, and the Bible’s understanding of God’s sovereignty all make some protestant supportive of the Arminian beliefs.
Why is there a lack of consensus about Calvinism and Arminianism in the Baptist church?
The Baptist church lacks consensus about the Arminian and Calvinist beliefs because of differences in their theological perspectives around things like salvation, humanity, and the nature of God. So, while both theologies support the idea of the Sovereignty of God, they disagree on areas like salvation, where Calvinists believe in salvation being predestined, and Arminianism believes that human’s free will is what leads to the salvation of an individual, based on their faith. This and the autonomy and independence of the Baptist churches bring an air of congregational differences and a lack of consensus among Baptist churches.
Calvinism & Arminianism in Baptist Church
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