Arminius and Arminianism -- By: Owen H. Alderfer

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 01:0 (NA 1968)
Article: Arminius and Arminianism
Author: Owen H. Alderfer


Arminius and Arminianism

Owen H. Alderfer

Two incidents reported by Geoffrey F. Nuttall, London pastor, in Man’s Faith and Freedom state the case for this article.1 He reports that an examination required for a higher degree in one of the English universities included, among several alternative questions, the topic, “Since Wesley we are all Arminians.” In the other incident Nuttall reported discussing an Arminian symposium in which he was involved with a knowledgable friend, a man who had authored books on subjects related to Methodism. The friend reported: “Do you know, I never realized that there was anyone called Arminius!”

The incidents say at least two things that bear consideration: First, Arminius and the spirit of Arminianism have had enormous bearing upon Christianity in the English speaking world. Second, this is true of us whether we have ever heard of Arminius or not. And this leads to the concerns of this study: Who was James Arminius and what were some of his central ideas? Beyond this, what is Arminianism and what are its principles and impact?

James Arminius

James Arminius began life in a time of considerable religious significance. When he was born (1560) John Calvin was alive; the Council of Trent was in session; Queen Elizabeth I was bringing about the Anglican Settlement; Menno Simons was leading the Anabaptists; Arminius’ native Holland was bleeding in religious war.

By the time Arminius came into his own his homeland had largely espoused Calvinism. After study at the new Dutch University of Leyden, Arminius studied abroad in Basle and

Geneva where he became thoroughly oriented in Calvinistic thinking. Returning home he became popular as a preacher in Amsterdam. When he was called upon to answer attacks upon supralapsarian views of election Arminius questioned the very views he was to defend. Called to a chair of divinity at Leyden he aired views which favored human freedom and questioned the current positions on divine decrees.

From 1603 until his death in 1609 Arminius was engaged in controversy with Calvinistic leaders of the Reformed Church. Feeling that his contemporaries in the ministry and the theological chairs of the universities distorted the Scriptures and the Fathers Arminius sought to present what he thought was the Biblical view of the nature of God, the nature of man, and the way of salvation.

The nature of God. Arminius judged that current views which saw God as decreeing the Fall and the damnation of some men from all eternity made God the author of sin. Irenic in a time when peace-loving attitudes were uncommo...

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