Jacob Arminius And The Doctrine Of Original Sin -- By: John A. Aloisi
DBSJ 21 (2016) p. 183
Jacob Arminius And The Doctrine Of Original Sin
As one writer has noted, most theologians regard Jacob Arminius (c. 1560-1609) either as a hero or a heretic.2 Arminius is generally either vilified as an enemy or embraced as a friend; few theologians seem to view him from a neutral posture.3 This tendency toward polarization is not without cause. Arminius stands among a limited number of figures in church history who have lent their names to a major theological school of thought. Furthermore, the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism has never wanted voices on either side. Yet, despite the familiarity of his name, Arminius’s thought is frequently misunderstood, or at very least, is little understood by many.4
The term Arminianism is a slippery one. Many people who are in basic agreement with Arminius’s views about predestination, humanity’s condition, and God’s role in salvation reject the label Arminian. On the other hand, at times Calvinists have had the tendency to apply the term to anything short of what John Calvin (1509-1564) himself taught. Unfortunately, the labels Arminian and Arminianism are used inconsistently and at times get thrown around carelessly. Perhaps this is the case because few people are familiar with what Arminius actually taught.
In light of the significant role Arminius has played in church history, relatively little has been written about his life. During the twentieth century, only one noteworthy biography of Arminius was published in English.5 Since the turn of the century, a few more have been added to
DBSJ 21 (2016) p. 184
this number, but compared to Calvin or even Theodore Beza (1519-1605), Arminius’s thought has received significantly less attention.6 The fact that the term Arminianism has been used to describe a very diverse set of movements has done nothing to improve the situation with regard to understanding Arminius and his views. Since the time of Arminius’s death, many different groups and individuals have been identified as Arminian. As Bangs has pointed out,
The label of Arminianism has been applied to and often accepted by such diverse entities as the politics of William Laud, seventeenth century Anglican theology from high churchmanship to moderate Puritanism, the communal experiment at Little Gidding, the empiricism of John Locke, Latitudinarianism, the...
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