A Synthesis and Critique of James Arminius’s “ Declaration of Sentiments” -- By: John E. Skidmore

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 03:2 (Jul 2011)
Article: A Synthesis and Critique of James Arminius’s “ Declaration of Sentiments”
Author: John E. Skidmore


A Synthesis and Critique of James Arminius’s “
Declaration of Sentiments”

John E. Skidmore

Carl Bangs, a noted Arminius scholar, suggests that James Arminius should rightly be regarded as one of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers. He argues that Arminius’s teaching on salvation falls within the bounds of sixteenth-century Protestant theology; that Arminius’s view of “sin and grace are in general agreement with the sola gratiasola fide emphasis of the Reformers.”1 He argues that Arminius’s view of depravity does not differ from the view expressed by Calvin in his Institutes. Bangs states that it is Arminius’s view of predestination that is his point of departure from strict Calvinism. According to Bangs, Calvin’s view of predestination was not a universal teaching of the Reformed church, but was widely discounted outside of Geneva, even in his own time. He concludes that Arminius “articulates a position which he feels to be a valid Reformed theology of grace in harmony with the earliest sentiments of the Reformed churches in Switzerland and Holland, in harmony with the accepted Dutch confessions, and only partly divergent from Calvin himself.”2

Bangs further argues that much of what theologians have historically called Arminianism is foreign to the teachings of Arminius. He admonishes those who call themselves Arminians to reconsider the source of their own theology as something other than what the Dutch theologian taught. He argues that many who call themselves Arminians should engage in “theological reconstruction” if they want to do justice to the man whose name they embrace as their theological forebear.

This paper attempts to synthesize and critique Arminius’s beliefs concerning predestination as they are expressed in his Decla­ration of Sentiments of 1608. This paper will be divided into three parts. First, a brief biography of Arminius will place the theologian in his historic context. The second part summarizes Arminius’s presentation of the three schemes of predestination present in the Reformed churches of the sixteenth century, followed by a summary of Arminius’s own understanding of the doctrine. The third part presents and critiques Arminius’s objections to the prevailing views and his defense of his own view.

A Short Biography of James Arminius

James Arminius was born near Utrecht in Holland, in the year 1560. His father died when he was an infant, leaving his mother to care for three children. A clergyman from Utrecht took it upon himself to educate the young boy. Arminius resided ...

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