A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Benjamin Montoya
About the Author
J.I. Packer is now retired. He previously served as a professor of theology at Regent College. He has authored numerous influential books including Knowing God, Life in the Spirit, and many articles. He also been a well-known preacher and teacher.
“Arminianism” is probably a familiar term for many, but what does it mean? In this article, J. I. Packer explains what it is, where it comes from, its different varieties, and provides an assessment of this position. He is a Calvinist; that’s certainly no secret. But, surprisingly, he faults some Calvinists for the rise of Arminianism.
Table of Contents (Section Headings for This Article)
What Is Arminianism?
Justification and God
How Far-Reaching Is the Cleavage Between Calvinism and Arminianism?
What Are the Causes of Arminianisms, and What Is the Cure For them?
What Is Arminianism?
Many people have heard of the five points of Calvinism. But, sometimes they do not know that the five points of Arminianism arose first as a rejection of Calvinism. These views represent proverbial polar opposites. For example, for Calvinism, predestination is God’s unconditional decision about the destiny of individuals including their response to the gospel. For Arminianism, predestination is God’s unconditional decision to provide means of grace, decisions about individuals’ destiny being secondary, conditional, and consequent upon foresight of how they will use those means of grace. For election, Calvinists believe that God predestines sinners to be saved by Jesus Christ through faith and that redemption is an achievement that actually secures salvation—calling, pardon, adoption, preservation, final glory, etc. For Arminians, however, election is God looking down the hallway of time to see who will believe so qualify themselves for glory. Some have characterized the differences between these two positions as Arminianism following Scripture whereas Calvinism follows logic. But that simplification is not the case. The underlying difference, however, is that Calvinism recognizes a dimension of the saving love of God which Arminianism misses, that is, God’s sovereignty in bringing to faith and keeping in faith all who are actually saved.
Arminianism came into existence in Holland at the beginning of the seventeenth century. It was condemned by the whole Reformed world at Dort in 1619. The sort of Arminianism that was originally birthed was different than what is known today. John Owen called the original flavor “Belgic semi-Pelagian.” Another camp within this group comes from several well-known names such as John and Charles Wesley have carried the Arminian teaching forward and the Methodists and other maintain it today. These camps differed on whether or not mankind was able to respond to God after the Fall in Genesis 3. Wesley maintained that it had been lost but held that it was restored to every man as a gift of God’s grace, usually referred to as prevenient grace. The Remonstrants said that man never lost such ability; sin made man weak, but not bad. Thus, there are two categories of Arminianism—evangelical and rationalistic. Both will be treated separately.
Rationalistic Arminianism is a revival of the semi-Pelagian reaction to Augustinianism developed originally by John Cassian and Fautus of Ries. Ironicially, this position arose from someone who studied under a Calvinist. Jakob Harmenszoon (Arminus as he is popularly known as) studied under Theodore Beza, John Calvin’s successor and first appointed head of Geneva Academy. Arminus took issue with Beza’s understanding of predestination. In response, a group of his followers issues a Remonstrance. This document. . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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"Arminianisms," by J.I. Packer, in THROUGH CHRIST'S WORD