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Why Arminians Should Study Arminius’ Works

Years ago I was blessed to purchase copies of The Works of Arminius from the Nazarene Publishing House.  I would admit that they are not easy reading.  Arminius’ works are not as systematic as say the works of John Calvin or the works of John Wesley (both of which I own as well).  Most of what we have today from Arminius comes from his own personal letters and exchanges that he had with Calvinist professors of theology.  Arminius’ works then don’t read like a systematic theology book but more like letters between friends.  No doubt Arminius’ theology is seen in his works and we can see his masterful ability to exegete the Scriptures but Arminius was not writing a book on theology but he was sending letters of debates he was having with personal friends.

This should not stop the Arminian from reading and studying the works of Arminius.  Why should you study the works of Arminius?

1.  To Grasp What Arminius Taught

Too many Calvinist theologians will make false assumptions about Arminius.  For example, R.C. Sproul states that Arminius’ theology was borrowed from Pelagius.  Sproul, like other Calvinist theologians, believes that the heart of Arminius’ understanding is his defense of free will.  This, of course, is far from the truth.  Arminius deplored the theology of Pelagius and went to great lengths to distance himself from Pelagius.  He knew, being a student of theology and Church history, that Pelagianism had been condemned as heretical and he knew that he did not hold to Pelagius’ teachings about free will.

I believe that many Calvinist from Sproul to Charles Spurgeon to Robert Raymond to John Frame to so many others completely ignore the works of Arminius and instead they will either make up what they believe Arminians believe or they will turn to non-Arminian sources or even other Calvinist sources about Arminianism.  If the Arminian knows what Arminius taught about subjects, this will help the Arminian be able to recognize when a Calvinist misunderstands Arminianism.

2.  To Grow in Biblical Exegesis

Arminius was a master at exegesis.  He didn’t merely quote passages of Scripture but he would very often show the proper exegesis for various passages.  Arminius didn’t state a point (such as belief in conditional election) and then give proof texts but he would often take his hearers through the passages of the Bible showing the fallacies of the Calvinistic interpretation as well as the proper understanding of the texts.

The key to biblical interpretation is never to take your creed to the Scriptures and then presuppose a view upon them.  For example, Calvinists turn to 1 Corinthians 12:9 and believe that this verse proves that faith is a gift from God.  However, they ignore the context and instead they read into 1 Corinthians 12:9 their own Calvinistic view of faith.  The context of 1 Corinthians 12:9 is the key to the passage and the context is spiritual gifts given to the Church to edify the Church (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).  1 Corinthians 12:9 is not dealing at all with salvation anymore than verse 10 is.  In fact, in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 Paul even leaves out faith.

The point is that context is key.  Arminius knew this and he often reinforced this in his writings by wrestling with the context of passages often cited by Calvinists.

3.  Arminius Was A Calvinist

This is a point that many Calvinists fail to see.  Arminius did not come to the works of Calvin or passages of Scriptures as an enemy of Calvinism but he came as a Calvinist.  Arminius was trained in Geneva under legendary Calvinist and son-in-law of Calvin, Beza.  Arminius was commissioned by the Calvinists to debate the Anabaptists over their views about infant baptism which is what initially led him to study both Anabaptist teachings as well as his own.  It was only through careful study of the Scriptures that Arminius begin to reject Calvinism.  In fact, like Martin Luther before him Arminius did not intend to reject Calvinism or the creeds of the Reformed Church but he wanted to change them within to help them move closer to what the Bible teaches.

It seems at times that Calvinists will try to paint Arminius as a mad man bent on tearing down Calvinism and Christianity.  They fail to see that Arminius not only was trained in Geneva but that he was a professor of theology at a Calvinist seminary.  Furthermore, Arminius remained gentle throughout his life never wishing ill will upon those who opposed him nor on those whom he disagreed.  Unlike Calvin, Arminius never wanted anyone killed for teachings contrary to his own.

4.  To Know Arminianism We Must Understand Arminius

Arminius, from my readings of his life and works, was a gentle saint of God.  He had an intellect that was touched by the Spirit of God.  He was not known for arguing or being contentious.  He was a man of compassion often visiting the sick during his pastorate and he would even risk his own life to travel into areas where the plague was.  He would often plead with those who differed in their theology to change their views (such as the Anabaptists whom the Calvinists persecuted and even killed for their views regarding baptism) but he never asked once for anyone to be murdered for their views.

Arminius was a man of the Word of God.  He would often labor for hours in his studies of the Bible and he could read both Greek and Latin.  He loved to spend time reading the Scriptures and seeking to know his Lord better.

Arminius was a man of holiness.  He understand all too fully the power of sin (Galatians 6:7-9) and he sought to live a life of holiness before God (1 Peter 1:15-16).  He sought to live close to Jesus and allow the fruit of the Spirit to flow in his life by being one with Jesus (John 15:1-9; Galatians 5:22-23).  He was a man of prayer.  He was a man of evangelism.

Arminius then is a great example (like John Wesley after him) of Arminian theology on fire.  Arminius opposed any religion of the head that didn’t change the heart (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Arminius loved Jesus and he loved to make Him known to the world (Mark 16:15).  How we need more theologians like Arminius who not only loved God with his whole heart and mind but with a zeal that burned to make Jesus known.  Human knowledge puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1) but true knowledge of Jesus leads to a holy, pure, prayerful life (John 17:3; Colossians 1:9-10).

Conclusion

I would encourage you, whether Arminian or not but especially if you are an Arminian, to get a copy of the works of Arminius.  They are hard to find but well worth the price.  You’ll be amazed at the intellect, the exegesis, and the passion for Jesus Christ that Arminius held.  I would also recommend reading Carl Bangs’ book on the life of Arminius.  You’ll grow in your faith from studying this great man of God.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/02/2011 at 10:58 AM

2 Responses

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  1. You can purchase each volume of Arminius' three volume set thru Amazon that is formatted for the Kindle for 99 cents a volume. http://www.amazon.com/Works-James-Arminius-Vol-ebook/dp/B003K15DLW/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1293977872&sr=1-3

    drwayman

    01/02/2011 at 2:19 PM

  2. I agree, agree, agree, and appreciate this post! God bless.

    WilliamWBirch

    01/04/2011 at 10:28 PM


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