Arminian Today

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Arminianism is not Pelagianism

I was listening to a Calvinist teacher lecture on heresies today and he was teaching on Pelagianism.  I knew from my past hearings of this man that he would seek to show his hearers that Arminianism is nothing more than Pelagianism or at least semi-Pelagian.  He did.  Not five minutes into his lecture he stated that the errors of Pelagius are still with is in the Arminians.  How so?  He said that Arminians are Pelagians for the following reasons:

1.  They teach that mankind has complete free will.

2.  They teach that man helps God with their salvation.

3.  They teach that after salvation one must do something to remain saved such as good works, obedience to the Law, etc.

4.  They teach that Jesus didn’t really save anyone when He died on the cross.  Man has to help God save us.  We work together to be saved.

This attack is not new to Arminians.  I have been told numerous times through e-mails or on Twitter or even in person that I am a heretic, that I teach works-salvation, and that I know nothing of the grace of God.  One “former” Arminian told me that he abandoned Arminianism after he really begin to read the Bible (to imply that I don’t).  Charles Spurgeon said about Arminians:

Arminianism, which is only Pelagianism under another name, had, to a large extent, eaten out the life of the Church of England.

While some Calvinists do realize that Arminians are not Pelagian or even semi-Pelagian, they still insist that Arminians believe that we help God to earn our salvation.  Calvinists like to pride themselves that their salvation is all of God and nothing of them and that even their belief is from God whereas poor Arminians believe that when they stand before God on the day of judgement they will be able to tell God that they saved themselves through their own free will.  Is this really the case?

First of all, I have been an Arminian disciple of Jesus for over 20 years.  I have met thousands of Arminians and have never once heard a testimony of someone claiming that they saved themselves or even that they helped God by believing.  I don’t deny that Arminianism holds to synergism, the idea that we submit to Christ for salvation through faith.  What I do deny is that that is works-righteousness.  Not one Arminian theologian nor one Arminian disciple would ever claim such a thing.  Clearly the New Testament teaches that we are saved by God’s grace through faith (Romans 3:22-27; 4:5; 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  Jesus’ blood alone cleanses a sinner from sin (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14, 22, 27-28; 1 John 1:7).  Arminianism rejects any notion of earning our salvation through any good works or even the act of believing.  Jesus saves (Romans 6:23).

Secondly, Arminius, in his Works, made sure to let people know that he was not close to being a Pelagian.  How so?  Arminius embraced total depravity.  Pelagius did not.  Arminius embraced that the will of mankind is bound by sin and apart from the grace of God, none could be saved.  Pelagius did not.  Arminius taught that salvation is through Christ and Christ alone and not by any works of mankind.  Pelagius did not.  Arminius taught that the only way to overcome sin is through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pelagius taught that mankind could overcome sin through the freedom of the will.  Arminius taught that salvation was all of grace.  Pelagius, while giving some acknowledgement to grace, denied that salvation was completely all of grace.

Lastly, the problem is that the Reformed view of irresistible grace has become, for the Calvinist, the only liable means to salvation.  While the vast majority of Christians and theologians throughout Church history have denied this, the “young, restless, and reformed” crowd is championing John Piper and R.C. Sproul’s view that teaches irresistible grace.  There is an alternative but anyone who mentions this is viewed as a Pelagian from the outset.

The fact is that the writings of Arminius are full of examples to show that he was not a Pelagian in his beliefs about salvation.  I don’t deny that certain people from Church history such as Charles Finney (who was not an Arminian) was in fact semi-Pelagian.  I know of some in the Restoration movement who gladly take the title “semi-Pelagian” though they prefer to be called “pre-Augustinian” in their views.  For Arminianism, if we are to adhere to Arminius, we must reject Pelagianism in all its forms.  Arminius accepted many of the Calvinist teachings regarding the fall, the utter depravity of humanity, and the necessity of grace for salvation while at the same time denying unconditional election and irresistible grace.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/25/2012 at 2:48 PM

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