The Five Points of Arminianism

Edward Hendrie


            Arminians continually try to discredit the biblical doctrine of grace by giving it a pejorative label, to make it seem as though it is a man-made doctrinal contrivance. The label they commonly use is Calvinism. John Calvin lived in the 16th century, and although he acknowledged the doctrine of God’s grace, he never broke it down and expressed it as the so-called five points of Calvinism attributed to him. The five points of Calvinism did not surface until after Calvin and Arminius were both dead. It was the followers of Jacobus Arminius that came up with five points of Arminianism and then labeled the Christian objection to those five points the five points of Calvinism.


            After Arminius’ death (1609), his supporters, led by Simon Episcopius issued a remonstrance in 1610. The remonstrance contained five articles summarizing their divergence from the fundamental aspects of accepted Christian orthodoxy. After issuing the remonstrance, Aminius’ followers became known as “The Remonstrants.”


            The five articles of the Arminian Remonstrance are: Article 1: God’s election was conditioned on the free will choice of man; Article 2: Jesus atoned for the sins of everyone in the world, both saved and unsaved; Article 3: While man is depraved, God provides a special (prevenient) grace to all men that partially awakens them from their depravity so that they can make a free will choice whether to believe in Jesus; Article 4: Man can resist the grace of God; Article 5: God assists one who is saved in resisting the temptations of the devil, but a person can by the exercise his free will reject God and lose his salvation. Endnote


            The five articles of the Arminian Remonstrance were the focus of the Synod of Dordtrecht (a/k/a Synod of Dordt) in the Netherlands. The synod responded to the remonstrance in 1619 with The Canons of Dordt, wherein the Dutch Reformed Church rejected the teachings of Arminius. Endnote


            The so-called five points of Calvinism were actually developed from the Cannons of the Synod of Dordtrecht in response to the Arminian Remonstrants and not from John Calvin, who had been long dead before the Synod of Dordtrecht met. Endnote The Arminians had to find a way to get out from under the cloud of heresy after their theology was refuted by an official synod of the Dutch Reformed Church. The Arminians came up with the idea of creating a straw man in John Calvin. Rather than argue that theological dispute was Arminianism vs. the Synod of Dordt (or more accurately Arminianism vs. Christianity), the Arminians re-labeled the conflict as Arminianism vs. Calvinism. Once the Arminians succeeded in re-labeling the dispute, Arminianism could gain the false appearance of being on firmer theological footing.


            The Moody Bible Institute, named after Arminian revivalist Dwight L. Moody, publishes the Moody Handbook of Theology. The Moody handbook is typical of the inaccuracies in the historical record regarding Arminianism. The Moody Handbook of Theology describes Arminianism as being expressed “in the Remonstrance, a document produced in 1610, formally protesting Calvinism in the Netherlands.” Endnote The mis-impression given by the Moody handbook is that “Calvinism” was identified as such before the Remonstrance was issued. In fact, the label “Calvinism” was not coined until after the Synod of Dordt issued its articles in response to the Arminian Remonstrance. The Moody handbook also defines Arminianism in its glossary in pertinent part as: “A doctrinal system formed by Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) as a response to Calvinism in the Netherlands.” Endnote Again, the handbook is misleading; it gives the false impression that “Calvinism,” as such, predated Arminianism, and that Arminianism addressed the doctrines of “Calvinism.” In fact, it was the biblical doctrine of the sovereign grace of God that predated Arminianism, and that is to what Arminianism was a response.


            Over the years, those who defended the sovereign grace of God ignorantly fell for the ploy of the Arminians by calling themselves “Calvinists.” They did not understand that the “Calvinist” title played into the hands of the Arminians, by suggesting that the biblical doctrine of the sovereign grace of God is the brain-child of John Calvin. Claiming to be a follower of Calvin or a follower of Arminius demonstrates a carnality of the mind that should be resisted. “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” 1 Corinthians 3:4. As Christians, we are to be followers only of Jesus Christ. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11.


            One little known fact is that John Calvin, himself, did not adhere to all five points of what became known as Calvinism. For example, in his 1552 book Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God Calvin made a statement that indicates that Calvin did not believe in limited atonement, which is one of the so-called five points of Calvinism. Calvin stated:

 

It is also a fact, without controversy, that Christ came to atone for the sins of the whole world. . . . we conclude that although reconciliation is offered unto all men through Him, yet, that the great benefit belongs peculiarly to the elect, that they might be gathered together and be made together partakers of eternal life. Endnote


            Calvin confirmed his universal atonement position in his Sermon on Ephesians 5:11-1. Calvin reaffirmed his universal atonement position in his Sermon CXVI on the Book of Job. Calvin stated in that sermon that “it is not in us to discern between the righteous and the sinners that go to destruction, but that Jesus Christ has suffered His death and passion as well for them as for us.” Endnote Calvin likewise stated in his commentary on Romans 5:18:

 

He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God's benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him. Endnote

 

            That means that Calvin actually agreed with the Arminian theology of universal atonement as stated in Article 2 of the Arminian Remonstrance. It did not matter to the Arminians that their chosen straw man, John Calvin, did not completely fit the bill in opposing their five points of Arminianism, but they needed someone and so Calvin would have to do. Calvin was adequate enough to step in as a replacement for the biblical opposition to their heathen doctrine. That way they could attack the theological writings of Calvin and not have to address the bible passages that impeach their Arminian theology.


            Labeling the Christian response to the Arminian error as Calvinism was a subtle way to give the impression that Arminianism was a theological doctrine on equal footing with another theological doctrine they labeled Calvinism. Thus, the people could be sold the bill of goods that Arminianism is a theological doctrine, the adherents of which are opposed by Calvinists, rather than what it really is: an attack on biblical Christianity. By use of the label Calvinism, the Arminians could reduce the stature of the biblical objection to Arminianism and thus lower the defenses of the common people to the danger of the spiritual contagion.


            Once the Arminians labeled the gospel of grace “Calvinism” they could begin their attack on it, not by attacking the bible, but by attacking the character of John Calvin. All men are sinners, and when the devil can ascribe a biblical doctrine to a man, it is a simple matter of destroying the credibility of the man to tarnish the truth of that doctrine. That strategy is still in use today. For example, David Cloud, founder of Way of Life Literature and publisher of the Fundamental Baptist Information Service, Endnote uses that strategy when discussing the theological soundness of the sovereignty of God in salvation. Cloud begins by attacking the grace gospel by describing it as a Calvinism. Cloud states: “Calvinism is a theology that was developed by John Calvin (1509-64) in the sixteenth century . . . every standard point of TULIP theology can be found in Calvin’s Institutes.” Once Cloud attributes the gospel of God’s sovereign grace to Calvin, he then rips into Calvin, destroying Calvin’s credibility, which serves to undermine the doctrine of God’s sovereign grace.

 

Calvin was vicious toward his enemies, acting more like a devouring wolf than a harmless sheep. Historian William Jones observed that “that most hateful feature of popery adhered to Calvin through life, the spirit of persecution.” Note how he described his theological opponents: “...all that filth and villainy...mad dogs who vomit their filth against the majesty of God and want to pervert all religion. Must they be spared?” (Oct. 16, 1555). Calvin hated the Anabaptists, though they were miles closer to the Scriptural pattern for the New Testament church than he was. He called them “henchmen of Satan.” Four men who disagreed with Calvin on who should be admitted to the Lord’s Supper were beheaded, quartered, and their body parts hung in strategic locations in Geneva as a warning to others. He burned Michael Servetus (for rejecting infant baptism and for denying Christ’s deity). Calvin wrote about Servetus, “One should not be content with simply killing such people, but should burn them cruelly.” Endnote


            The implication of Cloud’s attack on Calvin is clear. Stay clear of the doctrine of God’s sovereign grace, because the author of that theology, John Calvin, was a “devouring wolf” who “had a “spirit of persecution” that drove him to “hate Anabaptists,” whom he called “henchmen of Satan.” If that is not bad enough, Calvin had men “beheaded,” “quartered,” and “burned” for disagreeing with him. Once Cloud establishes the devilish character of Calvin, he begins his argument against Calvinism. It is not surprising to find that he claims that Calvinism is not biblically based but rather that “Calvinism interprets scripture by theology rather than by context.” Endnote


            Cloud deceptively analyzes the issues under headings that draw the battle lines as “The Bible vs. The Calvinist Doctrine.” “THE BIBLE VS. THE CALVINIST DOCTRINE THAT FAITH IS A WORK . . . THE BIBLE VS. THE CALVINIST DOCTRINE THAT THE NEW BIRTH PRECEDES FAITH . . . THE BIBLE VS. THE CALVINIST DOCTRINE OF THE TOTAL DEPRAVITY OF MAN . . . THE BIBLE VS. THE CALVINIST DOCTRINE OF IRRESISTIBLE GRACE . . . THE BIBLE VS. THE CALVINIST DOCTRINE OF LIMITED ATONEMENT.” Endnote (all capital letters in original).


            Notice Cloud claims that Calvinists believe that “faith is a work.” That is absolutely false. Opponents of Arminianism believe that the Arminian doctrine of salvation by the free will of man has at its core a theology of salvation by works. Opponents of Arminianism do not believe that faith is a work.


            The following excerpt is found on BibleBelievers.net, which is a popular website with thousands of unique visitors each month. BibleBelievers.net describes itself as “Independent, Fundamental, Evangelical, Born-Again Christians Using Only the AV1611 (KJV).” The excerpt posted by BibleBelievers.net is from a position paper by an organization known as the “Fundamental Baptist World-Wide Mission.” The position paper is representative of the Arminian approach in many Baptist churches. It is an example of the subtle methods used by the devil to undermine grace of biblical Christianity by undermining the man (Calvin) whom the Arminians put in place of Christ to represent the gospel of God’s sovereign grace.

 

As for John Calvin, he was not a Baptist. He was a Reformer. He was not Christian in his attitude and behavior. He was a tyrant who cast those who disagreed with him into prison. In 1553, Micheal Servetus, a Spaniard, a scholar, a physician, a scientist of originality, and a man who was deeply religious and devoted to Christ, vigorously opposed Calvin on the doctrines of predestination and infant baptism. Endnote


             The Fundamental Baptist World-Wide Mission then explains how Servetus was unmercifully burned at the stake, allegedly at the insistence of John Calvin. The conclusion is that if you believe the gospel of grace you are a Calvinist and a follower of a brutal tyrant who burns people at the stake. The Fundamental Baptist World-Wide Mission position paper notes in a parenthetical: “while Servetus is to be commended for opposing predestination and infant baptism, some resources note that he also taught against the essential Christian doctrine of the Trinity which is heresy.” Endnote Notice how the Baptist mission organization lump infant baptism (advocated by Calvin), which is unbiblical with predestination, which is clearly biblical. By doing that they link in the mind of the reader that since infant baptism advocated by Calvin is unbiblical so too must be predestination advocated by Calvin.


            Arminians must attack Calvin in order to avoid appearing to attack the bible, which is their real target. The bible states clearly: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Ephesians 1:5. If that is not convincing enough, Ephesians 1:11 states unequivocally: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Ephesians 1:11. Romans, chapter 8 further affirms the doctrine of predestination:

 

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Romans 8:29-30.


            How does the Baptist mission organization address those passages? What follows is the deceptive treatment of those passages by the Baptist organization:

 

The word predestination is found in only two books of the Bible, Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:5,11. In both texts predestination speaks not of people being lost or saved, but rather of position or privilege to be shared in the future by those who are already saved. Endnote


            The deception is subtle. The Fundamental Baptist World-Wide Mission correctly states that the passages address position or privilege, but then sates that the passages do not speak about people being lost or saved, as though somehow God predestined the privileges of those saved but he did not predestine their salvation itself. The very idea is unsupportable by any passage in the bible. Certainly, each passage addresses the blessings of salvation, but they also address the predestination of those who were chosen for salvation by the sovereign will of God. The writer tries to dismiss the passages as inapplicable to the discussion, when in fact they address directly the issue and should end the discussion.


            Romans 8:29-30 expressly states the progressive steps to salvation that begin with the foreknowledge of God: “whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate . . . whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Clearly, that passage addresses the progression from foreknowledge to predestination to calling to justification to glorification of those chosen by God for salvation. There is simply no other biblical interpretation, but that those who are saved are predestined for salvation. Ephesians 1:5 states clearly: that he “predestinated us unto the adoption of children.” The adoption by God as his children is by definition salvation. To suggest otherwise is simply wrong.


            The only way around those passages is to ignore the passages by deceptively saying they do not apply and put John Calvin in their place and attack him. The Baptist mission position paper goes on the attack and labels its discourse: “The Heresy of John Calvin.” As is typical for Arminians, the writings of John Calvin are cited by Arminians in place of the bible to represent the sovereign grace of the gospel of Christ. By attacking their straw man, John Calvin, Arminians feel that they are absolved from having to cite to the bible passages that support the sovereign grace of God. As we have seen, if there are any bible passages inconvenient to the Arminian agenda, Arminians simply dismiss them as inapplicable. They then cherry pick other bible passages taken out of context and twisted to support their Arminian theology. The Arminians Juxtapose their context free bible passages interpreted to mean what they do not actually say against the writings of John Calvin. The subtle deception is accomplished.


            Michael Bunker explains some of the historical details leading up to the development of the so-called five points of Calvinism and the spread of the Arminian error in churches throughout the world:

 

In the late 1590's Jacobus Arminius was back in Amsterdam, teaching his Pelagian/Molinist lies. Enough questions had been brought forth concerning his anti-Grace teachings, that a strict Calvinist by the name of Franciscus Gomarus was called upon to interview Arminius to test his orthodoxy. Arminius was applying for a professorship in Theology at the University of Leyden, and the occasion of his job interview would allow his belief system also to be tested. Apparently, Arminius had either become so skilled a liar or his skills in evasion and escape had become so attuned by this point, that he passed the test with flying colors. The question of why Beza and Gomarus, both strict Grace and Election adherents, had both approved of Arminius is unclear, but both were likely blinded by their belief in honor and integrity amongst theologians. During a time when men were willing to die for their faith, the thought that someone would patently lie about his beliefs in order to receive promotions and to avoid detection would have been far from the minds of these two reformers. But lying and deceit were well within the oath and charter of the Jesuits. We will see that these traits are also widely accepted by the intellectual heirs of Jacobus Arminius.

 

Arminius died in 1609, long before the upheavals caused by his teachings would erupt in full force. In 1610, the disciples of Arminius signed a "Remonstrance" or a petition to the government for protection of their Arminian views. In their Remonstrance, the Arminians put forth their theology finally for the entire world to see. It consisted of five main points:

 

1. Conditional election. The Remonstrants held to the Molinist view of Middle-Knowledge. Election was conditional on both God's foreknowledge, and the free will of humans.

 

2. Universal atonement. The Remonstrants held to the Jesuit/Molinist view on the atonement, as pushed by the Catholics in the Council of Trent. The redemptive blood of Jesus Christ was available to all mankind, and God had not applied or given this atonement to any specific "elect".

 

3. Total depravity. The Remonstrants held on to the view of original sin, but believed that since humans were HUMANS, and not sticks or plants, there was enough human left in them to enable them to believe on Christ, or reject Him. In effect, humans were not TOTALLY depraved.

 

4. Sufficient but resistible grace. The Remonstrants believed that Grace was sufficient to save, but that this Grace could be resisted by man. Thereby man could thwart the will of God (which evidently was to save ALL men) by refusing to be saved.

 

5. Uncertainty about the perseverance of the saints. The Remonstrants believed that a truly born-again believer could cast off that Grace by certain behavior and subsequently go to Hell.

 

I will tell you that what you have just read is the common teaching of the Protestant churches throughout the world, with very few exceptions.

 

I will also tell you that these beliefs, commonly called "Arminian", are cogent, logical and ultimately WRONG. I say that they are cogent and logical in order to tell you that the only thing WORSE than the Arminian viewpoint, is any viewpoint that attempts to COMPROMISE between these points and the Doctrines of Grace as taught in the Bible. Challenges to the Doctrines of Grace are usually predicated by the attempt to label them as "Calvinism", although Calvin AND Arminius were gone by the time this Remonstrance was published. What the enemies of Grace term as "Calvinism" or now the more hated "Hyper-Calvinism" was actually just the Gospel response to the Remonstrance of 1610! It is as if a man named Gomer created a new doctrine called GOMERISM, in which he proposed that we all evolved slowly from dirt particles on the eyelids of gnats. If another man named Goober published a biblical challenge to this stupid doctrine, it is as if folks ran about for another 400 years preaching against Gooberism (or worse, Hyper-Gooberism) as a contrivance of that heretic Goober!

 

In 1611, the true preachers of the Gospel answered with the Contra-Remonstrance of 1611. Robert Godfrey writes, "It it surely ironic that through the centuries there has been so much talk of the 'five points of Calvinism' when in fact Calvinists did not originate a discussion of five points. Indeed Calvinism has never been summarized in five points. Calvinism has only offered five responses to the five errors of Arminianism."

 

The Jesuits were not done with their work. Although they had planted the seeds of their papal tares in the Lord's ground, they had not yet seen their crop come to fruition. In the 1700's, the doctrine of Arminianism would be fully embraced and rapidly distributed by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Wesley wrote a defense of Arminianism entitled, "What is an Arminian". The folly of Arminianism was also challenged, and rightly so, by that Great Christian thinker Jonathan Edwards, who published his treatise "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in 1741, a sermon that profoundly trounced the foolishness of Arminian doctrine. Edwards became president of Princeton in 1758, but "mysteriously" died of a smallpox vaccine within weeks (see the oath of the Jesuit above). Endnote


            Michael Bunker explains the bitter harvest manifested in the churches today from the Arminian contagion and what is at stake by that corruption of the gospel of grace.

 

Loyola's plan has come to fruition. The Jesuit doctrines of anti-Grace have become the dominant teaching of the churches of the world. The Woman that Rides the Beast, that mother of Harlots, has seen her offspring grow up into maturity. The Whore churches that dot every street corner have the stench of their mother.

 

Those people who are NOT brain-addled and stupefied in the sugar-water Harlot Churches, are busy decrying the evil of the coming New World Order, while in ignorance they embrace the very doctrines of Antichrist.

 

It is the Ultimate Conspiracy, and if it were possible, it would deceive even the very elect. Do Catholics go to heaven? You better find out, because odds are you are one. Endnote


            Keith Drury is an Arminian theologian who teaches courses in practical ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University. Drury confirms Bunker’s assessment. Drury honestly reveals the dangers of the Arminian theology. Drury explains that Arminianism is a very attractive philosophy for the unsaved world, and it often leads to humanism. Humanism is a theology where the God of the bible does not exist and man instead is his own god. It is the foundational philosophy for communism.


            Drury’s admissions are yet more evidence that Arminian churches are full of unsaved “tares,” who worship a different Jesus from the true Jesus in the bible. The unsaved develop a taste for the deadly spiritual poison of Arminianism and feel quite comfortable with the Arminian message. A true Christian, may find himself in an Arminian church for a time, but he will begin to feel spiritually ill from the Arminian anti-gospel poison and eventually leave that church in search of the eternal medicine found in the true gospel. “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” John 10:5. The sheep of Christ will leave the stranger who preaches the false anti-gospel of Arminianism and seek out the doctrine of Christ. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27. This constant purging from the Arminian churches of the true wheat leaves behind in those churches the unsaved tares sowed by the enemy. See Matthew 13:24-30.


            Notice, that in the excerpt from Drury’s article below that Drury describes the struggle as being between two opposing theological camps: Calvinism vs. Arminianism. That makes it easy to sway the reader by the “logic” of Arminianism. The unsaved world views the simplicity of the true gospel as “foolishness.” The Arminians use their “logic” against their straw-man, Calvinism. That way the Arminians can attack “foolish” Calvinism, instead of being seen as attacking the “foolish” gospel. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18. Keith Drury explains:

 

There is little doubt about it: Arminianism has triumphed in the pew, if not in the seminary. The average Christian is a practicing Arminian, even if he claims to be a Calvinist in theory. "Practical" modern church members are increasingly rejecting traditional "five-point Calvinism." While Arminianism has been a "minority view" for decades, today there is a major drift toward Arminianism in most Calvinist churches.

 

I spent several years as a determined five-pointer as a young man before changing my mind to accept Arminianism. I made the switch purposefully and with quite a bit of painful study as a student at Princeton Seminary. But many Calvinists today are making the switch for purely pragmatic reasons. They have not become convinced the Bible really teaches the Arminian approach. Frankly, Arminianism is simply more palatable to a secular culture. It "fits in" to the mind-set of the people in their pews. Like it or not, the secular mind is naturally Arminian in its outlook. I've discovered this repeatedly myself by administering a theological questionnaire to secular students in an adult education program. These "unchurched Harrys" invariably register Arminian theologically.

 

Face it, Arminianism is simply more logical. It makes sense to the person on the street. And today's church is scrambling to make sense to unbelievers. We want to sound sensible, logical, rational, enlightened, fair. Arminianism is so much more appealing to worldly people.


* * *

 

I admit that I am a committed Arminian. Of course I welcome the host of new "practical Arminians" joining ranks with my theological tradition. I think this approach fits better with the Bible, reason, tradition, and experience. But I must be honest. There are some real hazards over here in the Arminian ocean—especially for Calvinistic churches. You can sink your theological ship here. As a local "pilot," I'd suggest you keep your eyes open wide for submerged rocks!

 

We Arminians tend to put too much emphasis on man and his decisions, and not enough on God and the gospel. Sometimes we are tempted to act as if God is helpless without us and our work. We lean toward pragmatism and are constantly looking for "what works best" as if methodology were more important than the message. Since we believe that all men can be saved, we tend to assume that if they aren't saved, we have not packaged the invitation (or the message) right. We especially love management, leadership, programs, marketing, and research data. We tend to focus more on the "potential convert" than on the eternal gospel. Arminianism easily leans toward a NIKE mentality—"Just do it." We are somewhat less inclined to pray in order to move God to "do it" (see Divine-Human Synergism in Ministry).

 

And, as has always been true, Arminianism can be taken to the extreme of humanism. Calvinists have a sovereign God and an inactive man. Humanists have a sovereign man and an inactive God. Arminians lean toward the humanist end of this continuum and thus are always in danger of becoming humanists (see Humanism in Scripture and Culture: Recovering a Balance).

 

So if you are a former Calvinist who has drifted into Arminianism with little thought and for mostly pragmatic reasons, be careful as you navigate in this territory. You probably knew the dangers of your former theology, especially of "hyper-Calvinism." But you may not be aware of the dangers over here.


* * *

 

If you are recently coming from the Calvinistic end, be careful not to pass right by the middle ground and run off to extreme Arminianism: man-centered humanism. Endnote


For more information on this topic, go to www.antigospel.com or contact Edward Hendrie at edwardhendrie [at] gmail [dot] com.