As we continue this series contrasting the doctrines of grace with the doctrines of free will, let’s take note of the history of this debate. The debates betwwen Arminius and Calvin go back in some form to Augustine of Hippo’s battle with the Pelagians in the 5th century on theological cornerstones of soteriology, including depravity, predestination, and atonement. Amidst the struggle the “Five points of Arminianism” was birthed. As a response to these points the Calvin camp responded with the “Five points of Calvinism” otherwise known as the “Doctrines of Grace.”
So let us begin to unpack these to opposing view points by first looking at the Arminian view from the defining document of Arminianism (actually formed by his followers after his death in 1610) Called “the Five Arminian Articles”
Article I. [Conditional Election]
That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the gospel in John 3:36: ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,’ and according to other passages of Scripture also.
Article II. [General Atonement]
That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John 3:16: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ And in the First Epistle of John 2:2: ‘And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.’
Article III. [Free Will]
[note: This Article seems to support total depravity, however, when considered with article IV, it is clear the Arminian doctrine is opposed to total depravity. For this reason, The Canons of Dordt rebuked articles III and IV together.]
That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5: ‘Without me ye can do nothing.’
Article IV. [Resistible Grace]
That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, inasmuch as it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Ghost. Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places.
Article V. [Falling from Grace]
That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the Word of Christ, John 10:28: ‘Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.’ But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.
In part 3 we will examine the response to these points of Arminianism from Calvin’s followers which is know as the “5 points of Calvinism…Stay tuned!