Sometimes you run across a Calvinist writer who attacks Arminianism, and if you do not know what Arminianism is, you will have no clue what he is talking about. To help you understand what Arminianism means, I have included a definition below. It should be noted that while the doctrine is called “Arminianism”, it should actually be called “Bibleism”, because Arminius taught what the Bible teaches on these issues. In fact, the component of Arminianism that says that we are morally free, is correct and is the truth that caused God to need to create the present temporary creation. Free moral agency is so important that there is no purpose for creation without it.
Calvinism has focused so much upon the sovereignty of God that they cannot reconcile man’s free will and God’s sovereignty and hence deny man’s free will. Their problem is that they have a limited concept of God’s power. They cannot imagine how God can carry out His will in a world of free moral agents. They fail to recognize that His power is sufficient to accomplish His will in a world of free moral agents, even as He was able to set Israel free of stubborn Pharaoh without violating Pharaoh’s ability to choose. God simply made things so nasty for Pharaoh that he was eventually compelled to let Israel go because it was better to let Israel go than to suffer the consequences of keeping them. Judges, government agencies, bosses, fathers, and mothers are all familiar with the concept of imposing constraints upon beings over whom they have authority. A judge who says obey me or go to jail does not violate free will, but he makes the alternative of not obeying so expensive that no other choice is reasonable. Actually, incarcerating someone does not violate free will, but it does limit choices that are available upon which free will may act. An inmate has free moral agency, but his sphere of choices is quite limited. The sovereignty of God is not limited by man’s ability to choose to obey because God has appointed a day in the which He will judge the world (Acts 17:31) and every man shall give an account of the choices that he has made (Rom 14:12, I Pet 4:5)
Arminianism is a view of the atonement that is named, not for Armenia, but for the Dutch Protestant theologian Arminius. It was in response to Calvinism. Because Calvin’s views were already established when Arminius formulated his rebuttal, Calvinists attacked Arminianism as a heresy, even though the viewpoint is legitimately drawn from scripture and within the historic mainstream. The controversy has not ended: recently, a well-known preacher misrepresented Arminianism on television and portrayed it as a dangerous heresy. The Arminian position is as follows:
• Salvation is conditional upon repentance and faith.
• The atonement is universal; that is, Jesus died for everyone.
• We are morally free. We must choose between good and evil, salvation and death; and we are held accountable for our choice. (That is, Jesus died for everyone, but only those who have faith are saved.)
• The grace of God can be resisted. We can choose not to be saved. (Matthew 23:37)
• There is danger of apostasy. While the blood of Christ covers day to day transgressions of omission and commission of the child of God (I Jn 1:7), it is possible to deliberately abandon it. (Hebrews 6:4-6)
Within the United States, most evangelical groups that are Wesleyan in theology or origin adhere to some form of Arminianism. Outside the United States, most evangelicals subscribe to some form of Arminianism. Arminianism is more compatible with eastern Orthodoxy than Calvinism is.