Arminianism Shmarminianism

I was digging through my Complete Works of John Owen v. 10 today and found a very interesting work by him called A Display of Arminianism where it is his aim to show why Arminianism is silly, inconsistent, and not Christian. The great thing about John Owen, whether you agree or disagree with him, is that is unbelievably thorough in his analysis and treatment of views contrary to his. When he sat down to write, he did so as if the souls of men were on the line.

Owen explains the reason for his work in the preface:

The fates of our church having of late devolved the government thereof into the hands of men tainted with this poison, Arminianism became backed with the powerful arguments of praise and preferment, and quickly prevailed to beat poor naked Truth into a corner. It is high time, then, for all the lovers of the old ways to oppose this innovation, prevailing by such unworthy means, before our breach grow great like the sea, and there be none to heal it.

If it is not clear by this that Owen despises Arminianism, then that will become clear shortly. What strikes me is Owen’s lack of political correctness and “respect” for opposing views. He simply calls the view a poison to the church. A note of clarification is necessary here because like there are differing views within Calvinism[1], there are also different views within Arminianism. The strand of Arminianism that Owen is dealing with is something along the lines of the mutated baby of Classical Arminiamism[2] and Rationalism[3]. It was Arminianism with a very strong Pelagian[4] aftertaste. To be clear, Owen would oppose any form of Arminianism, however the predominant strand of Arminianism in his day was heavily influenced by Rationalism. In his work, Owen introduces his case against Arminianism:

The soul of man, by reason of the corruption of nature, is not only darkened with a mist of ignorance, whereby he is disenabled for the comprehending of divine truth, but is also armed with prejudice and opposition against some parts thereof, which are either most above or most contrary to some false principles which he hath framed unto himself. As a desire of self-sufficiency was the first cause of this infirmity, so a conceit thereof is that wherewith he still languisheth; nothing doth he more contend for than an independency of any supreme power, which might either help, hinder, or control him in his actions… Never did any men more eagerly endeavor the erecting of this Babel than the Arminians, the modern blinded patrons of human self-sufficiency…

From here on out I am only going to outline what Owen says about what Arminianists believe and what they deny.  Hopefully this will spur you on to read what he has to say.

1)  To exempt themselves from God’ jurisdiction,—to free themselves from the supreme dominion of his all-ruling providence…[so] to have an absolute independent power in all their actions.

1) They deny the eternity and unchangeableness of God’s decrees

2) They question the prescience or foreknowledge of God

3) They depose the all-governing providence of this King of nations, denying its effectual power in turning the hearts of men

4) They deny the irresistibly and uncontrollable power of God’s will, affirming that oftentimes he seriously wills and intends what he cannot accomplish

2)  To clear human nature from the heavy imputation of being sinful, corrupted, wise to do evil but unable to do good; and so to vindicate unto themselves a power and ability of doing all that good which God can justly require to be done by them in the state wherein they area proud Luciferian endeavor!

1) They deny that doctrine of predestination whereby God is affirmed to have chosen certain men before the foundation of the world… for this doctrine would make the special grace of God to be the sole cause of all the good that is in the elect

2) They deny original sin and its demerit.

3) They will claim that if you charge our human nature with repugnancy to the law of God, they will maintain that it was also in Adam when he was first created, and so comes from God himself. (In other words, it is God’s fault that we are in our corrupted state).

4) They deny the efficacy of the merit of the death of Christ.

5) They grant some to have salvation apart from Christ.

6) Having thus robbed God, Christ, and his grace, they adorn their idol free-will with many glorious properties no way due unto it.

7) They do not only claim to their new-made deity a saving power, but also affirm that he is very active and operative in the great work of saving our souls.

 


[1] Simply defined as a theological system that is centered around the Sovereignty of God. Basic tenants: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints (TULIP)

[2] Developed mainly as a response to Calvinism. Where as Calvinists see predestination as an unconditional action of GOd in electing individuals to salvation, Arminianism teaches that predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge in seeing whether an individual would freely accept of reject Christ.

[3]  A reliance on reason, rather than revelation (Scripture) for the establishment of Truth.

[4]  Taught by British monk Pelagius (354-415) who emphasized human effort and merit as the means of salvation, thus divine grace was unnecessary (Strongly opposed by Augustine).

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