Are Arminians Semi-Pelagian?

, posted by Godismyjudge

Calling Arminians Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian is somewhat of a tradition within Calvinism. The Synod of Dort repeatedly did so, clearing the path for generations to come. I recently completed a study on John Owen’s book Death of Death in the Death of Christ, where he relates Arminians with Pelagians. Additionally, J. I. Packer calls Arminians Semi-Pelagian in his introduction to Death of Death in the Death of Christ. The charge that Arminians are either Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians is false. I intend to demonstrate this through 1) comparing the Canons of Orange to Arminius and 2) critiquing Packer’s argument.

The primary difference between Arminians and both Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians is the issue of the necessity of grace. Pelagians deny grace is necessary for conversion. Semi-Pelagians deny grace is necessary for man to begin conversion (although, contrary to Pelagians, they think God’s must meet man half way). Arminians insist that God’s grace is necessary from the very beginning of conversion and throughout the entire process. For a simple explanation of the differences by way of analogy, please see this post.

Why compare Arminius to the Canons of Orange to address this topic? To get answers straight from the horse’s mouth. It’s my contention that Arminius is the best source on historic Arminianism and the Canons of Orange are the best historical source on what the church condemned about Semi-Pelagianism. For more on the Canons of Orange, please see the New Advent’s excellent summary on the subject here.

Agreement between Arminius and the Canons of Orange
All quotations from the Canons of Orange taken from here. I didn’t provide comments, because I thought Arminius’ agreement with the Canons was straightforward. If you disagree, please comment.

The Canons will be introduced by the canon # (i.e. CANON 1.…), quotations from Arminius’ will be italicized.

CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was “changed for the worse” through the offense of Adam’s sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20); and, “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?” (Rom. 6:16); and, “For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19).

XV. The proper and immediate effect of this sin was the offending of the Deity. For since the form of sin is “the transgression of the law,” (1 John iii, 4,) it primarily and immediately strikes against the legislator himself, (Gen. iii, 11,) and this with the offending of one whose express will it was that his law should not be offended. From this violation of his law, God conceives just displeasure, which is the second effect of sin. (iii, 16-19, 23, 24.) But to anger succeeds infliction of punishment, which was in this instance two-fold. (1.) A liability to two deaths. (ii, 17; Rom. vi, 23.) (2.) The withdrawing of that primitive righteousness and holiness, which, because they are the effects of the Holy Spirit dwelling in man, ought not to have remained in him after he had fallen from the favour of God, and had incurred the Divine displeasure. (Luke xix, 26.) For this Spirit is a seal of God’s favour and good will. (Rom. viii, 14, 15; 1 Cor. ii, 12.)

XVI. The whole of this sin, however, is not peculiar to our first parents, but is common to the entire race and to all their posterity, who, at the time when this sin was committed, were in their loins, and who have since descended from them by the natural mode of propagation, according to the primitive benediction. For in Adam “all have sinned.” (Rom. v, 12.) Wherefore, whatever punishment was brought down upon our first parents, has likewise pervaded and yet pursues all their posterity. So that all men “are by nature the children of wrath,” (Ephes. ii, 3,) obnoxious to condemnation, and to temporal as well as to eternal death; they are also devoid of that original righteousness and holiness. (Rom. v, 12, 18, 19.) With these evils they would remain oppressed forever, unless they were liberated by Christ Jesus; to whom be glory forever.

CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam’s sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

VI. Beside this punishment, which was instantly inflicted, they rendered themselves liable to two other punishments; that is, to temporal death, which is the separation of the soul from the body; and to death eternal, which is the separation of the entire man from God, his chief good.…

…IX. But because the condition of the covenant into which God entered with our first parents was this, that, if they continued in the favour and grace of God by an observance of this command and of others, the gifts conferred on them should be transmitted to their posterity, by the same divine grace which they had, themselves, received; but that, if by disobedience they rendered themselves unworthy of those blessings, their posterity, likewise, should not possess them, and should be liable to the contrary evils. This was the reason why all men, who were to be propagated from them in a natural way, became obnoxious to death temporal and death eternal, and devoid of this gift of the Holy Spirit or original righteousness. This punishment usually receives the appellation of “a privation of the image of God,” and “original sin.”

CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good.

CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

VII. In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man.

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

III. Evangelical faith is an assent of the mind, produced by the Holy Spirit, through the gospel, in sinners…VI. The author of faith is the Holy Spirit, whom the Son sends from the Father, as his advocate and substitute, who may manage his cause in the world and against it. The instrument is the gospel, or the word of faith, containing the meaning concerning God and Christ which the Spirit proposes to the understanding, and of which he there works a persuasion.

CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.

CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, “For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).

In reference to Divine Grace, I believe, 1. It is a gratuitous affection by which God is kindly affected towards a miserable sinner, and according to which he, in the first place, gives his Son, “that whosoever believers in him might have eternal life,” and, afterwards, he justifies him in Christ Jesus and for his sake, and adopts him into the right of sons, unto salvation. 2. It is an infusion (both into the human understanding and into the will and affections,) of all those gifts of the Holy Spirit which appertain to the regeneration and renewing of man — such as faith, hope, charity, &c.; for, without these gracious gifts, man is not sufficient to think, will, or do any thing that is good. 3. It is that perpetual assistance and continued aid of the Holy Spirit, according to which He acts upon and excites to good the man who has been already renewed, by infusing into him salutary cogitations, and by inspiring him with good desires, that he may thus actually will whatever is good; and according to which God may then will and work together with man, that man may perform whatever he wills.

CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come to the grace of baptism by mercy but others through free will, which has manifestly been corrupted in all those who have been born after the transgression of the first man, it is proof that he has no place in the true faith. For he denies that the free will of all men has been weakened through the sin of the first man, or at least holds that it has been affected in such a way that they have still the ability to seek the mystery of eternal salvation by themselves without the revelation of God. The Lord himself shows how contradictory this is by declaring that no one is able to come to him “unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44), as he also says to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17), and as the Apostle says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

X. Exactly correspondent to this darkness of the mind, and perverseness of the heart, is the utter weakness of all the powers to perform that which is truly good, and to omit the perpetration of that which is evil, in a due mode and from a due end and cause. The subjoined sayings of Christ serve to describe this impotence. “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. vii, 18.) “How can ye, being evil, speak good things?” (xii, 34.) The following relates to the good which is properly prescribed in the gospel: “No man can come to me, except the Father draw him.” (John vi, 44.) As do likewise the following words of the Apostle: “The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be;” (Rom. viii, 7;) therefore, that man over whom it has dominion, cannot perform what the law commands. The same Apostle says, “When we were in the flesh, the motions of sins wrought in us,” or flourished energetically. (vii, 5.) To the same purpose are all those passages in which the man existing in this state is said to be under the power of sin and Satan, reduced to the condition of a slave, and “taken captive by the Devil.” (Rom. vi, 20; 2 Tim. ii, 26.)

CANON 9. Concerning the succor of God. It is a mark of divine favor when we are of a right purpose and keep our feet from hypocrisy and unrighteousness; for as often as we do good, God is at work in us and with us, in order that we may do so.

VI. The author of sanctification is God, the Holy Father himself, in his Son who is the Holy of holies, through the Spirit of holiness. The external instrument is the word of God; the internal one is faith yielded to the word preached. For the word does not sanctify, only as it is preached, unless the faith be added by which the hearts of men are purified.

VII. the object of sanctification is man, a sinner, and yet a believer — a sinner, because, being contaminated through sin and addicted to a life of sin, he is unfit to serve the living God — a believer, because he is united to Christ through faith in him, on whom our holiness is founded; and he is planted together with Christ and joined to him in a conformity with his death and resurrection. Hence, he dies to sin, and is excited or raised up to a new life.

VIII. The subject is, properly, the soul of man. And, first, the mind, which is illuminated, the dark clouds of ignorance being driven away. Next, the inclination or the will, by which it is delivered from the dominion of indwelling sin, and is filled with the spirit of holiness. The body is not changed, either as to its essence or its inward qualifies; but as it is a part of the man, who is consecrated to God, and is an instrument united to the soul, having been removed by the sanctified soul which inhabits it from the purposes of sin, it is admitted to and employed in the service of God, “that our whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

IX. The form lies in the purification from sin, and in a conformity with God in the body of Christ through his Spirit.

CANON 10. Concerning the succor of God. The succor of God is to be ever sought by the regenerate and converted also, so that they may be able to come to a successful end or persevere in good works.

My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies — yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling.

CANON 11. Concerning the duty to pray. None would make any true prayer to the Lord had he not received from him the object of his prayer, as it is written, “Of thy own have we given thee” (1 Chron. 29:14).

…let us by prayer and supplication implore his present aid, in the name of Jesus Christ our great High Priest. “Do thou, therefore, O holy and merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Fountain of all grace and truth, vouchsafe to grant thy favourable presence to us who are a great congregation assembled together in thy holy name. Sprinkle thou our spirits, souls, and bodies, with the most gracious dew of thy immeasurable holiness, that the converse of thy saints with each other may be pleasing to thee. Assist us by the grace of thy Holy Spirit, who may yet more and more illuminate our minds — imbued with the true knowledge of Thyself and thy Son; may He also inflame our hearts with a sincere zeal for thy glory; may He open my mouth and guide my tongue, that I may be enabled to declare concerning the Priesthood of thy Son those things which are true and just and holy, to the glory of thy name and to the gathering of all of us together in the Lord. Amen.”

CANON 12. Of what sort we are whom God loves. God loves us for what we shall be by his gift, and not by our own deserving.

“The decree concerning the gift of faith, precedes the decree of election;” in the explanation of which I employ the same distinction as in the former, and say, “The decree of election, by which God determines to justify and save believers, precedes the decree concerning the bestowment of faith.” For faith is unnecessary, nay it is useless, without this previous decree. And the decree of election, by which God resolves to justify and save this or that particular person, is subsequent to that decree according to which he determines to administer the means necessary and efficacious to faith, that is, the decree concerning the gift of faith.

CANON 13. Concerning the restoration of free will. The freedom of will that was destroyed in the first man can be restored only by the grace of baptism, for what is lost can be returned only by the one who was able to give it. Hence the Truth itself declares: “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

[GODISMYJUDGE comment: Arminius didn’t think that that baptism confers grace]

…it is unwisely asserted that, through it, grace is conferred; that is, by some other act of conferring than that which is done through typifying and sealing: For grace cannot be immediately conferred by water.

CANON 14. No mean wretch is freed from his sorrowful state, however great it may be, save the one who is anticipated by the mercy of God, as the Psalmist says, “Let thy compassion come speedily to meet us” (Ps. 79:8), and again, “My God in his steadfast love will meet me” (Ps. 59:10).

II. We define Vocation, a gracious act of God in Christ, by which, through his word and Spirit, He calls forth sinful men, who are liable to condemnation and placed under the dominion of sin, from the condition of the animal life, and from the pollutions and corruptions of this world, (2 Tim. i, 9; Matt. xi, 28; 1 Pet. ii, 9, 10; Gal. i, 4; 2 Pet. ii, 20; Rom. x, 13-15; 1 Pet. iii, 19; Gen. vi, 3,) unto “the fellowship of Jesus Christ,” and of his kingdom and its benefits; that, being united unto Him as their Head, they may derive from him life, sensation, motion, and a plenitude of every spiritual blessing, to the glory of God and their own salvation. (1 Cor. i, 9; Gal. ii, 20; Ephes. i, 3, 6; 2 Thess. ii, 13, 14.)

CANON 15. Adam was changed, but for the worse, through his own iniquity from what God made him. Through the grace of God the believer is changed, but for the better, from what his iniquity has done for him. The one, therefore, was the change brought about by the first sinner; the other, according to the Psalmist, is the change of the right hand of the Most High (Ps. 77:10).

VIII. The cause of this repentance is, God by his word and Spirit in Christ. For it is a repentance tending not to despair, but to salvation; but such it cannot be, except with respect to Christ, in whom, alone, the sinner can obtain deliverance from the condemnation and dominion of sin.

CANON 16. No man shall be honored by his seeming attainment, as though it were not a gift, or suppose that he has received it because a missive from without stated it in writing or in speech. For the Apostle speaks thus, “For if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose” (Gal. 2:21); and “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (Eph.4:8, quoting Ps.68:18). It is from this source that any man has what he does; but whoever denies that he has it from this source either does not truly have it, or else “even what he has will be taken away” (Matt. 25:29).

II. We define Vocation, a gracious act of God in Christ, by which, through his word and Spirit, He calls forth sinful men, who are liable to condemnation and placed under the dominion of sin, from the condition of the animal life, and from the pollutions and corruptions of this world, (2 Tim. i, 9; Matt. xi, 28; 1 Pet. ii, 9, 10; Gal. i, 4; 2 Pet. ii, 20; Rom. x, 13-15; 1 Pet. iii, 19; Gen. vi, 3,) unto “the fellowship of Jesus Christ,” and of his kingdom and its benefits; that, being united unto Him as their Head, they may derive from him life, sensation, motion, and a plenitude of every spiritual blessing, to the glory of God and their own salvation. (1 Cor. i, 9; Gal. ii, 20; Ephes. i, 3, 6; 2 Thess. ii, 13, 14.)

III. The efficient cause of this vocation is God the Father in the Son. The Son himself, as appointed by the Father to be the Mediator and the king of his church, calls men by the Holy Spirit; as He is the Spirit of God given to the Mediator; and as He is the Spirit of Christ the king and the head of his church, by whom both “the Father and the Son hitherto work” (1 Thess. ii, 12; Ephes. ii, 17; iv, 11, 12; Rev. iii, 20; John v, 17.) But this vocation is so administered by the Spirit, that the Holy Spirit is himself its effector: for He appoints bishops, sends forth teachers, endues them with gifts, grants them his assistance, and obtains authority for the word and bestows efficacy upon it. (Heb. iii, 7; Acts xiii, 2; xx, 28; 1 Cor. xii, 4, 7, 9, 11; Heb. ii, 4.)

CANON 17. Concerning Christian courage. The courage of the Gentiles is produced by simple greed, but the courage of Christians by the love of God which “has been poured into our hearts” not by freedom of will from our own side but “through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

With regard to the certainty [or assurance] of salvation, my opinion is, that it is possible for him who believes in Jesus Christ to be certain and persuaded, and, if his heart condemn him not, he is now in reality assured, that he is a son of God, and stands in the grace of Jesus Christ. Such a certainty is wrought in the mind, as well by the action of the Holy Spirit inwardly actuating the believer and by the fruits of faith, as from his own conscience, and the testimony of God’s Spirit witnessing together with his conscience. I also believe, that it is possible for such a person, with an assured confidence in the grace of God and his mercy in Christ, to depart out of this life, and to appear before the throne of grace, without any anxious fear or terrific dread: and yet this person should constantly pray, “O lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant!”

CANON 18. That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.

“God will bestow more grace upon that man who does what is in him by the power of divine grace which is already granted to him, according to the declaration of Christ, To him that hath shall be given,” in which he comprises the cause why it was “given to the apostles to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” and why “to others it was not given.” (Matt. xiii, 11, 12.)

CANON 19. That a man can be saved only when God shows mercy. Human nature, even though it remained in that sound state in which it was created, could be no means save itself, without the assistance of the Creator; hence since man cannot safe- guard his salvation without the grace of God, which is a gift, how will he be able to restore what he has lost without the grace of God?

But the question between them [church and the Pelagians]was “Can something of good be attributed to man, without grace and its operation?” He who receives some operation of grace is not instantly under grace or regenerate; for grace prepares the will of man for itself, that it may dwell in it. Grace knocks at the door of our hearts; but that which has occasion to knock does not yet reside in the heart nor has it the dominion, though it may knock so as to cause the door to be opened to it on account of its persuasion.

CANON 20. That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.

Our opinion openly professes that sin is the only and sole meritorious cause of death, and that man would not have died, had he not sinned. (ii.) By the commission of sin, Adam corrupted himself and all his posterity, and rendered them obnoxious to the wrath of God. (iii.) All who are born in the ordinary way from Adam, contract from him original sin and the penalty of death eternal. Our opinion lays this down as the foundation of further explanation; for this original sin is called, in Romans 7, “the sin,”the sin exceedingly sinful,”the indwelling sin,”the sin which is adjacent to a man, or present with him,” or “the evil which is present with a man and” the law in the members.” (iv.) Our opinion openly declares that concupiscence, under which is also comprehended lust, is an evil. (v.) The fifth of the enumerated Pelagian dogmas is professedly refuted by our opinion; for, in Romans 7, the apostle teaches, according to our opinion, that the natural man cannot will what is good, except he be under the law, and unless the legal spirit have produced this willing in him by the law; and though he wills what is good, yet it is by no means through free will, even though it be impelled and assisted by the law to be capable of performing that very thing. But it also teaches that the grace of Christ, that is, the gift of the Holy Spirit and of love, is absolutely necessary for this purpose, which grace is not bestowed according to merits, (which are nothing at all,) but is purely gratuitous. (vi.) The sixth of the enumerated dogmas of Pelagius is neither taught nor refuted by our opinion, because it maintain, that Romans 7 does not treat about the regenerate. But, in the mean time, the patrons and advocates of our opinion do not deny that what is said respecting the imperfection of believers in the present life, is true. (vii.) The seventh of the enumerated dogmas of Pelagius is refuted by our opinion; for it not only grants, that good can with difficulty be done by the man who is under the law, and who is not yet placed under grace; but it also unreservedly denies that it is possible for such a man by any means to resist sin and to perform what is good.

CANON 21. Concerning nature and grace. As the Apostle most truly says to those who would be justified by the law and have fallen from grace, “If justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose” (Gal. 2:21), so it is most truly declared to those who imagine that grace, which faith in Christ advocates and lays hold of, is nature: “If justification were through nature, then Christ died to no purpose.” Now there was indeed the law, but it did not justify, and there was indeed nature, but it did not justify. Not in vain did Christ therefore die, so that the law might be fulfilled by him who said, “I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt.5:17), and that the nature which had been destroyed by Adam might be restored by him who said that he had come “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

For they said that “a man under this law is he who, by the power and instinct of nature, (which was not corrupted in Adam,) is able to will that which is good, and not to will what is evil; but who, through a depraved habit, was so bound to the service of sin, as in reality, and actually he was not able to perform the good which he would,” &c. This false description of the man might also be met, not by denying that the subject of this chapter is a man under the law, but by refuting that description.

CANON 22. Concerning those things that belong to man. No man has anything of his own but untruth and sin. But if a man has any truth or righteousness, it from that fountain for which we must thirst in this desert, so that we may be refreshed from it as by drops of water and not faint on the way.

Pelagius says, “Man is able, without the grace of Christ, and instructed solely by the teaching of the law, to perform the good which he wills, through his free will, and to omit the evil which he does not will;” but the apostle declares that this man “consents indeed to the law that it is good, but that to perform what is good he finds not in himself; he omits the good which he wills, and he performs the evil which he wills not.” Therefore, the doctrine of the apostle is, independently of its consequence, directly repugnant to the Pelagian dogma

CANON 23. Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed.

XIV. The Second thing to be observed is, that as the very first commencement of every good thing, so likewise the progress, continuance and confirmation, nay, even the perseverance in good, are not from ourselves, but from God through the Holy Spirit.

CANON 24. Concerning the branches of the vine. The branches on the vine do not give life to the vine, but receive life from it; thus the vine is related to its branches in such a way that it supplies them with what they need to live, and does not take this from them. Thus it is to the advantage of the disciples, not Christ, both to have Christ abiding in them and to abide in Christ. For if the vine is cut down another can shoot up from the live root; but one who is cut off from the vine cannot live without the root (John15:5ff).

I. …the union of Christ with us, on account of its being the primary and immediate effect of that faith by which men believe in him as the only saviour…. II. Such are the appellations of head, spouse, foundation, vine, and others of a similar kind; from which, on the other hand, believers are called members in his body, which is the entire church of believers, the spouse of Christ, lively stones built on him, and young shoots or branches. By these epithets, is signified the closest and most intimate union between Christ and believers.

….VIII. The proximate and immediate end is the communion of the parts united among themselves; this, also, is an effect consequent upon that union, but actively understood, as it flows from Christ, and positively, as it flows into believers, and is received by them. The cause of this is, that the relation is that of disquiparency, where the foundation is Christ, who possesses all things, and stands in need of nothing; the term, or boundary, is the believer in want of all things.

CANON 25. Concerning the love with which we love God. It is wholly a gift of God to love God. He who loves, even though he is not loved, allowed himself to be loved. We are loved, even when we displease him, so that we might have means to please him. For the Spirit, whom we love with the Father and the Son, has poured into our hearts the love of the Father and the Son (Rom. 5:5).

II. The love of God is a dutiful act of man, by which he knowingly and willingly prefers, before all other things, the union of himself with God and obedience to the divine law, to which is subjoined a hatred of separation and of disobedience….

… IX. The principal cause is the Holy Spirit, who infuses into man, by the act of regeneration, the affections of love, fear, trust, and honour; by exciting grace, excites, moves and incites him to second acts, and by co-operating grace, concurs with man himself to produce such second acts.

Packer’s Semi-Pelagian Strawman
Here’s J. I. Packer’s misrepresentation of Arminianism.

First, it should be observed that the “five points of Calvinism,” so-called, are simply the Calvinistic answer to a five-point manifesto (the Remonstrance) put out by certain “Belgic semi-Pelagians” in the early seventeenth century. The theology which it contained (known to history as Arminianism) stemmed from two philosophical principles: first, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility; second, that ability limits obligation. (The charge of semi-Pelagianism was thus fully justified.) From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions: first that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of Him; second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal. Hence, they maintained, Scripture must be interpreted as teaching the following positions: (1.) Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor (2.) is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it. (3.) God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by His foreseeing that they will of their own accord believe. (4.) Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift); what it did was rather to create a possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe. (5.) It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost. Thus, Arminianism made man’s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him.

Packer represents Arminianism in 2 philosophical principles, which he calls semi-Pelagian and 5 theological points. Of the 5 theological points, only the 2nd actually represents Arminian thought. Points 1, 3, 4 & 5 are not only not taught by Arminius, but he also specifically denied them. Point 2 (man is never so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject the gospel) does represent the Arminian viewpoint. But it involves the operation of God’s grace and cannot be seen as a Pelagian or semi-Pelagian denial of God’s grace.

Of Packer’s 2 philosophical principles, the first (that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom) is denied by Arminians as well. God’s sovereignty is completely compatible with human freedom. Perhaps Packer has a special definition of God’s sovereignty in mind. Perhaps he means God causally predetermines all things. But why is Packer’s definition preferable? Isn’t sovereignty about rights and authority, not causal predetermination?

What we reject is the notion that God’s causal predetermination of an action is compatible with freedom. Why? Because then the event would not be free from God’s causal predetermination. But affirming this obvious truth isn’t semi-Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagianism denies the necessity of grace for the commencement of conversion. Semi-Pelagianism and incompatiblism are altogether different subjects.

Let’s pretend for a second that semi-Pelagianism could be deduced from this first philosophical principle. (it can’t but let’s pretend) Would that make Arminians semi-Pelagians? No. It might make them logically inconsistent, but it wouldn’t make them semi-Pelagians. The fact is Arminius taught the opposite of semi-Pelagian views, whether or not he was consistent in doing so.

But semi-Pelagianism doesn’t follow from incompatiblism. Arminius taught that prior to grace, man can be free to choose between evil options, but is unable to choose good. Thus, the man isn’t predetermined to one and only one thing (i.e. incompatiblism), yet he is still unable to do good(i.e. contra semi-Pelagianism).

Packer’s second philosophical point (that ability limits obligation) isn’t essential for Arminians, although some Arminians do hold to it. For more on this subject, please see this post here. As for Packer’s point, no Arminian says man is able to do good, without God’s grace. So this point is not semi-Pelagian.

Here’s a link for the original series of posts, if you would like to comment.