Arminius’ principles show how the theories of predestination lead toward or away from the later Wesleyan doctrine of holiness. Arminius laid the foundation for a biblical doctrine of holiness, though he himself did not develop the doctrine.
- Arminius’ principles regarding predestination:
- The doctrine of predestination must be biblical and not primarily logical or philosophical. (This point of view would become Wesley’s principle later in history.)
- Predestination must be understood Christologically. Christ, not the decrees, is the Source and Cause of salvation
- Salvation must be evangelical, that is, by personal faith in Christ.
- On the one hand, no theory of predestination is biblical which make it logically necessary to say that God is the author of sin; yet on the other hand, it must not be logically possible to say that man can be the author of his own salvation.
2. Arminius’ predestination theory in terms of four decrees:
- “God decreed to appoint his Son, Jesus Christ…who might destroy sin by His own death.” Christ is the Elect Man. Individual persons are not chosen to salvation, but it is Christ who has been appointed as the only Saviour of men. The way of salvation is predestined. In this way, the whole concept of predestination is changed, (1) from an emphasis on the specific human individual to Christ, and (2) from divine decrees to the conditions of salvation, namely, that Christ is the Saviour and the Door rather than election or divine decrees being the Salvation and the Door. “It was Arminius’ well-grounded fear that Beza and Gomarus, the supralapsarian interpreters of Calvin, were in danger of divorcing the doctrine from Christology and making Christ the mere instrument or means of carrying out a prior, abstract decree. Arminius sought to state the doctrine in the light of Scripture and in integral relation to Christology.” Karl Barth’s criticism of Calvinists is they tend to leave Christ out of their theory of election. Bromiley’s analysis of Barth’s criticism is, “They begin with the prior decree of God, which really has very little to do with Christ at all; Christ is merely ‘dragged in,’ as it were, as an agent for the fulfilling of this decree, which is an absolute, unknown decree, according to the Calvinistic interpretation.” Bangs noted that there is no mention in this initial statement about man’s faith or God’s foreknowledge. Rather the whole emphasis is on the “absolute decree, with Christ as its object.”
- God has decreed that those who would repent and believe would be received into God’s favor. This major emphasis is on “in Christ.” For His sake and through Him, salvation is assured to those who persevere.
- God has appointed the means (the power) by which to achieve His purpose. Grace was to be given to all men making it possible for any man to turn to Christ and trust in Him. This is prevenient grace, which preserves mankind savable. By this grace, men are given the power to believe. But God will not believe for us. The ability is from God, but the act of believing must be man’s own act.
- God predestines on the basis of divine foreknowledge. He knows who will believe and who will not and predestines accordingly. Bangs observes again that to isolate any one of these four statements from the rest and to treat them individually is to miss the whole point Arminius is making. Christ as the elected and only Saviour, must be the Foundation of the whole system, with the other three rooted in and deriving their meaning from it.
This excerpt is taken from Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology by Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, pp. 52-54. ISBN: 083-410-2544