Arminius vs. Perkins: Arminius’ Finger on the Pulse of Perseverance

, posted by

I think Arminian scholars Keith Stanglin and Thomas McCall are correct in suggesting that “most scholars agree that Arminius taught that true believers can fall away.”1 The authors acknowledge that, for some readers, Arminius himself is “ambiguous at times, indicating his own need for more study of the issue,”2 and I, too, once held that view. Given Arminius’ apparent ambiguity, I interpreted passages of his which seemed to promote the doctrine of apostasy as not entailing an overt admission to that doctrine. I cannot now view Arminius’ views on this subject in that manner.

For example, I would most heartily emphasize Arminius writing that he and his colleagues should study the topic in-depth before rendering a dogmatic verdict, yet conveniently ignore when he would explicitly argue, as in his discourse with English Calvinist William Perkins (1558-1602), that apostasy is a very certain reality. From his “Examination of Perkins’s Pamphlet,” Arminius responds at length to Perkins’ use of certain passages of Scripture to support his theory that necessary perseverance is biblical, assuming and defending the very opposite position. (One might rightly suggest that, if Arminius believed wholeheartedly in necessary perseverance, then he might maintain absolutely no reason at all for this lengthy rebuttal.)

When Perkins insists that falling away is not possible because, should one return or repent, and have his or her faith restored, then such a one would have to be “ingrafted” again into the Vine, which is Christ Jesus. Arminius reminds Perkins that it is “simply not necessary for one who falls away to be ingrafted again: nay, someone will say that, according to Hebrews 6 and 10, he who falls away totally from the true faith is not restored by repentance.”3

Continue reading ….