Ben Witherington and Keith Stanglin, Jacob Arminius, Theologian of Grace – Part Thirteen

, posted by SEA

BEN: What are the four testimonies that can bolster assurance of salvation, according to Arminius? In what sense is clear belief in Christ as savior a basis for assurance of salvation?

KEITH: Arminius delineates what I designate “a posteriori grounds of assurance.” In other words, these testimonies are not the foundations of assurance, but experienced phenomena to which Christians can point and perhaps confirm the “a priori grounding” in God’s universal love.

The first testimony of salvation is the sense of faith. People can simply ask themselves if they believe. Arminius, like many Puritans, makes this point in the form of a simple syllogism: God will save believers in Christ; but I believe in Christ; therefore, God will save me. The second testimony of salvation is the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. The third testimony is the struggle between flesh and spirit, a theme that I have found to be prominent in Arminius’ writings. The fourth testimony is the desire to engage in good works.

Again, these are not so much bases for assurance as positive indications that can bolster a person’s assurance. Arminius’ Reformed colleagues pointed to the same four testimonies, so these testimonies do not distinguish Arminius from the Reformed. Rather, the distinction goes back to the doctrine of God and his purposes for creation.

BEN: At the end of the day, it seems clear that Arminius has a rather different view of God and God’s will for humankind than Calvin. For Arminius, God loves all his creation and creatures and desires that none should perish but all have everlasting life. It is this benevolence of God towards all that Arminius, it would seem, sees as the real basis of assurance of salvation. There is no worry that one might have been predetermined before the world’s foundation to be reprobated by God. Would this be a fair summary of Arminius view?

KEITH: Precisely. It all goes back to one’s description of God and his intent. On Calvin’s view, God could justly save none from destruction, but he graciously saves a few. He could save all in the same way, but he is already going above and beyond by saving a few. He never intended to save all, and his sovereignty is such that no creature could thwart his intention. The human creature ultimately must be resigned to the fact that he could be eternally reprobate and simply never offered any grace sufficient for salvation.

By contrast, Arminius understands God to be the summum bonum, and this implies his desire to communicate his goodness to the created order. For Arminius, there is one unshakable fact: God wants you and me to be saved. This belief provides an assurance not possible for the Reformed. If a person is not saved, it is not because God absolutely decreed it, but because that person finally refused prevenient grace that would have been sufficient in leading toward salvation.

Here’s a better link to the article Keith mentioned in yesterday’s post—–

[Link to original post on Ben Witherington’s blog]