Book Review: Arminius on the Assurance of Salvation

, posted by Godismyjudge

If Dr. Keith Stanglin’s book, Arminius on the Assurance of Salvation, isn’t the best book out there on Arminius, it’s certainly in the top five. Stanglin’s description of Arminius’ views has a historic flare, similar to books like God, Creation, and Providence in the Thought of James Arminius by Richard Muller, or Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation by Carl Bangs.

Stanglin’s book has several unique features. First, it uses some of the 35 untranslated, unpublished Public Disputations by Arminius. Second, it examines Arminius’ fellow professors at Leiden and the teaching styles and methods common at the university. Third, Stanglin retranslates Arminius from Latin, making some important corrections to Nichols’ translation. This focus on primary materials, original language and context sets the stage for clearly understanding what Arminius had to say about assurance.

The book starts out by outlining Arminius’ view of salvation and contrasting Arminius’ views with his fellow professors, Gomorus, Kuchlinus and Trelcatius, as well as William Perkins. Stanglin notes the similarities and also some key differences, such as Arminius’ views on fiducia, his optimistic view of sanctification in Romans 7, and his views on the possibility of loss of salvation. Arminius’ pastoral experience also gave him first hand observations of the practical problems with both overconfidence and despair. Stanglin then gets into Arminius’ views on assurance.

Arminius saw objective grounds for assurance in God’s love, promises and predestination, and he saw subjective grounds for assurance in faith, the witness of the Holy Spirit and works. Stanglin explains how Arminius saw the Reformed views as driving people either to despair or overconfidence. Arminius saw the Calvinists’ interpretation of Romans 7 as regenerate man stuck in sin in combination with their view of unconditional predestination as leading to overconfidence. He also saw their views of reprobation and their equating fiducia with assurance as leading to despair. Arminius fixes the problem by viewing election as conditional and focusing on God’s twofold love: that of mankind and righteousness laying the foundation for true assurance.