Foreword to *Arminius Speaks*

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Robert E. Picirilli, Professor Emeritus of Greek and New Testament at Free Will Baptist Bible College, provides the foreword in Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will, and the Nature of God, edited by John D. Wagner, published by Wipf & Stock, which may be purchased (here) for $36.00. John D. Wagner is a Biblical Studies student at Trinity Theological Seminary and also edited Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards by Daniel D. Whedon, published by Wipf & Stock, 2009, as well as Redemption Redeemed: A Puritan Defense of Unlimited Atonement by John Goodwin, published by Wipf & Stock, 2004. Robert E. Picirilli writes the following.

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John D. Wagner has done us all a service in presenting these selections from Arminius. The three-volume set of Arminius’ works, while it can be found in many theological libraries, is not always easily available. And the set is imposing. One encounters difficulty deciding where to turn to find the key discussions. The contents are not arranged in an orderly manner. Most people, on looking at the small-print table of contents, tend to find it mysterious and intimidating. Mr. Wagner has selected from this corpus several of the most helpful writings of this sixteenth-century theologian whose name has been given to a theology of salvation that offers saving grace to everyone.

Arminius was born Jacob Harmenszoon in Holland in 1559 or 1560. He took the Latin name Jacobus (= James) Arminius for his theological pursuits. After study at Leiden, Geneva, and Basel, he returned to his homeland to serve first as a pastor and subsequently as a professor of theology at Leiden. His study of the Scriptures led him to resist the unconditional predestination of Calvin and Beza that dominated the Reformed churches, and that resistance led to serious upheaval in the Dutch church. Those who were influenced by him filed a “remonstrance” [i.e., protest] with the authorities of the Dutch state (which had extensive power over the church) and came to be known as Remonstrants. They, in turn, were condemned by the Synod of Dort in 1618-19.

As a result, the “Arminian” position on the theology of salvation came to be summarized — with oversimplification — as counter to the five points — “TULIP” — of the “Calvinism” that prevailed at Dort — Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and (Necessary) Perseverance of the Saints. Instead, Arminianism champions the Biblical teaching that salvation is by faith [unrelated to unconditional election], that Jesus died for all [but that only those whose faith is in Christ shall be saved], and that God does not arbitrarily elect some to be saved and others to be damned [though no Calvinist would suggest such a notion of arbitration] but freely offers salvation to all.

The trouble is that the name Arminianism has come to be used so broadly that it means different things to different people. [Calvinism at times suffers this unfortunate affair as well.] This is the reason it is important to get back to Arminius himself. More than one Calvinist, on carefully studying Arminius, has found that he was not “Arminian” after all — at least not as that view is often understood. Both while he was alive, and ever since, Arminius has been unfairly accused of sentiments that were not his. Those who read him carefully know well that he did not make saving faith a work, that he affirmed that God’s grace is to be credited entirely with anyone’s salvation from beginning to end. He was no Pelagian, as he took pains to make clear. Anyone who reads the selections in this volume should come away convinced of this.

I call the soteriology of Arminius (and of the very first generation of his followers) “Reformation Arminianism” in order to distinguish it from other forms. [I and others have called it “Classical Arminianism.” Still, others have called it “Reformed Arminianism.”] Not that Arminius was one of the Magisterial Reformers. But he lived, ministered, and died a member of the Reformed church. And his theology is firmly rooted in the Reformation. With Luther and Calvin, Arminius believed and taught sola gratia, sola fide, and solo Christo — salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone.

I am grateful to Mr. Wagner for making these important writings more easily accessible. The Public Disputations (originally twenty-five) were theses discussed during the period 1603-09 before Arminius’ theology classes at Leiden. The Declaration of Sentiments, arguably his most important writing, resulted from Arminius’ appearance before the States General of Holland on October 30, 1608, where he was ordered to put the views he had expressed into written form. The Examination of Perkins’ Pamphlet was a response to a 1602 treatise of William Perkins, a fellow of Christ’s College at Cambridge, a high Calvinist. The Defense against Several Articles (originally thirty-one) was probably published in 1609, answering (as Arminius said) articles invented and secretly circulated by his enemies, accusing him and others of novelty, heterodoxy, error, and heresy. The Letter to Hippolytus was to an ambassador from Prince Frederick IV, following a personal audience with him. In all of these one detects that Arminius was an embattled but capable and Biblical theologian.

Anyone who desires to know what Arminius really said will do well to read these selections and will share the indebtedness of the church to this editor. Indeed, I commend Arminius’ sentiments to any reader. They are well worth serious consideration and they require evaluation in the light of careful Biblical exegesis.

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James Arminius, Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will, and the Nature of God, ed. John D. Wagner (Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2011), ix-xi.