Forthcoming Book on Jacob Arminius

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From Cascade Books, a division of Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2015, Rustin E. Brian‘s forthcoming book, Jacob Arminius: The Man from Ouderwater, is slated for release by the end of this week. The author states in an email: “Just to clarify, I actually switched publishers from Bloomsbury/T&T Clark (who are great!) to Cascade Books. The switch will result in the book being much more affordable and accessible. I’m hoping it serves as an introduction to the many people who would benefit from learning about Arminius’s life and theology. I’m told it will begin selling by the end of the week.” Information from Amazon regarding the book grants us the following:

Jacob Arminius was a Dutch theologian whose views have become the basis of Arminianism and the Dutch Remonstrant movement, and which are quite influential on Wesleyan, and therefore, Methodist, theology as well. Arminius attempted to reform Reformed theology and ended up lending his name to a movement which resisted some of the primary tenets of Calvinism. Rustin E. Brian outlines the life and theology of Arminius, shedding fresh light on his life, theology, and writings. Brian argues that Arminius’s theology is thoroughly unconcerned with being either “Reformed” or “Catholic,” but it results in one theology that is shaped and guided first and foremost by Scripture. (link)

I greatly appreciate the highlight of that historical fact. Arminius cared as much for Calvin as he did for Aquinas, Augustine, and the early Church fathers. His goal was to be faithful, first and foremost, to Scripture; but also to value and to extol the orthodoxy of the pre-Augustinian theology of the early fathers. His theology was a biblicistic faithfulness to early and medieval orthodoxy rather than the strict perpetuation of the then modernistic trend to merely and restrictively expound upon Calvinistic doctrine. Calvinist historical theologian Richard A. Muller notes:

Had Arminius been a biblicistic pietist promulgating a message that was stylistically and doctrinally widely divergent from and foreign to the Reformed mind of his time, he could have been ignored or at least easily dismissed. His scholastic style, however, wasprecisely the style characteristic of Reformed thought in his day and his modified Thomism was different from the teaching of the Reformed [especially with regard to the doctrines of election and irresistible grace] not in its Thomism but in its modification. Nor was the genuineness of Arminius’ Protestantism ever really in question.1 (emphases added)

When addressing Arminius, and his theology, one must be careful not to adopt the view propagated by the Dortian Calvinists, for in doing so, one wanders from historical truth into fantasy and error. Arminius is not the Reformed Boogeyman, but a Dutch theologian in the broadly Reformed tradition, whose teachings inadvertently challenged both infra- and supralapsarian options of Calvinistic theology.

Rustin E. Brian is also the author of Covering Up Luther: How Barth’s Christology Challenged theDeus Absconditus that Haunts Modernity, published by Veritas (2013). Rustin, Ph.D., Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, is an ordained pastor in the Church of the Nazarene, currentlypastoring Renton Church of the Nazarene in Renton, WA, and is also Adjunct Professor of Theology at Northwest Nazarene University. Further specifications of his forthcoming book on Arminius include the following:

The theological persuasion known as Arminianism becomes fully developed not during Arminius’s lifetime but rather after his death when the five articles of the Remonstrants systematized and formalized the ideas. Furthermore, the Calvinist Synod of Dort condemned Arminius’s theology and persecuted Arminian pastors who remained in the Netherlands — though it might be argued that Arminian theology and not the theology of Arminius was the subject of this condemnation.

Later, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, embraced Arminian theology [via his mother and Thomas Bennet’s Directions for Studying,2 which emphasized Arminius’ theological views] and became its most prominent champion. Today, the majority of Methodists remain committed to Arminian theology, and Arminianism itself has become one of the dominant theological systems in the world, particularly in the Great Britain and the USA. (link)

Recently, the so-called faithfulness of Wesley to Arminius’ theology has been challenged, and with good reason. “With regard to his covenant and decree emphases,” notes W. Stephen Gunter, “Wesley probably did not understand Arminius well. Evidence is lacking as to whether Wesley read extensively enough in Arminius to have been aware of what Arminius actually taught in these areas.”3 Wesley’s theology was Arminian in nature, but there is a reason why his theology is usually termed “Wesleyan-Arminianism.”

With so much material already in print about Wesley and his theology, new scholarship being written about Arminius and his theology is a breath of fresh air and most welcome! We eagerly await Rustin Brian’s forthcoming book. In case you are unaware of the recent material published on Arminius and Arminian theology, I offer the following in closing:

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1 Richard A. Muller, God, Creation, and Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius: Sources and Directions of Scholastic Protestantism in the Era of Early Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991), 275.

2 W. Stephen Gunter, “The Loss of Arminius in Wesleyan-Arminian Theology,” in Reconsidering Arminius: Beyond the Reformed and Wesleyan Divide, eds. Keith D. Stanglin, Mark G. Bilby, and Mark H. Mann (Nashville: Kingswood Books, 2014), 81.

3 Ibid., 82.