So a member of SEA recently shared on our Facebook page a question by a Calvinist pastor that he knows. I’m not going to mention the full comment here since he went on to make a point that I am not planning to discuss here, but I do want to interact with this pastor’s question.
Now to the matter. This pastor asked, “Do you think the word ‘Arminian’ has been poisoned beyond all hope of salvaging?” Well, I am sure that you would be none surprised that a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians would say heartedly, “No!”, but naturally if that were my full answer I wouldn’t bother writing this post. Instead, I wish to explain precisely why I believe that the name ‘Arminian’ is valuable, and worth maintaining and defending.
Futility and Scurrility
Now I am saving my most important point for last, but let us begin with the what I consider to be a more practical point. If we were to abandon the name Arminian, we are left with two options: to accept no name at all, or to adopt a new one. However if we were to do either of these, what precisely would be the advantage? None as far as I can see.
First off, we must remember from whence the poison came. It is not as if the name was discredited by the shame of certain Arminians. The name is most closely associated with Arminius and Wesley, and neither man is one to be ashamed of. Indeed, quite the opposite. And though there have been Arminians, in the past and to some degree the present, with whom we disagree, it is the same with our Calvinist brethren.
No, the poison did not come from within. It came from the Calvinist camp itself. It is poisoned because it has been beguiled by certain Calvinist preachers and teachers. And if we adopted another name, what guarantee would we have that they would simply not do the same to that name as well? Indeed, we should expect it. And if we adopt no name, where would we be then? Why, we would be stuck with the label “non-Calvinist”, and there is even more poison attached to that term IMO.
Therefore changing or abandoning the name is nothing more than treating the symptom rather than the disease. The disease is Calvinists who have not bothered to properly research and represent the position they wish to criticize. The only way to correct that is to correct them. This brings me to my greater point.
Those Who Do Not Know Their History…
There are two tools that I use in defending Arminianism. One is of course the Bible, but that is for defending the beliefs of Arminianism. When I seek to defend the title ‘Arminian’ I appeal to the Articles of Remonstrance.
The easiest why to prove to a Calvinist that they are misrepresenting us is to define the term ‘Arminian’ from the Articles as well as Arminius himself. I use the Articles because they are short and accessible. It takes one only 5 minutes to read. But the appeal is obvious, because if they want to define the term as something else, they need to explain why Arminianism is not what Arminius and his followers taught. I’ve never had a Calvinist yet who attempted to argue that the Articles were not representative of Arminians. This is even more relevant if they are lovers of Dort, since Dort was in response to the Articles of Remonstrance.
But if we abandon the name, then we lose these tools. We no longer have a historical marker from which to defend our beliefs. Indeed, the embarrassment of most Calvinists who I’ve asked to read the Articles has been far more powerful than any argument I’ve ever made. Indeed, I now find it a rhetorical advantage to come across a Calvinist who defines Arminianism incorrectly than when they come to the conversation knowing what Arminianism is.
So to that pastor I say, “No, I think it is a good name, and certainly worthy defending.” And I encourage all of you to wear it proudly.