Is Your Soteriology Hermanszoonian? (Quiz)

, posted by Vincentian


Everyone has at least some sort of systematic theology.  Even if, say, “Mr. Smith” denies he has one, we could call it “Smithism.”  Simply having an “-ism” attached to a set of beliefs no more invalidates or validates them than having been given a name at birth invalidates or validates your personhood or ideas.

Many people who identify themselves as “moderate Calvinists”, or “2-point Calvinists,” or “3-point Calvinists” (an impossible claim) are probably actually holding to a well-defined theological system with its own name.  This is the “middle ground” between what people commonly call Calvinism and Arminianism (these are terms which are often misunderstood).  This Reformation theology was articulated by a well renowned doctor of theology from Calvin’s own university –  Dr Hermanszoon – who was highly commended by the leading professors there.  Dr. Hermanszoon was an outstanding preacher and theologian, and was often called upon to defend Calvinism against its detractors.  Theodore Beza himself, Calvin’s successor, wrote of him,

 “…Let it be known to you that from the time [Hermanszoon] returned to us from Basel, his life and learning both have so approved themselves to us, that we hope the best of him in every respect, if he steadily persists in the same course, which, by the blessing of God, we doubt not he will; for, among other endowments, God has gifted him with an apt intellect both as respects the apprehension and the discrimination of things. If this henceforward be regulated by piety, which he appears assiduously to cultivate, it cannot but happen that this power of intellect, when consolidated by mature age and experience, will be productive of the richest fruits. Such is our opinion of [him] —a young man, unquestionably, so far as we are able to judge, most worthy of your kindness and liberality”     (Letter of June 3, 1585, from Beza to Amsterdam)

Over time Dr. Hermanszoon realized that the hyper-Calvinism and hyper-determinism that were being presented by Calvin’s followers were in fact at odds with many of Scripture’s clear statements. Dr. Hermanszoon moderated and clarified numerous aspects of Calvinism into a slightly different but certainly distinct system that accords with the whole tenor of Scripture. Although it leaves some things in mystery, it places the mystery in ways which do not cast doubt on God’s goodness and power. Dr. Hermanzoon intended merely to reform the excesses of Calvinism, not to produce a distinct system. He continued to praise the writings of John Calvin as of inestimable value, but cautioned against taking Calvin’s teachings to excess, especially when they contradicted the clear teaching of Scripture. (Calvin wrote his “Institutes” when he was 26 years old, and a mere two years after leaving Roman Catholicism. Based merely on this it would be sensible to think his views might need revision).

It is simply confusing to identify as a “3-point Calvinist” when a perfectly good, but relatively unknown label, exists to identify one’s theology.

Might your views be consistent with Hermanszoon’s theology?

1. Do you agree with the following statement? “We believe and are assured that God does not desire the death of sinners, because he calls all equally to repentance and promises that if they only repent he will be ready to receive them.” ?

If yes, you agree with John Calvin who stated it, and Dr. Hermanszoon, who defended it systematically.

2. Do you believe that God is sovereign over all things, including salvation?

If you said yes, you might agree with Hermanszoon theology.

If you said no, you might either a) have a wariness of using the word “sovereign,”  or b) you might believe in process-theology –  a heresy. 

3. Do you believe that “in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of any by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good… In this state, the Free Will of man towards the True Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.”

If yes, you agree with Hermanszoon’s words above.

If no, you are probably Pelagian or semi-Pelagian. (Even Roman Catholics reject these as a grace-limiting heresy).

4. Do you believe that the Holy Spirit must work in a person’s heart before they have any inclination to pray or reach out to God in any way, and that if someone reaches out to God, it was only because of God’s empowering and enabling work in their heart?

If yes, you agree with Hermanszoon theology.

If no, you are a Pelagian or semi-Pelagian.  A defining characteristic of semi-Pelagian theology is that you, unaided, must take the first step toward God.  This is not Hermanszoon theology.  In fact, it was declared heresy by the Council of Orange in 529.

 5.  Do you believe that Jesus Christ’s death was sufficient to atone for the sins of all mankind, but only effective in salvation to those ‘who believe’ and/or are of ‘the elect’?

 If you said yes, you agree with Hermanszoon theology.

6. Do you believe that God has specifically scripted and ordained everything, including all your sins, based only on His eternal and unilateral decree and pleasure, and not based on a decree to simply permit free creatures to be able to sin, but not certain to sin? In other words, that in eternity past God scripted you to sin, simply because it was His good pleasure to script you to sin.

If no, you agree with Hermanszoon theology.  You are definitely not a Determinist.

If you said yes, you are probably a Bezean Determinist.  You would have to agree with Gomar, who said, “God moves the tongues of men to blaspheme,” and “Nobody maintains that God absolutely decreed to reprobate men without sin; but as he decreed the end [hell], so he likewise did the means [sin]; that is, as God predestined man to death, so he predestined him to sin as the only means of death.” That is, God wanted people to go to Hell, so He scripted them to sin so He could condemn them. If this is abhorrent to your reading of the Bible, please reconsider the first question.

7. Do you believe that God, in eternity past, decreed to elect ‘believers’, ‘in Christ’, for salvation?

If yes, you agree with Hermanszoon theology.

If no, consider Ephesians 1.

8. Do you believe that God made decrees before the foundation of the world, regarding election and predestination?

If yes, you agree with Hermanszoon theology.

 9. Do you believe either extreme: a) you lose your salvation when you sin, or b) that people just need to say a prayer and then can live like the devil but still be saved?

If you reject these views, you might well agree with Hermanszoon theology.

 10. Do you believe in predestination of individuals to be conformed to the image of Christ?

If yes, you agree with Hermanszoon theology.

If no, consider Romans 8:29.

11. See Question #3. Do you believe that God has decided to unconditionally pass over some people, and does not work in their heart to convict, enlighten, and enable them to trust in Him, and that these people therefore never experience the enabling grace of the Holy Spirit to believe, and are thus inescapably damned to Hell for their sins?

If you say no, and thus reject limiting God’s grace in this way, you agree with Hermanszoon theology.

12. Do you believe that the sole reason people refuse to believe in Jesus is because they refused to yield to God’s enabling work in their heart and lives to bring them to salvation, and chose to trust in themselves rather than in Jesus?

If yes, you almost definitely are Hermanszoonian in your soteriology.

13. Do you believe that the only reason anyone is saved is because God took all the initiative and did everything to save them, and that they merely yielded and trusted in His gracious provision?

If yes, you agree with Hermanszoon theology.

 14. Do you think God has unconditionally ordained anyone to go to Hell?

If you say no, you agree with Hermanszoon theology.

If you support this view, your view is condemned as heresy by the Council of Orange in 529AD, which strongly affirmed the need for God’s grace to inspire every good movement of our will.  

 This certainly only scratches the surface of Hermanszoon theology.  If you are interested in learning more about Hermanszoon soteriology, I encourage you to read the Confession of 1621, the Council of Orange from 529AD, Thomas Oden’s “Transforming Power of Grace”, or Forlines’ “The Quest for Truth.”  Hermanszoon’s theology was in many ways a return to the ancient and early Christian consensus. You can also read about the reformer Jacob Hermanszoon online.

If you do a search for his name, you’ll probably see that in fact, Hermanszoon later took the Latinized name Arminius.  Indeed, people are so confused about what Arminius believed, they think that they are “somewhere between Calvinism and Arminianism.”  Often, people who call themselves Calvinists and who would never consider Arminius because he has been vilified, might be Arminians themselves!