In response to the list of eternal security views that I recently posted on my blog, I wanted to offer a short list of the views held by Arminians on eternal security. You may find it ironic that, like Calvinist, there is no agreement among Arminians over the nature of the security of the believer as this list will hopefully show. I will not give you my opinion on which I hold to and will leave you to your own conclusions on each.
I have tried to go from the most extreme view to the least while still being Arminian in theology and practice.
- Daniel Corner – Corner is the author of the book The Believer’s Conditional Security. I have a copy of the book and have used it many times. Overall Corner does a good job of presenting logical arguments against eternal security. He also footnotes many quotes from various Calvinist teachers to show the lack of unity among Calvinists over their own teachings. Corner is extreme, however, in his view that only one sin can cause a loss of salvation. Many Arminians are not willing to embrace Corner’s views. Further, Corner’s arguments would be stronger in his book if he covered all of Calvinism and not just eternal security. As Calvinist Dr. James White argues, eternal security is based on the other four points of Calvinism as well.
- John Wesley – The father of the modern Wesleyan movement, John Wesley taught that sin can cause a loss of salvation and he believed that holiness was indeed necessary for eternal life. Wesley strongly taught against Calvinism in his day despite his friendship with Calvinist George Whitefield. Wesley’s was not an extreme view of losing your salvation since he did believe that sin did in fact dwell in the believer but Wesley did teach that sin needed to be eradicated and could only be done so by the power of the Holy Spirit living within the believer. Wesley’s views remain in tact to this day and the majority of Arminians hold to most of what Wesley taught. Wesley was brilliant and one of the greatest scholars the Church has ever known.
- Richard Watson – The 18th century Methodist theologian who took the teachings of John Wesley and first put them into systematic form. Watson’s systematic theology book would remain the standard Arminian source for biblical theology for nearly 175 years. Watson’s writings would later influence many Nazarene, Wesleyan, and Pentecostal theologians. Watson believed in line with Wesley that continued, unrepentive sin could result in a loss of personal salvation and that perseverance was necessary for eternal life.
- John Miley – The 19th century Holiness theologian and writer deviated from John Wesley and Richard Watson in his teaching on the governmental theory of the atonement. Miley’s book Systematic Theology remains an important work from Arminian theologians. Despite the problems I have with his atonement theory, Miley taught that eternal security was not biblical and that it allowed for continued sin in the life of the saint and furthermore was an insult to the grace of God (Titus 2:11-12).
- H. Orton Wiley – The prominent Nazarene theologian’s book Systematic Theology remains one of the best Arminian theological books available today. Wiley taught that eternal security was not biblical and that a believer could fall from grace through continued sin. Wiley differed with John Wesley and Richard Watson somewhat by teaching the standard Nazarene view that the baptism with the Holy Ghost was necessary to eradicate the sinful nature still alive in the believer and thus help the believer reach a point of “sinless perfection” in the eyes of God. This Spirit Baptism was a second work of grace called entire sanctification and helped the believer overcome sin in this life as long as the believer continued with faith in Christ.
- Robert Picirilli – A modern theologian with the Free Will Baptist Church, Picirilli’s book Grace, Faith, and Free Will has been called the book that launched the modern Reformed Arminian views. Picirilli is different from many Arminian theologians because he is not Wesleyan but is Baptist. He argues in his book that his theology is true Arminianism as taught by James Arminius. Picirilli argues that one can only lose their salvation through apostasy and not sin. He teaches that perseverance is necessary for eternal life but sin is not the issue as much as faith in Jesus is the issue. Sin, argues Picirilli, clearly reveals a lack of faith in God’s Word and in His Son. Sin, then, is open rebellion toward God and leads to apostasy which can not be undone according to Hebrews 6:4-9.
- James Arminius – I have chosen to place Arminius last because Arminius was not clear on his views concerning the loss of salvation for the believer. In some places Arminius seemed to embrace modern Arminian thought that a believer can fall from grace but in other writings, Arminius seems to teach that a true Christian will persevere by the Spirit of God. As the father of the modern Arminian movement, Arminius helped shape the theology of millions of believers for generations to come while leaving the debate open over the issue of eternal security. Clearly, however, Arminius would oppose Calvinism and its allowance for continued sinning without repentance.
I would have added the Baptist writers Dale Moody, Church of Christ writer Robert Shank, and Baptist apologist Norman Geisler in this list as well if timed permitted. Each of the above mentioned have made contributions toward modern Arminian theology. However, the greatest influence I believe made upon the modern evangelical church about the nature of salvation is not by any on this list or the Calvinist list but by the 19th century revivalist Charles G. Finney. Finney was neither Calvinist nor Arminian in his theology. While he seems to try to align himself more with Arminians than with Calvinist, Finney and Arminius (nor Wesley) would not agree with one another. Finney was semi-Pelagian and most of the evangelical church including the seeker movement, the Purpose-Driven movement, and many denominations such as the Asssemblies of God, the Southern Baptist, and a host of others are more semi-Pelagian than Arminian.
[Editor’s note: Please keep in mind that SEA seeks to include a vaiety of Arminian thought and articles appearing on SEA do not necessarily represent SEA’s views, such as the present articles judgments about various groups being Semi-Pelagian]
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