What Do Arminians Believe About the Natural Condition of Man and About Grace?

, posted by SEA

On his website, Arminian Perspectives, Ben Henshaw has a questions page at which he answers questions about Arminianism and Calvinism that visitors to his site pose in the comment section of the page. The following is a question and answer interaction between Ben and a commenter named Dan, with some substantial editorial revision and addition:

Question: I have several questions but I’ll just ask them in one post because they are related questions. I’m trying to understand what Arminians believe about the natural condition of man and about grace. In my understanding, Arminius believed in prevenient grace and common grace. Prevenient grace is only available to those who hear the Word. Common grace is available to all. Common grace cannot lead to salvation but prevenient grace can (but can be resisted). But then I know that some Arminians (would these be called Wesley-Arminians?) believe that prevenient grace has been given to all so that essentially common grace and prevenient grace are the same thing. Am I right about these things? What are the main differences between Arminians and Wesley-Arminians? Do all Arminians (i.e., Remonstrant Arminians and Wesley Arminians) believe in the bondage of the will?

Answer: What you say about Arminius’ view of prevenient grace I believe is correct though I don’t know as much about his view of common grace or the difference between them.

Again, I think you are basically correct that some Arminians (Wesleyan-Arminians) believe that prevenient grace has been given to all so that essentially common grace and prevenient grace are the same thing. Wesley seemed to plainly teach that everyone was graced with a sufficient restoration to the corrupted will so that all are capable of responding to God’s drawings. Basically, this prevenient grace overrides much of the effects of total depravity so that total depravity really describes a person devoid of this grace which is not really the case with anyone since God gives this grace to all (though those who continually spurn this grace may have it removed so that they would essentially return to a natural state of total depravity devoid of this grace). In other words, in our natural state we are totally depraved, but all of us exist in a “supernatural” type of state due to the universal effects of God’s prevenient and enabling grace. I think that Wesley probably saw part of the function of common grace to be essentially the same as prevenient grace as well.

Concerning different views of prevenient grace among Arminians, this paragraph from an article on SEA’s website might be helpful:

Arminians differ among themselves about some of the details of how God’s prevenient grace works, probably because Scripture itself does not give a detailed description. Some Arminians believe that God continually enables all people to believe at all times as a benefit of the atonement. Others believe that God only bestows the ability to believe in Christ to people at select times according to his good pleasure and wisdom. Still others believe that prevenient grace generally accompanies any of God’s specific movements toward people, rendering them able to respond positively to such movements as God would have them. But all Arminians agree that people are incapable of believing in Jesus apart from the intervention of God’s grace and that God does bestow his grace that draws toward salvation on all morally responsible people. With respect to the gospel, seventeenth century Arminian Bishop, Laurence Womack, well said, “on all those to whom the word of faith is preached, the Holy Spirit bestows, or is ready to bestow, so much grace as is sufficient, in fitting degrees, to bring on their conversion.” — Brian Abasciano, “The FACTS of Salvation: A Summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace”

Regarding the main differences between Remonstrant (or Classical) Arminians and Wesleyan-Arminians, the main differences that stand out to me are not much beyond the basic differences in how prevenient grace may function in the depraved and the Wesleyan emphasis on entire sanctification (though one could argue that Arminius held to a similar view of sanctification based on some of his writings). Also, some who call themselves “Arminian” still hold to some form of eternal security while Wesleyan Arminians uniformly reject any form of unconditional security.

But see these posts on SEA’s website for a fuller delineation of differecnes.

“Demarcating Wesleyan-Arminianism and Reformed Arminianism” — http://evangelicalarminians.org/demarcating-wesleyan-arminianism-and-reformed-arminianism/

“A Comparison of Wesleyanism and Classical Arminianism” — http://evangelicalarminians.org/a-comparison-of-wesleyanism-and-classical-arminianism/

In answer to your question, “Do all Arminians (i.e., Remonstrant Arminians and Wesley Arminians) believe in the bondage of the will?”: Yes, if they are to be properly called Arminians (since Arminius held to such bondage). Otherwise, they should just be called “non-Calvinists” in my opinion.