The False Gospel of Arminius

“There is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism. …It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith without works; not unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor, I think, can we preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the peculiar redemption which Christ made for his elect and chosen people; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation, after having believed. Such a gospel I abhor. The gospel of the Bible is not such a gospel as that.'”

— Charles H. Spurgeon


As promised in Monday’s post entitled It Cannot Be Both (click here to read), I outlined the debate between two views commonly known as Calvinism and Arminianism. In the post, I made room for several discussions, but nevertheless I wanted to outline basic truths. Based on logic and biblical reality, we must understand that Calvinism and Arminianism can’t be both right. Only one of them can be correct. I also expressed the urgency of this debate and why we must confront the issue head on, and it is simple: soteriology is just as much a primary issue as Christology.

If one made an outlandish claim that Christ was not divine, that Christ does not love His Church, or that Christ loves conditionally, orthodox Christians would be on guard to deal with the matter of such heresy. However, why are we not so vigilant about unbiblical views about soteriology? Could it be that we have been made to believe that soteriology is not of the same importance as Christology? I would argue anything in the Bible that is mentioned clearly should be taken into serious account, especially when it comes to the heart of the matter: the gospel. Soteriology is not a secondary issue; it is very much a dividing issue.

Now, because no truly orthodox Christian would even consider Pelagianism to be a biblical soteriological stance, I will not even address it. Rather, we must address Arminianism and Calvinism straight ahead. Only one of these views can be representative of the gospel. It cannot be both, as each view is fundamentally different. It’s impossible for both views to get it right, and both views are trying to explain the gospel. That being said, one of them must have the correct gospel, and the other must be a false gospel. It is either Calvinism that portrays a false gospel, or it is Arminianism, and here comes the big point: logically speaking, if one view is the gospel, and the other isn’t, than the latter must be a heresy.

With all that being said, I strongly believe that not only is Calvinism the biblical view of soteriology, but I also believe that what we call Calvinism is really the true doctrines of grace, which is the true gospel. I realize that by saying this, I come across as a boxer putting on his tulip red gloves (I had to I’m sorry) against Arminians, but I want people to understand my view first.

Do I believe that Arminians can be saved? Yes. Absolutely! We are saved by grace, and not by our theology.

Can good Christians, who believe in the sovereignty of God, be Arminians? Yes, actually!

Is it in the same way that I believe that Catholics can be saved, and that good Christians can be stuck in Catholicism? …Yes.

I know I am stepping on toes, and I know that what I am writing is going to be extremely offensive, shocking, and almost unheard of in the sphere of evangelicalism. What is important however, is to engage thought, reason, logic, the mind, and all faculties that your body has to offer to understand the truth of the matter, but I’m not only asking you to use your brain. I am asking you to stir your spirit through the Word of God, and the truth of who God is to come to the biblical conclusions concerning Arminianism using basic reason:

1) What is not based upon the Word of God, is heresy.

2) The Gospel is based on the Word of God.

Thus, 3) Any false, unbiblical gospel that is preached, is heresy.

That is why I hold to my strong stance on Arminianism, and why I believe it is worth examining.

Arminianism is unbiblical.

The foundation of Arminianism is that man is capable of choosing God. They point to verses with phrases such as “if you are willing”, “if you do”, and “if you hear”. They also point to the many times in the Bible where God would say, “Come!” and invite people to His side. However, what Arminians fail to comprehend are the not only the passages they take out of context, but also the many other passages that clearly state that man is radically depraved, and can’t choose God. However, we must promptly address the “inviting” texts, and whether they are truly inviting all men to come to God.

The truth of the matter is simple: these texts “do not assert anything indicatively” (as Martin Luther put it). These texts do not invite people to do anything, nor do these texts in which God says, “Come!” prove that man can indeed “Come!” to God. These Scriptures don’t prove that man is able, but rather that He is obligated, and show that man has no excuse as to not choosing God. Why? Because God made an invitation to all men. However, man refused this invitation by their very nature. How do we know? From other biblical texts as follows:

  • Psalm 143:2 (ESV), “No man is righteous before You.”
  • Romans 3:23 (ESV), “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
  • Mark 7:21 (ESV), “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts.”
  • Titus 1:15-16 (ESV), “To the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.”
  • John 8:34 (ESV), “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
  • Proverbs 21:10 (ESV), “The soul of the wicked desires evil.”

I could go on naming hundreds of verses that attest to one thing: man can’t choose God. Does man have free will? Yes! God indeed gave man a choice upon which to live, and the irony is that no one chose God. Man in the natural state of His heart, and without a change in His soul, cannot desire God. Paul addresses this very issue in Romans 6:20, 22 (ESV), “ For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness…But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”

You can’t choose your master. When you are a slave, you are stuck with that master. You are either evil and will continue to choose evil, or you are righteous and you will continue to choose righteousness. That’s why the very concept of Arminian ‘free will’ is extremely unbiblical. A slave to sin will continue to sin (being free from acts of righteousness), until the slave is freed from sin, and becomes a slave to righteousness.

So, how are we saved? Simple: God, out of His grace (karin/karis — unmerited favor), predestined people to salvation, for His glory, and out of love. Now, some may ask where I got that. Scriptures below:

  • Ephesians 1:5 (ESV), “In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”
  • Romans 8:29 (ESV), “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
  • John 6:44 (ESV), “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
  • Ephesians 1:11-12 (ESV), “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”
  • Acts 13:48 (ESV), “They began rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
  • Colossians 3:12 (ESV), “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…”

Again, I could go on with many Scriptures that simply go against Arminianism. The very foundation of Arminianism, that man can choose God, is wrong. The idea that man chose God, rather than God choosing man, is wrong. The idea that God died for all people, rather than for those He loved, is wrong. The idea that God’s grace doesn’t always succeed in drawing people, rather than His grace being irresistible, is wrong. The idea that God’s people can lose their salvation, rather than salvation being in the Father’s hands (therefore, it would belong to the Father), is wrong.

How do I know it’s wrong? The Bible is clear that only the elect will come to believe in Christ. As we read from John 3:16, we see 3 distinct truths: 1) God gave His Son only for those who believe, 2) that those who believe in Him will not perish, or fall away from God, and 3) that God’s love by sending His own Son will be irresistible to those who were to believe. Just from reading Scriptures, and then examining the most famous verse in the entire Bible, we can see that Arminius (the father of Arminianism) not only was wrong, but he was wrong according to the Scriptures. That’s the worst kind of wrong to be under, especially if to have a true gospel, it must be biblical. Arminianism already failed that criteria.

Arminianism is a false gospel.

Seeing that Arminianism is not in accordance with the Scriptures, we must now examine why it can’t have any resemblance to the gospel preached by Jesus Christ. Now, before it was nicknamed ‘Calvinism’, what Calvin taught was actually considered to be the doctrines of grace. In fact, the historical protestant Church recognized the doctrines of grace as the true gospel, and denied any of the alternative soteriological views such as Pelagianism and Arminianism (which they referred to as Semi-Pelagianism).

A book I highly recommend is On the Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther. The book has less than 200 pages and can be read within a few hours, and the published title deals with the subject of free will. Martin Luther repeatedly states that Erasmus, a strong proponent of free will theology, was a confused individual. Why did Martin Luther think that? Because Erasmus claimed that free will was essential to the gospel, and that it was the message of the Bible. However, Erasmus’ response was what shot himself in the foot as he said, “Free will can’t do anything without grace.” Rightly so, Martin Luther noticed the drastic contradiction that the man made as Martin Luther begged to ask Erasmus this (I will paraphrase): Can man choose do all things without grace (as Erasmus stated before), or is man unable to choose unless through grace? Martin Luther then pointed out that either Erasmus was a closet Pelagianist or a closet Calvinist (I am paraphrasing of course for everyone to understand).

The gospel would never so self-contradict itself like Arminianism. One moment, the theological view claims that man has free will to choose God, but at the same time Arminians say that you can’t choose without grace. It’s strange…isn’t it? Or is it? Could it be that Arminians who are truly Christians know that it is by God’s sovereign will that anyone can be saved, but they just don’t want to admit it? I believe so. However, there are the many Arminians, like John Wesley, who purposefully faked being a Christian while teaching his Arminian theology, and even admitted it in one of his letters to his brother in 1766 saying this:

I do not love God. I never did. Therefore I never believed, in the Christian sense of the word. Therefore I am only an honest heathen…and yet I dare not preach otherwise than I do, either concerning faith, or love, or justification…I want all the world to come to know what I do not know.

So, here is my question: if the most famous Arminian theologian claimed to refuse to preach the gospel, claimed to believe there was no God, and claimed that he never was saved to begin with, why trust His theology, and more importantly why trust his gospel? If you think Wesley was bad, here’s one of Jacob Arminius’ quotes from one of his works on salvation (Arminian pun intended):

The providence of God is subordinate to creation.

That’s right. In Arminius’ gospel, God submits to us. God allows us to do whatever we want, and live whatever sin we please, lest He “hinder the free will of man.” To Arminius, the very thought of God, in His love, to rescue us from our will was immoral. That is not only ungodly thinking, but no where near what the gospel message is. In another work, he says this following ridiculous statement:

While some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will…it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy…rather others should appropriate unto themselves this grace.

Did you catch that? So, we believe…because we’re better than others and we make a good choice? That is works-based salvation at its finest. Arminius truly believed that man’s will was corrupted, but not so corrupt that man couldn’t come to salvation based on his own abilities. That’s very close to Pelagianism, ironically what Arminians claim to share no similarities with. This idea is contrary to the gospel which says that it is not based on the reason of this world that people can come to the faith, but only by the divine revelation of the Spirit.

So, what is the gospel? The gospel is the work of salvation that Jesus Christ had done, and finished. The gospel is that man is unable to be saved, since he is slave to sin, unless God would beckon you, and love you first. Is this love conditional? By no means. It is unconditional, undeserving, unmerited, and unworthy love. It is merciful, compassionate, gracious, and loving beckoning that God has for His people that can cause anyone from the human race to be saved. How can God be good if He leaves depraved man alone to their slavery? That is why we know God is good, for God didn’t leave us to condemn us, but to give us His Son for redemption. He wouldn’t let His children be left in their sin. That is good news! That is the gospel!

I understand this post was long, and I understand that this blog post has offended many. Nevertheless, I don’t believe that it was pointless. I hope this will open a discussion about the gospel, and that it will allow us to ask questions that we have been told to never ask. I truly hope this post will cause us to embrace the gospel and will move us to the presence of God in such a way that we resent any false gospel. Arminianism is indeed against the Scriptural definition of the gospel, therefore it is false gospel. Since it is a false gospel, it is a heresy. Do I believe every Arminian is unsaved? No, for we are saved by grace, not by our theology.

What saves us from hell, both Calvinist and Arminian, is not our works, lest we boast, but it is all because of Christ’s work on our behalf. That is why I can believe that Arminians, though having a false understanding of the gospel, can be saved. An Arminian who is saved, regardless of his intellectual inconsistencies, is saved by faith in Christ, not by his understanding of the gospel.

But if we continue to insult the true gospel and continue to allow the majority of evangelicalism to embrace a false one, then we must ask ourselves how much revival we need, and remember that we must remember Semper Reformanda (always reforming).

Soli Deo Gloria.

8 Comments

  1. James,

    Stumbled on this post, and like you agree that this is an important area in theology that really shapes how we understand not only salvation but God. I would also agree that Calvinists and Arminians can be saved despite there differences. But, it should come as no surprise that, as an Arminian, I would see things quite differently on many other points.

    Regarding the numerous passages, in context many exegetes have offered interpretations that do not require a Calvinist understanding. Historically, it is Augustinianism/Calvinism that has introduced novel ways to interpret passages in the Bible in ways that were unknown prior to Augustine in the 5th century.

    Arminianism doesn’t reject election, as you wrote in part 1. It embraces it as something the Scripture clearly teaches. It just doesn’t see it as unconditional. Ephesians says we receive every spiritual blessing in Christ. It also tells us that “we are elect in Him”. Notice that it does not say that we were elected so that we can be placed in Him, which is what Calvinism holds. People are placed in Christ based on meeting a condition: faith. Then they are considered elect.

    Your article also didn’t mention a key tenet of Arminianism. Prevenient grace. You don’t have to agree with the idea but it is a major part of how soteriology and faith work within the view. And, makes the interaction between faith, free will, and depravity a lot less strange. Arminianism doesn’t reject depravity, nor say that a person can accept Christ and the gospel w/o divine aid (grace). We fully embrace that grace must precede any decision of faith. But, we would reject the idea that this grace is irresistible, seeing it as drawing and is what frees a person to make a decision. Or not as in Acts 7:51.

    It is also what makes God’s invitation to come sincere and genuine. After all, how is the gospel in Calvinism good news to the reprobate? How does God show love to them? How is an invitation to come and be forgiven to them real? After all, if a limited atonement as articulated by 5 point Calvinism is correct, then Jesus would be asking someone to trust He died to cancel their debt when He in fact did not.

    If God is meticulously sovereign, decreeing all events w/o the aid of foreknowledge, as WCF (and most Calvinists) hold then you know what would be really strange? God decided to save me in Christ and also decree I be an Arminian.

    Iron sharpens iron.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My dear friend, I first want to thank you for having such a respectful, loving, and Christ-honoring comment to my post. I would also like to thank you for beginning with the fact that we both agree that God’s grace is what allows any of us to be saved (may He always be praised for that). However, as you pointed out…we do disagree on a few things.

      I considered Arminianism, and I wrestled with Calvinism, Traditionalism, and Arminianism. I even, for a time, considered full on Pelagianism, but by God’s grace that didn’t happen (haha). Instead, God had other plans.

      Now concerning out differences, I can see as to why you might say that Calvinism isn’t a pleasant gospel… but can’t the same be said for a Arminianism? After all, the depraved man doesn’t reject Calvinism or Arminianism, but God Himself. I believe that man was unconditionally elected because of Scripture, and because of what I had been saved out of. The only way I could have ever come to know Christ is through the sovereign will of God… I lived in such a rebellion against God that I still have temptations to feel guilt about it (despite the fact that Christ has paid it all).

      As far as prevenient grace is concerned…the idea that a sinner must first be regenerated in order to repent is exclusively Reformed. Arminians hold to a slightly different view, but I would say that it is inconsistent with their view of free will, since God’s grace towards salvation, as shown in the Bible, can’t be resisted. Also, Arminianism rejected total depravity, which I have a big problem with. Their are far too many Scriptures that show that man is far beyond crippled in sin, but that he is DEAD in sin.

      Also, I would like to point out that I am a Calvinist…and many of the people I have discipled and brought to Christ are also Calvinist. They may not be Reformed, but they are definitely Calvinist. The reason why I can confidently preach the gospel with Calvinism is that I know God will work His will…not mine…HIS! So therefore, whoever will come to faith and stay…was predestined to!

      I appreciate the time you took to comment, and I apologize I didn’t comment sooner. With great love and respect, I truly appreciate your points as they were valid and necessary. I hope my comment may be at least to some benefit. Indeed, iron sharpens iron, so thank you for your sincerity and godly manner.

      God bless, and…
      Soli Deo Gloria!

      Like

      1. James,

        Thanks for the kind reply.
        A couple of quick thoughts and responses.

        Not sure how you define “Reformed”. It is a term that has some varying usage and meaning. Some Arminians even consider themselves Reformed in the sense of protesting Catholicism. Arminius, himself, even held to the Reformed Belgic creed. But rejected a Calvinistic understanding of some of the points. These differences in interpretation are what sparked the Remonstrance.

        Now concerning out differences, I can see as to why you might say that Calvinism isn’t a pleasant gospel… but can’t the same be said for a Arminianism? After all, the depraved man doesn’t reject Calvinism or Arminianism, but God Himself.

        Anyone who hears the gospel and rejects it is indeed rejecting God.

        But, if one reasons through a limited/particular atonement, the non-elect would not be rejecting God’s provision for Him. Because as a reprobate Christ did not cancel their sin debt. They can’t reject what wasn’t done for them.

        In a general atonement, the person is not just rejecting God but also His provision for them.

        Arminianism rejected total depravity, which I have a big problem with.

        Actually Arminianism does not reject total depravity. Although the “cure” for it in Arminianism, which is found in grace, does not require one to be saved before one can believe, only enabled.

        Here is a summary of what John Wesley taught on that topic: Wesley on Original Sin/Depravity

        Curious, when you were considering Arminianism, what books did you read?

        Like

  2. Sorry for the separate comment MikeB…the thread won’t let me continue.

    When it comes to how I define Reformed, I primary hold to the 1689 London Baptist Confession. I also recognize the influence of the Westminster Confessions and Catechisms (Short and Larger). I also am influenced by the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort. When I say Reformed, I mean that I generally hold to the views represented in almost all of the confessions of the time. It is more than just being separated from Catholics, but I have heard the term used that way as I have a Slavic background (in Europe many people call Protestants the “Reformed” Christians, so I see what you’re saying).

    Now, about limited atonement…what Calvin believed was that the atonement was only effectual for those who would believe (the elect). Many Reformers actually believed, including Luther, that the atonement was available to all people, but that it would only be effectual for the elect. I hold to the view that Calvin had in terms of the fact that the atonement was specifically for those that God foreknew would believe (even some of my Arminian friends agree with Calvinism on this). Granted, I cannot be allowed to say to a non-believer that Christ died for them, but I can say that Christ invites people to receive the gift of salvation, which wouldn’t be wrong at all. He does invite everyone, but few are chosen. Now, it’s difficult to fully understand it, but Calvinism doesn’t claim to have all the answers, only what the Bible has told us.

    As far as Arminianism, I was an Arminian. I once was a part of a Pentecostal church (it flirted with Oneness theology…ew) that held to Wesleyan Arminianism. Also, I read books such as “Against Calvinism” by Dr. Roger Olson, “Debating Calvinism” by Dr. David Hunt & Dr. James White, and also “On the Bondage of the Will” by Martin Luther (with Erasmus’ arguments of course). I also have read a few of the writings of Arminius and think that he was actually a closet Calvinist (haha). I only read a few letters and a handful of sermons by Wesley (I personally think he was a legalist and the closes to Pelagianism out of any Arminian). I also listened to Dr. Michael Brown’s view of Arminianism.

    Now, from what I am understanding… I am assuming you are a Classical Arminian. If so, then I think that me and you are not as far off as Wesleyan Arminianism. That would explain as to why you would say that Arminians that believe in total depravity, though most wouldn’t say that (most believe in partial depravity).

    My problem with Arminianism, and why I’d say it’s unbiblical, is because of the view of synergism, conditional election, denial of perseverance of the saints, and other things. Thankfully, we can disagree in love and in harmony, but we should still recognize we have different gospels. Whether I’m wrong or you are, what we can both agree on is that it is the person of Christ that saves. No matter if my theology is wrong or yours, Christ’s righteousness is what will satisfy God and not our intellect. May He be glorified for that!

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  3. James

    Sorry for late response. And thanks for sharing some of your readings in Arminius. If you are willing to read another I recommend Grace Faith Free Will by Robert Picirilli.

    I am actually paleo-orthodox (holding a Vincentian Canon), and see Arminiamism as the expression of the soteriological views of the first four centuries of the early church. The Arminian expression is framed during the time of the Reformation and using the terminology of that day. I’m also a fan of Wesley and his works. That is why I sent you a link to his views on depravity.

    I hold to the view that Calvin had in terms of the fact that the atonement was specifically for those that God foreknew would believe (even some of my Arminian friends agree with Calvinism on this).

    The key difference is what we mean by “foreknow”. If you hold to Westminister Confession of Faith, then foreknowledge is based on a decree (making words like permit and contingent meaningless IMO). Most Arminianians would say that foreknowledge is based on the contingent future acts of free agents.

    My problem with Arminianism, and why I’d say it’s unbiblical, is because of the view of synergism, conditional election, denial of perseverance of the saints, and other things.

    Unbiblical is a another word that can take on a variety of meaning. Arminiaism is rooted in Scripture. And is thus Biblical, if by that word we mean rooted in and defended through the use of Scripture. And in this sense Calvinism is also. Both systems are rooted in the Scripture. They just interpret passages differently than each other. And based on that infer different things as well.

    If we are to then consider which set of interpretations is correct, we must have a way of thinking through that problem. I would argue that the Vincentian Canon and the early church provide a reasonable guide. After all the knew the language and culture better and were trained by the disciples. I also think that reasoning through the logical implications of the views helps here too.

    Thanks for letting me interact and share my thoughts. Thanks also for your kind replies.

    Like

    1. Had some problems w/ being asked to log in, so cut& pasted my reply to get it to go.
      That leaves me having to provide two notes on that last posting…
      1) it was meant to be a reply off your last comment
      2) two sections were meant to be “blockquotes” of sections of your comment that I was replying to but that got lost in the process…

      This:

      I hold to the view that Calvin had in terms of the fact that the atonement was specifically for those that God foreknew would believe (even some of my Arminian friends agree with Calvinism on this).

      and this:

      My problem with Arminianism, and why I’d say it’s unbiblical, is because of the view of synergism, conditional election, denial of perseverance of the saints, and other things.

      Like

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