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Arminian Soteriology

What is Arminian Soteriology? Many who claim to be Arminian do not really understand it. Nor do many of those who argue against it seem to have a grasp of what it is all about. The posts linked to this page will attempt to explain classical Arminian Soteriology.

I have long considered myself to be Arminian, at least in regards to soteriology. But I recently discovered that I really didn’t know Arminian soteriology all that well. Mostly I just considered it to be the opposite of Calvinism. I knew I did not believe in the Calvinist doctrines of sovereignty, predestination, and election. Therefore I must be Arminian. But there is much more to it than that.

As I started to really explore Arminianism, I found that I was not the only one who did not know it very well. Many of the Calvinist, or Reformed, theologians that mentioned Arminianism also have a pretty poor grasp of the topic. I don’t know if that was simply because they had been poorly taught, or if it was intentional. But regardless, there is much misunderstanding as to just what constitutes Arminian soteriology.

The intent of this page, and the posts it references, is twofold. First of all, it is an attempt on my part to more fully understand the position and to be able to describe it. And secondly, it is an attempt to counter much of the misinformation that is available online. I hope this will be useful to any who are interested in what Arminianism is really all about.

  • Introduction: Arminian Soteriology is a system of belief that comes out of the Protestant Reformation, deriving from the teachings of Jacob Arminius, a Dutch theologian who lived from 1560 to 1609. Apart from its soteriology it is essentially identical to the Calvinism that it derives from.
  • Total Depravity: You might be surprised to find that Arminianism and Calvinism are in complete agreement on the doctrine of total depravity; I know that I was. Many operate under the idea that while mankind is pretty bad, we are not so bad that we can not choose to accept God’s offer of salvation. But that is a false understanding of man’s condition.
  • Atonement for All: John 3:16 makes clear that God loves us; that he loves everyone in the world, not just a select few. It is also clear from this passage that God did what was needed to provide salvation for those that he loved. God gave his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for the whole world (1 John 2:2), in order to taste death for everyone (Heb 2:9).
  • Sovereignty and Free Will: It is mistakenly believed that Calvinists believe in sovereignty and not free will and Arminians believe in free will but limited sovereignty, but that is not the case. Both believe in sovereignty and free will, although they mean different things by the terms.  I believe that looking into this will help to better understand the role of God’s grace.
  • Grace: God’s grace, or favor, impacts our lives in a number of different ways. God’s grace enables us to believe. It enables us to be saved. It enables us to live holy and godly lives. And it enables us to serve within his church. While some talk about different types of grace, as I will here, in reality they are all simply different ways that God’s grace is working in our lives, not different kinds of grace.
  • Foreknowledge, Predestination, and Election: God’s foreknowledge and his election and predestination of believers are clearly taught in the Bible. But what do these terms mean? God, in his foreknowledge, knows who will respond to prevenient grace and his offer of salvation; he chooses, or elects, those to be his special people; and then predestines them to be conformed to the image of Christ.
  • Persistence: Can a true born again believer ever lose their salvation? Is apostasy possible for one who has truly been born again? This is a question that divides Arminians although classical Arminianism does support the possibility of apostasy.
  • Summary: This is the last in a series of posts on Arminian Soteriology, attempting to provide a summary of the doctrine of salvation and what it says about the nature of God.

Resources from other authors

2 thoughts on “Arminianism”

  1. I think that the true antithesis to Calvinism is Anabaptism. Conservative Mennonites, (like myself) believe:
    1. Not in “depravity” but the Biblical term, “corruption”. Romans 1:20, 32 indícate that mankind’s sin is purposeful and “without excuse” because they known better.
    2. Christ died for the sins of the whole world. 1 Jn 2:1
    3. The saints must persevere to be saved, some will fall away. God is faithful, merciful and willing to help wayward children regain their footing. Heb 6:1-12
    4. God predestined those who respond to His call to be like Christ, walk in good works and to partake in eternal glory. God did not randomly choose some for salvation and some for condemnation because the scripture never supports this idea and it is against Gods nature.
    5. Whosoever will may come, but if the Holy Spirit does not draw an individual he will not be able to repent. However, God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked and desires that everyone would repent. 2 Peter 3:9. His Spirit strives with all mankind to some degree. The primary limiting factor in working with mankind is pride.

    Psalm 115:16 says that God gave the earth to the children of men. God gave dominion to Adam and his descendants at creation. The sin, suffering, death and pain that are in the world today are a result of man’s sin and irresponsibility, not because of Gods sovereignty. Though mankind has dominion on earth, God, in justice and mercy, often overrules man’s decisions especially at the request of His people. God holds no real moral liability for the sin and suffering in this world or to save mankind but does so out of his abundant love and mercy.

    Anabaptists have never developed strong theological statements. my personal belief is that Jesus said that His kingdom is “like unto” this or that because like nature, many of the principles that define theology are interdependent upon each other and can be somewhat relative depending on circumstances. By no means am I saying that the moral law is relative to any situation but how God works seems to be hard to put into a theological box. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, His thoughts are much higher than ours. Having said that, the triune God is immutable, eternal, holy, all powerful, all knowing and much greater than we can comprehend.

    Salvation is initiated by a working faith; a faith that forgives his offender, repents of His sin and is converted by the Spirit. The struggle between the flesh and the Spirit will continue until this mortal puts on immortality. God will not receive into His kingdom those who do not repent of their sin and take up the cross daily and follow Him. The final fruit by which salvation will be determined is whether we truly love Christ. The end of the commandment is Faith, Working in Love. We can have all faith or even give our body to be burned but live our life in vain if we do not truly love the Lord Jesus and the brotherhood. As Paul said, “if any man love not the Lord Jesus let Him be accursed.” 1 Cor 16:22 Jesus said that if we love Him we will keep His commandments.

    • Thanks for sharing that. It is very similar to Arminian soteriology apart from depravity. But your statement that we cannot come to faith apart from the Holy Spirit’s drawing is how Arminian understand depravity.

      And I would not say that it is the antithesis to Calvinism, but is instead in contrast to Calvinism.


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