CT610 Christian Holiness in Historical Perspective
April 24th 2008
Essay: Jacobus Arminius’ contribution Christian Understanding of Salvation in light of Christian Holiness
By Danilo Carvalho
Jacobus Arminius (1559 – 1609) was a Dutch Protestant theologian who was considered the father of Arminianism. He was born in southern Holland, ordained in Amsterdam in 1588, and from 1603 until his death in 1609 he was professor of theology at Leiden. “Born Jakob Hermandszoon (later Latinised to Jacobus Arminius), he was early orphaned, and was welcomed into the home of Peter Bertius, pastor of the Reformed Church in Rotterdam.” Arminius taught that man is not guilty of Adam’s sin, but only when he chooses to sin voluntarily. Arminius started out as a strict Calvinist, but later modified his views, “…Arminius had broken with high Calvinism in all its distinctive doctrines, particularly with regard to unconditional predestination, irresistible grace, and Christ’s limited atonement.”
This seminar will attempt to explore some of the doctrinal contributions made by Arminius in the doctrine of Salvation in light of Christian Holiness. Such include his teaching on Original Sin, Free Will, Predestination and Election, Justification and salvation.
James Arminius’s understanding of the doctrine of original sin was significantly shaped by the reformed tradition and Calvinism though there were some minor differences as the research will show later. These traditions perceive sin to be passed on from one generation to another but with its beginning in Adam and Eve. This is theologically expressed as all human beings being inherently depraved or having moral corruption. This means that all descendants of Adam do not begin life on a clean plate due to their being in Adam at the time of the fall. In other words, all human beings are born in sin. These views are expressed in various documents such as: “the Gallican Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and Swiss (Helvetic) Confessions. These same views on original sin are expressed in the thirty-nine Articles that seem to employ the language of the Augsburg Confession in describing original sin as ‘a fault and corruption’ of the nature of everyone. It is further seen as an infection that remains even in the regenerate. It concludes (Article IX) by stating ‘that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.’
Arminius in his Disputation XXXI expressed his views on original sin and its consequences on all human beings in the following manner:
The first and immediate effect of the sin which Adam and Eve committed in eating of the forbidden fruit, was the offending of Deity, and guilt: Offence, which arose from the prohibition imposed: Guilt, from the sanction added to it, through the denunciation of punishment if they neglected the prohibition. .. In this violation occur these causes of just anger… Punishment was consequent on guilt and the Divine wrath… which was instantly inflicted, they rendered themselves liable to two other punishments; that is, to temporal death, which is the separation of the soul from the body; and to death eternal, which is the separation of the entire man from God his Chief Good… both these punishment was the ejectment of our first parents out of Paradise… To these may be added the punishment peculiarly inflicted on the man and the woman… But because the condition of the covenant into which God entered with our first parents was this, – that, if they continued in the favour and grace of God by an observance of this command and of others, the gifts conferred on them should be transmitted to their posterity, by the same divine grace which they had themselves received; but that, if by disobedience they rendered themselves unworthy of those blessings, their posterity likewise [carerent] should not posses them, and should be [obnoxii] liable to the contrary evils. [Hinc accidit ut].
According to Arminius, actual sins are committed because of the corruption of nature resulting from the original sin. In his view, God’s covenant with Adam and Eve, through their obedience would result in God’s gifts being passed on to their posterity. But in disobedience they could not perpetuate those blessings because they became unworthy. This idea is manifested in his writing as he states, “This was the reason why, became obnoxious to death temporal and death eternal, and [vacui] devoid of this gift of the Holy Spirit or original righteousness: This punishment usually receives the appellation of ‘a privation of the image of God; and ‘original sin’.” However, he is not content to rest on this point so he asks whether it is enough to define original sin in terms of absence or privation. Is there some contrary quality (some metaphysical substance or positive evil), which more adequately describes original sin? Arminius states that “. . . we think it much more probable, that this absence of original righteousness, only, is original sin itself, as being that which alone is sufficient to commit and produce any actual sins whatsoever.”
Further still, “Arminius employs the language of the Gallican Confession (Art. IX and X) in his disputation.”  He argues that the first man was ‘placed in a state of integrity’ but in the fall was ‘deprived of the primeval righteousness.’ “The Belgic Confession, prepared for the Churches of Flanders and the Netherlands, contains some motifs that are like the Gallican though it lacks the specific allusions to integrity and privation. Further, it gives a straightforward statement about sin as hereditary disease, infection, and as a root which produces actual sin. The themes of the Gallican Confession are more apparent in Arminius than those of the Belgic.
In his articles XIII and XIV Arminius said, “When Adam sinned in his own person and with his free will, God pardoned that transgression: There is no reason then why it was the will of God to impute this sin to infants, who are said to have sinned in Adam, before they had any personal existence, and therefore before they could possibly sin at their own will and pleasure.”
Justification by faith
Arminius strongly believed in the reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone on the basis of Christ’s atonement. This means that he believed in the imputations of God’s righteousness upon the believer as the only basis of salvation. Thus Arminius capitalized on the importance of God in the whole process of salvation. He noted that, “It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good desires. This grace [pravenit] goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain… This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.
Arminius tried to qualify his understanding of the relationship between salvation by faith alone and the place of human works. In that regard, justification is by “Faith, and faith only, (though there is no faith alone without works,) is imputed for righteousness. By this alone are we justified before God, absolved from our sins, and are accounted, pronounced and declared righteous by God, who delivers his judgment from the throne of grace.” Arminius was not keen on distinguishing between passive and active righteousness in regard to Christ as the source of our righteousness. According to him, “Christ has been made of God to me righteousness: ‘He has been made sin for me, that through faith I may be righteousness of God in Him’.” 
Arminius is quite clear to affirm that justification is by faith in what he states below:
… faith is imputed to us for righteousness, on account of Christ and his righteousness. In this enunciation, faith is the object of imputation; but Christ and his obedience are the impetratory [procuring] or meritorious cause of justification. Christ and his obedience are the object of our faith; but not the object of justification or divine imputation, as if God imputes Christ and his righteousness to us for righteousness: This cannot possibly be, since the obedience of Christ is righteousness itself, taken according to the most severe rigour of the law. But I do not deny, that the obedience of Christ is imputed to us; that is, that it is accounted or reckoned for us and for our benefit, because this very thing, – that God reckons the righteousness of Christ to have been performed for us and for our benefit, – is the cause why God imputes to us for righteousness our faith, which has Christ and his righteousness for its object and foundation, and why He justifies us by faith, from faith, or through faith. 
Predestination and Election
It is clear that predestination and election doctrines are some of the key areas where Arminius and the High Calvinism differed. This has to do with the relationship between free will and God’s sovereignty in regard to salvation. McGonigle noted these differences between the two traditions in the following quote:
In his 1905 study, Jacobus Arminius, Jan Maronier reproduced a letter written by Arminius in March 1591 to his former tutor at Basle, Johannes Jacobus Grynaeus. Arminius wrote that ‘there is a lot of dispute among us with regards to predestination, original sin and the free will’. He confessed that some of these matters remained inexplicable and he desired ‘eagerly to be instructed’ by the Basle teacher. Of particular interest is section 5 of the letter where Arminius said that the people in Amsterdam were divided on the question of whether ‘the object of decree of predestination’ relates to man as yet uncreated, or man created but as yet unfallen, or man already fallen.
In response of various Calvinist views on predestination, Arminius decided to give his own sentiment about predestination. For example, he wrote, “The first and most important article in Religion on which I have to offer my views, and which for many years past has engaged my attention, is the Predestination of God, that is, the Election of men to salvation, and the Reprobation of them to destruction.” This quote as well as elsewhere reflects Arminius’ concern over the Calvinist’s understanding of predestination as expressed by certain churchmen that was not in conformity to his understanding. Arminius in his attempt to respond to Calvin’s doctrine of predestination stated it as follows:
I. That God has absolutely and precisely decreed to save certain particular men by his mercy or grace, but to condemn others by his justice: and to do all this without having any regard in such decree to righteousness or sin, obedience or disobedience, which could possibly exist on the part of one class of men or of the other.
II. That, for the execution of the preceding decree, God determined to create Adam, and all men in him, in an upright state of original righteousness; besides which he also ordained them to commit sin, that they might thus become guilty of eternal condemnation and be deprived of original righteousness.
III. That those persons whom God has thus positively willed to save, he has decreed not only to salvation but also to the means which pertain to it; (that is, to conduct and bring them to faith in Christ Jesus, and to perseverance in that faith 😉 and that He also in reality leads them to these results by a grace and power that are irresistible, so that it is not possible for them to do otherwise than believe, persevere in faith, and be saved.
IV. That to those whom, by his absolute will, God has fore- ordained to perdition, he has also decreed to deny that grace which is necessary and sufficient for salvation, and does not in reality confer it upon them; so that they are neither placed in a possible condition nor in any capacity of believing or of being saved.
Arminius then went ahead to reject these teachings by Calvinists in light of what he understood to be clear biblical teachings. Below are the principle points or grounds of rejection of the doctrine by Arminius which i hereby summarize:
IV. None of those Doctors or Divines of the Church who held correct and orthodox sentiments for the first six hundred years after the birth of Christ, ever brought this doctrine forward or gave it their approval. Neither was it professed and approved by a single individual of those who showed themselves the principal and keenest defenders of grace against Pelagius.
VIII. Such a doctrine of Predestination is contrary to the nature of man, in regard to his having been created after the Divine image in the knowledge of God and in righteousness, in regard to his having been created with freedom of will, and in regard to his having been created with a disposition and aptitude for the enjoyment of life eternal.
XII This Predestination is inconsistent with the Nature and Properties of Sin in two ways: (1.) Because sin is called ‘disobedience’ and ‘rebellion,’ neither of which terms can possibly apply to any person who by a preceding divine decree is placed under an unavoidable necessity of sinning. (2.) Because sin is the meritorious cause of damnation. But the meritorious cause which moves the Divine will to reprobate, is according to justice; and it induces God, who holds sin in abhorrence, to will reprobation. Sin, therefore, which is a cause, cannot be placed among the means, by which God executes the decree or will of reprobation.
XIII. This doctrine is likewise repugnant to the Nature of Divine Grace, and as far as its powers permit, it effects its destruction. Under whatever specious pretenses it may be asserted, that ‘this kind of Predestination is most admirably adapted and quite necessary for the establishment of grace.
XIV. The doctrine of this Predestination is Injurious to the Glory of God, which does not consist of a declaration of liberty or authority, nor of a demonstration of anger and power, except to such an extent as that declaration and demonstration may be consistent with justice, and with a perpetual reservation in behalf of the honour of God’s goodness. But, according to this doctrine, it follows that God is the author of sin.
XV. This doctrine is highly dishonourable to Jesus Christ our saviour. For 1. It entirely excludes him from that decree of Predestination which predestinates the end: and it affirms, that men were predestinated to be saved, before Christ was predestinated to save them; and thus it argues, that he is not the foundation of election. 2. It denies, that Christ is the meritorious cause, that again obtained for us the salvation which we had lost, by placing him as only a subordinate cause of that salvation which had been already foreordained, and thus only a minister and instrument to apply that salvation unto us. This indeed is in evident congruity with the opinion which states ‘that God has absolutely willed the salvation of certain men, by the first and supreme decree which he passed, and on which all his other decrees depend and are consequent.’ If this be true, it was therefore impossible for the salvation of such men to have been lost, and therefore unnecessary for it to be repaired and in some sort regained afresh, and discovered, by the merit of Christ, who was fore-ordained a saviour for them alone.
XVII. This doctrine inverts the order of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For in the Gospel God requires repentance and faith on the part of man, by promising to him life everlasting, if he consent to become a convert and a believer.
McGonigle noted that for Arminius “election is not an arbitrary, eternal decree grounded in God’s inscrutable will but is based on his foreknowledge. Arminius maintained that he had never denied there is a doctrine of predestination in the New Testament. His problem, he protested, was with that form of this doctrine which declared that based solely on the sovereign good pleasure of God; he had elected some to salvation, and the rest to perdition, without any regard to their faith or lack of it.” It is quite clearly in Arminius’ understanding that God elects those whom He foresees will believe. Therefore, election is not based on God’s sovereignty, but upon man’s free will to do the good work of believing. Election is conditional, man must meet that condition; therefore, the good work of believing is something that man contributes to his own salvation and something of which he can boast. This idea of salvation reflects a belief is synergism that is cooperation between God and man for the sake of man’s salvation.
The Free Will of Man
Arminius differed with Calvinism on the area of Man’s free will. Calvin’s teachings emphasizes that God is in total control of everything, and that nothing can happen that He does not plan and direct, including human salvation. On the contrary, Arminian theology teaches that man has free will and that God will never interrupt or take that free will away, that God has obligated Himself to respect the free moral agency and capacity of free choice with which He created us. Below is a summary of Arminius’s understanding of free will. He states:
This is my opinion concerning the Free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his Creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform THE TRUE GOOD, according to the commandment delivered to him: Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. – But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace. 
Sanctification of Man
Arminius’ definition of sanctification leads to the conclusion that deprivation results in depravity. Expressed in other terms, autonomous man lives upon his own resources, without the Spirit. With his entire focus being himself, his words and deeds are selfish, curved in to himself. Living autonomously man must manifest a corrupted life. It is notable that Arminius, though he wrote so much on other Christian doctrines, nevertheless wrote quite little in regard to sanctification. Below is a complete record of all that he wrote on the doctrine expressed as follows:
I. The word ‘sanctification’ denotes an act, by which anything is separated from common use, and is consecrated to divine use.
II. Common Use, about the sanctification of which [to divine purposes] we are now treating, is either according to nature itself, by which man lives [animalem] a natural life; or it is according to the corruption of sin, by which he lives to sin and obeys it in its [concupiscentiis] lusts or desires. Divine use is when a man lives according to godliness, in a conformity to the holiness and righteousness in which he was created.
III. Therefore, this sanctification, with respect to [termini a quo] the boundary from which it proceeds, is either from the natural use, or from the use of sin; the boundary [ad quem] to which it tends, is the supernatural and divine use.
IV. But when we treat about man, as a sinner, then sanctification is thus defined: It is a gracious act of God, by which [repurgat] He purifies man who is a sinner, and yet a believer, from the darkness of ignorance, from indwelling sin and from its lusts or desires, and imbues him with the Spirit of knowledge, righteousness and holiness, that, being separated from the life of the world and made conformable to God, man may live the life of God, to the praise of the righteousness and of the glorious grace of God, and to his own salvation.
V. Therefore, this sanctification consists in these two things: In [mortificatione] the death of: the old man ‘who is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,’ and in [vivificatione] the quickening or enlivening of ‘the new man, who, after God, is created in righteousness and the holiness of truth.’
VI. The author of sanctification is God, the Holy Father himself, in his Son who is the Holy of holies, through the Spirit [sanctificationis] of holiness. The External Instrument is the word of God; the internal one is faith yielded to the word preached. For the word does not sanctify, only as it is preached, unless the faith be added by which the hearts of men are purified.
VII. The Object of sanctification is man, a sinner, and yet a believer — A sinner, because, being contaminated through sin and addicted to a life of sin, he is unfit to serve the living God — A believer, because he is united to Christ through faith in him, on whom our holiness is founded; and he is planted together with Christ and joined to him in a conformity with his death and resurrection. Hence, he dies to sin, and is excited or raised up to a new life.
VIII. The Subject is, properly, the soul of man. And, First, the mind, which is illuminated, the dark clouds of ignorance being driven away. Next, [affectus] the inclination or the will, by which it is delivered from the dominion of indwelling sin, and [perfunditur] is filled with the spirit of holiness. The body is not changed, either as to its essence or its inward qualifies; but as it is a part of the man, who is consecrated to God, and is an instrument united to the soul, having been removed by the sanctified soul which inhabits it from [usibus] the purposes of sin, it is admitted to and employed in the service of God, ‘that our whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
IX. The Form lies in the purification from sin, and in a conformity with God in the body of Christ through his Spirit.
X. The End is, that a believing man, being consecrated to God as a Priest and King, should serve Him in newness of life, to the glory of his divine name, and to the salvation of man.
XI. As, under the Old Testament, the priests, when approaching to render worship to God, were accustomed to be sprinkled with blood, so, likewise, the blood of Jesus Christ, which is the blood of the New Testament, serves for this purpose-to sprinkle us, who are constituted by him as priests, to serve the living God. In this respect, the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, which principally serves for the expiation of sins, and which is the cause of justification, belongs also to sanctification: For [illic] in justification, this sprinkling serves to wash away sins that have been committed; but in sanctification, it serves to sanctify men who have obtained remission of their sins, that they may further be enabled to offer worship and sacrifices to God, through Christ.
XII. This sanctification is not completed in a single moment; but sin, from whose dominion we have been delivered through the cross and the death of Christ, is weakened more and more by daily [detrimenta] losses, and the inner man is day by day renewed more and more, while we carry about with us in our bodies, the death of Christ, and the outward man [corrumpitur] is perishing.
Several key ideas that emanate from the above explanation of sanctification are as follows.
A. Sanctification is an act of God who consecrates people for his own use in his office has Priest and King.
B. Sanctification has strong ethical and moral implications for God’s interactions with humanity lead to godliness. This godliness or holiness is the result of being united with Christ.
C. Sanctification is a gracious act of God through the Holy Spirit that entails cleansing of the inward corruption from which sinful acts proceeds.
D. It necessitates the mortification of the flesh and the enlivenment from the spirit of God in which man is renewed after the image of God and consequently fully committed to the will of God for his life.
E. It is the work of the triune-God accompanied by hearing God’s word and faith on the side of humanity.
F. Sanctification is one aspect of salvation in which believers are enabled to offer sacrifice and worship to God through Christ while the other aspects has to do with justification in which sinners are expiated through the blood of Christ.
G. It is a progressive act of God that begins at a particular moment and continues throughout life.
The Perfection of Believers
Study of Arminius’ various documents indicates that he held dear the doctrine of Christian perfection. He distanced himself from the allegation that he supported the Pelagian view that believers can perfectly keep God’s precepts in this life. As he admits, the only key distinction between him and Pelagian is that perfection is only possible on the basis of God’s grace through Christ. He was persuaded that his view was in line with that of Augustine. He quoted four main elements in the teaching of Augustine that he thought were sound and reasonable on the basis of scripture. The four are: First, every human being begins life as a fallen creature and thus no one can claim not to have sinned with exception of Christ. Second, there is no possibility of absolute perfection in this life. Third, it is impossible for a man to be completely sinless in this life apart from grace and free-will, thus perfection is meritorious work of Christ. Fourth, there is no single person who has ever lived who has been found without sin except Christ. He moves ahead to state in support of Augustine’s attack on Pelagians:
Beside this, the same Christian father says, ‘let Pelagius confess, that it is possible for man to be without sin, in no other way than by the grace of Christ, and we will be at peace with each other.’ The opinion of Pelagius appeared to St. Augustine to be this – ‘that man could fulfill the law of God by his own proffer strength and ability; but with still ‘greater facility by means of the grace of Christ.’ I have already most abundantly stated the great distance at which I stand from such a sentiment; in addition to which I now declare, that I account this sentiment of Pelagius to be heretical, and diametrically opposed to these words of Christ, ‘Without me ye can do nothing:’ (John xv, 5.) It is likewise very destructive, and inflicts a most grievous wound on the glory of Christ.
On the basis of these arguments he sought to defend himself from his critics who thought that he was a proponent of Pelagian heresy. He defended himself by stating that:
I cannot see that anything is contained in all I have hitherto produced respecting my sentiments, on account of which any person ought to be ‘afraid of appearing in the presence of God,’ and from which it might be feared that any mischievous consequences can possibly arise. Yet because every day brings me fresh information about reports concerning me, ‘that I carry in my breast destructive sentiments and heresies,’ I cannot possibly conceive to what points those charges can relate, except perhaps they draw some such pretext from my opinion concerning the Divinity of the Son of God, and the justification of man before God. Indeed, I have lately learnt, that there has been much public conversation, and many rumors have been circulated, respecting my opinion on both these points of doctrine, particularly since the last conference [between Gomarus and myself] before the Counselors of the Supreme Court. This is one reason why I think, that I shall not be acting unadvisedly if I disclose to your Mightinesses the real state of the whole matter.
Summary and Conclusion:
Several lines of thought have surfaced in this study. Below is a brief summary of them according to Arminius.
1. Man is free from Adam’s guilt and is only accountable before God for personal sins.
2. Though Arminius started out as a strict Calvinist he later modified his views especially on original sin, the sovereignty of God and free-will as reflected in the Remonstrance in 1610.
3. He believed that sinful nature was passed on from one generation to another with its genesis in Adam and Eve. According to him the first man was ‘placed in a state of integrity’ but in the fall was ‘deprived of the primeval righteousness.
4. Arminius strongly believed in the reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone on the basis of Christ’s atonement. He also believed in sanctification as a gracious act of God.
Arminius’ view of perfection was opposed to the Pelagian understanding of perfection. It was very much in line with Augustine’s doctrine of perfection.
 Herbert B. McGonigle, John Wesley’s Arminian Theology: An Introduction, Second Edition Revised and Reset (Derbys: Moorley, 2005), 6.
 McGonigle, John Wesley’s Arminian Theology: An Introduction, 9
 Leon O. Hynson, Original Sin as Privation: An Inquiry into a Theology of Sin and Sanctification, http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyan_theology/theojrnl/21-25/22-14.htm
 James Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, Volume II translated by James Nichols, Barker Book House, Grand
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, Volume II, 375.
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, Volume II, 375
 See Leon O. Hynson, Original Sin as Privation: An Inquiry into a Theology of Sin and Sanctification, http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyan_theology/theojrnl/21-25/22-14.htm
 Leon O. Hynson, Original Sin as Privation: An Inquiry into a Theology of Sin and Sanctification, http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyan_theology/theojrnl/21-25/22-14.htm
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, volume II, 11, 12.
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, volume II, 700
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, volume II, 701
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, volume II, 701
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, volume II, 702
 Herbert Boyd McGonigle, Sufficient Saving Grace: John Wesley’s Evangelical Arminianism, Foreword by John Walsh, first published 2001 by Paternoster, 21.
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, Volume I, 613, 614.
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, volume I, 617, 618
 These twenty points expressed above are brief summaries of Arminius’ rejection of Calvinist’s doctrine of predestination expressed in J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, volume I, see pp. 619-639.
 McGonigle, Sufficient Saving Grace, 33
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, volume I 659, 660
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, volume II, 409, 410
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, volume I, 683-689
 J. Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, volume I, 690, 691