Here is the beginnings of my latest essay which will serve as a kind of introduction to differing views on soteriology-the doctrine of salvation. It should also be noted that this essay will not serve as another poorly written paper intending to diminish or mock the opposition. I am of the opinion that until you are tempted to join the other side, you have not appropriately or adequately established their arguments. The finished product will be posted in the coming weeks!
For the hopeless, lost, ignorant, foolish, wicked, offensive, fruitless, blind sinner, there is nothing so precious as God’s grace. Ephesians 2:8 declares “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” The doctrine of soteriology, or salvation, is one of the great truths set forth in the Holy Scriptures. Yet, it has become a discipline of theological rift. The disagreement over soteriology within the evangelical circle, historically, has manifested itself in the form of two parties with mutually exclusive interpretations of the Bible’s account of redemption. They’ve come to be called Arminianism and Calvinism. To define these parties, we must consider their historic origins, and respective architects and positions.
In Geneva, France, 1534, 25 year old scholar John Calvin began working on the first edition of his “Institutes of the Christian Religion”. It was published in 1536, and Calvin revised it several times thereafter. His “Institutes”, pastoral work, and massive outpouring of commentary on the Bible meant that, along with Martin Luther, he was one of the most prominent leaders of the Reformation. Although Calvin initially signed the Lutheran Augsburg Confession in 1540, it became progressively clearer in the ensuing months that his reformed churches were developing in a direction independent of Martin Luther’s. It was much later that John Calvin had fame attached to the reformed church, whose entire doctrinal system eventually came to be called “Calvinism”. Calvin’s views and writings, especially those on sovereign grace and the depravity of man became basic frameworks for the protestant churches of the day. In some cases, the Calvinistic doctrines were held by state churches, like in Holland, which takes us to the protest of the Arminians.
In 1610, just one year after the death of James Arminius, his followers drew up 5 articles of faith based on his teachings. Arminius had been a Dutch seminary professor that first came to question Calvinism while learning under John Calvin’s son in law. He rejected Calvinism and became and adamant opponent of the official state church of Holland. The 5 articles of faith drawn up by the Arminians were presented to the Dutch government in the form of a “Remonstrance” (i.e., a protest). The Arminians insisted that the Belgic Confession of Faith and Heidelberg Catechism (the official expressions of the doctrinal position of the Church of Holland) be changed to conform to the doctrines held in the Remonstrance. Among the upheld doctrines being targeted were divine sovereignty, human inability, unconditional election, predestination, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. These were the subjects the Arminians wanted revised in the Church of Holland’s official doctrinal expressions. Roger Nicole summarizes “The Five Points of Arminianism”, as the Remonstrance came to be called, as follows:
- God elects or reproves on the basis of foreseen faith or unbelief.
- Christ died for all men without exception, although only believers are saved.
- Man is so depraved that divine grace is necessary unto faith or any good deed.
- This grace may be resisted.
- Whether all who are truly regenerate will certainly persevere in the faith is a point which needs further investigation.
-The last article was later revised so as to definitely teach that the truly regenerate believer could lose his faith and thus his salvation. However, this has been the most widely contested issue amongst Arminians, and some have held that those who are truly regenerate by the spirit are eternally secure and can never perish.
*Completed post to be uploaded at a later date