One major problem of humanity is refusing to accept the truths that God has revealed in his Word. Arminianism is one such evidence of this problem. It denies the clear teaching of the Bible and presents the gospel of salvation from a humanistic point of view, placing man at the centre of salvation instead of God.
Arminianism accuses God, directly and indirectly, of being unjust, cruel, unloving, and unfair. This belief is guilty of syncretism in many ways. It adds human thoughts and practices to the clearly taught doctrines of Scripture. This article will define Arminianism, respond to its five articles, outline its effects, and show the lessons that we can learn from it.

What is Arminianism?

The term “Arminianism” originated in the early seventeenth century, following the Synod of Dort. Arminianism refers to the teachings of Jacobus Arminius which were the complete opposite of the five fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith as are taught in Scripture and as were upheld by the Reformers. As already mentioned by Choolwe Mwetwa above, “From a theological standpoint, Arminianism surrenders to man capabilities for eternal salvation.” Those who follow the teachings of Jacobus Arminius are called Arminians.

Brief background of Arminianism

According to Erroll Hulse, “Arminius’ teaching resulted in the convening of an international conference that took place in Dordrecht, Holland. It was convened by the Dutch Reformed Church, but with representatives from eight foreign nations. This conference was unique because it concentrated on specific central truths about salvation and published those findings after it was concluded.”
Jacobus Arminius was born in Oudewater, South Holland. He was very talented, brilliant, learned, a teacher, and a theologian. Arminius wanted to combine the effectual grace of God with the free will of man. After his death his disciples contended for his principles. These disciples were known as the “Remonstrants” and they were led by Johannes Uytenbogaert. This leader called together forty Arminian pastors in 1610 who drew up five propositions known as the “Five Articles of Remonstrance”. These were: 1. Election conditioned on foreseen faith. 2. Universal atonement 3. The need for regeneration. 4. The resistibility of grace. 5. The uncertainty of the perseverance of the believers. Apart from article number 3, these articles were the complete opposite to what John Calvin had taught. The Synod of Dort produced a statement confined mostly to the subject of salvation which had about twenty-six pages without the Scriptures appended. In this document, sovereign grace was powerfully affirmed as essential biblical truth and Arminianism was firmly rejected.

A counter reaction to the Arminian articles

Election conditioned on foreseen faith: This article elevates man’s efforts in as far as salvation is concerned. It seeks to reconcile God’s election with man’s freedom. It, however, fails to appreciate the utter ruin that man has fallen into. Robert Selph said, “The key problem with man is not his faculty of choice but his disposition of heart to desire. In other words, man left to himself will not choose salvation through Christ on God’s terms. Not only is the natural man dead and darkened spiritually, but he is hostile, and biased against Christ’s righteous rule and holy ways.”
This analysis of man is so true. Selph goes on to say, “God calls for man
to choose, to decide, to call, to believe? But nowhere can this superimposed capacity within man to have sovereign freedom of choice be supported by Holy Scripture. Man is duty bound, yet sin bound.” Selph’s point is that man can only be saved by God’s grace. There is nothing good in man to warrant God’s free grace. God says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:14–16, cf. 3:9–18).
Universal atonement: This is the teaching that Christ died for every
person but his death is only effective in those who believe the gospel. This view
cannot be substantiated in the Scriptures. This position puts emphasis on man and elevates man in as far as salvation is concerned. It fails to recognise the teaching of Scripture that atonement is limited to the elect or particular persons. Jesus said, “Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15), and Paul said, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28; cf. Eph. 5:25; Rom 8:29, 32–33, 9:13; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). Some of the Scriptures used by Arminians to defend their position are 2 Cor. 5:14–15; 1 Tim.
2:6, 4:10; Tit. 2:11; Heb. 2:9; 2 Pet. 3:9, 2:1, thriving on the phrase “all” and
“whosoever” as found in John 3:16; Acts 2:21. They quote these verses out of context and in isolation from whole biblical truth.
The resistibility of grace: The doctrine teaches that man can resist the
grace of God which draws the sinner to Christ’s saving knowledge. Scripture has a lot to say to counter this thinking. In the early years of Christianity, Bishop Augustine of Hippo, once said, “By your gift I had come totally not to will what I had willed but to will what you willed.” In this phrase, Augustine is saying it was God’s gift of grace which enabled him to follow God’s will of salvation rather than his will which was ever hostile to God’s.
There are two distinct ways in which God exercises his grace upon mankind. Firstly, through what is known as “common grace” and secondly, through what is known as “special or efficacious grace”. Luis Berkhof defines “common grace” as: (a) those general operations of the Holy Spirit whereby he, without renewing the heart, exercises such a moral influence on man through his general revelation, that sin is restrained, order is maintained in social life, and civil righteous is promoted; or (b) those general blessings, such as rain and sunshine, food and drink, clothing and shelter, which God imparts to all men indiscriminately where and in what measure it seems good to him.
On the other hand, “special or efficacious grace” is narrow in scope compared to common grace. It is only efficacious or effective in those to whom it was given (the elect). Charles Ryrie defines efficacious grace as “the work of the Holy Spirit which effectively moves men to believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour”. In other words, this is the ability given to the elect by God himself so that the elect can willingly exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, if special grace can be resisted, it means that, that person who would reject the efficacious grace was not among the elect. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). In verse 65 of this same chapter, he went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” Paul says to his son in the faith, Timothy, “… who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2 Tim. 1:9, cf.
1:8–11; Rom. 1:1, 6–7, 8:28; 1 Cor. 1:1–2, 24, 26; Eph. 1:18; 4:1, 4; Tit. 3:5).
The uncertainty of the perseverance of the believers: This article is tied to the fourth article. It implies that since man has received his salvation as an act of his will, he may as well forfeit his salvation as an act of the same will.
Before a counter is provided to this point, I wish to state what a believer’s perseverance does not mean. It does not mean that a genuine Christian cannot fall into sin. Neither does it suggest that a believer would be perfect and sinless. However, the Scriptures teach us that we can be certain that he who has called us is faithful and that he will keep us secure up to the end in spite of failing him from time to time. I must qualify this “failing him from time to time.” This is not a suggestion of a habitual life of sin. This is a reference to the Christian’s genuine struggle with sin as he or she desires to please the Lord.
The hope that believers have to persevere to the end rests in the secured work of God the Father, the Son (Christ will never lose any that the Father gives him), and the Holy Spirit and not in our will or strength (Eph. 1:4–5, 4:30; Rom.
5:7–10, 8:28–30; John 14:17, 17:24; 1 John 2:1). For the believer to lose his salvation would demand a reversal and undoing of the works of the triune God.

Effects of Arminianism

What are the effects of this doctrine on us today?
Negative effects of Arminianism: There are two effects Arminianism. The first is that this doctrine led to the formation of Hyper-Calvinism. The second is that Arminianism like any other wrong doctrine divided the church and does the same today. We must be careful with what we teach because the effects remain when we are long gone.
During Arminius’ time the church was divided and it is still divided today due to the influence of one man. It does not matter whether you are famous or not, whether you speak to large groups or a few people, always teach what is in line with all Scripture and sound doctrine. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2) and “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1).
Positive effects of Arminianism: The main positive effect that
Arminianism brought about was a clearer definition of Calvinism as a result of the Synod of Dort where Arminianism was tested and proved unbiblical. This well-defined Calvinism is what many evangelical conservatives hold today.


Arminianism today has a very large following and has done more harm than good to the doctrine of salvation. In principle, Arminianism equals Roman Catholicism. It promotes salvation by works because it elevates man above God and tempers with the very heart of the Christian faith. Christians who understand that salvation is the work of the Lord wrought on sinful man by his grace and appropriated by faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ should not keep quiet but teach the truth and endeavour to defend it at all costs. It is my hope and prayer that these few thoughts will spur us to do justice to the doctrine of salvation as we contend for the faith (Jude 3).

Berkhof, Luis. Systematic Theology: An extraction from the lecture notes of
Rev Gary P. Wilson.
Hulse, Erroll. 2008. Who Saves, God or Me? British Library Cataloguing in
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Reymond, Robert L. 1998. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith.
Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Ryrie, Charles. The Holy Spirit. An extraction from the lecture notes of Rev
Gary P. Wilson.
Selph, Robert B. 1991. Southern Baptists and the Doctrine of Election.
Sprinkle Publications. Harrisonburg, VA 22801.