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Arminianism: A Cheap-Grace, Gospel-less Heresy
“If we sum up the evidence that has been given, we shall find its amount to be, that Arminianism came from the Church of Rome, and leads back again to the pit whence it was digged.” – Augustus Toplady
Arminianism is a foul heresy! No prophet of God, nor Paul, nor Christ, ever proclaimed this semi-pelagian, cheap grace gospel that is powerless to save because it is no gospel at all. The Canons of Dort refer to Arminianism as a “novel idea,” an “invention of the human mind,” “or gross error,” that “…contradicts the Holy Scripture.” This article will explain a few reasons why Armininianism is a foul heresy and not an inconsequential doctrine that Christians can ignore.
Why is Arminianism heresy?
Armininianism teaches that human beings are not totally depraved because they can exercise their frail and fickle free-will to save themselves. This is contrary to Holy Scripture—which teaches that sinners are conceived in sin, dead in sin, slaves to sin, and are servants of sin—that are totally polluted in all faculties and parts of the body and soul. To argue that a sinner can come to Christ by exercising their free-will is to falsely assume that they have the “desire” to do this which is clearly antithetical to the teachings of Paul (cf. Rom. 3:10-18).
Free-will is the great idol of fallen men who elevate their gross decisions above God’s decree. This is commonly known as contra-causal freedom, or libertarianism—which is a subterfuge that cannot save, nor has it ever saved anyone—because free-will can only send people to hell, and none to heaven. There are several problems that arise from this sophistry:
If God justified a man because he made himself differ from other men with his libertarian freedom to accept Christ—this would make God a respecter of persons, which clearly contradicts Scripture (cf. Acts 10:34). Only a boastful man would dare argue that he is the co-savior or captain of his soul because his decision to be saved was more profitable than someone else’s when both had the same grace extended to them. No one can rescue themselves from God’s wrath, or come to Christ on their own terms or timing, because God has decreed before the foundation of the world that all things—including the salvation of individuals—whatsoever shall come to pass.
Arminianism elevates human decisions above God’s decree. It subjects God’s decree to man’s decision in lieu of subjugating man’s decisions under God’s decree. Thereby, Arminians will argue that God’s election and reprobation are contingent upon foreseen faith or disbelief, that is, whether a depraved sinner is going to either accept or deny Him. This is not language from heaven; this is a lie from hell! What are the problems with this argument?
If God has to foresee whether a sinner will either accept or deny Him—this would mean that God would have to see something in the sinner that He must laud, and not loathe. God sees absolutely nothing in anyone that He must praise, since our best works do not merit His favor, but His wrath. Also, if God must foresee whether the sinner will either accept or deny him, then God is not transcendent. The all knowing God does not need to foresee; He already knows from all eternity, and that is so because He has ordained everything that comes to pass.
Arminianism is diabolically gospel-less because it teaches that the vicarious and atoning death of Christ was made universally for all, even to include those whom the Father will consign to everlasting torment in hell. Does this mean that Christ actually redeemed or just made sinners redeemable? If Christ died for all—this would mean that Christ only made sinners redeemable. Therefore, because the application of His death is contingent upon the mere will of men to either accept or deny it, this cannot be the glorious gospel of grace.
Arminianism distorts the teachings of God’s free-grace. If God’s grace is contingent upon man’s decision, then God’s grace is not free, and salvation would have to be ascribed to man and not God. Also, if the will of man precedes the will of God, or if the power of God in the Gospel is only possible if men cooperate, then Paul would be a liar because he said that “it is God that works in us to will and to do” (Phil. 2:13), and he called the Gospel the power of God unto salvation (cf. Rom. 1:16). This is why advocates of semi-pelagian popery are teachers of their own righteousness, and despisers of free-grace.
Arminianism will contradictorily teach that regenerate saints can fall from the faith that they once previously accepted. Unlettered men or women will denounce this necessary conclusion, and will posit that not all Armininians will agree with this notion. Despite these conjectures or opinions of men or women, Arminians can never have assurance of their salvation because if they have the free-will to be saved, then to be logically consistent, they will have the ability to lose it also. On the contrary, regenerate Christians can have assurance of their salvation, since God’s decree is unchangeable, eternal, and absolute.
Am I arguing that all Arminians are not saved? I am arguing that no human being can be saved unless the “Gospel saves them.” Arminianism is a false gospel. Therefore, Arminians are not saved. If an Arminian “becomes” saved—or if they are saved—they are not Arminian. If an Arminian is saved, it is despite their Arminianism. There are professing Arminians that are in the rudimentary stages of their faith that may be unlettered or ill-advised about what they really know. However, if they are regenerate, they are not Arminian—because their gospel has no power to save, and has never saved anyone—which means that it is no gospel at all.
How do I respond to moderate Calvinists who call Arminians brothers, and then decry me a hyper-Calvinist for calling Arminianism heresy? This appears to be straw-man argument, because men or women who use this hyper-Calvinist fallacy are either trying to refute an argument that does not exist, or they do not know what hyper-Calvinism means. Calling Arminianism heresy does not warrant the charge of being decried as a hyper-Calvinist. I am not consigning Arminians to hell, or adjuring other Christians to not witness to them or treating them like they are not made in the image of God. I am arguing that Christians should witness to them by telling them the truth. Also, calling Arminianism heresy may sound harsh. However, it is not un-biblical, because Scripture does have a precedent that warrants harsh dialogue or a blunt rebuke (cf. 1 Kings. 18:20-40; Acts 9-24; Matt. 23).
I do not popishly declare Arminians to be saved, nor do I call them brothers like many of the moderate Calvinists do who decry others like myself to be a hyper-Calvinist just because I call Arminianism heresy. Instead, I witness to them—because it would be quite difficult for me to witness to Arminians especially if I have already called them brothers—which sends a misleading message that I believe they are “brothers in Christ” despite the fact they affirm a gospel that cannot save and that Christ never taught. This is why I argue that moderate Calvinists are really the hyper-Calvinists, because why would they need to witness to Arminians if they already call them brothers? Arminians are not brothers in Christ, which necessitates that Christians witness to them, and not neglect this responsibility by misleading Arminians to believe that they are saved.
In this article, I have argued that Arminianism is heresy because it teaches that salvation is a condition of foreseen faith, and that God’s grace is cheap and not free, since it is contingent upon man to determine if they want to accept or deny it. Also, it teaches that God’s eternal decree can be thwarted by the creature’s contra-causal liberty, and that the death of Christ only made sinners redeemable. This, is why the cheap grace, semi-pelagian lie of Arminianism is a false gospel.
Arminians, stop treating God like he is the Constitution or Bill of Rights. He is not a god that treats all people equally, never discriminates, and affords everyone the right to exercise their free-will to choose. On the contrary, He is the God who will give His free grace to whomever He desires, and He will also give His justice to whomever He desires. That is because God does as he pleases in the salvation and condemnation of sinners which He has decided before the foundation of the world according to His immutable will. Repent and believe in the Gospel!
IS ARMINIANISM A DIFFERENT GOSPEL? – Rev. E. Kampen
The seriousness and extent of Arminian thinking can be a point of contention at times. It is not unheard of that in Reformed circles critical comments about Arminianism are met with blank stares, a degree of indifference, or even a degree of hostility. The hostility may arise as it is felt that the criticism is unjust, extreme, inaccurate, or, even if it is correct, unnecessary as despite the differences those holding to Arminian theology are still Christians.
In recent reading I came across some remarks concerning Arminianism which showed both the seriousness and extent of Arminian thinking and how it is incompatible with the Reformed faith which, after all, is the Scriptural faith. In essence, in Arminianism we have a different gospel (see 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-8), a gospel which denies salvation is the complete gift of the sovereign God who graciously justifies sinners through faith alone.
Just to refresh your memory, Arminian thinking, so soundly renounced in the Canons of Dort, denies God’s sovereign eternal election unto salvation. While affirming God’s grace, Arminianism claims that God merely offers salvation and it is up to man who decides to accept or reject the gospel. One author summed up Arminian thinking as follows,”….God was made dependent on free-will-equipped-men for whom He politely had to wait, looking to see whether the man would be so kind as to believe”(1).
Though the Reformers of the early 16th Century did not have to contend with Arminianism as such, since Arminianism arose late in the 16th century and early in the 17th century, they did have to contend with its theological cousin, Semi-Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagianism teaches that man is spiritually sick. As such he does need the help of God’s grace in order to get better. However, it is up to man to take the spiritual medicine which God offers. God must have man’s co-operation. In theological terms this was called “synergism”. You can see the similarity to the Arminian position. The Reformers responded to this by stressing the sovereign grace of God, as heard in the cry “Sola gratia”. God calls those dead in sin to new life (see Eph. 2:1-10). The Reformers stressed the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace. This was a point of unity between the Reformers despite differences about other issues. (2) In the Book “The Bondage of the Will” this was the point that Luther argued with Erasmus.
We should note then that Arminianism is a reincarnation ofSemi-Pelagianism with its emphasis on man’s freedom. This explainswhy the churches acted so resolutely with respect to Arminianism. They saw it as a serious threat to the gospel and condemned it “as being in principle a return to Rome (because in effect it turned faith into ameritorious work) and a betrayal of the Reformation (because it denied the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, which was the deepest religious and theological principle of the Reformer’s thought). Arminianism was,indeed, in Reformed eyes a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favour of New Testament Judaism; for to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle from relying on oneself for works, and the one is as unchristian and anti-Christian as the other.”(3)
The Reformed faith thus teaches the helplessness of man insalvation. Arminianism, in typical Semi-Pelagian style, teachesself-help religion. It is sovereign God versus sovereign man. It is indeed the different gospel which Paul warned about. It is appealing because it extols the dignity of man. It is a lie because man is dead in sin, totally helpless.
While the aforementioned points show the seriousness of theArminian teaching and how it stands in contrast to true Reformation theology, to what extent is it found today? One author stated that”Arminianism … has had American evangelicalism in a strangleholdsince the days of Charles Finney.”(4) Charles Finney (1792-1875) was arevivalist preacher who was very influential with his revival techniques. Another author states that 86 percent of American evangelicals hold to the Arminian position as comes out in their agreement with the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” (5)This comes out very clearly in the writings of the well known BillyGraham who has even written a religious self-help manual titled “How To be Born Again” in which the various steps to salvation are clearly spelled out.(6)
The apostle Paul fought with great vigour against the”different gospel”. In that gospel they will speak of Christ and use words like grace, election, faith, regeneration, etc. Yet, it is not the gospel of sovereign grace received through faith but of gracereceived on the ground of one’s faith. The earlier mentioned reference linking Rome and Arminianism is worth drawing to your attention again.Actually,there is a common denominator in all false religion in that it ascribes ability and free will to man by which he can effect his own salvation if he so wishes. It displays the arrogance of sinful man,even more so when he dresses lies with words of the gospel. That makes the enemy all the more difficult to detect as he works in his subtle way. We can all the more understand Paul’s warning about Satandisguising himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
Personally I don’t enjoy having to harp on the point of theArminian danger. I fear, however, that it is necessary because it is not realized how serious and extensive a threat it is. The true church glories in the gospel of sovereign grace where God rescues deadsinners and grants them the righteousness of Christ through faith. Let me conclude quoting in full Paul’s words in Gal. 1:6-9,
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called youin the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel –not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.