Mar 15, 2009

Arminius & Total Depravity

Pastor Bruce Oyen sent me the following e-mails with some information about the views of James Arminius on "total depravity." The citation shows that one can believe in total depravity and yet still believe that faith is a means in regeneration. I am glad to share these words of Brother Oyen and of Arminius with the readers of the Gadfly.

Pastor Oyen wrote (emphasis mine SG):

"I am presently reading with great profit theologian Roger Olson's book, ARMINIAN THEOLOGY, MYTHS AND REALITIES.

Perhaps you will find interesting this quote by Olson of Arminius on man's depravity. Olson's quote is from, "A Declaration Of The Sentiments Of Arminius," from volume 1, pages 659-60 of The Works of Arminius. The quote is on page 42 of the Introduction to Olson's book.

Arminius said: "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 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."

Following this I was sent this e-mail from brother Oyen:

"Arminian theologian Roger Olson, who wrote ARMINIAN THEOLOGY, Myths And Realities, says this on page 36 of his book: "In some sense, then, Arminians, like Calvinists, believe that regeneration precedes conversion; repentance and faith are only possible because the old nature is being overcome by the Spirit of God. The person who receives the full intensity of prevenient grace (i. e., through the proclamation of the Word and the corrersponding internal calling of God) is no longer dead in trespasses and sins. However, such a person is not yet fully regenerated. The bridge between the partial regeneration by prevenient grace and full regeneration is conversion, which includes repentance and faith. These are made possible by the gift of God, but they are free responses on the part of the individual." On the same page, Olson wrote: "Cooperation does not contribute to salvation, as if God does part and humans do part; rather cooperation with grace in Arminian theology is simply nonresistance to grace. It is merely deciding to allow grace to do its work by laying down all attempts at self-justification and self-purification, and admitting that only Christ can save. Nevertheless, God does not make this decision for the individual; it is a decision individuals, under the pressure of prevenient grace, must make for themselves."

I especially appreciate the former statement by Arminius on man's depravity. I cannot say that I fully endorse what Arminius says about "prevenient grace," but nevertheless do not believe his error is all that great.

I have myself, in former writings, pointed out how the Hyper Calvinists, who puts regeneration before faith, actually defines the experience of regeneration in a manner similar to how the Arminians define "prevenient grace." Both say that either regeneration or prevenient grace is what "enables" the sinner to obey the gospel. What Hyper Calvinists call "regeneration," the Arminian calls a pre-regeneration work, or a preparatory work leading to regeneration.

1 comment:

Ian D. Elsasser said...


Those wishing to consult The Works of Jacobus Arminius first-hand may do so online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Wesley Center Online and