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What Is Arminian Theology?

By Jessica F. Black
Updated May 23, 2024
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Arminian theology is a religious school of thought that was created out of opposition to Calvin theology in the 17th century. Arminianism was created by a Dutch theologian, Jacob Arminius, who was raised and taught under the influence of Calvinism. He began to question the lack of free-will and other ideas expressed in his religious studies and these questions gradually transformed into the basic concepts of Arminian theology. Although these ideas met with some controversy throughout Holland, Arminianism became a movement with a significant following and was transcribed for public viewing in the early 1600s. Both Calvinism and Arminianism fall under Protestant Christianity and many concepts from both schools of thought are present in religious sects today.

Some of the key principles of Arminian theology include general atonement, free-will, resistible grace, and present assurance for salvation. Each of these key principles are in direct defense of the concepts of Calvinism and are often used to compare one theology to another. Arminius was taught by a Calvinistic extremist and became highly familiar with the beliefs of that particular movement, which was created in the mid-1500s. His theology grew out of an individual disagreement with the beliefs system that John Calvin preached. Throughout history, Arminianism has continued to evolve and is presently used as the foundation for many religions including Unitarianism.

General atonement is the idea that forgiveness is not just designated for a select number of people but is available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. Free-will was one of the first concepts that Arminius began pondering because Calvinism expresses that God is in total control of the destiny of humans. Arminius felt that humans had a freedom of choice that enabled them to participate in their own destiny and that God oversees these choices. Resistible grace is also based upon freedom and allows the individual to accept what God bestows upon them as opposed to having decisions thrust upon them. Present assurance for salvation is the idea that all are not eternally saved and their salvation depends on their courses of action, behavior, and numerous other factors.

Although Arminianism was slightly underdeveloped by the time of Arminius's death, his theology was the influential building block for other movements including the Methodist movement. The popularization of Arminian theology has led to many debates based on Calvinism versus Arminianism. Many people who adopted the concepts of Arminian theology continue to practice these beliefs within their religious sector.

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