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Arminius and the Reformation

  • Carl Bangs (a1)


James Arminius (1560-1609) is not nearly as well-known as the various movements which bear his name. “Arminianism” is a familiar word in Protestant history and theology and a pervasive movement particularly in English-speaking Protestantism. The Arminian movements, however, because of their diversity do not point clearly to Arminius himself. The label of Arminianism has been applied to and often accepted by such diverse entities as the politics of William Laud, seventeenth century Anglican theology from high churchmanship to moderate Puritanism, the communal experiment at Little Gidding, the empiricism of John Locke, Latitudinarianism, the rational supernaturalism of Hugo Grotius and the early Remonstrants, early Unitarianism in England, Wales, and New England, the evangelicalism of the Wesleys, and the revivalism of the American frontier. In our time the term means for some the crowning of Reformation theology; for others it points merely to an anachronistic sub-species of fundamentalism; and for still others it means an easy-going American culture-Protestantism.



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1. Brandt, Caspar, The Life of James Arminius, D. D. (tr. Guthrie, John, Nashville, 1857), pp. 4445. Caspar Brandt, son of the Remonstrant historian, Gerard Brandt the elder, wrote this important biography in the late seventeenth century.

2. See, for instance, the articles on Arminius in the 9th and 11th editions of Encyclopedia Britannica and in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics.

3. See Hodge, A. A., Outlines of Theology (London, 1879), p. 105, and Nicole, Roger as reported in Christianity Today, IV, 1 (10. 12, 1959), p. 6. A particularly violent attack on the character of Arminius is found in Warburton, Ben A., Calvinism (Grand Rapids, 1955), pp. 49 ff. Says Warburton: “That much cunning had been practised by Arminius there is little room to doubt, and that he was equally dishonest is clear.”

4. Quoted in Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church (New York, 1910), VIII, 599.

5. Quoted Ibid., 625.

6. Quoted Ibid., 618.

7. Brandt, Gerard, History of the Reformation in the Low Countries (4 vols., London, 1720 ff.), II, 72. Gerard Brandt's History, written from a distinctly partisan Remonstrant viewpoint to be sure, is valuable for the inclusion of source materials and references from this period.

9. Gerard Brandt describes these matters in great detail.

10. The important question of the relationship of Beza to the Dutch ministry is discussed, with important source materials included, in Vries, Herman de [de Heekelingen], Genève: Pépinière du Calvinisme Hollandaise (2 vols.). Vol. I, Les Etudiants des Pays-Bas à Genève au Temps de Théodore de Bèze (Fribourg, 1918). Vol. II, Correspondance des Elèves de Théodore de Bèze après leur Départ de Genéve (The Hague, 1924).

11. See Brandt's, History, I, 366–68.

12. See Alumni Cantabrigienses (Cambridge, 1922), Pt. I, Vol. I, 96.

13. The early Geneva faculty is described in Borgeaud, Charles, Histoire de l'Université de Genève (Geneva, 1900).

14. In the “Examination of Gomarus,” published in English only in the London edition of The Works of James Arminius, D. D., Vol. III (London, 1875), 656.

15. In letter to Sebastian Egberts, May 3, 1607, in Brandt, Caspar, Life (Nashville, 1857), pp. 299301.

16. Ibid.

17. The Works of James Arminius, D. D. (American edition, Auburn and Buffalo, 1853; reprinted as The Writings, etc., Grand Rapids, 1956), I, 221. Because of its readier availability, the American edition is cited when possible.

18. Ibid., I, 480. Cf. Bangs, Carl, “Arminius and Reformed Theology,” unpublished dissertation (University of Chicago, 1958), pp. 153 ff.

19. Works (American edition), I, 486.

20. Ibid., I, 526.

21. Ibid., 528.

22. Ibid., II, 472.

23. Ibid., I, 529.

24. Ibid., 530.

25. Ibid., 247.

26. Ibid., 248.

27. Ibid., III, 314.

28. Notice that Arminius does not attempt to solve the problem of predestination by denying its double nature. Emil Brunner's denial of double predestination has the merit of bypassing the notion of double foreknowledge but entails nonetheless the position that some men may be finally lost. See his The Christian Doctrine of God (Phadelphia, 1950), p. 315et passim.

29. Works (London edition), III, 471.

30. Ibid., 479.

31. Ibid.

32. See Institutes, Bk. III, Ch. 24, Sec. 8.

33. Works (London ed.), III, 441, 448–50.

34. Ibid., 450.

35. Ibid., 336.

36. See Works (American edition), I, 264. Cf. Bangs, , “Arminius and Reformed Theology,” pp. 173–74.

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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