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Jacobus Arminius

Jacobus Arminius

The Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) criticized the orthodox Calvinist position on the doctrine of predestination. The result was a split in the Dutch Reformed Church, and followers of his position came to be known as Arminians.

Jacobus Arminius was born on Oct. 10, 1560, in Oudewater, Holland. After his early education in Utrecht, he studied at the universities of Leiden, Basel, and Geneva. At Geneva he trained under the French theologian Theodore Beza and won distinction in his studies. In 1588 Arminius was ordained in Amsterdam and eventually achieved the reputation of being a devoted pastor. In 1603 he became professor of theology at the University of Leiden and remained there until his death.

While at Leiden, Arminius became involved in a heated struggle over the teachings of the Dutch Reformed Church. The most important source of controversy was the doctrine of predestination. Dutch Calvinists had divided into two schools of thought: the supralapsarians, who held the orthodox position and taught that God had decreed who would be saved and damned before man's fall in the sin of Adam, and the infralapsarians, who maintained that God did not decree who should be saved and damned until after the fall of man. In either case, human decision was irrelevant to the process of salvation. The supralapsarian position was held by the Reformed Church, and Arminius was asked to refute a man who was preaching infralapsarianism. But Arminius eventually rejected both positions on predestination. Although he did not deny predestination, he held that God did not decree particular individuals to be either saved or damned. He stated that salvation was by faith alone and Christ died for all men. Thus, those who believe will be saved and those who reject God's grace will be damned.

Francis Gomarus, a colleague of Arminius at Leiden, was a strong supralapsarian and vehemently opposed his teachings. At Arminius's death on Oct. 19, 1609, the dispute had not been settled, and his followers, known as Arminians or Remonstrants, continued the strife, although they did not always adhere strictly to his ideas. The position of Arminius against the Calvinist doctrine of predestination was condemned by the national synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1618-1619. This step did not, however, end the Arminian movement, and it continued to play a role not only in the Netherlands but also in England.

In addition to his ideas on predestination, Arminius demonstrated a great interest in the reconciliation of all Christian Churches. He believed that conferences, and specifically a general church council, might help to bring Christians together.

Further Reading

James and William Nichols selected and translated The Works of James Arminius (3 vols., 1825-1875). The standard biography is still Caspar Brandt, The Life of James Arminius (1724; trans. 1857). See also A. W. Harrison, The Beginnings of Arminianism, to the Synod of Dort (1926), and Gerald O. McCulloh, ed., Man's Faith and Freedom: The TheologicalInfluence of Jacobus Arminius (1962), which contains an extensive bibliography.

Additional Sources

Bangs, Carl, Arminius: a study in the Dutch Reformation, Grand Rapids, Mich.: F. Asbury Press, 1985.

Slaatte, Howard Alexander., The Arminian arm of theology: the theologies of John Fletcher, first Methodist theologian, and his precursor, James Arminius, Washington: University Press of America, 1977. □

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Arminius, Jacobus

Jacobus Arminius (jəkō´bəs ärmĬn´ēəs), 1560–1609, Dutch Reformed theologian, whose original name was Jacob Harmensen. He studied at Leiden, Marburg, Geneva, and Basel and in 1588 became a pastor at Amsterdam. He undertook to defend the Calvinist doctrine of predestination against the attacks of Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert, but as a result of the controversy he changed his own views of the doctrine. He was professor of theology at the Univ. of Leiden after 1603, and he engaged in violent theological debates, seeking to win the Dutch Reformed Church to his views. His teaching, known as Arminianism, was not yet fully developed, but he asserted the compatibility of divine sovereignty with human freedom, denied John Calvin's doctrine of irresistible grace, and thus modified the strict conception of predestination. In this respect his teaching resembled that of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent. Arminianism became a term of abuse among 17th-century Puritans. His ideas were formulated after his death into a definite system by his disciple, Simon Episcopius, who drew up the "Remonstrance" (see Remonstrants). Arminianism later was the doctrine of Charles and John Wesley and most of the Methodist churches.

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Arminius, Jacobus

Arminius, Jacobus (1560–1609). Dutch theologian who gave his name to the system of theology known as Arminianism. He became professor at Leiden, where there were arguments over predestination, leading to severe divisions. Arminius held that God willed that all people should be saved, and that it is only because God foresaw the belief or unbelief of individuals that he can be said to have predestined some to salvation, others to damnation. After his death, his followers issued the Remonstrance of 1610, from which the major differences from strict Calvinism can be discerned: (i) Christ died for all; (ii) God's saving grace can be resisted; (iii) Christians can fall from grace; (iv) the Holy Spirit is necessary to help the achievement of what is good; (v) salvation is for those who believe in Christ and who persist in holiness, obedience, and faith. Arminius and Arminianism had a wide (though always contested) influence, including such figures as Grotius and John Wesley.

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"Arminius, Jacobus." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Arminius, Jacobus

Arminius, Jacobus (1560–1609) Dutch theologian whose system of beliefs, especially concerning salvation, became widespread and was later known as Arminianism. He rejected the notion of predestination developed by John Calvin, in favour of a more liberal concept of conditional election and universal redemption. Arminius believed that God will elect to everlasting life those who are prepared to respond in faith to the offer of divine salvation. Arminianism, though at first bitterly rejected, finally achieved official recognition in the Netherlands in 1795. It was a major influence on Methodism.

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