Jacobus Arminius’ Argument Against Supralapsarian Double Election From Creation
Here is one of many ways that Jacobus Arminius sought to undercut the supralapsarian double election teaching of some of the Calvinists of his day (and it should be noted that Arminius was of their number, ecclesially). This is Arminius finally offering his self-defense of his views on such things, which up until now had only been caricatured by his detractors as they made inferences from what some of Arminius’ students taught and preached from their respective pulpits in Holland. Here is Arminius in his Declaration of Sentiments:
IX. This Predestination Is Diametrically Opposed to the Act of Creation
1. By virtue of its intrinsic nature, creation is a communication of that which is good; however, creation is not a communication of good when its purposive intent and design is set up to attain a predetermined reprobation. That which is good may be judged and determined to be good according to the mind and intention of the donor and according to the goal or purpose for which it is bestowed. In this instance, the intention of the donor would have to been to damn, an act that could only affect created beings, and the goal of the creative act was the eternal damnation of those beings. In which case, creation was not a communication of any good, but rather a preparation for the greatest evil—according to the very intention of the creator and the actual result of the event as designed. For such an event, the words of Christ are appropriate: “It would have been better for that one not to have been born” [Matt 26:24]. [W. Stephen Gunter, translator, Arminius and His Declaration of Sentiments: An Annotated Translation with Introduction and Theological Commentary, 116.]
This is representative of one of many arguments and articles that make up this particular article on predestination and creation. Arminius is offering a series of arguments from different angles that seek to undercut supralpsarian double election teaching. You can see how his argument is very scholastic, syllogistic, and succinct—Arminius was no dummy!
What do you think about Arminius’ argument against double election from creation? Do you think his major premise, i.e. that creation is a communication of that which is good …, is the best way to argue against this doctrine (if you are so inclined to in fact argue)? And what does this reveal about Arminius’ own theological orientation, relative to his methodology? I mean, what does making a primary argument from creation say about Arminius’ chosen theological methodology? [Hint: It is something I have argued against more than once, and as a theme of my blogging against classic Calvinism]
One thing is for sure, though; to read Arminius, directly, throws him into a light that really overshadows what has become known as Arminianism today. Arminius was really more of a Calvinist than anything else (methodologically, conceptually, and so forth). He moved and breathed within that context (the Calvinist or Reformed one), and he sought to work with the same material datum that his opponents worked with; that is, working from an Aristotelian based metaphysics and conception of reality (or now known as classical Theism today). This is why I usually lump classical Arminians in with classical Calvinists; their approaches aren’t dissimilar at the material principled level (de jure), but instead, their disparity comes at the level of chosen emphases and referent. They both work from a conception of God that is heavily decretal (a God who works through a set of predetermined decrees).