Home » Arminianism » Jacobus Arminius’ Argument Against Supralapsarian Double Election From Creation

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 arminiustheir 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).

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29 thoughts on “Jacobus Arminius’ Argument Against Supralapsarian Double Election From Creation

  1. In reality there is plenty of Greek and Roman philosophy or philosophic thought and ideas behind the NT, especially in Paul (Pauline) and John (Johannine), with Jewish Hellenism to the Greco-Roman. And we can see some of the Plantonic certainly in the Letter or “exhortation” of the Hebrews, (Heb. 13:22). Both the empirical and the formal logic are seen in Paul especially, and in his Romans letter!

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  2. Fr Robert,

    I am not arguing against (even suggestively) of a non-use of philosophy; but noting that some philosophies (as far as lingusitically etc.) harm and hybrid the Gospel (i.e. don’t cohere). I am also of the belief, along with TFT and Athanasius, that certain philosophical grammars can be pretexted and retexted under Christian grammar and constraints; and thus serve the Gospel not twisting it. The New Testament is a perfect example of this. The incarnation is the perfect example of this; Jesus breaking in on existing structures (like humanity), and reorientating it in a new Revealed kind of way.

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  3. @Bobby: We should note that Aristotelian philosophy tends to be empirical, but certainly a method of deductive logic, characterized by the syllogism. Indeed reasoning from the general to the particular, how can we not escape it to some degree?

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  4. Fr Robert,

    I actually like Bobby :-). Yes, there is the historical, but that’s not what I am getting at. I am more interested in how we constructively retrieve and appropriate Christian Dogmatically for today, given our own historical situadedness. And I can look back critically and make judgements about whether or not I think certain modes or theological/philosophical approaches were better or worse for the Gospel; because I can look at how those played out over time. I am not interested in repristination, but reformation (semper reformanda).

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  5. @Bobby: I think “epistemology” will always be central, and here the history of (note the etymology of the word here, epi + “histanai”: to stand before, confront) is to stand before the study or theory of the origin, nature and methods…and even limits of knowledge. And here surely we are somewhat cast upon both the Jewish-Greek form of Hellenism and the Greco-Roman, especially in St. Paul, our foremost and really first Judeo-Christian theologian, and again especially as St. Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles! (See Acts 22: 3;14 ; chap. 24: 25, etc.)…Surely Acts chapters 22 thru 26 and St. Paul’s witness are very important

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  6. Fr Robert,

    I am well aware of the etymology of epistemology, that doesn’t change anything. I don’t see a divinely inspired epistemology other than God revealed in Christ, do you? Even if Paul commandeered the thought forms of his day (by the Spirit), he so pretextualized them and filled them with Christian category and meaning that they don’t represent what they ever originally did in their original context.

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  7. @Bobby: If you understand historical “epistemology”, then you should be willing to see that St. Paul’s mind is most certainly “western”, at least as I see it! As we can see in his Romans Text, etc. And like Luther, Calvin, and even many Roman Catholic’s before them, Augustine and the Augustinian, have molded the west. Note Tertullian here, and even some aspects the Eastern Athanasius! (Who both) came before, but were surely affected by Greek and Roman philosophy! We just cannot escape this! This is what I am pressing for! And I think we can see something of the Athanasian and Augustinian in T.F. Torrance, especially his classic book: The Trinitarian Faith, etc, the latter (Augustine) more in his neo-Platonism.

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  8. Of course, all of that is present, Fr Robert; I’m not totally sure what your arguing with me about though. The issue, though, is how is all of this resourced. We are talking about different things; you are talking primarily about descriptive things, and I am more concerned about prescriptive things and constructive resourcing theology. I don’t disagree with the presence of the things that you are highlighting descriptively … so at the end all I can say, is so what? And that’s what I am trying to focus on, and what’s the best way to be always reforming. I don’t think merely repristinating and absolutizing certain modes of epistemology or whatever is the best way to do that, unless it can be proven to serve the Gospel rather than dis-serve so to speak. So I generalize here because my time is limited.

    But we have already had all of these kinds of discussions in the past, Fr Robert; I see no reason to rehash old hash.

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  9. I do believe mate your whole “suppositions” and even presuppositions have not been made against supra, sub and or infralapsarian! And I don’t believe you have made your case for a so-called “Evangelical Calvinism” either! And just once and a’while you need to hear those of us that don’t buy it! Of course this is a theological debate and disagreement, and not a personal attack at all! Note how the classic and historical Calvinism of today has its in-house debates, as John Frames book: The Escondido Theology, etc. But again, dialogue is better than just polemic debate, alone. Something we all need to hear and remember! 🙂

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  10. I am supra, Fr Robert; so I’m not sure what you’re referring to, maybe a caricature you have of EC in your mind.

    What is the case that I (and Myk Habets and: Andrew Purves, Mark Achtemeier, Charles Partee, Adam Nigh, Gannon Murphy, Marcus Johnson, Jason Goroncy, Julie Canlis, John McDowell, and Scott Kirkland) am making?

    Here is what Scottish Theologian David Fergusson thinks of our case (from the back jacket of the book):

    “This valuable collection illustrates the diversity of the Reformed tradition . . . By concentrating on its evangelical center, particularly with respect to the love of God enacted in the person and work of Christ, these essays offer internal criticism of some aspects of the tradition, while also revitalizing some of its core themes. The volume is set to stimulate a vigorous discussion of the meaning of evangelical Calvinism.”
    —David Fergusson, coeditor of The Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology

    And then Robert Walker (TFT’s nephew):

    “[This is] a challenging treasure trove of material mined from Calvin and examining, in the light of moderns such as Torrance and Barth, his essential legacy historically, theologically, and pastorally. This is a book to be read and re-read for the vital contribution it offers to deepening and reinvigorating evangelical Calvinism today.”
    —Robert T. Walker, coauthor of Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ

    I know there are many who don’t buy it, but that’s their problem, Fr. Robert. I don’t need to hear from those who don’t buy it, unless they want to make a material and theological critique of it. Do you? Have you even read our book yet?

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  11. You don’t want to dialogue really, as I have been seeking to show that your attack on Aristotelian logic is simply not historical, just somewhat a dogmatism against what you see that you need to overcome for your supposition! No, Calvin is not here, sure perhaps Barth and his student Torrance to degree. This was Barth’s whole thing to readjust or reform the doctrine of Calvin’s doctrine of election, which always carries reprobation! This is the real issue. I like “some” of Partee’s book on Calvin, and “some” of Julie Canlis book, Calvin’s Latter. But myself I just don’t see “theosis” and “Calvin’s” doctrine of participation as the same connection. Indeed the “forensic” doctrine of justification and imputation are close and somewhat connected, but always separate. And even Billings held “a forensic notion of pardon is the necessary prerequisite for. . . . a life of sanctification.” It is here I would recommend the Geerhardus Vos, and his book, The Pauline Eschatology! (And note here too, Luther (his doctrine of Justification) would have none of this, either!)

    So Barth and Torrance, and today’s company therefrom are surely “Evangelical’s”, but not and never really “Calvinists”, or in “Calvinism” proper!

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  12. And btw Bobby, I would challenge you and the readers to see and read one of E.L. Mascal’s classic books: ‘He Who Is, A Study in Traditional Theism’, (1943, Longmans, Green). Of course Mascall was an Anglican, and somewhat High Church. It is really a connection with natural theology! He writes in the Preface, “I mean by traditional theism the doctrine about God and the universe which, deriving from the impact made upon the Graeco-Roman world by the Christian Church and passing by way of Augustine..”

    And see btw another newer book here:’Rediscovering The Natural Law In Reformed Theological Ethics’, by Stephen Grabill (Eerdmans, 2006). This book is almost a must read today. As Paul Helm writes, “it hints at a new agenda” [in the Reformed].

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  13. Fr Robert,

    You aren’t dialoguing with me, you’re talking at me. I never said I didn’t think Aristotelianism and its various expressions weren’t historical; I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. You apparently don’t understand our version of Supralapsarianism; why do you think that we reject a doctrine of reprobation??? We don’t!!! We see election/reprobation Christ conditioned pace Barth and Torrance (and understanding that they have some differences too). We also don’t reject the forensic component, we just don’t see it as the primary frame; you really don’t understand what we believe, Fr. Robert … that’s why you should read our book at some point.

    There are many streams of Calvinism’s (only one Calvin though); that’s the point of “ism.”

    You ought to read John Webster’s chapter on Theology of Retrieval in the Oxford Dictionary of Theology; it would help you understand our mode. We are resourcing, which by the way is quite scholastic (I just did a post on this not too long ago, you must have missed that one). Nevertheless, w/o a doubt we do so within the Reformed tradition; just how it is, Fr. Robert.

    I’m not really a fan of Paul Helm’s theology (not surprising, eh).

    I would assert (just like you are doing) that Calvin is Calvinian, if anything, and that Calvinism is a post Calvin reality (even Muller thinks that!). Calvin, like Augustine et al is a wax nose, in a way (I have a post on that too somewhere). But your problem, I think, Fr Robert, is that you are trying to absolutize the Reformed faith by collapsing it into one reality (like Muller, Trueman and the rest do); we recognize that the Reformed faith is multivalent, and open for ‘Reforming’ per Scripture. Ultimately I don’t really care if we are FULLY representing Calvin’s theology (I agree with you that his doctrine of double predestination would coalesce much better with the scholastics than the mood that Evangelical Calvinism flows from; nevertheless, for better or worse we move and breathe within Calvin’s neighborhood … again resourcing, not repristinating [which seems to be your fancy … it ain’t our’s, so I would suggest that’s the primary difference between you and us]).

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  14. @Bobby: I know your system is “Supra”, I just don’t believe it is biblical and theologically functional! Sorry, and YOU like to pontificate theologically against Thomism, and sorry if my “talk” is poor, but I hope a challenge to some readers, i.e. the principle of biblical-theological Reformed Calvinism! And yes, good old Richard Muller (would that Reformed minded people read his classic book: The Unaccommodated Calvin, etc. – now here is a book of historical & theological substance! And too Trueman, the latter is on message in places. But, I prefer John Frame in the so-called modern sense myself, a more neo-Calvinist, and biblically minded. But, more so Calvin himself…and his Genevan Academy, i.e. Beza and Turretin! And on the Doctrines of Grace, Barth-Torrance just does not cut it! The “condition” of God’s doctrine of Reprobation is GOD’s Sovereignty, and nothing else, simply-profoundly! (Rom. 9: 17-18, etc.) Yes, sometimes a Reformed “Biblicism” is closer, than modern “Barthianism”! (And I do truly appreciate Barth-Torrance, but just not here!)

    And btw, just where is Augustine in “your” system?

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  15. I liked Muller’s Unaccommodated Calvin, but ultimately I don’t think Muller, Trueman, Clark et al are doing the kind of objective historical work they claim to be doing; they are reconstructing things through their post-Reformed orthodox lens, which is a theological not historical lens.

    I’m sure Augustine is still lurking somewhere; like in my conception of sin, etc. But he obviously won’t be as primary as he might be sense Torrance and Barth and their thinking (which is more Athanasian) are informing voices for me. I still like Augustine, though. One area that I think Barth and Torrance aren’t as strong in is indeed a doctrine of sin, and its ramifications for personal spirituality. This seems to be a consequence (esp. for Barth) of Barth & co. disdain for pietism’s inward turn to self. I still think though that sin is highly personal, and something real life; i.e. we struggle with it moment by moment. I don’t think Torrance or Barth have the best conceptual framework through which to address this reality, Biblically; and I still think Augustine’s points about sin as concupiscence (contra Pelagius’ privatio alone) need to be taken much more seriously by Barthians and Torrancians alike.

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  16. Indeed all Christian theology is something of a “lens”, i.e. study and seeking the doctrine of God! And perhaps the biggest need – constant too I might add – is a biblical doctrine and teaching of sin! And this must not be just a negative and iconoclastic view, but a biblical anthropology, itself. In my opinion Calvin’s doctrine of sin and nature are closely biblical, see btw if you can find a copy, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, by T.H.L. Parker. And too you might enjoy the book Natural Theology, Comprising “Nature and Grace” by Brunner and of course Barth’s reply of “nein”! (The Intro is by old John Baillie, now a WIPF and Stock book).

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  17. I’ve read and used THL Parker’s book for a paper on Calvin in the past. I have access to Brunner/Barth’s exchange at my alma mater’s library; I will have to read it when I get the chance.

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  18. I am not really a “Clark” guy, but indeed Muller is a great “historical” theological guy, perhaps one of the greatest in our time! Btw, if you have not read some of the books “theological” by the great Anglican Austin Farrer, he is simply grand! He grapples with Theodicy! See Robert Boak Slocum’s book: Light in a Burning-Glass, A Systematic Presentation of Austin Farrer’s Theology. And a nice read also is ‘Captured by the Crucified’, The Practical Theology of Austin Farrer. An edited book (T&T Clark). Don’t let the word “Practical” throw you off, just some nice essays! WE have but begun to touch Austin Farrer, Theolog & Man of God!

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  19. As to neo-Orthodoxy, Barth’s Universalism is the real problem to me! I like Barth, as I have said.. like a modern Church Father, but I am always pressed back to a more simple “Biblicism”, myself. And always here are Luther and Calvin, and the top-tier Reformers!

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  20. Yes, that’s Barth’s potential problem; but not Torrance’s, which is one of the reasons I prefer Torrance (but there are other reasons as well … namely, because he is more trad himself still, in fact quite!).

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  21. I heard old TF (Thomas Forsyth) “Tom” Torrance speak in England, and he signed a few books of mine, that were his. I have and love his book: The Trinitarian Faith, etc. (mine is a sweet 1st, 1988, T&T Clark)…perhaps my favorite of his. The hardback has the Icon of Saint Athanasius, with the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, (both in color). And I will always like too his book: Calvin’s Doctrine of Man. I don’t always agree with him on some things, but he was a great Christian and scholar!

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  22. I’m also older too… 64 this coming year and late Oct. I bet I’m older than your Father perhaps? 😉 Just a point, I have seen a few days, and lived some life experience, and my God has been very good to me, sovereign & gracious! 🙂

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  23. No, my dad is older than you; he has you by two years, sorry ;-).

    Unfortunately in my 38 years I’ve lived some life experiences that I wish I could say I hadn’t; but God is good!

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  24. Well its nice to know someone’s older out there! There is nothing worse almost than being older and yet both spiritually dead and just dumb naturally. The age and time we live in is surely on its way to dumb and dummier! Indeed your dad and I share the same generation, I miss some of my mates from my times, but God is always good!

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