Roots of Christianity Pt. 5: Arminian—Methodist—Charismatic


  • Jacob Arminius was a Dutch Reformed theologian (1560-1609) who broke sharply from Calvinist positions as we studied last week and which are maintained in classic for by the 20th century Swiss theologian Karl Barth (more PhD dissertations in religious studies/theology today are written on Barth than all other theologians combined!). Arminius contended first against Calvinist denial of free will. From there he denied total depravity of human nature on account of sin, unconditional election of the saints, limited atonement (that Jesus died not for all but only for some), and the perseverance of the faithful. Arminius was accused in his time of reviving the heresy of Pelagius the 5th century opponent of St. Augustine. Modern Lutherans and Calvinists consider this a very fair charge. Arminius was very engaged in politics.
  • John and Charles Wesley were heavily influenced by Arminius. They popularized his teachings in England and eventually in the United States.
  • Many Baptists are Arminian in theology, especially today, though some retain more Calvinist leanings, the Arminian side seems to have won more hearts than the Calvinists.
  • Billy Graham is a fairly consistent Arminian theologian and is to Arminian theology what Karl Barth was to Calvinism. Billy Graham is obviously more popular with more people than Karl Barth, but Karl Barth had and still has a huge influence on the pastors and professors who train Reformed (and other) clergy. So I would say overall their influence in similar as Billy Graham has little influence on academia and Reformed seminaries. Theology trickles down into the pews from theologians like Luther, Arminius, Augustine, to university and seminary professors, to pastors and then to the laity who often have no idea where these ideas really come from. Knowledge is power and this class is designed to give power to the people!
  • Charismatic theology is an outgrowth of Wesleyan theology which emphasis the heart and feelings over the head and thought-out theology. It started in LA in 1905 and claims to repeat the Pentecost miracle.
  • What all the related Arminian theologies have in common is something the Lutheran Church rejects as unbiblical in the Smalcald Articles, (SA Pt. III:1) which are worth reviewing. When you get the doctrine of sin wrong in this way, grace, faith in Christ, and salvation are all seriously impaired. A Pharisaical works-righteousness is the usual outcome. Luther associates this as the teaching of “the scholastic doctors” and as such Arminian theology has great affinities with elements of Roman Catholic teaching then and now.
  • Read Smalcald Articles III:VIII: para 3-9 on “confession”. This is the key issue: the notion that the Holy Spirit comes to us apart from and before the public proclamation of the Word and Sacraments, directly to our hearts. Arminian and papist theologians are united in this key concept that our Confessions demonstrate is totally unbiblical. Our Lutheran fathers note that not only does the Word precede and produce faith when and where God pleases, He is also pleased to see this Word is proclaimed in all the world to all creatures (Rom. 10:14-21, Col. 1:23, et. al.). The denial of this clear biblical teaching is the gulf between Lutherans and Roman/Arminian theology. It radically skews the mission of the church from pure receiving of God’s grace to our performing His work for Him.