Arminius and Arminianism

Arminius, in the work from which I quoted him, after having expressed his own sentiments on predestination, has a few paragraphs on different and related subjects, namely on: The providence of God, the freewill of man, the grace of God, the preservation of the saints, the assurance of salvation, the perfection of believers in this life, the divinity of the Son of God, the justification of man before God, and finally, on the revision of the Netherlands Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism.

As to all of these I will remark the following:

He defines the providence of God as follows: it is “that solicitous, continued, and universally present inspection and oversight of God, according to which he exercises a general care over the whole world, but evinces a particular concern for all his intelligent creatures without any exception, with the design of preserving and governing them in their own essence, qualities, actions, and passions, in a manner that is at once worthy of himself and suitable to them, to the praise of his name and salvation of believers.”

He also explains this definition. He states 1. That nothing in the world happens fortuitously or by chance. 2. He places in subjection to divine providence the freewill and even the actions of the rational creatures and even “those things which are done in opposition to it” i.e. the will of God. 3. He wants to make a distinction between good and evil actions in such a way that God only permits the latter. 4. He even grants that all actions, even those that are evil, are under the providence of God, if only we do not make God the cause of sin.

Let us compare with this definition and its explanation what the Confessions have to say about this matter.

The Heidelberg Catechism has the following to say about this:

“What dost thou mean by the providence of God?

“The almighty and everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven and earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.”

The same truth is already expressed in Lord’s Day IX which speaks of creation but also of providence in the following words:

“who likewise upholds and governs the same by his eternal counsel and providence, is for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father; on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body: and further, that he will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears, turn out to my advantage: for he is able to do it, being almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.”

The difference between the definition of Arminius and that of the Heidelberg Catechism is as follows: 1. Arminius’ definition is very abstract, that of the Catechism is concrete. 2. The definition of Arminius is general: exercises ageneral care over the whole world, and particular concern for all his intelligent creatures withoutany exception; in the Catechism the Christian speaks: all things come by God’s fatherly hand; he that governs all things is my God and my Father; on Him I rely entirely and I know that He will make all things work together for my salvation. 3. The definition of Arminius speaks of the salvation of believers, not of God’s people or the elect; this is, of course, in harmony with the theory of Arminius that God’s election and reprobation depends on God’s foreknowledge; the catechism speaks of God’s eternal counsel and throughout expresses his confidence that, according to that counsel, he belongs to those whom God has chosen unto eternal life.

Besides, Arminius also submits under God’s providence the evil actions of man providing we do not make God the cause of sin. We prefer to say that God is not the author of sin. God is not the cause of anything. A cause is blind and includes the idea of necessity. But the intelligent Creator and Ruler of all things is perfectly free in all His works and ordinances.

Also the Netherland, or Belgic, Confession speaks of the providence of God, Art. 13, as follows:

“We believe that the same God, after he had created all things, did not forsake them, or give them up to fortune or chance, but that he rules and governs them according to his holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without his appointment: nevertheless, God neither is the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sins which are committed. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible, that he orders and executes his work in the most excellent and just manner, even then, when devils and wicked men act unjustly, and as to what he does surpassing our human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into, farther than our capacity will admit of; but with the greatest humility and reverence adore the righteous judgments of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are disciples of Christ, to learn only those things which he has revealed to us in his Word, without transgressing these limits. This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most gracious and heavenly Father; who watches over us with a paternal care, keeping all creatures so under his power, that not a hair of our head (for they are all numbered), nor a sparrow can fall to the ground, without the will of our Father, in whom we do entirely trust; being persuaded that he so restrains the devil and all our enemies, that without his will and permission, they cannot hurt us. And therefore we reject that damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God regards nothing, but leaves all things to chance.”

In a following section Arminius writes about a possible and desirable revision of the Heidelberg Catechism and of the Netherland Confession. In this section he also criticizes Art. XIII of the Confession. Writes he: “Thus for example, in the Fourteenth (must be: Thirteenth, H.H.) Article of the Confession, we read the following words, ‘Nothing is done without God’s ordination or appointment.’ If by the word ‘ordination” is signified, ‘that God appoints things of any kind to be done,’ this mode of enunciation is erroneous, and it follows as a consequence from it, that God is the author of sin.”

But this criticism of the Confession is incorrect, especially because the article itself plainly states that God is not the author of sin.

But, for the rest, I prefer the definition or description of providence in this article of the Confession rather than the definition of Arminius for the same reasons as I stated above. Again, I say that Arminius’ definition is too abstract and impersonal, while the definition or description of the Confession is concrete, warm, and personal. This is especially true of the last part.


Rank Arminianism in Calvin Seminary

First of all, we wish to call the attention of our reader to the utter lack of exegesis in Prof. Dekker in {his article on the love of God to all men. He, indeed, quotes several texts and texts, too, that are supposed to prove that God loves all men. But he offers no word of explanation of the texts he quotes, neither of the texts as such nor of the contexts in which they occur.

Hence, we will offer our own exegesis of the Scriptural passages to which he refers.

The first of these texts occurs in the following paragraph:

“Love without limit! Can an unlimited love be limited in its scope? Can an unrestricted love be restricted in those whom it loves? Can the infinite love of the incarnation have, as its object, only a part of mankind? Hardly. Neither does the Bible teach this. Rather we are told, ‘God so loved the world that he gave.’ Whether taken as the cosmos or as the human race, ‘world’ in this passage clearly covers all men. By no strain of exegesis can God’s redemptive love be confined to any special group. Neither the language of this verse nor the broadest context of Scripture will allow any other interpretation but that God loves all men.”

I may, first of all, call attention to what follows immediately in the same verse part of which as quoted by Prof. Dekker, namely the words: “that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Now Prof. Dekker, no doubt, believes as I do and as it is stressed in all of Scripture, that “all men” have not the faith and that, therefore, all men are not Saved. Moreover, faith in Christ is not, cannot be in the possession of “all men,” but it is a gift of God. To whom, then, does He give the faith? Surely not to all men. And, therefore, Prof. Dekker must answer the question: why, if God loves all men, does he not bestow on all men the gift of faith by which they might be saved? My answer is simple: God does not bestow the gift of faith on all men, because He does not love all men, but only His own, the elect.

But how, then, must we explain the term “world”? Does not that word refer to “all men?” My answer is that the term “world” has different connotations in Scripture but it never denotes all men.

Take, for instance, the word “world” as it occurs in that very significant and beautiful prayer of our Lord found in John 17. The term occurs in vs. 6: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world.” Here the term “world” evidently refers to all men outside of the elect, for the Lord Himself makes the clear distinction between “the world” and those whom the Father gave Him. Here the term “world” certainly cannot and does not mean “all men.”

And consider the term “world” as it occurs in the same prayer of our Lord vs. 9: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” Does the term “world” here denote all men? Evidently not, for in that case the Lord would have said that He did not pray for any man at all, which is absurd. But here again the Lord prayed for all that are not of the world or, if you please, He did not pray for “all men” but only for those whom the Father had given Him, that is, the elect. Nor does the term “world” in John 3:16 refer to “all men.”

Or once more, consider the word “world” in the same prayer of the Lord as it occurs in John 17:14-16: “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” In these words the term “world” evidently refers to the world of evil men. It is very evident that the term cannot mean “all men” was Prof. Dekker would have it in his reference to John 3:16.

To prove that the term “world” never means “all men” in Scripture but has different connotations, I will refer to one more passage, I John 2:15-17: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” Also in these words the reference is, evidently, not to “all men” but to the wicked world. And I challenge Prof. Dekker to show me any passage from Scripture where the word “world” means “all men.”

In order to prove that God loves all men, Prof. Dekker also quotes from Deuteronomy 10:17-19: “Jehovah your God, he is God of gods, and the Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty and terrible, who regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward. He doth execute justice for the fatherless and widow, and loveth the sojourner, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the sojourner.”

Does this text prove that God loves “all men,” as Prof. Dekker would have it? To be sure, the text states that God loves the sojourner that dwelled for a time among Israel, and He enjoins His people also to love the sojourner. But this is a far cry from saying that God loves all men. The very text should have warned him that this is not the case, for it speaks of God as “the mighty and terrible.” Moreover, in the beginning of the following chapter we read: “And know ye this day: for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched out arm. And his miracles, and his acts in the midst of Egypt unto Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and unto all his land: And what he did unto the army of Egypt, unto their horses, and unto their chariots; how he made the water of the Red Sea to overflow them as they pursued after you, and how the Lord hath destroyed them unto this day.”

Did God love Pharaoh and his host also? If not, how can Prof. Dekker conclude from the fact God loved the sojourner that, for a time, dwelled among Israel, that God loves all men?

Did the Lord love the nations which He drove out of the land of Canaan, that Israel might possess it? Is there not abundant proof that God does not love all men?

Did God even love all the Israelites? When they had .crossed the Jordan and possessed the land of Canaan, were they not commanded to stand upon mount Gerizim on the one side and upon mount Ebal on the other, and while they received the blessing from the former, they received the curse from the latter? And how that curse was realized throughout the history of Israel!

Did, for instance, God love Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who rebelled against Moses and who, together with their company, were swallowed up by the earth and went down alive into Sheol, while fire came down from Jehovah and “devoured the two hundred and fifty men that offered the -incense” (Numbers 16)?

You see, it is easy to say that God loves “all men” as long as you make no distinction, as Scripture does. For to all men also belong God’s own people, His elect. It is even rather easy to say that God loves His enemies, for, by nature, we are all enemies of God, and, therefore, even among these may be the people of God before He has revealed His saving love to them. But the question is definitely: does God love the wicked as well as the righteous, the ungodly as well as the godly? If we thus ask the question, the answer of Scripture is very plain: God loves the righteous and He hates the wicked every day. Let Prof. Dekker change the title of his article so that instead of the caption: “God Loves . . . All Men,” he makes it: “God Loves . . . All the Wicked,” and he will admit that this is not true.

Prof. Dekker also quotes Proverbs 25:21: “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.” Now, if there is any book in Scripture that emphasizes that God does not love all men, it is the book of Proverbs. It always sharply draws the antithesis between the righteous and the wicked and the attitude of God toward them. Just let me quote a few passages at random. In Proverbs 3:31-33 we read: “Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways. For the froward is an abomination to the Lord: but his secret is with the righteous. The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.” InProverbs 4:14-18: “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn away from it, and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”Proverbs 10:3: “The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.” In vs. 6: “Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.”

But why quote more? Who does not know that the entire book of Proverbs is full of the antithesis, and teaches that God does not love “all men,” but he hates the wicked and curses him?

And as far as the text quoted by Prof. Dekker is concerned, I would say: 1. That it does not speak of God’s enemies but of ours, and all the Scriptures teach us that we must do good unto our enemies; and 2. That the text continues as follows: “For thou wilt heap coals of fire upon his head; and Jehovah will reward thee.”

But Prof. Dekker also refers to Matt. 5:43-45 and Luke 6:35. He does not quote but merely refers to them.

These texts are also quoted by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church 1924 in support of the “Three Points,” particularly of the “First Point.”

And this brings us to an observation. Rumor has it that some ministers of the Christian Reformed Church intend to protest against the article of Prof. Dekker. In my opinion, they will never succeed for the simple reason that he, Prof. Dekker, can always appeal to the “Three Points.” It is true that he expresses the doctrine contained in those “Three Points” a little more boldly. The first point of 1924 declares that God is gracious to all men, even in the preaching of the gospel; Prof. Dekker emphasizes that God loves all men. But what is the difference? Essentially it is the same thing.

And as to the explanation of the texts to which Prof. Dekker refers but which he does not explain, permit me to quote from my book The Protestant Reformed Churches in America. There I write in part:

“The interpretation which, evidently, synod would offer, runs as follows: a. We must love our enemies. b. If we do, we will be children of God and reflect His love, for He loves all His enemies, as well as the good, in this present life. c. This love to all men Es manifested in the rain and sunshine on all without distinction.

“Of this interpretation we assert first, that it proves too much and, secondly, it leads to absurdity and is untenable. It proves too much, for, all the Scriptures witness that God does not love, but hates His enemies and purposes to destroy them, except them He chose in Christ Jesus and whom He loves not as His enemies, but as His redeemed people, justified and sanctified in Christ. God does indeed love His enemies, but not as such, but as His children in Christ. And it leads to absurdity, for if rain and sunshine are manifestations of God’s love to all men, the just and the unjust, what are floods and droughts, pestilences and earthquakes and all destructiveforces and evils sent to all through nature, but manifestations of His hatred for all, the just and the unjust? . . . Besides, it must not be overlooked that the texts not at all state that God is gracious to the just and to the unjust, but that He rains and causes His sun to shine on all.

“How, then, must the text be interpreted? We must take our starting point from verse 44. The Lord admonished His people that they shall love their enemies. Now, love is not a sentimental feeling or emotion of affection. It is, according to Scripture, the bond of perfectness. It is, therefore, the bond between two parties or persons that are ethically perfect, that seek each other and find delight in each other because of their ethical perfection, and that, in the sphere of ethical perfection, seek each other’s good. It is in this true sense that God is love.

“However, it stands to reason that in the case of loving our enemies, that despitefully use us, and persecute us, love I must needs be one-sided. There cannot be a bond of fellowship between the wicked and the perfect in Christ. To love our enemy, therefore, is not to flatter him, to have fellowship with him, to play games with him and to speak sweetly with him; but to rebuke him, to demand that he leave his wicked way and thus to bless him and to pray for him . . . If he heed our love, which will be the case if he be of God’s elect and receive grace, he will turn from darkness into light and our love assumes the nature of a bond of perfectness. If he despise our love our very act of love will be to his greater damnation. But the cursing and persecution of the wicked may never tempt the child of God to live and act from the principle of hatred, to reward evil for evil, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”