The Arminian or Remonstrant Struggle

The last two articles (6 and 7) of the Contra-Remonstration.

  1. That those thus enlightened, regenerated and renewed through this same power of the Holy Spirit by which they are initially converted, without any intermediation on their part are constantly sustained and kept in such a manner that, although they be encumbered by numerous weaknesses- of the flesh so long as they are. in this life and sometimes fall into grievous sins, the Spirit of sanctification prevails in them nevertheless, so that they cannot ever wholly or finally lose the true faith and adoption of children of God once imparted unto them.
  2. That even so the true believers do not take from this doctrine a cause for carelessly following the evil lusts of their flesh, seeing that it is impossible that those who by a true faith have been planted into Christ should not bring forth fruits of gratitude. The very opposite takes place. The more they hold themselves persuaded and understand that God works in them both to will and to do according to His good pleasure, the more they work out with fear and trembling their salvation, seeing that they know that this is the only means whereby it pleases God to make them to stand and to lead them unto salvation. For which purpose He also in His Word employs various exhortations and threats.

For He does that not to cause them to dispair or to make them to doubt their own salvation but to awaken in them a childlike fear, doing so with a view to the weaknesses of their flesh, whereby they of necessity would perish should the Lord through His unmerited grace not make them to stand, for also that they watch and pray and are prepared to strive, that they have not of themselves but only of the Holy Ghost who by a particular grace prepared them thereto and thus mightily sustain them.

These are the 7 articles of the Calvinists against the Remonstrants. It is known as “The Contra-Remonstration,” and it includes besides these 7 articles an introduction and conclusion. The latter reads:

“This Noble, Potent and Mandating Lords is in brief what we insist is being taught in our churches. What the Remonstrants add to it to make it appear as hateful as possible is but a mass of consequences and slanderings that the carnal mind, which is enmity against God, deduces from it. However, he who holds that God was not resolved to damn anyone but for his sins; that He does not move anyone to sin and that also they who, dead in sin, cannot otherwise but sin, yet sin voluntarily—will not be offended by this doctrine. If there be in our churches ministers who—even as Doctor Martin (Luther did—go somewhat higher with respect to God’s counsel regarding the salvation of man than is set forth above, about this there thus far has never been any disharmony or strife in our churches, seeing that regarding the foundation there is complete agreement among them. We all teach, certainly, that faith and godliness are fruits of election and not—as the meaning of the Remonstrants seems to be the ground and condition for election. If these (the Remonstrants—O) but truly admit that God alone works faith and steadfastness in us, then they need not controvert with us, seeing that God certainly cannot foresee more good in man than He Himself purposed to work in him as His elect! If on the contrary they mean that faith is called God’s gifts only in the sense that God supplies the power to be able to believe but that it then depends on the arbitrariness of man either to regard this gift or not to regard and utilize it and that also the progress and perseverance is of man—such a sentiment we cannot admit seeing it militates against God’s glory and our only comfort.

“If in fine the Remonstrants request that they be tolerated, we would have your noble Lords consider whether already they have not been tolerated above measure. Whether they are willing to tolerate their fellow brethren, who do not agree with their sentiment, that already has come to attention in some places where they predominate! The almighty God is our witness that we eagerly tolerate everything that is tolerable in God’s church and seek nothing but quiet and peace in the church for the prosperity of our beloved fatherland, no matter how they make us out for a contentious people unwilling to submit to the government. The Lord will one day judge whether we have supplied the material for such slandering. But this cannot be tolerated in the church that in the meetings for public worship they preach in the morning thus and in the afternoon the reverse.”

Having now the Contra-Remonstration before us in its entirety, let us offer our comment.

Certainly the Contra-Remonstration of the Calvinists is a noble document despite the fact that there are weaknesses in it. The theme of its 7 contra-articles is that God is God and none else and that accordingly His predestination—election and reprobation—and saving grace are sovereign. And this doctrine it successfully champions and defends in opposition to the lying theories of the Remonstrants. All the complaints and requests that it voices and directs to the rulers in the state are just. The spirit that pervades the document throughout is thoroughly Christian; it is humble, contrite, sincere and respectful. Not once did the author and the signatories of this writing forget that it was their government that they were addressing. Yet in stating their complaints and in exposing the theories of their opponents they did not mince words. On the contrary, their sentences bespeak a firmness of spirit born of the conviction that the doctrine championed is the truth and nothing but the truth.

We must understand the purpose of the Contra-Remonstration of the Calvinists. To know this purpose we must get before us the one element of truth so distasteful to the Arminians.

In opposition to the Arminians the Calvinists—Supralapsarians and Infralapsarians alike—held to the following.

  1. God in Christ has chosen some men unto everlasting life and past by the rest to be afflicted for their sins without any regard to faith and unbelief. (To the thought of the phrase in Italics all subscribed, that is, all Calvinists.
  2. Christ died only for the elect.
  3. Grace is all-sufficient.
  4. Grace is irresistible.
  5. The saints persevere to the end because, being the object of a sovereign election, they cannot fall from grace.

It is apparent that what we have here in the total of these propositions is a thought structure reposing upon a single unifying idea or conception, which is that the sole cause, necessity and fountain of the salvation of the elect is the will and counsel of God; and that the primary cause of the damnation of the reprobated is this same divine will.

It is this idea to which the Arminians were so bitterly opposed as is evident from their Remonstration. To this conception and accordingly to the entire dogmatic of the Calvinists they had serious objections. So they said. We are interested in these objections? What were they? They were the same complaints that are always being advanced against the conceptions of things of the Calvinists. The Arminians said this:

I. The Calvinist’s system is contrary to the evidence and general tenor of Scripture. This they proved or rather thought they proved—by appealing to those declarations of Scripture, in which, in speaking of the atonement, or the death of Christ, terms of the widest possible import are used—such as all, all the world, all mankind, all the world, etc.

The Arminians refused to take notice of the limitations that these terms receive from the context in which they appear.

  1. by appealing to those passages which place in direct contrast Adam, and the extent of the effects of the fall, with Christ, and the extent of the effects of His death.

I shall have to break off here to continue this discourse in the article to follow.

G.M. Ophoff