Did You Know Arminius Was A Calvinist?
If you believe in the teachings of historic Methodism, you are an Arminian. But if you were scarcely aware of this fact, you are an uninformed Arminian. Fortunately, however, a few minutes of thoughtful reading can, to some degree, remedy the situation.
What is an Arminian?
An answer to this question must begin with the teachings of John Calvin, the great Protestant reformer, because Arminianism was, first of all, a reaction to Calvinism. These teachings are simply summarized in what are called "The five points of Calvinism." They are:
Calvinism's Five Points
These five points can be seen to compose a "cast-iron" system of logic. But locked into them is a conception of God which is austere and forbidding. One is saved or lost by eternal decree! It is not surprising that when this idea of "fixed-fate" laid hold of a poet of another century, he was moved to write,
"God, ever merciful and just With new-born babes did Tophet fill; Down into endless torments thrust Merely to show His sovereign will. This is that Horrible Decree! This is that wisdom from beneath! God (O detest the blasphemy!) Hath pleasure in the sinner's death."
But in spite of its austerity Calvinism spread rapidly. By the end of the sixteenth century it had fanned out in all directions from Geneva but its strength had become particularly concentrated in the Netherlands. There, something startling happened. A Dutchman named Koornheerts infuriated the Dutch clergy by attacking Calvinism in his writings.
Such an attack was not allowed to go unchallenged. A brilliant and well trained young Calvinist, Jacobus Arminius, was asked to answer Koornheerts. This he set about to do, but his study of the subject only convinced him that Calvinism was indefensible. From his thorough search of the Scriptures was born a view out of harmony with austere Calvinism.
Arminianism's Five Points
A struggle followed but Arminius did not live to see it resolved. The "five points of Arminianism," however, are based on his writings. They are:
What Is an Arminian?
Obviously, these five points are an answer to Calvinism. But they are more! They are a positive affirmation that God loves all men, that Christ died for all men and that no man is excluded from salvation unless he excludes himself by willful unbelief.
That was the truth that gripped the hearts of the Wesleys over a century after the death of Jacobus Arminius. The fire in the soul of early Methodism was the conviction that God "is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9b). And this is still the abiding mood of a true "Wesleyan-Arminian."
What, then, is an Arminian?
An Arminian is one who believes that God, in Christ, extends His love to all men and that each one must accept personal responsibility for his attitude toward that love.
Don Bastian, Pastor Greenville Free Methodist Church
Centuries After Calvin And Arminius
The Calvinism commonly encountered today is something less than the "high" Calvinism of John Calvin, even as the Arminianism of the Wesleyan movement is something more than the Arminianism developed by followers of Arminius after his death. Harsh doctrine has been bled from the former, and warmth of spirit has been infused into the latter.
Arminius revolted from the rigid predestinarianism of Calvinism which held that man is saved or lost by God's arbitrary election from all eternity without regard to man's faith and obedience. This doctrine Arminius opposed on grounds of Scripture. He was one of the most scholarly men of his or any age, and his Biblical insight and keen logic disturbed the scholastic reasoning of Calvinists who falsely charged him with being heretical.
After the great leader's death, some who called themselves his followers did wander into Pelagian rationalism, arguing that man never fell and therefore is born free from original sin. Thus they corrupted the teachings of Arminius and anticipated aspects of the liberal theology of today which exalts man and denies his need of salvation through the death of Christ on Calvary. Calvinists to this day sometimes identify Arminianism with liberalism, as did one who expressed to me his surprise that I could be Arminian and at the same time evangelical.
A century after Arminius came the Wesleys who met the distortions of liberal Arminianism with two teachings, (1) the necessity of a transforming experience of pardoning grace for sins committed, and (2) the operation of cleansing grace to remove the stain of "inbred sin." We may say that Wesleyanism is original Arminianism baptized with the Holy Spirit! Thus the Methodist movement restored and vivified Arminianism.
Not only did the Wesleyan movement restore Arminian orthodoxy and infuse it with the power of the Spirit, but its impact upon glacial Calvinism was so effective, both by its spiritual warmth and its theological and Biblical arguments, that by the close of the nineteenth and opening of the twentieth century leading Calvinistic bodies had been forced to revise some of their creeds in line with the "whosoever" of John 3:16. Early Methodists declared salvation for all with such radiant fervor and convincing logic that rigid Calvinism began to yield and its basic doctrine of "predestination" or deterministic "election" was rather generally abandoned.
From "high" Calvinism's primary doctrine of "predestination" had flowed a secondary doctrine of "the final perseverance of the saints." Obviously, once grant the premise that God chooses from all eternity those who will be saved, then nothing can prevent the final salvation of these "elect." But when the basic doctrine of "election" was abandoned, logically the secondary doctrine of "perseverance" likewise fell.
But strangely enough, some in the Calvinistic tradition retained the dependent doctrine of "perseverance" after its foundation doctrine of "election" had collapsed. That old doctrine of "perseverance" now survives as "eternal security," a doctrine with varying interpretations according to its different advocates, but all interpretations agreeing that once a person becomes a Christian he can never be lost. Strange logic! According to this position not God but man decrees in effect by one act of choice his own eternal "election" to salvation. As a rebel against God he was once free to choose or reject salvation, but now as a Christian he is not free to choose another eternal destiny !
The old foundation of "perseverance" having given way, these Neo-Calvinists sought a new basis for "eternal security" in isolated passages of Scripture to which they gave strained interpretations. Claiming to accept the Scriptures literally, they nevertheless resorted to fantastic figurative devices to bolster their positions, and too often seem to have taken the uninspired footnotes of some authoritarian editor of the Bible in the place of the plain teaching of the Bible text.
By Way of Summary
Without claiming completeness and only in general terms, let us note the three channels of doctrine in this day that as intelligent and sincere Christians we should carefully distinguish.
In Any Case - Christian Courtesy
What should be the attitude and relationship of Wesleyan Arminians to those in the other two groups?
A reprint of two articles first appearing in Youth in Action
Distributed by the FORWARD MOVEMENT
Free Methodist Headquarters
Winona Lake, Indiana
 The late B. B. Warfield, a foremost Calvinistic authority on Calvinism, states the following in an article in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge: "In point of fact, there is and can be no difference among Calvinists as to the inclusion of the fall in the decree of God."