Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will, and the Nature of God (Book Review)

John D. Wagner has provided another valuable resource for all those interested in the Calvinist and Arminian debate.  Arminius Speaks is a compilation of Arminius’ writings particularly focused on election and salvation. 

Unfortunately, Arminius is often maligned but rarely quoted or directly interacted with by his detractors.  His views have been misrepresented and misunderstood by Calvinists, non-Calvinists, and even many who call themselves Arminians.  This book will go a long way towards clearing up confusion and vindicating Arminius as thoroughly orthodox in his views.

Arminius promoted a view of salvation that is entirely dependent on the grace of God from first to last.  Arminius well expresses the heart of the difference between his and the Calvinist view of salvation when he writes,

For the whole controversy reduces itself to the solution of this question, ‘Is the grace of God a certain irresistible force?’  That is, the controversy does not relate to those actions or operations which may be ascribed to grace (for I acknowledge and inculcate as many of these actions or operations as any man ever did), but it relates solely to the mode of operation, whether it be irresistible or not.  With respect to which I believe, according to the Scriptures, that many persons resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace that is offered. (pg. 69)

One need only read Arminius’ “Public Disputations” and “Declaration of Sentiments” (pp. 1-89) to gain a clear understanding of his views on salvation.  The sections on predestination interact with the three decretal Calvinist schemes of predestination, highlighting Arminius’ disagreements with them.  Arminius lays out his own views on God’s decrees and the nature of election in the same sections (pp. 9-12 and 63-66).  Throughout, his main concern is that the Calvinist schemes are not sufficiently Christocentric, go beyond Scriptural revelation, and necessarily imply that God is the author of sin.  Arminius’ arguments on these points are masterful and, in my opinion, irrefutable.  These are further hammered out in his interactions with the writings of William Perkins.

Each section is rich with deep theological reflection that is determined to be solely founded on and consistent with Scriptural revelation.  The only disappointment was that this collection does not include Arminius’ important and detailed exegesis of Romans chapters seven and nine, which alone would amount to another volume of 300 pages or more.  Perhaps Mr. Wagner will treat us to a second book containing these sections in the near future.

My hope is that these important selections from Arminius’ works will help to promote the debate into a more accurate and scholarly exchange between opposing viewpoints, minus the misrepresentations that so often accompany and detract from the discussion.  This important work is long overdue and highly recommended.

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