3

While searching on the Web about the Synod of Dort, I have found this post on Heidelblog. It takes a long time preparing the ground to defend that the Arminianism is mere repackaged Pelagianism:

Did Synod condemn the Remonstrants as heretics? If we consider the various points at which Synod flatly characterized the errors of the Remonstrants as heresy, the ways in which Synod repeatedly associated the Remonstrants themselves with the Pelagians, and characterized their errors as Pelagian it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that, for the Synod of Dort, the revisions proposed by the Remonstrants were errors of such a magnitude that they not mere errors and not merely heresy in the broad sense, but heresy in the narrow, technical sense described in the first part of this essay: an error transgressing the ecumenical teaching of the church as agreed at Ephesus in 431, in the condemnation of Coelestius (and through him, Pelagius).

The article concludes with an emphatic:

... Synod did not invoke the category of heresy lightly or unintelligently. They knew what they were doing and they used that language advisedly. It was meant to be bracing to the churches and to her ministers and so it should once again have that same affect in us.

It is a bit strange to me hearing this, because many modern confessional Calvinists regularly recognize that the teachings of Arminius and Wesley about the condition of fallen human race (a.k.a. Total Depravity in the TULIP lingo) were orthodox.

From memory I remember Sproul finds no fault on Arminius about this specific subject, saying that his descriptions are as strong as any Reformed preacher like Calvin or Luther himself.

Charles Spurgeon aggrees with and praises John Wesley on his book The Two Wesleys, and he also quotes Arminius "verbatim-translated":

With the exception of ancient Pelagians and their modern off-spring, I do not know that the Church has afforded any instance of any professors who have doubted the inability of man apart from God the Holy Spirit. Our confessions of faith are nearly unanimous upon this point. But I hear someone say—"Do not the Arminians believe that there is natural strength in man by which he can do something?" No, my Brothers and Sisters, the true Arminian can believe no such thing! Arminius speaks right well upon this point. I quote his words, as I have them in a translation

It is impossible for free will, without Grace, to begin or perfect any true or spiritual good. I say, the Grace of Christ, which pertains to regeneration is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is that which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will, which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the affections, and leads the will to execute good thoughts and good desires. It goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, works in us to will, and works with us that we may not will in vain. It averts temptations, stands by and aids us in temptations, supports us against the flesh, the world, and Satan; and in the conflict, it grants us to enjoy the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and fallen; it establishes them and endues them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. It begins, promotes, perfects and consummates salvation. I confess that the mind of the natural and carnal man is darkened, his affections are depraved, his will is refractory, and that the man is dead in sin.

That being said, is it true to say that every Calvinistic confession that adheres to Dort automatically/logically implies Arminianism is a repackaging of heretic Pelagianism?

2
  • Perhaps you could define heresy, or at least what was meant by them when they defined arminianism as heresy. Could you not say that anything which is not true is heresy? What did they mean by saying it was heresy? Feb 8, 2022 at 21:41
  • Initially i think it was not necessary, because the article explains this in its own way. However, I changed my mind and decided to copy some more snippets from it, in the hope it becomes clearer. Many thanks, Andrew! Feb 8, 2022 at 22:42

1 Answer 1

2

In order to answer whether "every Calvinistic confession that adheres to Dort automatically/logically implies Arminianism is a repackaging of heretic Pelagianism" or not, there is a great need to understand why many people today who come under the umbrella of "Calvinism" misunderstand what they are supposed to believe about heresy.

A huge problem is that the very word 'heresy' is politically (and religiously) 'incorrect' these days. It is so frowned upon that Christians almost never use the word, especially those who have adopted a modern, loosely evangelical but dreadfully sloppy approach to what they are supposed to believe. This is due to an amalgam of old heresies appearing in modern guise (and not just variations on the old Pelagian theme). Because so many Christians have never studied the history of the Church, especially in the first few centuries, they have no idea as to what totally unacceptable ideas the Church had to stand up against, to expose as being heretical. The 'Confessions' from the Reformation onwards did, indeed, call Arminianism a heresy, and that stance should still hold today. Here are what some modern Reformed writings say on the matter. First, let me spell out what words and phrases related to the question mean:

The Heidelberg Catechism was a Reformation document with a question-and-answer format used to teach Christian doctrine and practice. It was written by Caspar Oleviannus and Zacharius Ursinus (1534-83) and approved by the Synod of Heidelberg in 1563. [Many modern Calvinists have never gone through such Catechisms.]

Pelagianism was a school of thought named after Pelagius (354-418?) and promulgated by Julian of Eclanum (c.386-c.455). They taught that the human will was capable of spiritual good without the aid of God's grace, and that sinless perfection was possible in this life. Augustine and Jerome were chief critics of Pelagianism, and it was condemned by church councils in 418 and 431.

Arminianism was initiated in the 17th century, following the teachings of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). He emphasized that God's election [choosing] is conditioned upon foreseen faith, his grace can be resisted, and Christ's atonement was made on behalf of all humanity. The first confessional statement of Arminian theology is in the Remonstrance (1610), to which the Synod of Dort responded with its Canons, later known as the Five Points of Calvinism'. (All taken from the Glossary in Pilgrim Theology, Michael Horton, Zondervan, 2011)

From another modern Reformed book comes this definition of heresy:

"Heresy was belief and teaching about God, Jesus Christ and salvation that threatened to distort the gospel message and the Christian life so severely that it could become 'another gospel' and another religion, not the one taught by the apostles." (The Story of Christian Theology p149, Roger E. Olson, Apollos. 1990)

The New Testament itself speaks of some first century men in the church as being heretics, preaching "another gospel which is no gospel at all" (Galatians 1:6-9). Paul also warned of "false apostles and deceitful workers" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Jude further condemned "certain men crept in unawares... turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (verse 4). Heretical teachings were a threat to the integrity of Christ's Church back then, and in every century since. Today there are many old heresies that have just been 'clothed' in modern garb but many Christians have no idea. They have been allowed to slip into the Church by leaders either unaware themselves, or sympathetic to such heresies.

However, the Reformed tradition has always had and continues to have leaders who speak out against not only the heresy of Arminianism (as an adaptation of Pelagianism) but others, such as modern versions of the heresy of Arius. Sadly, if you did a poll of modern Calvinists you might find many of them unable to give clear definitions of the words and concepts this question asks about.

However, I would point out that Spurgeon was a Calvinist. Here is a quote from a Reformed booklet. After listing many Reformed leaders through the centuries, it says:

"Well did that prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it when he said, 'I have known men bite their lip and grind their teeth in rage when I have been preaching on the sovereignty of God... the doctrinaires of today will allow a God, but He must not be a King.' ...'We are cried down as hyper,' he could say, 'scarcely a minister looks on us or speaks favourably of us; because we hold strong views upon the divine sovereignty of God, and His divine electings and special love towards His people... The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach today, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth, I know of no such thing as pairing off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel; that which thundered through Scotland, must thunder through England again'." (The Five Points of Calvinism, pp23-24, W.J. Seaton, Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh Scotland, 1979, reprint 1984)

The answer to the question whether "every Calvinistic confession that adheres to Dort automatically/logically implies Arminianism is a repackaging of heretic Pelagianism" or not, is a clear Yes. But you will not get such clarity from many of those today who appear to be under the umbrella of Calvinism, yet who have not been vigilant to maintain the purity of the biblical gospel. The less the Bible is regarded as the inspired word of God, and the more it is tampered with by modern translators, the worse this corrupted gospel will become as heresy gains a foothold.

10
  • 3
    Here is another useful quote: J.I. Packer on Heresies: “Since it is beyond the wit of man to invent a new heresy, it is a great help to know the old ones, so that one can spot them when they reappear in modern make-up.”
    – Lesley
    Feb 11, 2022 at 16:57
  • I cannot help but wonder whether 4-point Calvinists today are heretical too, according to a Confessional Calvinist. Secondly, it's a funny coincidence that you quote Roger Olson for definition of "heresy" since he is most assuredly Arminian who defend the view that many 20th century evangelicals misrepresented historical, classical Arminianism, which he claims appealed to early church fathers. He wrote the 2006 book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Feb 14, 2022 at 18:06
  • @GratefulDisciple As long as we have examined carefully to be sure we are not heretical ourselves, that's the main consideration. Whether Prof. Olson is Arminian himself or not is beside the point. The book I quote from does not advocate Arminianism; it is a scholarly work detailing Christian history over the centuries and, as such, is an excellent source of information on such matters. My quoting from his history book does not mean I support him as an Arminian.
    – Anne
    Feb 14, 2022 at 18:13
  • 1
    @Anne I know you don't. I myself am still investigating both sides. With you, I value Dr. Olson as a historical theologian who has written many books on overview / history of Christian theologies. His findings borne true by his professional interactions with other academic theologians and in popular evangelical circles caution me to read charges against Arminianism / Wesleyan with a grain of salt, making sure they are not condemning a caricature. Feb 14, 2022 at 18:29
  • @Anne This answer doesn't seem to answer the question asked. You speak at length of what heresy is, and how important it is to discuss it, but as to the actual question - whether Arminianism is Pelagianism repackaged according to modern Calvinism, and if so why Spurgeon seems to say otherwise - you simply assert that Arminianism is Pelagianism without justification.
    – pi4t
    Feb 17, 2022 at 10:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .