All early reformers believed in the imputation of 'actual guilt' as far as I know. I am fairly certain, however, that Arminians of the 16th century did not believe in the 'imputation of guilt' as there are books that show Calvinist leaders arguing against them on this issue at this time. For example, John Owen argued against their views in 'Display of Arminianism' and quotes, in many places, their denial of the 'imputation of guilt.'

Does anybody have historic quotes from Arminius that shows if he also did NOT believe in the 'imputation of guilt'?

I ask the question because my answer in this post assumed Arminius did not believe in the 'imputation of guilt' but that Wesley did. Now I am not 100% certain as I find clear direct quotes from Arminius hard to find.

1 Answer 1


Being impatient for answer I looked up the works of Arminias and found right away in Volume 1 - ARTICLES XIII AND XIV,  P228 that he argues against the imputation of guilt on infants.

For example, among many other statements against the imputation of guilt on infants, he says (in the words of his friend)

"When Adam sinned in his own person and with his free will, God pardoned that transgression. There is no reason then why it was the will of God to impute this sin to infants, who are said to have sinned in Adam, before they had any personal existence, and therefore, before they could possibly sin at their own will and pleasure." (Arminias, Volume 1 - ARTICLES XIII AND XIV)

He also makes his sentiments known in a very indirect way, attributing these ideas ONLY to his friend Borrius whom his intention is merely 'to defend.' Borrius 'denies having ever publicly taught' them but only 'thinks them' and 'discusses them' and 'he considers that it was not unlawful for him so to do' and 'still beleives them unless proved wrong', etc.  If Arminias admits that these are bad ideas, or that shame is associated with them so as to 'deny that they are taught', why does he argue their merits in such detail as one who 'loves them', without ever opposing the folishness of them (if he actually opposed them) -- and thus -- famously teaches them?!

As Arminias seems to be very hard to pin down on this question, I will add two more quotes on the subject to further prove: ‘Arminias opposed the idea of actual guilt being imputed on all humanity, making every human creature no longer innocent but guilty.’

Arminias does not seem like to mention the ‘imputation of guilt’ so common among Calvinists, even as he argues against them, because he opposes it. But the declaration of ‘innocence’ which is just the same thing in reverse, he does do on a couple of occasions. In fact it is central to his thinking that those born innocent can’t be predestined to hell as this would be unjust. The idea that a man is born innocent is what my question is trying to determine. ‘Did Arminias believe babies were born guilty of sin, or born innocent?

For example in arguing against the doctrine of predestination he says:

  1. If creation be the way and means through which God willed the execution of the decree of his reprobation, he was more inclined to will the act of reprobation than that of creation; and he consequently derived greater satisfaction from the act of condemning certain of his innocent creatures, than in the act of their creation. (THE WORKS OF JAMES ARMINIUS VOL. 1, P195)

Or again, he repeats his sentiments:

It is far worse to predestinate a just man to sin than to predestinate an innocent man to death. Of this we have also, previously, spoken. (THE WORKS OF JAMES ARMINIUS VOL. 3, P369)

Please note, I was not asking if Arminias believed in original sin, in some other sense than that which is attributed by the ‘imputation of guilt’. I was only wondering about this one question. My determination that he did not believe it is not meant to be a criticism against Arminians, or great men like Wesley who did believe it.

  • This charge had been made against Borrius. Borrius had questioned the doctrine of original sin, but had not taught publicly against it. Once again, just as I said in chat, although the doctrine of original sin can be derived from the Bible, it is not explicitly taught there, it is not the only way to understand the nature of sin, and it is not an essential Christian doctrine. It is a man-made tradition, and Arminius is correct that Borrius is within his rights to question it. Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 3:53
  • No, you're missing my point. Arminius wrote this book to answer charges of heresy that had been leveled against himself and Borrius. The question was not whether Borrius' opinion was more correct than the tradition of the church; the question was whether Borrias had strayed so far as to be considered a heretic. Arminius' conclusion (and mine) is that he had not. It's not a sin to question a man-made doctrine, even one as firmly established as original sin. Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 5:00
  • And Borrius, as Arminius states, offered his opinions about original sin "under the influence of reasons which he willingly submits to the examination of his brethren; who, when they have confuted them, may teach him more correct doctrine, and induce him to change his opinion." Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 5:00
  • 2
    @BruceAlderman If this answer is not representing things correctly, the best thing to do is get an answer up that you think does properly represent the issue. Also I'd advocate for everybody being careful not to make accusations of dis-honesty before figuring out whether everybody is defining their terms the same way and understands all the pieces.
    – Caleb
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 7:28
  • 1
    @Mike: I appreciate your edits, but I think you're still framing this the wrong way. Once again, this volume was written by Arminius as A DEFENSE AGAINST FORMAL CHARGES OF HERESY. Accepting someone's theology as not being heretical is not the same as accepting it as the absolute truth. Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 14:25

You must log in to answer this question.

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