Arminianism and Romanism

Cover of "Arminian Theology: Myths And Re...

Cover of Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities

A question was asked on a forum: “John Gill argued in his work, “The Cause of God and Truth” that Popery gets into our Protestant churches through Arminianism. Do you agree or disagree?”

Does Arminianism open the door to Romanism? I cannot comment on Gill’s work seeing that I have not read it therefore I do not know the arguments Gill offers for such a conclusion, but I would have to say that I’m skeptical of such resolve. PLEASE NOTE THIS IS NOT A DEFENSE OF ARMINIANISM; JUST THEOLOGICAL OBSERVATION. I am not an Arminian nor a synergist; I just think it fair to make appropriate theological distinctions. The first comment on the forum was that they share a synergistic soteriology and because of that there could be a link between the two. Synergism is shared by Arminianism and Romanism, but in the broad scope of things, that may be all. Though not an Arminian, obviously, I have read writing from Roger Olson and a few others (to keep the mind sharp and to be challenge my own thinking) and they would say that they affirm truths like justification by grace alone through faith alone and Scripture alone (no Arminian I know or have read would ever affirm of a Roman hierarchy of church government where a human being could claim infallibility in speech and authority over Scripture). Arminians are not semi-Pelagians. In regards to synergism Olson says this,

“Synergism is any theological belief in free human participation in salvation. Its heretical forms in Christian theology are Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. The former denies original sin and elevates natural and moral human ability to live spiritually fulfilled lives. The latter (semi-Pelagianism) embraces a modified version of original sin but believes that humans have the ability, even in their natural or fallen state, to initiate salvation by exercising good will toward God. Conservative theologians declare that synergism heresy. Classical Arminians agree. This is a major theme of this book. Contrary to confused critics, classical Arminianism is neither Pelagian nor semi-Pelagian! But it is synergistic. Arminianism is evangelical synergism as opposed to heretical, humanistic synergism. When Arminian synergism is referred to, I am referring to evangelical synergism, which affirms the prevenience of grace to every human exercise of a good will toward God, including simple nonresistance to the saving work of Christ” (Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, p.18).

The difference in the synergies are the Arminian readily admits that it is God that has to initiate salvation and after doing so (according to the Arminian He already has: see prevenient grace) it is for man to respond to bring a closure to the process; in other words, God begins the work and man + God bring it to be. In Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian synergy, man can initiate salvation, and man + God bring it to be. Though I disagree with the first and see the latter as heresy, I do want to have a theological fairness for the sake of those who are less reformed in their soteriology (more or less Arminians). Theological precision is necessary to ward off theological pride (a post for another day). Those of the more calvinistic camps must be cautious about incorrectly lumping together as heresy every doctrine outside the doctrines of grace.


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