Arminianism: Definition | Theology | Scriptures [2024]

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Hey, all you theology buffs! Buckle up, because today we’re taking a deep dive into the blue waters of Arminianism. What’s Arminianism, you ask? Hold your breath; we’re just getting started.

What is Arminianism?


In a nutshell, Arminianism is a theological perspective focusing on the grace and love of God. Think of God’s grace like an endless ocean, and we’re all trying to keep afloat. The gist of Arminianism is that God throws lifebuoys to everyone, but it’s up to us to grab them.

Arminianism Definition

Arminianism is a branch of Protestant Christianity that emphasizes the free will of humans and rejects the predestinarian views associated with Calvinism. 

Named after Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian of the late 16th and early 17th century, Arminianism has a profound influence on various Christian denominations and has played a pivotal role in shaping Protestant theology.

Central to Arminian theology is the belief in the free will of humans in the process of salvation. While it recognizes the sinful nature of humanity and the necessity of divine grace for salvation, Arminianism maintains that individuals have the free will to accept or reject this grace. 

This is often termed “libertarian free will,” highlighting the belief that human beings are not predestined to make certain decisions but have genuine freedom to make moral choices.

Arminianism also teaches the doctrine of “conditional election.” In this view, predestination is not an arbitrary decision of God, but rather, God, in his omniscience, predestines individuals based on His foreknowledge of their free decisions.

Another cornerstone of Arminian theology is “universal atonement.” Arminians believe that Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross was for all people, not just for a pre-selected group. This means that salvation through faith in Christ is genuinely offered to all.

Furthermore, Arminianism proposes the concept of “obstructable grace,” contrasting with Calvinism’s “irresistible grace.” While God’s grace is extended to all, individuals have the ability to resist or reject this grace.

Lastly, Arminianism introduces the idea of “uncertainty of perseverance.” Unlike the Calvinistic assurance of “once saved, always saved,” Arminians contend that believers must continually maintain their faith, implying the possibility of apostasy.

In sum, Arminianism is a theological perspective that centers on human free will, conditional election, universal atonement, obstructable grace, and uncertainty of perseverance in the context of salvation. Its influence is wide, touching various Christian traditions and continuing to be a vibrant part of Christian theological discussion.

If you love this post on Arminianism, you will also love this shocking solution to the free-will dilemma.


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The Birth of Arminian Theology

Ah, the early 17th century – a time of exploration, art, and, you guessed it, intense theological debates. Enter Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian, who’s about to steer the ship of Protestant theology into uncharted waters.

Jacobus Arminius: The Man Behind the Movement

Jacobus Arminius, born in 1560, was no ordinary Joe. He was a brilliant scholar and an avid student of Scripture and early Church writings. His name might give you a hint – yeah, Arminianism is named after him. But what got him so riled up to start a theological storm?

Arminius vs. Calvinism

Now, let’s set the stage. Calvinism was the reigning champ in the theological ring. Its pillars were the absolute sovereignty of God and predestination. Essentially, Calvinists believed that God had already decided who was in the “saved” club and who wasn’t. It was a VIP list, and no one could crash the party.

But Arminius was like, “Wait a minute!” He started poking holes in Calvinist theology. He couldn’t reconcile the idea of a loving God with a God who damned souls willy-nilly.

Remonstrance and the Five Articles

As Arminius delved deeper, his followers compiled his objections into the Five Articles of Remonstrance. Picture this as a theological declaration of independence. These articles laid out a more inclusive vision of salvation, emphasizing human free will and God’s desire to save all.

The Synod of Dort and the Birth of a Movement

Sadly, Arminius didn’t live to see the full impact of his work. But, his ideas were far from dead. They gained momentum and eventually led to a big showdown – The Synod of Dort (1618-1619). It was like the theological Super Bowl.

The Synod was stacked in favor of the Calvinists, and they condemned Arminius’ views as heretical. But, you know what they say about forbidden fruit – it’s irresistible. The Synod’s condemnation didn’t bury Arminianism; it catapulted it into the spotlight.

Arminianism Sails Across the Seas

Arminianism, with its message of God’s love and human choice, began to resonate with folks. Its sails filled with the winds of theological change. It crossed borders and oceans, influencing movements like Methodism and shaping the course of Protestant theology.

Legacy of Jacobus Arminius

Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian with a heart for Scripture and the nature of God’s grace, ended up sparking a movement that’s still making waves. His audacity to challenge prevailing norms breathed fresh air into Christian theology.

So next time you’re exploring the vast ocean of theology, drop an anchor at Arminianism and remember Jacobus Arminius, the man who wasn’t afraid to challenge the currents.


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Arminianism Beliefs and Core Tenets


Arminianism is not just a reaction against Calvinism; it is a complete theological system with its own set of beliefs and core tenets.

The 5 Points of Arminianism

Prepare for a deep dive into the heart of Arminian theology. We’re going to navigate the 5 points of Arminianism, which are akin to the theological compass of this belief system:

Free Will (Human Free Agency) – Picture a puppet show. In Calvinist theology, God is the puppet master, and humans are the puppets, dancing to the divine tune. But Arminianism says, “Cut the strings!” In this system, humans have free will. We have the power to choose or reject God, to do good or evil. Yes, sin affects our nature, but it doesn’t annihilate our ability to make moral choices.

  • Deuteronomy 30:19-20: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live…”
  • Joshua 24:15: “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve…”

Conditional Election – Now, let’s talk predestination. For Calvinists, it’s an exclusive club, with God choosing members before the foundation of the world. But Arminians argue it’s not so black and white. They propose a concept called conditional election. This means God’s predestination is based on His foreknowledge of human choices. In other words, God, in His omniscience, knows who will choose Him and predestines them to salvation.

  • 1 Peter 1:1-2: “To those who… have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.”
  • Romans 8:29: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”

Universal Atonement – Jesus’ sacrifice is like a beacon, a lighthouse in the storm of sin. Calvinism argues this light only guides a select few to the shore of salvation. But Arminianism disagrees, asserting the doctrine of universal atonement. According to this belief, Jesus didn’t play favorites; His sacrifice was for all humankind. Anyone can be saved through faith in Christ.

  • John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
  • 1 John 2:2: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Obstructable Grace – This is where the debate heats up! Calvinism insists on irresistible grace – when God calls, you can’t say no. But Arminianism believes in obstructable grace. They see God’s saving grace as a gift, but one we can choose to reject. It’s like a divine invitation, but we have the freedom to RSVP “no.”

  • Acts 7:51: “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!”
  • Hebrews 12:15: “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Uncertainty of Perseverance – In the Christian life, is it a case of “once saved, always saved”? Calvinists would say “yes”, but Arminians argue it’s not so simple. They propose the uncertainty of perseverance. This means believers must actively maintain their faith. It’s not a sprint to salvation, but a lifelong marathon of faith.

So, when you’re navigating the vast seas of Christian theology, remember the 5 points of Arminianism. They’re the coordinates that guide us to understand the grace-filled theology of Arminianism.

  • Hebrews 6:4-6: “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance…”
  • 2 Peter 2:20-22: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”


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Libertarian Free Will: The Heart of Arminianism


At the core of Arminian theology lies a compelling perspective on human autonomy: libertarian free will. It’s not just a concept; it’s a belief that shapes and breathes life into Arminian understanding of human nature, God’s grace, and salvation.

What is Libertarian Free Will?

Libertarian free will is the belief that individuals are free to make choices without any preconditions or predetermined constraints. 

According to this view, human beings are not just biological or divine puppets whose strings are pulled by the forces of nature or by a sovereign God. 

Instead, they are autonomous agents, capable of making real, meaningful choices that are not predetermined or predestined.

Contrasting Determinism and Libertarian Free Will

To understand the distinctiveness of libertarian free will, it’s useful to contrast it with determinism, a view held by some philosophical and theological traditions. 

Determinism essentially posits that every event or action, including human decisions, are the inevitable result of preceding causes or divine predestination.

Libertarian free will, on the other hand, insists that humans can originate choices that are not determined by natural causes or divine predestination. 

That is, they believe we have the capacity to do otherwise, even in identical circumstances.

Libertarian Free Will and Moral Responsibility

Libertarian free will carries significant implications for our understanding of moral responsibility. If our choices are truly free, as libertarian free will posits, then we can be held morally accountable for those choices. 

This is a critical aspect of Arminian theology, as it undergirds their understanding of sin, repentance, and salvation.

Arminianism argues that if humans are not free to choose, then it is difficult to hold them morally responsible for their actions. 

This is why the concept of libertarian free will is so integral to Arminian soteriology (doctrine of salvation). It allows for a coherent understanding of repentance and faith as genuine human responses to the offer of divine grace.

Libertarian Free Will in the Bible

Arminians see the concept of libertarian free will echoed in numerous biblical passages. 

They point to verses that call for human response, such as Deuteronomy 30:19, where God says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. 

Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Arminians interpret such texts as indicative of real human choice. 

They argue that such a choice would not be possible or meaningful if humans did not possess libertarian free will. 

Moreover, they see the universal call to repentance in the Bible (Acts 17:30) as affirming the ability of every individual to respond to God’s offer of salvation.

Libertarian Free Will and God’s Sovereignty

But what about God’s sovereignty? Does libertarian free will contradict a sovereign God? Not according to Arminians. 

They argue that God, in his sovereignty, chose to create humans with free will. In this way, God remains sovereign, while humans enjoy real freedom. 

This freedom doesn’t diminish God’s power; rather, it’s a testament to God’s love and desire for a relationship with humanity that isn’t forced but freely chosen.

Libertarian free will is a fundamental part of Arminian theology. 

It affirms human autonomy, underscores moral responsibility, and paints a picture of a sovereign God who values genuine relationships with His creation. 

It gives a unique texture to the Arminian understanding of the Christian faith and continues to inspire vibrant theological discussions within and beyond Arminian circles.

If you love this post on Arminianism, you will also love this shocking solution to the free-will dilemma.


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Apparent Logical Necessity of Free Will

Free will is not just an abstract philosophical concept. It’s a theological cornerstone, an idea woven into the very fabric of Christian belief. 

This conviction isn’t plucked out of thin air; it has strong grounding in the pages of the Bible. But why is it logically necessary? Let’s unpack this.

The Image of God

In the book of Genesis, the creation account tells us that humanity was created in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:27). 

This divine imprint implies several things, one of which is the capacity for moral and rational choice, mirroring the volitional nature of God Himself. 

If we argue that humans are devoid of free will, it undermines this foundational biblical principle, casting a shadow on the divine image within us.

Love and Relationship

The Christian faith hinges on love – love of God and love of others (Matthew 22:37-39). Love, by its very nature, requires the ability to choose. 

Without free will, love is reduced to an automated response, stripped of its authenticity and depth. 

God desires genuine relationship with His creation, which necessitates the freedom to choose to love Him in return. Thus, free will is a logical prerequisite for a relationship based on love.

Responsibility and Accountability

The Bible is replete with calls to righteous living, urging individuals to turn from sin and choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19). 

The assumption behind these exhortations is that humans have the capacity to respond, to choose right from wrong. 

If free will is denied, it becomes illogical to hold individuals accountable for their actions, thus undermining the moral framework of the Bible.

Scriptures and Free Will

Numerous biblical passages imply the exercise of human free will. Joshua’s exhortation to the Israelites, “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15), underscores the element of choice in serving God. 

Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” presupposes the ability to accept or reject His invitation. 

Revelation 3:20, where Jesus stands at the door and knocks, waiting for individuals to open the door, also points towards human agency.

The logical necessity of free will is deeply embedded in the Bible’s narrative, shaping our understanding of God, our relationship with Him, and our moral responsibility. 

Without free will, these essential facets of Christian faith lose their coherence, pointing to the integral role of free will in the theological structure of Christianity.


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The Role of Free Will

Free will in Arminian theology is not just a point in a list; it’s a crucial tenet that undergirds the entire belief system. If Arminianism were a house, free will would be its foundation.

The Arminian Picture of Free Will Arminianism envisions humans as moral agents with the ability to make meaningful choices. 

Imagine you’re standing at a crossroads. You have multiple paths before you, each leading to a different destination. God’s grace is the GPS, providing the directions and guiding your way, but ultimately, you’re the one in the driver’s seat. 

You have the freedom to choose which route to take. This choice is what gives our faith and actions significance.

Influenced by Sin but Not Constrained But, you may wonder, doesn’t sin affect our ability to choose? Arminianism acknowledges the power of sin. 

It agrees that sin has a profound influence on us, akin to a heavy fog that makes it harder to see the correct path. 

However, it rejects the idea that sin utterly incapacitates our free will. The divine GPS, God’s prevenient grace, cuts through the fog of sin, enabling us to make the choice to follow God.

Free Will and Divine Sovereignty Now, don’t get this twisted. Acknowledging human free will doesn’t mean that Arminianism diminishes the sovereignty of God. 

It’s not a zero-sum game. God in His sovereignty chose to create humans with free will. He is like a king who, in his power, allows his subjects the freedom to choose. This doesn’t make Him any less sovereign. 

Instead, it emphasizes His love and respect for His creation.

Free Will’s Impact on Theology and Life The Arminian concept of free will deeply impacts how we view our relationship with God and how we live our lives. 

It allows for a dynamic, reciprocal relationship with God, where our actions and decisions matter. 

It’s a theology that empowers, placing personal responsibility for spiritual growth in our hands. Furthermore, it paints a picture of a God who respects our autonomy, values our choice, and lovingly invites us to choose Him, rather than coercing us into submission.

Predestination Defined

Predestination is a theological term used to express the belief that God predetermines certain events, specifically the eternal destiny of individuals. 

It’s the concept that before the creation of the world, God determined the eternal fate of every individual, whether they would be saved or condemned.

Calvinism and Predestination

John Calvin, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, is a prominent figure associated with the doctrine of predestination, and his teachings form the basis of what we now call Calvinism. 

This theological system emphasizes God’s sovereignty and grace, and predestination holds a central place in its beliefs.

In Calvinist thought, predestination takes on a particular shape known as ‘double predestination’ or ‘unconditional election.’ Here’s how it breaks down:

Unconditional Election: Calvinists believe that God’s choice of who will be saved (the elect) is not based on foreknowledge of their actions or faith, but purely on God’s sovereign choice. This is why it’s ‘unconditional’—it doesn’t hinge on any condition met by the individual.

Double Predestination: This refers to the belief that God predestines some people to eternal life (the elect) and others to eternal damnation (the reprobates). This is one of the most controversial aspects of Calvinism, as it’s seen to imply that God actively decrees the damnation of the non-elect.

Calvinists cite various Bible passages to support these views, such as Romans 9:11-23 and Ephesians 1:4-5.

To summarize, Calvinism’s interpretation of predestination underscores God’s absolute sovereignty, even over matters of eternal destiny. This does not negate human responsibility, but it does paint a picture of salvation that is initiated and controlled by God from start to finish.

If you love this post on Arminianism, you will also love this shocking solution to the free-will dilemma.


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Arminianism vs. Calvinism

The world of theology can often feel like a peaceful sea of meditation and prayer, but every so often, waves of passionate debate create quite a splash. One of the most potent sources of these waves? 

The theological tug-of-war between Arminianism vs Calvinism. Picture them as theological gladiators, each armed with a distinct understanding of God’s grace and human free will, locked in an age-old duel.

The Age-Old Theological Debate

The tale of this dispute isn’t a brief one. It harks back to the early 17th century, when Jacobus Arminius first questioned the teachings of his contemporary Calvinist theologians. 

It’s been a spirited game of theological ping-pong ever since, with the baton of prevailing thought passed back and forth across the centuries.

The Tug-of-War: Sovereignty vs. Free Will

The crux of this debate lies in the delicate balance between divine sovereignty and human free will. Calvinism leans heavily towards the side of God’s sovereignty, asserting that God predestines everything, including who attains salvation. 

They see humanity as inherently depraved, unable to choose God or good without divine intervention, which leads them to the belief in irresistible grace. It’s like a heavenly magnet pulling us toward salvation, impossible to resist.

Arminianism, on the other hand, emphasizes human free will while still upholding God’s sovereignty. It suggests that God, in His omniscience, predestines individuals based on His foreknowledge of their choices. 

Arminians argue that grace is resistible, akin to a divine invitation that we can either accept or decline. In this worldview, God’s sovereignty and human freedom coexist, each influencing the other in the dance of salvation.

The Ongoing Debate

Despite the centuries that have passed, this theological tussle is far from over. Different times have seen different schools of thought take center stage. 

The pendulum of popular theology swings back and forth, now favoring the deterministic perspective of Calvinism, then swinging towards the freedom-centered view of Arminianism.

This isn’t a mere academic exercise either. The outcome of this debate significantly influences how Christians perceive their relationship with God, their understanding of salvation, and their view of God’s character. 

Therefore, the significance of this duel between these two theological heavyweights cannot be overstated.

So, who’s serving? Who’s scoring? It depends on who you ask and in what era you’re asking. But one thing’s for sure: this theological ping-pong game makes for one fascinating spectator sport. 

It’s a testament to the richness and complexity of Christian thought, a living, breathing dialogue that continues to shape the course of theological discourse.


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Understanding the Differences

Calvinism says God’s sovereignty trumps all. Arminianism retorts with the wildcard of human free will. They’re like two sides of the same theological coin. But, don’t get it twisted – there’s a world of difference!

Impact of Arminianism on Christian Denominations

Navigating through the history of Christianity, one can’t help but notice the significant waves Arminianism made. The way it shaped and continues to shape various Christian denominations is like the movement of tides, subtle yet impactful.

The Methodist Movement

Among the many ships sailing the vast ocean of Christian denominations, the Methodist movement stands out as a significant bearer of Arminian theology. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, can be considered a theological descendant of Jacobus Arminius.

Wesley’s theological views mirrored Arminius’s in several key areas. Particularly, he emphasized human free will and universal atonement, echoing Arminianism’s views of God’s grace and salvation. Under Wesley’s leadership, Methodism absorbed and propagated these Arminian tenets, giving them a crucial role in its theology and practice.

Beyond Methodism

However, Arminianism didn’t just influence Methodism. Its theological currents have flowed into other denominations, shaping their beliefs and practices in profound ways. For instance, many Baptist churches embrace an Arminian understanding of salvation. Similarly, Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, with their focus on personal religious experience and the activity of the Holy Spirit, often align with Arminian emphasis on human free will and divine grace.

Arminianism in Modern Theology

Fast forward to the 21st-century, and Arminianism is far from a relic of the past. In fact, it continues to be a vibrant and influential force in modern Christian theology.

In today’s pluralistic and diverse theological landscape, Arminianism offers a view of God’s grace and human free will that resonates with many believers. 

It emphasizes a God who genuinely desires all people to be saved and a faith that invites active participation rather than passive acceptance.

Moreover, the Arminian-Cavinist dialogue remains an active area of theological debate and exploration, with scholars on both sides contributing to a richer, deeper understanding of these complex issues. 

As we continue to navigate the 21st-century seas of theology, there’s no doubt that Arminianism will remain a significant part of the conversation.

Relevance in Contemporary Theological Discussions

Arminianism: A Vibrant Current in Theological Education

Arminianism is not just a relic of the past; it continues to be a dynamic part of theological education. 

Seminary students and theological scholars alike engage with Arminian beliefs, examining its nuances and implications, and debating its tenets against other theological perspectives such as Calvinism. 

Arminianism’s emphasis on human free will, conditional election, universal atonement, obstructable grace, and the necessity of maintaining faith serve as pivotal discussion points in theological curricula worldwide.

Arminianism and Sunday Sermons

The influence of Arminianism isn’t confined to academia. It echoes in churches around the globe, subtly shaping Sunday sermons. 

Pastors and church leaders, consciously or unconsciously, often weave the threads of Arminian theology into their messages. 

Themes of universal love, grace, human free will, and the continuous call to faith resonate with church congregations, providing a hopeful and inclusive understanding of salvation.

Arminianism and Ecumenical Dialogues

In the arena of ecumenical dialogues, where different Christian traditions come together for conversation and understanding, Arminianism plays a key role. 

Its doctrines provide common ground for various Christian denominations, fostering conversation and bridging theological differences. 

Arminian ideas help navigate complex theological debates, lending voice to the beliefs about human free will and God’s universal love.

Arminianism in the 21st Century: A Beacon of Hope and Inclusivity

As we traverse the often tumultuous waters of 21st-century life, Arminianism serves as a beacon of hope and inclusivity. 

Its emphasis on the universal scope of God’s love and the potential for all to respond to God’s grace is a message that resonates deeply in our global, interconnected world. 

This theology, which maintains the dignity and freedom of every human being and affirms the possibility of salvation for all, is a compelling and relevant voice in contemporary theological and ethical discussions.

Our voyage through the vast ocean of Arminianism has shown us a theological tradition that began with the courageous questioning of Jacobus Arminius and has grown into a comprehensive system of beliefs that continues to shape and enrich Christian theology. 

So next time you find yourself navigating the swirling currents of faith and theology, remember to chart a course for Arminianism – a theology that embraces human freedom, God’s universal love, and the potential of every person to respond to God’s grace.


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Arminianism FAQs

What sparked the birth of Arminianism?

Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian, challenged Calvinism, leading to the birth of Arminianism in the early 17th century.

How does Arminianism view predestination?

Arminianism believes in conditional predestination based on God’s foreknowledge of human choices.

What impact did Arminianism have on Methodism?

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was heavily influenced by Arminianism, especially its emphasis on free will and universal atonement.

Why is free will so central to Arminianism?

Arminianism places a high emphasis on free will as it portrays a God who gives humanity the freedom to choose, reflecting His love and grace.

Is Arminianism still relevant in modern theology?

Absolutely! Arminianism continues to influence theological discussions, denominational beliefs, and pastoral work with its focus on God’s grace and human free will.

Can Arminians believe in eternal security?

While some Arminians might believe in a form of eternal security, the traditional Arminian position is that it is possible for a Christian to fall from grace if they cease to maintain their faith.

What does Arminianism say about God’s sovereignty?

Arminians affirm God’s sovereignty but interpret it differently from Calvinists. They believe that God, in His sovereignty, chose to give humans free will. Thus, His control over the universe includes the genuine choices of humans.

Do Arminians believe in original sin?

Yes, Arminians do believe in original sin. They assert that sin has affected all aspects of human nature. However, they also believe in prevenient grace – God’s grace that enables us to make a free choice in response to Him.

How does Arminianism interpret the role of grace in salvation?

Arminians believe in the concept of “obstructable grace”. They maintain that God’s saving grace is offered to all people through Jesus Christ, but individuals have the free will to accept or reject this grace.

What distinguishes Arminianism from Calvinism?

The key distinctions lie in their views on free will, predestination, atonement, grace, and perseverance of the saints. Arminians emphasize human free will and conditional election, whereas Calvinists emphasize God’s sovereignty in unconditional election and irresistible grace.

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