Jacob Arminius. Theologian of Grace– Part Four

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BEN: Arminius seems to work hard to avoid making God the author of sin, or of anything evil for that matter, including the Fall. He is very willing to talk about God’s ‘permissive’ will when this subject comes up, though he does talk about God permitting such things for two reasons: 1) because he has endowed human beings with genuine freedom, by which I mean the power of contrary choice, the ability to choose or not choose good or evil; and 2) because he believes God can even use evil to some good end. Can you help us understand Arminius’ thought better on these matters.

KEITH: Like most Christian thinkers who have opposed absolute predestination as taught in Augustinian and Reformed circles, Arminius worried about the implications for the doctrine of God. If the fall was ordained and sin unavoidable, then the efficient cause that ordained sin is ultimately responsible and is the chief sinner, and in fact the only sinner. Arminius thought it blasphemous to make God so directly responsible for sin, implying that God is the author of evil.

For Arminius, God does will sin in the weaker sense of permission. The original couple enjoyed libertarian freedom and was free from all necessity to sin. It is important to note that Arminius is no “champion of free will” or advocate of anthropocentrism. Human free will is simply an answer to the problem of evil, one that lays culpability for sin at the feet of those who are mutably good, not at the feet of the summum bonum, the author of all good.


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