Jacob Arminius Theologian of Grace– Part Fourteen


BEN: As we conclude this discussion, let’s talk about the practical implications of Arminius’ thought for today. It seems clear to me that Arminius, and Wesley as well, would have rejected recent ideas that have come to be called open theism. Am I right? What exactly would Arminius have especially have rejected about the cluster of ideas called open theism?

KEITH: That’s right. Now Arminius agrees with open theists against pan-determinists that humans are gifted with libertarian free will. But this belief alone does not make Arminius, or anyone, an open theist. The most obvious difference is that, unlike open theists, he affirmed God’s exhaustive definite foreknowledge. Like the great majority of the Christian tradition, Arminius believed that divine foreknowledge is compatible with libertarian human freedom. Open theists believe that these two concepts are not compatible and that divine foreknowledge implies determinism. Ironically, this assumption unites open theists with many modern-day Calvinists, though their solutions are different. Open theists reject divine foreknowledge, whereas the Calvinists reject libertarian freedom.

Arminius also would not agree with the common open theist rejection of God’s immutability and impassibility. Arminius considered such a rejection to be blasphemous. On this matter, it must be asked whether the typical open theist who rejects these divine attributes has actually understood what the Christian tradition meant to say in attributing them to God. In my reading, the answer is that many (not all) open theists, along with much modern Protestant theology, have not bothered to understand anything more than the caricature of a God who is emotionless, loveless, and unable to interact in time with creation. That is a straw man that few if any pre-modern Christian theologians believed in anyway.

The God of so-called “classical theism,” the triune God in whom Arminius believed, is the transcendent source of all being, beyond being, the omnipotent, omniscient, simple one, the highest good, holy love itself, the one who created out of love for the creature in order to communicate eternal goodness to the creature, the immutable and impassible who became incarnate in order to change and suffer with and on behalf of the creature. This is the indisputable foundation for Arminius.