An Arminian Ordo Salutis (Order of Salvation)

An Arminian Ordo Salutis (Order of Salvation) August 23, 2013

An Arminian Ordo Salutis (Order of Salvation)

I was recently asked here to provide an Arminian order of salvation (ordo salutis).

First, what is an order of salvation? In theology the technical term is “ordo salutis.” From now on, here, I’ll simply refer to it as “ordo.” An ordo is an attempt to put into logical, not chronological, order the events that lead up to and take place in and follow a person’s initial salvation. Those are chronological terms, of course, and there isn’t any way to delineate an ordo without using chronological language at least some of the time. Many theologians, however, would argue that, like the decrees of God, these ordo events are not necessarily chronologically sequential—especially from God’s point of view.

The Bible and Christian tradition use many terms to identify things God does and things the person being saved does in relation to turning from being “lost” to being “found” (to use evangelical language) or from being “damned” to being “redeemed.” The Bible nowhere lays out a single, clear ordo, so a major task of systematic theology has been to bring together all the biblical concepts of personal salvation and put them in logical order. Why? Because inquiring minds want to know what God does and what we do in our becoming saved persons.

This issue of a proper ordo became pressing during the Protestant reformation which is not to say it wasn’t an issue before. However, Protestants, with their emphasis on grace alone and faith alone, felt the need to offer an alternative ordo to the typical Catholic ordo which emphasized sacraments and works of love as instrumental causes of saving grace. Calvinists worked out their own ordo (with some variations) that emphasized the priority of grace over human decisions or actions.

Arminianism, Remonstrantism, was, in many ways, simply an attempt to mediate between Catholic and Calvinist ordos—both of which were viewed by Arminius and the Remonstrants as imbalanced. To put the matter simplistically, Arminians have always viewed the Catholic ordo as over emphasizing Philippians 2:12 to the neglect of the immediately following verse and the Calvinist ordo as over emphasizing Philippians 2:13 to the neglect of the immediately preceding verse. According to classical Arminianism, the biblical ordo must do justice equally to God’s action and ours in salvation with priority being given to God’s without neglecting ours as essential.

So here is my attempt to lay out an Arminian ordo:

1) God’s electing grace in Christ of all who will believe in him;

2) Christ’s atoning, reconciling death for all sinners;

3) Prevenient grace given by God to sinners through the Word (calling, convicting, illuminating, enabling);

4) Conversion (repentance and faith) enabled by assisting, prevenient grace;

5) Regeneration, justification, adoption, union with Christ, indwelling of the Holy Spirit;

6) Sanctification;

7) Glorification.

Remember—these are not necessarily chronologically sequential. Especially 3, 4, 5 and 6 may be temporally simultaneous. (Of course, some Arminians will view all as temporally simultaneous in God’s awareness as God does not experience temporal sequence of events.)

Now, some Arminians, especially high church, sacramental Arminians, will want to insert baptism into the ordo. I would simply say they include that with 3—baptism as a means of prevenient grace. They will want to add “the water” after “through.”

Some Arminians will view 6 as a process beginning with 5 and ending only with 7 while others, especially Wesleyans, will view 6 as potentially complete before 7.

The main point is this: In this Arminian ordo, in contrast to a typical Catholic one, a clear logical distinction is made between 4, 5 and 6. 6 is in no way a cause of 4 or 5. In contrast to a typical Calvinist ordo, 5 logically follows 4.

Why does this matter? Well, Arminians believe this is the pattern of evangelism in the Bible—the call to repent and believe is serious; without repentance and faith, enabled by prevenient grace, one cannot be fully saved (regenerated, justified, etc.). And one cannot count on God doing that for him or her apart from his or her free acceptance. There is urgency to the call to conversion. It is something we do, enabled by God, in response to God’s call, and not something that just happens to us. It is freely entering into a new relationship, not just having a new condition imposed.

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  • Bev Mitchell

    This is very clear and helpful. It almost makes one wonder what all the fuss has really been about lo these many years!

    On the statement about some Arminians using God’s timelessness as a way to see all ordo salutis events as simultaneous: does this not beg the question of God’s experience of Incarnation and other creative acts? Of course God is outside of time, but I could never see the need to press the point as if it would somehow be naughty of God to experience time. With this view he would also be naughty to make the universe (which he is outside of) and to become a creature, or take on the sin of the world. It always seems to be an overwrought emphasis of philosophy over theology to fuss too much about how God is outside of time.

    • Roger Olson

      As you might suspect, I agree. IF God is outside of time, we have no way of talking about that narratively. To emphasize God’s non-temporal eternality is to destroy the story of God with us. Perhaps God is outside of time, or all of our times are simultaneous to God, but if so I have have no way of making that function in my theology which emphasizes God with us and us with God in interaction.

  • I’m not sure I understand the concept of being “enabled by prevenient grace.” Is everyone enabled? Is everyone enabled to the same extent? Are there any biblical examples of prevenient grace in action?

    • Roger Olson

      That has been a major subject here over the past two to three years. Look back at my previous posts about prevenient grace or read Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. In brief, one does not have to have definite answers to all those questions to believe that God enables faith without imposing it.

      • David Rogers

        “Look back at my previous posts . . .”

        This can be a little difficult and very time consuming because all of your posts (to my observation, which could be wrong) are categorized or tagged as “Uncategorized.” One would have to click and scroll through all of the posts discerning by the titles whether you made a comment about prevenient grace. Of course, your book would be the easiest way to find your analysis.

        It may be possible that you have some lack of technical blogging insight about creating tags (index categories) for your posts. I bet someone in your classes would be able to quickly and easily instruct about this. It might even be a good extra-credit assignment to have one of your students go back through all your posts and create tags for each one and thus make them more searchable.

        • Roger Olson

          You’re right; I lack the expertise to do this and the interest in it. I assume that people can simply google my name and the title of my blog and key words and come up with my posts on a subject. I just tried that and it worked. Yes, I had to ignore some other stuff that google showed, but without much trouble I found the post I was looking for using that method.

  • gingoro

    Roger for Calvinism I understand, at least to some extent, what step 1 is but for Arminianism I have no real idea what it means. Please explain. What entails from step 1 for Arminians?

    • Roger Olson

      I have trouble understanding why anyone doesn’t understand it. God decides to elect as his people all who believe in Christ (whether explicitly or implicitly as before the incarnation). Isn’t that what all non-Calvinists have always believed? It’s conditional election. Only Calvinists believe in unconditional election (as applied to individuals). (Just to fend off someone else here–Lutheran theology does not believe in unconditional individual election. It believes in irresistible grace which is monergism, but not unconditional individual election.)

      • gingoro

        OK but, for arminianism what difference does election make, what happens when God elects someone?

        • Roger Olson

          Why does “election” have to immediately make a difference for an individual? You’re assuming something I don’t think Scripture assumes and that I have never assumed. When Scripture speaks of “electing Israel,” for example, that doesn’t mean immediately making a difference for any individual; it means making it possible for individuals to become the elect of God–under the Old Covenant by inclusion in the Hebrew people of God and under the New Covenant by receiving God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

          • CarolJean

            So does this mean that ‘election’ can be thought of as corporate and for the individual depending on context?

          • Roger Olson


  • Kent

    Thank you for your work. Your Arminian Theology is fantastic.

  • Dan


  • James M. Henderson

    Dr. Olson, I can’t help but feel that the order you give is just a
    little unbalanced in terms of the Trinity. We have the Father working to save
    us, and Christ working to save us, but the Holy Spirit only “indwells.” I
    understand that this indwelling is usually associated with regeneration,
    however, I’m concerned that this unnecessarily restricts the work Holy Spirit
    and subordinates him in an unhealthy way. My solution would not be to change
    the order, but to understand grace – particularly prevenient grace – as the
    work of the Holy Spirit, who is the person through whose primary agency God
    works in this present age. Thus, prevenient grace is the presence and work of
    the Holy Spirit himself, which constitutes the “call” of God and which empowers
    the soul to respond positively to God’s call. How would you respond?

    • Roger Olson

      Of course the ordo is condensed. Were I to flesh it out more I would attribute prevenient grace (as a work) to the Holy Spirit in a special way.

      • James M. Henderson

        I am glad to hear that, but I fear that many would not, which is why I have begun to make it more explicit. I have come to think that both Calvinist and Wesleyan thought have become almost binary in theology, rather than triune. By the way, how would you define “grace,” itself?

        • Roger Olson

          God’s unmerited favor is as good a brief definition as I have heard. I keep returning to things I learned in Sunday School, youth group, and Youth for Christ. Not all of it was wrong; some of it was downright helpful.

          • James M. Henderson

            You bet. All that Sunday School came back to me after I was converted as an adult. I do not like “unmerited favor,” however, as I have always thought that it implied that the Father loves (“favors”) only a few. I have been meditating on the idea of “transforming power” as a better definition for a while. If it is the work of the Spirit -belonging to him as his work and not to ourselves- we have the possibility of transformation without losing our dependency on grace. Nothing is infused or “owned” by us that brings us merit.

          • Roger Olson

            I agree that transforming power is one effect of grace, but it follows upon God’s unmerited favor shown to all in Jesus Christ and especially his universal atonement. All along the way, from the beginning of God’s ways with us until our final glorification grace is God’s favor unmerited. In some aspects it is bestowed on all people (e.g., in the atonement and its reconciling of God and humanity) and in some aspects it is bestowed only on some people–those who do not reject it.

          • Nicolas

            “–those who do not reject it.”

            I am so pleased to hear you say that. Personally I would add that this includes after death — that God’s “grace” is still operative beyond the grave, and that hope is still possible beyond Hell.

          • James M. Henderson

            I would agree if the favor is that “shown to all.” However, I would like to see our thinking on grace expand beyond the usual mention of the father, and a greater emphasis on grace as God’s power rather than his attitude only. I also find myself explaining to my classes that this “favor” is not extended only to those God already likes, because they are good, and so I am attempting to engage and enlarge their understanding of what grace is and does. Thanks for the posts and dialogs, by the way. I find them fun and stimulating.

  • gingoro

    “1) God’s electing grace in Christ of all who will believe in him;”

    My assumption is that by electing grace you mean prevenient grace?

    • Roger Olson

      Uh, no. God’s electing grace in Christ is prior to prevenient grace and makes it possible and even inevitable.

  • Perry L. Stepp

    Could you comment on how Arminians understand predestination, and how it works out in the various steps? I know that’s a large enough topic for its own post, but it’s certainly germane here.

    • Roger Olson

      I’ve done that here many times. I’ll gladly do it again. In classical Arminian theology “predestination” is God’s foreknowledge of who will freely accept his offer of salvation through Christ. Sometimes “election” is used to designate God’s corporate choice to have a people and all are elect in Christ who God knows will freely accept his offer of salvation.

  • Ivan A. Togers

    Dr. Olson writes: “The Bible and Christian tradition use many terms to identify things God does and things the person being saved does in relation to turning from being “lost” to being “found” (to use evangelical language) or from being “damned” to being “redeemed.” The Bible nowhere lays out a single, clear ordo…”
    Now get this straight or you will surely end up “being damned.” First there is “ordo salutis” followed by “Arminian ordo,” or is it “Calvinist ordo”? No, it’s none of the above, in fact, it’s “Catholic ordo” that really counts. But, of course, the evangelicals will never accept anything that is not strictly “biblical ordo” and under no circumstance will they accept an enumeration that ends with Number 7 to the exclusion of a Number 8 which would insist on those “things the person being saved does in relation to turning from being ‘lost’ to being ‘found….'” (It would take a rocket scientist to figure out all these contradictory “Order of Salvation” formulas.)
    May I suggest we just rest in the final words of Christ on the cross, who said, “It is finished!” We are not called upon to put the finishing touches on the “finished” work of Christ. What a relief!

  • Jack Hanley

    I agree with Lee Shelton’s questions above,

    Is everyone enabled? Is everyone enabled to the same extent?

    These are excellent questions. I would also add 2 question,

    What of those who live and die, and never hear the gospel here in this life? Can any be saved apart from the gospel?

    • Roger Olson

      Doesn’t Scripture tell us (and didn’t Jesus say) that with God all things are possible?

  • Francesco

    I was thinking that maybe we should do a strict difference between faith and repentance. Faith comes before indwelling of the Holy Spirit in man. Repentance is a gift of the Holy Spirit in man.

    I am struggling with the fact that Ephes. 2:8 does not mean that faith is a gift from God, because the grammar means in greek that salvation-through-faith is the gift from God.

    Salvation is said to be gift. Eternal life is a gift in the Bible. The Holy Spirit is a gift. Repentance is said to be a gift. But faith is never said to be a gift and Eph 1:13 says that it “happens” before the Holy Spirit is given.

    I know that this sounds a little semipelagian, but I would say that faith is a natural ability from man that reacts to the word of God (Rom 10:17).

    What do you think about this point of view?

    • Roger Olson

      That does sound semi-Pelagian. Arminius taught that faith is both a gift and a task (but not meritorious). The ability to have faith, the desire for faith, is gift. Our response of not rejecting but receiving the gift is task. More faith is the resulting gift.

      • Francesco

        I understand your point and I find it logically consistent (also calvinist ordo salutis is logically consistent) but I don’t see any biblical proof for that. Faith is never described as a gift

        • Roger Olson

          The Apostle Paul asked “What do you have that you have not received?” That would have to include faith.

          • John Wylie

            Francesco, Faith is clearly a gift in 1 Corinthians 13.

  • CooperRiis Parents

    Does the resurrection play no role in salvation? (1 Cor 15:17-19)

    • Roger Olson

      What would cause you to ask that? My outline of an Arminian ordo salutis was intentionally (and stated to be) extremely abbreviated for blog purposes. Of course the resurrection plays a role in salvation as does the giving of the Holy Spirit and many other events in salvation history and in saved persons’ lives.

      • CooperRiis Parents

        I meant no disrespect. I understand that it was abbreviated and I had no reason to think you would answer other than as you did. I simply find it interesting – no, troubling – that an awful lot of Christians, for the purposes of brevity perhaps, sum up the gospel with an inclusion of Christ’s death, leaving out the resurrection which Paul so clearly felt was so essential that without it we have no message at all.

  • Jack Hanley

    More than likely you will say you have answered this in the past many times, but I can not help but ask. How does this prevenient grace operate? Are we all given the same measure of this so called grace? I find this grace no where in scripture, and it does not seem to coincide with real life experience. In other words there are those of us who were brought up in the christian faith from birth, and have had every opportunity to respond. However as we all know there are also those that seem to have no chance at all. I think of the many brought up in homes where the parents are not engaged at all, and the child is simply attempting to survive this life, never attending church or hearing the gospel. Also what of those brought up in other faiths, where there would certainly be less chance of their coming to the true faith? How does God look down through history and see those who would come to faith in His free gift of faith, when they have never heard of this faith. Now I certainly believe that the ones I speak of could miraculously come to faith, but the word miraculously, by definition means an act of God, to which I believe all true conversion comes, by an act of God. So then my main question is are all given the same measure of this grace?

    • Roger Olson

      Arminius and Wesley both believed all are given sufficient (prevenient) grace to believe, but, of course, those who hear the gospel have an advantage. So you will find something to complain about there, but I ask you to consider all the alternatives. The reasons to complain about them are much stronger.

  • Jack Hanley

    I will agree, from a human perspective it seems the alternative leaves more room for complaint. In fact I recall years ago informing my dad that, “if I found the doctrine of predestination to be true, I would never darken the door of the church again.” Of course this was back when I compared myself to others, and came to the conclusion that I was not all that bad off. However, when I began to compare myself by God’s standard I came away as Isaiah saying, “woe is me for I am in ruin” and as Paul saying, “what a wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?” In other words, once I began to truly realize my wretchedness, and ruin, I came to believe my only hope for salvation was for God to intervene. I also realize there are many decisions in this life that I did not make like, where I was born, and to what parents, I did not decide what, if any faith I would be brought up in. All these decisions were made by God to which I am thankful.

    At any rate you admit that, those who hear the gospel have an advantage, so then it would seem that all do not have the same measure of this prevenient grace. Who is in control of dealing out the measure of this grace? Now it is not that I think this would be unfair, rather I believe you would have to admit that God is surely showing favor to some, which is exactly what the reformed say. The only difference I see is that the reformed say God determines who is saved, your view seems to suggest God determines who has an advantage.

    • Roger Olson

      Jack, I know we’ve talked about this before. Why keep raising the same questions repeatedly? As I have explained before, in my view, God does not “determine” who hears the gospel; we do. God limits himself to use human means.

  • Jack Hanley

    I apologize, but I never recall you explaining, that God does not “determine” who hears the gospel. I know you have stated that God does not determine who is saved, but there is a big difference here between, God determining who is saved as opposed to who hears. Many are called, in other words, many hear, (not all mind you) but few are chosen.

    You say, ” we determine who hears the gospel.” Well let me ask you! Do we determine our place of birth? If not who does? Do we determine our upbringing? If not who does? Do we determine where we will be born? If not who does? Do we determine the faith, if any, we will be exposed to? If not who does? Do we determine if we will hear the gospel? If not who does?

    If I cannot determine any of these things myself, then please explain, how can I determine if I will be saved.

    These are not questions I have repeatedly brought up, if so please refer me, as to where I have raised them in the past. You seem to be saying we are at an impasse, which is fine, but just saying we are at an impasse does not answer the questions. I am ready for any questions, and my response will not be we are at an impasse.

    • Roger Olson

      Go back and read my paper on a relational view of God’s sovereignty. I think you will find it by googling my name and that title.

  • Dmitriy Belous

    Thank you Dr. Olson! Great article.

  • Dmitriy Belous

    I think you should correct the Wikipedia Ordo salutis for Arminians.

    • Roger Olson

      Correct Wikipedia? Oh, my. Who would dare to correct such an august and authoritative source? 🙂 But thanks for the suggestion.