The Dangers of Arminianism: Part 2 of 2

All free will, works religion, Arminianism in every form, under any denominational name is false religion. It may call itself Christian. But it is not Christian at all. Such religion is utter paganism! It is a total denial of God’s free and sovereign grace in Jesus Christ (Gal. 5:2, 4). Any mixture of works with grace is a total denial of grace (Rom. 11:6). To assert that salvation is by the will of man is to deny that “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jon. 2:9; Rom. 9:16). – Don Fortner

I do not serve the god of the Arminians at all; I have nothing to do with him, and I do not bow down before the Baal they have set up; he is not my God, nor shall he ever be; I fear him not, nor tremble at his presence…The God that saith today and denieth tomorrow, that justifieth today and condemns the next…is no relation to my God in the least degree. He may be a relation of Ashtaroth or Baal, but Jehovah never was or can be his name.” – C.H. Spurgeon


The Dangers of Arminianism (Part 2 of 2)

by Jim Van Winkle
re-posted by Grant Swart






Pietism, a reaction against Reformation orthodoxy, represented a turn inward, from God to self. Instead of focusing on God and his saving work in Christ, it shifted the focus to me and my personal relationship with Jesus. While no cardinal evangelical truth was rejected the objective focus on Christ’s justification of the sinner was subverted by the subjective focus on the experience of the believer. Once Arminianism arrived on the scene, followed by revivalism, this subjective orientation was intensified and God was no longer the sovereign Redeemer who saved sinners by his own will and effort, but was now the one who waited for the sinner to act.

While Luther and Calvin emphasized the redemptive event that took place with Christ’s death and resurrection later with the encroachment of Arminianism the emphasis shifted to the process of individual appropriation of the salvation given in Christ. The mystical and moral effect in the lives of believers became uppermost.

But the Good News is never something I do or experience. The Good News is always about the doing and dying of someone else–Jesus Christ. Because the righteousness contained in the Gospel is perfect, and the righteousness contained in me is always corrupted by sin, and God demands nothing short of perfection, it is impossible for us to obtain the least bit of our righteousness from obedience to God’s commands. Scripture could not be clearer about this point.

Arminianism travels hand in hand with experientialism and anti-intellectualism because in downplaying objective theology it exalts the subjective experiences that God supposedly fosters in the hearts of men. A Presbyterian lawyer and Arminian, Charles Finney one day experienced “a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost” which “like a wave of electricity going through and through me…seemed to come in waves of liquid love.” The next morning, he informed his first client of the day, “I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause and I cannot plead yours.”


A Truncated Theology

Arminianism tends to reduce theology to its lowest common denominator. Evangelical Arminians today only have to believe that God can work dramatically within the narrow fissure of internal experience; they have lost interest (or perhaps they can no longer sustain interest) in what the doctrines of creation, common grace, and providence once meant for Christian believers. Even essential doctrines that articulate Christ’s death such as justification, redemption, propitiation, and reconciliation have taken a back seat in subjects for preaching to so-called practical issues. It is enough for most to simply know that Christ somehow died for people. The Word is primarily seen as an instrument for coaxing the individual into accepting the new birth. The new birth, especially if one judges by the testimonies of converts, is not so much the result of hearing with human ears, in human words, a declaration of things that happened in human history. In short, it is not so much the preaching of the Cross, but the preaching of an experience “my personal relationship with Jesus,” the day when “Jesus came into my heart,” that is central. Having abandoned the mind and rational thought, all that is left are emotions and psychology. And once the notions of rational thought and truth have gone, there are no reasons for people to come to faith other than the witness we give of our personal religious experiences, real as these might be. (David Wells)

A Decimated Witness

Evangelicalism today is predominately Arminian in its theology and therefore has a legacy of anti-intellectualism that has not only crippled its witness to the watching world, but has opened the church itself up to the most remarkable reaches of stupidity and incredulity.

A Devotion to Pluralism

“It is humble to say, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll have to look into that.’ But Evangelicals today say, ‘I don’t know and that’s OK.’ To them theological debates are stupid, mere arguments over semantics that have no substance. Imagine one saying of the highly sophisticated formulas that were used to put a man on the moon, “What a stupid set of formulas!”, even after the success is captured on television. Circumventing thought processes, allows a person to claim moral superiority for having the grace, moderation and sophisticated detachment to stand above and outside the debate. Ignorant people always cry for balance whenever they do not want to take the time to think through their own position. One person’s views are deemed as valid as another’s, no matter how stupid, because all ideas, like all people, are created equal.” Traditionalism has determined that truth be determined by vote not by careful thought. While in past ages, consulting wise elders and the books of the great thinkers was considered an act of humility, in our day it is considered elitist.” (Michael Horton)


Clever Evangelism

“Arminianism is pragmatism’s ally. The theology that denies God’s sovereign election and affirms that man must decide on his own to trust or reject Christ places on the evangelist the burden of using clever technique to sway a person’s decision. The content of the message is thus subjugated to the issue of how it is packaged. A pragmatist is concerned primarily with whether a given practice is expedient, not necessarily with whether it is in harmony with Scripture. He starts with the question, “What does the unchurched want to hear?” and builds his strategy from there, rather than asking the question, “What does Scripture teach?” and following a biblical pattern.” (John MacArthur)

Devaluation of Truth

‘If you believe that everything turns upon the free-will of man’ says Spurgeon, ‘you will naturally have man as the principal figure in your landscape.’ “This being the case there is inevitably the tendency to regard Divine truth only as a means to gain men, and whatever truth does not appear to us to be effective towards that end, or whatever truth seems an obstacle to the widest possible evangelism, is consequently liable to be laid aside. One Arminian in complaining of Calvinism’s lack of sensitivity to these things said, “Through what is involved in a misconstrued election, a relaxed attitude – if not a deadening influence – has been left on many within the Christian church.”

Yet if the general affect of the preaching of the doctrine of election is “deadness” why did God use the doctrine of election to encourage Paul in his evangelism of Corinth? Acts 18:10, “For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” Nor was the non-election of Isaiah’s Jewish congregation even at issue in evangelism. God merely told him, “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not,” Isaiah 6:9. If there was a deadening influence in Israel at that time, it wasn’t the doctrine of election that was at fault it was its lack of exercise among the people by God. Are we then to blame God? “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”

Pitch-Man Approach

The goal of the Arminian evangelist is to make the offer of salvation as free and non-threatening and as easy as it can possibly be made. In that way he thinks he can force sinners into a corner. What have they got to lose? To reject Christ now is the ultimate act of stupidity. Yet when looked at from a more critical viewpoint, the Arminian pitch-man is neither genuine in his motives nor biblical in his outlook.

Keith Drury a confessed Arminian himself says quite candidly, “We Arminians tend to put too much emphasis on man and his decisions, and not enough on God and the gospel. Sometimes we are tempted to act as if God is helpless without us and our work. We lean toward pragmatism and are constantly looking for “what works best” as if methodology were more important than the message. Since we believe that all men can be saved, we tend to assume that if they aren’t saved, we have not packaged the invitation (or the message) right. We especially love management, leadership, programs, marketing, and research data. We tend to focus more on the “potential convert” than on the eternal gospel. Arminianism easily leans toward a NIKE mentality-“Just do it.” We are somewhat less inclined to pray in order to move God to “do it.” And, as has always been true, Arminianism can be taken to the extreme of humanism.” We have only the recent history of Protestant liberalism to remind us how quickly pietism and revivalism evolve into secularism, once they begin to view the audience, rather than the God who speaks from Heaven, as sovereign.

Promise of Fulfilled Wishes

Pragmatism believes that man exists for his own satisfaction. To accommodate that view, pragmatistic Arminianism has concocted a gospel message that sounds like a guarantee of fulfilled wishes rather than a call to repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God.

1. Choices for church attenders Since attenders want choices and alternatives-such as different styles of worship, small groups to address various life needs, programs for the kids, Arminians will give it to them.

2. Practical training for pastors Arminian educational programs designed to prepare men for ministry are increasingly being handled by local churches and parachurch ministries rather than by seminaries. The academic graduate-school model is being replaced by the trade-school approach with its emphasis on hands-on experience.

3. Popular spirituality What the people want is what they get. Yet whenever people clamor for the practical and prefer to speak about the horizontal dimension– relationships and success–they are saying that they love God less than they love themselves. They are more interested in using Him as a means to their own ends than in glorifying God and enjoying him forever.


Perfectionism was first given standing in the Protestant churches through the teaching of John Wesley, an Arminian, although he himself never claimed perfection. To support his position he distinguished sharply between justification and sanctification alleging that they were obtained through separate acts of faith. New birth and holiness were distinct blessings which both become ours by the same means.

What is wrong with that view? “Though many believers are consciously and confessedly ‘justified by His blood’ (Rom. 5:9), they are unwittingly dishonouring that blood by striving (in their desires after holiness of life) to offer God ‘entire consecration’ or ‘full surrender’ (as they call it) in order to get sanctified. So much ‘living sacrifice’ do they present to God for so much sanctification. They have been beguiled into the attempt to lay self on some imaginary “altar” so that their sinful nature might be ‘consumed by the fire of the Spirit.’” These perverters of the Gospel who, in effect, represent Christ as only aiding sinners to work out a righteousness of their own portray man-centered religion in its most subtle form. (A.W. Pink)

Today choosing to be a “carnal Christian,” one who receives Christ as Saviour but not as Lord, is an open option and a latter-day fruit (a bitter fruit) of this two-package way of thinking. Not only do Arminians try to cooperate with God in their own justification but here we see them making the same attempt in regard to their sanctification.


More Palatable than Calvinism

Keith Drury says, “Many have not become convinced the Bible really teaches the Arminian approach. Frankly, Arminianism is simply more palatable to a secular culture. It “fits in” to the mind-set of the people in their pews. Like it or not, the secular mind is naturally Arminian in its outlook. I’ve discovered this repeatedly myself by administering a theological questionnaire to secular students in an adult education program. These “unchurched Harrys” invariably register Arminian theologically. Face it, Arminianism is simply more logical. It makes sense to the person on the street. And today’s church is scrambling to make sense to unbelievers. We want to sound sensible, logical, rational, enlightened, fair. Arminianism is so much more appealing to worldly people.”

More Consumer Oriented than Calvinism

“Thus, many Calvinist churches customize worship services, communication styles, architecture, and music, to fit the worldly customers. But they also adapt their theology by quietly creeping away from the “right end” of the theological continuum and drifting over toward Arminianism. The truth of the matter is, they are embarrassed by Calvinistic theology. They have found it offensive to the “customers.” The Arminian approach to theology is simply more “seeker sensitive.”

More at Cross-Purposes with the Word of God than Calvinism

Drury’s evaluation of most churches is correct. Yet the Bible says, “Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God.” If the Calvinistic gospel is harder to swallow by the man on the street, it is likely it has aligned itself more carefully with Paul’s gospel. “For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.”


Human Works

Another reason Spurgeon opposed Arminianism so strongly was that he saw that the spirit of that system leads directly to legality. For while evangelical Arminians deny salvation by works, the tendency of the errors they hold is to elevate the importance of the sinner’s activity and to direct emphasis primarily to the human will and endeavor. This is the logical outcome of a system which regards the human decision as the crucial factor in determining who is saved, and which represents faith as something which every man may call into exercise if he so chooses. A modern evangelist, for example, has written, ‘We do not know Christ through the five physical senses, but we know Him through the sixth sense that God has given to every man – which is the ability to believe.’ Yet if God has given this ability to all men then the turning point must depend on the human response, as clearly not all are saved. This consequence is accepted by Arminianism. In the words of a contemporary preacher of this view: “This love of God, that is immeasurable, unmistakable and unending, this love of God that reaches to whatever a man is, can be entirely rejected. God will not force Himself upon any man against his will . . .But if you really want it, you must believe – you must receive the love God, you must take it.”

Human Faith

The emphasis is intended to be upon ‘you’, and the impression is unavoidably given that it is only your faith which can save you- as though faith were the cause of salvation. But the reformers taught something entirely different. Martin Luther said: “If any man doth ascribe ought of salvation, even the very least to the free will of man, he knows nothing of grace and has not learned Jesus Christ aright.” We hold that man is never so near grace as when he begins to feel he can do nothing at all. When he says, “I can pray, I can believe, I can do this, and I can do the other,” signs of self-sufficiency and arrogance are fully evident.’

Human Decisionism

Arminianism preaches the new-birth but it preaches it as a consequence of or an accompaniment to the human decision; it represents man as being born again by repenting and believing, as though these spiritual acts are within the ability of the unconverted. The Scripture says that the natural man cannot receive spiritual things.

Human Law-Keeping    

“Once again, pietism and Arminian revivalism, with their emphasis on man and his activity, have confused Law and Gospel. A typical evangelical, whether in pulpit or press, will often present the Law as if it’s far easier than one finds in Scripture. We often hear, God didn’t give these commands in order for them to rigidly obeyed, but as goals toward which we should aim. They’re not there so that God can judge us, but so that we can live happier, healthier lives. In this way, the Law actually becomes Good News, or Gospel. If we follow, “Ten Steps to Victorious Living,” or “God’s Secret of Happiness,” consisting of instructions on how we can have spiritual victory, we are turning the Law into Gospel. The Good News is not that God has made it easy to save ourselves with his help, but that he has saved us even though we have no righteousness in ourselves.

If the Law is reduced in its severity, the Gospel is often reduced in its liberating power, and the end result is a message that is neither clear on the Law or the Gospel, neither bad news nor good news, but so-so news!

But the Good News is never something I do or experience. The Good News is always about the doing and dying of someone else–Jesus Christ. Because the righteousness contained in the Gospel is perfect, and the righteousness contained in me is always corrupted by sin, and God demands nothing short of perfection, it is impossible for us to obtain the least bit of our righteousness from obedience to God’s commands. Scripture could not be clearer about this point.” (Michael Horton)

Human Experiences

In Luther and Calvin all the emphasis fell on the redemptive event (Christ’s death and resurrection). Later the emphasis shifted to the individual appropriation of the salvation given in Christ and to its mystical and moral effect in the lives of believers. But we cannot win the battle for the hearts and minds of men and women by presenting them with personal, subjective encounters with God.


Arminianism like all false teaching has a deadening and depressing influence on true believers who have not yet had the opportunity to hear the refreshing truths of the doctrines of Calvinism. Not unlike the Ephesians in Revelation 2 believers caught in this condition quickly lose their first love because they are being taught to worship a compliant and needy god who although is devoted to human happiness is almost entirely dependent on his followers to accomplish that end. As a result he illicits neither their love nor respect only their devotion to service. But without a vision of God who is different from and standing over against them, the true Arminian has no compelling reason to think thoughts that are other-worldly. In fact, there is no reason to think at all, let alone to think about what God is like. Love of God and love of the world are always in competition with each other, and we have to understand that to understand why the Arminian god always loses the competition for men’s affections. He is too small and weak to sustain faith. The fundamental problem in the Arminian world today is that their god rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common. Indeed he is not the God of the Bible at all.


For the above reasons Arminianism is dangerous to the soul of man. Not only does it turn man from the truth, but it puts the soul at risk of hell fire, the worst kind of danger there is. The most virulent heresy known to man cannot do worse. Therefore I submit that Arminianism is itself a virulent heresy. Those who truly believe it are not Christians. My advice is to have nothing to do with this doctrine. Flee to the truths of the doctrines of grace (Calvinism) before it is too late.


– Grant Swart



Note: Permission is granted to copy, link, and distribute this particular article on the following conditions:
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Copyright © 1998 Jim Van Winkle
03/03/2002 11:56 PM

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