Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Classical Arminianism and Total Depravity

In this post, I would like to explore similarities and differences in how classical Arminians and Calvinists view the doctrine of total depravity.  I say "classical Arminianism" because many people who claim to be Arminian do not understand Arminianism as it was stated by Arminius himself.  For example, the following website does NOT speak for the classical Arminian:
Free-will or human ability. ...Each sinner possesses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man’s freedom consists in his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God’s Spirit and be regenerated or resist God’s grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit’s assistance but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man’s act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner’s gift to God; it is man’s contribution to salvation. (emphasis mine)
I understand why Calvinists react so strongly to these portrayals of Arminian theology.  Contrary to the quote above Arminius did not believe that faith is the sinner's gift to God.  Nor did he maintain that man's will, in his fallen state, is free from enslavement to sin.  In his book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, Roger Olson writes the following:
Arminius could not have made clearer his belief that human beings are utterly helpless and totally dependent on grace for their salvation.
Roger E. Olson. Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (p. 142). Kindle Edition.