“Cum delectu”: Jacob Arminius’s (1559–1609) Praise for and Critique of Calvin and His Theology

in Church History and Religious Culture
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The Reformed pastor and professor Jacobus Arminius (1559–1609) is remembered as an anti-Calvinistic theologian whose views were in conflict with the very essence of the Reformation. The question concerning Arminius’s relation to the Reformation and to Calvin has occupied many already, and remains complex. This article illustrates that Arminius had great respect particularly for Calvin’s exegetical prowess, and was in agreement with the most important parts of his theology. However, Arminius shows significant divergence from Calvin’s view on God’s relationship to evil and sin because of its consequences; as far as Arminius is concerned, God is—unintentionally—made the author of sin. According to Arminius this undermines the most important pillar of the Christian religion, namely, God’s love for justice.

“Cum delectu”: Jacob Arminius’s (1559–1609) Praise for and Critique of Calvin and His Theology

in Church History and Religious Culture

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  • 4

    Letter to Sebastianus Egbertus May 3 1607in Philippus à Limborch and Christianus Hartsoecker Praestantium ac eruditorum virorum epistolae ecclesiasticae et theologicae (Amsterdam 1704) p. 101: “Sed post Scripturae lectionem quam vehementer inculco et magis quam quisquam alius quoad tota Academia testabitur etiam conscientia meorum collegarum ad Calvini Commentarios legendos adhortor […] dico enim incomparabilem esse in interpretatione Scripturarum et majores faciendos ipsius commentarios quam quidquid Patrum Bibliotheca nobis tradit: adeo ut et Spiritum aliquem Prophetiae eximium illi prae aliis plerisque imo et omnibus concedam. Institutiones ipsius ad locos communes quod attinet addo legendas post Catechesin tanquam pleniorem interpretationem. At hic addo cum delectu ut omnium hominum scripta legenda sunt.” See also F. Stuart Clarke ‘Arminius’s Understanding of Calvin’ Evangelical Quarterly 54 (1982–1) 25–35 there 26–27.

  • 24

    See CalvinInstitutes3.23.9 (CO 2706): “Excusabiles peccando haberi volunt reprobi quia evadere nequeunt peccandi necessitatem: praesertim quum ex Dei ordinatione sibi iniiciatur huiusmodi necessitas. Nos vero inde negamus rite excusari quandoquidem Dei ordinationi qua se exitio destinatos conqueruntur sua constat aequitas nobis quidem incognita sed illa certissima. Unde constituimus nihil illos sustinere mali quod non iustissimo Dei iudicio infligatur.”

  • 36

    See e.g. Carl O. Bangs‘Arminius and the Reformation,’ Church History 30 (1961) 155–170; idem ‘Arminius as a Reformed Theologian’ in The Heritage of John Calvin ed. John H. Bratt (Grand Rapids 1973) pp. 209–222; Clarke ‘Arminius Understanding of Calvin’ (see above n. 4); G.J. Hoenderdaal ‘Arminius en Episcopius’ Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis 60 (1980) 203–235 there 207–209; idem ‘The Debate About Arminius Outside The Netherlands’ in Leiden University in the Seventeenth Century. An Exchange of Learning Th.H. Lunsingh Scheurleer and G.H.M. Posthumus Meyjes (Leiden 1975) pp. 137–159 there p. 137; idem ‘De theologische betekenis van Arminius’ Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift 15 (1960–1961) 90–98 there 98; John Mark Hicks The Theology of Grace in the Thought of Jacobus Arminius and Philip van Limborch: A Study in the Development of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Arminianism (Ph.D. diss. Westminster Theological Seminary 1985) pp. 312–314; J.N. Bakhuizen van den Brink ‘Arminius te Leiden’ in Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift 15 (1960–1961) 81–89 there 87; Witt Creation Redemption and Grace (see above n. 31) pp. 460–461 599.

  • 37

    Richard A. Muller‘Arminius and the Reformed Tradition,’ Westminster Theological Journal 70 (2008) 19–48there 19 46–47; see also idem ‘The Christological Problem in the Thought of Jacobus Arminius’ in Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis 68 (1988) 145–163 there 150 154 162; and especially 150: “Arminius […] diverges […] from the broad underlying structure of Reformed theology.” And finally idem God Creation and Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius: Sources and Directions of Scholastic Protestantism in the Era of Early Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids 1991) p. 281. Cf. F. Stuart Clarke The Ground of Election. Jacobus Arminius’ Doctrine of the Work and Person of Christ (Bletchley 2006) pp. 1–9.

  • 38

    Muller‘Reformed Tradition’ (see above, n. 37), 28, 31, 39–40, 45, 48. See also idem, ‘Christological Problem’ (see above, n. 37), 157–158, 160, 162; idem, ‘The Priority of the Intellect in the Soteriology of Jacob Arminius,’ in Westminster Theological Journal 55 (1993) 55–72 there 69–70; idem God Creation and Providence (see above n. 37) p. 154.

  • 44

    Muller‘Reformed Tradition’ 19.

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