What Is Arminianism?

Jacobus Arminius, Dutch theologian and professor in theology at the University of Leiden.
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Definition: Arminianism is a system of theology developed by Jacobus (James) Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch pastor and theologian.

Arminius organized a response to the strict Calvinism which existed in the Netherlands in his time. Although these ideas have come to be identified with his name, they were being promoted in England as early as 1543.

Arminian doctrine is well summarized in a document titled the ​Remonstrance, published by supporters of Arminius in 1610, a year after his death. The five articles were as follows:

  • An election based on God's foreknowledge. God elected those people he foreknew who would, through their free will, believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and persevere in their faith.
  • Unlimited atonement. Christ died for the entire world, not just the elect. However, Christ's atonement works only in those who choose to believe.
  • Natural inability. People cannot save themselves. The Holy Spirit causes a person to be born again.
  • Prevenient grace. Preparatory grace is given to everyone to enable them to respond to the gospel. However, a person may use their free will to accept or reject God's invitation to salvation.
  • Conditional perseverance. Believers receive all the grace they need to persevere to salvation, but again, they can exercise their free will, turn away from God and lose their salvation.

Arminianism, in some form, continues to be held today in several Christian denominations: Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Free Will Baptists, and among many charismatic and holiness Christians.

Points in both Calvinism and Arminianism can be supported in Scripture. Debate continues among Christians over the validity of the two theologies.

Pronunciation: \är-ˈmi-nē-ə-ˌni-zəm\


Arminianism attributes more authority to man's free will than does Calvinism.

(Sources:, and the Moody Handbook of Theology, by Paul Ennis.)