We have completed going through the Schleitheim Confession (Swiss Anabaptist), the Augsburg Confession (Lutheran), and the Thirty-Nine Articles (Church of England). But not long after the foundational reformation confessions were drawn up in the sixteenth century, one of the most famous theological controversies of all time developed—the controversy between “Arminianism” and “Calvinism.”
In 1610 a group of Dutch followers of Jacob Arminius (1560-1609) published their “remonstrance” against five points of reformed doctrine. While our church does not agree with the Remonstrants, understanding their position is important. Their position was roundly condemned by the Synod of Dort (which we will cover next, Lord willing), yet their basic ideas have become the majority view of contemporary American evangelicalism.
That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ's sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the gospel in John iii. 36: 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of god abideth on him,' and according to other passages of Scripture also.
That, agreeable thereto, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins, yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John iii. 16: 'God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' And in the First Epistle of John ii. 2: 'And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.'
Article 1 teaches the Arminian view of election, which is that in eternity past God determined to save those who would believe and continue in belief. In other words, God's choice (election) is only to save people by faith. The article says nothing about God choosing anyone in particular and then bringing about that person's salvation. Rather, it teaches that God simply decided to save whoever would believe.
Article 2 publishes the Arminian doctrine on what Christ accomplished by his death on the cross. According to this article, Jesus Christ actually obtained redemption and the forgiveness of sins for everyone. Does this mean that everyone is saved? No, the Arminian replies, because not everyone believes. Jesus Christ paid for your redemption, but even though he paid the full price you will not receive it unless you believe. This is the basic Arminian position on the "extent" of the atonement.