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Arminius on Justification

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Reformed or Protestant?

image of Church History and Religious Culture

Much attention has been drawn to Jacob Arminius’s (1560–1609) views on predestination, especially given the eventual rejection of those views by the Synod of Dort (1618–1619). However what some may not realize is that Arminius’s doctrine of justification, especially as it relates to the role and function of faith, was also a source of contention. Historically Reformed theologians viewed faith as purely instrumental in justification, whereas Arminius construed it as foundational. The difference between the two positions can be illustrated in the difference between two prepositions: justification per (through or by) faith vs. justification propter (on account of) faith. Arminius’s views were subsequently rejected by three Reformed confessions, the Canons of Dort, the Irish Articles (1615), and the Westminster Confession (1647). This essay therefore argues, pace much of the recent literature on the subject, that Arminius’s doctrine of justification is Protestant, in that it is not Roman Catholic, but it is not Reformed according to the definitions set forth by its historic confessions—this is a historical judgment, not a dogmatic one.

Affiliations: 1: Westminster Seminary California


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