Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Modern Arminians and historical revisionism

I stumbled onto a forum thread at CARM which referenced my article on Classical Arminianism.

As I have expected, modern Arminians like William Birch were attacking my article over on the forum, displaying the exact error I was mentioning around the time I wrote the article. As I have said back then,

It seems that there are a lot of modern Arminians who, like Roger Olsen, feel free to revise history in order to make the Classical Arminians into a respectable evangelical group, ignoring clear historical evidence to the contrary. Who do you think knows the Classical Arminians and their doctrines better: their contemporaries like the scholar John Owen, or modern Arminians who are ~400 years removed!

... it is extremely revealing that these revisionists insist that Classical Arminianism believes in Total Depravity. That must one of the most popular myths floating around it seems. The whole reason for the TULIP acronym was that 'T' represented Total Depravity over and against the Remonstrants' view of Partial Depravity! Classical Arminianism NEVER once believed in Total Depravity. They may use language that seem to suggest that, but then their doctrine of prevenient grace erase original depravity in toto, leaving behind only a "sinful nature".

Just because Birch and supporters do not agree with the view of the Classical Arminians as stated by Owen do not give them the right to call him a liar. Instead of thinking that Owen lied about the Arminians, why not see that Classical Arminianism and Evangelical Arminianism are simply two different systems of thought altogether? Thus, Birch et al as Evangelical (hopefully) Arminians should see that Owen was addressing Classical Arminianism, of which they do not seem to believe in.

Birch's approach of discounting all Reformed, Calvinist evidence to the contrary is bad historiography. It commits the genetic fallacy and his reasoning is thus fallacious at the core. Is there a possibility that ALL Reformed and Calvinists for the last 400 years have misrepresented the Classical Arminians? Yes, but that has to be proved, not merely asserted. To say that no one in 400 years until you come along has understood the Classical Arminians is an astonishing claim that requires a lot of arguments and proofs to even make it a plausible hypothesis.

Again, conveniently discounting the case of Conrad Vorstius is not going to aid his case. Mere assertion that Vorstius is not a proper Arminian because he became a Socinian is called begging the question. Wasn't Vorstius appointed to "succeed" Arminius at the University of Leiden? Isn't it the case that the reason why he lost his prominence to Episcopius was because he was kicked out of Netherlands prior to the Synod of Dordt, and also that he became a Socinian later in life? I can understand why no respectable Arminian wants to acknowledge Vorstius, but to ignore the skeleton in the closet is not a good argument.

The historiography of the modern so-called "Classical Arminians" is seriously lacking. They can call themselves whatever they want, but clearly they are either classical or evangelical, and not both.


steve said...

Birch is just a reactionary hot head.

Daniel C said...


I agree.