Arminianism was started by Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). He was born slightly before John Calvin died and was actually taught by Calvin's son-in-law. He was a Calvinist until one day when forced to defend his beliefs and found that his opponent could more ably defend his views against Calvinism. This caused Arminius to reject his Calvinistic background and “sought to modify Calvinism so that ‘God might not be considered the author of sin, nor man an automation in the hands of God.’”
Arminius’s views stirred up controversy in Holland, his home. Arminius asked to speak to the government on the issue but it was never brought before them until 1618, nine years after his death. It was soundly rejected and his followers faced persecution from Calvinists; 200 pastors losing their posts, statesman John van Olden Barneveldt beheaded, Hugo Grotius imprisoned for life but escaping two years later.
By 1625 the persecution had waned and followers began to return to Holland once again. They spread a principle of toleration throughout the churches in Holland so that there was much more religious toleration.
England had been Arminian to some extent before Arminius was born but faced the struggles of the Purituan revolt, Oliver Cromwell, and the Glorious Revolution. This caused “Charles II, who despised the Presbyterians, to reinstitute Arminian doctrine in the Church of England.” This Arminianism wasn’t exactly the same as that taught by Arminius but was similar. John Wesley (1703-1791) later championed the Arminian beliefs, “traveling more than 250,000 miles and preaching 40,000 sermons.”
Arminians followers responded to the five points of Calvinism with five points of their own. The following explanation of the five points is as per the Moody Handbook of Theology.
Election Based on (fore)knowledge- God elected those whom He knew would of their own free will believe in Christ and persevere in the faith
Unlimited Atonement- In His atonement, Christ provided redemption for all mankind, making all mankind savable. Christ's atonement becomes effective only in those who believe
Natural Ability- Man cannot save himself; the Holy Spirit must effect the new birth
Prevenient Grace- Preparatory work of the Holy Spirit enables the believer to respond to the gospel and cooperate with God in salvation
Conditional Perseverance- Believers have been empowered to live a victorious life, but they are capable of turning from grace and losing their salvation
This begins to show us the basic beliefs of both of these systems. We now will begin to look at each belief and compare it more in depth over the next weeks.