Series - Original Sin

Jacob Arminius and the Doctrine of Original Sin, Part 6

By John A. Aloisi. Reproduced from DBSJ 21 (2016) with permission. This installment continues Consideration of Original Sin and the Justice of God and concludes. Read the series.

The Providence of God

The providence of God] may be defined the solicitous, everywhere powerful, and continued [intuitus] inspection and oversight of God, according to which he exercises a general care over the whole world, and over each of the creatures and their actions and passions, in a manner that is befitting himself, and suitable for his creatures, for their benefit.106

So Arminius defined the providence of God. Perhaps especially important is the fact that he spoke about God’s providence as “everywhere powerful” but did not indicate that God’s providence is actually all-powerful. He also referred to God’s providence being exercised in a manner that is “suitable for his creatures.” This statement seems to point out the direction that Arminius’s understanding of providence will take. In this brief definition, Arminius’s picture of God’s providence seems to be shaped by the creation rather than the will of the Creator.

1062 reads

Jacob Arminius and the Doctrine of Original Sin, Part 5

By John A. Aloisi. Reproduced from DBSJ 21 (2016) with permission. This installment continues the study of Original Sin Itself, and follows a look at the defitions of Original Sin held by Augustine and Aquinus. Read the series.

The Relationship of Original Sin to “Actual Sin”

Arminius placed great emphasis on the “event” of sin. In his view, sin consists in action.82 It is an event much more than it is a state or condition. Arminius therefore drew a sharp distinction between original sin and “actual sins” which people commit at a specific point in time.83 Actual sin is “that sin which man commits, through the corruption of his nature, from the time when he knows how to use reason.”84 People are born with original sin, but they commit actual sins when they choose to transgress God’s law.

840 reads

Jacob Arminius and the Doctrine of Original Sin, Part 4

By John A. Aloisi. Reproduced from DBSJ 21 (2016) with permission. This installment continues the study of Original Sin Itself, and follows a look at the defitions of Original Sin held by Augustine and Aquinus. Read the series.

Calvin’s Definition of Original Sin

John Calvin (1509–1564) unquestionably stands as one of the brightest figures in the Protestant Reformation. In March 1536, Calvin’s famed Institutes of the Christian Religion was published, and its appearance set a high standard for future Reformed theologians to follow.

It has been demonstrated that Arminius owned a copy of Calvin’s Institutes, and his esteem for Calvin is well known.62 In May 1607, Arminius wrote to his friend Burgomaster Sebastian Egbertsz, praising Calvin’s commentaries and indicating his respect for the Institutes:

2557 reads

Jacob Arminius and the Doctrine of Original Sin, Part 3

From DBSJ 21 (2016). Republished with permission. By John A. Aloisi. Read the series

Original Sin Itself

Adam’s first sin was a point of no return for the entire human race. Ever since that initial act of rebellion, all mankind has been born with the taint of original sin.33

The Transmission of Original Sin

Arminius said very little about the transmission of original sin from one generation to the next. The effects of Adam’s sin rest upon all his descendants because they were in his loins, but Arminius did not speculate about how original sin is actually transmitted. He wrote, “The discussion, whether original sin be propagated by the soul or by the body, appears to us to be useless; and therefore the other, whether or not the soul be through traduction, seems also scarcely to be necessary to this matter.”34 Although he did not propose a theory about how original sin is transmitted, Arminius did teach that it has been passed on to all mankind.35

956 reads

Jacob Arminius and the Doctrine of Original Sin, Part 2

From DBSJ 21 (2016). Republished with permission. By John A. Aloisi. Read Part 1.

Adam’s First Sin

Any discussion of original sin must begin with Adam’s first sin or what is often called “the Fall.” If, as the apostle Paul declared, sin was introduced into the human race through the sin of one man (Rom 5:12), then an examination of this first sin is preliminary to a consideration of original sin.

The Nature of Adam’s Sin

In the seventh of his Public Disputations, Arminius discussed the nature of man’s first sin.12 He believed that this sin is most accurately described by the words disobedience and offense. It is designated disobedience because

the law against which the sin was committed, was symbolical, having been given to testify that man was under a law to God, and to prove his obedience, and since the subsequent performance of it was to be a confession of devoted submission and due obedience; the transgression of it cannot, in fact, be denoted by a more commodious name than that of “disobedience,” which contains within itself the denial of subjection and the renunciation of obedience.13

893 reads

Jacob Arminius and the Doctrine of Original Sin, Part 1

From DBSJ 21 (2016). Republished with permission.

by John A. Aloisi1

As one writer has noted, most theologians regard Jacob Arminius (c. 1560–1609) either as a hero or a heretic.2 Arminius is generally either vilified as an enemy or embraced as a friend; few theologians seem to view him from a neutral posture.3 This tendency toward polarization is not without cause. Arminius stands among a limited number of figures in church history who have lent their names to a major theological school of thought. Furthermore, the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism has never wanted voices on either side. Yet, despite the familiarity of his name, Arminius’s thought is frequently misunderstood, or at very least, is little understood by many.4

1554 reads