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:

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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

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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

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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

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The Biblical Conception of Sin

(About this series)



Holy Scripture undertakes no demonstration of the reality of sin. In all its statements concerning sin, sin is presupposed as a fact which can neither be controverted nor denied, neither challenged nor obscured. It is true that some reasoners, through false philosophy and materialistic science, refuse to admit the existence of sin, but their endeavors to explain it away by their respective theories is sufficient proof that sin is no figment of the imagination but a solid reality. Others who are not thinkers may sink so far beneath the power of sin as to lose all sense of its actuality, their moral and spiritual natures becoming so hardened and fossilized as to be “past feeling,” in which case conviction of sin is no more possible, or at least so deteriorated and unimpressible that only a tremendous upheaval within their souls, occasioned perhaps by severe affliction, but brought about by the inward operation of the Spirit of God, will break up the hard crust of moral numbness and religious torpor in which their spirits are encased. A third class of persons, by simply declining to think about sin, may come in course of time to conclude that whether sin be a reality or not, it does not stand in any relation to them and does not concern them—in which case once more they are merely deceiving themselves. The truth is that it

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From the Archives: 1 John 3:9 – Those “Born of God” Do Not Sin?

Reprinted with permission from Faith Pulpit, November/December ‘05

Four views that appeal to this verse

1. The works-righteousness view

This view teaches that one earns or keeps salvation by good works, and thus that the person who chooses to sin has forfeited any right to heaven. This view contradicts the Bible’s clear teaching on salvation as God’s gift through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), purchased for us not by our works but by the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross (Romans 3:24-25, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:24).

2. The instantaneous sanctification/Wesleyan view

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Paul's Testimony to the Doctrine of Sin

(About this series)



Theodore Parker once said: “I seldom use the word sin. The Christian doctrine of sin is the devil’s own. I hate it utterly”. His view of sin shaped his views as to the person of Christ, atonement, and salvation. In fact, the sin question is back of one’s theology, soteriology, sociology, evangelism, and ethics. One cannot hold a Scriptural view of God and the plan of salvation without having a Scriptural idea of sin. One cannot proclaim a true theory of society unless he sees the heinousness of sin and its relation to all social ills and disorders. No man can be a successful New Testament evangelist publishing the Gospel as “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth”, unless he has an adequate conception of the enormity of sin. Nor can a man hold a consistent theory of ethics or live up to the highest standard of morality, unless lie is gripped with a keen sense of sin’s seductive nature.

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Sin and Judgment to Come

(About this series)



The Book of Judges records that in evil days when civil war was raging in Israel, the tribe of Benjamin boasted of having 700 men who “could sling stones at a hair breadth and not miss.” Nearly two hundred times the Hebrew word chatha, here translated “miss,” is rendered “sin” in our English Bible; and this striking fact may teach us that while “all unrighteousness is sin,” the root-thought of sin is far deeper. Man is a sinner because, like a clock that does not tell the time, he fails to fulfill the purpose of his being. And that purpose is (as the Westminster divines admirably state it), “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Our Maker intended that “we should be to the praise of His glory.” But we utterly fail of this; we “come short of the glory of God.” Man is a sinner not merely because of what he does, but by reason of what he is.

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