Often seen at contrast with Calvinism, this is a doctrine that I have seen creep into seminaries and often enough my (Catholic) lecturers and professors are keen to explain their personal “well, I personally believe…” opinions on matters of the faith - usually, these are compatible with both schools of classical and contemporary Arminian thought.
To what extent have you, as an individual, experienced this theology, and how on earth would you suggest I deal with this?
It would help if you were more specific. Is it a Catholic college/school/gathering? Name of the class?
I’m not knowledgeable on Arminian thought, so examples of opinions put forward by Catholic professors contradicting Catholic teaching would help.
I have experienced incidents where Catholic lecturers, even priests, gave opinions contrary to Catholic teaching. On one occasion, I asked the priest, “Isn’t Catholic teaching _______?” He was truthful, and answered “Yes”. And that ended the discussion on that topic.
You might also ask something like: “How is that opinion compatible with the Catholic teaching/doctrine that says _____________?”
Just make sure it is a doctrine - and not a teaching that is still open to opinions.
Dutch Arminianism was originally articulated in the Remonstrance (1610), a theological statement signed by 45 ministers and submitted to the States General of the Netherlands. The Synod of Dort (1618–19) was called by the States General to consider the Five Articles of Remonstrance. These articles asserted that
1.Salvation (and condemnation on the day of judgment) was conditioned by the graciously-enabled faith (or unbelief) of man;
2.The Atonement is qualitatively adequate for all men, “yet that no one actually enjoys [experiences] this forgiveness of sins, except the believer …” and thus is limited to only those who trust in Christ;
3.“That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will,” and unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God’s will;
4.The (Christian) grace “of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of any good,” yet man may resist the Holy Spirit; and
5.Believers are able to resist sin through grace, and Christ will keep them from falling; but whether they are beyond the possibility of ultimately forsaking God or “becoming devoid of grace … must be more particularly determined from the Scriptures.”
In my view, arminianism is very close to a Catholic theology of grace but lacks an important element.
Arminianism as I understand it says that salvation is both a free gift and a free choice. The Church agrees with that point. Some calvinists object to this by arguing that salvation is not due in any way to the human will. If it was, it woudn’t be free. If any part is due to our free will, that’s earning salvation, and that’s excluded. Some calvinists, if I understand them correctly, use this to deny free will. We do make a decision to accept salvation, but salvation can’t be due to us, therefore it’s really God who makes that decision and we’re just puppets in His hand. Arminians say No, we do make a free choice, but our free will is a gift too. Salvation still counts as a free gift because it’s got two parts: it is offered as a free gift by God, and it is accepted using another free gift, free will. Free + free = free.
Insofar as it says that, I think arminianism is compatible with Catholicism. But here is the important element that I think it is missing: the Church teaches that every correct use of free will is a grace, including the decision to accept salvation. Calvinism, in my understanding, says that our decisions are caused by God and Not by us. Arminianism, in my understanding, says that our decisions are caused by us and Not by God. Catholicism says that Good decisions are caused by Both God and us. We deny that human freedom goes away when God causes something in us.
The calvinists and the arminians both go wrong, in my view, on a point that philosophers call Causality. The Church says that God causes all good decisions in a way that is compatible with our freedom. Calvinists agree with the Church on one point: God causes our good actions. Arminians agree with the Church on another point: our actions come from our own free will. But both wrongly think these facts are incompatible. Unless I’ve misunderstood them, they both think that man’s actions can’t logically be free if God causes them. That’s where they both miss the boat, one taking one side, for freedom, and one taking the other side, for God. In reality, both God and freedom are compatible.
In my experience, arminians mostly stick to these main points: freedom is a gift of God. Salvation is offered for free. Accepting salvation is free. Therefore salvation is not earned in any of those phases. Insofar as they say that, I think that is compatible with Church teaching. What the Church adds is that God didn’t only give us freedom, He also causes all correct uses of that freedom. He causes our wills to act rightly, in a way that is compatible with our wills remaining free. Calvinists deny the second part of that sentence. Arminians deny the first part. At least, that is how I understand it.
this is a more accurate view of the role free will in Arminianism Theology
“That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will,” and unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God’s will; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism
The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church
Article VIII — Of Free Will
The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and works, to faith, and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will. umc.org/what-we-believe/the-articles-of-religion-of-the-methodist-church
Universal prevenient grace
This grace purportedly restores man’s free will which was impaired by the effects of original sin and enables him to choose or refuse the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ. Some would say that freedom of will is man’s natural state, not a spiritual gift — and thus free will was not lost in the Fall, but cannot be exercised toward good apart from the grace of God. In either case, God’s universal prevenient grace works upon all alike to influence them for good, but only those who freely choose to cooperate with grace through faith and repentance are given new spiritual power to make effectual the good they otherwise impotently intend. As John Wesley stated more forcefully, humans were in fact totally corrupted by original sin, but God’s prevenient grace allowed free will to operate. theopedia.com/arminianism
I do not see how the that is different from the Catholic view: Am I missing something?
I believe that is fairly accurate. However contra John Wesley, the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 405 says human nature has not been totally corrupted, but it is wounded in its natural powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and death, and inclined to sin. Baptism begins the process of helping to turn people back towards God, however our damaged and corrupted nature still persists towards sin.
I don’t see much difference between those quotes and Catholicism. The word Preventing has changed in meaning, though. It used to mean Preceding, and that’s what it means in the quotes you provided, but in modern times it means Stopping, and when read with the modern meaning one of the quotes you provided doesn’t make sense because it makes it sound like we can’t do good unless God stops us.
One thing I noted in the Theopedia link: in its description of Libertarian Free Will, it says, “if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called a free choice.” That seems incompatible with Catholicism, or at least with Thomism, if my understanding is correct. Thomism says that God causes all Good movements of the will, but does that in a way that is compatible with our freedom.
However I’m not sure I’m reading this quotation correctly. For one thing, it is obviously summary, and doesn’t go into much detail. Summaries often say things imprecisely in order to get the main point across. Several other quotes talk about God “assisting” the will, and that is a type of causation. There is probably more to the arminian doctrine than what I know about. I’m just going based on my own experiences with arminians and some stuff I’ve looked up before.