Calvinists often reveal that they don’t understand our theology (Freewillers’ theology) by making the mistake to ascribe views to us that we don’t have, by assuming that if a person believes in free will and/or synergism he MUST be an arminian by default. Some are reluctant to rephrase themselves even when corrected. (Same thing with the term ”pelagian” which they also are keen on using.) But does this really make any sense? If a person doesn’t side with Mr Brown then it follows that he absolutely HAS TO side with Mr Green? There is no other option? Either Calvin OR Arminius and absolutely no other persons? If I lived prior to the year 1590 (when James Arminius was 30 years old and still siding with Theodore Beza) what would I call myself?
ALL the early church fathers the first 300 years AD believed in free will without exception (see quotes here) and none of them taught that man was born with a sinful nature. Since Mr Arminius lived much later it wouldn’t make sense to call oneself after him of all people because he was hardly first with his views about Free will. It would make more sense to call oneself after a much earlier Freewiller, like Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Clement, Ireneaus, Tertullian, Eusebius, or some other church father who lived shortly after Jesus died. But it actually wouldn’t make much sense to label oneself as an ”ireneausian” either because it’s risky to call oneself after a person who might have different views in some other areas. If you choose to call yourself after a person you’re also expected to study the views of this person in case someone asks you why you call yourself the way you do. This places an unnecessary burden on you, and it would take valuable time from Bible reading. Why would we want to place an extra burden on people and indirectly pressure them to study up on Calvin and Arminius? I feel no obligation to study up on what arminians believe just to appease others.
And let’s say that in the future a Mr White becomes a well-known christian and a man who believes in free will and who also writes famous books about it. Must I know change labels and call myself after HIM? I’m not against the idea to label oneself after a person per se if the views in question originated with him. For instance, it does make sense for a person to call himself a calvinist because then others will immediately understand the basic principles of his views and that he has similar views as John Calvin. John Calvin was the one who started calvinism, even if he got many of his ideas from Augustine. Some calvinists prefer to call themselves ”reformed” or ”reformed baptist” or someone who ”believes in TULIP”.
”Arminians” are included in the term ”Freewiller”, but a freewiller isn’t necessarily an arminian. It’s a good chance he is NOT. I know loads of christians, but I only know a couple who call themselves arminians so I believe arminians are very rare. I remember the first time I was told I was an arminian. It was a calvinist who told me I was one. Strange, isn’t it, that you’ve been an arminian your whole life and didn’t even know it? But how could I have guessed I was one? I wouldn’t be able to get this idea from the Bible since ”arminians” are not mentioned there (and there are no arminians in Sweden which I’m aware of) but I can certainly see that people constantly make free will choices in the Bible, and often act against the will of God, so it’s not hard to find the concept of free will.
The Synod of Dort was a Dutch regional conference (with a political context) which plays such a big role for calvinists, but christians believed in free will long before this local meeting as well as afterwards. This synod was not a council of the Protestant churches of Europe, but a Dutch national synod to which some Reformed theologians were invited from various parts of Europe. It was not a free assembly for the discussion of controverted points in theology, but a national ecclesiastical court for the trial of alleged heretics. Theodore Beza was John Calvin’s direct successor and he sent his disciple Arminius to Holland in 1589 to put down the arguments against his theology views. Beza believed that if God was absolutely sovereign and man helpless in sin and that men are saved/damned by predestination, that it followed that God causes men to sin just as he causes men to be saved. This position existed also in various degrees in Augustine and Calvin’s theology. The opponents argued that if God causes sin then God is in point of fact the author of sin. Arminius changed his position (against Beza) when starting to research the topic deeper and comparing with the Bible.
Whenever Arminius was given a chance to publicly defend his exposition, his sound scholarship won the argument and nobody wanted to publicly debate against him. Nobody suggested that the Remonstrants mishandled Scripture but only that they failed to use Scripture to defend a predetermined position. Ironically nearly all of those opposed to Arminius wanted him to quit preaching the Bible as the final authority for they felt such a message undermined their own authority. To settle this, Arminius sought after a synod to publicly debate and settle the theological and political rift that had occurred in Holland about these issues but he was denied a synod during his lifetime. Instead a synod was made after his’ death under conditions all together different from what he and his followers expected. Free debate was denied and the Remonstrants were treated as criminals. They were present only as defenders, and the calvinists were the accusers, and never the other way around. Four days after the Synod’s closure, those same leaders beheaded Johan van Oldenbarnevelt for the crime of general perturbation (treason) for his support of the Remonstrants. About the synod we can read:
“Whosoever casts his eye over the list of the foreign divines that composed this last of Protestant councils will find scarcely one man who had not distinguished himself by his decided opposition to the doctrine of conditional predestination, and who was not consequently disqualified from acting the part of an impartial judge of the existing religious differences, or that of a peace-maker.”
William Birch: ”Arminianism was condemned at the Synod of Dort (1618-19). And what of it? A group of supralapsarian Calvinists joined theological and political forces, calling on foreign political allies, to ruin the reputation, ministry, and systematic theology of some theologians who disagreed with their doctrines on soteriology. And this local phenomenon is supposed to carry weight in thwarting Arminianism? History itself is a witness to the sham of an operation under which the Calvinists instigated the hearings of the Synod of Dort.”
Read more about the unfair and horrible events concerning the Synod of Dort and the aftermath here