Arminianism Versus Pelagianism

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by ericfromcowtown, Jul 22, 2008.

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  1. ericfromcowtown

    ericfromcowtown Puritan Board Sophomore

    I can't quite wrap my head around the difference between the two. Can someone provide a distinction between Arminianism and Pelagianism in layman's language?

    I recognize that their namesakes were separated by roughly 1000 years, and that Arminianism doesn't seem to go as far towards works righteousness as Palagianism. After that it gets fuzy.

    Moderators: Not sure if this should go into Church History rather than Theology.
  2. sastark

    sastark Puritan Board Graduate

    Pelagianism is spelled with a "P".

  3. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    Historical Arminianism was closer to Calvin than today's version. Even modern Arminians such as Roger Olson say that today's popular Arminianism is little more than rank Pelagianism. So, if you are talking about today's broad evangelicalism, it is often semi-Pelagian if not outright Pelagian. The Arminianism of Mr. Wesley was much less so. It would seem that Charles Grandison Finney mucked up just about everything with his naturalistic interpretation of the use of "means" and the non-supernatural character of evangelism and revival. American revivalism is the unfortunate heir to this bastardization of theology.
  4. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

    The difference lies in what man is able to do after the fall of Adam. Pelagianism believes that man is still able to and must cooperate with God to accomplish his salvation. True Arminianism believes that God has to first enable man to be able cooperate with Him. God restores the will of man from the fall so that he can then choose to cooperate or not. Therefore, Pelagianism does not believe in total depravity or the need for grace to restore us from such. True Arminianism does believe in total depravity and the need for grace to initiate our restoration from it.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2008
  5. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor


    Pelagian seems man as neutral/good both before and after the fall. Not postively good before the fall, and positively bad after the fall (as Augustinianism). Nor possibly good before the fall, and mostly bad after the fall (as Arminianism).

    To me, that's the basic issue. What was man before the fall, and what has man become because of the fall. However those are answered will lead to the various schools of thought (or the schools of thought lead to the views).



  6. Jimmy the Greek

    Jimmy the Greek Puritan Board Senior

    This might help: Theopedia:Order of God's decrees

    It has summary comparisons of Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism, etc. derived from B. B. Warfield's Plan of Salvation.
  7. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Others have noted some of the distinctions above but a few more observations.

    A Pelagian doesn't see Adam's sin as affecting anyone but himself. In general, a Pelagian believes that a corrupt society causes a man to eventually sin and what he needs is self-discipline to resist sin and to live righteously. Grace is an added help but is not necessary. It is enough to know that God has said: "Do not steal..." and man has the capacity within himself to obey. Consequently, justification is not forensic at all but based upon the actual righteousness of the obedient man. A man is righteous because he lives a pure life - on his own steam.

    Arminianism on the other hand believes that the Fall plunged mankind into sin and that grace is essential for man to obey/believe the Gospel - at least get him to the point of believing. Grace is seen as extending to all men equally as God, in the Gospel, gives all men a measure of grace to overcome resistance to the Gospel but the man must take the final step of belief. That grace of God is necessary and is like a ladder that allows a man to get to the very top with God's help but he must take the final step. The Arminian is unlike the Pelagian in that he didn't climb the ladder (God placed him on the top rung) but in seeing a capacity of a dead man to even stand at the top of the ladder is still like the Pelagian in denying the necessity for regeneration before belief.

    The Arminian will claim that no "work" is being performed because the acceptance of a gift is no work but, in fact, even though they're acknowledging that grace preceded their belief, it will still only a grace they cooperated with and it sees their unregenerated flesh as capable of doing so. What distinguishes the believer from the unbeliever? Not God's grace but man's decision. And because grace can be resisted, this also means that it can be ultimately rejected later on by the believer because he chose himself in and can choose himself out.

    Incidentally, the really sad thing is that most Fundamentalists used to be Arminians but what is becoming more mainstream today is that they are mostly becoming Pelagian.
  8. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

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