Log In

Jacobus Arminius Edit Profile

also known as Jakob Hermanszoon

pastor , Professor of Theology

The Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius criticized the orthodox Calvinist position on the doctrine of predestination.


Jacobus Arminius was born on October 10, 1560, in Oudewater, Holland.

His father, Hermann Jakobs, a cutler, died while he was an infant, leaving a widow and three children.


In February 1575, the university of Leiden had been founded, and thither, by the kindness of friends, Arminius was sent to study theology.

Under these men and influences, Arminius studied with signal success; and the promise he gave induced the merchants' gild of Amsterdam to bear the further expenses of his education.

In 1582 he went to Geneva, studied there awhile under Theodore Beza, but had soon, owing to his active advocacy of the Ramist philosophy, to remove to Basel.

Arminius studied at the University of Leiden and under Calvin's disciple ThéodoreTheodore de BèzeBeze (Beza) at Geneva.

In 1603 he was appointed professor of theology at the University of Leiden.


Arminius is a Latinized form of his patronymic Hermanns or Hermansen.

Theodorus Aemilius, a priest, who had turned Protestant, adopting Jakob, sent him to school at Utrecht, but died when his charge was in his fifteenth year.

But hardly was he settled at Marburg when the news came that the Spaniards had besieged and taken Oudewater, and murdered its inhabitants almost without exception.

Arminius hurried home, but only to find all his relatives slain.

The six years he remained at Leiden (1576 - 1582) were years of active and innovating thought in Holland.

The War of Independence had started conflicting tendencies in men's minds.

Dirck Coornhert argued, in private conferences and public disputations, that it was wrong to punish heretics, and his great opponents were, as a rule, the ministers, who maintained that there was no room for more than one religion in a state.

Koolhaes, the heroic minister of Leiden-its first lecturer, too, in divinity-pleaded against a too rigid uniformity, for such an agreement on " fundamentals " as had allowed Reformed, Lutherans and Anabaptists to unite.

Leiden had been happy, too, in its first professors.

After a short but brilliant career there he turned to Geneva, studied for three years, travelled, in 1586, in Italy , heard Giacomo Zarabella (1533 - 1589) lecture on philosophy in Padua, visited Rome, and, open-minded enough to see its good as well as its evil, was suspected by the stern Dutch Calvinists of "popish" leanings.

Next year he was called to Amsterdam, and there, in 1588, was ordained.

He greatly distinguished himself by fidelity to duty during a plague that devastated Amsterdam in 1602.

In 1603 he was called, in succession to Franz Junius, to a theological professorship at Leiden, which he held till his death on the 19 th of October 1609.

Arminius is best known as the founder of the anti-Calvinistic school in Reformed theology, which created the Remonstrant Church in Holland (see Remonstrants), and contributed to form the Arminian tendency or party in England.

He lived in a period of severe systematizing.

Calvin's first principle, the absolute Sovereignty of God, had been so applied as to make the divine decree determine alike the acts and the destinies of men; and his formal principle had been so construed as to invest his system with the authority of the source whence it professed to have been drawn.

Calvinism had become, towards the close of the 16 th century, supreme in Holland, but the very rigour of the uniformity it exacted provoked a reaction.

Coornhert could not plead for the toleration of heretics without assailing the dominant Calvinism, and so he opposed a conditional to its unconditional predestination.

This seemed to the high Calvinists of Holland a grave heresy.

Thus led to confront the questions of necessity and free will, his own views became unsettled, and the further he pursued his inquiries the more he was inclined to assert the freedom of man and limit the range of the unconditional decrees of God.

This change became gradually more apparent in his preaching and in his conferences with his clerical associates, and occasioned much controversy in the ecclesiastical courts where, however, he successfully defended his position.

The controversy was embittered and the differences sharpened by his appointment to the professorship at Leiden.


  • He wrote many books and treatises on theology, and his views became the basis of Arminianism and the Dutch Remonstrant movement.

    Following his death, his challenge to the Reformed standard, the Belgic Confession, provoked ample discussion at the Synod of Dort, which crafted the five points of Calvinism in response to Arminius's teaching.

    His notable idea was - Prevenient grace.



The Reformed strengthened itself against the Roman Catholic theology by working itself, on the one hand, into vigorous logical consistency, and supporting itself, on the other, on the supreme authority of the Scriptures.

A study of Paul's Epistle to the Romans convinced Arminius that Dutch Calvinist doctrine on salvation was unscriptural.

Dutch Calvinists had divided into two schools of thought: the supralapsarians, who held the orthodox position and taught that God had decreed who would be saved and damned before man's fall in the sin of Adam, and the infralapsarians, who maintained that God did not decree who should be saved and damned until after the fall of man.

The position of Arminius against the Calvinist doctrine of predestination was condemned by the national synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1618-1619.


In 1588 he became minister in a Dutch Reformed church in Amsterdam.


He taught in theology Guillaume Feuguieres or Feuguereius (d. 1613), a mild divine, who had written a treatise on persuasion in religion, urging that as to it " men could be led, not driven "; Lambert Danaeus, who deserves remembrance as the first to discuss Christian ethics scientifically, apart from dogmatics; Johannes Drusius, the Orientalist, one of the most enlightened and advanced scholars of his day, settled later at Franeker; Johann Kolmann the younger, best known by his saying that high Calvinism made God " both a tyrant and an executioner. "

Quotations: These may be thus stated: "The decree of God is, when it concerns His own actions, absolute, but when it concerns man's, conditional, i. e. the decree relative to the Saviour to be appointed and the salvation to be provided is absolute, but the decree relative to the persons saved or condemned is made to depend on the acts-belief and repentance in the one case, unbelief and impenitence in the other-of the persons themselves.

Man is by original nature, through the assistance of divine grace, free, able to will and perform the right; but is in his fallen state, of and by himself, unable to do so; he needs to be regenerated in all his powers before he can do what is good and pleasing to God.

The saints possess, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, sufficient strength to persevere to the end in spite of sin and the flesh, but may so decline from sound doctrine as to cause divine grace to be ineffectual.

Every believer may be assured of his own salvation.

It is possible for a regenerate man to live without sin. Arminius's works are mostly occasional treatises drawn fromhim by controversial emergencies, but-they everywhere exhibit a calm, well-furnished, undogmatic and progressive mind. "


He was a man of mild and liberal spirit, broadened by varied culture, constitutionally averse from narrow views and enforced uniformity.

He was essentially an amiable man, who hated the zeal for an impossible orthodoxy that constrained " the church to institute a search after crimes which'have not betrayed an existence, yea, and to drag into open contentions those who are meditating no evil. "


In 1590 he married Lijsbet Reael.

Herman Arminius

Lijsbet Reael

Peter Bertius