According to Carl Bangs, Arminius held that
free will in man as sinner is "addicted to evil, and "it will not be bent to good except by grace." Grace is as a form which brings into actuality the potentiality of the free will to goodness. In a sinful man the free will is sufficient for only evil choices. Thus Arminius says that "grace is present with all men [as a result of the work of Christ], by which their free will may be actually bent to good; but there is in all men such a will as is flexible to either side upon accession of grace."
That grace of which Arminius speaks is common grace, common to all, not "peculiar grace" or "special grace," as it might be applied to and limited to those whom God has predestined to receive it. Arminius rejects a distinction between common and peculiar grace. There is only common grace. All men have the free will to accept Christ or not, free will in that respect only.
Predestination, as Arminius sees it, is simply this: God predestines those who have faith in Jesus Christ, those who have made the choice to believe, to constitute his elect. This common grace of Arminius, then, sometimes referred to as "prevenient grace" (Bangs does not use that term), is available to everyone. However, not everyone will exercise the will, now liberated by grace, to choose the good, that is to have faith in Christ. Some will decide not to believe. God has predestined those who choose not to have faith not to be among his elect. We have then, conditional election. Being part of the elect is conditioned on one deciding to believe.
Calvinists (Bangs would say "later" Calvinists), on the other hand, will not admit of any flexibility in the will bent to evil. We are totally depraved. (The "T" in Tulip.) God's election, then, is not and cannot be conditioned on one's will, made free to choose by grace, making the choice of faith. God's election is unconditional. (The "U" in Tulip.) Christ did not die to put everyone in a position to make a faith choice - or not. Christ's atonement was limited to the unconditionally elect. (The "L" in Tulip.) Even to think about choosing requires God's grace, much less actually to make the choice to believe. Furthermore, God's grace is irresistible as far as particular, chosen people are concerned. (The "I" in Tulip.) Once grace is set upon us, like some hound of heaven it will get us, and we are as unable to resist it as we were to obtain it before God set loose his hound. We cannot be just a little bit graced, graced just enough to make a choice. It is all or it is nothing. Because our will is not involved in our election, it cannot, after our being saved, be bent away from Christ. As God's chosen we shall persevere in our blessed position. (The "P" in Tulip.)
Thanks. Really enjoying your distillation of Arminius and Bangs. I've never had a big problem with Calvinism, until it became the 'hyper-calvinism' of recent years, and it was focused so much upon. Now I'm sure that both extreme sides are missing something.
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