Recently a researcher in Europe asked for a copy of my article The Righteousness of Saving Faith: Arminian Versus Remonstrant Grace (published in Evangelical Journal in 1991) to assist his investigation of Arminianism. It gave me the opportunity to dig it up and put it on my website. The article is based on my Ph.D. dissertation The Theology of Grace in Jacobus Arminius and Philip van Limborch: A Study in Seventeenth Century Dutch Arminianism completed at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1985. I have not yet put my dissertation online (perhaps soon).
The article argues for a distinction between Arminianism and Remonstrantism. In other words, there is a difference between Arminius and what often passes for “Arminianism” in contemporary discussions. Roger Olson’s recent Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (who makes significant use of my dissertation) seeks to help us make this distinction. Classic or Historic Arminianism is much closer to Reformed theology than many of its contemporary expressions, including what we find in the Stone-Campbell Movement.
What I think is significant for the Stone-Campbell Movement in this discussion is that historically there have been at least two understandings of grace within the movement. If we focus the discussion of grace on the “righteousness of saving faith,” the difference between Classic Arminianism and Remonstrantism rears its head within the Stone-Campbell Movement as well.
My published work on K. C. Moser illustrates this disagreement within Churches of Christ. What I have called the “Tennessee Tradition” (e.g., R. C. Bell) pursues an Arminian understanding of grace and the nature of saving righteouenss. What I have called the “Texas Tradition” (e.g., Guy N. Woods) practically reproduces the Remonstrant understanding of grace. (For those interested in the broader Texas/Tennessee contrasts, see Kingdom Come by Bobby Valentine and myself).
The critical difference is something like this. Classic Arminianism affirms that the righteousness of saving faith is external to faith itself, that is, the righteousness that saves is from God and is a gift to us. Classically, this righteousness is the work of Christ imputed to us. Remonstrantism affirms that the righteousness of saving faith is inherent within faith itself, that is, our faith is a righteousness which God counts as obedient righteousness. Classically, Remonstrantism denies the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and affirms that our obedience is a cause of our own righteousness. Those who grew up in Churches of Christ in the mid-20th century may have heard this as: God has done his part (2 points) and now we add our part (2 points) so now we have salvation (4 points), that is, 2 + 2 = 4. Significantly, the “part” we play is, in fact, a contribution of righteousness through obedience by which we measure up to the “plan” that God has graciously enacted to save us. In effect, our own righteousness saves us by our obedience, but it is viewed as “grace” because the plan is God’s gift. God gives the plan (his 2 points), and we work the plan (our 2 points), and the result is we are saved (4 points). In effect, we save oursleves by our own righteousness–which is what Calvinists have always accused Arminians of believing. But it is true of Remonstrants and others, but not of Arminius and Classic Arminianism.
I don’t intend to argue this here, but submit the publications on my website for your reading as you have interest. The details of the argument are provided there.