Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Jacobus Arminius On the Total Inability Of Man

Quotes about total inability (Total Depravity) from theology professor and pastor, Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609)


Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word "grace," I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. I confess that the mind of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins. (1)


In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, ‘Without me ye can do nothing.’ St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: ‘Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.’ (2)

Sketch bequeathed by William Findlay Watson 1886, called
"The Primitive Reformers"
which depicts Arminius along with Calvin, Luther, Knox, and others

The will is, indeed, free, but not in respect to that act which can not be performed or omitted without supernatural grace. (3)


This is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace. But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace. (4)


That act of faith is not in the power of a natural, carnal, sensual, and sinful man. No one can perform this act except through the grace of God. (5)



1,2- Arminius, J., Complete Works of Arminius, Volume 1
3- Arminius, J., Complete Works of Arminius, Volume 3
4- Ibid. Declaration of the Sentiments, 5:3
5- Arminius, J., Complete Works of Arminius, Volume 2