A Comparison of Theological Systems

"A Comparison of Systems"

by A. A. Hodge (1823-1886)

From Outlines of Theology (Chapter Six)

14. Give an outline of the main features of the Arminian System.


1st. They admit that vindicatory justice is a divine attribute, but hold that it is relaxable, rather optional than essential, rather belonging to administrative policy than to necessary principle.

2d. They admit that God foreknows all events without exception. They invented the distinction expressed by the term Scientia Media to explain God’s certain foreknowledge of future events, the futurition of which remain undetermined by his will or any other antecedent cause.

3d. They deny that God’s foreordination extends to the volitions of tree agents and hold that the eternal election of men to salvation is not absolute, but conditioned upon foreseen faith and obedience.


1st. Moral character cannot be created but is determined only by previous self-decision.

2d. Both liberty and responsibility necessarily involve possession of power to the contrary.

3d. They usually deny the imputation of the guilt of Adam’s first sin.

4th. The strict Arminians deny total depravity, and admit only the moral enfeeblement of nature. Arminius and Wesley were more orthodox but less self-consistent.

5th. They deny that man has ability to originate holy action or to carry it on in his own unassisted strength — but affirm that every man has power to co-operate with, or to resist “common grace” That which alone distinguishes the saint from the sinner is his own use or abuse of grace.

6th. They regard gracious influence as rather moral and suasory than as a direct and effectual exertion of the new creative energy of God.

7th. They maintain the liability of the saint at every stage of his earthly career to fall from grace.


1st. They admit that Christ made a vicarious offering of himself in place of sinful men, and yet deny that he suffered either the literal penalty of the law, or a full equivalent for it, and maintain that his sufferings were graciously accepted as a substitute for the penalty.

2d. They hold that not only with respect to its sufficiency and adaptation, but also in the intention of the Father in giving the Son, and of the Son in dying, Christ died in the same sense for all men alike.

3d. That the acceptance of Christ’s satisfaction in the place of the infliction of the penalty on sinners in person involves a relaxation of the divine law.

4th. That Christ’s satisfaction enables God in consistency with his character, and the interests of his general government, to offer salvation on easier terms. The gospel hence is a new law, demanding faith and evangelical obedience instead of the original demand of perfect obedience.

5th. Hence Christ’s work does not actually save any, but makes the salvation of all men possible — removes legal obstacles out of the way, does not secure faith but makes salvation available on the condition of faith.

6th. Sufficient influences of the Holy Spirit, and sufficient opportunities and means of grace are granted to all men.

7th. It is possible for and obligatory upon all men in this life to attain to evangelical perfection — which is explained as a being perfectly sincere — a being animated by perfect love — and doing all that is required of us under the gospel dispensation.

8th. With respect to the heathen some have held that in some way or other the gospel is virtually, if not in form, preached to all men. Others have held that in the future world there are three conditions corresponding to the three great classes of men as they stand related to the gospel in this world — the Status Credentium; the Status Incredulorum; the Status Ignorantium.

15. Give a brief outline of the main features of the Calvinistic System.


1st. God is an absolute sovereign, infinitely wise, righteous, benevolent, and powerful, determining from eternity the certain futurition of all events of every class according to the counsel of his own will.

2d. Vindicatory Justice is an essential and immutable perfection of the divine nature demanding the full punishment of all sin, the exercise of which cannot be relaxed or denied by the divine will.


The Mediator is one single, eternal, divine person, at once very God, and very man. In the unity of the Theanthropic person the two natures remain pure and unmixed, and retain each its separate and incommunicable attributes distinct. The personality is that of the eternal and unchangeable Logos. The human nature is impersonal. All mediatorial actions involve the concurrent exercise of the energies of both natures according to their several properties in the unity of the single person.


1st. God created man by an immediate fiat of omnipotence and in a condition of physical, intellectual, and moral faultlessness, with a positively formed moral character.

2d. The guilt of Adam’s public sin is by a judicial act of God immediately charged to the account of each of his descendants from the moment he begins to exist antecedently to any act of his own.

3d. Hence men come into existence in a condition of condemnation deprived of those influences of the Holy Spirit upon which their moral and spiritual life depends.

4th. Hence they come into moral agency deprived of that original righteousness which belonged to human nature as created in Adam, and with an antecedent prevailing tendency in their nature to sin which tendency in them is of the nature of sin, and worthy of punishment.

5th. Man’s nature since the fall retains its constitutional faculties of reason, conscience, and free-will, and hence man continues a responsible moral agent, but he is nevertheless spiritually dead, and totally averse to spiritual good, and absolutely unable to change his own heart, or adequately to discharge any of those duties which spring out of his relation to God.


1st. The salvation of man is absolutely of grace. God was free in consistency with the infinite perfections of his nature to save none, few, many, or all, according to his sovereign good pleasure.

2d. Christ acted as Mediator in pursuance of an eternal covenant formed between the Father and the Son, according to which he was put in the law-place of his own elect people as their personal substitute, and as such by his obedience and suffering he discharged all the obligations growing out of their federal relations to law-by his sufferings vicariously enduring their penal debt by his obedience vicariously discharging those covenant demands, upon which their eternal well-being was suspended — thus fulfilling the requirements of the law, satisfying the justice of God, and securing the eternal salvation of those for whom he died.

3d. Hence, by his death he purchased the saving influences of the Holy Spirit for all for whom he died. And the infallibly applies the redemption purchased by Christ to all for whom he intended it, in the precise time and under the precise conditions predetermined in the eternal Covenant of Grace — and he does this by the immediate and intrinsically efficacious exercise of his power, operating directly within them, and in the exercises of their renewed nature bringing them to act faith and repentance and all gracious obedience.

4th. Justification is a Judicial act of God, whereby imputing to us the perfect righteousness of Christ, including his active and passive obedience, he proceeds to regard and treat us accordingly, pronouncing all the penal claims of law, to be satisfied, and us to be graciously entitled to all the immunities and rewards conditioned in the original Adamic covenant upon perfect obedience.

5th. Although absolute moral perfection is unattainable in this life, and assurance is not of the essence of faith, it is nevertheless possible and obligatory upon each believer to seek after and attain to a full assurance of his own personal salvation, and leaving the things that are behind to strive after perfection in all things.

6th. Although if left to himself every believer would fall in an instant, and although most believers do experience temporary seasons of backsliding, yet God by the exercise of his grace in their hearts, in pursuance of the provisions of the eternal Covenant of Grace and of the purpose of Christ in dying, infallibly prevents even the weakest believer from final apostasy.


A.A. Hodge (1823-1886), Professor in Systematic Theology at Princeton Seminary from 1877 until his death in 1886, urged that the aim of every Christian teacher should be to produce a vitalizing impression — giving students ‘theology, exposition, demonstration, orthodoxy, learning, but giving all this to them warm.’ ‘He taught the knowledge of God,’ said one of his hearers, ‘with the learning of a scholar and the enthusiasm of a loving Christian’. These qualities not only crowded his classrooms, they also led to frequent appeals for the delivery of popular lectures. This article is taken from his, Outlines of Theology, first published in 1860 by the Banner of Truth Trust.

NOTE: The above is from a longer work which can be found here. Although we all have our opinions, the final authority must be Scripture and what it does/does not support. Therefore you are encouraged to read the above with Bible in hand, and to thoroughly apply the Berean to not only these but all spiritual matters.

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