theology usually falls into one of two groups — Classical Arminianism, drawn
from the teaching of Jacobus Arminius — and Wesleyan Arminian, drawing primarily
from Wesley. Both groups overlap substantially.
Portrait of Jacobus Arminius.Classical Arminianism (sometimes titled Reformed
Arminianism or Reformation Arminianism) is the theological system that was
presented by Jacobus Arminius and maintained by the Remonstrants; its
influence serves as the foundation for all Arminian systems. A list of beliefs
is given below:
Depravity is total: Arminius states "In this [fallen] state, the free will of
man towards the true good is not only wounded, 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."
Atonement is intended for all: Jesus' death was for all people, Jesus draws all
people to himself, and all people have opportunity for salvation through
Jesus' death satisfies God's justice: The penalty for the sins of the elect are
paid in full through Jesus' work on the cross. Thus Christ's atonement is
intended for all, but requires faith to be effected. Arminius states
"Justification, when used for the act of a Judge, is either purely the
imputation of righteoussness through mercy… or that man is justified before God…
according to the rigour of justice without any forgiveness." Stephen Ashby
clarifies "Arminius allowed for only two possible ways in which the sinner might
be justified: (1) by our absolute and perfect adherence to the law, or (2)
purely by God's imputation of Christ's righteousness."
Grace is resistible: God takes initiative in the salvation process and His grace
comes to all people. This grace (often called prevenient or pre-regenerating
grace) acts on all people to convict them of the Gospel, draw them strongly
towards salvation, and enable the possibility of sincere faith. Picrilli states
"indeed this grace is so close to regeneration that it inevitably leads to
regeneration unless finally resisted."  The offer of salvation through grace
does not act irresistibly in a purely cause-effect, deterministic method but
rather in an influence-and-response fashion that can be both freely accepted and
Man has free will to respond or resist: Free will is limited by God's
sovereignty, but God sovereignly allows all men the choice to accept the Gospel
of Jesus through faith, simultaneously allowing all men to resist.
Election is conditional: Arminius defined election as "the decree of God by
which, of Himself, from eternity, He decreed to justify in Christ, believers,
and to accept them unto eternal life." God alone determines who will be
saved and his determination is that all who believe Jesus through faith will be
justified. According to Arminius, "God regards no one in Christ unless they are
engrafted in him by faith."
God predestines the elect to a glorious future: Predestination is not the
predetermination of who will believe, but rather the predetermination of the
believer's future inheritance. The elect are therefore predestined to sonship
through adoption, glorification, and eternal life.
Eternal security is also conditional: All believers have full assurance of
salvation with the condition that they remain in Christ. Salvation is
conditioned on faith, therefore perseverance is also conditioned. Apostasy
(turning from Christ) is only committed through a deliberate, willful rejection
of Jesus and renouncement of belief.
The Five articles of Remonstrance that Arminius' followers formulated in 1610
state the above beliefs regarding (I) conditional election, (II) unlimited
atonement, (III) total depravity, (IV) total depravity and resistible grace, and
(V) possibility of apostasy. Note, however, that the five articles completely
denied perseverance of the saints; Arminius, himself, said that "I never taught
that a true believer can… fall away from the faith… yet I will not conceal, that
there are passages of Scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those
answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such as kind as
to approve themselves on all points to my understanding."
The core beliefs of Jacobus Arminius and the Remonstrants are summarized as such
by theologian Stephen Ashby:
Prior to being drawn and enabled, one is unable to believe… able only to resist.
Having been drawn and enabled, but prior to regeneration, one is able to
believe… able also to resist.
After one believes, God then regenerates; one is able to continue believing…
able also to resist.
Upon resisting to the point of unbelief, one is unable again to believe… able
only to resist.
John Wesley has historically been the most influential advocate for the
teachings of Arminian soteriology. Wesley thoroughly agreed with the vast
majority of what Arminius himself taught, maintaining strong doctrines of
original sin, total depravity, conditional election, prevenient grace, unlimited
atonement, and possibly apostasy.
Wesley departs from primarily on three issues:
Atonement – Wesley's atonement is a hybrid of the penal substitution theory and
the governmental theory of Hugo Grotius, a lawyer and one of the Remonstrants.
Steven Harper states "Wesley does not place the substitionary element primarily
within a legal framework...Rather [his doctrine seeks] to bring into proper
relationship the 'justice' between God's love for persons and God's hatred of
sin...it is not the satisfaction of a legal demand for justice so much as it is
an act of mediated reconciliation." 
Possibility of apostasy – Wesley fully accepted the Arminian view that genuine
Christians could apostasize and lose their salvation, as his famous sermon "A
Call to Backsliders" clearly demonstrates. Harper summarizes as follows: "the
act of committing sin is not in itself ground for the loss of salvation...the
loss of salvation is much more related to experiences that are profound and
prolonged. Wesley sees two primary pathways that could result in a permanent
fall from grace: unconfessed sin and the actual expression of apostasy." 
Wesley disagrees with Arminius, however, in maintaining that such apostasy was
not final. When talking about those who have made "shipwreck" of their faith (1
Tim 1:19), Wesley claims that "not one, or a hundred only, but I am persuaded,
several thousands...innumerable are the instances...of those who had fallen but
now stand upright."
Christian perfection – According to Wesley's teaching, Christians could reach
perfection in this life. Christian perfection, according to Wesley, is "purity
of intention, dedicating all the life to God" and "the mind which was in Christ,
enabling us to walk as Christ walked." It is "loving God with all our heart, and
our neighbor as ourselves". It is 'a restoration not only to the favour, but
likewise to the image of God," our "being filled with the fullness of God".
Wesley was clear that Christian perfection did not imply perfection of bodily
health or an infallibility of judgment. It also does not mean we no longer
violate the will of God, for involuntary transgressions remain. Perfected
Christians remain subject to temptation, and have continued need to pray for
forgiveness and holiness. It is not an absolute perfection but a perfection in
love. Furthermore, Wesley did not teach a salvation by perfection, but rather
says that, "Even perfect holiness is acceptable to God only through Jesus