In the epistle which Arminius addressed to Hippolytus, describing grace and free will, his views on depravity and grace are explained:
“It is impossible for free will without grace to begin or perfect any true or spiritual good. I say, the grace of Christ, which pertains to regeneration, is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is that which operates on the mind, the affections and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the affections, and leads the will to execute good thoughts and good desires. It prevents, (goes before) accompanies and follows. It excites, assists, works in us to will, and works with us, that we may not will in vain. It averts temptations, stands by and aids us in temptations, supports us against the flesh, the world and Satan; and, in the conflict, it grants us to enjoy the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and fallen, it establishes them, and endues them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. It begins, promotes, perfects, and consummates salvation. I confess that the mind of the natural (animalis) and carnal man is darkened, his affections are depraved and disordered, his will is refractory, and that the man is dead in sins.” (Arminius, quoted in Watson, v2, p 46)
In his 11th Public Disputation on the Free will of Man, and its powers, Arminius says:
“The will of man, with respect to true good, is not only wounded, bruised, inferior, crooked, and attenuated; but it is likewise captivated, destroyed and lost; and has no powers whatever, except such as are excited by grace.” (Arminius, quoted in Watson, v2, p 46-47)
At the Synod of Dort, the third article put forth by the Remonstrants hold that:
“A man hath not saving faith of himself, nor from the power of his own free will, seeing that, while he is in the state of sin, he cannot of himself, nor by himself, think, will, or do any saving good.” (Remonstrants, Synod of Dort, 3rd Article, quoted in Watson, v2, p 47)
Without using a specific name for it, Satan introduced Adam and Eve to humanism. A humanistic culture is one embracing the concept that men and women can begin from themselves and derive the standards by which to judge all things. There are, for such people, no fixed standards of behavior, no standards that cannot be eroded or replaced by what seems necessary, expedient or fashionable. There is no essential difference in legitimacy between ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ Any perceived difference between good and evil is an illusion, an aberration for the puzzlement of limited intellects; what one might call evil, another might call good. Embracing humanism means following your own intellect, your own will and your own heart. How ironic that the instant I embrace the concept of being ruled by my own intellect, will and heart and the instant I declare myself a liberated person set free from the bondage of God and all other things, I immediately descend into a bottomless pit of sin. It seems that every man must seek the willingness of the Holy Spirit to occupy and purify his heart, make known to him the will of God, help him discern the truth, be lord of his life and keep him on the path of repentance, faith and obedience continually reaffirmed and renewed. The same is, of course, true for every woman and probably every angel. If the Holy Spirit withdrawals, the vacuum immediately begins to fill with sin.
God knew it would be pointless to allow the offspring of Adam and Eve to be born sinless. He knew each offspring would follow exactly the same path as Adam and Eve. So, He allows all descendants of Adam and Eve to be born with full instinctive knowledge that: they have a right to themselves; they can be ruled by their own intellect, heart and will; they can embrace humanism. Consequently, all men and women are born with this sin nature, sometimes called original sin, inbred sin or inherited depravity. We are credited with this sin as soon as we reach the age of accountability. There is no way to lift ourselves out of the muck of our own personal corruption. The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9) No one is capable of moral purity. Without the grace of God, we would all remain corrupt forever.
But God had a contingency plan devised before the universe was formed. This was a radical plan necessitated by the fact that God Himself is the ultimate victim of every sin. It begins with prevenient grace which is the cornerstone of Wesleyan/Arminian theology. Without God working in your corrupted intellect, heart and will, without God calling you, trying to awaken you, trying to draw you near and convict you of your sins, you could never be saved! You are drowning in a bottomless sea of sin and the Holy Spirit is nudging you to within arm’s length of a life preserver. You need only grasp the preserver and be pulled to safety. But the deep need for reconciliation, expiation and propitiation between God and His creation and God and the souls of all mankind demanded an even more drastic intervention: the substitutionary atonement.
Although God could have simply restored and repossessed His corrupted creation and the corrupted souls of mankind, His purity of wisdom, holiness, justice and truth demanded a punishment for every evil, particularly that evil called sin which resides in the human soul. Only one punishment, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, was great enough to redeem all creation from the bondage of evil and offer redemption from the bondage of sin to all mankind. But Satan will never acknowledge the efficacy of that punishment. He is battling God to retain possession of that which was given to him (Luke 4:5-7). The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ began a new phase of warfare. It marked the denouement when God the Son redeemed all creation from the bondage of evil and began the process of setting creation free from the influence of Satan himself. That denouement also marked the instant when God the Son offered redemption from the bondage of sin to all mankind and began the process of setting redeemed souls free from the influence of sin itself. For a time and within limits, God continues to permit certain consequences of rampant rebellion and the brutal corruption of all life. But He expects His people to engage the enemy and be soldiers in His army.
(See also Sections 4.2, 4.8, 4.9 and 4.10 of Theology Corner)