Calvin, the Remonstrant-Arminians, and a Truly Unique Understanding of Romans 8:28-30

The passage in Romans 8:28-30 comprises the culminating argument that the Apostle Paul uses to comfort suffering believers. However, although the passage has provided tremendous consolation to Christians, it has also been a great source of contention because of its relevance to the doctrine of predestination. During the controversy that raged in the 17th century Netherlands between the Remonstrants (Arminians) and the Counter-Remonstrants (Calvinists), the latter frequently appealed to this passage to establish that there is a golden chain of salvation that begins with unconditional election; is executed through an effectual calling which in turn inevitably produces faith and hence justification; and is consummated in glorification. In response, the Remonstrants provided a truly unique, indeed, very unique understanding of the passage. To establish their unique interpretation, the Remonstrants, perhaps somewhat ironically, expressed agreement and appealed to certain remarks of Calvin from his commentary. While Calvin’s understanding of the passage is by no means the exact same as that of the Remonstrants, it does not seem to be a stretch to perceive how these specific comments of Calvin could lead to the very unique interpretation that the Remonstrants would later offer. The objective of this paper, therefore, will be (I) to explain the Remonstrants’ unique understanding of Romans 8:28-30; (II) to examine Calvin’s comments on the passage that the Remonstrants appealed to; and (III) to use the Remonstrant writings as well as my own creative impulses to make a modest albeit positive case for why this interpretation is not only plausible, but preferable to the interpretation of this passage that is typically offered by both Calvinists and Arminians alike.

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