Arminianism and Calvinism Christian Doctrine Calvinism Historically, the doctrine of Calvinism arose out of the teaching of John Calvin. Five point Calvinism as it is exposed by its followers today was not taught by Calvin, but instead implied by those who carried his teachings to what they considered to be their logical conclusions. Calvinism is often called Reformed theology, and is founded in John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. The Puritans and independent Presbyterians of Great Britain were heavily influenced by Calvin’s writings, but some of its greatest followers were Dutch.
Most Baptist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches base their doctrine off of John Calvin’s teachings. Calvinism can be summarized using the acronym TULIP, which stands for the following: 1 . Total depravity, is the belief that man is dead in trespasses and sins and totally unable to save himself. Many advocates of Calvinism carry this a step further, saying that man cannot even desire a relationship with God apart from His working in their hearts. 2. Unconditional election is the belief that in eternity, God chose or elected certain people to obtain salvation.
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Some Calvinists (although not all) carry this belief further nd teach what is referred to as “double predestination”, the teaching that God selected some people to go to heaven and others to go to hell, and there is nothing anyone can do to change God’s election. John Calvin taught this, but called it a terrible doctrine. 3. Limited atonement is the Calvinist teaching that Jesus did not die for the sins of the entire world, but that He only died for those that He elected to go to heaven.
The argument is that Christ’s work on the Cross must be “efficacious”, that is, it must work for all for whom He died, that He could not have shed His blood for hose who are lost. Some Calvinists have gone to great lengths to explain limited atonement, saying, for example, that Jesus died for all, but does not pray for all, or tnat HIS aeat n tneoretlcally could save everyone, out Is eTTectlve only Tor tne elect. The end result is the same in each case – the belief that Jesus only died effectively for some people, not all. 4.
Irresistible grace is the doctrine that teaches that God will draw to Himself those whom He elected regardless of their rebellion against Him. It is the belief that man cannot resist the drawing of God to Himself. . Perseverance of the saints, or eternal security, is the doctrine that often attracts people to Calvinism because it is the belief that a true born again Christian cannot lose or give up his salvation because salvation is entirely God’s work, not man’s. Arminianism Jacobus Games) Arminius was a Dutch theologian who lived from 1560-1609.
Arminius taught that man is only guilty of Adam’s sin when he sins voluntarily . Arminius started out as a strict Calvinist, but later modified his views, which were expressed in a document called The Remonstrance in 1610. Arminianism is the heological basis for the Methodist, Wesleyan, Nazarene, Pentecostal, Free Will Baptist, Holiness, and many charismatic churches. Arminianism teaches: 1 . Election based on knowledge, the belief that God chose those who would be saved in eternity past based on His foreknowledge of those who would respond to and receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Arminianism rejects the concept that God elected anyone for hell. 2. Unlimited atonement is the belief that Jesus died on the Cross for all people, that His blood is sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. Thus, all mankind is savable. 3. Natural inability is the teaching that man cannot save Himself, but that the Holy Spirit must effect the new birth in him. Strict Arminians do not believe that man is totally depraved and condemned as a result of Adam’s sin. . Prevenient grace is the belief that the preparatory work of the Holy Spirit enables the believer to respond to the Gospel and to cooperate with God in the salvation of that person. 5. Conditional perseverance is the belief that man can choose to reject God, and therefore lose his salvation, even after he has been born again. Rather than the “once saved always saved” doctrine of the Calvinists, the Arminian believes that you must abide in Christ to be saved, and that you can choose to walk away from God.
Arminius himself, and his early followers, stated that they were unsure of this doctrine and that it required further Biblical study. Evaluation of the Doctrines At the heart of the controversy between Calvinism and Arminianism is the emphasis on the sovereignty of God by the Calvinists and on the free will of man, or human responsibility, by the Arminians. Arminians teach that man has free will and hat God will never interrupt or take that free will away. They say that God has obligated Himself to respect the free choice with which He created us.
Calvinism, on the other hand, emphasizes that God is in total control of everything, and that nothing can happen that He does not plan and direct, including man’s salvation. Both positions are logical, both have Scriptures to back up each of their five points, and both have truth to them. Both are right in what they claim, but both are wrong in what they deny. If truth is pressed to the point of excluding another truth, it becomes an error. The Bible presents a theology that is more man centered than calvinists make it out to be, and theology that is more divine than arminianism present it as.
Certainly, the Bible does teach that God is sovereign (Psalm 135:6; Daniel 4:35, Ephesians 1:1 1), and that Dellevers are preaestlnea ana elected Dy (Romans B) to spend eternity wltn However, the bible never associates election with damnation. Scriptures teach that God elects for salvation, but that unbelievers are in hell by their own choice. Every passage of the Bible that speaks of election deals with it in the context of salvation nd not damnation. It is simply not biblical to say someone is elect for hell.
The idea of total depravity is consistent with Scripture (Ephesians 2:1, Romans 3:1 1), but the doctrine of limited atonement, that Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world, is clearly anti-Biblical Cohn 3:16, I Timothy 2:6, II Peter 2: 1, I John 2:2). The Bible teaches that Jesus died for everyone’s sins and that everyone is able to be saved if they will repent and turn to Christ. Limited atonement is non-Biblical doctrine. Cohn 3:16,17; Romans 5:8, 18; II Corinthians 5:14,15; 1 Timothy 2:4; 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; 10:29; II Peter 2:1; I John 2:2; 4:14. Irresistible grace is taught by some, who do not understand the concept, to mean that God drags people to Himself contrary to their wills. Actually, the Biblical view, and the view of most Calvinists, is the belief that God works on our wills so as to make us willing to surrender to Him. In other words, He makes us willing to come to Christ for salvation. Many Scriptures teach that a true believer is safe and secure in Christ, that salvation doesn’t depend on our ability to keep ourselves, but on God’s ability to keep s. l John 5:11-13; John 10:28; Romans 5:1 and 8: 1). The only condition for salvation is faith in Christ Cohn 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). On the other hand, the Bible teaches us that we must abide in Christ Cohn 15; Luke 13:14; Colossians 1:29; II Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 6:4-6; I Peter 1:10) to persevere in salvation. Finding a Balance The truth of God’s Word flows between the extremes of Calvinism and Arminianism. Both Calvinism and Arminianism have truth in their argument, yet both contain error. Election and predestination are Biblical doctrines.
God knows verything and therefore He cannot learn anything or be surprised by anything. He knows, and has known from eternity past, who will exercise their free will to accept Him and who will reject Him. The former are the elect, the latter are non-elect. Every person who is not saved will have only himself to blame; God doesnt send anyone to hell, people choose to go there by exercising their free will to reject Christ. On the other hand, no one who is saved will be able to take any of the credit. Our salvation is 100% God’s work, and is based entirely on the work of the Cross.
We were ead in trespasses and sins, destined for hell, when God in His grace, drew us to Himself, convinced us of our sin and our need for a Savior, and allowed us to call Jesus Lord. God will do everything short of making humanity puppets in order for Him to draw us towards salvation but this does not mean that His grace is irresistible. The concept of a limited atonement, that Jesus only died for the elect, and not for the sins of all people, is clearly unbiblical. The Bible is very clear that Jesus’ death on the cross was for all people, and that there is sufficient power in His blood to cleanse way every sin. Whosoever will may come” is meaningless if man has no free will and no ability to choose God. The question of whether or not a Christian can lose or walk away from salvation is academic. When a person who claims to be a Christian and shows some fruit of salvatlon turns nls DacK on ana llves tne IITe 0T a pagan, tne Armlnlan says ne was saved and is now not saved, while the Calvinist would say that he was either never really saved to start with, or that he is severely backslidden, but his salvation is secure. Ultimately, no one knows the truth but God.
The true believer in Christ never has to doubt his salvation. He can rest in the perfect assurance that God saved him and will keep him, and nothing will ever separate him from God’s love in time or eternity. We are secure in Christ, kept by the His loving grace. It is important to remember that both Calvinism and Arminianism are systems of theology devised by godly, devout, Bible-believing men. Both systems are based on the word of God, and both contain important elements of truth, but neither can be substituted for reading and believing the word of God.
The New Testament church new nothing of either system, they simply believed what God had revealed in His word. The problem arises when it seems that some of what God has revealed contradicts something else He revealed. How can man be absolutely free and God absolutely sovereign and in control at the same time? How can salvation be entirely God’s work, yet simultaneously require the cooperation of men? These questions are ultimately unanswerable. The Bible teaches both the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. It teaches what appears to be unconditional perseverance in some places and conditional perseverance in others.
The human mind can never understand the balance between these points because God is simply too big for us to understand. Both systems of theology emphasize one set of chapters or verses while ignoring or twisting another. We are not called to understand God, only to believe Him. We are free willed creations, responsible for our own sin, hopelessly lost. Jesus not only died for us, He drew us to Himself with love and grace. Jesus died for all of us and desires fellowship with all of us. God’s election excludes no one; Jesus’ atonement includes everyone. Its as if we are looking at two sides of the same coin.
Election is God’s side, free will is our side. Rather than interpreting the Bible based on any theological or philosophical structure, we are to simply read and believe it. As we teach the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, verse by verse, in context, we will at times sound like devout Calvinists, preaching passages which emphasize God’s sovereignty, while at other times we will seem like Arminians, when we preach the passages which emphasize man’s responsibility. The key is to find a balance – to stay focused on the Word of God, and not become distracted by the doctrines of men.