Calvinism or Arminianism?

Since this is my very first blog post, I figured that I should write about one of those fun, but very difficult debates to get around.  Do we, as human beings, have the right to choose our eternal salvation, or is God the ultimate decider of this factor.  Or maybe, is it both.  This is a discussion that has been going on for several hundred years and I will now begin to share my view on this issue, and I will try to provide the best evidence I can with the support of Scripture.

John Calvin (Calvinism) developed 5 points in which the manner of salvation works.

1.  Total Depravity

2.  Unconditional election

3.  Limited atonement

4.  Irresistible grace

5.  Preservation for the saints

If you were to take these points as they are intended to be taken, there is not any room for us to decide whether we are to be saved or not, but rather God is the only deciding factor in the situation.

Jacobus Arminius (Arminianism) came up with the exact opposite 5 points.

1.  Election was conditioned by the faith or non faith of man.

2.  Atonement, which is available for all men, is only received by the man of faith.

3.  Unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God’s will.

4.  Grace is resistible.

5.  Believers are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from grace.

With this view, God has absolutely no deciding factor in our salvation process and we are completely responsible for ourselves.

So we have two very different views to work with.

The very first verse I would like to look at is Ephesians 1:5.

Who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself: according to the purpose of his will.

This is pretty self-explanatory.   The word “predestinated” is literally used in this verse, so I think it would be foolish to not give at least some of the credit to God.  But is this where we draw the line?  Is this it?  Is there anything we can do?  Can we reconcile a sovereign God with the idea that He willingly chooses who goes to heaven and who He condemns to hell for all eternity?  I will now go through the five points one by one and I will use the Calvinist model.

1.  Total Depravity.  A verse comes to mind when discussing this particular issue.  Psalms 58:3 “The wicked are estranged from the womb, the go astray at birth, speaking lies.”  This verse shows that, from the time we are born, we immediately start to walk away from God into a life of sin.  I really like this particular verse, because it shows the kind of life that we live, as opposed to what kind of life we should be living.  It’s the kind of verse that many people want to hear.  I believe that this verse is good enough to show that we are totally depraved of God.  Revelation 20:14 says “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”  God clearly wants nothing to do with the sinners, and so we have no part of Him until we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior.  

2.  Unconditional Election.  One very common verse that many Arminians use to respond to this point is Romans 10:9.  “If you confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  This is a favorite verse among many.  It is a great example of how we simple the process of salvation is.  However, it does not show whether we choose God, or if God chooses us.  John 6:65 says, “No one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.”  This verse shows that the only way to gain salvation is if God the Father selects you.  Whenever He grants you that gift of salvation, by instilling a desire within you, then you can confess with your heart that Jesus is Lord.  All good things come from God, and in this includes the desire for salvation.

3.  Limited atonement.  This is a tricky one.  Many Calvinists would site Matthew 25: 31-33.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.   All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.   He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”  Many people would interpret this verse by saying that God did not die for the goats only for the sheep.  However, the verse does not say that.  1 Timothy 4:10 says, “That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”  In this verse, it is clearly stated that Jesus died for everyone.  It does say “especially those who believe,” but it also says everyone.

4.  Irresistible Grace.  Romans 9:18 says, “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”  This does not mean that we are not able to turn from grace, it just means that God chooses who he wants to show mercy to.  Since we are sinful beings, and that comes from our own sinful nature and not from God, I think grace is resistible.

5.  Preservation for the saints.  I believe that this is the most important point of them all.  Can we lose our salvation, or is it locked in place for good?  The first verse that comes to mind with this point is John 10:29 which says, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”  This makes it pretty clear that our salvation is locked in place and secure.  Nobody can snatch us out of the Father’s hand, not us, not satan, and not anybody else.  It is safe and secure.

Though the terms “Calvinism” and “Arminianism” seem to be polar opposite terms, I believe that there is a way to reconcile the two by taking the arguments apart piece by piece.  I maintain the belief that God’s sovereignty and preordination, and some choice on our part, are compatible.


2 thoughts on “Calvinism or Arminianism?

  1. Nice piece here Garrett, you already know I stand with Jacob Arminius. I would like to correct some false information on your break down of the 5 tenants of arminianism as a follower of the Wesleyan-arminian theology: “God has absolutely no deciding factor in our salvation process and we are completely responsible for ourselves.”. That is not entirely true. Yes, god has no DECIDING factor in our salvation process (I like how you said process), but we are NOT completely responsible for ourselves. In fact, its the exact opposite. Earlier you said “Unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God’s will.” which is true, but it doesn’t cover that the holy spirit has aided every person ever and is always with us all. Gods grace is understood in 3 ways for us: prevenient grace, justified grace, and sanctified grace. Think of it as before, now, future. The sole reason we can even respond to gods grace is because his grace has been working in our lives since before we were born. We cant get our way to heaven without the grace of God, so he pours it out to everyone, all the time.

    • Ryan, thank you for commenting. I see your point that I may have come across the arminian view a little bit wrong. My personal belief is that God is sovereign and He chooses who comes to Him and who doesn’t. However, I think this is kind of purposeless if we don’t have SOME say. I don’t have time to pick the whole thing apart right now, as I have to go to class in a few minutes, but I would like to discuss some of this more later.

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