Calvinism Vs. Arminianism (Part 1.)

Oh joy, I’m sure this blog is going the create a lot of controversy, but I’m here to speak my mind, and I don’t care what anyone says or thinks. Election is a touchy topic, and for centuries people on both sides have been discussing and examining the biblical evidence, but we still haven’t reached any conclusions. There are verses defending both points, and it’s one of those topics that isn’t black and white.

1. First we have Calvinism ( also called the reformed faith or reformed tradition). Calvinism is a biblical interpretation taught by John Calvin. There are five major points which make up the acronym:  T.U.L.I.P.

Total Depravity

Unconditional Election

Limited Atonement

Irresistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saints

Now this is a lot to talk about so for this blog I’m only going over “Unconditional Election”, “Limited Atonement” and “Irresistible Grace”. As stated in Calvinism, God does not chose the elect according to anything we as humans are able to do but instead chooses for the intention of His will (Eph. 1:4). That is “Unconditional Election”. They also go on to say that Jesus only died for the elect, and even though His sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was only bore for those elected (Matt. 26:28). That is “Limited Atonement”. Finally they claim that those who are the chosen elect cannot resist. God offers all people the gospel message, “external call”, but only the elect receive an “internal call” (Romans 9:16), which is “Irresistible Grace”. There are other verses used to defend these points, but the ones I referenced are what I think is the best evidence they’ve got.

2. Now onto Arminianism, the theology of Jacobus Arminius. There are also five points, but I don’t think there’s an acronym, and I’m only going to cover the three points which oppose “Unconditional Election”, “Limited Atonement”, and “Irresistible Grace”.  The first one opposes “Unconditional Election” and states that God did elect certain individuals, but this is based on his foreknowledge that they would follow his call. Secondly, opposing “Limited Atonement”, Arminianism states that Christ died for everyone, but only those who accept are saved. And finally, the Holy Spirit calls all internally through the external hearing of the gospel, but the person must decide to follow Christ. This opposes the Calvinist point “Irresistible Grace”.

Guess what? Now it’s time for me to rant:)! P.S. It’s 3am right now, so I’m in my crazy night owl mood.

I just don’t get it! I agree with Arminianism, and I just don’t get Calvinism. If God chooses the elect, wouldn’t that also mean that he choose who goes to hell? Would God really predestined the people He created to eternal suffering? Now if you ask a Calvinist that, they’ll say “We all are sinners, and all deserve hell.”, and I agree with that. But my biggest problem is this. If God has chosen those elect and those who aren’t, then what is the purpose of the great commission? Matthew 4:19,  “And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” What’s the point of spreading the gospel, or reaching out to a lost friend, if in the end, if they’re elect it doesn’t matter, they’ll find their way to Christ no matter what, because they’ve been chosen. And that would also mean the the people who aren’t elect are forced into hell. They don’t even have a chance! They aren’t the elect, which means they’re just a lost cause destined for destruction.

Don’t get me wrong, though I do disagree with the Calvinist, I am not bashing them. This is one of those things that we will never get to the bottom of, but I don’t think we need to. I truly think that all of this theology gets in the way of pure bible. Just study God’s word, and live your life according to it.

John 3:16,  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”






2 thoughts on “Calvinism Vs. Arminianism (Part 1.)

  1. I’m not a Calvinist (nor am I Arminian; I hold to the corporate election position, which finds me agreeing with the L and P of TULIP but disagreeing with the traditional definition of U and agreeing with the Arminians on T and I), but I can see the case in favour of Calvinism. Many of the greatest theologians post-Reformation have been (and are) Calvinist; when one takes the relevant Biblical texts, a strong argument can be made for the Calvinist interpretation.

    Firstly, be careful by starting with arguments based on whether or not something makes sense. More than a few people hear the doctrine of the Trinity and come to the conclusion that it doesn’t make sense. However, the reason the doctrine of the Trinity exists in the first place is because, when we come back to the Bible, we see that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, God is one, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father. You could, in theory, just accept these truths and allow them to exist in tension with one another; the doctrine of the Trinity is an attempt to fill in the gaps and explain how these truths can indeed be true simultaneously. A god who was completely comprehensible by the finite human mind wouldn’t be much of a god; we can expect that sometimes what God reveals about himself to be confusing, but it’s up to us to accept the truth that he has revelaled anyway.

    With that in mind, I’ll do things a bit backwards and answer your questions first, before clearing up some things about the Calvinist position (while also adding a corporate perspective).
    – “If God chooses the elect, wouldn’t that also mean that he choose who goes to hell? Would God really predestined the people He created to eternal suffering?” There are actually debates regarding single predestination (God elects the saved) and double predestination (God elects the saved and reprobates the damned). Philosophically, it can be argued that there is a difference between choosing not to save and letting someone receive the consequences that they already deserve versus choosing to actively change them to save them. Regardless, the Calvinists interpret the Bible as giving an answer to this question anyway. Romans 9:13-24, when interpreted through the Calvinist framework, strongly defends God’s right to create the way he chooses and to interact with his creation on his own terms.
    – “If God has chosen those elect and those who aren’t, then what is the purpose of the great commission?…What’s the point of spreading the gospel, or reaching out to a lost friend, if in the end, if they’re elect it doesn’t matter, they’ll find their way to Christ no matter what, because they’ve been chosen.” The Calvinists themselves have a far more elegant wording for the answer to this question than I could ever come up with myself: God not only predestines the outcome, he predestines the means. The Calvinist believes that God not only decides who he will save, but how they will be saved; the way he has decreed that people are to be is saved is by those who are already saved preaching the Gospel. In a sense, it would be a wonderful freedom to evangelise as a Calvinist; in spreading the Gospel, you know that you’ve done everything that God asks you to, because everything beyond that is entirely up to God’s election.
    – “And that would also mean the the people who aren’t elect are forced into hell. They don’t even have a chance! They aren’t the elect, which means they’re just a lost cause destined for destruction.” This contradicts your earlier point about us all being sinners and deserving hell; it doesn’t matter whether we have a chance to avoid Hell or not, we deserve to be there and it would be absolutely okay if God decided to give us what we deserve. If God decided that there would be some he would spare, that would be a tremendous act of mercy, regardless of who the particular group he saved was and how entry into that group is obtained. Nevertheless, this doesn’t change how a Calvinist evangelises; if you don’t yet know whether someone is elect or not, but you know you could be the means by which God saves the person if they are elect, the evangelism is essential.

    Now, to TULIP. Limited Atonement, as I mentioned earlier, is one place I agree with the Calvinists. Part of the problem with disagreements with Limited Atonement is that they often come from a position of not understanding what Calvinists actually mean by calling the atonement “Limited”. What it does not mean is that Christ did not die so that all could be offered salvation, nor that the “value” of Christ’s death was only sufficient to cover a limited number of people. “Limited” means that the sins Christ died for were only the sins of those who were saved, and that on the cross Christ actually saved all those who would be saved. Calvinism holds that any given sin will only be punished once; either Christ was punished for it, or the person who committed it will be punished in eternity. Any sin that is covered by the former will be removed from the latter. Arminianism has sins being punished twice; I do not believe that agrees with the teaching of the Bible. While I disagree with Calvinism on how one enters the group whose sins Christ paid for on the cross, I agree that the cross covered only the sins of those who would be in that group.

    It’s difficult to talk about the I in TULIP without also talking about T; if man is Totally Depraved, then only Irresistable Grace would be sufficient to save (Total Depravity means that man will never choose God of his own accord; only prior transformation by God could change that, and such transformation would have to be irresistable because otherwise man would choose against it). Now, because I believe that the Bible does not point towards Total Depravity (passages like Romans 3 point towards a minimum of Severe Depravity, but the number of calls to faith and repentence in the Bible suggest that the Depravity is not Total), I am free to consider the possibility of resistable, prevenient grace instead of Irresistable Grace. However, Irresistable Grace is mostly a conclusion that links into T and U.

    Now for U, which is typically the most controversial letter in TULIP. It’s also the point on which corporate election really distinguishes itself. Both Calvinism and Arminianism take the election passages (such as Ephesians 1) as referring primarily to God’s choice of individuals; Calvinists hold that this choice refers to individuals purely based on God’s grace, Arminians hold that it refers to the choice of individuals that God foreknows would have faith. Corporate election notes that the terminology used in these passages is always plural; all such passages are addressed to groups. In most times and places throughout history that are not the last 500 years in the Western world, the primary identity of human beings has been derived from membership of some corporate entity. In the Old Testament, God seems to affirm this understanding of humanity by punishing and rewarding collectives, not individuals (Abraham’s descendents receive the blessing for Abraham’s faith; Rahab’s family receive protection because of Rahab, the entire nation of Israel is punished for David’s sins, just to name a few examples). God’s pattern for election tends to be choosing a group by making a representative choice of their progenitor. God chose the Abrahamic people by choosing Abraham; he narrowed that choice by choosing Isaac to inhereit the promise ahead of Ishmael, and further narrowed it by choosing the man Israel as the progenitor of the nation that would share his name. Following this understanding says that God predestined that he would save a people to himself – the elect – and that this group would be chosen as the people who are in Christ, the progenitor of the elect. The means by which one becomes part of Christ’s body is faith; in this corporate election agrees with the Arminians. However, it is not an argument made from individual foreknowledge; it is an argument based on the election of a group by representative election of its head, with choice exercised by individuals regarding whether or not they become part of the group.

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