Calvinism and Arminianism

By Steve Wimble

  1. BRIEF HISTORY

Up until the Reformation, the dominant theological thoughts and power was the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic doctrines had developed and corrupted over 1600 years, and reform was desperately needed. Step up to the plate one Martin Luther! Spearheading the reform of theological thought and belief, he challenged Roman Catholic doctrines and brought about the greatest change in the history of the church. But he was not alone. Ulrich Zwingli, John Knox, Jon Huss and most famously John Calvin were all instrumental in their respective countries. The most brilliant of these men was John Calvin. His book, Institutes, is still widely read and referenced today, and lays an extremely systematic and thorough framework to Calvin’s and Refomed theology. (Calvinism and Reformed theology are often used as synonyms.) This work was started in 1534 when Calvin was just 25 years of age.

Calvin’s thoughts were influenced by his reading of Augustine, who wrote so many centuries earlier, and so Calvinism is also often referred to as Augustianism.

Calvin’s successors took his theology even further, and one of them, one Jacobus Arminius, began to have concerns that in taking Calvin’s thoughts and logic to the extreme was very dangerous.

He studied under the strict Calvinist Theodore Beza at Geneva and became a professor of theology at the University of Leyden in 1603. The Arminians drew up their creed in Five Articles (written by Uytenbogaert), and laid them before the state authorities of Holland in 1610 under the name Remonstrance, signed by forty-six ministers. (These Five Articles can be read in Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3, pp. 545-547.) The Calvinists responded with a Counter-Remonstrance. But the official Calvinistic response came from the Synod of Dort which was held to consider the Five Articles from November 13, 1618 to May 9, 1619. There were eighty-four members and eighteen secular commissioners. The Synod wrote what has come to be known as the Canons of Dort. These are still part of the church confession of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church. They state the Five Points of Calvinism in response to the Five Articles of the Arminian Remonstrants. (See Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 581-596). (Piper 1998)

 

  1. DEFINING CALVINISM

Calvinism is a broad term with different meanings in different contexts.

  1. In its broadest meaning, it refers to the doctrines and practices of all Reformed churches (Dutch Reformed, Presbyterian, Puritans etc), but there are numerous tributaries of though within this broad category. While Calvin gave the main starting point to these thoughts, you will not find the full breadth of Reformed theology in his writings. His theology was developed by many who followed him.
  2. In a narrower sense, it refers particularly to soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) by emphasizing the sovereignty of God, predestination and election. The main points of this doctrine have been summarized by the acronym TULIP (more comment below)

Famous Calvinists include John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, John Murray, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Cornelius Van Til, Carl Henry, James Parker, Paul Jewett, Karl Barth, John Piper

 

 

  1. DEFINING ARMINIANISM

Arminianism was never developed as stand-alone thinking, but was developed as a reaction to perceived dangers in Calvinism. They have differences of thinking on all 5 points of TULIP, but most notably they stress the unversality of the Gospel including: unlimited atonement (that Christ died for the sins of the whole world), and special calling ‘available’ to all people as well as stressing the human responsibility in salvation.

Famous Arminian thinkgers include John Wesley, Charles Finney (who was the first one to use the so-called ‘altar call’ and was heavily criticized by the Calvinists of the day), C S Lewis, C H Pinnock.

 

  1. SUMMARY OF THE 5 POINTS OF CALVINISM

The 5 points of Calvinism are sometimes referred to by the acronym ‘TULIP’ based on the first letter of each point.

 

1. Total Depravity (Original Sin).

Total Depravity refers to the doctrine that sin pervades every part of a man and that there is, by virtue of this all-pervading sin  no way that man can reach out to God. He is totally perverse and unspiritual. This depravity is qualified below.

 

2. Unconditional Election (God’s Election):
‘Election is an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure’ (Grudem 1994:670) God elects men to be saved, they do not do anything to earn it or deserve it as this would be salvation by works.

3. Limited Atonement (Particular Atonement)
Christs death and atonement for sin was not for the sins of the whole world, but was limited to atone for the sins of the elect.

 

4. Irresistible Grace (Effectual Calling)

‘It refers to the fact that God effectively calls people and also gives them regeneration, and both actions guarantee that we will respond in saving faith.’ (Grudem 1994:700)

5. Perseverance of the Saints

This doctrine is summed up be the maxim ‘once saved, always saved.’ The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been fully born again.’ (Grudem 1994:788) When stated in the negative, it means that anyone who did not persevere to the end was not saved in the first place.

 

 

  1. DEVELOPMENT OF THE 5 POINTS OF CALVINISM

 

1. Total Depravity (Original Sin).

‘When we speak of man’s depravity we mean man’s natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man.’ (Piper 1998)

Berkhof (1949:246-247) sums up the classic Reformed position:

Positively, he says

1)      ‘that the inherent corruption extends to every part of man’s nature, to all the faculties and powers of both soul and body and

2)      that there is not spiritual good…in relation to God, in the sinner at all, but only perversion’

Negatively, it does not imply

1)      ‘that every man is as thoroughly depraved as he can possibly become;

2)      that the sinner has no innate knowledge of the will of God nor a conscience that discriminates between good and evil;

3)      that sinful man does not often admire virtuous character and actions in others… or

4)      that every unregenerate man will…indulge in every form of sin.’

In other words, man is not as evil towards others as we could be, without God,  ‘but if he is restrained from performing more evil acts by motives that are not owing to his glad submission to God, then even his “virtue” is evil in the sight of God.’ (Piper 1998)

This thinking is roughly equivalent to the doctrine of original sin, which means that each man is born with a sinful nature, rather than being born pure and being a sinner only from the time of our first willful sin.

‘By original sin we mean the evil quality which characterizes man’s natural disposition and will. We call this sin of nature original, because each fallen man is born with it, and because it is the source or origin in each man of his actual transgressions. What we teach is that by the fall man’s moral nature has undergone an utter change to sin, irreparable by himself. In this sense it is complete, decisive—or total.’ (Dabney)

The verses that are used to back up this thinking are: Jn 5:42; Ro 7:18,23; Eph 4:18;2 Ti 3:2-4; Tit 1:15; Heb 3:12 (see Appendix 1)

There is a complexity of views with regard to original sin – how did it actually pass down from Adam to us? How children/infants are judged if they are sinners from birth (is there an ‘age of responsibility’ (Erickson) or not (Grudem)? What is our relationship is Adam – is he the federal head of the human race, or only the natural head? Are we held guilty from birth or from the moment of our first sin? Or is it only from the moment of our realization and enjoyment of our sinful propensity?

John Wesley’s theology was that, although all men are totally depraved (by and through Adam), there is prevenient grace (by and through Christ) that operates in our lives by God’s mercy, before we actually commit sin. Prevenient grace enables us to draw near to God in our sin. This is based on a close parallel between Christ and Adam from Rom 5:12-19. The doctrine of prevenient grace is rejected by Calvinists as not being explicit in Scripture.

Pinnock, the Arminian writer puts his view as follows:

‘Surely “total” depravity biblically would be the point beyond which it is not possible to go in realizing the full possibilities of sinfulness and not the actual condition of all sinners at the present time. In any case, what became decisive for me was the simple fact that Scripture appeals to people as those who are able and responsible to answer to God (however we explain it) and not as those incapable of doing so, as Calvinian logic would suggest. The gospel addresses them as free and responsible agents, and I must suppose it does so because that is what they are.’

The detailed argument is complex but these appear to be the common areas in the debate:

1)      Sin is universal – it affects and has affected every man. (apart from Christ Himself – another complexity in the Adamic headship debate! (If sin is transmitted through every human to his/her children, how did Christ not receive it?))

2)      All sin will be judged justly by God

3)      There is an element of mystery with regards to children/infants

4)      We are unable to escape the sinful nature with human effort – it requires divine intervention.

 

2. Unconditional Election (God’s Election):
‘Election is an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure’ (Grudem 1994:670)

This is the most difficult and controversial point in the whole debate.

Erickson uses the following definitions (1998:921)

  • Fore ordination – ‘the broadest term, denoting God’s will with respect to all matters that occur, whether that be the fate of individual human persons or the falling of a rock’
  • Predestination – ‘refers to God’s choice of individuals for eternal life or eternal death’
  • Election – ‘is the selection of some for eternal life, the positive side of predestination.’
  • Reprobation – is the negative side of predestination where God selects some for eternal punishment.

 

2.1 The Calvinist position can be summed up as follows (summary of Erickson):

1)      Total depravity (discussed above) means that man cannot reach out to God. We are all lost in sin. We are morally corrupt and guilty of punishment from birth. We are totally unable to do good and to convert ourselves (Eph 2:1-3 often cited, also Ro 3:1-23; 2 Cor 4:3-4)

2)      God’s Sovereignty. He is the Creator and Lord of all – He can do whatever He wants to do. He is free. Humans are in no position to judge Him. Two passages used in this regard are the parable of the labourers in the vineyard (11th hour workers) (Matt 20:13-15) and the potter and clay analogy in Ro 9:20-21.

‘Without these two concepts, the rest of the doctrine makes little sense’ (Erickson 1998:929)

3)      God’s Election. If God were not to do anything apart from His justice, all would perish. Therefore the fact that any are saved means that they get much more than what they deserve while any who are unsaved get what they do deserve.

This election is therefore based on God’s special choice, and is completely unconditional i.e. It is not based on what any man has done, or foreknowledge of what he will do. God’s election results in faith rather than faith resulting in being elected. The argument is that the latter is salvation by works.

Verses used to advance this view are forceful and include Eph 1:4-5; Jn 15:16; Jn 6:37, 44-45; Acts 13:48. These all indicate God’s choosing. The following verses refer to the unconditionality of His choice: Rom 9:15-16; Ex 33:19;

Election has the following characteristics according to this view:

(i)      It is an expression of God’s sovereign will and good pleasure

(ii)    It is efficacious. That means that those whom God has chosen will certainly come to faith in Him and persevere to the end.

(iii)   Election is from all eternity. It is not a decision made during a person’s life. It is what God has always purposed to do

(iv)  It is unconditional.

(v)    It is immutable. God does not change His mind concerning election.

Calvinists deny that election removes free will, but define it in very different terms to the Arminian definition. Boettner compares fallen humanity with a bird that has broken its wing. It is free to fly but unable to do so. Likewise, we are free to come to God, but not able to. (quoted by Erickson 1998:930)

There are variations among Calvinists. Some hold to double predestination (or election and reprobation). This follows on logically from what has been said above and states that God has chosen some for life and has chosen others for destruction. Calvin called this a ‘horrible decree’ but believed it to be Biblical.

Others try and soften this by saying that God merely passes people by when electing, and leaves them in their self-chosen sins. Arminians would argue that this amounts to the same thing as reprobation.

There are also other variations in thought on the order (or timing) of God’s decrees to elect, allow the Fall and  provide salvation:

supralapsarianism = Decree to save, then decree to create elect and reprobate, then decree to permit the Fall, then decree to provide atonement for the elect only;

infralapsarianism = decree to create, then decree to permit the Fall, then the decree to save some and condemn others and then the decree to provide limited atonement;

subralapsarianism is the same as ‘infra..’ but says unlimited atonement, limited salvation

 

2.2 The Arminian viewpoint is as follows:

The starting point is very different:

  • God desires all persons to be saved. Scripture has definite assertions of this: Ez 33:11, 2 Pe 3:9; 1 Ti 2:3-4; Acts 17:30; Is 55:1; Matt 11:28.

‘These verses are so strong and clear that even as staunch a Calvinist as Boettner has to concede, “It is true that some verses taken in themselves do seem to imply the Arminian position.”’ (Erickson 1998:932)

The Arminians go on to say that if God is not intent on saving all people, then these offers are insincere and cruel.

  • Secondly, all persons are able to believe and be saved, else the universal invitations would make little sense. To have room in the theology for this, there needs to be an alteration in the doctrine of total depravity. John Wesley’s solution (as outlined above) was to introduce the concept of prevenient grace. This is a common grace given to all men, enabling them to respond to him if they chose to. Because it is given to all men, all can, at least theoretically respond.
  • Thirdly, election is still a word which is used and taught, but their definition of election is different to the Calvinists. In election God foreordains individuals to salvation based on His knowledge of what they will do and choose in the future, because He knows all things. This view is based on Ro 8:29 where a close connection is drawn between foreknowledge and predestination. Another similar link is in 1 Pe 1:1-2.
  • Fourthly, they challenge the Calvinistic definitions of unconditional or absolute election. These objections are practical rather than theoretical and include:

  Calvinism in is purest sense is fatalistic.

  What difference do our choices make if God has determined everything absolutely?

  If we are elect, and going to be saved no matter what, then it does not matter how we live. It therefore negates any teaching about holiness and sanctification as part of salvation.

  It reduces evangelistic and missionary activity. If God already knows who will be saved and the number cannot be increased, then what is the point of preaching?

  It is a contradiction to human freedom. If God has from all eternity foreordained our actions and responses then they are not in fact ours, but His. We could not have done anything else. (This is closely linked to the objections to irresistible grace below) We are therefore not truly free, but robots or automatons. This contradicts everything we experientially know about ourselves. There is no point in God commending us for good or rebuking us for evil as we could not have done other than what we have done.

 

2.3 Karl Barth’s Theology

Some people have referred to Barth was as one of the greatest theologians of the last century. He attempted to re-shape traditional Calvinistic thought.

‘In the mainline Reformed churches, Calvinism has undergone expansion and revision through the influence of Karl Barth and neo-orthodox theology. Barth was an important Swiss Reformed theologian who began writing early in the 20th century, whose chief accomplishment was to counter-act the influence of the Enlightenment in the churches, especially as this had led to the toleration of Nazism in the Germanic countries of Western Europe. The Barmen declaration is an expression of the Barthian reform of Calvinism. Conservative Calvinists (as well as some liberal reformers) regard it as confusing to use the name “Calvinism” to refer to neo-orthodoxy or other liberal revisions stemming from Calvinist churches.’ (Wilkipedia)

His major change was to begin with the person of Jesus Christ as the starting point of his doctrine on election. He claimed that previous theologians had used the wrong starting point to this doctrine with a metaphysical belief that the God’s relationship to the universe is static and that His decisions were made before time and were fixed and unalterable. This had lead them to reading the Bible incorrectly.

According to his view – Jesus Christ was elected by God to fulfil His plan and so Barth replaced all references to people in the doctrine of election with references to Christ. God’s will is to elect and to save human beings through Christ and not to reject them. He has chosen, not rejected. But the election of Christ was not as an isolated individual. In Him, as the second Adam, the whole human race was chosen. And not only is He elected, but He is also the electing God incarnate. This to Barth is ‘double predestination.’ In choosing to become human, Christ chooses perdition, reprobation and death, thereby choosing life for mankind.

Following on from this – all of humanity is elected to salvation. (Barth saw unlimited atonement, but limited salvation) ‘Although all are elect, not all live as elect. Some live as if they were rejected, but that is of their own doing.’ (Erickson 1998:936) There is no rejection of humanity by God, but only acceptance. Those that reject God do so of their own volition.

 

3. Limited Atonement (Particular Atonement)
Christs death and atonement for sin was not for the sins of the whole world, but was limited to atone for the sins of the elect. This doctrine is also often called ‘particular atonement’, because the term ‘limited atonement’ can be misunderstood to mean the the atonement was limited in what it achieved, rather than who it achieved it for.

The Reformed view is based on a logic which goes something like this: If Christ died for the sins of the entire human race, then He has paid the penalty for all of their sin. Every person would therefore be saved, as there is no punishment for sin necessary. If God was to send people to hell, after dying for all of them, it would represent a double punishment for the same sin, which would be unjust.

Verses which are used to support this view are: Jn 10:11, 15; Acts 20:28; Ro 8:32; Eph 5:25; Ro 5:8 Jn 6:37-39; Jn 17:9,20; Ro 5:8,10; 2 Co 5:21; Gal 3:13 (see Appendix 1)

The Arminian view argues that the offer of the gospel in Scripture is repeatedly made to all people, and for the offer to be genuine, Christ must have died for all people. ‘They also say that if the people whose sins Christ paid for are limited, then the free offer of the gospel also is limited, and the offer of the gospel cannot be made to all people without exception.’ (Grudem 1994:594)

A number of verses support this view, viz that Christ died for the sins of the whole world. These include Jn 1:29; 3:16; 6:51;2 Co 5:19; 1 Jn 2:2; 1 Ti 2:6;  Heb 2:9. Other verses seem to indicate that He died for those who will not be saved: Ro 14:15; 1 Co 8:11 (could be interpreted in other ways); 2 Pe 2:1 cf Heb 10:29.

Erickson in his Christian Theology, points out that when reading these verses (on both views) context is extremely important in interpreting them.

The debate has another element to it: If Christ died for all men, does that mean all will be saved? In other words, does unlimited atonement mean unlimited salvation? Rodman-Williams says: ‘It is important first to emphasize that Christ has wrought atonement for the sins of all mankind. It is not limited to the few, but includes everyone in the entire world…this, of course, does not mean universal salvation, for what Christ has done for the world must become a matter of faith’ (Rodman-Williams 1988:369)

Grudem (1994:597) sums up the points of agreement between the two views on the issue of atonement:

1)      Not all will be saved

2)      A free offer of the gospel of grace can rightly be made to every person ever born

3)      All agree that Christ’s death in itself, because He is the infinite Son of God has infinite merit and is in itself sufficient to pay the penalty of the sins of as many or as few as the Father and the Son decreed. The question is not about the intrinsic merits of Christ’s sufferings and death, but about the number of people for whom the Father and Son thought Christ’s death to be sufficient payment at the time Christ died.

The Calvinist position argues that Christ’s death and atonement was completely effectual – meaning that everyone it applied to would be saved. Not all are saved, so atonement is ‘particular’ to the people who are saved. They further argue that for Christ to die for all the world, but guarantee salvation for no group in particular is to limit the atonement in terms of its effectiveness, by reducing it to a general event  that is dependent on depraved man’s response. They accuse Arminians of really limiting atonement. Piper (1998) puts the Calvinist position very strongly:

If you say that he died for every human being in the same way, then you have to define the nature of the atonement very differently than you would if you believed that Christ only died for those who actually believe. In the first case you would believe that the death of Christ did not actually save anybody; it only made all men savable. It did not actually remove God’s punitive wrath from anyone, but instead created a place where people could come and find mercy—IF they could accomplish their own new birth and bring themselves to faith without the irresistible grace of God.

For if Christ died for all men in the same way then he did not purchase regenerating grace for those who are saved. They must regenerate themselves and bring themselves to faith. Then and only then do they become partakers of the benefits of the cross.

In other words if you believe that Christ died for all men in the same way, then the benefits of the cross cannot include the mercy by which we are brought to faith, because then all men would be brought to faith, but they aren’t. But if the mercy by which we are brought to faith (irresistible grace) is not part of what Christ purchased on the cross, then we are left to save ourselves from the bondage of sin, the hardness of heart, the blindness of corruption, and the wrath of God.

Therefore it becomes evident that it is not the Calvinist who limits the atonement. It is the Arminian, because he denies that the atoning death of Christ accomplishes what we most desperately need—namely, salvation from the condition of deadness and hardness and blindness under the wrath of God. The Arminian limits the nature and value and effectiveness of the atonement so that he can say that it was accomplished even for those who die in unbelief and are condemned. In order to say that Christ died for all men in the same way, the Arminian must limit the atonement to a powerless opportunity for men to save themselves from their terrible plight of depravity.

The Arminian view is that there are two components to the atonement. The first one is Objective and relates to Christ achieving forgiveness of our sins on the Cross, regardless of who repents, but the second aspect is a objective element where faith in the heart of the responder makes the atonement applicable to them subjectively (Erickson argues that this is actually a modification of Calvinism, rather than a departure from it.) They go on to say that if Christs atonement is sufficient for all the world (as above) why did He not die for all of them? ‘It is as if God, in giving a dinner, prepared far more food than was needed, yet refused to consider the possibility of inviting additional guests’ (Erickson 1998:852)

Pinnock, an Arminian writer, puts it like this:

Obviously it required me to reduce the precision in which I understood the substitution to take place. Christ’s death on behalf of the race evidently did not automatically secure for anyone an actual reconciled relationship with God, but made it possible for people to enter into such a relationship by faith. Gospel invitations in the New Testament alone make this clear. It caused me to look again first at the theory of Anselm and later of Hugo Grotius, both of whom encourage us to view the atonement as an act of judicial demonstration rather than a strict or quantitative substitution as such. Paul’s word in Romans 3:25-26 then became more important for me where the apostle himself declares that the cross was a demonstration of the righteousness of God, proving God’s holiness even in the merciful justification of sinners.

Not all Calvinists agree on limited atonement (see Erickson 1998:849-852).

‘one revision of Calvinism is called Amyraldism, “hypothetical universalism”, or “four-point Calvinism”, which drops the point on Limited Atonement in favor of an unlimited atonement saying that God has provided Christ’s atonement for all alike, but seeing that none would believe on their own, he then elects those whom he will bring to faith in Christ, thereby preserving the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election.

This doctrine was most thoroughly systematized by the French Reformed theologian at the University of Saumur, Moses Amyraut, for whom it is named. His formulation was an attempt to bring Calvinism more nearly alongside the Lutheran view. It was popularized in England by the Reformed pastor Richard Baxter and gained strong adherence among the Congregationalists and some Presbyterians in the American colonies, during the 17th and 18th centuries.’ (Wilkipedia 2006)
4. Irresistible Grace (Effectual Calling)

‘It refers to the fact that God effectively calls people and also gives them regeneration, and both actions guarantee that we will respond in saving faith. The term irresistible grace is subject to misunderstanding, however, since it seems to imply that people do not make a voluntary, willing choice in responding to the gospel…the term does preserve something valuable…because it indicates that God’s work reaches into our hearts to bring about a response that is absolutely certain – even though we respond voluntarily.’ (Grudem 1994:700)

A debate rages across the systematic theologies about calling, regeneration and conversion, justification and faith. To some the words, regeneration, conversion and justification are used almost interchangeably. To others regeneration precedes conversion which results in justification and to others conversion precedes regeneration. And at which point faith fits in is also debated. I found most of it very confusing!

Most agree on general calling and specific calling. General calling has to do with the message that goes out to the whole world telling them about the gospel through many agencies. Specific call (also know as effectual calling or special calling) is the call that reaches an individual at a point in time and produces faith and salvation. It is, in other words, effectual to salvation. ‘Many are called, but few are chosen’ is the usual verse to indicate the difference between the two (in Greek – many are kletoi (called) but few are ekletoi (called out, chosen, elect) – a wonderful use of words).

Calvinists and Arminians both agree that at some point calling needs to become effectual to produce salvation. Both agree that the Father draws. They differ on the point of how much human involvement there is. Most of this has been discussed above, and if you take the Calvinistic approach of total depravity, unconditional election and limited atonement, then the logical end point is that only those that God has chosen will be effectually called by him. And if they are called by God and He wills them to be saved, it will surely happen. ‘…in the work of regeneration we play no active role at all. It is instead totally a work of God’ (Grudem 1994:699) (Jn 1:13, 6:44; Js 1:18; 1 Pet 1:3.)

If on the other hand, you adopt a more Arminian approach to the previous 3 points, then God still draws, but there is a place where man can reject Him. God addresses man as a ‘free agent,’ and through prevenient grace makes it possible for him to have faith in God, but there is a very real sense in which the person has the freedom to accept or reject. (see Pinnock quote in point 1)

5. Perseverance of the Saints

The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been fully born again.’ (Grudem 1994:788)

This is probably the most sensitive issue of these 5 points when it come to practically pastoring people. Some are not sure if they are truly saved. Some feel that they have lost their salvation. Others say that they are saved, but there is very little external evidence to support their claims.

Others would add: ‘What about our experience of people who seemed to have been born again and followed Christ devotedly for many years only to later abandon their faith and even deny the existence of God? What is their case Biblically?’

5.1 Calvinist viewpoint.

The view is based on some very convincing texts in John especially Jn 6:37 – 39 and Jn 17:12,24, and the logic follows from above, that if God has elected someone to be saved, and God alone is the One who draws and saves, irresistibly, that none of His will can thwarted, and those Whom He has chosen will certainly stay saved unto the end. Extreme Calvinism would go on to say ‘…regardless of what they do here on earth.’

The Calvinistic treatment of the Hebrews texts (below) is extensive and boils down to – the people referred to were not actually saved in the first place. This would also be their analysis of people ‘falling away’ as in my example above.

5.2 Arminian Viewpoint-

Is also based primarily on two texts, but in Hebrews – Heb 6:4-6 and 10:26-31, and holds that it is possible to lose your salvation here on earth.

Pinnock calls the doctrine of perseverance of the saints ‘ likely the weakest link in Calvinian logic’ and describes how he changed from being a Calvinist while teaching on the Hebrews texts:

‘I was teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School at the time and attending to the doctrine particularly in the book of Hebrews. If in fact believers enjoy the kind of absolute security Calvinism had taught me they do, I found I could not make very good sense of the vigorous exhortations to persevere (e.g., 3:12) or the awesome warnings not to fall away from Christ (e.g., 10:26), which the book addresses to Christians…The thread was pulled, and the garment must begin to unravel, ‘

 

Each point of view boils down to a particular interpretation of Scripture.

 

Finally:

If one compares Calvinism and Arminianism, there is a lot that both points of view say that lines up with the Bible, but they are at odds with each other logically. It reminds me of 2 magnets with opposing poles that will never meet even though they come close to toughing. It is as if there are two sets of truths stated in the Bible, and depending on the spectacles of your experience and training, you will see one truth more clearly or adamantly.

God, in His wisdom, did not see fit to explain how the two sets of truths fit together logically, and that is perhaps because we would not understand it with our finite human minds.

August 2006

PIETERMARITZBURG

 

REFERENCES:

 

ERICKSON M.J. 1998. Christian Theology 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books

GRUDEM W.  1994. Systematic Theology: an introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Illinois: IVP

RODMAN WILLIAMS J. 1992. Renewal Theology – Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House

BERKHOF. L. 1958-2003. Systematic Theology. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust.

ELWELL W.A.        Editor . 1996. Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Articles from the Internet:

[Author Unknown] 2006. Some Things Non Calvinists Should Know About Calvinism:           http://www.corkfpc.com/avoidingconfusion.html

SPURGEON C.H. 2006. A Defence of Calvinism. http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm

WARFIELD. B.B. 2006. What Is Calvinism?       http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/WarfieldCalvin.html

[Author Unknown] 2006. Calvinism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvinism

[Author Unknown] 2006. Various Attempts to Reform Calvinism.                 http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/reforms.html

BREMMER. M. ed. 2006. Efficacious Grace. http://home.flash.net/~jaybanks/books/reformed/efficiou.htm

KOERSCHGEN J. 2006. Total Inability. http://home.flash.net/~jaybanks/books/reformed/bchapt10.htm

KOERSCHGEN J. 2006. Unconditional Election http://home.flash.net/~jaybanks/books/reformed/bchapt11.htm

KOERSCHGEN J. 2006. The Perseverance of the Saint http://home.flash.net/~jaybanks/books/reformed/bchapt14.htm

KOERSCHGEN J. 2006. Limited Atonement http://home.flash.net/~jaybanks/books/reformed/bchapt12.htm

MAXWELL C. 2006. Some Things Non Calvinists Should Know About Calvinism:     http://www.corkfpc.com/avoidingconfusion.html

[Author Unknown] 2006. A Glossary of Terms. http://www.ctlibrary.com/3587

Shelton L.R. Calvinism Gives Fire and Enthusiasm to True Evangelism

http://www.radiomissions.org/sermons/cal-fire-enth.shtml

[Author Unknown] 2006. What is Hyper-Calvinism? http://www.bible.org/qa.asp?topic_id=96&qa_id=24

BOA K. 2006.  Divine Sovereignty vs. Human Responsibility. http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=4040

MEETER H. 2006. The Fundamental Principle of Calvinism                  http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/principlecalvinism.html

PIPER J. 1998. How to Teach and Preach “Calvinism”    http://www.desiringgod.org/library/topics/doctrines_grace/calvinism.html

WILSON D. 2006. A Farewell to Calvinism       http://www.caledonianfire.org/caledonianfire/Credenda/farewellcalvinism.htm

DABNEY R.L. The Five Points of Calvinism http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/dabney/5points.htm

PIPER J. 1985,1998. What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism

http://www.desiringgod.org/library/topics/doctrines_grace/tulip.html

STORM S. Was Jesus a Calvinist? http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article.asp?id=204

 

 

APPENDIX 1 – VERSE LIST

1. Total Depravity

Joh 5:42  But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.

Rom 7:18  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

Rom 7:23  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Rom 8:7  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

Eph 4:18  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

2Ti 3:2  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,

2Ti 3:3  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,

2Ti 3:4  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

2Ti 3:5  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

Tit 1:15  To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.

Heb 3:12  Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

 

2. Unconditional Election

2.1 Calvinistic view

Eph 2:1  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins

Eph 2:2  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–

Eph 2:3  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Rom 3:5  But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)

Rom 3:6-23  By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?–as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

2Co 4:3  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.

2Co 4:4  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Eph 1:4  even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

Eph 1:5  he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Joh 15:16  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Joh 6:37  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Joh 6:44  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Joh 6:45  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me–

Act 13:48  And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

Rom 9:15  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Rom 9:16  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

 

2.2 Arminian View

Eze 33:11  Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

2Pe 3:9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

1Ti 2:3  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,

1Ti 2:4  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Act 17:30  The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

Isa 55:1  “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Mat 11:28  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Rom 8:29  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

1Pe 1:1  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

1Pe 1:2  according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

 

 

3. Limited Atonement

3.1 Calvinistic View:

Joh 10:11  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Joh 10:15  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Act 20:28  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Rom 8:32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Rom 8:33  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Eph 5:25  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Joh 6:37  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Joh 6:38  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Joh 6:39  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Joh 6:40  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Joh 17:9  I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

Joh 17:20  “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

Rom 5:8  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom 5:10  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

2Co 5:21  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Gal 3:13  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”–

 

3.2 Arminian View

Joh 1:29  The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Joh 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Joh 6:51  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

2Co 5:19  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

1Jo 2:2  He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1Ti 2:6  who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Heb 2:9  But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Rom 14:15  For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.

2Pe 2:1  But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

1Ti 4:10  For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

 

4. Irresistible Grace

Joh 1:13  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Joh 6:44  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Jam 1:18  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

2Pe 1:3  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

 

5. Perseverance of the saints

5.1 Calvinistic view

Joh 6:37  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Joh 6:38  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Joh 6:39  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Joh 17:12  While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

Joh 17:24  Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

 

5.2 Arminian view

Heb 6:4  For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,

Heb 6:5  and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,

Heb 6:6  if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Heb 6:7  For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.

Heb 6:8  But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

Heb 6:9  Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things–things that belong to salvation.

Heb 10:26  For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

Heb 10:27  but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

Heb 10:28  Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Heb 10:29  How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

Heb 10:30  For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

Heb 10:31  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

 

 

 

APPENDIX 2 – HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION

 

This summary is taken from Erickson’s Christian Theology ch 44.

 

The doctrine of predestination was relatively undeveloped until serious disagreement arose regarding it. From the time of the NT writings until Augustine there was little development of the doctrine, but due to his conversion experience Augustine became sensitized to God’s grace and the full implication of it in Scripture. His main rival was Pelagius, but even before Pelagius, he had developed some serious thoughts concerning the human situation:

  • He stressed that Adam began life truly free
  • Adam’s only limitations were those imposed inherently by the nature of humanity. This meant that there was, for instance the possibility of change which could include turning away from good.
  • When he sinned, his nature became tainted
  • He was now inclined toward evil and passed on this propensity to his descendants
  • As a result humanities’ freedom to abstain from evil and do good has been lost. This is not to say that freedom is gone, but rather that we invariably use that freedom to choose ways contrary to the good.
  • We therefore are powerless, without divine assistance, to choose good and do it.

 

Pelagius (a British monk, although doubtfully so, was a moral teacher, rather than a theologian, and opposed Augustine) His concerns were:

  • that people live as virtuously as possible
  • he considered Augustine’s emphasis on the extreme corruption of human nature and human inability to be (i) demoralizing to any genuine human effort at righteous living and (ii) insulting to God
  • God made humans different to all other creatures in their not being subject to the laws of nature i.e. They have freedom of choice
  • Humans must use this choice to fulfil God’s purposes.

 

His theology thus developed to state:

  • Each person enters the world with no bias towards evil
  • Adams fall has no direct effect on each persons ability to do good or evil, because God created each person as an individual directly and therefore does not inherit from Adam evil or the propensity towards it.
  • Surely a God who forgives each person his/her own sin would not hold us responsible for the actions of someone else
  • Adam’s major effect was therefore bad example. We do not inherit his corruption and guilt.
  • God does not exercise any special force on anyone to do the good. Grace is equally available to all persons.
  • This grace consists of free will, reason, law of Moses and example of Christ
  • Each person has equal opportunity to benefit from these graces and God does not make special choices of anyone to holiness
  • God’s predestining of persons is based entirely on foreseeing the quality of their lives
  • It is possible to live without sinning, because otherwise God would not have commanded ‘Be perfect as I am perfect’ (Matt 5:48)

 

 


APPENDIX 3 – HYPER-CALVINISM

 

This excerpt in its entirety was taken from Various Attempts to Reform Calvinism (http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/reforms.html)

 

Hyper-Calvinism
Calvinism has frequently appeared in various forms, which are called hyper-Calvinism by critics of that version of doctrine, on the supposition that it is a corrupted form of Calvinism. Hyper-calvinism is not necessarily believed by anyone (indeed, it can’t be believed in all of its varieties); it is a label applied to any extrapolation of a point of calvinism which undermines the theological system, sometimes mistakenly attributed to Calvinism by critics. The name “hyper-Calvinism” is also applied to beyond-orthodox reform movements, which attempt to improve Calvinism by removing perceived inconsistencies. Many Calvinists may reject as deplorable and hyper-Calvinistic, and destructive to the Christian faith, such beliefs as:

  • that God is the source of sin and of evil
  • that God from all eternity has acted to irresistibly compel men toward sin and unbelief, just as he pursues those upon whom he desires to have mercy
  • that men have no will of their own, and secondary causes are of no effect
  • that the number of the elect at any time may be known by men
  • that it is wrong to evangelize
  • that assurance of election must be sought prior to repentance and faith
  • that men who have once sincerely professed belief are saved regardless of what they later do
  • that God has chosen some races of men and has rejected others
  • that the children of unbelievers dying in infancy are certainly damned
  • that God does not command everyone to repent
  • that the sacraments are not means of grace, but obstacles to salvation by faith alone.
  • that the true church is only invisible, and salvation is not connected with the visible church
  • that the Scriptures are intended to be interpreted by individuals only and not by the church.
  • that no government is to be obeyed which does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord, or that Biblical Law is its source of authority
  • that the grace of God does not work for the betterment of all men
  • that saving faith is equivalent to belief in the doctrine of predestination
  • that only Calvinists are Christians