Calvinism and Arminianism are two different systems of theology that attempt to explain the relationship between God's sovereignty and man's free will. What differentiates these views is the issue of free will and whether people have any as compared to God's will. Some people claim that God's will supersedes human will in all situations if God's will is different. On the other hand, some people claim God created man with free will and He would not intervene. However, there are those who do not believe man was created with free will and the sovereignty of God causes everything to occur. The Scripture teaches both the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. It appears unconditional in some places and conditional in other. Although, both systems are based on the Word of God, and both contain truth, neither system can be substituted for reading and believing the Word of God.
The doctrine of Calvinism was started from the teachings of John Calvin, a French reformer (1509-1564). The doctrine of Arminianism was started from the teachings of Jacobus Hermann (1560-1609), known by the Latin form last name, Arminius. Trained in the reformed tradition; Arminius had doubt about the doctrine of "sovereign grace" as taught by the followers of John Calvin. He was a Calvinist until the day he was forced to defend his beliefs and found that his opponent could competently defend his views against Calvinism. This encounter caused Arminius "to modify Calvinism so that 'God might not be considered the author of sin, nor man an automation in the hands of God.'" In attempting to defend Calvinistic, Arminius began to doubt aspects of Calvinism and modified some parts of his own view. He attempted to reform Calvinism, and lent his name to a movement -- Arminianism -- which resisted some of the Calvinist tenets (unconditional predestination, limited atonement). Arminius taught of a "preventing" (or prevenient) grace that has been conferred upon all by the holy spirit and this grace is "sufficient for belief, in spite of our sinful corruption, and thus for salvation." Arminius stated that "the grace sufficient for salvation is conferred on the Elect, and on the Non-elect; that, if they will, they may believe or not believe, may be saved or not be saved." The theology of Arminianism did not become fully developed during Arminius' lifetime, but after his death (1609) the Five articles of the Remonstrants (1610) systematized and formalized the ideas. The Five Points of Calvinism, also known as "TULIP" will be compared and contrasted with the "Five Point of Arminianism."
1. Calvinism- Total Depravity vs. Arminianism- Free Will
"There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God" (Roman 3:11) would best explain the Calvinism view of total depravity. The inherent sinful nature of man hinders his desire to seek God. Calvinist believed that man is in bondage to sin and unable to exercise his own free will to trust in Jesus. Free will does not refer to man saving himself but rather when prompt by the Holy Spirit, he may chose to seek God. Arminius believed that the fall of man was not total, maintaining that there was enough good left in man for him to freely and willfully accept Jesus unto salvation. The doctrine of total depravity was affirmed by the Five articles of Remonstrance and by Jacobus Arminius himself, and John Wesley, who strongly identified with Arminius through publication of his periodical The Arminian, also advocated a strong doctrine of inability. Some Reformed theologians have mistakenly used the term "Arminianism" to include some who hold the Semipelagian doctrine of limited depravity, which allows for an "island of righteousness" in human hearts that is uncorrupted by sin and able to accept God's offer of salvation without a special dispensation of grace. Although Arminius and Wesley both vehemently rejected this view, it has sometimes inaccurately been lumped together with theirs (particularly by Calvinists) because of other similarities in their respective systems such as conditional election, unlimited atonement, and prevenient grace. In particular, prevenient grace is seen in many of these systems as giving humans the freedom to follow God.
2. Calvinism- Unconditional Election vs. Arminiumism- Conditional Election
The Calvinist believed that foreknowledge is based upon the plan and the purpose of God, and that election is not based upon the decision of man but the "free will' of the Creator alone. God selects who is going to be saved. Regardless of what the person may want, He will save them despite of themselves. Acts 9:8 recounts Paul's experience as he persecutes the people of God and became blind on the road to Damascus. The Arminius believed that election was based on the foreknowledge of God as to who would believe. Man's "act of faith" was seen as the "condition" or his elected to eternal life. Since God foresaw him exercising his "free will" in response to Jesus Christ. God knows how a person will react to the gospel before it is presented to them. God does not force His will on man but rather God knew they would be saved. Paul would become a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, for which God elected him and never forced this task upon him. The doctrine of conditional election derives from the view that Jesus's death on the cross was for "all" humanity, not just the elect (a Calvinist view called limited atonement). Arminians and others who oppose unconditional election take it to be impossible for God to elect particular individuals, and then declare that the gospel is available to all, because of the question which then arises: does limited atonement offer a true call to salvation or is it only for the elect? Calvinism does not account for the many Biblical verses that declare that the gospel is available to all humanity. Arminians wrongfully answered with conditional election: God looked from eternity and foresaw who called on Jesus to be saved, and these people are those to whom He is referring, when speaking of the elect. In other words, when the Gospel is preached, every person has a real opportunity to believe, repent and receive forgiveness not just the elect. This, of course, is untrue, due to lack of Scripture in context to support it. It is true that Jesus died for the sins of the world. This does not mean that he died for everyone in the world, but for the sins of the physical world. It implies it defeated death and sin once and for all, but does not state that his death was for every human being. His substitutionary sacrifice was power enough to be for everyone, but it is only effecious for the elect.
3. Calvinism- Limited Atonement vs. Arminiumism- Universal Atonement
The Calvinist believed that Jesus Christ died not for the sins of the entire world, but that He died only for those that He elected to go to heaven. Therefore, all for whom He did not die (the non-elect) will be lost. Arminius held that redemption was based on the fact that God loves everyone, that Christ died for everyone, and that the Father is not willing to have anyone perish (John 3:16). The death of Jesus Christ provided the grounds for God to save all men, but each man must exercise his own "free will" in order to be saved. Unlimited atonement is contrasted with the Calvinist doctrine of Limited atonement. In many ways, at their core, the Arminian concept of Unlimited atonement and the Calvinist concept of Limited atonement are very similar, differing primarily in the presuppositions that come from their respective views on election & predestination.
4. Calvinism- Irresistible Grace vs. Arminiumism- Prevenient Grace
Calvinist believed that God possesses irresistible grace that cannot be rejected. God will draw Himself to those whom He elected regardless of their rebellion against Him, even before expressing faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. Arminius believed that since God wanted all men to be saved, the work of the Holy Spirit helps the believer respond to the Gospel. When a person is prompted for salvation, he can chose to reject God's call. God knocks on the door; it is our choice to open the door to our heart (Matthew 7:7). In short, Arminius affirmed total depravity but believed that only prevenient grace allowed people to choose salvation, "Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace.... This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain."
5. Calvinism- Perseverance of the Saints vs. Arminiumism- Falling from Grace
Calvinist believed that salvation is entirely the work of God, and that man has absolutely nothing to do with the process. The saints will persevere because God will ensure He completes the work He had begun. True born again…