Friday, May 21, 2010

What are the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism, and can't I just call myself a Christian? Part 1

Greetings all in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I apologize for not posting recently, either here or on my tech blog "A Mouse In Every Hand", ( , but for those of you who know me personally, I have been quite busy, and I like to put some substance into my blogs, so you know that they are not just the rantings and ravings of a man with a computer and no life.

I have recently discovered a Pastor named Francis Chan, who Pastors a church in Simi Valley, California. (For those interested, his website is: Now at first glance, judging by the size of his church and his informal style of preaching, I, (incorrectly I believe) assumed him to be Arminian in his form of theology, as opposed to Calvinistic. I say this because I read the "Eternity Bible College" Statement of Faith (see here: I bring him up because I was just listening to a review of his book "Crazy Love" by the Reformed Forum, and their thoughts on him, and I got to thinking about what we call ourselves these days in regards to out faith. Personally, I am beginning to hate both of those terms, because although I firmly am opposed Arminian beliefs, I almost hate to call my self a "Calvinist", because I do not follow John Calvin. I follow Jesus Christ. I will tell you what I mean...

There are basically two major schools of thought regarding Salvation; Arminianism and Calvinism. I say basically two, because there are those who pervert both beliefs, and are hybrids of both. But for now, I will focus on only the major tenets of these two main belliefs.

As you probably already guessed, these two schools of thought are named after the theologians who made them popular; Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609), and John Calvin (Middle French: Jean Cauvin) (1509–1564). As you can see by dates that they lived, they were not contemporaries of each other. They lived during the times of the Reformation of the Church approx 500 years ago.

Now, I will not go over both doctrines in this post, I will only begin with Arminianism. I begin with Arminianism because between Arminianism and Calvinism as they're broken down into "5 points", it actually came first. Although Calvin lived first, Jacobus Arminius wrote against what Calvin taught. I will elaborate more about this in my conclusion. My next post, in a few days, will go over Calvinism, and then I will conclude on a third post (hopefully)! The reason I do this is I want all of my readers to examine each of the beliefs against Scripture. We should all get our beliefs straight from the bible, not because "so-and-so" taught us, but what does the Bible say? What does God say about all this? Both belief systems are broken down into "5 points", and so here are the Five Points of Arminianism:

(The following material, taken from "Romans: an Interpretive outline", by David N. Steele and Curtis Thomas, Baptist ministers in Little Rock, Arkansas, contrasts the Five Points of Calvinism with the Five Points of Arminianism in the clearest and most concise form that I have found anywhere. Each of these books is published by the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Phillipsburg, N.J.)

1. Free-Will or Human Ability

Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does not interfere with man's freedom. Each sinner posses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man's freedom consists of his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God's Spirit and be regenerated or resist God's grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit's assistance, but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man's act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner's gift to God; it is man's contribution to salvation.

2. Conditional Election

God's choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world was based upon His foreseeing that they would respond to His call. He selected only those whom He knew would of themselves freely believe the gospel. Election therefore was determined by or conditioned upon what man would do. The faith which God foresaw and upon which He based His choice was not given to the sinner by God (it was not created by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit) but resulted solely from man's will. It was left entirely up to man as to who would believe and therefore as to who would be elected unto salvation. God chose those whom He knew would, of their own free will, choose Christ. Thus the sinner's choice of Christ, not God's choice of the sinner, is the ultimate cause of salvation.

3. Universal Redemption or General Atonement

Christ's redeeming work made it possible for everyone to be saved but did not actually secure the salvation of anyone. Although Christ died for all men and for every man, only those who believe on Him are saved. His death enabled God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe, but it did not actually put away anyone's sins. Christ's redemption becomes effective only if man chooses to accept it.

4. The Holy Spirit Can Be Effectually Resisted

The Spirit calls inwardly all those who are called outwardly by the gospel invitation; He does all that He can to bring every sinner to salvation. But inasmuch as man is free, he can successfully resist the Spirit's call. The Spirit cannot regenerate the sinner until he believes; faith (which is man's contribution) proceeds and makes possible the new birth. Thus, man's free will limits the Spirit in the application of Christ's saving work. The Holy Spirit can only draw to Christ those who allow Him to have His way with them. Until the sinner responds, the Spirit cannot give life. God's grace, therefore, is not invincible; it can be, and often is, resisted and thwarted by man.

5. Falling from Grace

Those who believe and are truly saved can lose their salvation by failing to keep up their faith, etc.

All Arminians have not been agreed on this point; some have held that believers are eternally secure in Christ - that once a sinner is regenerated, he can never be lost.

According to Arminianism:

Salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God (who takes the initiative) and man (who must respond) - man's response being the determining factor. God has provided salvation for everyone, but His provision becomes effective only for those who, of their own free will, "choose" to cooperate with Him and accept His offer of grace. At the crucial point, man's will plays a decisive role; thus man, not God, determines who will be recipients of the gift of salvation.

Until next time, read your Bible!!! May the Lord bless all who read this and may you truly know the Risen Lord Jesus Christ and may He truly know you. Thanks for reading.

Soli Deo Gloria

Michael Lee Merriman

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