Reformed Answers

by Third Millennium Ministries

 
 

Calvinism vs. Arminianism

Question
What are the basic differences between Calvinism and Arminianism?
Answer
Arminianism and Calvinism agree on many points of doctrine. The major differences between them are found in their doctrines of salvation. Arminianism arose as an objection to the traditional Calvinistic doctrines of salvation. The "Five Points of Calvinism" were drafted in response to the "Remonstrance" of the Arminians that contested the Calvinisitc doctrines of salvation.

Arminians hold some basic assumptions about man and God that differ from those held by Calvinists. Specifically, most Arminians believe that all men are capable of saving faith in and of themselves, and that saving faith is not caused by God. Wesleyan Arminains, do not believe that fallen man has this ability in and of himself. Rather, they believe that God graciously enables, but does not cause, all men to believe. The Arminian objection to Calvinism arose from these different basic assumptions.

Arminianism asserts the following points which Calvinism denies:

1. Man has not been so corrupted by the Fall that he is incapable of saving faith, or that he is incapable of responding positively to the gospel via his own free will.

2. God's election or predestination of certain individual to salvation was conditioned upon the faith that God foresaw in these people. Election was God's response to man's faith.

3. When Jesus died on the cross, he atoned for all the sins of every person in the human race. He did not secure salvation for anyone in particular.

4. The inward call of the Holy Spirit is given to all who hear the outward call of the gospel, that is, to all who hear the gospel proclaimed. Man is capable of resisting this inward call so that he rejects the gospel.

Some, but not all, Arminians also assert:

5. After having come to salvation through genuine saving faith, one may fall from grace and lose salvation.

The Five Points of Calvinism state the response of the Calvinistic system of doctrine to these five objections:

1. Man has been so corrupted by the Fall that he can neither savingly believe the gospel nor earn his salvation by works.

2. God elected certain men unto salvation simply on the basis of his good pleasure and in light of the atonement of Christ, without reference to foreseen faith in individuals.

3. Jesus' death on the cross atoned only for the sins of the elect, and it also secured their necessary salvation.

4. The inward call of the Holy Spirit is not made to all who hear the outward proclamation of the gospel. It is made only to the elect. This inward call cannot be resisted; all who receive the inward call come to saving faith.

5. God does not allow any true believer to fall from grace or lose salvation. Rather, he preserves all true believers, working in their hearts, thoughts and actions to keep them from turning from the gospel.

Both Arminians and Calvinists believe their views are taught in Scripture, but their interpretations of Scripture are affected by the assumptions about God and man that they bring with them as they read the Bible. This is true of everyone who reads the Bible -- what we already believe influences what we think the Bible says. At Third Millennium Ministries, our goal is to have the same assumptions that the biblical authors had. We believe that Calvnism accurately represents these assumptions.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.