Weekend Question: Calvinism & Arminianism

The term in-house debate is generally used of biblical beliefs that are not agreed upon en toto and have been discussed very passionately within the church. An age old debate that has surfaced time and time again is on the subject of predestination & election. The debate has been primarily amongst those who call themselves Calvinists and Arminians with a slightly modified version of these two views which I call 4-point Arminianism. Each view has significant implications with regards to the doctrine of salvation.

Calvinists would argue that God has predestined a certain number of individuals before the foundation of the world unto salvation and that man is totally dependant on God to save him because man has been so corrupted by the fall that he does not desire salvation. Men are brought to faith through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and God grants men faith & repentance. Calvinism summarizes its theology through the five points of Calvinism:

  • Total Depravity: This states that men are born in this world enslaved to sin and sin has affected their whole being including their will where they no inclination towards God or His gospel.
  • Unconditional Election: This states that from eternity past God has chosen a particular people to whom He will show favour especially through salvation. This election is not based upon anything within man, any good works or even an autonomous faith.
  • Limited Atonement: This view is also called Particular Redemption in which Christ’s death is particular and definite. Christ’s death actually accomplishes what it set out to do and is effective for the elect.
  • Irresistible Grace: This is the idea that God’s grace overcomes the rebellious will of the sinner and where God grants the sinner faith & repentance through the Holy Spirit.
  • Perseverance of the Saints: This is the teaching that those who are the elect will persevere to the end because it is God’s persevering in them and hence they are secure in God.

To summarize all this, Salvation is the work of God and God alone.

Arminians see salvation as cooperation between man & God for the salvation of souls. All men have the ability to choose for God and Christ died potentially for all men equally. The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of their sin and men must exercise their free will in an autonomous sense in faith towards Christ. The Arminian theology can also be summarized with five points:

  • Human Free Will: This is the view that man has a sinful nature due to the fall yet still possesses the capacity to believe in Christ and sin has not totally corrupted man.
  • Conditional Election: This is the view that God’s election is based upon the active working of His foreknowledge in order to see into the future and know who will finally believe on His Son.
  • Universal Atonement: This is the doctrine that states that Christ’s death was universal and hence meant for all mankind equally.
  • Prevenient Grace: This is the understanding that God’s grace is never “irresistible” and that is can always be rejected under any circumstance. Arminians still see the necessity of grace in helping man.
  • Falling from Grace: This point states that men who have received Christ can fall from grace at any time and salvation is dependant on the faithfulness of the individual.

To summarize all this, Salvation is the cooperative work of God and man.

4-point arminianism is very similar to  Arminianism but has some one differing point that sets it apart. The big difference between the two is that 4-point arminianism would affirm a modified version of the 5th point of Calvinism in that they believe in a form of eternal security. Once an individual has placed his faith in Christ then there is nothing that can cause to fall away. The vast majority of evangelicals today hold to this view.

We would like to know where you stand. Your comments are welcomed!

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