The debate between Calvinism vs. Arminianism has lasted throughout the history of Protestant Christianity. Since the wide recognition of John Wesley, Arminianism spread like wild-fire among many Christian theologians. Even so, today we have leading Calvinists, such as Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. Michael Horton, and Dr. James White, who lead the way for the progression of historic Calvinism. While Classical Arminian theologians are on the other side, such as Dr. Roger Olson, Dr. Greg Boyd, and Dr. Michael Brown, discredit Calvinism and claim that there are harsh consequences to Calvinism.
Now, it is important to note that the debate of predestination vs. free will did not originate with Calvin and Arminius, or even Luther and Erasmus. The debate of whether God works out salvation through a libertarian will of man, or His own sovereign choice has lasted for centuries. However, the accusations against predestination are the same. The accusations and questions include, but are not limited to:
- What’s the point of being saved/of living if God decided everything?
- Why did God create people He knew would be damned?
- Calvinism makes God look immoral, and unjust.
- If Calvinism is true, then didn’t God create evil? (this is drawn from the conclusion that God ordains all things)
- What’s the point of human will?
Before discussing a much bigger issue that Arminianism has, it’s important to point out some general characteristics Arminians (not all Arminians have these character traits, but it’s definitely what they’re famous for):
- They tend to be people pleasers.
No matter what anyone tries to tell me, this is very true among a great a majority of Arminians. They tend to worry more about how someone might react to a theological idea, rather than whether or not his/her view is biblically sound.
- They tend to ignore contexts.
Many Arminians claim the same thing about Reformed Christians, but…when we see the Bible say predestined…we take it literally. If we see passages that aren’t consistent with our view, we don’t try to change what the Bible says, we change our view. (Also, it’s important to not we don’t tend to buy Jeremiah 29:11 coffee mugs…just saying.)
- They loathe the idea of control.
Part of the reason why I believe that Arminianism is so popular among Western countries is because of the idea of free will. People don’t want to lost independence and personal freedom. The idea of God controlling them is not only un-democratic, but “immoral”. What kind of God would ever dare to not let me decide what I want to do? (I say that with sarcasm.)
All this being said about Arminians, that’s why it makes sense for them to come against me, and other Calvinists, with their accusations. However, there is something that is far worse about Arminianism. Take Calvinism to it’s logical conclusion: God foreknew everything, and He is sovereign over all things. Take Arminianism to it’s logical conclusion: God has no idea what’s going on, and He is just riding this out and seeing how it goes.
This sounds far-fetched? Why did Arminius believe that God adds to the number of the elect, rather than believing that there is a sealed number (as stated in the Bible)? Why did John Wesley believe that God’s hands are powerless, unless they are released through the prayers of man? Why do Arminians say that Heaven is an open door, rather than what Jesus said about Heaven, that it is a narrow path? I believe that Arminians, either knowingly or unknowingly, have created an open door, but it is not to heaven. Arminianism is an open door to open theism. It is that simple.
The idea of free will basically states that God numbers His elect through the decision of a human being. If He forms His decision, based on the decision of another, then He can’t know what the person will choose. If God could know what the person will decide, then we must believe that God doesn’t act according to the free will of man, but based on His own will. If God knows that will of man, how can man’s will change God’s will, which He used to orchestrate the consequences of the man’s will? Mind blowing, confusing, and hard to follow…I know. But that’s what so confusing about Arminianism. How can God know anything?
The God we read of in the Bible is much different. When God called a young man by the name of Jeremiah to a prophetic ministry, God said to him in Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV), “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” God is active, and not just active, but He chooses the purpose, destiny, and calling of individuals.
The Bible speaks of something else in Revelation called the Book of Life. The Book of Life is the book that contains the names of all individuals that would be saved from God’s wrath. Now, if the Bible agreed with the Arminian point of view, then God must’ve written down the names as history went. After all, how can God know who would be saved? Not only that, how could God have even known what kind of name parents would give their child? Surely, God couldn’t have predestined someone to have a name like Cooter or Birtha! (I’m sorry I wanted to be a little sarcastic there.)
However, notice what the Bible says in Revelation 13:8 (ESV), concerning who would worship the beast, “…Everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb who was slain.” It is interesting how the Bible seems to say that the Book of Life had the names written down even before the world was made. Now, what else is interesting is this next verse from Revelation 20:12 (ESV), “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” If this book was written before the world was even created, how can a God who acts according to free will know what everyone did?
I believe there is a reason why John Wesley, Jacob Arminius, and Erasmus refused to discuss certain passages of Scripture. It is because they knew that their view was wrong. Arminians tend to think that their view doesn’t fall in to the category of Open Theism, when it absolutely does. To be an Arminian you have to ignore the passages that say God foreknew all things, that there is a Book of Life, that God predestined people to salvation, and God knows the hearts of man. To be an Arminian, you have to be thoroughly convinced that God acts based on how you act. In a sense, you have to believe that you control God, and that you somehow give God permission to do something.
Arminians are against Calvinism because they think that we believe God created evil (which isn’t true, and no where near the logical conclusion of our view). Calvinists are against Arminianism because Arminians hold to the view that God can be controlled, God is no better than a couch potato who let evil waltz through His door, and God doesn’t know who will be saved in the end (as John Wesley believed). I truly believe that if you are an Arminian who doesn’t believe in open theism, then you are one of two things: you are either confused, or you’re a bad Arminian.
Soli Deo Gloria.