Two views, Calvinism and Arminianism, have so taken hold of the Christian faith, that we would find a debate that has lasted for centuries. When Calvin penned His view of human depravity, predestination, and grace in a book entitled Institutes of the Christian Religion, he angered the Catholics and many Christian sects. When Arminius penned His view of free will, conditional election, and grace, he angered some Catholics as well (not most), but not the way He would anger Calvinists. People always assume that since then, Christianity has never been the same, and that Calvinism vs. Arminianism has become the biggest debate in Evangelicalism since the 16th century.
Strange as it may seem however, it isn’t true that the debate between Calvinism and Armianianism started during the Reformation era, but rather it began much further back. These men were simply devoted to the Scriptures, theological studies, and writing. They had to have read on the people of the past and their views, maybe even adopting what they had believed and popularized it. Before Calvin, there were many people who taught predestination. Before Arminius, most of what was called Christianity (though a huge portion of it was Catholic) held to the view of free will and conditional election.
So, knowing this debate has been ongoing from historical accounts, from sermon transcripts of the past, and from word of mouth, we need to ask ourselves one question: is Calvinism vs. Arminianism a discussion worthy of a Christian’s time? A better question, and possibly more straightforward, is this: is this a primary issue or a secondary issue? Up until the 1900s, people viewed the debate as of high importance, and theologians believed it was a primary issue. Charles Spurgeon, a Calvinist minister, has gone on record that he believed that Calvinism was just a nickname for the true gospel. John Wesley, the most famous Arminianism in Christianity, believed that any view apart from free will was to believe in the doctrine of demons. Fast forward to today, and all of a sudden we have come to believe that these men were too extreme, but were they?
We can’t ignore one simple fact, and that is that the two views are fundamentally different. Calvinism is founded upon a presupposition that man is morally corrupt and cannot save himself, thus the only way for man to be saved is for God to predestine people to salvation. On the other side, Arminianism is very different. Armianianism is founded upon a presupposition that man fell to sin, but can still make good choice; thus, mankind, when presented with the right choices, can do good things. Calvinism says Jesus died only for the elect, and Armianianism states that Jesus died for all people (even for the people that went to hell…yeah). Calvinism believes God’s love never fails, and Arminians believe it can. Calvinism believes that an elect child of God would persevere in the faith, and Arminianism believes that a child of God could lose salvation in any moment.
…How can people honestly say these two views are two sides of the same coin? They aren’t at all. They’re so far removed from each other that it is almost unbelievable. You almost want to believe it is a joke, but the real joke here is when people say that the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism is a secondary issue. One of the biggest mistakes of modern evangelicals is that we have come to believe that Christology (the study of Christ and His work) and soteriology (the study of salvation) are not paired in any way. It is by knowing Christology that we can understand soteriology, and yet we don’t believe finding a biblical theology for how we’re saved is of one of the highest priorities. How can we say that? Is it not a primary issue to discuss how one is saved and how one came to Christ? That doesn’t make sense to the atheists I have talked to, to many theologians, and to myself. I would say that soteriology is not just a primary issue, but that there is a wrong and right answer.
It is no secret that The Reformed Alliance is…well…reformed. We hold to the Doctrines of Grace, but I am what many people might call an extreme Calvinist. I have angered so many Arminians with my views that I feel if it was legal, I would have been stoned by now. However, I strongly urge everyone to study their Scriptures, and once they do they will come to find that there is no compromise between these two views. You can’t believe that Calvinism and Arminianism can both be biblical. That is simply impossible. Both are completely contradictory to each other. There can only be one true, biblical, and sound soteriological view.
Now, people avoid this debate, and people think it is not important, but Arminianism was cause for me to hate Christianity, especially since I was brought up in an anti-Calvinist environment. At one point as a kid, I remember hearing a preacher say that Calvinism was an idea that came from the pits of hell. I was taught God didn’t hate sinners, wasn’t crazy for justice, and that He was all lovey-wovey. The worst part was when I learned that God loved and died for everyone. I thought, “What kind of cruel, immoral God loves the people that He punishes?” I likened God to an abusive father.
However, when I came back to the true faith, I discovered Calvinism a few months after. Everything changed. Only a month before discovering Calvinism, I had read the entirety of the Bible. I read the entire New Testament once to try to prove to my friend that predestination was no where in there, but I was dead wrong. So, I naturally looked up Calvinism on google. Strangely enough, I had just read the entirety of the Bible, and Calvinism was the most biblical view that I had found. It still is the most biblical view of soteriology. I truly believe for someone to be an Arminian you have to depart from the Bible, or ignore the verses that speak on radical depravity, election, and irresistible grace.
Now, am I saying Arminians can’t be saved? Am I saying there shouldn’t be discussions? Am I say that Arminianism is a false gospel. No and no, but yes. Arminians, like any Christians, are saved by the grace of God, not by their theology. There should be plenty of discussions on this matter with great fear of God, and reverence for His Word. However, it is clear to me, and to many Reformed theologians of the past, that Arminianism is a false gospel. I will write on this more extensively on Friday, as this post was only supposed to give a brief introduction to a major discussion. One thing is certain, to believe that both can be right is absurd, and this is definitely a primary issue. I encourage every believer to study the Scriptures and test my words. See if Calvinism doesn’t state what the Scriptures state, and whether or not Arminianism is based on humanism more than the Word of God.
Soli Deo Gloria.