The Salvation Debate- Calvinism and Arminianism
Calvinism and Arminianism are two different systems of theology that attempt to explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. What differentiates these views is the issue of free will and whether people have any as compared to God’s will. Some people claim that God’s will supersedes human will in all situations if God’s will is different. On the other hand, some people claim God created man with free will and He would not intervene. However, there are those who do not believe man was created with free will and the sovereignty of God causes everything to occur. The Scripture teaches both the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. It appears unconditional in some places and conditional in other. Although, both systems are based on the Word of God, and both contain truth, neither system can be substituted for reading and believing the Word of God.
The doctrine of Calvinism was started from the teachings of John Calvin, a French reformer (1509-1564). The doctrine of Arminianism was started from the teachings of Jacobus Hermann (1560-1609), known by the Latin form last name, Arminius. Trained in the reformed tradition; Arminius had doubt about the doctrine of “sovereign grace” as taught by the followers of John Calvin. He was a Calvinist until the day he was forced to defend his beliefs and found that his opponent could competently defend his views against Calvinism. This encounter caused Arminius “to modify Calvinism so that ‘God might not be considered the author of sin, nor man an automation in the hands of God.’”
The Five Points of Calvinism, also known as “TULIP” will be compared and contrasted with the “Five Point of Arminianism.”
1. Calvinism- Total Depravity vs. Arminianism- Free Will
“There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God” (Roman 3:11) would best explain the Calvinism view of total depravity. The inherent sinful nature of man hinders his desire to seek God. Calvinist believed that man is in bondage to sin and unable to exercise his own free will to trust in Jesus. Free will does not refer to man saving himself but rather when prompt by the Holy Spirit, he may chose to seek God. Arminius believed that the fall of man was not total, maintaining that there was enough good left in man for him to freely and willfully accept Jesus unto salvation.
2. Calvinism- Unconditional Election vs. Arminiumism- Conditional Election The Calvinist believed that foreknowledge is based upon the plan and the purpose of God, and that election is not based upon the decision of man but the “free will’ of the Creator alone. God selects who is going to be saved. Regardless of what the person may want, He will save them despite of themselves. Acts 9:8 recounts Paul’s experience. He persecuted the people of God and became blind on the road to Damascus. The Arminius believed that election was based on the foreknowledge of God as to who would believe. Man’s “act of faith” was seen as the “condition” or his elected to eternal life. Since God foresaw him exercising his “free will” in response to Jesus Christ. God knows how a person will react to the gospel before it is presented to them. God does not force His will on man but rather God knew they would be saved. Paul would become a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, for which God elected him and never forced this task upon him.
3. Calvinism- Limited Atonement vs. Arminiumism- Universal Atonement The Calvinist believed that Jesus Christ died not for the sins of the entire world, but that He died only for those that He elected to go to heaven. Therefore, all for whom He did not die (the non-elect) will be lost. Arminius held that redemption was based on the fact that God loves everyone, that Christ died for everyone, and that the Father is not willing to have anyone perish (John 3:16). The death of Jesus Christ provided the grounds for God to save all men,...
Bibliography: Fudge, Edward. “What Calvinism and Arminianism Have in Common.” Apr. 27, 1992.
Schaff, Philip. “History of the Christian Church.” New York, Charles Schibner’s & Son, 1910,
Sell, Alan P.F. “The Great Debate: Calvinism, Arminianism and Salvation.” Grand Rapids:
Spencer, Duane Edward. “TULIP: The Five Points of Calvinism in the Light of Scripture.”
Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979.
Arminianism (Jacobus Arminius). "Columbia Encyclopedia." Encyclopedia Britannica.
Britannica Online. Jun. 20, 2010.
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