What??? You are a calvinist? You follow Calvin?
I dont follow men. I just believe the bible! I am not a calvinist or arminian!
Heard this so many times. A Christian encounters another christian and if he identifies himself as falling into either camp he is immediately accosted as being a man-follower.
I dont think that is a helpful approach. If it were so that everyone who falls within the arminian camp is just following Jacobus arminius to heaven, then yeah, we might have a problem. But the terms are not meant to imply that we are following the dude who has the misfortune of being named therein. They are simply terms for a set of beliefs.
For example, there are not many christians I know who would object to being placed within the conservative camp. This is a term our culture uses to describe a person of certain convictions. The terms Calvinist and Arminian are the same. They merely refer to a set of beliefs.
I think it is high time I clearly and succinctly laid out the major diffs between those two camps. Just a note for those that care: I am trying to represent the popular arminianism on the street and not classical arminianism. I do the same for calvinism.
1. The Depravity of Man
Calvinism: That mankind is so dead in trespasses and sins, hating the God that made him and loving the evil that enslaves him, that he has no will to repent and turn to God.
Arminianism: That man is indeed wicked and in rebellion to God but not so much as to render repentance impossible. Man can exercise their free will, before regeneration, to choose to follow God.
2. The Election of God
Calvinism: That God has before the foundation of the world chosen those that will be saved and comprise His church. He does so without regarding any works that we have done. Nothing in man affects His choice; it is according to His good pleasure.
Arminianism: That God chooses to save based upon His foreknowledge. Meaning He looks down the corridors of time and, seeing a man repent and put His faith in Christ, elects to save that man.
3. The Atonement of Christ
Calvinism: That Christ, on the cross, died to save His bride. He is the savior of the world universally in that He is the only way to be saved. But His death only cleared the wrath of God for His elect.
Arminianism: That on the cross Christ died for the world, making salvation possible for any man who places his faith in that atonement.
4. The Call of God
Calvinism: That when God regenerates a soul that He has chosen, bringing it out of darkness and into light, His grace will not be resisted but that soul will now of its own free will repent and live for Him.
Arminianism: That God is at work in the hearts of all men, convicting and drawing, yet this is resisted by men all the time. His drawing does not always end in rebirth and repentance but often in the man repulsing God and going his own way.
5. The Perseverance of the Saints
Calvinism: That those the Father has called, the Son has died for and the Spirit has regenerated, will be preserved by the grace of God and presented holy and blameless before Christ’s throne.
Arminianism: That those that are saved must continue to seek and serve God else they will lose their salvation. It is necessary to continue in the faith to be accepted by God. Consistent rebellion will ultimately end in being cut off by God.
If you are like me, when you first read those you thought, Hey, aren’t those just two sides to the same coin? Cant these beliefs be fit together? How do they contradict?
But upon a deeper look we can see that there are deep rifts between the two camps. Now, not everything i listed is necessarily denied by the opposing camp. It is just believed in an extremely different sense.
I think i will go thru those five points and demonstrate exactly what the core of the difference is.
1. Here the core issue is: How far the fall? Either the fall so radically corrupted man that he cannot come to God because he hates Him, or man can of his own free will, before regeneration come to God. Regeneration is a crucial difference that we have not spoken of. Will try to do so in a future post. The calvinist asserts that man cannot come to God without being regenerated first. The arminian says, sure God draws men but does not regenerate until after repentance and faith.
2. The distinction here is straightforward. God elects with no consideration to the deeds of man or He chooses based upon His foreknowledge of man’s repentance. The calvinist will often blame the arminian of putting works in salvation. This is because the calvinist places such an emphasis on God’s not choosing based on us that he sees the foreknowledge view as being a works salvation. You do this and then God saves you. I think both sides talk past each other here. The arminian does not think His work merits salvation but that it is the necessary precondition of the heart for God to dwell there with him.
3. Wow. This is the one where most people get hotheaded and punches start flying. The arminian will point to all the verses with the whosoever’s, all’s and world’s and say that Christ clearly died for everyone universally. They see the calvinist as limiting the atonement and twisting the cross. Because the calvinist sees the cross as saving everyone that it was intended for he accuses the arminian of limiting the power of the cross because the whole world is not saved. The calvinist see the point of the all’s, whosoever’s and world’s as pointing to something very different. They address the constant struggle to show the jews that salvation is to every people, tongue, tribe and nation and not at all meant to be interpreted in a universal individual sense.
4. We hit on regeneration once again. Here the arminian will contend that God may be working to draw a man and that man turn away and reject salvation and be finally damned. The calvinist says that all those God draws will come to Him. They will be finally saved.
5. The calvinist thinks that God stays by the side of a new believer to such an extent that He guides the man or woman thru all of life and that believer will not depart from the faith. God will preserve them. The arminian believes that if a man walks in sin for a time and continues in it he can lose his salvation and be finally damned. Perseverance is necessary for salvation. That is agreed on by both camps.
Well this has gone on too long but only scratched the surface. I will try to hit on regeneration, the eternal purposes of God and free will in future posts.
Hope this has been helpful.