Understanding Calvinism and Arminianism
By Pastor Tony Butler
The subject of Calvinism vs. Arminianism that I will be addressing in this paper has been debated, argued, and unfortunately at times has been used of the enemy to cause division and animosity between God’s people. Though this subject has potential to be divisive, it also has the potential to be used by God to bring us all into a deeper understanding of God’s heart and sovereignty. As a pastor I love to study the Word of God and diligently attempt to rightly divide it. I try to maintain a spirit of humility realizing that I am a finite man who is delving into the eternal mind of God and that I am quite capable of misunderstanding and error. There are others like me in the body of Christ that have the same heart for truth and profess the same humility but come to different conclusions than myself.
As a pastor, I think I owe it to my people to give them a general understanding of an important subject and to inform them of my point of view and hopefully be a blessing.
A General Overview Of Calvinism and Arminianism
This paper is intended to help our congregation understand the long standing difference between two theological positions concerning the initiation, process, and the completion of salvation. I will present two views that explore how the relationship between the divine and human will interact concerning salvation. Because the Bible is the Word of God, we are commanded to study it and rightly divide it (II Tim. 2:15).
Much of what is taught by men from the bible is derived from certain scriptural understandings which are used to build a foundational theological philosophy. The theological philosophy is produced by systematizing scripture thematically. For instance, if I study all the verses in the bible as to what God says about faith, my next step is to make certain observations and deductions about the subject of faith as to what is, how it works, and how it can be achieved and so on. The truths that have been learned are then systematized into doctrinal teachings. The systemization of theology is good but there can be some inherent problems.
Once any theological system is established there is always a tendency to look through the lens of that system with presupposed bias which may not be completely correct. Such bias can lead to proof texting to prove a point rather than exegeting (seeing what the scripture actually says) all scripture within context. This tendency to be bias and prejudice opposing texts that don’t conform to one’s preconceived theological system is in all bible teachers to a certain degree. This truth alone should keep us all humble and willing to admit this human propensity.
The study of objective biblical truth can produce a “dogmatic knowing” within oneself that assures the person that he is right. I have no problem with anyone telling me they are right and I am wrong. Frankly, I prefer that over people who say no one can know the truth. We can know the truth, but we may not know it perfectly. We may see through glass darkly but we can still see through it. I have great appreciation for dogmatism among mature believers that is tempered with speaking their understanding in love. Only God knows the heart, but I pray that somehow God might help us to get past our theological biases where they may exist and come into a fuller and more truthful understanding of His Word. This is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit, Who alone can open the eyes of our understanding. For this reason we must all wait patiently on God’s precious work in the heart and mind of each believer, regardless of where they are in their Christian walk.
When one is confronted with Calvinism and Arminianism there is no end of personal testimonies that are given that are used to support a chosen point of view. I must admit I am very un-impressed by personal testimonies among evangelicals concerning changed theological views. I have heard Baptists who have become Charismatics, Charismatics who became Presbyterians, Presbyterians that became Baptists, Calvinists gone Arminian, and Arminian gone Calvinists etc. Such testimonies produce every kind of story you can imagine. Each story teller has a tendency to say, “God showed Me” by one means or another. Some people declare they have been shown subjectively while others declare they discovered a thing objectively. To all the above I have only one thing to say, “Let God be true and every man a liar”.
I pray every person will come into the declaration of their beliefs with holy and reverent humility. Truth can be known and someone will be right. Even a clock that doesn’t work is right two times a day. Over the years I have studied a lot on this subject. I have dear brothers on each side of the equation that I love and respect very much. Men and women of both persuasions have been used greatly of God throughout the centuries. As a beloved systematic theology professor I had in Bible College once said, “If God can speak through an ass, He can speak through anyone”. Therefore, regardless of our personal persuasions and regardless of our dogmatism, let us be even more dogmatic in forbearing love until faith becomes sight. If we have not love for one another while we are all trying to come to a greater understanding of God and His Word then we are nothing more than self-serving, puffed up noise makers causing division in the body of Christ (I Cor. 13) resulting in every kind of evil to spew up in the church. (James 3:16)
May God grant us wisdom when choosing the hill on which we are willing to fight and die on in our stand for biblical truth. For myself, I refuse to condemn, banish, punish, and verbally castigate those that see the scripture differently than me in non-salvific areas. By God’s grace may we all happily defend our points of view but never to the point of walking away from love and being divisive causing shame to the name of Christ.
Millions of Christians believe man has no active part in salvation at all and credits everything to a sovereign God who merely chose some to salvation and did not choose others. They believe that the decision for salvation is determined by God solely out of His sovereign grace apart from any human volition. Adherents of this view see only one effectual “will” in regards to salvation, and that is God’s will. They teach the human will has no determining factor in the decision for salvation at all. Those that have accepted this view believe it sets forth the highest view of God and brings Him the greatest glory because of His sovereign grace. Any other view in their sight is a minimization of that grace which makes God smaller than He actually is. This view of God and salvation is commonly held within a theological system called, “Calvinism”. I will write on all the tenets of Calvinism in much greater detail farther along.
On the other hand there are millions of Christians that believe that salvation is a co-operation between two wills, God’s and man’s. God is seen as a sovereign God calling the whole world to salvation by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit which requires a man to exercise his will to accept or to reject the salvation being offered. They believe it is their own will that effects the experience of personal salvation by a proper response to God. People who accept this view also place a high view of God’s grace by exalting His love that gives anyone an opportunity to be saved. They do not see their view as minimizing God but see it as bringing God great glory because of His love for all men and His desire to see all men saved rather than just a chosen few. This understanding of God’s salvation is commonly held within a theological system called, "Arminianism”. I will give a greater theological basis for the tenets of this view farther along as well.
As a pastor I have never liked to be labeled anything but a Biblicist; that is to say, one who merely studies the bible and came to my own conclusion concerning doctrine. I do not consider myself a Calvinist or an Arminian because Calvin and Arminius both taught things with which I disagree. These two men who popularized the two opposing views above probably saw themselves as Biblicists as well. The names of Calvin and Arminius have come to be identified with Calvinism and Arminianism, to the extent it impossible to speak on this subject without being labeled by one of their names. If I must be labeled by one theological system or the other I would clearly be labeled by Calvinists as being in the Arminian camp though I don't see myself as such. Regardless of what one calls himself/herself the fact remains every studious believer will come to a particular conviction of scripture concerning the sovereignty of God and man’s will concerning salvation.
A Tad of History
In the later 1500s and early 1600s during the Reformation, Calvinism and Arminianism came into prominence as the protestant church broke loose from the chains of Papal Rome. A French Theologian by the name of John Calvin (1504-1564) moved to Geneva, Switzerland and wrote a theological work intended to help people understand God and salvation. That work has been studied and cherished by millions and is called “Institutes of the Christian Religion”. Out of this work sprang forth the basic tenets of what is called “Calvinism” today. Calvin also wrote commentaries on almost every book of the bible. (http://www.ccel.org/search/books/Calvin?p=2) ( I encourage anyone who seriously wants to study “Calvinism” at its source to read “Institutes of The Christian Religion”)
Towards the end of Calvin’s life there arose a Dutch theologian by the name of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) who disagreed with Calvin’s view of divine sovereignty and salvation. Jacobus had been a staunch Calvinist himself but saw its errors and tried to reform certain aspects of Calvin’s teachings but to no avail. Jacobus refuted Calvin’s teachings because he believed that it made God more like an evil tyrant than a benevolent gracious God. His works have been placed into three volumes which is a treasure drove of reading. (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius?show=worksBy)
After Arminius’s death his followers compiled his teachings into five basic tenets called “The Remonstrance” to refute the teachings of Calvin. This refutation stirred the Calvinistic community to defend the teachings of Calvin (This was done by Calvin’s followers, for Calvin was dead by this time).
The disagreement came to a climax by a calling for a special synod which was held in the Netherlands in a city called Dort. The synod produced canons that upheld the teachings of John Calvin. The five points of the “Remonstrance” was met with five counter points. The five points are famously known today by an acronym known as the “TULIP” of Calvinism. There is no certainty regarding the origin of the acronym, however, the five points of Calvinism were discussed before the popular rise of this acronym. Most people who call themselves “Calvinists” do so not because they have read Calvin or follow Calvin, but because they are in agreement with the five points of the TULIP.
The Arminians were condemned as heretics by the Calvinists at the “Council Of Dort” in 1618 which was a very political and one sided synod stacked against the Arminians. The result of the decision caused the condemnation and banishment of Arminian leaders from the Netherlands. The decision created great animosity between both sides which in some ways has crept its way to our day. Today in America, most evangelical churches do not adhere to the five points of Calvinism, however, at the time of the reformation Calvinism ruled the day among the evangelicals.
Thus, two primary schools of thought began to grow among the populace in the 1600’s which brought about much debate and division among believers. Today both schools of thought still exist and contain the names of the men that popularized them; Calvinism and Arminianism. Both schools are within the pale of orthodoxy but unfortunately all too often both views spew vile vitriol at one another. The reason for such vitriol is rooted deep in history and the sinfulness of human flesh. Each believer must guard against such tendencies
In the United States there is a resurgence of Calvinism that is moving across the country raising old questions and debates. If we are not careful I believe history will repeat itself by un-Christ like attitudes as the two schools of thought clash once again. It is my prayer as we look at these two theological systems that we maintain a proper Christ-like spirit. No one can force doctrine into the heart but rather one must be prayerful and trust God to enlighten people by the Spirit of God. (Eph. 1:17,18)
On June 2013, the Southern Baptist convention met on this very subject I am addressing. It potentially could have created an in-house uproar to split the largest evangelical denomination in the world. Below is an article in “Christianity Today” that reveals just how much vitriol was being spewed and the potential split among Southern Baptists on this issue.
The subject of Calvinism which is also called “The Reformed Tradition” is just now beginning to be addressed in the C&MA via “Reformed Theology”. There is some movement within the Alliance to allow ministers of “Reform Theology” to be a part of the Alliance denomination. Already it is evoking strong emotional outcries among pastors within the C&MA. With Reform Theology comes a strong Calvinistic approach to the scriptures. What is has happened in the Southern Baptist Convention is a distinct possibility for the Alliance in the not so distant future, if pastors of the “Reform Theology” persuasion are allowed into the denomination. This subject will be discussed at the 2015 National Council. Pray for the Southern Baptists and the Alliance that God’s Spirit will rule the day and not the vitriol of men.
Recognizing The Differences
Below is the Arminian Remonstrance and the Calvinist Tulip. Read them carefully and see the differences. As I develop the paper I will attempt to clearly represent the positions and ramifications of each theological position
1. Free Will or Human Ability
That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ's sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John iii. 36: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him," and according to other passages of Scripture also.
2. Conditional Election
That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins, except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John iii. 16: "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life"; and in the First Epistle of John ii. 2: "And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
3. Universal Redemption or General Atonement
That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John xv. 5: "Without me ye can do nothing."
4. The Holy Spirit Can be Effectually Resisted
That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of an good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without that prevenient or assisting, awakening, following, and co-operative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, in as much as it is written concerning many that they have resisted the Holy Ghost,—Acts vii, and elsewhere in many places.
5. Falling from Grace
That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ's hands, according to the word of Christ, John x. 28: "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before they can teach it with the full persuasion of their minds.
The Remonstrance was rejected by the very biased Synod of Dort . This was the system of thought contained in the "Remonstrance" (though the "five points" were not originally arranged in this order). It was submitted by the Arminians to the Church of Holland in 1610 for adoption but was rejected by the Synod of Dort in 1619 on the ground that it was unscriptural.
T= Total Inability or Total Depravity
Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform
U= Unconditional Election
The fact that some receive from God the gift of faith within time, and that others do not, stems from his eternal decision. For "all his works are known to God from eternity" (Acts 15:18; Ephesians 1:11). In accordance with this decision he graciously softens the hearts, however hard, of his chosen ones and inclines them to believe, but by his just judgment he leaves in their wickedness and hardness of heart those who have not been chosen. And in this especially is disclosed to us his act--unfathomable, and as merciful as it is just--of distinguishing between people equally lost. This is the well-known decision of election and reprobation revealed in God's Word. This decision the wicked, impure, and unstable distort to their own ruin, but it provides holy and godly souls with comfort beyond words.
L= Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption
For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son's costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God's will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit's other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle..
I= Irresistible Grace or The Efficacious Call of the Spirit
The fact that others who are called through the ministry of the gospel do come and are brought to conversion must not be credited to man, as though one distinguishes himself by free choice from others who are furnished with equal or sufficient grace for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains). No, it must be credited to God: just as from eternity he chose his own in Christ, so within time he effectively calls them, grants them faith and repentance, and, having rescued them from the dominion of darkness, brings them into the kingdom of his Son, in order that they may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called them out of darkness into this marvelous light, and may boast not in themselves, but in the Lord, as apostolic words frequently testify in Scripture.
P= Perseverance of the Saints
Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and Satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end.
The five tenets were accepted by the very biased Synod of Dort
This system of theology was affirmed by the Synod of Dort in 1619 as the doctrine of salvation contained in the Holy Scriptures. The system was at that time formulated into "five points" (in answer to the five points submitted by the Arminians) and has ever since been known as the "five points of Calvinism."
Diversities among the Two Groups
I want to make it clear that I personally disagree with all five points of Calvinism as they are defined by most Calvinists. For me, Calvinism is a flawed theological philosophy that leads to doctrinal extremes. In my opinion, all five points of the TULIP are dependent on one another, if one point fails the whole system fails. There are some points of Calvinism that I disagree with more than others, such as “Limited Atonement”. Regardless of my disagreements I have chosen to love people who are convinced that the five points are true and to pray to God to enlighten their understanding (Of course they will say they are praying for my own understanding).
I also want to make it clear that you understand that many people who call themselves “Calvinists” today, distance themselves from some of Calvin’s original teachings. Where their personal view of scripture disagrees with Calvin’s, they part paths but still connect themselves to the five points that bear his name. Therefore it is impossible to gauge a person or know exactly what they believe by their mere declaration of being a Calvinist? When it comes to the five tenets of Calvinism, some people may only hold to three or four of the five points of Calvinism. Thus, you have people referring to themselves as a “three pointer” or a “four pointer”, yet referring to themselves as Calvinists. Within the camp of Calvinism you will find Hyper-Calvinists, Hypo-Calvinists, Infralapsarianist Calvinists, and Supralapsarianist Calvinists. Don’t think your world will get simpler just because you accept the “TULIP”. ? Sheesh!!!
Most Calvinists have their own set of favorite teachers that they follow like John Piper, J.I. Packer, James White, Mark Driscoll, A.W. Pink, Angus Stewart, and RC. Sproul. In the Calvinistic community there is no distinct authority to establish definitions and specific truths. I have found that every time I speak with a Calvinist he says, “That isn’t what I believe” and then adds his own idea about Calvinism.(Same is true of Arminians) This is why it is impossible to really debate with Calvinists as a whole because they will tell you that your understanding is flawed about Calvinism, but in reality they are telling you that what is being said goes against their opinions of Calvinism. To be a true Calvinist, one must adopt the teachings of Calvin as seen in his “Institutes of Christian Religion” (That is just my opinion).
The same can be said for Arminians. Many Calvinists believe if you are Armenian then you must believe you can lose your salvation and immediately brand you a heretic because you are man centered religionist trusting in your personal ability in order to be saved. That is just plain false. Arminius was a former Calvinist. He didn’t believe in being continually saved and lost over and over again. He merely recognized man’s need to co-operate and obey. As he read the book of Hebrews he came to believe the “possibility” of a believer apostatizing. If apostasy took place then believer would fall from grace and could never be saved again. Arminius believed in the eternal security of the believer as long as the believer maintained true faith.
Some see Arminianism as a “Daisy Religion” where a man is pulling the peddles and saying, “He loves me, He loves me not.” (I always thought that was funny because that would be more indicative of men wondering if they were the elect, since Jesus doesn’t love the non-elect according to most Calvinists ?) However, there are Arminians that believe in the eternal security of the believer but reject Calvinism. Because of the denominational nuances among believers in these two schools of thought it is never wise to paint any one group with a broad brush. If one is a lover of truth it is well advised to ask people to define their terms and respectfully allow them to share their understanding.
May God help us all never to study to prove someone wrong but may we all study to show ourselves approved unto God as lovers of His Word , who out of our love of God desire to interpret it correctly.
Helping you to understand the differences.
The following is a paraphrased rendition of a debate that I heard years ago. I don’t remember who the two guys were, but this is the gist of what they said. The whole idea is to see that both groups seek to glorify God. There is just a different opinion as to the divine mechanism/means of salvation.
The condensed general gospel of the Calvinist
God is the sovereign king of the universe removing any possibility of man boasting in any way concerning His salvation. It is is only by God’s grace that we are saved through faith and not by our own works or merit, it is a gift of God. All humanity is completely dead in sin and can’t properly respond to God by their own faith. The dead in sin must be resurrected to life by the living God. The lost dead have no part in raising himself from the dead because he is totally depraved in sin and is at enmity with God. All of humanity is cursed with such a condition and lacks any intrinsic goodness that allows him to seek God by his own volition. He is a slave to sin and is completely wicked.
God alone through grace gives new birth so man can believe. Just as babies have nothing to do with their own birth and are birthed by the mother into the world, those that are born in sin have nothing to do with their spiritual birth and are birthed by the Father as the author and finisher of our salvation. Our salvation starts with Him and ends with Him. As God, He chooses some for salvation in His loving grace and doesn’t choose others. By His grace some people were predestined before creation to be saved who were filthy and lost in sin and were chosen in Him to be holy. God chose some to be His so throughout eternity the riches of His grace will be revealed to all His saints. The fact that he chose some and not all will cause the chosen ones/elect to fall on their knees and give Him all glory. None of the chosen of God were saved by their personal choice but by God’s sovereign choice. God alone is sovereign Who rules over man’s will. God is the Almighty King of the universe and does whatever He wants to do in order to fulfill all His pleasure which He has eternally purposed in Himself. No man or created being has the right to accuse God as being unfair for making His choice because He is God.
Even though God chose some to salvation, man’s sin had to be forgiven through the blood of Jesus. Jesus didn’t die on the cross and shed His blood for all men personally or effectively but He died to save all sinners who had been chosen by God for salvation completely by His sovereign grace. It was in love God predestinated all those that He had chosen for eternal life. Jesus doesn’t love all men personally and didn’t die for each man specifically. Jesus loves all the elect and died specifically and effectively for them. The cross and the shed blood was the price of redemption to redeem God’s elect from sin in order to purchase a bride for the bridegroom and glorify Himself forever.
Because man is totally depraved in sin, he is incapable of a right response to God concerning salvation. Therefore the elect must be irresistibly drawn to God. Sinful man could never come to God by his own volition. Jesus spoke clearly that no man could come to Him unless the Father drew him. All the elect that the Father gave to Jesus will come to Jesus because God personally has chosen them to salvation.
Because all saved people are sovereignly handpicked by God to salvation by sovereign grace, none can ever lose their salvation and will continue to persevere until they get to heaven. This assurance comes because all the responsibility is God's to bring it to completion. The true elect of God will produce fruits of righteousness and seek to glorify God. If the elect backslides and repents or even if he doesn’t repent he will be saved because he has been chosen, redeemed, and has been born from above.
God has purposed such a salvation where man has no part of the salvific equation so that all glory goes to God alone. Salvation is all of God, all of grace, and nothing of man resulting in all glory going to God.
The Condensed general gospel of the Arminian
God is the sovereign king of the universe and sits on His throne in heaven and He alone is worthy of all praise and glory. Salvation comes to man by two hands; the first hand comes by God Who extended it to man in grace while he was yet a sinner to rescue him from damnation, while the other hand is the hand of man that reaches forth in faith to take God’s extended hand with a desire to escape God’s wrath. Man is saved by grace through his faith in Christ and never by his own personal merit which denies him of ever boasting of any self-righteousness. Faith isn’t a work wrought by man but an attitude of the heart that rightfully responds to the the truth of the Word of God and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
God is the sovereign king of the universe Who has a love for every person in the whole world. Man is completely condemned and ruined by sin and can’t save himself. However, man is not so fallen in sin that he can’t believe truth from God’s Word as He is convicted and convinced by the Holy Spirit. All the glory goes to God because it was God Who initiated salvation while men were yet sinners. A drowning person being pulled out of the water does not thank his own hand for clasping on the hand on the one who pulled him out, especially if the one who was being pulled out was an enemy of the rescuer. All that would come forth is a word of thankfulness being astonished by the grace that initiated it.
God hasn’t chosen some men to salvation and doomed others to damnation simply because they weren’t chosen, but desires that all men come to know Him and not perish. Throughout scripture God gives men choices of life and death. They are told to decide for themselves and are held accountable for their decisions. God doesn’t select a few to be saved before creation and rejects all others, but by His foreknowledge God knew who would believe and so worked sovereignly within the framework of man’s will to bring about His own eternal purpose which was made by the counsel of His own will.
God is grieved at sin and desires men to know Him from the least to the greatest desiring that all men should be saved. God has called all men to repentance showing all have the ability to repent. Scripture shouts, “Whosoever will” let him come. There is a clear invitation for all men to come to Jesus and that all that will believe shall be saved. God calls man to be one way and will judge mankind based on how he respond to Him. People make legitimate choices for God concerning salvation in the present. Those choices weren’t made for them in the past by God, rather God foreknew what their choices would be and could predestinate those that chose Christ to be conformed to the image of the son of God.
God didn’t create men to be robots that have no choice but created men with volition of will. He is a God that wants a loving relationship with His people. Love can never be coerced even if it appears to be one’s own decision because God would always know the difference just as a man would know the difference if he slipped a love potion into a woman’s drink to make her fall in love with him. A person being forced/decreed to love can never show true love, even if he doesn’t know he is being forced. In the same way Jesus longed for the people of Jerusalem to come to Him by their own will and be accepted by Him, so God longs for all to be saved and receive His Son. All choosing of God for salvation is conditional upon the human response to His calling and not God’s un-conditional choosing. All choosing of God concerning the elect in the scripture is a corporate choosing of those who are “In Christ”; nowhere in the bible will one find a predetermining choosing by God to heaven or hell.
Dogmatically we declare to all men that Jesus loves them and died for them; desiring they all be saved. His blood is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. God so loved the world! Jesus tasted death for every man! His blood is effective for all men if they only will choose to believe and accept God’s salvation by faith. Faith isn’t the gift of God. Salvation is the gift of God that comes through faith. Believing this we go forth into the entire world proclaiming to every man that God loves them and desire them to be saved.
We understand and believe that one can come to Jesus unless the father draws him but we declare Jesus was lifted up on the cross so that all men would be drawn to Him by the convicting of the Holy Spirit. Whoever responds properly to that conviction by hearing the gospel and believes in Jesus shall be saved. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is universal which necessitates a universal invitation that whoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
God’s grace can and has been resisted by rebellious people throughout time. His calling has been refused as He pleaded and pleaded with people to come to him. Many are called but few are chosen because they refuse to repent and believe.
God is the author and finisher of our faith. All that believe will never perish but all that believe must be careful that they harden not their hearts through the deceitfulness of sin to the point of unbelief and depart from the living God. The same God who blesses believers with promises warns the same believers against apostasy.
A Word about both views
I can fully attest to the fact that every statement made for each side above is fully backed by particular scriptures in the way they understand them to mean. In following papers I will list scriptural evidence given for both sides. However, I am biased against Calvinism because I think they misinterpret the scripture when it comes to the tenants of Calvinism.
Both sides dogmatically teach the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity like the Trinity, the divine inspiration of scripture, the lostness of man, the sovereignty of God, the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, salvation by faith alone in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, heaven and hell, and the second coming of Jesus.
Both Calvinists and Armininians believe their own view of God’s sovereignty brings the greatest glory to God revealing the desire of their heart. Let us all be slow in condemning, biting, and devouring one another in this most controversial subject. Let every man be persuaded in his own mind. If any should be the most tolerant and patient it should be the Calvinist who believe man is absolutely incapable of receiving the things of God unless God does it for him. Let all Calvinists apply such a truth on sanctification as they do in their soteriology. “For what do you have that you did not receive”.
Always there are people in the middle of these two ideologies.