Calvinism and Arminianism

I must admit that I am shocked at Calvinist attacks on Arminians. I am sure that there are Arminians that attack Calvinists, but I rarely see it. Maybe Arminians are not as zealous for their theology or maybe they are content that Calvinists choose that position on their own. I have seen the debate get so intense that it is claimed that Arminians believe in a different God and/or Jesus than that of Calvinists (or that of the Bible). I would like to comment on this.

I have no problem with Calvinists and Arminians disagreeing on theology. The question is about the root of the disagreement. Is it that Calvinists accept the plain reading of Scripture and Arminians hate God and so are determined to take away from God’s sovereignty? I don’t believe that is true. I believe both groups are trying to be faithful to the Bible and happen to arrive at a different interpretation. The Bible teaches both predestination and the need to choose Jesus. Perhaps the emphasis should be on one or the other, but both are there.

Do both groups believe in the God of the Bible? When I read John Calvin and John Wesley, I cannot conclude that either is inventing their own Jesus for their own purposes. Both are digging into the Bible and preaching God’s truth the way they understand it and I suspect they would have gotten along better than most of their followers. What we need to remember is that this is not a discussion between orthodoxy and heresy but rather a discussion that takes place within orthodoxy.

The final thing I want to say is that non-Christians see these discussions. When Calvinists and Arminians attack each other, especial in social media, it is not taking place in secret. Non-Christians see another reason why Christianity is not true when they see the venom in our theological disagreements. I am not saying the discussions should end, I am saying that they should be taken in the context of love that will show non-Christians that even in our disagreements we love each other.

 

Liked it? Take a second to support Stephen Bedard on Patreon!
Share

16 thoughts on “Calvinism and Arminianism”

  1. I am also sadden by many of my fellow Calvinists who should know better that Reformed position is that of total grace. That God alone opens people’s mind to fantom his sovereignty should move Calvinists to be humble, gentle, sensitive and gracious to those they disagree.

    Thank you for a wonderful and edifying article.

  2. I hear people say this about Calvinists all the time. I must be unique because I have the opposite experience. I typically see pretty harsh words about Calvinists, Calvinist theology, and the Calvinist God from non-Calvinists. Hearing Arminians talking about a certain group of people, Calvinists, is often times like hearing atheists talking about a certain group of people, Christians. Whatever the experience, your advice still applies.

  3. This was not an attack on Calvinists (otherwise I would be doing what I am criticizing). It was inspired by a Calvinist attack on Arminians but it is equally critical of Arminians who attack Calvinists.

  4. hello dear stephen how are you this is sirish from India.  It is  a great pleasure to connect with you.  as you know i am following your comments in apologia website.  all the posts that you are giving on the web were inspiring and informative.  As I am following the apologetic literature you are giving worthy information.  i have been working now as evangelist from our local church.  i am involving in week long church programme like tuesdays  church prayers, thurs days bible study fridays fasting prayers saturdays preparing to lord’s day and on sundays two messages to the gatherings that i am serving.  i would like to share the good news in apologetics ways  that’s why asking and requesting you please send your books for our personal and church spiritual growth.  i think that your material will certainly help in our ministry.  please pray for our christian apologetics ministry.  praying for you pray for keep in touch w ith us yours in His service, SIRISH B KANCHERLA CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS DR BRASWRS/COLLEGE, TSUNDUR POST AND MANDAL GUNTUR DISTRICT-AP-INDIA 522318

  5. God asks us to grow in the fruits of the spirit. I think the attitude of hating each other for having a different theology would be one of the things that makes Him weep. Christians are the greatest reason people are staying away from faith in droves.

    1. Marty,

      If you think ‘Christians are the greatest reason people are staying away from faith in droves.’ then you are seriously undernourished Biblically.

      In Christ
      Danny

  6. There is a lot of truth in your comments. I do see that the problem is with the extremes of each camp. There are many Calvinists and Armenians who cannot accept the whole truth, but subscribe to a partial truth. Each camp emphasizes one aspect of the whole truth. The criticism comes about because of a reaction to only one aspect of the opposite camps theology. Armenians object to only double predestination. Calvinists object to only free will without predestination. Arminianism had it’s beginning in a heresy that attacked the whole truth with a partial truth. Perhaps if we listen to what a person is saying instead of what we think they are saying we would all be able live more peacefully.

  7. Hi Stephen,

    I hope you are well, brother.

    <<I am sure that there are Arminians that attack Calvinists, but I rarely see it.

    Really? Are you reading these debates with both eyes open, Stephen? Arminians are just as if not more forthcoming with the attacks, with Calvinists being called 'wicked', 'cultists', 'unloving'… I could go on. I'm amazed at how you immediately frame the issue.

    <<Maybe Arminians are not as zealous for their theology…

    Calvinists would certainly agree, pointing to the Arminian penchant for turning to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience when 'out-exegeted' by the Calvinist. The Calvinist, on the other hand, stays wholly faithful to the Scripture when determining *Scriptural truth.*

    <<…or maybe they are content that Calvinists choose that position on their own.

    Your emphasis on 'choose' appears to be an endorsement of an Arminian misunderstanding and misrepresentation. If you understood Calvinistic theology, you'd realise that this is an Aunt Sally. The Calvinist endorses free choice, per compatibilism.

    <<I have seen the debate get so intense that it is claimed that Arminians believe in a different God and/or Jesus than that of Calvinists (or that of the Bible).

    Again you frame the issue in a skewed fashion, Stephen. Have you not seen comments such as, 'The god of Calvinism is a moral monster'? Or, 'I would never worship a god like that'? Or how about, 'The god of Calvinism is an unloving, moral despot'?

    I'm not saying Calvinists don't do it; I'm honest enough to say that *we both* do it. I've said on a number of occasions that the Arminian *conception* of God is that of a weak bystander, hopelessly trying to save but ultimately powerless to save. I'll stand by that forever more. But I have the wherewithall to understand that, for the most part, both sides are talking about the other's *conception* of God… Until we come to those rabid Arminians who literally say they 'would never worship a god like that [of Calvinism].' So you have the whole think quite back-to-front, Stephen.

    Fom this point onwards you seem quite fair. I would only take issue with this:

    <<Non-Christians see another reason why Christianity is not true when they see the venom in our theological disagreements.

    Unbelievers know God in their hearts but suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Neither you nor I can 'change the heart' of an unbeliever; only the Holy Spirit can replace the heart of stone with a heart of flesh. I would caution against perpetuating the falsehood that it is somehow us Christians who are keeping the rebel from the faith.

    In Christ
    Danny

    1. My suggestion that Calvinists do this often is not based on an examination of the scholarly literature but the admittedly unscholarly Facebook. It may come down to the fact that I probably have more Calvinist friends on FB tan Arminian friends and so I see their comments more frequently. My comment about “choose” was purely tongue in cheek, something that is often misunderstood in written form. Sorry for the confusion. My point is that it is wrong for both sides to be nasty.

  8. “….What we need to remember is that this is not a discussion between orthodoxy and heresy but rather a discussion that takes place within orthodoxy…..”

    This is an important perspective. Whilst we may have disagreements on the details, the great bulk and core of orthodoxy (call it ‘mere Christianity’) is agreed on. It’s only perhaps 5% that we don’t. And that’s to be expected since there’s indeed mystery in the Bible, and see as in a glass darkly this side of the curtain.

    I agree with Prayson’s comments; “in all things charity” is an inviolable principle for all our discourse. When we trespass there then we disobey our own doctrine and our actions will speak louder than our words.

    We also need to remember that the entire history of the development of Christian doctrine required debate and ever deeper thought. The church councils were incredibly effective in further clarifying orthodox belief. We need this debate and it’s a sign of health.

  9. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard from non-believers, they are turned off of religion/Christianity because of all the divisiveness. It is very unfortunate. Like many people, they only see the faultiness of it all, and thus are not interested in accepting whether or not there is love and unity between the various congregations at all.

    1 Corinthians 12:25 says; “That there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same care for one another.”

    I’m convinced the Lord knew there not only would be division in the body of Christ, but how it would effect so many others in a negative way.

    1. “….. Like many people, they only see the faultiness of it all….”

      Whilst I agree with these comments, I also think there’s nuance involved. For example, I think that disunity as an excuse for not looking at the truth claims is just shoddy reasoning. We are human, and by definition are far from perfect; we live in a fallen world. Disunity amongst Christians only serves as proof of our own doctrine. It seems that there is often a failure to appreciate that, as Christians, we have something that atheists do not have – we have a standard and a goal for our lives. It’s the path of growth in holiness and sanctification. And it atheists wanted to be very honest, then they would see the reality of the lives of saints and those that are pointing their lives in that direction (wherever they may be on the path) and they would see the immeasurable good there, not just a focus on the loud and obnoxious folks who fail to live out the tenets of their own faith.

      As well, atheists should acknowledge the massive good that Christians have done by self-sacrificial love of neighbor and love of truth and justice over the past 2000 years. That is incalculable and 95% of it is unseen.

      “1 Corinthians 12:25: “That there would be no division in the body….”
      This is our goal, and we must ever strive for it.

      1. Yes, I see your point. But try telling that to most atheists! They’ll just laugh at you for the most part, and say things like… “hey my life is great, I’m happy, I’m a good person, I do good things for people….etc, etc. etc.” I know this isn’t the rule, but it certainly is a common excuse for many atheists.

        1. Yes, this is very true Mike. Yet, we can just plant seeds, and we never really know where people are at in the depths of their souls. How great can life be, for any thinking person, who has some perspective on eternity, knowing this is all there is? It hit me like a ton of bricks when I was about 6 years old and the existential sense of despair was overwhelming for me for many years.

          1. Yes, you are correct, planting seeds is the very thing we all believers need to do regardless of the persecution or attacks. As we know it may take years for some to come to Christ, and others tragically not at all. All we can hope and pray for is for the Lord to continue to work in them, eventually saving them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.