Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

J.I. Packer writes: “So the believer may rejoice to know that his conversion was no accident, but an act of God which had its place in an eternal plan to bless him with the free gift of salvation from sin (2:8-10)….” (Knowing God, p.122, emphasis mine)

But why him?

Calvinist, John MacArthur, states: “We are chosen unto salvation. We are chosen to belong to Him. When you look at your salvation, then thank God. Thank God! Because you are a Christian because He chose you. I don’t understand the mystery of that. That’s just what the word of God teaches. That is the most humbling doctrine in all of Scripture. I take no credit, not even credit for my faith. It all came from Him. He chose me. He selected people to be made holy in order to be with Him forever. Why he selected me, I will never know. I’m no better than anyone else. I’m worse than many. But He chose me.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)

Ok, so Calvinists candidly admit that they don’t know. Compare that with Arminianism, which asserts that it does know, insomuch that God eternally purposed to bless His Son, and all who are identified with him, as His body, those in Christ, the Church. Certainly God knows who the individuals are, just as God is omniscience. But the focus and purpose of God’s election is on Christ, first and foremost, who is the Elect One, and all who, by extension, are identified with Him, as His body. Now that seems a lot more plausible than saying, “Wow, God picked me, and I have no idea why. But you, on the other hand, may not be so lucky.” Of course, Calvinists do not attribute it to “luck” per se, but if Calvinism was true, who could argue that such a one would not be, at least in some way, lucky?

But that merely brings us back to square one, as Calvinists will insist that the alternative would make every random salvation into a matter of luck, good fortune and perhaps even an accident, whereas with Calvinism, it’s no “accident” when one is administered an Irresistible Grace. However, in response, Arminians do not believe that salvation is an accident either, since that which precipitates salvation is the Prevenient Grace of a “divine appointment,” which is simply a way to describe an event whereby the Holy Spirit convicts, awakens and goads, while the Son seeks, draws and knocks. So Arminians do not believe that people just “get it in their head” to want to repent, but instead, are under divine pressure, in which God, rather than man, takes the initiative. So it’s really not a matter of having “accidental” salvations, though I can see that Calvinism would make salvation more deliberate and certain, since it allegedly occurs “monergistically,” which means that it occurs only by one party, God, and not by man, as man’s faith simply follows from the “monergistic” salvation that is already achieved, without faith, prior to faith, and independent of any action of man. Naturally, Calvinists balk when told that their theology naturally requires that salvation is without faith, but the whole premise of Monergism leaves little wiggle room to deny it. Ultimately, then, Calvinism is not a matter of being saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8), but being saved for faith.

Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, states: “In fact, the reigns are gone out of God’s hands; the linch-pin is taken away from the wheels of the creation; you have left the whole economy of grace and mercy to be the gathering together of fortuitous atoms impelled by man’s own will, and what may become of it at the end nobody can know. ” (God’s Will and Man’s Will)

God can know it. In fact, God does know it. God knows all of the contingencies, as per 1st Corinthians 10:13. God knows what you can handle, in any given situation, and God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what He knows that you cannot handle, and counter to that temptation, God provides the way of escape. So somebody does know, as free-will is not problem for God.

From the Calvinist perspective, it’s not about God initiating a choice but rather that God having eternally written a date to preemptively make an elect person Born Again, regenerated, in Christ, a child of God, so that when they, as the regenerated un-believer, hears the Gospel, they will receive it for the first time, very naturally, as a direct consequence of the new nature installed. In this way, the salvation of such an elect person is “no accident,” but a predetermined, unilateral activity on the part of God. To a Calvinist, this is the Doctrine of Grace, though it is not entirely fair to call it so, when it would more aptly be the Doctrines of Particular Grace, as it is particularly given to some, rather than all, and which some would also call it, the Doctrines of Limited Grace, that being, limited in scope. So when a Calvinist refers to Calvinism as the Doctrines of Grace, one may wish to ask, “grace for who”? When the Calvinist follows with “for the elect,” it becomes clear that it is the Doctrines of Preferential Grace. Really, what the Calvinist is doing is engaging in a marketing gimmick, rather than presenting a true expression of their theology.

Question:  Does Arminianism make salvation an accident?

Answer:  Perhaps under Pelagianism, but not Arminianism, since the latter teaches that God sets the Divine Appointment, and reaches out with grace, insomuch that God is the One who initiates the appointment. Jesus seeks  (Luke 19:10), draws (John 12:32) and knocks (Revelation 3:20), while the Holy Spirit convicts (John 16:8), pricks (Acts 26:14), pierces (Acts 2:37) and opens hearts to respond to the Gospel. (Acts 16:14)
Calvinist Charge:  Arminianism makes salvation an Accident.

Myth or Reality:  If salvation, and ones eternal destiny, is left to the choice of the individual, then by Calvinistic inference, salvation is left to chance, and salvation becomes a random, fortuitous accident. But that ignores the fact that according to Arminianism, God initiates salvation through Prevenient Grace.