Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

Unless God has a pre-eternal relationship with a special elect-class, it seems inevitable that Calvinistic, Unconditional Election, would necessarily be arbitrary.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains: “It seems impossible for God’s choice or rejection of a person to have nothing at all to do with the individual. Calvinists say that the basis for election or rejection is inscrutable, and hidden in God, but even if that is so, it must have something to do with the object that conditions God’s choice (even if it is just some mysterious reason why reprobating so and so brings God more glory than if he had otherwise elected the person). If God’s ‘reason’ has nothing to do with the object (person) at all, then with regards to the choice or rejection of that ‘particular’ person, it would have to be arbitrary.” (SEA, emphasis mine)

If not, Calvinists would otherwise have to engage in Special Pleading.

Calvinist, D. James Kennedy, writes: “So God makes His sovereign selection from among the human race, a race of sinful and corrupt people, all of whom deserve condemnation. But God extends mercy to a vast multitude. He must be just, but He doesnt have to extend mercy to any. Those whom He selects are saved---a great number out of every tribe and tongue and nation.” (Solving Bible Mysteries, p.30, emphasis mine)

However, Kennedy clarifies: “Again and again we see that people are predestined (elected) to salvation--but nowhere do we see that anyone is ever predestined to condemnation of Hell. When we think of God as unfairly, arbitrarily electing people to Heaven or Hell, it is as if we have a mental picture of a row of people sitting on a fence, and God passes down the line and points at each one, ‘It’s Hell for you, Heaven for you, Hell, Hell, Hell, Heaven, Hell...’ Now, that would be unfair--and absolutely capricious! But thats not the kind of God we love and serve.” (Solving Bible Mysteries, p.29, emphasis mine)

But what Kennedy “unfair” and “absolutely capricious” is precisely what John Calvin professed:

John Calvin writes: “There are some, too, who allege that God is greatly dishonored if such arbitrary power is bestowed on Him. But does their distaste make them better theologians than Paul, who has laid it down as the rule of humility for the believers, that they should look up to the sovereignty of God and not evaluate it by their own judgment?” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.209-210, emphasis mine)

Calvin writes: “…the reason why God elects some and rejects others is to be found in His purpose alone. … before men are born their lot is assigned to each of them by the secret will of God. … the salvation or the destruction of men depends on His free election.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.203, emphasis mine)

Clearly, John Calvin conceded that Calvinistic Election is arbitrary.”

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)

Not all Calvinists will go as far as John Calvin in deeming Calvinistic Election as arbitrary. Some will suggest that it only seems arbitrary from a human standpoint, but not from God’s standpoint, who knows exactly why he [allegedly] hand-picked John MacArthur for salvation over his unworthy next door neighbor. But if you say that God deemed him worthy of secret election, then salvation is no longer about mercy but about secret worth, since all are equally in need of mercy. Moreover, if this were about an election to service (and God eternally choosing a certain person for the ministry), then the problem would be easily resolved, but MacArthur is talking about an alleged, election to salvation.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains:I simply admit that free will is a mystery; we don’t know why one person uses the gift of free will to good advantage and another uses it to disadvantage. But when confronted with this issue by a Calvinist, I turn the tables and as him or her to explain what makes the difference so that God elects one person and not another person. They insist it has nothing to do with anything God sees in the person elected. So what is the difference? Then they appeal to God’s ‘good pleasure,’ but that’s no answer. Why is God pleased to choose one and not the other one? When I suggest the choice is purely arbitrary they object. But what else can it be? There’s no other option. I prefer to live with the mystery of free will rather than the good and necessary consequence of the Calvinist view which is that God is arbitrary.” (SEA, emphasis mine)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “Calvinists say that men were not elected for anything good in them or for anything they did, so then why would God arbitrarily be pleased with certain people whom He arbitrarily picked, and also controlled from the womb and conversely not be pleased with others whom He did not pick and controlled them to not respond? That makes no sense whatsoever.” (SEA)

By the way, even Calvinists, such as R.C. Sproul, admit that free will is a mystery.

Another member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains: “Trust in another gives no glory to the truster and all glory to the trusted. Faith is the renouncing of any merit, but reliance on God and his unmerited favor. Thus, faith is the perfect vehicle through which God could have a fair basis for accountability and yet there be no merit in the basis of accountability. The Arminian need not run away from the fact that there is indeed a difference between the believer and unbeliever that leads to salvation vs. condemnation. We should embrace it. That’s what makes God’s salvation of believers and condemnation of unbelievers, not arbitrary. It is the very point we want to claim against the Calvinist view that God saves and rejects unconditionally. It is the non-meritorious means of faith, through which, we are saved. Mark well: The question of what the difference between the one who has faith and the one who does not, is simply that one trusts God and the other does not. This is why God saves one and condemns the other, by his own sovereign will and grace. He is not obligated, but out of unmerited favor, reckons faith as righteousness. And this provides for a non-arbitrary basis of non-meritorious salvation and de-meritorious condemnation, so all the glory goes to God for salvation and all the blame goes to man for his own condemnation.” (SEA, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, Peterson and Williams, explain: “His gracious choosing ultimately transcends our reason, but it is not arbitrary.” (Why I am Not an Arminian, p.66, emphasis mine)

This shows that Calvinists draw conclusions based upon their preference. Otherwise, how can Calvinists make any claim to know what “transcends” their reason? Other Calvinists may reason that it is indeed arbitrary, and that that’s simply God’s sovereign choice to do so.

Question:  What impact does arbitrary” election have upon the value of man?

Answer:  It means that one person has no more value to God than another. No one makes a voluntary choice for Christ. All are just pieces of clay, arbitrarily chosen to be formed one way or another. In the end, it’s all just clay. God could have chosen you, just as easily as if he had chosen Hitler, switching places so that Hitler was the committed Christian and you, and your last name, being the very symbol of evil. Yes, it fell to you, to be the committed Christian, all according to the good pleasure of God’s arbitrary will. Notice, also, that Satan’s primary argument in arming the theology of Eliphaz was also to reinforce the worthlessness of man: “Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? He puts no trust even in His servants; and against His angels He charges error. How much more those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed before the moth! Between morning and evening they are broken in pieces; Unobserved, they perish forever. Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them? They die, yet without wisdom.” (Job 4:17-21)

In contrast to the arbitrariness of Calvinism, Scripture establishes the value of man as:

1) in being one of God’s creation (John 3:16; Titus 3:4),

2) in being a Christian. (John 16:27)
Arminian Charge:  Calvinism is arbitrary.

Myth or Reality:  Calvinists disagree on the basis of an inscrutable mystery. This charge deals with the concept of an alleged, eternal and immutable decree, which has prescripted whatsoever comes to pass, including all things past, present and future.
Question:  Does God arbitrarily bestow faith?

Steve Finnell answers: “Many believe that Ephesians 2:8 teaches that God arbitrarily bestows faith on a selected few so they can believe and be saved. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Ephesians 2:8: ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’ (NKJV) Salvation is the gift of God, not faith. The gift God gives is forgiveness from sin. How do men receive faith? Romans 10:17: ‘So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ (NKJV) Faith comes from hearing the gospel preached. Faith is not arbitrarily dispatched to a chosen few. Romans 1:16: ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greeks.’ Salvation is attained by believing the gospel. Salvation is not predetermined by God and forced on a select few by forcing them to have faith and be saved. 1 Corinthians 1:21: ‘For since, in the wisdom of God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the messaged preached to save those who believe.’ (NKJV) God saves men through preaching the gospel. God does not preselect men and the force them to have faith so they will be saved. John 3:36: ‘He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but that the wrath of God abides on him.’ (NKJV) If God imputes faith to all who believe, why would those who do not believe receive the wrath of God? Non-believers would have no responsibility nor capability to believe and be saved. 1 John 3:20-23: ‘And this is His commandment: that we we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.’ (NKJV) Why would God command us to believe on His Son Jesus Christ if we are not capable of believing, unless He arbitrarily bestows that faith on non-believers? Jesus said ‘He who believes and is baptized will be saved.’ (Mark 16:16) Jesus did not say God will give you the gift of faith so you can believe, be baptized and be saved.” (A Christian View)