Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

A common defense of 5-Point Calvinism is when Calvinists remind Arminians that everyone limits Christ’s atonement of Calvary in one way or another, that is, the Calvinist limits the scope of the atonement to just a preselected group, whereas the Arminian limits its efficaciousness, such that one must actually do something, in order to receive the benefits of it (which is really not a hard sell, considering that’s pretty much exactly what John 3:16 says). Nevertheless, 5-Point Calvinists often remind Arminians that Christ’s Atonement is limited, in one way or another, by everyone except the Universalists, which affirms both universal scope and unconditional efficaciousness. Calvinists merely limit its scope, while maintaining an unconditional efficaciousness for its predetermined recipients.

I don’t believe that the provision of the atonement is in any way limited at all, and I don’t think that’s due to any kind of stubbornness or reluctance on my part. What I believe is limited is the access to it, that is, God has limited the access to His Son’s provision to only those who believe in Him, as per John 3:16. Based upon the parable of the wedding feast, I can accept that there was enough food to feed everyone [i.e. unlimited atonement], and that the only reason why everyone didn’t get fed was simply because they rejected the invitation (i.e. they refused to access what was provided, and not because there wasn’t enough to go around).

Calvinist, Jay Adams, writes: But counselors, as Christians, are obligated to present the claims of Christ. They must present the good news that Christ Jesus died on the cross in the place of His own, that He bore the guilt and suffered the penalty for their sins. He died that all whom the Father had given to Him might come unto Him and have life everlasting. As a reformed Christian, the writer believes that counselors must not tell any unsaved counselee that Christ died for him, for they cannot say that. No man knows except Christ Himself who are His elect for whom He died.” (Competent to Counsel, p.70, emphasis mine)

This actually upsets some Calvinists, who wish to soften the hard truths of 5-Point Calvinism.

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes:But does the Bible actually teach that Christ died only for the elect? Here are some of the passage used to show that Christ came for the specific purpose of payment a ransom only for those whom God had chosen: … Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28)” (The Doctrines That Divide, pp.185-186, emphasis mine)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains:John Piper and other Calvinists claim that God actually loves the non-elect and grieves over having to send them to Hell. He/they also claims that Christ died for all people, ‘but not in the same way.’ When you read or listen carefully, what he seems to be saying is that God blesses the non-elect with a common grace shown in nature and in  Christ. But exactly what benefit they receive from Jesus Christ’s life or death or resurrection is unclear.  I have to think that probably Piper is trying to turn aside the criticism that God hates anyone and that Christ died only for some people. This also makes it possible to say to anyone or any group ‘Christ died for you.’ But what he/they can’t say is ‘Christ died for your sins so that you may be forgiven.’” (SEA)

Calvinist, D. James Kennedy, writes:You must be born again. It is a divine imperative. It is a universal imperative. (Why I Believe, p.137, emphasis mine)

How could there be a universal imperative without a universal provision? Moreover, how can you offer someone eternal life through Christ, if you don’t know whether or not Jesus had died for that person? Really, in fact, if Jesus didn’t die for everyone, then how do you know that He even died for you? Will you attempt to prove it to yourself through works? Turning it around, we could even say that since Jesus died for all, we can know that He died for each of us personally.

Isaiah 45:22: “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.

Taking it a step further, if God provided a universal redemption, then does it make sense to say that God does not desire the salvation of those whom He provided redemption? Moreover, if God does not desire the salvation of all men, then you are finally left with a theology whereby God offers bad checks in a universal offer, or else there cannot be a universal offer, or for that matter, any offer at all, which is the view that some Calvinists do indeed take. In other words, some Calvinists insist that the Gospel is never an offer, but merely a command, and hence, they resolve the difficulty that way. However, the cost of such a position is that these types of Calvinists therefore also often warn that you should not indiscriminately tell people that Jesus loves them, because you could be lying to them, if in fact, Jesus never actually died for them. So if you believe in the Calvinist doctrine of a Limited Atonement, then you are not actually offering salvation to anyone, but merely preaching to all indiscriminately, with the thought that only “the elect will actually respond.

See also 1st Corinthians 15:3.

Reggie White: “I’m nobody telling everybody about Somebody who can save anybody.”
Using an analogy, if I offered you a check for $100.00, then what would the merit of my offer be, if in reality, my bank account was actually empty? You see, the money must be in the account, in order for the check to be valid. In other words, if there is to be a genuine offer, then there must be a genuine provision.
Faith itself is not a component of the atonement itself, but rather, the appointed means through which the saving properties of the atonement are transmitted.
Arminian Charge:  Calvinism denies that Jesus died for all.

Myth or Reality:  Its complicated. 5-Point Calvinists will affirm this, but even some 5-Pointers have taken a nuanced view, to suggest that Jesus did die for all mankind, but that He died for different people in different ways, and with different intentions. For some, it is with salvific intention, whereas for others, it is for a general, Common Grace. Another derivative is that Jesus died for all, simply to gain rights to all mankind so that He can save the Calvinistically elect. However, most 5-Point Calvinists take the view that the scope of the atonement is singularly focused on the Calvinistically elect, and thats it. Of course, they are then challenged with Scripture, which appears to suggest otherwise, and thats where the debate lies.
Question:  What good is Jesus dying for every single person who had ever lived if not every single person hears the voice of the shepherd?

Answer:  First, this question comes from the Calvinist perspective that Calvary was selective, in that the atonement was only provided for a specific number of individuals. Arminians arent approaching the matter from the perspective of why doesn’t God add more people to the list? Arminians believe in a General Atonement for all men, without it being selective, but as a catch-all, similar to Numbers 21:6-9, as it relates to John 3:14. In this way, the provision is for all, but only those who look upon Him in faith, receive the healing/saving benefits of His provision. (You could also ask why the serpent on the standard of Numbers 21:6-9 included those who might never look upon it?, and the same reasoning applies, being a general provision.) As for those who never heard the Gospel, Jesus addresses this at Luke 12:48.