Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

To put it plainly, the Arminian is dizzy, and feels that the only answer that the Calvinist leaves him with is what Spurgeon said: ‘But,’ he says, ‘I do not see it.’ Well, I do not ask you to see it; I ask you to believe it.(Jacob and Esau)

The Arminian shakes his head, and prefers instead the explanation of Adrian Rogers:

Adrian Rogers explains: “God is the author of everything. God made everything perfect, and when God made man, God man His creature perfectly free. Free Will, then, man’s Free Will, is the origin of evil. God did not create evil. God created perfection, and God made man perfectly free, and freedom therefore gave rise to this evil. You see, this is what makes us moral creatures. Somebody says, ‘Why didn’t God just make us where we couldn’t sin?’ Well if God had made us where we couldn’t sin, He could have no more fellowship with me than I could have with that pulpit or that speaker. Because God made us moral creatures; love is the highest good; and God wants us to love Him. This is the first and great commandment: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, with all thy mind.’ Love is the highest good, but forced love is a contradiction in terms. Forced love is not love at all. In order to love, we must be free to love, to choose to love, and to choose to love, we have to be able to choose not to love. And so God gave us perfect choice. Adam chose in the Garden of Eden, and the sons of Adam after him, to sin, and that’s where the heart-ache, and the groan and the moan come from, as we’re going to see in a moment.” (Turning Hurts Into Hallelujahs: Romans 8:8-11, emphasis mine)

The Arminian feels that Adrian Rogers hit the nail on the head.

Arminian, Keith Schooley, explains: Mysterion, in the NT, is used for something which God had previously kept hidden, until He chose to reveal it (as in, for instance, His intention that Jews and Gentiles would be brought together as one people of God, Eph. 3:6). It is something like a plot twist in literature. It is not necessarily difficult to fathom; it is just unexpected, something God chose to keep hidden for a time. But ‘mystery’ in theology is frequently used for something unfathomable, beyond human comprehension, understandable only to God. In practice, it is used to deal with a logical contradiction within one’s theology. How can God ordain sin and yet not be its author? It’s a mystery. How can He desire the salvation of all and yet ordain that most of humanity remain condemned? It’s a mystery. How can He be utterly good and yet ordain actions that are utterly evil? It’s a mystery. It’s all too convenient. A true mysterion awaits an apokalypsis, a revelation of God’s purpose. It’s not an all-purpose escape clause for when you’ve ground your theology into self-contradiction.” (The Schooley Files, emphasis mine)

This gets to the issue of Apparent contradictions vs. Actual contradictions. Apparent contradictions are resolved with logic whereas actual contradictions are resolved with Double-Talk, just as John Calvin described God’s will as being “double,” when commenting on Matthew 23:27 and 2nd Peter 3:9:

Calvin comments on Matthew 23:37: “I answer that this is exactly our belief, that His will is one and undivided: but because our minds cannot plumb the profound depths of His secret election (ad profundam arcanae electionis abyssum) to suit our infirmity, the will of God is set before us as double (bifariam).”  (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, Matthew, Mark and Luke, Vol. III, James and Jude, p.69, emphasis mine)

Calvin comments on 2nd Peter 3:9: “It could be asked here, if God does not want any to perish, why do so many in fact perish? My reply is that no mention is made here of the secret decree of God by which the wicked are doomed to their own ruin, but only of His loving-kindness as it is made known to us in the Gospel.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Hebrews and I and II Peter, p.364, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, explains: “The revealed will was that all men be saved, but the hidden will was that the greater part of mankind be damned.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.195, emphasis mine)

Arminians cannot see a logical solution for Calvinism. For how can you say that you desire someone’s salvation while simultaneously leaving them out of the plan of salvation, as per the Calvinist doctrine of Preterition? Even the Bible points out the futility of such Double-Talk:

James 2:15-16: If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?

1st John 3:17: But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

In both of these verses, isn’t it clear that God recognizes what are actual contradictions? Calvinists should consider both of these verses in light of their doctrine of Preterition. So while it’s easy for Calvinists to say that a sovereign God can take a theological jigsaw puzzle and fit square pegs into a round hole, the solution, however, must ultimately have some basis in logic. God is saying, here, that it is illogical for someone to say that they love someone that they simultaneously abandon. Therefore, to suggest that God says one thing but means the opposite, is an actual contraction. To suggest that God has revealed that He wants all men saved, but predetermines that most should not, is Double-Talk. Now whether you’re talking about the Calvinist doctrine of Preterition, that is, God abandoning those whom He did not draft into the alleged, eternal flock of the Father, or whether you’re talking about the Calvinist doctrine of Reprobation, that is, God predestining damnation for the unfortunate remainder, either way, no logical basis is available in order to mitigate against what is inevitably an actual contraction. This is why the Arminian charge against Calvinism is valid.

Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, attempts to deal with the nature of apparent contradictions vs. actual contradictions, and he offers the following:There are many things in God’s Word that are difficult, and that I cannot see, but they are there, and I believe them. I cannot see how God can be omnipotent and man be free; but it is so, and I believe it. ‘Well,’ says one, ‘I cannot understand it.’ My answer is, I am bound to make it as plain as I can, but if you have not any understanding, I cannot give you any; there I must leave it. But then, again, it is not a matter of understanding; it is a matter of faith. These two things are true; I do not see that they at all differ. However, if they did, I should say, if they appear to contradict one another, they do not really do so, because God never contradicts himself. And I should think in this I exhibited the power of my faith in God, that I could believe him, even when his word seemed to be contradictory. That is faith. Did not Abraham believe in God even when God’s promise seemed to contradict his providence? Abraham was old, and Sarah was old, but God said Sarah should have a child. How can that be? said Abraham, for Sarah is old; and yet Abraham believed the promise, and Sarah had a son. There was a reconciliation between providence and promise; and if God can bring providence and promise together, he can bring doctrine and promise together. If I cannot do it, God can even in the world to come.” (Jacob and Esau, emphasis mine)

Spurgeon argues that the Bible (as interpreted by Calvinism) is not an actual contradiction, but only a harmless apparent contradiction, and hence he trusts in God for what He cannot comprehend. He cites an example from Abraham where God opened the womb of Sarah. However, a better example from Abraham is available. God told Abraham that through Isaac, he would have a lineage. But when God told him that he must sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering, this seemed to be an actual contradiction. Therefore, Abraham reconciled the apparent contradiction as a non-contradiction by reasoning from logic that God would simply bring Isaac back from the dead. (Hebrews 11:17-19) With that in mind, Abraham drew his knife, which is also when God stopped him. Abraham reconciled a real contradiction to the point where it was no longer a contradiction, using simple logic. Abraham did not defer to unsearchable counsels that were “past finding out.” Rather, he completely figured it out and solved the riddle, in that God would raise Isaac back from the dead, problem solved, where’s the knife? Similarly, Arminians demand a simple answer to Calvin’s Revealed-Will vs. Secret-Will dilemma.

Some Calvinists, foregoing the real contradictions found in the secret-will explanations, have argued, like Calvinist James White, that Matthew 23:37 and 2nd Peter 3:9 does not speak of secret-wills, but rather are resolved in their context, by limiting the scope of those intended, such that Matthew 23:37 is interpreted to refer only to the religious leaders, while 2nd Peter 3:9 addresses only the elect of the alleged, eternal flock of the Father. That’s a perfectly logical solution to an otherwise contradictory puzzle of Calvinism, but it’s also not without its drawbacks, as Arminians have challenged from a exegetical standpoint. To illustrate, consider John 3:16 which states: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The 5-Point Calvinist says that this is not speaking of the whole world, but merely of the world of the elect. While this solves the thorny matter of contradictions, it nevertheless creates a contextual crisis, since the world in the context of John 3:16 included everyone indiscriminately, to whom Jesus had been sent, believers and unbelievers alike. (John 3:17-18) Hence, Arminianism is not about preserving Free Will at all costs, as some Calvinists allege, but rather is about preserving the integrity of the Scriptures.

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, essentially says that although God is committed to justice and judgment, in His heart, He really does not “enjoy” sending people to Hell, because God is not a cruel God.

I understand that. However, isn’t it more than merely just about “justice and judgment”? What about the alleged “decree” in which God determines that there is a “saved” and “lost” class, the “elect” and the “non-elect”, all for the full manifestation of God’s glory? It’s almost as if Sproul suggests that God takes no pleasure in His secret decree. In my opinion, what’s going on is a little bit of a shell game, because the criticism is how such texts as Ezekiel 33:11 fit with the alleged decree of having determined whatsoever comes to pass, and Sproul has effectively hidden the “divine decree” under the shell of “justice and judgment” so that the eternal decrees would escape scrutiny. After all, no Arminian would fault God for maintaining His standards of “justice and judgment.” But that’s not the issue, is it? The issue is how Ezekiel 33:11 (and 1st Timothy 2:4, 2nd Peter 3:9, ect), all fit within the grand scope of Calvinism, and I think that Sproul has protected the hidden decrees under the shell of “justice and judgment.” It’s a clever move, but I don’t think that it honestly addresses the real concern.

One member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians explains: “I cannot understand how one holds to a philosophical concept of deterministic decrees and then turns around and suggests God grieves at sending people to Hell. It is almost a self- serving masochism of sorts where the LORD does not want to do what the WCF states He takes pleasure in. Is the LORD double minded with regard to His various wills? Of course He is not and therefore this explanation offered by Mr. Sproul is specious at best.”  (Does God really want all people to be saved?, emphasis mine)

Here is a link to a Blog Discussion on this article.

Here is link to an article which documents 117 contradictions from Calvinists.

Romans 3:4 states: Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar. However, if you consider Matthew 23:37 and 2nd Peter 3:9 from the perspective of a Secret Will theory, then Romans 3:4 might instead mean: “Let God be found a liar, though every Calvinist be found true.” Though that may be harsh, it is nevertheless the Arminian perspective of Calvinism.
Calvinist, John MacArthur, states: “That’s one of the reasons I know the Bible is written by God, because men would fix it. If I wrote a book that had those contradictions, Phil [Johnson] would edit them all out. One of the bench marks of divine inspiration is the fact that you’re dealing with transcendence.” (Election and Predestination: The Sovereignty of God in Salvation, emphasis mine)
Example of Calvinists wanting it both ways:

On the one hand, the Calvinist says: I really believe that had I been left to my own sinful will, then I would never have come to Christ.

On the other hand, the Calvinist says: God is not believing and repenting on behalf of the individual.
One Calvinist explains:All this is apparently contradictory, but it is only apparently, not actually, because our capacity to reason well is clouded by the pollution of sin in the world.”

In other words, Calvinists are not Double-talkers, but are simply speaking to a deeper level of truth, given their more mature, advanced spiritual state. But this is merely cloaked language for: “All non-Calvinists are just too sinful to understand the complexities of God and Scripture, so you are advised to just trust what we say is true. It should also be noted that this was essentially the same argument that the Catholic Church made in opposing the translation of Scripture into the common language.
A frequent appeal of Calvinists is that God is sovereign and man is free, and although we do not know how this is true, we believe both, because the Bible teaches both.” However, what the Calvinist has done is to pre-load the meaning of sovereign” with all things Calvinistic, and thus they are simply engaging in Circular Reasoning. It’s as if the Calvinist is really saying, We know that Calvinism is true, and we know that the Bible depicts man as having a free will, so we hold to both.” Calvinists employ the doctrine of Compatibilism in order to sow the two concepts together, but Compatibilism is the ultimate poster child for contradictions, so the Calvinist isnt really solving anything.
Arminian Charge:  Calvinism is contradictory, as Calvinists often want it both ways, and then when put on the spot, they simply appeal to “divine mystery.

Myth or Reality:  Calvinist do appeal to mystery, but they also insist that what is a problem for Calvinists, is also a problem for Arminians too.