Calvinism and Arminianism: 
Myths & Realities

Calvinist, Richard Mouw: “There is no denying that a belief that we are predestined to eternal life can lead to a deterministic, even fatalistic, understanding of the Christian life. If it is God who does the choosing, then we may be tempted to think that our own choosing, our own responding to God, is a charade. It is all preprogrammed. But Calvinist theologians go out of their way to deny this implication.” (Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport, p.66, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul recalls his conversion to Calvinism: I no longer feared the demons of fatalism or the ugly thought that I was being reduced to a puppet. Now I rejoiced in a gracious Savior who alone was immortal, invisible, the only wise God. (Chosen By God, p.13, emphasis mine)

These problems are unique to Calvinism.

Credendum states: “Because of their theory of unconditional election, Calvinists are obliged to philosophize their way into answering deeper questions -- questions which their own theology creates. In other words, an Arminian biblical theology could never lead its adherents to ask such questions: ‘Why is this the case? Why does God not decree all that he prescribes?’ But Calvinists detect these problems that their own philosophical theology creates and offer answers that, we think, diminish the glory of God.” (God’s Glory Diminished in the Face of Calvinism, emphasis mine)

Since Arminians don’t believe in Fatalism, we don’t have to answer questions about why God would create a fatalistic world. Calvinists, however, are forced to address this philosophical issue.

​The other issue in Credendum’s article is the conundrum of Calvinism, whereby God desires all to come to know Him, but not all do, and therefore God must not want all, and hence God must be kidding about really wanting all to come to know Him, as per 1st Timothy 2:4. But in Arminianism, there is no such similar conundrum. In Arminianism, God desires all to come to know Him, and yes, although not all do, God would have them, if they would come by way of the cross. This, Calvinists cannot say, because election or non-election has already decided their fate.

John Calvin cautions: “Let us heed the simplicity of Scripture with more attention and respect, in case our over-ingenious philosophizing leads us, not to heaven, but rather, to the bewildering labyrinths of the depths beneath.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, Matthew, Mark and Luke, Vol. III, James and Jude, p.331, emphasis mine) 

John Calvin writes: “We have no reason to ask what God decreed before the creation of the world in order to know that we have been elected by Him, but we find in ourselves a satisfactory proof of whether He has sanctified us by His Spirit and enlightened us to faith in His Gospel. The Gospel is not only a testimony to us of our adoption, but the Spirit also seals it, and those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God (Rom. 8:14), and he that possesses Christ has eternal life (I John 5:12). We must note this carefully, so that we may not disregard the revelation of God, with which He bids us be satisfied, and plunge into an endless labyrinth with the desire of seeking revelation from His secret counsel, the investigation of which He compels us to abandon. We are, therefore to be satisfied with the faith of the Gospel and the grace of the Spirit by which we have been regenerated. By this means we refute the depravity of those who make the election of God a pretext for every kind of wrong-doing, for Paul connects it with faith and regeneration in such a way that he would not have us measure it by any other standard.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.410, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “For it is not right that man should with impunity pry into things which the Lord has been pleased to conceal within himself, and scan that sublime eternal wisdom which it is his pleasure that we should not apprehend but adore, that therein also his perfections may appear. Those secrets of his will, which he has seen it meet to manifest, are revealed in his word--revealed in so far as he knew to be conducive to our interest and welfare. … But since both piety and common sense dictate that this is not to be understood of every thing, we must look for a distinction, lest under the pretence of modesty and sobriety we be satisfied with a brutish ignorance. This is clearly expressed by Moses in a few words, ‘The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever,’ (Deut. 29:29). We see how he exhorts the people to study the doctrine of the law in accordance with a heavenly decree, because God has been pleased to promulgate it, while he at the same time confines them within these boundaries, for the simple reason that it is not lawful for men to pry into the secret things of God.” (The Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 1, emphasis mine)

Calvin warns that too much investigation into Calvinistic decrees results in an “endless labyrinth” of madness, which God, who calls us to come reason with Him (Isaiah 1:18), simultaneously, allegedly compels us to “abandon” investigation into His secret will, in order to protect our spiritual sanity. Calvin bids us, “be satisfied.” 

Calvinist, John MacArthur: “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)

John Calvin: “As if God had not the right to keep His purposes concealed in His own power until He wishes to communicate them to men! What presumption, what madness it is, not to admit that God is wiser than we! Let us remember, therefore, that our rashness must be suppressed whenever the boundless height of the Divine foreknowledge is set before us. This, too, is the reason why he calls them ‘the unreachable riches of Christ’, meaning that this subject, though it exceeds our grasp, deserves reverence and admiration.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.162, emphasis mine) 

John Calvin: “He still continues with his exclamation, in which the more he exalts the divine mystery, the more he deters us from the curiosity of our investigation. Let us then not make inquiries concerning the Lord, except so far as He has revealed them by Scripture. Otherwise we enter a labyrinth from which retreat will not be easy. We must note that Paul is not here discussing all the mysteries of God, but those which are hidden with God, and which He desires us only to admire and adore.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.259, emphasis mine)

It is inevitable that Calvinism should result in such philosophizing.

Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, recalls: “I frequently meet with poor souls, who are fretting and worrying themselves about this thought—‘How, if I should not be elect! ‘Oh, sir, they say, ‘I know I put my trust in Jesus; I know I believe in his name and trust in his blood; but how if I should not be elect?’ Poor dear creature! you do not know much about the gospel, or you would never talk so, for he that believes is elect. Those who are elect, are elect unto sanctification and unto faith; and if you have faith you are one of God’s elect; you may know it and ought to know it, for it is an absolute certainty. If you, as a sinner, look to Jesus Christ this morning, and say—‘Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling, you are elect. I am not afraid of election frightening poor saints or sinners.”  (Election, emphasis mine)

Again, this is a dilemma that is unique to Calvinism. Here you have people who claim to trust in Jesus, but yet do not know whether they are saved, because they might not be “elect.” Spurgeons answer: “Have faith you are one of God’s elect.” Calvinists will rage that this is a mischaracterization of the faith of Calvinists, but guess what? This is documented history. Calvinists were, in fact, trusting in a process, more so than a person. This is something unique to Calvinists. Arminians have no such such fear of an eternal draft. Arminians can simply trust in Christ.

Spurgeon concludes: “Let your hope rest on the cross of Christ. Think not on election but on Christ Jesus. Rest on Jesus—Jesus first, midst, and without end.” (Election, emphasis mine)

Exactly. The Christian perspective ought to be that of an Arminian: just trusting in Jesus.

Arminian Charge:  Calvinism creates Conundrums.

Myth or Reality:  Calvinists seem obliged to explain why God would create a world in which everything is scripted, and although the most common answer from Calvinists is that God wanted to display His various attributes, this only creates more questions, which even Calvinists struggle with.