Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

This is sometimes used as an emotional appeal to make the Calvinist position appear more pious:

One Calvinist preacher declared:You think you had a hand in your salvation!” (The Chosen Fool)

Naturally, non-Calvinists are puzzled by such a statement. After all, who died on the cross? Since it wasn’t me, how could I be claiming credit? But what the Calvinist is really saying is that if you claim to have chosen Christ apart from confessing to an Irresistible Grace, then you must be taking credit for your own free decision, and thus robbing God of His choice to unilaterally make you believe:

Calvinist, James White, writes: “Indeed, all other answers must at some point be because I was better than those who did not believe.” (Debating Calvinism, p.100, emphasis mine)

White adds:God has cut out every ground of boasting by choosing to save in a way that confounds the wisdom of men. No one can boast before God.” (The Potter’s Freedom, 289, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “Because salvation rests wholly with God, no one can say he chose Christ because he is wiser than others; he did so because God had chosen him and quickened him that he might believe. Calvinists have often accused the Arminians of taking at least a bit of credit for their salvation.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.181, emphasis mine)

One Calvinist replies: “Christ opens the door - man gets credit for walking through himself. So Christ did not die for anyone specifically, but really to just open the door and wait?”

Jerry Falwell explains: “Faith is not a meritorious act, but the indispensable channel through which man receives God’s free gift (Heb 11:6).” (Liberty Bible Commentary, p.2410)

Calvin admits: “Now it may be asked how men receive the salvation offered to them by the hand of God? I reply, by faith. Hence he concludes that here is nothing of our own. If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all praise, it follows that salvation is not of us. … When, on man’s side, he places the only way of receiving salvation in faith alone, he rejects all other means on which men are accustomed to rely. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.144, emphasis mine)

Indeed, a grace-alone salvation is a faith-alone salvation.

Consider the parable of Luke 18:9-14: Then Jesus told this story to some who had great self-confidence and scorned everyone else: ‘Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector. The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: “I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.” But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.’” [NLT]

Adrian Rogers offers another analogy: “But when a man is justified by faith, God gets the glory. It’s amazing how many people want to put together faith and works. There’s something about human pride that wants to do it. Now suppose Bob were to say to me, ‘Pastor, I love you so much, and I have just struck oil, and I’m very wealthy now, and I’m going to buy for you, Pastor, a brand new automobile.’ And I don’t want a cheap one. I want one that’s $50,000. Now he’s going to buy a $50,000 automobile for me. What would that be? Mercedes. He’s going to buy me a Mercedes. See, I’ve got that on record now. You’ve all heard that. Alright now, $50,000, he’s going to pay for that Mercedes. And he comes to me and says, ‘Pastor, I want to give you this automobile.’ I say, ‘Bobby, thanks a lot, fella. That’s really nice, but Bobby, I can’t just let you give me a car like that. That’s too much. Let me help pay for that car. There’s a quarter.’ So Bobby has paid $49,999.75 and I’ve paid two bits. Now I’m driving that Mercedes and somebody says, ‘Rogers, nice car you’ve got.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, Bobby and I bought this car.’ Wouldn’t that be ridiculous? Friend, let me tell you something. When you add your two bits worth of self-effort to the grace of God, you destroy the whole thing. You take the glory from almighty God. If you go to heaven, you’re going to say, ‘Jesus paid it all, and all to Him I owe.’”

The Calvinist, however, takes this illustration to the next step, by suggesting that an acceptance of the car would constitute the “two bits” in this analogy, and therefore the giver is robbed of his credit. Of course, that’s not at all what Adrian Rogers is saying, but it is a key, emotional argument of many Calvinists who insist that unless God does the acceptance by initiating an Irresistible Grace, then God is robbed. However, who in their right mind would suppose that “Bobby” would be robbed of his credit, if Adrian simply accepted the free $50,000 car?

Dave Hunt writes: “Those who receive Christ have nothing to glory in but in Christ alone who paid the penalty for their sins.” (What Love is This?, p.254)

Question:  How does faith exclude boasting?

Answer:  Faith is not a meritorious work of self-righteousness, but that by which God imputes His righteousness: But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:5)
Question:  Is boasting excluded by a law of Election?

Answer:  According to Romans 3:27, boasting is excluded by a “law of faith”: “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.
True or False:  You are saved by grace, and not through faith, lest any man should boast?

Answer:  False. Rather, Ephesians 2:8-9 states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
Question:  Is it reasonable to conclude that because the man who is clinging to debris at sea allowed his rescuer to save him, that he has taken credit away for his own rescue?

Answer:  Who in their right mind would conclude such an absurd thing, except a Calvinist?
Question:  Even without an Irresistibe Grace, how would anyone in their right mind suppose that the Tax Collector now has a basis to boast before God?
Calvinist Charge:  Arminians ultimately must take credit for their salvation.

Myth or Reality:  The charge is essentially that man had to be wise enough and smart enough to submit to Christ, whereas unbelievers are more foolish, and it is true that unbelievers are foolish. The difference is that Calvinists attribute their wisdom to Irresistible Grace, whereas Arminianism must defer to human free choice, even if merely submitting to the Holy Spirits induced pressure.