Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

John Calvin writes: “We mean by providence not an idle observation by God in heaven of what goes on in earth, but His rule of the world which He made; for He is not the creator of a moment, but the perpetual governor. Thus the providence we ascribe to God belongs not only to His eyes but to His hands.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.162, emphasis mine)

So God is actively involved in creation?

John Calvin also writes: “First, the eternal predestination of God, by which before the fall of Adam He decreed what should take place concerning the whole human race and every individual, was fixed and determined.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.121, emphasis mine)

But if everything involving creation is completely “decreed,” “fixed” and “determined,” then how is God actively involved in what is fixed? Calvinism certainly seems like a static environment, rather than a dynamic environment, as purported by the contradictory statement made by John Calvin.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians writes: God is not a Deistic author who has transcribed a book in which everything is determined. He is an actor in the events that take place both in creation and eternity.” (SEA)

However, there is an aspect of Determinism which does find striking similarity with Deism.

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, explains: In Reformed Theology, if God is not sovereign over the entire created order, then he is not sovereign at all. (What is Reformed Theology?, p.27)

Now consider the definition of Deism:

The similarity between Sproul’s script theory and Deism’s clockmaker” are unmistakable, especially when you consider the Calvinist teaching that prayer does not change God, but rather, changes us.

Notice the defense of the sovereignty of God, which is also so evident with Calvinism.

Calvinist, Spiros Zodhiates comments:Hasn’t God already determined everything, however? Yes, He has. If so, then how can prayer produce results? After all, His decrees are immutable. It is true that God has foreknown and predestinated everything that happens in Heaven above and in earth beneath. Why pray then? But that’s like asking, if God has predestined the air, why should we breathe? The answer is, because He has ordained it so. Yes, it could have been possible that we didn’t need to breathe to live, but God who has put oxygen here in the exact amount needed to sustain life has also ordained that we should breathe; and He who has set His plans ahead of time has also told us that we should ask and pray. It’s all there waiting for us to appropriate it, but He says, ask for it. Prayer simply releases what God wants to give us. He also predestined His people’s prayers. When we pray we produce links in the chain of ordained facts. It gives us a sense of bringing to pass that which God in eternity predetermined. That’s a tremendous thing to contemplate -- that when we pray God does something. It proves that we are in tune with God, and what we have asked has been in such agreement with God’s purposes that it has been accomplished and we are co-workers with God. The privilege of prayer is tremendous. What joy to know that we have adjusted our will with the plan of God. Destiny decrees that we should pray; therefore we pray. Destiny decrees that we shall be answered, and the answer comes. The Lord Jesus says the decrees of God need not trouble us. They are His business. He has also determined that our business is to pray.” (Why Pray?, pp.91-92, emphasis mine)

Calvinists do not believe that prayer changes God, but rather, that prayer merely changes us. After all, if God scripted whatsoever comes to pass through an immutable decree, then nothing can be changed. This is what draws comparisons between Calvinism’s “script” and Deism’s “clockmaker” analogies. Both Calvinism and Deism have the same Deterministic worldview.

James 4:2 states: You do not have because you do not ask.

However, if they do not ask because God did not script it so, then the whole thing becomes a charade. Prayer has to be able to influence God’s decisions, though not His unchangeable character. This, obviously, runs counter to Determinism of Calvinism and Deism.

Here is a Forum discussion on this very topic.

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, writes: Predestination seems to cast a shadow on the very heart of human freedom. If God has decided our destinies from all eternity, that strongly suggests that our free choices are but charades, empty exercises in predetermined playacting. It is as though God wrote the script for us in concrete and we are merely carrying out his scenario.” (Chosen by God, p.51, emphasis mine)
Sproul adds: If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled. Perhaps that one maverick molecule will lay waste all the ground and glorious plans that God has made and promised to us. ... If we reject divine sovereignty then we must embrace atheism. (Chosen by God, pp.26-27, emphasis mine)

Id be ok with that, except when divine sovereignty gets equated with divine determinism.
Deism: 1. Belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (distinguished from theism). 2. Belief in a God who created the world but has since remained indifferent to it. (

Deism: Deism is the belief that there is a God that created the physical universe but does not interfere with it. ... Deists often use the analogy of God as clockmaker.” (Wikipedia)

Deism: Deists typically reject supernatural events (prophecy, miracles) and tend to assert that God does not intervene with the affairs of human life and the natural laws of the universe. What organized religions see as divine revelation and holy books, most deists see as interpretations made by other humans, rather than as authoritative sources. Deists believe that God’s greatest gift to humanity is not religion, but the ability to reason. (Wikipedia)
Deists among the founding fathers of our nation include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, Ethan Allen and James Monroe.

Just so that there is no confusion, there is plenty in Deism to contrast with Calvinism, since Deism rejects the divine inspiration of the Bible, the miracles of the Bible, the efficacy of prayer, the virgin birth, Christ’s divinity, Christ’s resurrection, the Genesis creation account, and Original Sin.
Question:  Do Deists pray?  

Answer:  Only prayers of thanks and appreciation. We don’t dictate to God.”  (Deistpedia: The Deist Encyclopedia) Sounds familiar.
Question:  Does prayer change anything?  

Philip Yancey answers:  In a sort of negative proof of the power of prayer, three times God commanded Jeremiah to stop praying; God wanted no alteration in his plans to punish a rebellious nation. Prayer had, after all, softened God’s resolve before.” (Does Prayer Change God?)

Jeremiah 7:16-18 states: As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to spite Me.”

Jeremiah 11:14: Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not listen when they call to Me because of their disaster.
Deism: A belief in a God of nature -- a non-interventionist creator --  who operates the universe according to the laws of nature.

Calvinism: A belief in God of foreordination -- a non-interventionist creator (i.e. prayer does not change things) -- who operates the universe according to an immutable script.
Arminian Charge: Calvinism in some ways resembles Deism.

Myth or Reality:  Calvinists feel insulted by this comparison, but there are common traits worth discussing.