Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, explains: “What is important to understand is that Calvinism and Arminianism are two systems of theology that cannot be harmonized. Either God made the choice as to who will be saved and then grants man the ability to believe, or the choice is made by man. Either the elect are being saved, or God is saving as many as he can but failing in his purposes. Either God has ordained whatever comes to pass, or, because of man’s free will, the best he can do now is adjust himself to evil as it occurs.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.220, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, explains:Arminianism says that God gave man free will; though God may plead with men and women to repent, he never works in their hearts in such a way as actually to determine their decision. So he does his best to save as many as he can, but his respect for human freedom means that his options are limited.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.211, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, James White, writes: “…the Father can seek the salvation of each individual, the Son can die to secure it, and the Spirit come to bring conviction of sin, and yet the entire desire and work of the triune God collapse because of the unwillingness of the sovereign creature, man?” (Debating Calvinism, p.332, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, Alan Kurschner, writes: “God desires that his sheep are saved. God desires that his people are saved. He does not desire that every single individual who has ever lived, live in glory with him forever. If that were the case, we have an incompetent, unhappy, and impotent God.” (The Calvinist Gadfly, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, Matthew McMahon, writes:I reject anything which makes God a cosmic bell-hop tending to the commands and demands of sinful men as another gospel. I reject anything which removes God’s sovereignty to place man as the Sovereign as another gospel. I reject anything which denies the sovereign decrees of God and His electing grace to put salvation into the hands of sinful men as another gospel. I reject anything which denies man’s total depravity and exalts his fictitious free will as another gospel. I reject anything which places the perseverance of man to glory in the incapable hands of a sinful man as another gospel. I reject anything which endeavors to treat God as the great Grandfather in the sky beckoning and pleading with man to be saved as changing the true God into a pitiable wimp.” (Why I am a Calvinist, emphasis mine)

The Calvinist complaint is based upon the Arminian interpretation of 1st Timothy 2:4. So well cite the verse, view the complaint and then evaluate the argument.

1st Timothy 2:1-6: First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, comments: “This statement is interpreted to mean that God could not possibly have predestined some to damnation. What is more, God would like to save everyone, but his power is limited because of man’s free will.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.162, emphasis mine)

In other words, according to Lutzer’s characterization, God would like to save everyone if He could, but He can’t because His “power is limited.”

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “Calvinists are unable to distinguish between ‘PURPOSE’ and ‘ABILITY.’ Certainly God has the ability to force our wills to do whatever He wants, but that isn’t His purpose.” (SEA, emphasis mine)

God has enough power that, if He had wanted to, could use the means of force to save everyone, even by their own Free Will, simply by dropping them into Hell, long enough for them to submit, so that everyone would emerge as an evangelist. If you don’t think so, consider Luke 16:19-31, where the “rich man” was eager to do just that. He certainly wanted to be the person for Abraham to send back to his brothers to issue a warning. God could take a person and cause them to briefly die and experience Hell, in order to become a Christian. God could also take a person and meet them face to face on the road to Damascus, as He did for Paul. When God does show such grace to a person, such as Paul, it is because He is planning to use in order to reach many others. The reason why all arent saved is not because God’s power is limited,” or that He is somehow too feeble to stretch out His hand to save, but because He chooses not to force people to receive Him, and if there is a circumstance in which He does show force (such as to Paul on the road to Damascus), it is because He wants to use them to reach others for salvation. The only thing that limits God is how He limits Himself.

Question:  What if God could save everyone, but has chosen to save only those who believe in His Son? Would that still mean that Gods “power is limited”?

Answer:  The sovereign decree of God is to give eternal life to those who believe in His Son, because it pleases Him to do so: “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Thats not a limitation of power, but a sovereign choice.
Calvinist Charge:  Arminianism makes God Feeble.

Myth or Reality:  Calvinists often suggest that Arminianism would otherwise make God impotent” and weak. However, Arminians argue that God could have alternatively chosen to providentially govern as described by Calvinism, but that God had made the sovereign choice to do otherwise. Regardless, though, at Judgment, God gets the last word. (Philippians 2:10-11)