Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

Puritan, John Goodwin, writes: “And whether that doctrine, which teacheth that God intendeth only the salvation of a few, but the condemnation of many, and yet commandeth all to believe that they may be saved, doth not make the glorious gospel of God like unto one of such lotteries, I leave to all understanding and unprejudice men to consider.” (Redemption Redeemed, pp.140-141, emphasis mine)

A historical criticism of Calvinism is that it is emblematic of a Lottery. For if from all eternity, God has chosen to save only a few, and you were born as one of those lucky few, then yes, it does seem like what we know as a Lottery. You didn’t draw the good straw, but the good straw was drawn for you. Whew! You beat tremendous odds! The rest who are not born with a golden ticket are very unlucky, although the odds were vastly against them anyway. No? However unflattering to Calvinism, it seems like a reasonable conclusion. After all, if you were created for the “purpose of perishing,” wouldn’t you at least have to say that you were very unlucky?

Steve Gregg comments on the Calvinist doctrine of Limited Atonement: “The atonement is Jesus giving His life for the sheep. Who did He give it for? The sheep. The elect. Not everybody. Not the losers. Ok? Jesus didn’t do it for the losers, He did it for the winners in this raffle.” (The Narrow Path, emphasis mine)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians answers:I made a very similar comment when I was a Calvinist. And you know what, back then, I could have cared less that the greater part of humanity was damned by an eternal decree of God because I viewed the non-elect to be as bad as demons. No lie. When someone ‘got saved, I viewed them (as I did myself) as ‘lucky that God saved them. Its horrifying. The psychological affect of Calvinism on the minds and hearts of some Christians is downright frightening.” (SEA)

One lucky winner states: “I’m a Christian today because before the foundation of the world from all eternity past, God chose to set His love on John MacArthur and to give him the faith to believe at the moment that God wanted him to believe.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)

Besides the fact that the quote butchers the key principle of Ephesians 1:3, due to a fundamental lack of reading comprehension skills, the point is that according to Calvinism, for anyone to some day walk on the Streets of Gold, first requires that one is chosen to be born for it.

MacArthur adds: “When you look at your salvation, then thank God. Thank God! Because you are a Christian because He chose you. I don’t understand the mystery of that. That’s just what the word of God teaches. That is the most humbling doctrine in all of Scripture. I take no credit, not even credit for my faith. It all came from Him. 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.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)

So Calvinism is the gospel of “Why he selected me, I will never know.”

John Calvin writes: “There are some, too, who allege that God is greatly dishonored if such arbitrary power is bestowed on Him. But does their distaste make them better theologians than Paul, who has laid it down as the rule of humility for the believers, that they should look up to the sovereignty of God and not evaluate it by their own judgment?” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.209-210, emphasis mine)

And there it is...God’s sovereign right to make some born lucky and others born very unlucky.

Calvinist, D. James Kennedy, writes: “So God makes His sovereign selection from among the human race, a race of sinful and corrupt people, all of whom deserve condemnation. But God extends mercy to a vast multitude. He must be just, but He doesnt have to extend mercy to any. Those whom He selects are saved---a great number out of every tribe and tongue and nation.” (Solving Bible Mysteries, p.30, emphasis mine)

God doesn’t owe anyone a Savior, but that doesn’t prevent God from providing One, including One for the whole world that John 3:16 states that God loves.

However, Kennedy clarifies: “Again and again we see that people are predestined (elected) to salvation--but nowhere do we see that anyone is ever predestined to condemnation of Hell. When we think of God as unfairly, arbitrarily electing people to Heaven or Hell, it is as if we have a mental picture of a row of people sitting on a fence, and God passes down the line and points at each one, ‘It’s Hell for you, Heaven for you, Hell, Hell, Hell, Heaven, Hell...’ Now, that would be unfair--and absolutely capricious! But thats not the kind of God we love and serve.” (Solving Bible Mysteries, p.29, emphasis mine)

This is a rather shocking statement, because it seems to convey exactly what Calvinism teaches!

John Calvin writes: “Hence Augustine, having treated of the elect, and taught that their salvation reposes in the faithful custody of God so that none perishes, continues: The rest of mortal men who are not of this number, but rather taken out of the common mass and made vessels of wrath, are born for the use of the elect.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.107, emphasis mine)

John Calvin adds:All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.” (Institutes of Christian Religion: Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 5, emphasis mine)

John Calvin writes: “When God prefers some to others, choosing some and passing others by, the difference does not depend on human dignity or indignity. It is therefore wrong to say that the reprobate are worthy of eternal destruction.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.120-121, emphasis mine)

In the aforementioned quote, John Calvin was summarizing his objectors view of his theology.

Calvin adds: “If what I teach is true, that those who perish are destined to death by the eternal good pleasure of God though the reason does not appear, then they are not found but made worthy of destruction.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.121, emphasis mine)

John Calvin writes: “Solomon also teaches us that not only was the destruction of the ungodly foreknown, but the ungodly themselves have been created for the specific purpose of perishing (Prov. 16:4).” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.207-208, emphasis mine)

So does being one of Calvinism’s elect involve luck? Well, the Calvinist would insist that it doesn’t, but this is the same group that thinks “all” means “some.” Consider the source.

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, states: “Every time I look at chapter 9 of Romans, or teach on this passage, there are immediately people who respond to me by saying (and maybe you are thinking this), ‘Well, I’m not a believer now, so why should I even be concerned by about these things because if I’m not elect, I’m not going to be saved; and why should I bother---I guess I just missed the lottery or I lost the decision in eternity.’ I want to say to those of you who do not have faith in Jesus Christ right now, that if you do not, at this moment, have faith in Christ, there is no reason whatsoever to assume your non-election. Because every person who has ever come to faith in Christ has had a period in their life that preceded that moment of faith, and all of the elect who come to faith at one time were unbelievers, and you may very well be numbered among the elect and have not yet realized your election. And one of the most important questions that the New Testament raises to us, or admonitions given, is that we make our election and calling sure. And if you don’t know if you are numbered among the elect, I can’t think of a more important question for you to focus your attention upon until you know the answer to that question than that one. And here’s some good news: if you are struggling about that question. That’s not proof positive that you are elect, but it’s a good sign because most of the non-elect could care less--ever--about being reconciled with God.” (Lecture 4 on Predestination “The Divine Choice”, emphasis mine)

Notice that R.C. Sproul never challenges the “lottery” analogy. Instead, he goes on to state, “[Y]ou may very well be numbered among the elect, and have not yet realized your election.” In other words, you haven’t been irresistibly regenerated yet to realize that you may have actually won the eternal lottery and don’t even  know it.

What about those who have become outspoken advocates of Calvinism and then left to become Atheists? If there is such a thing as Evanescent Grace in Calvinism, then R.C. Sproul cannot assure anyone of anything, and speculation persists until or unless one has persevered until the end.

Question:  If some are saved by “arbitrary” choice, while others are damned by arbitrary choice, in having been “created for the specific purpose of perishing,” is not the one who is saved, like that of a lottery winner?
It seems like Calvinism turns salvation into a lottery, where those who are saved, are saved by the sheer luck of the draw. Calvinists admittedly cannot explain why God chose to save them, and therefore must simply defer to an unfathomable mystery.
Arminian Charge:  Calvinism is like a Lottery system.

Myth or Reality:  Calvinism is emblematic of a Lottery if from all eternity God has chosen to save only a few, and you were born as one of those lucky few. The rest who are not born with a golden ticket are very unlucky. No? Aside from what Calvinists like or dislike, it seems like a perfectly reasonably conclusion.