Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

Calvinist, James White, writes: “The contrast between the God-centeredness of the doctrines of grace and the man-centeredness of human tradition could hardly be stronger!” (Debating Calvinism, p.297, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, James White, writes: “That is the vast difference between man’s religions and the Christian faith: One is focused upon man and his abilities (synergism); one upon God and His (monergism).”  (Debating Calvinism, p.66, emphasis mine)

The prevailing Calvinist view is that in order for a given theology to be considered God-centered, human decision must play no role in salvation, whatsoever. For Calvinism, in fact, a person must first be regenerated, and first be made Born Again, preemptively, in order to repent, believe and become saved.

White adds: “If there can be anything said much of evangelicalism, it is man-centered.” (The God Centered Gospel vs. a Man Centered Gospel, emphasis mine)

White adds: “As long as we think of the Gospel as being about men, saving men, redeeming men, those are all true things, but they are secondarily true. They are the result of what God has done in glorifying Himself, through the redemption of a particular people in Christ Jesus. But you have to start where the revelation starts. The revelation doesn’t start with man. If you start off with, ‘Well, we need to think about man’s need.’ No. You need to start with God’s glory. God’s decree. He is the Creator. He’s the One who made everything the way that it is.”  (The God Centered Gospel vs. a Man Centered Gospel, emphasis mine)

This reminds me of the following quote:

Calvinist, Vincent Cheung, writes: “One who thinks that God’s glory is not worth the death and suffering of billions of people has too high an opinion of himself and humanity.” (The Problem of Evil, p.10, emphasis mine)

  • When White speaks of “the redemption of a particular people in Christ Jesus,” he is referring to the Calvinistically elect, and not Christians per se. (The Calvinistically elect includes those who are pegged to receive Irresistible Grace, but are not yet Christians.)

  • Moreover, only Calvinists believe that God has “made everything the way that it is.” That certainly isn’t the testimony of Jeremiah 32:35.

  • According to White, the gospel is not, first and foremost, a rescue mission for fallen man, but primarily a vehicle for which God can glorify Himself, through the act of saving man, or at least an elect caste of men. It’s this type of thinking that leads Calvinists to conclude that God needs a non-elect caste that ends up in Hell, in order to serve as a contrast for an elect caste that goes to Heaven, all so that God can receive the most amount of glory by having a spared-group to display.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states:Whenever you demonstrate that Calvinism is irrational, Calvinists immediately caricature the desire for rationale as ‘man-centered’ or ‘humanistic’. So rationale is only valid when one is not employing it to expose Calvinism’s oh-so-soft underbelly. Heads they win, tails you lose. To paraphrase John Piper, God is most glorified when you are most stupefied. (SEA, emphasis mine)

Another member states:Many Calvinists consider themselves to be noble saints carrying the good news of God’s deterministic sovereignty to a world that wrongly adheres to belief in free will. They attach much self-perceived, counter-cultural virtue to Calvinistic outlooks on God’s sovereignty. Piper exemplifies this. When asked about his feelings concerning God’s sovereignty and his then-unsaved son Abraham, Piper noted his sadness over God’s sovereign choice to damn his son, but then claimed that he would glorify God for it. This is supposed to carry with it an air of nobility: Even in the face of eternal loss of a loved one, Piper (and other Calvinists) simply cling to the sovereignty and glory of God! In equal measure, they attach much vice to belief in free will (like labeling such things ‘man-centered’). In fact, many Calvinists of the Piper/Sproul stripe will interweave Calvinism with the gospel so much that they believe it to be pretty-much essential to any kind of adherence to the gospel. As a result, Calvinists can label non-Calvinists as either theologically/biblically illiterate folks or as worshippers of free will who don’t care about God’s glory. (SEA, emphasis mine)

Here is an example:

Calvinist, James White, states: Look around at the churches that, at least, try to take the Bible seriously. Brother Tom Ascol has rather openly stated that he views the Southern Baptist Convention as an unregenerate denomination. Our churches are filled with unregenerate people, and I think that’s a very, you know, as our conference, we’ve lost the Gospel, and I think that’s a very valid observation to make.” (The Dividing Line, emphasis mine)

Calvinist Charge:  Arminianism is Man-Centered.

Myth or Reality:  The essence of this charge is that Arminianism focuses on man having a free will, instead of on God who allegedly hand-picked an upper caste of the elect whom He alone desires to become saved, while having passed by the rest. But it actually runs deeper than that. Calvinists place a heavy emphasis on the glory of God. The result is that the gospel itself is not primarily a means to save lost souls, but a means to glorify God. The idea is that God made an eternal, immutable decree, resulting in the world that is, and that part of the decree is an elect caste, whom alone the gospel is designed to save, and all for the purpose of glorifying God in the demonstration of His various attributes, which in their case is mercy. For others, its something else.
As I see it, Calvinism is man-centered. Calvinism says, I’m elect; I’m chosen.” Arminianism, on the other hand, says that Jesus is elect, and that Jesus is the One who is the “chosen of the Father,” and that we are elect, only by virtue of being in Him, in Christ, in His body, or being His bride. In that regard, Arminianism is definitely Christ-centered.