Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains:Open Theists have the same understanding of God’s character as Arminians do. Open Theists believe that God is good, and that for His part, He genuinely wants everyone to be saved. But Open Theists agree with Calvinists that God can’t know the future unless He ordains it. Open Theists conflate certainty with necessity, just as the Calvinists do, but they take it the opposite way. Open Theists believe that if God knows the future, then humanity can’t make genuine decisions. But, from the Arminian view, if God can know the future without ordaining it, then Open Theism becomes unnecessary. (SEA)

Let’s restate the chart, in order to highlight the consequences of Calvinism:

Calvinist, James White, writes:How God can know future events, for example, and yet not determine them, is an important point….” (Debating Calvinism, p.163, emphasis mine)

White writes: How can God know what these free creatures will do in the future, if they are truly free (the argument open theists are aggressively promoting today)?” (Debating Calvinism, p.168, emphasis mine)

And there’s the problem. That statement is a self-inflicted wound upon Calvinism.

Dave Hunt responds:White denies omniscience in his repudiation of any ‘grounds upon which to base exhaustive divine foreknowledge of future events outside of God’s decree.’ If God must decree the future to know it, He’s not omniscient.” (Debating Calvinism, p.389, emphasis mine)

Dave Hunt is absolutely correct. According to Calvinism, God must predetermine everything in order to foreknow anything, and which leads to the strictest form of Determinism, and ultimately the “author of sin” charge. Simply ask the Calvinist: “Could God infallibly know what any random demon in Hell would think next, if God did not determine it for them?” You see, for a Calvinist, if God did not determine every demon’s thought, for all eternity, then there would be no basis for God to be able to logically foreknow it. That means, according to Calvinism, that every thought of every demon was first thought up by God, and decreed for them to think, from eternity to eternity. Now where do you think that that kind of theology leads to?

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, writes:He knows all things will happen because he ordains everything that does happen. This is crucial to our understanding of God’s omniscience. He does not know what will happen by virtue of exceedingly good guesswork about future events. He knows it with certainty because he has decreed it.” (What Is Reformed Theology, p.172, emphasis mine)

Sproul adds: “The Westminster Confession avers: ‘God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass….’ This statement refers to God’s eternal and immutable decretive will. It applies to everything that happens. Does this mean that everything that happens is the will of God? Yes.” (What Is Reformed Theology, p.172, emphasis mine)

Does this type of foreknowledge in any way distinguish God from man? Why would there ever be a reason to speak of God foreknowing something if that which He foreknows is merely what He unchangeably causes? As an analogy, imagine if I said, “I foreknow that a certain bank is going to be robbed tomorrow,” but that I only know this because I secretly planned to be the one who robs it. Or, imagine that your neighbor comes over and says, “Someone shot my dog,” and you act outraged and say, “Well I knew that your dog was going to get shot in this neighborhood because it’s a really bad area,” when in reality, you are the one who shot the dog. This kind of omniscience is no better than that of any normal man, but yet it’s exactly the kind of omniscience that Calvinists attribute to God.

Laurence Vance writes: “This is nothing but the aforementioned teaching that God cannot know anything unless he previously decreed it, as Pink says elsewhere: ‘God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be.’” (The Other Side of Calvinism, p.266)

Vance adds: “As mentioned briefly at the beginning of this chapter, the claim of the Calvinists that God could not have absolute knowledge of future events unless he actually decreed them to happen is a direct attack on the omniscience of God. What kind of power does it take to know something one has already decreed to take place? To take away God’s absolute omniscience under the guise of an all-encompassing decree is not only a deliberate rejection of the word of God, but a subtle attack on the nature of God himself. In their zeal to uphold their ‘divine determinism,’ Calvinists are actually denying not only God’s ‘middle knowledge’ (knowledge of what will or could or would happen), but his ‘simple knowledge’ (knowledge of what will actually happen), and limiting God to possessing only ‘present knowledge’ (knowledge of what has actually happened). In this respect the Calvinists are no different than those philosophers and Arminians who deny to God absolute omniscience.” (The Other Side of Calvinism, pp.389-390)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains:God is both omnipresent and omnitemporal. He doesnt need to ‘look down the corridors of time because He exists in all times. Right now, He is just as present with David and Moses as He is with you and me right now. I see time as a dimension of space, so how God interacts with time is the same as He interacts with space. He doesnt have to determine it, in order to know it; He can see it right now.” (SEA)

All time and space stands before God. For more on Foreknowledge, see here and here.

Open Theism  = God didnt decree the future, and cant know what is undetermined.
Calvinism       = God did decree everything and thus knows what He decreed.
Arminianism   = God didnt decree everything and yet still knows everything.
Question:  Is there any evidence from Scripture which conclusively proves that God has the capacity to know something that He did not create, cause, decree or determine?

Answer:  Matthew 11:20-24. To a deterministic Calvinist, however, this simply means that God also predetermined all contingencies. So, in other words, what Tyre and Sidon “would have” done, but didn’t, must also be a product of infinite predetermination, which Calvinists would also need to explain.
Open Theism = God cant know the future because He didnt preordain it.
Calvinism      = God couldn’t otherwise know the future, so He does preordain it.
Arminianism  = God knows the future with or without preordaining it.
Question:  So if God did not decree everything, and yet still knows everything, how can God know an undetermined future?

Answer:  It’s not undetermined. The future is determined by those who dwell in it.
Arminian Charge:  Calvinists deny God’s Omniscience.

Myth or Reality:  As you will see, Calvinists teach that if God did not determine everything, He could not infallibly foreknow anything, and that only Gods alleged, exhaustive eternal decree, is what enables God to know the future, is in, He knows all, because He determined all. What if He did not determine all? See for your self, how Calvinists answer that question.
Question:  If God knows infallibly what is going to happen, can that be changed? If God knows now, whether you will be saved now or not, how is it that you have a choice?

Answer:  In order to answer, first, the underlying presumption must be addressed. The question presumes the Calvinist perspective that God determines every detail in the future, including whether or not you will be a believer or not. However, what if Calvinism is wrong? What if the future is not made up entirely of God determining whatsoever comes to pass? Calvinists seem oblivious to their own assumptions. So the answer is that the future cannot be changed, but the question fails to address who determines the future. The future is made up of God’s choices and the choices of independent beings. Therefore, what God knows of my future choices, are not His choices for me, but my choices alone, or else I am an not an independent being, and therefore my choices are actually His choices, which naturally raises the infamous author of sin charge. Now usually Calvinists will mock this, by saying, So man determines his own future choices and God just has to hope for the best?From the Arminian perspective, God has a universal salvific will (and some Calvinists do agree, though other Calvinists disagree, insisting that it is an inconsistent view for Calvinists), and based upon God’s disposition, He does hope that you will not reject Him, just as any Christian parent hopes that their children will grow up with good moral character, based upon their Christian upbringing. So God, for His part, is genuinely willing that everyone not reject His love but embrace His grace for them. However, to the point at hand, the future is made up of both God’s choices and man’s choices, and that cannot be changed, representing what each will decide for themselves. In this way, God is absolutely sincere in His free offer and gift of salvation, not wishing that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance. Calvinists can’t say that.
Question:  Could Christ have avoided being crucified, even though it was predicted, if man would have chosen not to put Him to death?

Answer:  God did not predestine sin. God predestined Calvary as the means of redemption, based upon His foreknowledge (compare with Acts 2:23) that Israel would reject Him, and sentence Him to death. A similar analogy may be drawn to Genesis 50:20, regarding the brothers of Joseph. The brothers meant evil. They meant to kill. God did not mean what they meant. Their evil intentions were completely their own, as independent beings from God. Therefore, God, knowing their evil intentions, and also that they would take the easy way out, if provided to them, God sent the arab traders, knowing that they would go for it, and did. So God’s plan of redemption for Joseph was based upon His knowledge of what the brothers would do, in any given circumstance, and that is called “Middle Knowledge.” It is the knowledge of contingencies, or the “what-if’s” so to speak. God never meant what the brothers meant. They were evil, independent of any decree on God’s part. God did not make them evil. They were evil, completely independent of God’s doing. But God, knowing their evil intentions, used their own inclinations in order to devise of plan of salvation for Joseph, or at least to the extent that it would save his life, but I use that language, as it is illustrative of Calvary. Just as God foreknew the evil intentions of Joseph’s brothers, so too, He foreknew the evil intentions of Israel, and God planned Calvary around it, not that God meant what Israel meant, but that God used what Israel meant, so that their demand for the instrument of death, the Cross, would be God’s instrument of salvation. This is so easy, that I could explain it to a child. But with Calvinism, things become complicated, and then next thing you know, you have primary causes and secondary causes, in which God determines people’s evil intentions, but is innocent of the sin that He [allegedly] causes in others, all to arrive at a decreed outcome, as if God decreed Calvary, and then created man to Fall, and sin, all so that God would look like the hero in the end. But that’s not what happened, and is certainly not who God is. Calvinists have a fundamentally flawed understanding of God, because they have a fundamentally flawed perspective of the universe. There is no all-encompassing decree, in which God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass. That may be Calvinism, but it’s not representative of who God is.