Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

Calvinists emphatically affirm human responsibility in evangelism, even though they can only perform what is decreed, and that’s where things get a little tricky. I’ll pose the question, and then address the “means” defense. If it’s already been eternally decided who will be saved, and that these will be saved no matter what, then what do our efforts really accomplish? In other words, why try to win people to Christ if it is already predetermined who will and who won’t be saved, and that there is literally nothing that you can do that will change the final outcome? However, Calvinists insist that God has predestined the means, insomuch that you could be the predestined means to some elect person’s salvation, but the problem lies in the word “could,” and the fact that if the final number of “the saved” is already predetermined, then there is literally nothing that you can do to add to that number, no matter how hard you prayed, or how much effort you make. In fact, that is something that effects Calvinists as well:

Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, once prayed: “Lord, hasten to bring in all Thine elect—and then elect some more.” (An Intimate Interlude, emphasis mine)

But thats the problem. According to Calvinism, there can be no more.” In other words, Spurgeons prayer is not in sync with his theology. For this reason, Spurgeon was known to say: “I fear I am not a very good Calvinist because I pray that the Lord will save all of the elect and then elect some more.”  (The soteriology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon and how it impacted his evangelism)

One Calvinist recalls: “While at Cal Baptist, a synergists Pastor from Bakersfield was invited to come speak to our class of future Pastors and teachers about evangelism. He told us how ‘winning souls’ was the most important thing anyone in ministery could do since without us, they would be lost forever! He [was] talking about how people were going to hell because we were lazy about sharing the gospel. He got so animated he started kicking chairs. After he was done he said, ‘okay, lets go to lunch.’ I remember thinking ‘man, if he truly believes its up to us to save people, he would skip lunch and go doorknocking.’ Point is, I don’t know that Arminians believe [half] of what they say.” (Calvinistgadfly, emphasis mine)

Another Calvinist explains: “An extreme view of this doctrine is what some call ‘hyper-Calvinism’ which is the philosophy that it doesn’t matter if we ‘spread the Gospel’ because God will save who He will save with or without us. This is NOT Christianity and, I’m afraid, most of those who hold this type of belief will have missed the boat, so to speak. True Christianity, as I see it, is ‘spreading the Gospel’ as we’re commanded to do (Mat. 28 & Rom. 10) with both our mouths and our lives. But I’ve recently begun to understand a difference between ‘living out Christ’ - which is the ‘spreading the Gospel with my mouth and life’ - and evangelizing. I see evangelism as more of a proselytizing thing now than before. And, I’ve become convinced that it is not my responsibility to help God save those whom He has elected to save. Salvation is God’s responsibility - period. My responsibility, I’ve come to understand, is to: love God with all my heart strength, mind, and soul.” (Evangelism - My responsibility?, emphasis mine)

That’s actually a common view of Calvinists. Some Calvinists oppose what is referred to as the Invitation or Altar Call where, typically, at the conclusion of the service, people are invited to come to the front of the church in order to meet with a prayer counselor, and to make a public profession of faith in Christ. However, notice how the Altar Call is mocked by James White:

Calvinist, James White, writes: “Jesus does not seek to ‘woo’ them to a ‘freewill decision,’ nor does He strike up a lengthy invitation hymn and try to overcome their stubborn rejection of truth through an emotional appeal.” (Debating Calvinism, pp.121-122, emphasis mine)

Not all Calvinists agree. Charles Spurgeon commented: “I further believe, although certain persons deny it, that the influence of fear” is to be exercised over the minds of men, and that it ought to operate upon the mind of the preacher himself.” (How to Win Souls for Christ, emphasis mine)

Spurgeon adds:Some of my Brethren are greatly scandalized by the general invitations which I am in the habit of giving to sinners, as sinners. Some of them go the length of asserting that there are no universal invitations in the Word of God.” (The Silver Trumpet, 3/24/1861, emphasis mine)

Spurgeon concludes:I know the Lord has blessed my appeals to all sorts of sinners and none shall stop me in giving free invitations as long as I find them in this Book. And I do cry with Peter this morning to this vast assembly, ‘Repent and he baptized, every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus. For the promise is unto you and to your children, even to as many as the Lord our God shall call.’” (The Silver Trumpet, 3/24/1861, emphasis mine)

Thus, regarding the scandal, as Jerry Vines points out, Charles Spurgeon was not a soul-winner on account of Calvinism, but in spite of Calvinism:

Jerry Vines states: “If a Calvinist is a soul winner, it is in spite of Calvinism, not because of it.”  (Calvinism – A Baptist and his election, emphasis mine)

If, as Calvinism teaches, that God has already decided who will be saved, and these will be saved no matter what, then how can that not have an impact of a person’s view of evangelism, regardless of how forcefully Charles Spurgeon argued in support of it?

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains:Calvinism has had a history of blunting evangelism, and that is because its theology naturally works against the idea. That does not mean there has not been a lot of Calvinist evangelists and evangelism.” (SEA)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains:Calvinists do claim that we are responsible and accountable for our actions, even though they are decreed and determined outside of our control. While they can’t really make sense of how we can still be responsible for actions and choices we cannot avoid making, they still claim that we are responsible. The only Calvinists that deny this are hyper-Calvinists, who are more consistent. (SEA)

In terms of responsibility, here is another aspect:

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains:Calvinists don’t deny responsibility for sin. In their system of thinking, humans take all the blame for all the sins God predestined us to commit, but none of the credit for the good deeds God predestined us to perform. (SEA)

In terms of human responsibility, Calvinism appears to be counterintuitive, since Determinism logically excludes any meaningful sense of human freedom, though Compatilibilists deny this, but their denials are little more than Special Pleading. True human freedom gives rise to human moral responsibility for sin. If you take away human freedom, through a divine script, then human moral responsibility goes with it.

Arminian Charge:  Calvinism denies human Responsibility.

Myth or Reality:  Its complicated. In terms of Hyper Calvinists, yes. But perhaps it is also true in a broader sense, when you get to the core of the matter.
The problem is this:  If a Calvinist becomes involved, then he must have been the predestined means. If a Calvinist does not become involved, then he must not have been the predestined means, and whatever a Calvinist does, is predestined, regardless. Living by faith can then be exchanged for a passive waiting upon the grace of God that irresistibly determines whether they are, or arent, the means.