Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

Calvinist, J.I Packer, explains: “…the new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message.…we depict the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence ‘at the door of our hearts’ for us to let them in.” (Introductory Essay to John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ, 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)

If Calvinists are wrong in their theology of Calvinism, then these statements could be seen as being very insulting and derogatory toward God.

In terms of God trying, I would say that God has the sovereign authority to pick whichever system of providential governance that He desires most (whatever fulfills and enriches Him the most) whether it be the Calvinistic way, or the Arminian way. So either system would necessarily then be an authentic expression of divine sovereign authority. The idea, then, of God trying, would simply be a function of the hypothetical divine choice in having selected the Arminian paradigm over the Calvinist paradigm. Certainly God could monergistically regenerate someone, but what if that wasn't consistent with the providential system of governance that He chose? What if God preferred to condescend to mankind, in order to enjoy a more meaningful two-way relationship, in which people (aided by grace), freely accepted His overtures of generous love? Arminians often point out the difference being like having a real wife vs. a Stepford Wife. Arminians wish to ask what the Calvinist would feel is a more fulfilling relationship, real or robot. In fact, if Hell was not specifically created for mankind, but instead for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), and the only way to get to the Gates of Hell was by first passing Calvary, then you could say that Jesus tried, in terms of that divine effort being consistent with the system of providence that was sovereignly chosen by God. That would then make sense of the tears shown at Matthew 23:37 or Isaiah 65:2.

The fundamental flaw of the Calvinistic paradigm is that there is no risk, and where there is no risk, there is no gain, and hence, a valid reason for why God might reject Calvinism as being unfulfilling. With Calvinism, indeed “all is vanity,” as Solomon stated in a bewildered state. Conversely with Arminianism, there is gain. There is risk, and there is true rejection, but there is also true acceptance and love. With Calvinism, God is simply loving Himself by human marionettes (resulting from an exhaustive decree).

Calvinist Charge:  Arminianism says that Jesus “tries.”

Myth or Reality:  The charge is essentially that Arminianism presents a God who is weak. Listen to Calvinists say so, in their own words.
Question:  Do Arminians agree that in the Arminian system, Jesus “tries”?

Answer:  Yes.
Question:  Does God have the sovereign authority to pick whichever system of providential governance that He most desires, and that being whichever one that fulfills and enriches Him the most?

Answer:   Yes, of course.
Question:  So is it fair to say, then, that if God had hypothetically chosen to providentially govern His creation in the Arminian system, that His decision to do so, would be an authentic demonstration of His sovereign authority?

Answer:   I suppose so.
Question:  Certainly God could monergistically regenerate someone, as a means of preemptive regeneration, in the Calvinistic sense, but what if that wasn’t consistent with the providential system of governance chosen by God? Would He still be deemed weak, feeble and impotent, if preemptive regeneration was not on the table, so to speak?

Answer:   No. (But to a Calvinist, this would amount to a weaker expression of sovereignty, even if God sovereignly preferred it. But what if something else was also important to God, such as real, independent, two-way relationships? Wouldn’t that, also, be an important factor, when choosing which providential system of governance to choose?)
Question:  Shouldn’t God choose the system of providential governance that brings Him the most amount of joy and fulfillment?

Answer:  Yes.
Question:  Which is a more fulfilling relationship: real or robot, real wife or a Stepford Wife?

Answer:  Real Wife. (Having a Stepford Wife means never having to worry about being rejected, but it also comes at the cost of never being truly accepted, either. It would mean that the creator of the robot is loving himself through a medium, but not a real, independent person. So the Calvinistic system would come at the cost of denying God any opportunity of ever really being loved, independently, by another person.)
Question:  Do you think that “meticulous control” would be the sole factor in God’s hypothetical choice of which providential system of governance to select?

Answer:  No. (For a Calvinist, “meticulous control” would be the most decisive factor, but what about the benefits of independent, two-way relationships?)
Question:  Would the Calvinistic paradigm bring God any true joy.

Answer:  A Calvinist would certainly believe so, but the answer is no, and here is why. With Calvinism, there is meticulous providence, in which all things, both thought and deed, are exhaustively predetermined. This is a system completely absent of any and all risk. As such, God can never be rejected, unless He rejects Himself through others (secondary causes), and God will always be embraced, when He embraces Himself through others (also by secondary causes). In contrast, the Arminian system incorporates free will, and with that, truly independent thought, and with independent agents, you have risk. Love can be given, and that love can be independently rejected, or it can be independently embraced. Consider this in regard to human courtship. Some potential mates may represent low risk, while others may be more challenging and hard to get, and we as humans tend to gravitate toward risk. Asking a girl out on a date can be risky, due to potential embarrassment or feelings of rejection, but you do it in hope, because “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Well with Calvinism, there is nothing ever really ventured, and therefore, nothing ever really gained, either. There is simply no risk. There is no real rejection and there is no real acceptance, as everything is meticulously controlled. So in theory, the Arminian paradigm would off God more substance than what Calvinism otherwise would.)