Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

One Calvinist states: You make faith into a work by ascribing it to your own wisdom, and by not acknowledging that it is the gift of God.

What they meant was the irresistible gift of God. To a Calvinist, only irresistibility mitigates boasting.

The way that Calvinists think is that unless one confesses that his conversion was by an irresistible force, he must necessarily be taking credit, some how. Now while it is wise to surrender to Christ, He is the rescuer, and we are the rescuee, and no rescuee takes credit, or boasts, that they rescued themselves. Therefore, challenge the Calvinists to cite anyone that claims credit for their salvation. Most often instead, its simply a matter of Calvinists arguing from an imaginary opponent. The reality is that it is not God that Calvinists are interested in protecting here, but in protecting the premise of a secret election. If Calvinists balk at that statement, then how is it fair that Calvinists get to make inferences of Arminians, but Arminians do not have the same privilege in return?

One Calvinist states: If you think YOU CHOSE SALVATION, then You believe in WORKS.

One Calvinist states: Who BOASTS? Christians who Say ‘THEY’ made the Choice.

What Calvinists do is that they take a false premise, and from that, build a faulty deduction, and then conclude with something that the Bible NEVER, ANYWHERE, ever says. Thats how Calvinists are Calvinists. Why dont Calvinists ever ask themselves why their conclusions are absent in Scripture?

The Calvinist, Omega Letter Intelligence Digest, states:According to Arminianism, then, salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God and man. One is saved by grace through works, and one’s salvation is maintained by not sinning -- at least not habitually. Sort of like maintaining a balance between good works and bad works.” (The Omega Letter Intelligence Digest, Vol: 20 Issue: 3 - Saturday, October 03, 2009, emphasis mine)

This seems to be an overt attempt to set “Arminianism” up to fail, since Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly states that one is saved by grace through faith, and not by works. Moreover, when the author states that “According to Arminianism,” there does not appear to be an accompanying citation from an actual Arminian. Therefore, what you have, may be a Straw Man argument, which is a debate trick, in order to set your opponent up to fail, and which alternatively sets yourself up as the only viable option.

Arminian, Roger Olson, states:All real Arminians have always confessed that justification is a gift of God’s grace that cannot be merited or earned. They also have always declared that the grace of justification is received only by faith and that faith is not a good work.” (Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities, pp.201-202, emphasis mine)

Agreed. Faith does not earn salvation. Christ is the One who earned salvation, and dispenses His earnings upon those who believe in Him. Nevertheless, Calvinists disagree, and insist that the Arminian concept of faith is not only a work, but also a “heresy”:

Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, writes: “And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer?” (A Defense of Calvinism, emphasis mine)

Speaking of Arminians, Spurgeon, says: “The say, ‘No, Christ has died that any man may be saved if’ --and then follow certain conditions of salvation.” (Particular Redemption, emphasis mine)

Conditions” such as what? Conditions such “believes in Him” as per John 3:16?

Moderate Calvinist, Norman Geisler, states: “The gift of salvation is received by faith. As Paul said, it is ‘by grace you have been saved, through faith’ (Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation comes through faith; faith does not come through salvation. Nowhere in the Bible is faith given only to some to believe (see appendix 5).” (Chosen But Free, p.64, emphasis mine)

Geisler adds: “ is a mistake to believe that the exercise of faith or trust in God’s complete provision for our salvation is a ground for boasting. As a condition for salvation, faith is opposed to works and works are opposed to faith.” (Chosen But Free, p.72, emphasis mine)

Ephesians 2:8 states:For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

Instead of saying not by faith, it says “through” faith. Therefore, this seems to rule out combining faith with works (i.e. the works of the Law). Romans 11:6 states: “But if [salvation] is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. (Romans 11:6) Notice that the Bible never says: Salvation is by grace, and not by faith, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

The way that a Calvinist reasons is that if a person had to choose whether to accept salvation or not, the fact that a person has a choice at all, means that he is adding some measure of “work” into the equation of salvation, which means that he is “contributing” to his salvation, and ultimately making himself his own Savior. However, the fallacy of such reasoning can be seen in a biblical analogy. Simply consider Numbers 21:6-9, which Jesus quotes at John 3:14. Do we really want to say that the snake-bitten Israelites “contributed” and “worked” and “earned” their salvation by looking upon the standard? In reality, salvation was already fully worked out by God, and all that was left was for them to freely receive it. Arminian, Roger Olson, provides a terrific analogy for this situation, entitled: Grace and free will: a parable.

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “Because salvation rests wholly with God, no one can say he chose Christ because he is wiser than others; he did so because God had chosen him and quickened him that he might believe. Calvinists have often accused the Arminians of taking at least a bit of credit for their salvation.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.181, emphasis mine)

Faith is not a work. However, allow me to make one clarification: faith is not a meritorious work of self-righteousness. I make that clarification only because Jesus referred to faith as a work at John 6:28-29, though not as a meritorious work of self-righteousness. In that passage, the Jews were asking Jesus for a “work” that they could do, and Jesus offered them faith instead. So it’s equally true that Jesus did not give an elaborate discourse on how faith was a work. Faith is actually an anti-work, or the antithesis of works, and that seems to be Jesus message to the Jews, who were seeking to do a work in which to establish their own righteousness, instead of depending upon God’s righteousness.

Dave Hunt writes: “Furthermore, that righteousness cannot come by works is also irrelevant to free will. Those who believe in free will also affirm that man is ‘justified freely by His grace.’ But grace cannot be forced upon anyone or it would not be grace. Thus, it takes the power of choice for man to assent to God’s grace and to receive the gift of salvation God graciously offers.” (What Love is This?, p.233)

John Calvin writes: “Now it may be asked how men receive the salvation offered to them by the hand of God? I reply, by faith. Hence he concludes that here is nothing of our own. If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all praise, it follows that salvation is not of us. … When, on man’s side, he places the only way of receiving salvation in faith alone, he rejects all other means on which men are accustomed to rely. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.144, emphasis mine)

Do you see where an Arminian would jump for joy at such a quote? To the Arminian, this brilliantly illustrates how a faith-alone salvation equates to a grace-alone salvation. I once had a Calvinist Pastor tell me that by believing in Christ, I must think that I had a “hand in my salvation.” But again, although that sounds like fine rhetoric, didn’t John Calvin thoroughly demolish such an argument? Faith strips us of all praise and brings a man empty to God, and hence it follows that salvation is not of us. Case closed.

Calvinist, John Piper, writes:Trust is the one thing that can put God in debt. The reason trust can do this, is that it is the one human attitude that looks away from our sufficiency to God’s sufficiency. When God’s sufficiency is at stake, he will prevail.” (On Lending to God, emphasis mine)

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians explains: “Notice how Piper articulates the non-meritoriousness of faith, indeed, in an extreme way that many Arminians would not (i.e. we would not say that faith puts God in our debt). Nonetheless, his articulation is helpful for its eloquence in pointing out the fact that faith is not meritoriousness, nor a work even though it is something we do that God responds to by saving us. (SEA)

See also the discussion on Romans 3:27.

For additional discussion on this topic, see here.

Question:  Does the Bible ever contrast grace against faith, so as to say that we are saved by grace, and not by faith, lest any man should boast?

Answer:  It’s the exact opposite. Romans 4:16 states “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace....” But if you listen carefully to the arguments by Calvinists, you would think that their point is instead: “For this reason it is by [Irresistible Grace], in order that it may be in accordance with grace....”, because only if it is monergistic, is it truly a matter of grace. This is why Calvinists often try to paint Arminians into those who make faith into a work, since Arminians reject Irresistible Grace.
Question:  Does trusting in Christ give a person grounds to boast before God? If I trust in Christ, then can’t I boast about how I was wise enough, clever enough and smart enough to trust in the right person?

Answer:  Romans 3:27 states: “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.” Although it makes for a great sounding argument to say that I was wise enough, clever enough and smart enough to believe in the right person, namely Jesus, doesn’t Romans 3:27 wash away that argument when it explicitly excludes faith from providing any grounds for boasting? Besides, how can you claim credit for trusting in someone else to save you? The whole basis for Imputed Righteousness (in contrast to self-righteousness), is the fact that when you trust in Christ, you receive from Him, His righteousness, rather than generating your own.
Question:  What is the difference between faith and works?

Answer:  In the context of how Paul discussed it, consider Romans 4:5 which states: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Works: establishes self-righteousness.

Faith: receives righteousness from someone else, namely, God.

Hence, faith is the anti-work or the antithesis of works.
Righteousness obtained through faith is not self-righteousness, but imputed righteousness. The basis of Justification by Faith is that when we place our hope in Christ, we receive from Him, the imputed merit of His righteousness, and upon being credited with His merit, we may  therefore come boldly before the throne: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16, KJV)
Calvinist Charge:  Arminianism teaches Salvation by Works.

Myth or Reality:  The charge is essentially that apart from Irresistible Grace, anything that is left to human choice must necessarily involve awork,” which is a fair charge, except that faith is not necessarily a meritorious work, since the act of trusting in someone else’s righteousness to save you, points not to your own goodness, but to the One in whom you are placing your trust, and with that, goes the Calvinist argument.
Calvinists contend that if we must make a choice to accept salvation, then salvation is in our hands, and we must choose to save ourselves, much like the Buddhist must save themselves. To a Calvinist, there is only a true savior if the saving is made irresistible. However, that also presupposes that legitimate heroes in the real world aren’t true rescuers unless the rescuees are unconscious. Calvinism creates a narrow view of what it means to be a savior. Their argument is all based upon a pre-commitment from TULIP.