Calvinism VS. Arminianism

I host a weekly Bible Study (@activatebible) and decided to post some of the discussions we’ve had. Below is a brief synopsis of the on-going debate between Calvinism and Arminianism.

Calvinism is named after John Calvin who lived in the 1500’s. Calvin was a French theologian and pastor who reformed the church in many ways during the Protestant Reformation. He is the principal founder of a theological system which became known as Calvinism.

Arminianism is based on theological ideas of the Dutch Theologian Jacobus Arminius. His teachings included 5 points (solae) which were articulated by dutch followers of Arminius in a year after Arminius died in 1610 in the Remonstrance (a theological statement signed by 45 ministers and submitted to the States General of the Netherlands). It became the 5 articles of Remonstrance.

Later, Calvinists (or Reformers) came against these 5 points and created 5 points of their own, or the 5 points of Calvinism.

Side note: Calvinists prefer to be called Reformers or Reformed. Arminius’s followers also previously preferred to be called Remonstrants.

Well-known denominations that have traditionally held to Arminianism are: Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, Various Baptist Denominations, Orthodox. Popular Arminian teachers include: Roger Olson, A.W. Tozer, N.T. Wright and others.

Well-known denominations that have traditionally held to Calvinism are: Presbyterian, Reformed, United Church of Christ, Reformed Baptists. Their popular teachers include: John MacArthur, John Piper, Matt Chandler, David Platt and others.


*note: not every Calvinist subscribes to the acronym (T.U.L.I.P.) verbiage of the points below. Not even every point is agreed upon from all Calvinists. I’m providing a brief description of each point and verses that correspond to that help belief.*


  1. Total Depravity
  2. Unconditional Election
  3. Limited Atonement
  4. Irresistible Grace
  5. Preservation of the Saints

Total Depravity (Total Inability) – As a result of the fall of man, every part of man – his mind, will, emotions and flesh – have been corrupted by sin. We naturally sin because we are sinners. We cannot be saved in our own doing. It does not teach that man does not have a conscious of right and wrong, but simply that even the good acts of sinners are “filthy rags to God”.  In short, God looks more at the heart of the act than the act itself. Arminian Roger Olson believes that both Arminians and Calvinists must both believe in total depravity. For this reason, I have left out the historical Arminian response.

Noteworthy verses:

Ephesians 2:1-3

1 Corinthians 2:14

John 6:44

Romans 8:7

Unconditional Election (Unmerited Favor) – Both Calvinists and Arminians believe in the terms “predestination” and “election” because it is found in scripture, but each group interprets predestination differently. Calvinists would say that according to the verses on “election” and “predestination”, scripture is clearly saying that before the foundation of the world, men and women were elected to sonship in Christ, meaning that some were chosen to be given salvation and some were not. Arminians would say these verses are saying merely that SINCE God has had foreknowledge since the beginning of time, out of that foreknowledge of those who would be saved, He has given them unmerited favor.

Noteworthy verses:

Ephesians 1:4

2 Thessalonians 2:13

Romans 9:15-24

John 15:6

Romans 8:29

Limited Atonement – Many Calvinists limit themselves to being a “4-point calvinism” because they believe this teaching is too strong. Limited atonement is the teaching that Jesus only died for the “chosen” and not for all people. They believe that those who have been atoned for or died for will be saved, but Arminians believe that many of whom were atoned for or died for will not be saved. Calvinists say Limited Atonement is more powerful because each person that Christ atones, Christ saves by His power. Arminians say Unlimited Atonement is more powerful because it is more broad and for each and every person, but gives free will to each individual.

Noteworthy verses:

John 3:16-17

John 6:51

Acts 3:26

Acts 17:30-31

Irresistible Grace – This is the belief that there’s nothing man can do in regard to God’s grace. If he is chosen for salvation, God’s grace for that individual will be deemed irresistible and unable to say no to. This view puts the responsibility for salvation totally on Christ and not on the individual. Arminians believe that God’s grace is actually resistible because of free will.

Noteworthy verses:

Romans 8:29-30

Acts 13:48

John 6:37

Acts 7:51

Revelation 3:20

Preservation of the Saints (Eternal Security) – This belief is where people get the saying, “once saved, always saved”. It is the belief that when a person comes to know Christ for salvation, they are sealed and cannot be lost again. This is an obvious view of a Calvinist, especially a 5 point Calvinist because of the power of “limited atonement”. Also, as for the other points, if God has elected individuals to salvation through his irresistible grace, of course He would not let His elect get lost again. Some Arminians believe in eternal security but most believe that salvation can be lost.

Noteworthy verses:

John 10:27-29

Ephesians 1:13-14

John 10:28-29

Ephesians 4:30

Jude 1:24

2 Corinthians 1:22

Philippians 1:6

Galatians 5:4

John 15:5-6

Romans 11:19-23

Hebrews 6:4-6

Hebrews 10:26-27

Hebrews 10:38-39

2 Peter 2:1, 20-22

Revelation 3:5

Personally, I try not to get too wrapped up in this argument. There are incredible men and women of God in both groups. I grew up Arminian (without the knowledge that I was one) but have since come to appreciate the biblical study that Christian reformers have so passionately pursued. While I do have a problem with at least a couple of their points, if they are pursuing Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission, I have nothing but praise.

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