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An Introduction To Calvinism & Arminianism (Part 4)

This is part four of our series studying the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism. Please note that this is only a brief overview of a vast topic. A thorough discussion of this topic can (and often has) filled many books. At the conclusion of the series I will provide a list of helpful resources should you wish to pursue this study further.

Today we turn our attention to a comparison of the two views. I present this as a “quick and dirty” summary of the opposing views. Remember that not all Calvinists hold to all of the points I have listed below. Similarly, not all Arminians believe all of the points below.

Free Will

  • The fall has seriously affected humans but has not left them completely spiritually helpless.
  • Man is not enslaved to his nature
  • Man has the ability to choose for or against God. Man can choose either good or evil as his will dictates.
  • The Spirit assists man as he develops faith.
  • Faith is man’s act and a gift to God

Total Depravity

  • The fall has left man completely unable to respond to God in any way. Man is spiritually dead.
  • Man is enslaved to his nature
  • Man has free will within the bounds of his nature. Since man is in a fallen state, he can never choose for God unless the Spirit has first regenerated him.
  • The Spirit regenerates man and then gives him the faith Christ secured.
  • Faith is God’s act and a gift to man

Conditional Election

  • God chose certain people before the foundation of the world based on seeing that in the future they would respond to His call.
  • Election is conditional on God seeing who would choose Him.
  • The final cause of salvation is man choosing God.

Unconditional Election

  • God chose certain people before the foundation of the world for His own reasons and not based on seeing who would respond to His call.
  • Election is unconditional. God simply chose some and not others.
  • The final cause of salvation is God choosing man.

Unlimited Atonement

  • Christ’s death achieved the potential for man to be saved.
  • Christ died for every person who ever lived, but only saves those who believe.
  • Christ’s death secured the potential for salvation and did not secure faith (which is man’s work)

Limited Atonement

  • Christ’s death effectually saved the elect.
  • Christ’s death was only for the elect and not for the entire human race.
  • Christ’s death secured salvation and faith

Obstructable Grace

  • God never forces salvation upon anyone.
  • The Spirit woos people but they are free to accept or reject Him.
  • Faith allows the Spirit to do His work in man

Irresistible Grace

  • God gives the gift of salvation to His elect and they have no choice but to respond.
  • The Spirit regenerates people who are then given faith and must repent.
  • The Spirit does His work based on who God has predestined to eternal life

Falling From Grace

  • Because salvation is ultimately dependent on man, he can reject his salvation.

Perseverance of the Saints

  • Because salvation is ultimately dependent on God, man can never lose salvation

As you see, the process of a person becoming saved is vastly different in each of the views. I have created a chart for each of the views to try to simplify the differences between them.


Next time we will wrap up the discussion with some conclusions and I will provide an explanation for the view to which I adhere.