This is part five 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.
The terms Arminianism and Calvinism are, of course, absent from the Bible. For that reason I tend to avoid defining myself as either one. I would rather be defined as a follower of Christ than a follower of the teachings of Calvin or Arminius. However, having said that, I do believe that one of their teachings is correct and the other is not.
It should come as no surprise that I adhere to Calvinist theology. I believe that Calvinism is little more than a correct interpretation of the Bible. It is not a radical theology; it is correct, Biblical theology! From what the Bible teaches and from what I have seen of human nature, I simply cannot believe that man can play any part in his salvation. A former pastor of mine used to say it like this: “Imagine you are in a river, the water is flowing quickly and you are sinking. You struggle, fight and thrash about but are unable to save yourself. As you are going down for the last time, you manage to extend your hand just a bit. As you extend your hand, someone grabs it and pulls you from the torent. That is Arminian theology. Calvinism says that you are a corpse – a dead, rotting corpse unable to even extend your pinky finger. But God brings that corpse to life.” The Irvins recently posted about light and asked how much light is enough to make a blind man see. The point is the same – a blind man can see no light just as a dead man cannot extend his hand. Until God brings us to life we are dead. Soli Deo Gloria.
My final word on the topic is this. To be a Christian I need only believe that Christ paid the penalty for my sins and to ask Him for forgiveness. Both Calvinists and Arminians agree on this. Therefore, whether I am Calvinist or Arminian in theology, I can and must have fellowship with those who adhere to the other viewpoint. Christian fellowship must extend to the whole body of true believers, regardless of theology.
If you are interested in studying this topic further, I would suggest the following resources:
John Piper, John MacArthur, James Boice and R.C. Sproul are all prolific authors who have written books about Calvinism or from a Calvinist perspective. Calvin’s Institutes are widely available in print or online.
I do not know of many resources which defend Arminianism since the great majority of Christians are Arminian. Dave Hunt has recently published a book which argues against Calvinism, but from what I have read it is deeply flawed (Hunt admits he has not even read Calvin’s Institutes, for example). If you can provide me with some more resources, please feel free to email me or post a comment below.