Difference between Calvinism and Arminianism

Ok we don’t normally get too deep doctrinally, but I thought having a basic understanding of Calvinism and Arminianism is important. Granted what I’m going to share isn’t super deep, you can do much more research on this topic, but knowing which camp your doctrine falls into is important on how you read the Bible and evangelize. If you have no idea what I’m talking about that’s ok haha we’ll get into it.

One of the most divisive debates in the history of the Church centers around the opposing doctrines of salvation known as Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvinism is based on the theological beliefs and teachings of a leader of the Reformation named John Calvin who was alive in the 1500’s, and Arminianism is based on the views of the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius. Hence Calvinism and Arminianism.

Arminius actually studied under the son in law of Calvin, but when he was diving into the book of Romans he began to doubt some Calvinistic doctrines, which led to two ways of thinking.

Calvinism centers around the supreme sovereignty of God, predestination, the total depravity of man, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of saints.

Arminianism on the other hand emphasizes conditional election based on God’s foreknowledge, man’s free will to cooperate with God in salvation, Christ’s universal atonement, resistible grace, and salvation that can potentially be lost.

I know that sounds like a lot but lets look at a few of those topics to compare them side by side.

So, first, God’s sovereignty. This is the belief that God is in complete control over everything that happens in the universe. His will is the final cause of all things. Calvinists believe God is 100% sovereign and he knows everything that will happen because he planned it. Arminians believe God is sovereign, but has limited control in relation to man’s freedom and their response to it.

Another one, Election. This is the concept of how people are chosen for salvation. Calvinists believe that God elected some people to be saved and it has nothing to do with man’s future response. Arminians believe that election is based on God’s foreknowledge of those who would believe in him through faith, which means God chooses those who chose him on their own free will, based on man’s response to God’s offer of salvation.

You see how the two sides can be quite different? Ok one more, even tho there is a bunch. We have Perseverance of the saints, which is tied to the “once saved, always saved” debate and the question of eternal security. The Calvinist says that believers will persevere in salvation because God will see to it that none will be lost. Believers are secure in their faith because God will finish the work he began. On the other hand, Arminianism says that because of free will, believers can turn away or fall away from grace and potentially lose their salvation.

Man, that was deep. That was a lot haha. At the end of the day, no matter what you currently believe, it’s important to note that all of the doctrinal points in both theological positions, Calvinism and Arminianism, have a biblical foundation, which is why the debate has been so divisive and enduring throughout church history. Different denominations disagree over which points are correct, rejecting all or some of either system of theology, leaving a lot of us believers with a mixed perspective on what we truly believe. Because both Calvinism and Arminianism deal with concepts that go far beyond human comprehension, the debate is certain to continue as human beings try to explain an infinitely mysterious God.
And I hope that shed a little light on the topic. Peace.

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