Calvinism vs Arminianism – Comparison Chart

The following material from Romans: An Interpretative Outline (pp.144-147). by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, contrasts the Five Points of Arminianism with the Five Points of Calvinism in the clearest and most concise form that we have seen anywhere. It is also found in their smaller book, The Five Points of Calvinism (pp. 16-19). Both books are published by The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Philadelphia.(1963). Messrs. Steele and Thomas have served for several years as co-pastors of a Southern Baptist church, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

THE “FIVE POINTS” OF
ARMINIANISM
THE “FIVE POINTS” OF
CALVINISM
Free Will or Human Ability
Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does not interfere with man’s freedom. Each sinner possesses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man’s freedom consists of his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God’s Spirit and be regenerated or resist God’s grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit’s assistance, but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man’s act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner’s gift to God; it is man’s contribution to salvation.
Total Inability or Total Depravity
Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not — indeed he cannot — choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ — it takes  regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation— it is God’s gift to the
sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.
Conditional Election
God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world was based upon His foreseeing that they would respond to His call. He selected only those whom He knew would of themselves freely believe the gospel. Election therefore was determined by or conditioned upon what man would do. The faith which God foresaw and upon which He based His choice was not given to the sinner by God (it was not created by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit) but resulted solely from man’s will. It was left entirely up to man as to who would believe and therefore as to who would be elected unto salvation. God chose those whom He knew would, of their own free will, choose Christ. Thus the sinner’s choice of Christ, not God’s choice of the sinner, is the ultimate cause of salvation.
Unconditional Election
God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before fore the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response or obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause God’s choice. Election therefore was not determined by or conditioned upon any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus God’s choice of the sinner, not the sinner’s choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.
Universal Redemption or General Atonement
Christ’s redeeming work made it possible for everyone to be saved but did not actually secure the salvation of anyone. Although Christ died for all men and for every man, only those who believe on Him are saved. His death enabled God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe, but it did not actually put away anyone’s sins. Christ’s redemption becomes effective only if man chooses to accept it.
Particular Redemption or Limited Atonement
Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, therefore guaranteeing their salvation
The Holy Spirit Can Be Effectually Resisted
The Spirit calls inwardly all those who are called outwardly by the gospel invitation; He does all that He can to bring every sinner to salvation. But inasmuch as man is free, he can successfully resist the Spirit’s call. The Spirit cannot regenerate the sinner until he believes; faith (which is man’s contribution) precedes and makes possible the new birth. Thus, man’s free will limits the Spirit in the application of Christ’s saving work. The Holy Spirit can only draw to Christ those who allow Him to have His way with them. Until the sinner responds, the Spirit cannot give life. God’s grace, therefore, is not invincible; it can be, and often is, resisted and thwarted by man.
The Efficacious Call of the Spirit or Irresistible Grace
In addition to the outward general call to salvation which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The eternal call (which is made to all without distinction) can be, and often is, rejected; whereas the internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By mean, of this special call the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man’s will, nor is He dependent upon man’s cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God’, grace. therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended.
Falling From Grace
Those who believe and are truly saved can lose their salvation by failing to keep up their faith. etc. All Arminian, have not been agreed on this point; some have held that believers are eternally secure in Christ — that once a sinner is regenerated. he can never be lost.
Perseverance of the Saints
All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.
According to Arminianism:Salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God (who takes the initiative) and man(who must respond)—man’s response being the determining factor. God has provided salvation for everyone, but His provision becomes effective only for those who, of their own free will, “choose” to cooperate with Him and accept His offer of grace. At the crucial point, man’s will plays a decisive role; thus man, not God, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.REJECTED by the Synod of DortThis was the system of thought contained in the “Remonstrance” (though the “five points” were not originally arranged in this order). It was submitted by the Arminians to the Church of Holland in 1610 for adoption but was rejected by the Synod of Dort in 1619 on the ground that it was unscriptural. According to Calvinism:Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the Triune God. The Father chose a people, the Son died for them, the Holy  Spirit makes Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.REAFFIRMED by the Synod of DortThis system of theology was reaffirmed by the Synod of Dort in 1619 as the doctrine of salvation contained in the Holy Scriptures. The system was at that time formulated into “five points” (in answer to the five points submitted by the Arminians) and has ever since been known as “the five points of Calvinism.”

 

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  • Brendan P. Burnett

    That chart is misconceived; it misrepresents the classical Arminian belief in total depravity as represented by the first point of Free Will here:

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does not interfere with man’s freedom. Each sinner possesses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man’s freedom consists of his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters; his will is not enslaved to his sinful nature. The sinner has the power to either cooperate with God’s Spirit and be regenerated or resist God’s grace and perish. The lost sinner needs the Spirit’s assistance, but he does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe, for faith is man’s act and precedes the new birth. Faith is the sinner’s gift to God; it is man’s contribution to salvation.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Really? Is this really the case? I didn’t see a footnote. I can see why: Because this was surely not the case! Arminius says in context of the fallenness and depravity of man:

    “In this state, the free will of man is not only wounded, maimed, infirmed, bent and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they are assisted by grace but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by divine grace… Exactly correspondent to this darkness of the mind and perverseness of the heart, is the utter weakness of all the powers to perform that which is truly good, and to omit the perpetration of that which is evil, in a due mode and from a due end and cause.” ~~~ (John D. Wagner, Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will and the Nature of God (2011), p.3).

    And John Wesley, an Arminian, speaks of man’s nature after the fall thusly:

    “But was there good intermingled with the evil? Was there not light intermixed with darkness? No; not at all: “God saw that the heart of man was only evil.”… For God, who “saw the whole imagination of his heart to be only evil,” saw likewise, that it was only the same, that is, it “was only evil continually;” every year, every day, every hour, every moment. He never deviated into good… From all these we learn concerning man in his natural state, unassisted by the grace of God, that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is” still “evil, only evil” and that “continually.”” (Wesley, J., The Works of John Wesley, Third Edition: Complete and Unabridged, (2007), 14vols., 6:57.)

    Arminius believed firmly in total depravity just like the Calvinists. Even R. C. Sproul has noted this:

    “The above citation from one of Arminius’s works demonstrates how seriously he regards the depths of the fall. He is not satisfied to declare that man’s will was merely wounded or weakened. He insists that is was “imprisoned, destroyed, and lost.” The language of Augustine, Martin Luther, or John Calvin is scarcely stronger than that of Arminius. . . . Arminius not only affirms the bondage of the will, but insists that natural man, being dead in sin, exists in a state of moral inability or impotence. What more could an Augustinian or Calvinist hope for from a theologian? Arminius then declares that the only remedy for man’s fallen condition is the gracious operation of God’s Spirit. The will of man is not free to do any good unless it is made free or liberated by the Son of God through the Spirit of God.” (Sproul, R. C., Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will (1997), pp.126-128.)

    • Brandon

      Brendan, you are correct in stating that Arminius was far less an Arminian than his followers who continued on after his death. It is those follwers which the Canon of Sort and Calvin refuted then and to this day and it is those same beliefs which Steele, Thomas and many others have continued to refute over the past few centuries.

      Of course there will always be variations of Arminian theology (see Amaraldianism), but it is classical Arminianism which is most prevalent.

      • Ben

        They dorted out the heretics at the Synods of Sort 😛
        It’s Dort, I’m just being lighthearted about your typo 🙂

      • Brendan P. Burnett

        Well I would say that Jacobus Arminius upon whom Classical Arminianism (a.k.a. Reformation Arminianism) is built should be the true standard for how “Arminianism” is defined. The first and foremost followers of Arminius after Arminius’ death were the 17th century Remonstrants under Simon Episcopius, a student of Arminius at Leiden University. The Remonstrants drew up a declaration of faith in 1621 (translated by Mark A. Ellis, available here: http://www.amazon.com/Arminian-Confession-Princeton-Theological-Monograph/dp/1597523372/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320324005&sr=1-2) which explained the earliest Arminian beliefs and main points of contention on soteriology, in which numerous examples could be given as to the consistency they had with Arminius’ own theological sentiments. Here’s an example from the confession on depravity. After commenting on the truth of original sin and the permeation of guilt to the entire human race placing them and their wills in bondage to sin, The Arminian Confession of 1621 states:

        “Sin was not only in the world, but also so exerted its power, that all flesh…corrupted its way, and every imagination of man was only evil from childhood.” (p.67)

        Hence:

        “It was from this [fallenness, depravity and bondage of the will] that the highest necessity and also advantage of divine grace, prepared for us in Christ the Saviour before the ages, clearly appeared. For without it, we could neither shake off the miserable yoke of sin, nor do anything truly good in all religion, nor finally ever escape eternal death or any true punishment of sin. Much less could we at any time obtain eternal salvation without it [grace] or through ourselves.” (pp.68-69)

        So what I think is demonstrated from these passages is that the earliest Arminians were absolutely committed to the bondage of the will in sin, the total depravity of man and hence the necessity of grace, for we cannot “obtain eternal salvation…through ourselves.” Therefore those who call themselves “Arminian” today who do not adhere to this early convictions should not, I think, call themselves Arminians and much less should we, in the knowledge of the difference, refer to them as Arminians.

        This kind of early, historic Classical Arminianism is represented today by the likes of Roger E. Olson (“Arminian Theology” 2006, “Against Calvinism” 2011), Robert E. Picirilli (“Grace, Faith, Free Will” 2002), F. Leroy Forlines and J. Matthew Pinson (“Classical Arminianism” 2011). Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell (“Why I’m Not a Calvinist” 2004) and a host of others such as Brian J. Abasciano, who is currently writing a massive three volume commentary on Romans 9 (vol. 1: http://www.amazon.com/Pauls-Use-Old-Testament-Romans/dp/0567030733/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320324938&sr=1-2; Vol 2: http://www.amazon.com/Pauls-Use-Old-Testament-Romans/dp/0567031039/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320324938&sr=1-1) and also heads the Society of Evangelical Arminians (www.evangelicalarminians.org) which in turn is represented by famous bloggers like the Southern Baptist blogger William W. Birch at http://www.thearminian.net.

        Essentially classical Arminianism–which is faithful to Arminius and the early Remonstrants–abounds even today, and it is time this fact be recognised. This historic Arminianism is committed to the depravity of man, the necessity of grace and the supremacy of God’s holy character in all of its aspects; sovereignty, love, righteousness, justice and goodness, etc. What I hope this extended response demonstrates is that there are in fact sources which do hold to Jacobus Arminius’ original sentiments, and these are what is truly, historically, ARMINIAN. Other sentiments which focus on free will or man’s goodness and ability are foreign to Arminianism.

        I even have written an extended 25,000 exposition on this topic: “The Fallenness of Man, the Will and the Workings of Grace: An Exposition on Historical Arminian Theological Thought.” If I may, I would invite anyone who is interested to obtain a copy of this exposition and read it, wherein the earliest sentiments of the early Arminians is expounded regarding the creation, the fall and its effects, the will of man and of God including the government of evil and providence, the method of the Holy Spirit in bringing salvation and the place of grace in the believer’s life. Anyone who wants a copy should email me at brendan_27@hotmail.com with subject heading “Arminian Exposition.”

        Thanks.

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  • just another internet user

    RE your opening statement:
    That chart is misconceived; it misrepresents the classical Arminian belief in total depravity
    …..
    Jacob Arminius did not teach “total depravity” nor do arminians believe in the total depravity or inability of the sinner to come to Christ… so beats me what your spinning here.. your opening
    statement is incorrect.. you should get informed FIRST and do the theological legwork and find
    out what the person actually taught and believed before making such statements and making yourself look foolish.

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  • Samie Pimentel

    This is my Alternative View:

    Spiritual Reinstatement Through the Plan of Redemption

    Adam, by his own death that day he sinned, could have paid the penalty
    for his sin, but that would be his eternal end. He could have paid for
    his sin God hates, but God would have eternally lost the sinner He
    loves. So right on that same day Adam fell into sin, God implemented the
    plan of redemption devised before the foundation of the world. God’s
    plan made it possible for man to not only pay for the penalty of his own
    sin, but also reinstated man to his pre-fall spiritual status and gave
    him another shot at eternal life. That plan was revealed in the life,
    death and resurrection of our Lord. No wonder Christ is called the Lamb
    slain from the foundation of the world.

    General Election

    God’s choice of everyone in Adam’s race before the foundation of the
    world rested solely in His grace and great love for His creatures. He
    predestined all for adoption as children in Jesus, and on the cross
    fashioned them into the Body of His Son, gave each one faith that they
    may please Him and gain victory over evil. Being part of His Body, all
    have His Power to overcome evil with good. Thus God’s choice of man made
    him part of the Body of Christ, but it is man’s choice whether or not
    to remain part of the Body by overcoming evil with good. It is Christ
    Who finally decides whether to remove a person from His Body by blotting
    his name from the book of life.

    Universal and Unconditional Redemption or Atonement

    God through Christ’s redeeming work intended to save all of Adam’s race
    and actually secured salvation for them by fashioning them into the
    Body of Christ on the cross where the One New Man was created: Christ
    the Head, humanity the Body. When the Head died, the Body died, and the
    penalty for sin was paid for and all were washed clean from sin and
    forgiven. When the Head resurrected, the Body was made alive together
    with Him, born again to a living hope. Hence, everyone is born already
    In Christ. But only those who in their lifetime God through Christ
    judges as having overcome evil with good will not be dismembered from
    the Body His Son and will ultimately make it to the heavenly portals.

    The General Call to Repentance

    God so loved the world that He fashioned all into the Body of Christ,
    no one exempted nor left out. Yet He does not overrule the will of His
    creatures in responding to His love by overcoming evil with good, hence
    His call for all men everywhere to repent. Being part of the Body of
    Christ, a person has His Power to overcome evil. It is not a question of
    inability but one of refusal, if one does not overcome evil with good.
    Being members of the family of God, we all grow up in Christ. Those who
    God determines that it is best for them to know about His Son, He will
    send someone to them, just as the Holy Spirit directed Philip to the
    Ethiopian eunuch who readily accepted and believed in Christ. Believing
    is overcoming the evil of unbelief and disbelief. Being members of His
    family, God assigns to us our own unique responsibilities commensurate
    with our spiritual level of maturity. And God through Christ judges
    whether one is an overcomer or not after a person dies. There’s hope
    while alive.

    Perseverance to Overcome Evil with Good

    Being part of the Body of Christ, one is expected to act in accordance
    with what the Head wants its body part to do under the guidance of the
    Holy Spirit. Only those who God through Christ judges as having
    persevered in overcoming evil with good will remain part of the Body of
    Christ.

    According to Pimentelism: Salvation has three Tenses (or 3
    Dimensions of the Gospel): Past, Present, Future. All benefited in the
    past and present tenses, but only overcomers will positively benefit
    from the future tense. In the Past Tense, contingent upon the life,
    death and resurrection of Jesus, God through Christ fashioned all into
    the Body of His Son. In the Present Tense, God through Christ, justifies
    us each time we commit sin, and remembers our sin no more. But the act
    of sinning reminds the person he is overcome of evil instead of
    overcoming it with good. When a person dies, God through Christ judges
    whether the person is an overcomer or not. Overcomers will not be
    blotted out from the book of life and in the future tense of salvation,
    when Christ comes again, will be rewarded with life eternal. All others
    will suffer the wrath of God – the 7 last plagues – and finally thrown
    into the lake of fire. This is Pimentel’s alternative to the five points
    of both Arminianism and Calvinism.

    By Samie S. Pimentel