Many of the religious people I interact with online will tell me that the only thing I want to talk about is Arminianism versus Calvinism. I believe that there are many problems with this statement, not the least of which is that it equivocates the gospel with a lie. It is not Calvinism versus Arminianism as two competing but equally viable theological systems that can be hashed out in a friendly discussion where we agree to call each other brethren. The statement that it is merely Calvinism versus Arminianism downplays the seriousness of what is being discussed. It attempts to make friends with enemies of the cross. It implies that Arminianism is a viable form of Christianity. It makes it out to sound like it’s merely a matter of academic theology or that I’m just someone who likes to play semantic games.
Honestly, I don’t view it that way at all. While I recognize that I sometimes stir the pot, the particular issues of limited atonement and whether salvation is conditioned on the actions of men are gospel issues-I believe if you get this wrong it is evidence of being unsaved. I honestly believe that it is that serious. Which is why I post about it. It’s not about Arminianism versus Calvinism as a personal preference…Arminianism is a straight up lie( as in, not true at all. Zip. ZERO. NADA. Nothing about Arminianism is true), and the 5 points of Calvinism are not the gospel, though the gospel does in fact include the 5 points.
I think saying that Arminianism versus Calvinism is merely a friendly debate is a tool of the devil to further blind people to the truth about God’s complete sovereignty in salvation. To be consistent, I do believe that resistance to the gospel is appointed, but that doesn’t mean that I should not vigorously contend for the gospel-Jude commands me to do so.
Let’s just get this out there so that the reader can be aware that I am not advocating that Arminians merely become Calvinists so that they can have a better theology. Most 5 point Calvinists are legalists on their way to hell. They mistakenly believe that either election is the gospel, or that their believing in God’s sovereignty is proof that they are saved. Both of these are faulty grounds of assurance.
I never want an Arminian to merely become a “Calvinist.” That’s missing the point entirely and trading one form of legalism for another. Both are damnable. Anyone who does not believe that Christ’s death is all-sufficient to satisfy the wrath of God for the elect and that man has no role in either their salvation or sanctification is an unbeliever. They do not believe God. The testimony of God concerning Christ is that His death actually redeemed His people. The Arminian is an unbeliever because they confide in their free will. The legalist 5 pointer is an unbeliever because he confides in his knowledge of “higher theology.” Neither look to Christ for salvation. Both look within.
Many of the Arminians I’ve come to meet have already unfortunately met with this type of legalist Calvinist who has completely turned them off to listening to what the Bible does actually say about salvation. I am truly sorry for this fact. However, in spite of the fact that Arminians may have been warned about the “Calvinists” and their “man-made” ideologies, the bible does teach what the “Calvinists” you’ve been warned about says it does. That doesn’t mean that they are saved, it just means that they are closer to the true gospel than the Arminian, which is almost more tragic. To be so close and yet miss Christ because one is deceived into thinking that election by itself is the gospel, or that God’s sovereignty by itself is the gospel. It is entirely possible to be a Calvinist and miss Christ.
Knowledge of Christ is given by God. The gospel is the testimony of God concerning Christ and His completed work on behalf of His chosen people alone. That includes the 5 points, but its center focus is Christ and His work. Want to know how tell a saved Calvinist from an unsaved Calvinist? What is the object of their faith? Is it their knowledge of TULIP instead of Christ’s completed work as their sole grounds of justification? If so then they are unsaved. They are legalists who believe that knowledge of TULIP is evidence of election. Many of them are really still practical Arminians who condition salvation on the sinner, and in their darkened minds they fail to understand the true unconditionality of salvation and the judicial nature of what God did in Christ did at the cross.
The legalist 5 pointer is absolutely no better off than the Arminian because they are still looking to themselves for their righteousness. In their case, it’s their knowledge of TULIP.
Calvinism is not the gospel. Contrary to what Spurgeon is often quoted as saying, “Calvinism” is not short hand for the gospel. This is another lie straight from the pit of hell. The 5 points by themselves are not the gospel. Even when taken together, if the focus is not on Christ and His accomplished work, then we have missed the gospel.
The 5 points are Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the Saints. The Bible does teach these things. The Bible does teach man is dead in trespasses and sins and cannot commend himself to God. The Bible does teach that the election of God’s people is not of works and solely based on His sovereign choice. The Bible does teach that Christ only died for the sins of His people. The Bible does teach the elect will come to Christ, and the Bible does teach that salvation is secure because of what Christ has done. If we only teach these points as individual theological concepts devoid of any larger context, then we are merely religionists–collecting religious knowledge of no value. It is of no worth to understand TULIP and yet miss Christ. One can acquire all the theological knowledge in the world and yet lose their soul. Christ is the center. He is the object of true saving faith. The 5 points are not the gospel.
The discussion is not merely Arminianism versus Calvinism. Framing the discussion in such a fashion is a straw man-it misrepresents the dilemma and reframes it as something that it is not, only to be attacked and dismissed. It avoids the real issue. The issue is the Truth with a capital T. Arminianism is falsehood. Plain and simple. There is not an iota of truth to it. It literally teaches the exact opposite of scripture on every point germane to the discussion of salvation. The Arminian denies that man is totally depraved. They teach that men has free will to choose God and have faith. The Bible does not teach that men have free will. In no place is there even an arguable place that the actual meaning of the passage is to convey the idea that men have free will. Arminians have their proof texts, but when examined honestly in context, the passage is never saying what they say that it is.
The Arminian teaches that election is conditioned on the foreseen faith of the individual. This again is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Paul teaches in Ephesians 1 that the elect of God were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Romans 9 tells us that God made His choice prior to be people being born so that His purpose of election would stand. The decision about who to choose was not made based on anything foreseen in them. Quite the contrary, they were chosen prior to having done anything so that God would receive the full glory of the election of His people. This is a major point. It means that the elect of God did nothing, nor can they do anything to become His people. It means that the elect of God are loved, not because of their actions, but because of their election in Christ. The bible teaches that election is unconditional-the elect do not do anything to be elected. They are elect purely as a function of God’s sovereign decree and choice.
The Arminian teaches that the atonement is unlimited and available to all men and ineffectual without free will. This betrays a complete misunderstanding of atonement and propitiation. They teach this because they do not like the idea of a God who does not give salvation equally to all men. They teach this because they think that a God who is more inclusive is better than a God who is deliberately exclusive. They do not teach an unlimited atonement because that is what the Bible teaches. Quite the contrary, the Bible states that Christ died only for His sheep (Isaiah 53, John 10). Further, Christ only came to save those sheep (Matt 1:21, John 17). The issue of the effectiveness of the atonement is a central issue because it is often where the gospel is deliberately twisted or distorted.
The natural man hates a limited, effectual atonement. Because of how pervasive the Arminian lie is globally, the news of a limited atonement is usually received with shock and incredulity. If you insist that the atonement is limited, the implications of it become clear and the natural man hates it. The reason he hates it is because it immediately begs the question of whether or not he is covered under that atonement. That question is answered, unfortunately for the natural man, by someone outside himself, namely God. Unless converted by God, the natural man will continually be an enemy to the idea that it is God who chooses whose sins are forgiven by the death of Christ. That is why he erects in the place of the true Christ a false christ which allegedly died for all men. Once having erected this false idol, the natural man then makes the non-existent atonement of this false idol equally appropriable by all men.
Universal atonement is a heretical Catholic belief. The Arminian is merely a logically inconsistent Catholic/universalist–Christ died for all sins, not everyone is going to heaven, so I guess His death really isn’t the final decider of who goes. Enter man and his mighty faith to save the day and save Jesus from embarrassment.
My question to the Arminian: if no one had ever come to Jesus, in spite of Him dying for them, wouldn’t that make Him an embarrassment? If His mission in dying on the cross was to save all men and not all men are saved, doesn’t that make Him a failure? Forget about free will for 5 seconds and really think about that issue. If it was His mission to save all men, and if all men are not saved, does that not make him a failure? For the Arminian, this is where they take up the reigns to help Jesus finish the job with their free will. This is heretical. It attacks the gospel at its very core-it makes the death of Christ meaningless.
The Arminian teaches that grace is resistible. I’m actually not even sure what the appeal of this teaching is, aside from the obvious undertones of will worship. The grace of God is a gift, given only to His elect and tied to the death of Christ on their behalf. God is not merely giving out grace to every single person. Jesus teaches us in John 6 that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him. That drawing is an effectual dragging to Christ. Because men are dead they cannot look to Christ for salvation. Only those whom the Father has given to Christ will in time believe the gospel and be saved.
I struggle to understand why the Arminian would want to resist grace, or at least provide for the possibility that it could be resisted. Perhaps it is because they are so tied up in the belief that it is their ability to choose grace that when they see some people reject the “gospel” they chalk it up to grace being resistible. After all, if Almighty God must bow to the free will of men, how could grace ever have a snowball’s chance in hell of overcoming man’s free will? Further, they are not convinced that they are spiritually dead, so they figure that condemnation is a matter of choice rather than appointment. They are deceived into thinking that God can either be accepted or rejected. This is spiritual blindness.
God’s grace is effectual. I’m not sure I like the term “irresistible.” It carries connotations that are foreign to the concept of grace. Grace is not irresistible, it is given by God to His people. He doesn’t give them an option to accept His grace. He doesn’t give them an option to make Him Lord. He doesn’t give them options about how to think about who He is. He does these for His own glory. Imagine that! God does things for His own glory!
The Arminian teaches that salvation can be lost. I wrote a detailed article on this point if more information is sought. This is another attack on the gospel. This challenges the sufficiency of the atonement of Christ. It makes man a partner in salvation and declares Christ to be insufficient because man must now work to maintain salvation. Jesus was a good starting point, and now I’ll take over. The irony of any Arminian singing hymns concerning the truth of the sufficiency of the atonement is that while belting out the verses with unsupported assurance, they are crossing their fingers behind their back.
How can you have assurance of salvation when it can be lost? If you have to work to ensure the prospect of being saved, how can you have present assurance? Isn’t the “knowing that you know” standard even pretty hollow at that point? How can you know that you know when you have to work in an ongoing fashion to be saved? How do you that you will continue to work in the future? What is the nature of this on-going salvation maintenance? Moralism? Legalism? Asceticism?
The Arminian message is the literal opposite of the truth. It does not get more diametrically opposed than Arminianism is to the gospel. As already stated, this is not about getting Arminians to become Calvinists. It’s not about Arminianism versus Calvinism. This is about declaring Arminianism to be a false gospel that cannot save. This is about clarifying the gospel. This about calling the elect to repentance and faith in Christ. This is about shaking the confidence that men have in themselves and their free will, with the hope that they will turn to Christ.
So yeah, I talk true versus false gospels all the time. What’s more important than sorting that out? Jesus said that few find the narrow road which leads to life, and many who call Him Lord are going to hell. Most people you and I know are somewhat religious…do you never wonder if Jesus is talking about them in Matthew 7? Have you ever wondered if He was talking about you? False gospels are serious stuff. If you’re truly a believer of the biblical faith, you are called to defend that biblical faith, no matter what it costs.
It’s not popular. Limited atonement for the elect alone is not popular, it isn’t “cool,” but it’s the truth.