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Arminianism vs. Calvinism Controversy 2 of 5

Bible knowledge is a tool not a trophy

(Continued from Arminianism vs. Calvinism Controversy page 1)

If Christians are, by definition, followers of Christ, then they must hold God’s Word above philosophical theology. There are a few basic rules to follow in Bible interpretation. these can never be ignored and sacrificed to doctrine, but doctrine must always agree with God’s Word. This is an extremely difficult task as the number of different denominations attest to.

One should also see the difference between the five fundamentals of the Christian faith, or the five solas of Luther, and the petal war between Arminianists and Calvinists. These latter differences of opinion should be interesting topics for discussion, but not divisive issues.

There is unfortunately an arrogance within theology. The humanistic assumption is that we can understand God in an absolute sense. Both Calvinists and Arminianists exhibit these humanist tendencies. The Bible was not given to theologians, but to all, and the ability to understand God is not restricted to higher learning, but is an intuitive understanding. Higher learning can, in fact, be a serious handicap.

Whether we like it or not, the fact is that God is our Creator, and the Creator of time and space, which puts God outside time and space, but interacting in and with His time and space. We exist physically inside of time and space, and no person has ever been able to imagine existing outside time and space. We cannot dictate to God, but should humbly be led by the Holy Spirit.

The debate has been between two sides, for both of whom there are no shades of grey. It is a matter of right or wrong. Much has happened in our understanding of the universe since Calvin's and Arminius's days. Calvin lived before scientific revolutions, like Galileo and Newton, had taken place. Galileo was born the Year Calvin died. Today our understanding of the material universe includes Einstein's relativity and quantum physics. Calvin did mix humanistic philosophical concepts into his bible interpretations. He was educated in an Arastotilian system, and this had an influence in his theology. After all, Calvin was human.


Maybe we are now ready to take a quantum leap into theology, and be able to grasp that there might be more than either God or man, but that God has made it so that there is an interplay between God and man. Maybe that is what relationships are all about.

The serious division in the Body of Christ, is not in this area, it is between Scriptural Christians and liberal, modernist Christians.

Calvin’s Tulip and Daisy

The acronym TULIP stands for the five pillars of Calvinism:


Total depravity of man (man is totally unable to love God)


Unconditional election (God chooses whom He wishes)


Limited atonement (Christ died only for the elect)


Irresistible grace (those God chooses cannot resist the calling)


Perseverance of the saints (those God chose, God is faithful to keep until the end)

Then there is the Calvinist’s version of the Arminianist view, the DAISY:


Diminished Depravity (Free Will or Human Ability)


Abolition of true Grace (election is conditional)


Impersonal Atonement (Universal Redemption or General Atonement)


Sovereignty of the sinner (man’s will to turn away from God)


Yielding eternal uncertainty (God doesn’t preserve us)

If one dissects the flowers petal by petal, one might get a clearer picture of the issues in the controversy. Starting with the T in Tulip and the D in Daisy:

The Calvinist says:


Total depravity of man (man is totally unable to love God)

Psalm 14:1-3 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works; There is none that doeth good. Jehovah looked down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there were any that did understand, That did seek after God. They are all gone aside; They are together become filthy; There is none that does good, no, not one.

Romans 3:10 as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.

Romans 8:5-8 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

The Arminianist counters with:


Diminished Depravity (Free Will or Human Ability)

In Matthew 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Luke 16:31 Abraham said, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

Note on this point: The original Arminianists did not opposed the “total depravity of man.” They did not see man as able on his/her own to turn to God without God first illuminating the person. So the idea of placing ‘free will’ as opposed to the “depravity of man” is a construction by theologians from both camps. The Arminianists diluting the original doctrine towards a modernist stand, and Calvinists taking the challenge.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

The word “Whosoever” implies whosoever.

Throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, there is clear straight forward evidence that God gave man a free will. It is not as Calvinists say, making God impotent, but rather an illustration of the Love. Love cannot exist in a state of coercion, but can only be freely given of own free will. God has given us that free will, but it is exercised in response to God’s enlightening us.

Jesus said in the story of the sheep and goats, in Matthew 25:31-46, “For I was hungry, and You gave me meat: I was thirsty, and You gave me drink: I was a stranger, and You took me in: naked, and You clothed me: I was sick, and You visited me: I was in prison, and You came unto me.

“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry, when did we see you a stranger, and took you in? Or naked, and clothed you? Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and came to you?

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Truely I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it to me.”

There are many altruistic atheists who do good works, but point to cold self-righteous Christians to justify their rejection of the Lord.

To extricate ourselves out of this apparent paradox, we need look no further than to our conscience. The word is from Latin and means to know together with, and by implication, to know together with God. This means the altruistic atheist is able to do good works because he/she has heard from God intuitively through their conscience, but have not taken that message to its logical conclusion.

There are some people in our societies, who are really evil and depraved. There is a term for them, psychopaths. A psychopath is not defined through having some trait, but is defined by a lack of a trait. A psychopath is an individual who is without a conscience.

Arminius and the first generation of Arminianists agreed that man without God is totally depraved, as a psychopath is, and that all our decency and good works, have their source in God.

Irenaeus, the disciple of the apostle John’s disciple, Polycarp, clearly states that God gives the insight (regeneration), but we answer the call with our own free will.

Irenaeus explains in a way which is neither Arminianist, nor Calvinist, but makes sense. Love cannot be forced, but giving it freely is an intrinsic property of love, therefore God does not force it onto us. This in no way diminishes God’s Grace, it enhances Grace.

Irenaeus wrote:

“For there is no coercion with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man, as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves. On the other hand, they who have not obeyed shall, with justice, be not found in possession of the good, and shall receive appropriate punishment: for God did kindly bestow on them what was good; but they themselves did not diligently keep it, nor deem it something precious, but poured contempt upon His super-eminent goodness.”

If it is only God’s work, and if God does speak to the atheist, Yet not bring the person to the Body of Christ, is God playing games? Calvin has a convoluted answer which will be covered with the next petal.

(Continued on page 3 for the Tulip and Daisy with the U and A petals)

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