Calvinism (TULIP) and
Arminianism (Free Will)
Election and Predestination as Calvin presented is not what the bible
teaches and was not even an issue in the early church. This belief was
introduced first by Augustine around 400 AD and after his death, it fell
into obscurity until Calvin revived it some 1100 years later.
Election and predestination as explained by Calvin is best described
as "Selective Salvation". The problem with building a doctrine
around one issue is that it requires ignoring or altering the meaning
of words in scriptures that directly contradicts a preferred doctrine.
Calvin was no less guilty of force fitting scripture to fit his theology
than any other person who builds a theology around one central theme.
On the other side of the coin is the Free Will teaching that was introduced
by James Arminius to counter Calvinism. In the zeal to counter Calvinism,
the Free Will of man became his central theme and the same pitfalls of
force fitting scripture to fit Free Will became the same problem as it
did for Calvin.
"Free Will" Theology at a Glance:
The Free Will teachings of Armininius recognizes the free will of man
as in opposition to Calvinism that teaches that man does not have a free
will. Free Will teachings teach that just as man has a free will to choose
salvation, he also has a free will to choose to walk away from his salvation.
This sounds reasonable on the surface but it really isn't a simple matter
of someone waking up one morning and deciding he no longer desires to
have his salvation and he simply chooses to walk away. This "Free
Will" of "choosing to walk away" is rooted in the belief
that a person who "willingly" sins is willingly walking away
from his salvation and therefore, it is an act of his own free will. In
other words, salvation is not dependent upon being declared righteous
through the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to those who
believe but that man must retain his salvation through perfect obedience
that translates into sinlessness.
The reason it is taught that man can walk away from his salvation is
because it is taught that Christ was not punished upon the cross but instead
only suffered upon the cross and this is why they say there can only be
punishment or forgiveness for sin but not both forgiveness and punishment
for sin. It was reasoned by Arminius that to teach that Christ paid the
penalty of sin for all mankind was to teach universal salvation for all
mankind. To clear up any misunderstanding about universal salvation, the
doctrine of "Governmental Theory of the Atonement" was introduced.
"Christ suffered for everyone so that the Father could forgive the
ones who repent and believe; his death is such that all will see that
forgiveness is costly and will strive to cease from anarchy in the world
God governs." (Quote from the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
under the Governmental Theory of the Atonement.)
In other words, it is through seeing the suffering of Christ for sin
is what brings one to the Father so that he may forgive our sins. It is
a salvation based upon the guilt and shame of our sins to see how much
suffering it caused Christ. This is to view the sacrifice of Christ not
as a willing act motivated by his love for mankind but as an "I'll
show you how much pain you caused me" kind of unwilling sacrifice
that had to be performed because God the Father demanded it of his Son.
It is a salvation based on guilt and shame and it is this reminder of
guilt and shame that is supposed to motivate a person to live a life of
holiness that is worthy of the suffering of Christ.
Putting this belief system all together, this means that the believer
pays the same penalty for willful and un-confessed sins as the non- believer.
The reason is because sins are either forgiven or punished and cannot
be both forgiven and punished at the same time. It is in this context
of understanding that Arminianists teach that a believer can walk away
from his salvation by an act of his own free will. When one willfully
sins and does not confess those sins, they place themselves back under
the wrath of the Father that results in loss of salvation and the penalty
of sin because Christ did not pay the penalty of sin. To retain our salvation,
we must feel guilt and shame for the suffering we caused Christ and in
this way, we suffer along with Christ for the suffering we caused him
and this is to be the motivating factor for not sinning.
We believe the motivation to desire to serve Christ and to desire to
daily conform to his image is to be one of love and gratitude because
of the demonstration of his love for us while we were yet sinners. The
gospel of Christ is not a salvation based upon an angry God who sent his
unwilling Son to the cross to teach us a lesson that portrays Christ as
a resentful messiah who is angry with us for causing his suffering.
Calvinism (TULIP) at a Glance:
Although Calvin did not come up with the 5 points of Calvinism, these
five points were later introduced to explain the basic teachings of Calvinistic
doctrine. The acronyms of TULIP were introduced and each letter stands
for the following.
T=Total Depravity. This is meant to mean that since sin was introduced,
man became so utterly depraved, he can only do evil and is completely
incapable of responding to the gospel message without a supernatural intervention.
(We disagree, all man knows good and evil and is capable of both. Mans
thinking became corrupt but not totally depraved. We believe corruption
can and does lead to depravity but man is not born totally depraved. We
base this on the following verse.
"The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He
must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree
of life and eat, and live forever." [Gen.3: 22]
If man became totally depraved at the fall, then God would not have said
he has now become like one of us. The implication is obvious, is God totally
depraved? Obviously not anymore than God was corrupted so the fall was
not one of total depravity but was an act of rebellion that corrupted
his thinking that lead to his death.
We agree it requires a supernatural intervention for man to be born again.
Man sinned and the penalty for sin is death and all will die. It is for
this reason that Jesus said you must be born again, being born of the
Spirit that gives eternal life. Sin and death resulted from disobedience
but forgiveness and eternal life is offered through Christ.)
U=Unconditional Election: God chose who will go to heaven and
who will go to hell. This election is not based on any merits of the elect.
(We disagree, God knows who will and who will not respond to the gospel
message because He is God and knows the future but this does not remove
mans free will to choose. We agree that salvation is not based upon any
merits of man. Salvation is dependent upon the sinless sacrifice of Christ
upon the cross on our behalf that has been imputed towards those whosoever
will come unto Him.)
L=Limited Atonement: God limited his atonement only for the elect.
He did not die for the sins of the whole word, but that he only died for
the sins of the elect.
(We disagree. "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and
said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
I=Irresistible Grace. God extends his grace to the elect as to
where it is impossible to refuse to accept his salvation.
(We disagree. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared
to all men." Titus 2:11
"How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a
hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"
Luke13: 34. Man refuses God's grace that has appeared to all men because
they are unwilling to come to him.)
P=Perseverance of the Saints. Since God predestined his elect
and they cannot refuse his salvation, they are eternally secure and cannot
lose their salvation.
(We agree with the eternal security of the believer but it is not conditioned
on the perseverance of the saints but is based on the finality of the
cross and is a free gift for whosoever will. It is Christ who began a
good work in us that he will accomplish. Again, we disagree that man cannot
refuse his salvation. Most will and most do refuse his free gift of salvation.)
Driven by his zeal to refute Calvin, Arminius countered each step of
Calvin's theology and replaced it with his own.
Total Depravity was countered with the Free Will to choose.
Unconditional Election was countered with Election for all who choose.
Limited atonement was countered with atonement for those who choose.
Irresistible Grace was countered with grace for those who choose to be
under his grace.
Perseverance of the Saints was countered with falling from grace and
loss of salvation.
The ensuing confusion between these two theologies is because both have
a certain element of truth mixed in with the error. This has occurred
because one theology was built around predestination and of God's Sovereignty
and the other was built around the Free Will of man at the expense of
God's Sovereignty. Both have misunderstood God's sovereignty and His nature
and character became lost in the shuffle for the sake of "biblical
correctness" that both believed they alone had.
We see one major thing missing in both theologies and this is God's LOVE
for the WORLD.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God
did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save
the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever
does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed
in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:16-18)
Both refused to believe John 3:16-18 in that God loves all mankind and
has paid the penalty for sin for all mankind forever and offers eternal
life for all who come to him.
Both refused to believe Hebrew 10:12. "But when this priest (Christ)
had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right
hand of God."
Both refused to believe Romans 5:18. "Consequently, just as the
result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result
of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for ALL
Arminius did not need to worry that for God to die for the sins of the
whole world that it meant automatic salvation for all. What this means
is that the sin issue that separated man from God was taken out of the
way and it opened the way for Salvation for all mankind.
"Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was
against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to
the cross". (Col.2: 14)
Jesus said he came to give life because all have sinned and fallen short
of the glory of God and that the penalty of sin is death. "For the
wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus
our Lord." (Rom.6: 23)
It is the death or life issue that man can freely choose to accept or
reject, death in their sins or the forgiveness and covering of our sins
and the GIFT of eternal life in Jesus.
"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can
snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater
than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father
are one." (John 10:28-30)
Even though God provided the means for Eternal life as a free gift for
all mankind, we know that the greater portion of man will still refuse
his free gift. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate
and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through
it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and
only a few find it." (Matt.7: 13-14)
As we can see, both sides missed the simplicity of the gospel and both
sides have placed a stumbling block before those who are seeking. Calvin
reduced God's salvation to a few select and in doing so has portrayed
God as a harsh uncaring God with a mean streak of predestining men to
Arminius placed salvation back onto mans shoulders in maintaining his/her
own salvation and portrays God as an angry God seeking revenge for the
suffering that man caused Christ.
So, in essence, we have one bad theology being corrected by an equally
bad theology and both missed the entire concept of the purpose and reason
for the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give
you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and
humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is
easy and my burden is light." (Matt.11: 28-30)