When reacting against error, the truth can be overstated to the extent that you introduce another error. The two must be held in tension to one another. Such is the case with Calvinism and Arminianism, both views are overstated and unrealized from a biblical perspective. Both are error! “That has been my view for years. The truth lies in the middle of these two extremes. The Kingdom of God is balanced, but human nature often gravitates to the extremes.”1
What is hyper-Calvinism: A simple definition is this: hyper-Calvinism is the belief that God saves the elect through His sovereign will with little or no use of the methods of bringing about salvation (such as evangelism, preaching, and prayer for the lost). To an unbiblical fault, the hyper-Calvinist over-emphasizes God’s sovereignty and under-emphasizes man’s responsibility in the work of salvation. (For example; Acts 2:37-39 clearly shows both God’s sovereignty in the work of salvation and man’s responsibility to God’s call.)
An obvious ramification of hyper-Calvinism is that it suppresses any desire to evangelize the lost. Most churches or denominations that hold to hyper-Calvinistic theology are marked by fatalism, coldness, and a lack of assurance of faith. There is little emphasis upon God’s love for the lost and His own people but rather an unbiblical preoccupation with God’s sovereignty, His election of the saved, and His wrath for the lost. The gospel of the hyper-Calvinist is a declaration of God’s salvation of the elect and His damnation of the lost.
The Bible clearly teaches that God is sovereign over the entire universe (Daniel 4:34-35), including the salvation of men (Ephesians 1:3-12). But with God’s sovereignty, the Bible also teaches that His motivation for saving the lost is love (Ephesians 1:4-5; John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10) and that God’s means of saving the lost is the proclamation of His Word (Romans 10:14-15). The Bible also declares that the Christian is to be passionate and determined in his/her sharing with unbelievers; as ambassadors for Christ, we are to “beg” people to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
Hyper-Calvinism takes a biblical doctrine, God’s sovereignty, and pushes it to an unbiblical extreme. In doing so, the hyper-Calvinist downplays the love of God and the necessity of evangelism.2
Unfortunately today the lines between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism have been blurred. In fact there is very little difference between the two today. There is a balance in Scripture between God’s Sovereignty and Free Will. (Again see Acts 2:37-39) If God is in control of human destiny, why does He hold us responsible for our choices? This is a quandary as old as theology itself.
What is Arminianism: Arminianism is a system of belief that attempts to explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free will, especially in relation to salvation. Arminianism is named after Jacob Arminius (1560—1609), a Dutch theologian. While Calvinism emphasizes the sovereignty of God, Arminianism emphasizes the responsibility of man. If Arminianism is broken down into five points, similar to the five points of Calvinism, these would be the five points:
1. Partial Depravity
2. Conditional Election
3. Unlimited Atonement
4. Resistible Grace
5. Conditional Salvation
The only point of Arminianism that four-point Calvinists believe to be biblical is point #3—Unlimited Atonement. First John 2:2 says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Second Peter 2:1 tells us that Jesus even bought the false prophets who are doomed: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” Jesus’ salvation is available to anyone and everyone who will believe in Him. Jesus did not just die for those who will be saved.3
It’s important to note that all of the doctrinal points in both theological positions have a biblical foundation, which is why the debate has been so divisive throughout church history. Because both Calvinism and Arminianism deal with concepts that go far beyond human comprehension, the debate is certain to continue as finite beings try to explain an infinitely mysterious God.
It is with 35 years of experience and Biblical study that this blogger holds to neither of the two views but totally and completely adheres to Sola Scripture. Therefore, I refuse to enter debate with anyone on this subject and all comments will be withheld from public record. It is also by personal experience that those holding to the Calvinist view only divide through hostility and elitism while those in the Arminian camp lack any real conviction which would cause one to endure. I view both as a schism which violates 1 Corinthians 12:25 “That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” It is also my conviction that the Reformation was a total failure which has only produced a multiplicity of problems within the body of Christ dividing it into a legion of denominations and sects all separated and opposing one another.
1. Chris Perdue