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A brief summary of Calvinism vs. Arminian can be found in the following table.
The Definition of Free Will
Much of the arguments between Calvinism and Arminian evolve around the term Free Will. We believe that Free Will is not a good term to use because the fallen man has a radical sin bias that blinds him to the truth about God, Christ and the Scripture (1 Cor 2:14). He suppresses the truth in unrighteousness and exchanges the truth of God for the lie (Roman 1:18, 25). Thus left alone, man will not (by his free will) choose God over evil, or light over darkness. However, after God gives us His special revelation (of His salvation plan), man begins to see light and can choose Him.Who Chooses Whom?
As one can see, supports for both Calvinistic and Arminian views can readily be found in the Bible, for example, Eph 1:4, 2Th 2:13, Isa 41:8, 1Pe 1:2, and Mt 22:14 reflect God's choice over that of man's, and Rom 11:7, Rom 9:17,18, and Ex 4:21 stresses Gods sovereignty. Of course, on the flip side of the coin, there is the famous verse of those who choose to believe in God, shall not perish (John 3:16) which supports the Arminian view. So who is correct? Since both views are well supported by the Bible, we believe that both views are correct; i.e., God elected us and we choose God. At a glance, this statement seems contradicting. There are two reasons why we cannot comprehend this. First, it is not God's intention to be revealed this to us (Dan 12:9) at this time. Second, we don't understand it because of our limitations in our fallen state. Being restricted by time is one of our limitations. From an overly simplified model, let's look at how the time restriction might skew our view. In the view of a Calvinist, its God who chooses his elect even before he or she was born (Fig. 1a). (Calvinists believe that Gods grace is irresistible; once chosen by God, it is impossible for this person to lose his salvation.)
In the view of an Arminian, its man who chooses God (Fig 1b), before he dies (Arminians believe that one can lose his or her salvation; thus unless this person comes to God before he dies, he is lost in eternity). Note that the above views are only meaningful in the context of time. However, God is not constrained by time. The omnipresence concept is very difficult for us mortals to understand. In God's view, He elected believers before we were born, but at the same time, He gave us freedom to choose (Fig 1c). Of course, this is an over-simplified model. The sole intention of this model is to show the difficulty of understanding God's omnipresence and omniscience in light of mans limited knowledge in our fallen state. However, one thing is clear; God wants us to interact with Him, in His salvation plan. This is the way how God operates as indicated by other doctrines in Christianity. Therefore, although He chose us first, we are held responsible for our decision of choosing Him.
Can We Lose Our Salvation?
If a Christian goes astray, the Arminian camp would likely say that he or she has lost his salvation, while the Calvinist camp would say that the person was never saved in the first place. Who are we to argue if this person was genuinely saved. By the same token should we argue if Jesus died for this person, or whether he was able to resist God's grace? In doing so, are we not playing God?
A Few Thoughts
When stand alone, Calvinism and Arminian can lead to serious problems. Calvinists believe that they cannot lose their salvation and may pay less attention to 'the fruits' that they should be bearing as Christians. (Most of them truly believe that they are the chosen ones though). On the other hand, Arminians may slip in their spiritual lives, emphasizing that God's grace is over everything. (They truely believe that they can always exercise their freewill and come back to God when they choose to). To both, we have the following advice. Don't play God by trying to decide whether others are truly saved, but make sure that you are (Matthew 7:22,23).
As pointed out, Calvinism and Arminian, when stand alone can lead to serious problems. Only by accepting both views can one become a better Christian. Accepting both views does NOT mean that one can selectively pick from the five points from each camp as listed in the Table 1, but by accepting all five points from both sides. One may be confused by this at a glance, however, this is how God operates as supported by a number of important doctrines in Christianity, including the Inerrancy of the Bible, virgin birth of Christ, and of course the theology of predistination.About the author.
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