The question that has been on the mind of every human since the beginning of time is, “Is there life after death?” Many theories and ideologies have developed around this central question. For those who do believe in life after death they belong to a community founded on a religion. Even though there is a community founded upon the teachings of the religion there are still disagreements stemming from interpretation. All religious groups have sects within their religion, to each his own interpretation as it were. When looking at the Christian faith we see two powerful sects that divide the Christian community on two fronts; who are truly Christian and how does one come to Christ? These ideologies differ due to interpretation of the scripture, both however, have the same conclusion, but a different view as to who receives this life after death and how one obtains it. Calvinism and Arminianism, they are both branches of the Christian Faith, although they both agree on their deity they differ on who their God chooses who He allows into Heaven and who He does not. Comparing the points where they differ and where they agree, will help formulate a solid idea as to which one is correct, or even if either of them are correct.
Calvinism, Calvinist have five basic tenets, total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. Of these five tenets, unconditional election is what causes the main divide between the Arminian and Calvinist beliefs. Unconditional election is the belief that God chooses who enters into Heaven even before the world formed. God knows all who enter and has made them his “elect” Calvinist believe that the Book of Life contains the names of these elect and no name will ever be added or taken away, they are under the “perseverance of the Saints.” Under the perseverance of the Saints, salvation cannot be lost; the elect will always be under God’s saving grace, no matter what. The Calvinist explains this grace as the “irresistible grace”. Irresistible grace is the heart-wrenching calling by God; the elect so strongly compelled by God that worshiping him is not so much as a choice, but rather a compelled action. This complement is necessary due to “total depravity”, by this, people are unable to submit themselves to God, and it is only through this grace that God allows them to come to Him. The grace the elect receive is given to them through “limited atonement”; through this, the elect are the only ones Christ died for, supported by the verse Matthew 1:21 – “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Calvinist believe “His people” are the elect, Revelation 21:27 – But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Calvinist have many supportive Bible verses, however, it is through interpretation that the Calvinist and the Arminian disagree. For instance, *Romans 3:10-18 – As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Calvinist use these verses to support their major tenets especially those claiming total depravity and unconditional election. Verse ten reads “None is righteous, no not one…” From this Calvinist say, that no one is found righteous in the sight of the Lord, so unless he elects you, you will never become righteous. The Arminian point of view however, says that all start out in this manner; yet we can find grace in the sight of the Lord without being a part of the “elect”. Once you accept the Holy Spirit into your heart, grace and mercy are stored upon you. Romans 3:10-18 is how we are without Christ in our lives, without Christ you are without hope of redemption from what is describe in these verses. God wishes for all to be saved; Arminian back this with 1 Timothy 2:4 “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” All are welcome to the truth and grace found in God, we are His children, and he our Father. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Arminian argue that if God gave up his Son, Jesus Christ for the world, then why would there be elect.
When Christ died on the Cross, the land darkened and an earthquake struck the Earth. The veil in the temple was torn and God no longer needed to be approached by means of a priest. His grace and redeeming love was accessible to all who believed in His name, and His Son’s name. His presence is now dwelling within the hearts of believers and our bodies are the new temple of God, rebuilt in three days just as prophesied. Love is sacrifice, God so loved the world that he gave or sacrificed His Son. This love is given to all who hear and believe in the sacrifice of God. It is for all, yet one must accept this love in order to be given new life within His kingdom. It is not so much as God refusing grace to His children, but rather His children refusing His grace. The grace in God’s eyes is immense; it is not His Will that any shall perish. We are given a choice, to love all that God has done for us, or reject his love and have the way of peace unknown to us. Every day we are given choices, it is up to us how we chose. God may know the outcome of every choice we make in life. However, God does not control our choices, when we sin, it’s because we turned from God, that was our choice. When we live righteously in the sight of the Lord, that was our choice, the outcome of our choices are unknown to us; God knows all, God sees all, but the outcome of the Book of the Lamb is up to us. Deuteronomy chapter thirty, the chapter speaks of God’s grace and favor returning to those who reject it, if they return to God and follow his commandments God will forgive. The Word of God is forever in our hearts, we make the choice on whether or not we listen to the Word. To accept the fact that Christ died for the World, a World of sinners, evildoers, unholy, un-loving people, it’s a hard concept for some to grasp. Why would Christ sacrifice His life for a life such as mine? Questioning hearts have a hard time with accepting love they feel they do not deserve. What we deserve is damnation to Hell, yet God gives us love. This fact brings hope and joy to those who believe and a chance for redemption to those who do not. The Bible is not just a book of stories teaching us good morals and how to live a healthy lifestyle. The Bible is the Word; John 1:1-5 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The Word is stored within us as the Holy Spirit, when we do wrong our hearts are troubled because of this, when we do what is right and what is just, our hearts rejoice, for this brings joy to the Lord. When we love, we are to do so with all our heart. God has shown his love through His Son Jesus Christ, no other can compare to His love, His sacrifice.
Arminian believe in a saving grace for all, that many will chose to accept, yet many will chose to reject. Calvinist believe that they are elect, granted God’s grace through His will. Both agree that only God’s loving grace can save them from damnation, the matter of how you are saved is where the divide is made. The divide can be seen in how each view evangelism. Where a Calvinist would say that God brought them to preach the gospel to another through his will. An Arminian would say that God has blessed him with an opportunity to preach the gospel, due to their choices made prior to the engagement. For instance, if a Christian is doing what is right, making the correct choices and choosing the path of righteous, then non-believers see this and it opens the door for a Christian to share their faith. However, if a Christian is falling into the temptation of the world then this is also seen. This choice may turn away a non-believer and make just cause for them to claim us to be hypocrites. An Arminian would say that their poor choice caused the lost chance to share the gospel, but not all hope is lost, God may help that person yet. A Calvinist would say that it was God’s will and if they were not used for the glory of God’s kingdom then someone else will bring them into the kingdom if they are of the elect. In the end, Arminian and Calvinist are all brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter our own personal beliefs, we can all agree that furthering the kingdom of God is the ultimate goal. For those who listen, love is right around the corner, you just have to allow it into your heart.
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Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, pp. 907-928. (Moderate Calvinist)
Forster, Roger T. and Marston, V. Paul. God’s Strategy in Human History. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1973. (Moderate Arminian)
Murray, John. Redemption Applied and Accomplished. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1989. (Calvinist)
Packer, J. I. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1961. (Calvinist)
Pinnock, Clark, ed. Grace Unlimited. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1975. (Moderate Arminian)
Shank, Robert. Elect in the Son. Springfield, Mo.: Westcott Publishers, 1970. (Arminian)
Thiessen, Henry C. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1983. (Moderate Arminian)