The debate between Calvinism and Arminianism is one that impacts (to the extent they take it seriously) an individual’s personal theology, and – by extension – how they subsequently minister to those around them. One’s stock in either of these positions, either wholly or otherwise some combination of the two, effects their understanding of human nature, the origin of evil, the will of God, the will of man, the condition of salvation, and the authority of the Scriptures. Though many are unaware of the debate itself, in reality it’s kind of a big deal…

Calvinism and Arminianism. Where to begin? Historically, Calvinism arose from the theology of the well-known French Reformation theologian, John Calvin. Calvin himself was influenced a great deal by earlier theologians, namely St. Augustine. Arminianism, on the other hand, was based on the positions of Jacob Arminius, a Dutch theologian who stood in staunch opposition to Calvin’s teachings, subsequently using the Scriptures themselves to refute the so-called “reformed theology.”

We know from Scripture that the knowledge of God is born of a revelation by Himself to an individual; there is no debate on that. Christ Himself declared as much to Peter when He questioned them about who He was (Matthew 16:15-17):

“He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”

For us to know God, He must open our eyes to the great reality of His existence. The Book of Romans gives us a clear declaration that God thusly reveals Himself to all…

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse…”

– Romans 1:18-20 –

No one is excusable; He has revealed Himself generally to all through nature and is known through our individual consciences. A special revelation of who Christ is comes from the Scriptures themselves. In both cases, we see confirmation in Romans 2:12-16:

“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”

Ultimately, the point remains that God must (and does) reveal Himself to us – meeting us where we are – before we can embrace Him. Critics of this position find offence in the notion that one can “find” God, but that really isn’t the point here. The question instead is not concerning whether one can “find” God on their own, but rather what is the individual’s response to that fateful revelation. We know from Scripture that God reveals Himself to us, but in doing so, what is our individual response? That’s what the debate is all about between disciples of Calvin and those who see the matter in a different light.

All that out the way, let’s now look at the TULIP and the DAISY, the five points of contention between Calvinism and Arminianism. To be sure, there are a number of Scriptural references that seem to validate each point on both sides, but in each case we must bear in mind those three guidelines noted last time. In any event, the five points of are:


Calvinism DAISY


T – (Total Depravity)

This position holds that man is so depraved that he is unable to seek for God’s existence or exercise faith in receiving Christ (Romans 3:11-12; John 6:44, 65). Mankind is happy – in this state – to live only for themselves, sinning to their heart’s desire, until God individually reveals Himself to His hand-picked elect…

D – (Diminished Depravity)

The Arminist position agrees with Calvin insofar as noting that sinful man does not seek God (Romans 3:10-11), and that such men would not come to Christ unless drawn to Him supernaturally  (John 6:44, 65). The difference comes in the notion that God is drawing all men, not just the “elect” (John 12:32; 16:8). Through this “prevenient grace,” all are thus capable of exercising the gift of faith  

U – (Unconditional Election)

Calvinists hold that one’s salvation is not a matter of choice, noting that God has given His elect alone the gift of faith (Romans 12:3; Ephesians 2:8). They further declare that any willing application of faith on the believer’s part would diminish the sufficiency of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 2:8; Romans 9:16-24)

A – (Abrogated Election)

The Arminist position holds that salvation is ultimately  dependent on one’s free will to choose it (Ephesians 1:13; Romans 3:28). In contrast to the Calvinist claim that such an application of faith diminishes grace, they note that such in fact is not a work, as faith and works are always contrasted in Scripture (Romans 4:4-5; Galatians 2:16)

L – (Limited Atonement)

Calvinism teaches that Christ died only for His “elect,” those being the individuals He specifically chose to save out of the masses of humans that would ultimately live.They derive this position from their interpretation of passages including Matthew 1:21; John 10:11, 15, 26-27; 15:13; 17:9; Acts 20:28

I – (Impersonal Atonement )

The Arminianist alternative to limited atonement declares that Christ died for the whole of humanity. The gift of salvation is thus freely offered to all, hinging only upon our acceptance of that free gift (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 Timothy 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; Titus 2:11).

I – (Irresistible Grace)

Sidestepping any notion of individual free will, Calvinists declare that God’s call to salvation is irresistible. This is based, they say, on Romans 9:16; John 6:37, 44, 65; 15:16). His “elect” are thus made to believe the gospel (Acts 13:48)

S – (Sedentary Grace)

Arminianism teaches that God desires that all people receive salvation through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross(1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23), and and to this end, all are thus called to that salvation (John 12:32; 16:8), even though all have the ability to otherwise reject that call (Matthew 23:37; Hebrews 4:2; Luke 7:29-30)

P – (Perseverance of the Saints)

In consideration of their understanding that God both chooses the “elect” and irresistibly secures their faithfulness to Him, one’s salvation – so long as one is a member of the “elect” – is eternally secure and cannot be lost (2 Peter 1:10; Hebrews 3:6, 14; Colossians 1:23).

Y – (Yieldable Justification)

As the Arminian position on salvation hinges on free will, there is an assumption among many – though not all – that, by one’s free will, salvation can be forfeited (Luke 15:11-32)

Truthfully, the matter before us is quite intimidating, but I feel a distinct need to do this at this time. Before you the foundation for subsequent discussion has been laid, and as we move forward in the coming weeks, I would implore you to consider the points noted and what the Scriptures declare of each. Think about what they means to you in your own life and in regard to your own salvation. Think of each in regard to how you view others and their own standing before the Lord. It’s a lot to consider, and the implications are far reaching, but it is – I believe – time for a serious appraisal of where we all stand on issues of nothing less than eternal importance.

Next time, we will examine the first petal of each of our flowers, consider the depravity of man…



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