Calvinism & Arminianism: Controversial Passages

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Author: 
Dennis McCallum and Gary DeLashmutt

Multimedia lecture is available on this subject

The following passages are interpreted differently by Calvinists and Arminians:

  1. John 6:37
    "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away."
    1. Calvinists argue that this passages teaches irresistible grace. The individual cannot refuse God's choice, therefore all those given to Christ will respond.
    2. Arminians reply that "those given to me" in 37 are the same as those who "believe in him" in vs. 40. In other words, when God foresees that some will believe, he gives them to Christ. See that in vs. 45, those who "have heard and learned from the father" are the ones who "come to me."
  2. John 6:44,65
    "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day."
    1. The Calvinist holds that these passages teach total depravity, unconditional election, and also imply limited atonement and double predestination. This is because:
      • "No one can come to me unless . . . " because they are totally depraved
      • "it has been granted him from the Father" or "the Father draws him" meaning unconditional election. Unconditional in this case, because the cause is the father, not the individual.
      • Limited atonement and double predestination are usually inferred from the face that it is impossible to come to him without election. Therefore, those whom the Father has not drawn are naturally destined for judgement, and are therefore those for whom Christ did not die.
    2. The Arminian agrees that these passages teach total depravity. However, they argue that the father draws all men to Christ (Jn. 12:32; 16:8). They further hold that to assign the cause exclusively to the Father ignores vss. 29; 35; 40; and 47. To attribute the cause exclusively to the Father regardless of the response of the person, flies in the face of the stated will of the Father in vs. 40 that "Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in him" be saved. Finally, with regard to limited atonement and double predestination, these positions depend on the earlier conclusion (unconditional election), and therefore beg the question.
  3. John 15:16
    "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain..."
    1. Some Calvinists (and Augustine) have argued that this a proof text for unconditional election, emphasizing the irrelevance of human choice.
    2. Arminians point out that the statement is made to the disciples with reference to their apostleship, not to their salvation. This interpretation accords well with the next phrase "that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain." See also Jn. 6:70 referring to the same choice. Judas was chosen but not saved.
  4. Acts 13:48
    "And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed."
    1. The Calvinists argue that this verse teaches unconditional election, because it would have been easy to say "as many as believed were appointed eternal life" but the reverse is stated.
    2. The Arminians point out that the participle translated "were appointed to" (tetagmenoi) is in the middle-passive voice. This means that the same form is used in Greek to designate both the middle voice and the passive voice. The NASB has translated it in the passive voice. However, if it is translated in the middle voice, the passage would read ". . .as many as set themselves to eternal life believed" (cf I Cor. 16:15 where the same participle is translated in the middle voice).
  5. Romans 9:16,22,23
    1. The Calvinist position is that Romans 9 teaches unconditional election and double predestination. This is because:
      • Vs. 16 "it [God's choice] does not depend on the man who wills"
      • Vs. 18 refers to double predestination.
      • Vs. 22, 23 refer to "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" and "vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory."
      • The election involved is not a national election, because vs. 24 states that the vessels of mercy are "us, whom He called not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles,"" (i.e. believing Christians).
    2. Arminians argue that the first part of Romans 9 deals with God's choice of nations and their roles in his plans.
      • Vs. 1-5 make clear that the context is that of national choice. This is confirmed in verses 6,7 because all Israelites were not saved and all Ishmaelites were not damned. Also, in vs. 13 Malachi 3:2 is cited to demonstrate that God had favored the nation of Israel over the nation of Edom.
      • Vs. 16 refers to God's choice of how to lead the nation of Israel through the wilderness, which was independent of Moses's opinion. Personal salvation is not in view in the original passage (Ex. 33:19).
      • Vs. 18 is in the context of vs. 16 see above, and vs. 17 which refers to God's temporal destruction of the Egyptians when they wanted to destroy Israel. The verse teaches therefore, that God caused his choice of Israel to stand regardless of Moses' attempts to help or Pharoah's attempts to hinder. Neither Moses' nor Pharoah's personal salvation was in view in these passages.
      • Vs. 22,23 refers to nations which have either glorious or a judgmental role in history. God allows evil nations to exist, and often uses them to bless the chosen nation, Israel. Today, believers are able to participate in the covenant blessings of Israel, because they have been "grafted in to the rich root" of God's purpose in history.
        Another explanation is that the "lump" of clay in vs. 21 refers to national Israel. God has the right to divide Israel into two vessels: unbelieving Israel, which has now become a vessel of wrath (for "prepared", read fit or suited to destruction), and believing Israel, which, along with believing Gentiles has become a vessel of mercy.
    3. Any interpretation of Rom. 9 must account for the transition that Paul makes from national choice in vss. 1-5ff. and individual salvation in vss. 24-33. Therefore, neither view can claim that the other is completely out of context. The question becomes one of which transition is more believable, and makes the most sense of the Old Testament quotations.
  6. Galatians 1:15,16
    "But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles..."
    1. Calvinists interpret this passage to mean that God irresistibly called Paul because he was elected to salvation. They further argue that Paul's salvation is typical of all Christians in this regard.
    2. Arminians would point out Paul's election and calling were based on God's foreknowledge of Paul's decision to believe. Some Arminians acknowledge that Paul may have been unconditionally elected and irresistibly called by God, but point out that this does not prove that God deals with all people in this way. There is no reason to think that God cannot deal differently with some people than others. Arminians would argue that the burden is on the Calvinist to demonstrate not just that God elected someone unconditionally, but that he elects all in this way.
  7. Ephesians 1:4,5
    "...just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will"
    1. Calvinists cite this passage as teaching unconditional election. God "chose us. . .before the foundation of the world." He "has predestined us to adoption as sons. . .according to the kind intention of His will." These phrases are taken to mean that God has sovereignly decided in advance who will be saved, completely irrespective of human choice.
    2. Arminians agree that vs. 4 is teaching God's election of the believer to salvation. However, they call attention to the significance of the phrase "in Him." This phrase, it is argued, means that Christ was the chosen one (Is. 42:1), and that believers participate in his chosenness because they are baptized into him when they believe (Eph. 1:13). Arminians also insist that God's election and predestination are based on his foreknowledge of our choice to believe in Christ (I Pet. 1:1,2; Rom. 8:29).
      With regard to vs. 5 Arminians hold that this passage is referring not to God's choice of who will be saved, but of God's choice that those who believe will be ultimately glorified. "Adoption as sons" is seen as references to the glorification of believers (cf. Rom. 8:23 for Paul's use of "adoption" in this way).
  8. II Thessalonians 2:13
    "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth."
    1. Calvinists interpret this passage to refer to unconditional election.
    2. Arminians refer the term salvation to either glorification (see vs. 14) or maturity (I Thess. 5:23). Otherwise, why would it be "through sanctification"?
  9. I Peter 2:8
    "...for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed."
    1. Some Calvinists find support for double-predestination in this passage. God appointed certain people to "doom" and therefore they rejected Christ.
    2. Arminians point out that the specific cause for their stumbling is not God, but that "they are disobedient to the word." Since the noun "doom" is not found in the Greek text, it would be better to see stumbling as the antecedent. It is clear that they were appointed to stumble because they were disobedient in the same way as those who were hard of heart in the time of Isaiah (Is. 6:9,10). God veils his truth to those who stubbornly disobey his word (Mt. 13:12; Amos 8:11,12).
  10. Jude 1:4
    "For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."
    1. Calvinists hold that this passage teaches double-predestination. The false teachers were "long ago marked out [by God] for... condemnation."
    2. Arminians point out that the participle "previously marked out" (progegrammenoi) can also be translated "previously written about." Since Jude goes on to cite several recorded examples of the destruction of ungodly persons (vss. 5-18), this translation is seen as preferable.

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Comments

If election is true, then why preach the gospel? (the only reason I can see is to prove Jesus right - Matthew 24:14)

If free will is true, how can I justify the idea I have to do something to be saved (I choose to believe) with the fact that the Bible teaches that I am not saved by anything I have done (Ephesians 2:8-9). Ephesians states that it is both "not of yourselves" and "not by works," but free will would dictate that salvation comes, at least in part, through something that I have done.

Confused

Why would a loving God predestine some to heaven and leave out others to go to hell? Of course God is sovereign and can do every thing and anything, but that doesn't sound like a loving God. We have limited freewill to choose God or not. If we choose Him, the Holy Spirit come to us to help us become more Christ like. If we reject Him, we stay separated from Him.

Mike

I find it very sad how many people are content to just let the world know their opinion. The truth is God is way bigger than we think or understand. Clearly God says He chose us, we did not chose Him. Tough to swallow? Yes, but so is a talking donkey and yet that is exactly what happened. Why do we think we know better how God needs to act than what He tells us.

Becki

That statement by Jesus that "you did not choose me, but I chose you is in the upper room discourse. He's referring to his choosing of them as apostles. Has nothing to do with salvation. They are already disciples before he designated them as apostles. Context.

Dennis McCallum

for me let's read what the bible saw about it .i just want to share please read .Eph. 2:8-9..romans 3:10 .rom.6:23,rom 5:8 lastly 1 Jn 1:9...

josh

Oh I can give you 1 verse and then ask you a question: Read 1 Thessalonians 2: 13-16 ... specificly, verse 16... and then, please, my dear brother, tell me ( the most honest way you can) how do WE, GENTILES... or, if you want it that way, PEOPLE get saved, according to verse 16? Do you ( who i am sure, have the Holly Spirit dwelling in you) understand exactly what i understand... THAT THE GENTILES GET SAVED WHEN THOSE WHO ARE SAVED TALK TÔ THEM ( and of course, not just ANY talk, but the Gospel of salvation) OTHERWISE " THE CHOSEN APOSTLE" ( of course he was chosen, but to announce the Gospel to gentiles and gentile kings as Peter to the Jews... NOT CHOSEN ONTO SALVATION... read the context) WOULD HAVE BETTER STAYED HOME LAYING IN A HAMMOCK, WITHOUT RISKING HIS LIFE... JUST HOPING... and MAYBE PRAYING, THAT THOSE GENTILES HE REFERS TO IN VERSE 16, WOULD JUST HAPPEN TÔ BE ON THE LORD'S LIST.

"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost."

Nelson

CALVINISM: If in fact Calvinism were God's actual plan (ELECT) and that before the foundation of the world He elected some to be saved and some to go to hell, then the list is complete and nothing you or I will change that, it is His Will, His List, and His Plan. Thus, there is no need for church, no need for witnessing, no need for trying to live a righteous life at all, simply go through life and live the way you want and IF you are on the list, you will be saved somehow, someway, because you are the ELECT. Finished !!

ARMINIANISM: If in fact Arminianism were God's actual plan (FREE WILL) then there is definitely a need to carry out Jesus command in Matthew 28 to teach and baptist in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, because unless a free will soul can be convinced of salvation they will be in hell. Moreover, then John 3.16 is not made a lie but Truth in that the offer of salvation is for the whole world that "whosoever" (not elect only) can be saved and thus there is a need for the church, witnessing, and trying to live a life that gives testimony of Jesus Christ in their life as a witness to others, because unless they hear the Gospel, they were doomed to hell.

CONCLUSION: ELECTION seems to go against the entire New Testament of witness, church, preaching, whosoever, praying for others salvation, living a life honoring to God, etc. FREE WILL seems to go totally in favor of what Jesus taught, what Paul taught, what Peter, Paul, and the Apostles did and all the other writers seem to address also. Moreover, the free will plan aligns uniformly with what God tells us to do (to reach the lost) and that some plant, some water, and some get the increase, which is the picture of Old Testament actions.

TAKEAWAY: How can a God who claims to love, teaches love, and asks us to love all, even those who hate us, be within his own law of justice if He intentionally creates people for hell, knowing full well they will suffer for eternity. It seems to be very questionable theology for people to think of God in that untruthful way. On the other hand, in the Garden, God said He created man in His own image and while that can be physical it can also be metaphorically, as in Intellect, Emotion, and Will. Man's initial will was God's Will because man was God's creation of fellowship and love. It was Adam's sinful act of rebellion after being tempted by the Serpent (the Devil) and taking of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that made him a full fledged "god" having the exact characteristics as God excepted limited to the limits that God had provided in man. That act of Free Will on Adam (after the rest of him Eve) tempted him.

Definitely ELECTION goes AGAINST everything God stands for and interestingly, until Calvin and his followers came up with this TULIP idea, the Church wasn't doing too terribly bad but once this whole Election idea began taking off and then flourishing in the 19th and now the 20th century, we see the Church falling away and more and more new Bibles coming on the scene that are taking away the Truths that are hidden in the old text as Jesus himself pointed out. I go with FREE WILL as it fits God's image and the image He created in man, it reveals how man fell, it agrees with a need to witness, have a church, have preaching, and win souls to Jesus. Election is completely contrary to all of that. Go party and have fun, if you are on the list, you win and will be saved somehow, someway. If not elected, you got to live it up before hell comes.

Dr Dimento

God did not create some for heaven and some for hell as you put it. We have to realize that God had a plan. Part of His plan was to create man in His own image, which He did. What is the purpose of that? It is because part of His plan is to make man His own children, which by the way is an act of love, but God has foreseen that Satan, one of the angels He created shall rebel against Him and will try to destroy the plan of God, and so he tempted man through Eve and then Adam to sin and became initially successful at making all mankind under the power or a servant of sin. By God's own justice, all mankind deserved to die in hell, and that means He did not have to choose who should go to hell. It would seem that the choosing is between saving all mankind or to save some only before He created man. He planned to do the latter because as far as God knew, it is the best plan. We can say that it is the best plan because God's choice is always for the best even though we cannot understand how it came to be the best. What we only know from the Bible is that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways and that He will have mercy unto whom He will have mercy. His decision on this is solely His and fully without any influence from man or anybody else. The Bible does not give any answer because we have to accept what is written by faith and not by some logical arguments. Besides, we cannot question God, as Paul puts it, can the clay question the potter?

Maybe we should follow God's commandment to call the world to repentance simply because it is a commandment of God. We are the means to his ordained end. He has seen fit in his infinite grace to allow us to be used in his purposes. Your view starts with removing sovereignty from God. I don't care what you prefer in theology, what you think about God's nature, or how you feel about free will. I care what the Bible says and you have cited no scripture that refutes any tenant of absolute sovereignty.

Our finite minds can not fully wrap our heads around this topic, and I believe we cannot correctly draw the line between mans free will and God's sovereignty in this issue. Does God chose? Yes. Does Man Chose? Yes!

Interesting how we argue and fight for free will, as if God had no right to violate free will. God is a perfecter of will. Thats how we got the bible. What, you think he got lucky in the writing of the bible by men?  Or did he override free will? You are calvinist! all of you! You trust the word as infallible, and pray for God to save your friends and family. Amen, theres hope!  He he

I don't think Arminian doctrine ever argues that God's can't violate free will. Of course he can. The real question is whether he does all the time.

No, I wouldn't argue that God can't violate free will. He can and he does do that. The question is whether free will actually exists and whether he ever doesn't overrule it..

No, they didn't believe, because Jesus says "Behold, i never knew you." Also, that God hardened Pharaoh's heart doesn't prove Calvinism. That's one case of God using a non-believer for his purposes. Nothing like claiming that this is true with everyone

The sample scriptures you vave provided absolutely argue on behalf of calvinism. Rom 11:8(Duet 29:4) speaks to the stupor given some to not believe and others to believe--- so it also is with the pride that drives some to believe they must choose and those that believe they had no choice. Some have commented that this argument or difference is only found in the new testament and yet in exodus 4:21 God tells Moses that even after seeing all the miracles of God through Moses, Pharoah will not believe..."his heart shall be hardened. Just as is was in Genesis when the older brother esau was chosen by God to serve Jacob. NO.... Election and Gods purpose is evident throughout scripture AND I have to wonder, going back to Jesus himsel in Matt 7.... Could Jesus have been speaking on just this issue: "Lord, Lord have we not prophesied and cast out demons in your name?" What was Jesus response:"away from me evil doers." They believed, right? But they also believwd that THEY did these things in his name. ---- Can you see the weight of pride and himility of Gods choice in all things

Take a look at Deuteronomy 30, the next chapter. It is quoted from in Romans 10. Also, Romans 11:7 says that the rest (the non-elect) were "hardened", just as Pharaoh was. The hardening of the condemned is similar to the sanctification of the elect.

Hard to believe my God would create multides for damnation by no choice or action of their own.

 

People choose according to their nature. A child of the devil will always choose to rebel against God. Man cannot change their nature unless a miracle occurs which is why scripture says it is not by the will of the flesh or man but by the will of God. That miracle is the " New Birth" it is then that God takes out the spiritually dead stony heart and replaces it with a spiritually alive heart of flesh. When a man is made spiritually alive he can see the Kingdom of God and can believe and follow Christ.

Election

Good post. Thanks. I go for Arminian, makes a lot more sense than Augustine and Calvin (influenced by gnostics). 

.........I agree........because God reveals Himself throughout the Bible as LOVE......he gave us a rational and volitional mind with which to understand what 'LOVE' is, and the God of Calvinism does not reveal LOVE as God has given us to understand the meaning of the word.

Richard

But is God just LOVE??? Or is he Holy, wrathful, righteous, and just?? Are we to only worship God because of his love and cast out the rest? Are you worshipping God based off who you want him to be or off who he says he is? If God chose to save just one person and send everyone else to hell, which is what we deserve, then God shows an imaginable love just to save one person and not only that; Gods wrath and justice and righteous is carried out. Is your way of thinking man centered or God centered?? " No man does good, not one. There is no one who seeks God"

I find it interesting that as far as I can see, all of the verses in support of the Calvinist view of predestination, come from the new testament.  My question is in regard to the cultural context of the day.  How would Paul's audience understood what he was saying.  I have heard it said that the culture of the day was a high context society, where as we are a low context society.

I believe that the early believers went by the apostles' doctrine (teaching) and not necessarily the old testament. We can either reconstruct what the apostles verbally communicated from what they wrote in the new testament passages, or just assume that it was exactly the same thing.

This is not true. Research the Greek septuagent. All of the early church fathers were well versed in Old Testament scripture. In fact one can not even hope to understand the book of Hebrews without a foundational understanding of the law and prophets

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