Calvinism and Arminianism

This is the first of four posts expanding on what I said about traditional theism in “What Is Open Theism?” In it I expand on this statement:

Traditional theism holds that God knows the future completely either because He preordains all that is going to come to pass (Calvinism) or simply because He knows what is going to come to pass (Arminianism).


Calvinism is based on the teachings of John Calvin (1509-1564), a leader in the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland, and is often summarized by the acronym TULIP:
Total Depravity – Because of Adam’s sin, people are born enslaved to sin and thus are unable to choose to follow God.
Unconditional Election – Because people are unable to choose to follow Him, God has chosen by an eternal decree those whom He will bring to follow Him. This election is apart from any foreseen human merit or faith. Those not chosen will receive damnation.
Limited Atonement – Jesus’ death atones for the sins of only those chosen to follow God (the elect). Although it is sufficient for all, it is efficient for only the elect.
Irresistible Grace – When God calls the elect to follow Him, they cannot resist. Besides the external call that He gives to all to follow Him, He extends an internal call by the Holy Spirit to the elect, which they cannot resist.
Perseverance of the Saints – Those whom God has chosen to follow Him will never be lost but will persevere until the end.


Arminianism is based on teachings of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), an early Dutch Protestant theologian who believed that election is conditional rather than unconditional. Shortly after his death, his supporters issued a Remonstrance summarizing in five articles their divergence from Calvinism:
1. Conditional Election – God’s decree of salvation applies to all on condition that they believe on Jesus and persevere in faith and obedience. This article corresponds to TULIP’s U.
2. Unlimited Atonement – Jesus died for everyone, not just for the elect. However only those who believe obtain forgiveness. This article correspond’s to TULIP’s L.
3. Deprivation – People are incapable (deprived) of doing anything good and so must be helped by the Holy Spirit to receive God’s saving grace. This article corresponds to TULIP’s T.
4. Resistible Grace – God’s grace is free to all but can be resisted. This article corresponds to TULIP’s I.
5. Assurance and Security – The Holy Spirit can keep those who are Christ’s from falling away from him. Whether they are still able through negligence to fall away from him is uncertain. (Later Arminians thought that they could). This article corresponds to TULIP’s P.

Calvinism and Arminianism

In response to the Remonstrance, Dutch Calvinists held the Synod of Dort in 1618-19. It issued the Canons of Dort summarizing the orthodox position against Arminianism and commonly known as the “Five Points of Calvinism” or TULIP. Although condemned as heresy, Arminianism didn’t die and was later promoted by John Wesley (1703-1791) and the Methodists. (Calvinism was spread by the Reformed and Presyterian churches.) However despite the popularity of Arminianism, many Calvinists still view it as heresy.

Their Opposition to Open Theism

Similarly many Calvinists and Arminianists view open theism as heresy because it holds that part of the future is open and thus unknown to even God whereas Calvinists and Arminians hold that God knows the future completely. Not only do they think that the Bible indicates that God knows the future, but also they think that His being perfect implies that He knows the future. Moreover Calvinists think that He preordains all that is going to come to pass and thus must know what is going to come to pass.


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