Calvinism and Arminianism

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a friend of mine if I was willing to lead a discussion in our church dgroup. I didn’t really have a good reason to say no, as this was something I had done before. What was interesting this time around was that he asked me to discuss Calvinism and Arminianism.

To me, this was quite a curious case. He told me that the session was to be a joint one with another group, and that that particular group had actually asked for this topic. I thought that this wasn’t really normal, as the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism tend to touch some rather deep theology. These weren’t terms that people, even Christians, use on a daily basis. So I genuinely got curious as to why this became such a wanted topic.

Perhaps, I guessed, that people’s curiosity over Calvinism and Arminianism was largely about a question of free will and predestination. How much control does God have over my life? Do I really have a choice in the decisions I make or is God just playing me like a puppet? That sort of question now becomes a bit more relevant to us.

As an example, imagine I was in McDonald’s. Suppose that God wanted me to order and eat a Big Mac, can I actually order and eat a Quarter Pounder? Does what God want for me override what I want for myself? Or does what I want override what God wants? While this example might seem a bit trivial, nevertheless it’s something that is quite real for us.

But the interesting thing about the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism is that it really isn’t an issue of free will and predestination. It’s not really about that. What these two sides are disagreeing about is actually a matter of Soteriology.

Now, Soteriology is just the technical term to what we call the study of salvation. In short, what they are arguing about arethe fine details of how people are actually saved. It’s not really an issue of free will or predetermined destiny per se, although one may choose to extend the concepts both sides to cover that matter. One may, if one wishes, consider the general implications of their teaching, and from that answer the question of how much control does God exercise in our lives.

But first and foremost, let me just make it clear that what Calvinists and Arminians are in disagreement about are the fine details of salvation. Note that usage of “fine”. As far as the general and essential points are, they are in agreement. Both still teach that we are saved by God’s grace, through faith, based on what Jesus did on the cross. There are no arguments on those points. It is for that reason that both train of thoughts are still well and alive in the church today. Hence, we need to remember that as we tackle this issue, we are not likely to arrive at any conclusion that everybody will agree on.

There are matters that we will have to agree to disagree with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to keep in mind that such topic are really a matter of limited minds trying to understand the reality of an unlimited God. Therefore we need to practice grace and love even in our disagreements.

In these series of posts, we will simply aim to cover the general ideas of Calvinism and Arminianism. These posts won’t be an exhaustive study on this subject. What we seek, for now, is simply a basic knowledge of the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism. This will serve as our starting point for further study on this subject, with the ultimate goal of allowing us to form our personal conviction on this issue.

These series of posts will cover a very brief introduction and history of both Calvinism and Arminianism, five major topics with regard to salvation, and lastly applications and implications of their teachings.

Introduction and History

On the Topic of Sin

On the Topic of Election

On the Topic of Atonement

On the Topic of Grace

On the Topic of Assurance

Applications and Implications

Conclusion

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