Words That Arminians and Calvinists Define Differently

, posted by Kevin Jackson

Arminians and Calvinists define some theological terms differently. This has a tendency to cause us to talk past each other when discussing theological issues. Here are some of the words that Arminians and Calvinists have different meanings for:

Arminians – A plan of God to establish parameters for the way something will work. For example, God can decree for humans to have and make decisions.
Calvinists – A plan of God to cause things to happen in a predetermined way.

Arminians – God chooses Christ. Those who follow Christ benefit from his election.1
Calvinists – God unconditionally chooses certain individuals to be saved. The chosen are elected.

Arminians – Faith means to trust God. Because of God’s drawing grace, it is possible for each person to trust God.
Calvinists – Faith is an ability that God gives to the elect but not to the reprobate. A person cannot trust God unless God causes him to to so.

Arminians – God has passive knowledge of our future choices.
Calvinists – God foreknows the future because he has rendered it certain. His knowing is based on determining what will happen.

Free Will
Arminians – Free will is the God enabled ability to make choices. A person can do one thing, or he can choose to do something else.
Calvinists – Free will means to follow one’s strongest desires. When a person makes decisions his strongest desires determine what he does.

God’s Love
Arminians – God loves each person with an infinite amount of love, and desires for each person to be saved and to be in relationship with him.
Calvinists – God has a special kind of love for the elect that he does not have for all people. God may love the reprobate in some sense, but this is not a kind of love that enables them to be saved.

Arminians – God as ruler does what he wants to do. God sovereignly created and governs a world where creatures have the ability to make choices.
Calvinists – God as ruler deterministically causes every thing that happens. If God does not ultimately cause everything, he can’t be sovereign.

The World
Arminians – The world is inclusive of each and every person that has or ever will exist.
Calvinists – The world is all of the elect people from all over the world, not all people.

1The view described above is called “corporate election”. Some Arminians also hold to “individual election”. In this view God elects those whom he foreknows will believe in Christ.