Calvinism and Arminianism are Christian doctrinal movements within the Protestant Reformation. Calvinism is based on the teachings of 16th-century French reformer John Calvin. Calvin's teachings were widely accepted in Switzerland, Britain and Northern Europe. Arminianism is based on the teachings of Jacob Arminius, a Dutch Reformed pastor and theologian who became controversial for disputing several of Calvin's teachings at a time when Calvinism dominated Reformed theology in Holland. Most evangelical Christians have been influenced by Calvinism, Arminianism or both.
Calvinism's main teachings are summarized in the Five Points of Calvinism. They are: (1) Total depravity, a teaching that contends all men are sinful and completely incapable of accepting grace without God's particular call; (2) Unconditional election, a teaching that contends God chose whom He would show mercy and save and whom He would judge before time; (3) Limited atonement, a teaching that suggests Jesus Christ's death on the cross was only intended to bring about the salvation of those who were chosen by God ahead of time; (4) Irresistible grace, which teaches that those who are chosen are incapable of resisting God's calling to be saved; (5) The preservation of the saints, which teaches that those who are chosen by God cannot lose their salvation under any circumstances.
Jacob Arminius' followers presented a summary of his disagreements, called the Five Articles of Remonstrance, to be considered by the Reformed Church shortly after his death. Arminians contend that: (1) Although all men are sinners, God's grace gives all the choice of accepting God's grace; (2) The Atonement purchased by Jesus Christ on the cross is sufficient for everyone in the world and applies to all who receive it by faith; (3) No one can come to Christ of his own effort, but the Holy Spirit enables all who decide to come to Christ to do so; (4) Everyone who hears the Gospel can choose to receive or reject God's grace; (5) Each believer must remain in the faith to retain salvation; thus it is possible for a believer to fall from God's grace.
Evangelism, which literally means the spreading of good news, is the act of preaching, teaching, or sharing the Christian faith. Both Calvinists and Arminians heavily emphasize evangelism.
Calvinists believe that only those who are "elect," or predestined to accept the message of the Gospel, will be saved. They also believe that God foreordains the calling of the Christian to share the Gospel message. Most are quick to point out that no man knows who is or isn't elect, so the Gospel should be shared with all.
Arminians believe that anyone who hears the message of God's grace has the choice of accepting or rejecting it. They further believe that there are only two ways to be saved. One is to live a completely perfect life (something they believe only Jesus Christ has done or will ever do) or accept God's grace by faith in Jesus Christ. For Arminians, this makes it all the more important to share their faith.
Many Protestant denominations are influenced by Calvinism, Arminianism, or both. The churches most directly influenced by Calvinist teachings include the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. The churches most directly influenced by Arminian teachings include the Methodist, Wesleyan, Pentecostal and Nazarene Churches.
Many churches are influenced by both Calvinism and Arminianism to some degree. Most Baptists, for example, agree with Arminians on most points except those having to do with falling from grace. On that point, their teachings reflect those of John Calvin, who taught that once a person is saved, he cannot lose that salvation. Proponents of both theological positions agree that it is important for Christians to evangelize, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.
Dell Markey is a full-time journalist. When he isn't writing business spotlights for local community papers, he writes and has owned and operated a small business.