Jared Smith's Bible Doctrine

2 Bible Doctrine – What Do These Labels – “Arminianism” And “Calvinism” – Represent?

A Transcript Of The Video Study

In our previous study, I sought to show you that every field of knowledge has been reduced to its own framework of teachings. With reference to the Bible, we often call its framework of teachings, Systematic Theology. However, there is more than one system of teachings derived from the Scriptures. The two most prominent frameworks are those of Arminianism and Calvinism. Now, what exactly do these labels represent?

These labels represent two diametrically opposed systems of biblical theology. The name “Arminianism” is derived from the teachings of a Dutch Theologian who lived during the 16th century named Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). The name “Calvinism” is derived from the teachings of a French Theologian who also lived during the 16th century named John Calvin (1509-1564). However, neither of these men formulated the systems of teaching which these labels now represent. Rather, the systems of teaching were drawn up by those who lived after both men had died. This took place in Holland, between the years 1610 and 1618.

The churches of Holland were largely founded upon the teachings of the Reformation, represented by the theology of John Calvin. However, there was a group of people who rejected the teachings of the Reformation, subscribing rather to the teachings of Jacobus Arminius—hence the name, Arminians. It was their desire the churches of Holland replace the teachings of the Reformation with those of Arminius. They therefore presented to the Dutch Parliament five doctrinal propositions.

The first proposition is called Natural Ability And The Free Will Of Man—they argued, though man is affected by the Fall, yet he remains inherently capable of exercising saving faith in Christ which alone secures for him/her the blessings of salvation.

The second proposition is called Conditional Election—they argued, God the Father has chosen unto salvation those sinners which He foresaw would exercise saving faith in Christ; His choice of the sinner is based upon the sinner’s choice of Him.

The third proposition is called Universal Redemption—they argued, God the Son, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, made a general provision through His blood for the salvation of the entire human race, but that it is made effectual only to those who believe on Him.

The fourth proposition is called Resistible Grace—they argued, God the Spirit cannot grant the sinner new life in Christ, unless the sinner permits Him to do so; henceforth, the effectual power of the Holy Spirit may be overpowered by the free will of the sinner.

The fifth proposition is called Falling From Grace—they argued, those who have been born again may lose their salvation if they do not remain faithful to Christ.

Several years after these propositions were presented to the Dutch Parliament, a national committee of men was organized, for the purpose of examining these teachings according to the text of Scripture. Over a period of seven months, and after meeting over 150 times, it was determined by the committee that these five propositions of the Arminians were unscriptural. In response, the committee set out what they believed the scriptures do teach regarding each of these propositions:

First, in response to Natural Ability And The Free Will Of Man, they concluded the Scriptures teach Total Depravity—this means that the unregenerate sinner is under the authority of the covenant of works, dead in trespasses and sins, subject to a sinful nature and void of saving faith.

Second, in response to Conditional Election, they concluded the Scriptures teach Unconditional Election—that God the Father has set apart a remnant of the human race as special objects of His love, without any conditions imposed upon the sinner.

Third, in response to Universal Atonement, they concluded the Scriptures teach Particular Redemption, or, Limited Atonement—that God the Son, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, made a special provision through His blood designed to save those given to Him by the Father—namely, the elect only.

Fourth, in response to Resistible Grace, they concluded the Scriptures teach Irresistible Grace—that God the Spirit sovereignly and invincibly regenerates the soul of every elect and redeemed sinner throughout the course of history.

Fifth, in response to Falling From Grace, they concluded the Scriptures teach the Preservation Of The Saints—that the regenerate sinner is under the authority of the covenant of grace, made alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, subject to a new nature in Christ, in possession of saving faith and eternally secure according to the terms and promises of the gracious covenant.

Now, these are what are commonly known as “the Five Points of Calvinism”. And, they sometimes go by the acronym “TULIP”, the first letter of each point forming the word “TULIP”. However, they are more frequently referred as “the doctrines of grace”, and nowadays, are usually identified simply as “sovereign grace”—the sovereign grace of God.

It must be pointed out, the labels “Arminianism” and “Calvinism” do not represent all of the teachings of Jacabus Arminius or of John Calvin. Rather, these labels are used in a restrictive sense, identifying only these five doctrinal points. There is, therefore, nothing wrong with those on either side of the issues, using these labels to identify their positions. I say this, because you will sometimes hear people say, “I am not a Calvinist, because I don’t believe in the Universal Church, or, because I don’t believe in baby sprinkling, or, because I don’t believe the Lord’s Table is a sacrament.” Well, very good. But, the name “Calvinism”, when used as a label, does not refer to Calvin’s teachings on the church and the church ordinances. Rather, these labels are used to identify these particular five points, and therefore, it is helpful to use these names for that purpose.

You will naturally ask, and rightfully wonder, to which set of teachings do I belong? Well, I believe the doctrines of grace are the teachings supported by the Scriptures, and therefore I am a Calvinist, not an Arminian.

And so let me reverse the question—to which set of teachings do you belong? Perhaps you have never been asked that question before. It’s an important question for you to answer, because the whole nature of God and the gospel of your salvation depends upon it.

Well, I will leave you with these considerations, and look forward returning to the subject in our next study.

Jared Smith