Calvinist misrepresents the Reformed

Courtesy Google (public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

It is not unusual to read or hear of Calvinists and Arminians who misrepresent the theological views of each other. I met one on a Christian forum when he wrote:

Historically speaking, the word Reformed was first used of the movement spreading out because of Calvin’s work in Geneva, and the influence of his many editions of the Institutes….

So, OP (original poster). I would say to you that it would be almost impossible to find a Reformed Church that isn’t Calvinistic because the two go hand in hand historically speaking.[1]

The OP had asked:

I am looking for a Baptist type church that isn’t calvinist but preaches and takes God’s word and makes Christ so important that never does it seem like just a secular community meeting. I hear to often in sermons a self-help seminar message.

Basically if I can simplify it I am looking for a Non- Calvinist or Arminian version of Paul Washer lol. If someone can direct me to some audio, video, or way to find local churches, I would greatly appreciate it.[2]

Calvinist vs Arminian antagonism


            Calvin (Google public domain)                 Arminius (Google, public domain)

I am of Reformed (Classical) Arminian persuasion,[3] and we are found in many denominations. I referred this person to Dr Stephen M. Ashby, as an example, who was teaching at Asbury Theological Seminary, where there is a Wesleyan emphasis, when he wrote a chapter as a Reformed Arminian (he is now at Ball State University).[4] Dr Ashby contributed the chapter, ‘A Reformed Arminian View’ of eternal security (Ashby 2002) in this edited book by J Matthew Pinson (2002)

Ashby begins his article in this publication,

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a Presbyterian pastor in the city where I work. Upon hearing that I had graduated from a Calvinist seminary, he waited for the appropriate moment and said, “So you are one of those rare birds who was educated in Reformed thought … but just didn’t get it.” My response was, “Oh, I’m very Reformed; in fact, I call myself a Reformed Arminian.” To which he laughed incredulously and said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of that.”

No doubt, many people who might pick up this book will ask themselves, “What is Reformed Arminianism?” The answer that that question is simple: It is the view of Jacobus Arminius himself. Arminius always considered himself to be Reformed, right up until his death. And there were many within the Dutch Reformed movement who held his approach to theology. Of course, given the popular usage of the term Reformed today – it is probably not surprising that my Presbyterian friend reacted so strongly to the thought of Reformed Arminianism. However, if we get beneath the surface of handy and well-worn labels and compare the actual substance of the views held by those within my community with views typically thought to be Reformed, it will become clear that this is not a contradiction of terms but an accurate description (Ashby 2002:137, emphasis in original).

Jacob Arminius, as a Dutch Reformed minister, considered himself Reformed to his dying day. Those who are Reformed Arminian are spread throughout various denominations. So historically, Arminius was Reformed before the time of his followers, The Remonstrants, and he was not Calvinistic in his overall theology. However, Arminius’ doctrine of Total Depravity was in harmony with that of Calvinism. See, ‘Do Arminians Believe in Total Depravity?’ where there are ample quotes from Arminius and Arminians to demonstrate their view of total depravity is similar to that of Calvinists.

Jacob Arminius wrote concerning total depravity and free will:

THIS is my opinion concerning the free-will of man: In his primitive condition as he came out of the hands of his creator, man was endowed with such a portion of knowledge, holiness and power, as enabled him to understand, esteem, consider, will, and to perform the true good, according to the commandment delivered to him. Yet none of these acts could he do, except through the assistance of Divine Grace.  But in his lapsed and sinful state, man is not capable, of and by himself, either to think, to will, or to do that which is really good; but it is necessary for him to be regenerated and renewed in his intellect, affections or will, and in all his powers, by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, that he may be qualified rightly to understand, esteem, consider, will, and perform whatever is truly good. When he is made a partaker of this regeneration or renovation, I consider that, since he is delivered from sin, he is capable of thinking, willing and doing that which is good, but yet not without the continued aids of Divine Grace (Works of James Arminius, vol 1, 5.3, The free will of man).

Roger Olson’s understanding is that, ‘Arminians together with Calvinists affirm total depravity because of the fall of humanity in Adam and its inherited consequence of a corrupted nature in bondage to sin. A common myth about Arminianism is that it promotes an optimistic anthropology’ (Olson 2006:55-56).

Arminians and Calvinists in the same denomination

For many years I’ve been associated with a Baptistic denomination that includes both Calvinistic, Reformed Arminian and Wesleyan Arminian pastors.[5]

This misunderstanding of the misunderstanding between Calvinists and Arminians is acknowledged by a Calvinist, R C Sproul,

In the perennial debate between so-called Calvinism and Arminianism, the estranged parties have frequently misrepresented each other. They construct straw men, then brandish the swords of polemics against caricatures, not unlike collective Don Quixotes tilting at windmills. As a Calvinist I frequently hear criticisms of Calvinistic thought that I would heartily agree with if indeed they represented Calvinism. So, I am sure, the disciples of Arminius suffer the same fate and become equally frustrated. Arminius himself came from a Calvinistic framework and embraced many tenets of historic Calvinism. He frequently complained, in a mild spirit, of the manifold ways in which he was misrepresented. He loved the works of Augustine and in many ways earnestly sought to champion the Augustinian cause.

[A citation] from one of Arminius’s works demonstrates how seriously he regards the depths of the fall. He is not satisfied to declare that man’s will was merely wounded or weakened. He insists that it was ‘imprisoned, destroyed, and lost.’ The language of Augustine, Martin Luther or John Calvin is scarcely stronger than that of Arminius (Sproul 1997:125-126).

Interesting label by Sproul. He calls the Calvinists and Arminians ‘estranged parties’. That seems very accurate to me. If you don’t believe me, take a read of the topics in the ‘Soteriology’ directory of Christian Forums. To me (and I’ve participated there as a Reformed Arminian many times), the description is more like ‘hostile parties’ than ‘estranged parties’.

What’s the truth?

So I’m not surprised that this person[6] made a statement that ‘it would be almost impossible to find a Reformed Church that isn’t Calvinistic’. Sproul described this as an example of how ‘the estranged parties have frequently misrepresented each other. They construct straw men, then brandish the swords of polemics against caricatures’.

So, to set the record straight. It is very possible to find a Reformed pastor in a denomination that is not Calvinistic. That pastor, like Stephen Ashby, others, and me, could believe the teachings of Jacob Arminius and be known as Reformed Arminians.

Why don’t you take a read of Roger E. Olson’s article in Christianity Today (September 6, 1999) from 15 years ago, ‘Don’t hate me because I’m Arminian’?


Works consulted

Ashby, S M 2002. A Reformed Arminian view, in J M Pinson (gen ed) 2002. Four views on eternal security. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 135-205.

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.

Pinson, J M (gen ed) 2002. Four views on eternal security. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

Sproul, R C 1997. Willing to believe: The controversy over free will. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Reformed church that is not Calvinist’ (online), branchofthevine#53. Available at: (Accessed 31 January 2014).

[2] Ibid., Awaken4Christ#1. Available at: (Accessed 31 January 2014).

[3] Much of this response is in ibid, OzSpen#54, but I have made some changes, including additions.

[4] Dr Ashby also is an adjunct professor at Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College, Moore OK. See: (Accessed 31 January 2014).

[5] I’m an ordained minister with The Christian & Missionary Alliance of Australia.

[6] Op cit branchofthevine#53.


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.