By Spencer D Gear
Some Calvinists believe Arminians are in error (see below for an example). Others go much further to accuse the Arminian of promoting heresy.
(heresy in the middle ages, public domain)
There is a blog called, ‘Arminian heresy’, and another sermon audio series, ‘Arminianism is heresy, Calvinism is the Gospel’. Another states this of Arminianism: ‘Is Arminianism a damnable heresy? Yes. The false doctrines of conditional election, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace originate in the pit of hell with the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). They are contrary to Scripture and worthy of condemnation. This is a serious matter’.
John MacArthur’s organisation, Grace to You, has an article online titled, ‘Why I am a Calvinist, Part 1’. The subheading is, ‘Part 1: Is Arminianism damnable heresy?’ It includes this statement:
But let me be plain here: Simple Arminianism doesn’t fall in that category. It’s not fair to pin the label of rank heresy on Arminianism, the way some of my more zealous Calvinist brethren seem prone to do. I’m talking about historic, evangelical Arminianism, of the classic and Wesleyan varieties — Arminianism, not Pelagianism, or open theism, or whatever heresy Clark Pinnock has invented this week — but true evangelical Arminianism. Arminianism is certainly wrong; and I would argue that it’s inconsistent with itself. But in my judgment, standard, garden variety Arminianism is not so fatally wrong that we need to consign our Arminian brethren to the eternal flames or even automatically refuse them fellowship in our pastors’ fraternals.
If you think I’m beginning to sound like an apologist for Arminianism, I’m definitely not that. I do think Arminianism is a profound error. Its tendencies can be truly sinister, and when it is allowed to go to seed, it does lead people into rank heresy. But what I’m saying here is that mere Arminianism itself isn’t damnable heresy. It’s just grossly inconsistent with the core gospel doctrines that Arminians themselves believe and affirm.
I recommend the article by Roger Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Society of Evangelical Arminians).
Robin Phillips wrote the article, ‘The Heresy of Monergism’, in which it was stated that ‘Monergism arises out of the fact that Calvinists are deeply uncomfortable acknowledging any synergy between the divine will and the human will. Indeed, a Calvinist will say that when a man or woman appears to co-operate with God, this is only because the Lord first predetermined that he or she should do so, thus preserving the sense in which only one agent is operative’. Monergism ‘describes the notion that salvation is affected by only one agent, namely God. As R.C. Sproul explains it, “A monergistic work is a work produced singly, by one person… A synergistic work is one that involves cooperation between two or more persons or things”’. In 2012, Christianity Today reported, ‘As Baptists Prepare to Meet, Calvinism Debate Shifts to Heresy Accusation’ (Weston Gentry, June 18). Part of this article read:
The May 30  document, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” aims “to more carefully express what is generally believed by Southern Baptists about salvation.” But both Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler and George W. Truett Theological Seminary professor Roger Olson, in separate blog posts, said that parts of the document sound like semi-Pelagianism, a traditionally heretical understanding of Christian salvation.
Therefore, there are theological sling shots being flung by both Calvinists and Arminians at each other with the rock of ‘heresy’ or ‘error’ included. This is an unfortunate overstatement, in my view.
Summary of these differing doctrines
Here’s a summary comparison of the Arminian vs Calvinist core doctrines: ‘An Outline of the FACTS of Arminianism vs. The TULIP of Calvinism’.
For Arminianism, the acronym FACTS refers to:
Freed by Grace (to Believe)
Atonement for All
Security in Christ
For Calvinism, the TULIP acronym indicates:
Perseverance of the Saints
Where the rubber meets the theological road
On an Internet Christian forum, I was engaged in a discussion of Arminianism and Calvinism. My views are closest to what is known as Reformed or Classical Arminianism.
Here are some grabs from that online conversation:
Arminian: ‘If it’s not a promotion of Calvinism, I don’t get a passing grade’.
Calvinist: ‘In other words, we don’t tolerate error’.
Arminian: ‘That seems to be your a priori bias. So are Reformed Arminians promoting false doctrine, in your view?’
Calvinist: ‘Any flavor of Arminianism is error’.
Arminian: ‘A priori speaking. So should Arminian theology on this forum only be discussed under Unorthodox Theology? If so, why are the moderators [on Christian Forums] not moving Arminian interpretations to Unorthodox Theology? Perhaps they don’t see it as you see it’.
Arminian: ‘Arminian theology has a long history in orthodox theology. Even some of the church fathers promoted such views. Should they also be written off as promoting error also?’
Calvinist: ‘It’s orthodox and faulty’.
Arminian: ‘So why is griff tolerated in this thread as stating, ‘Any flavor of Arminianism is error’. How can error be affirmed as orthodox. Don’t you as moderators think you should examine this kind of statement from griff?’
Calvinist: ‘Do you not think Calvinism is error? It’s orthodox because it isn’t an issue of heresy. People can be Arminians and still be Christians. Most Arminians would say the same of Calvinists. Same with other doctrines like baptism. Pedobaptists are in error in my opinion, yet fall in the realm of orthodoxy. Are we so PC here that we can’t say something is wrong? Geez…’
Calvinist: ‘Life is so unfair’.
Calvinist: ‘Odd how the Arminians/non-Calvinists can express their opinions regarding Calvinism, and that’s just fine, but if a Calvinist expresses his opinion, then suddenly the mods must be summoned… Really??? Is Arminianism that fragile?’
Arminian: ‘Please don’t distort what I said. It was griff who stated: ”Any flavor of Arminianism is error’ and I challenged the moderators on this statement. Isn’t that OK on CF [www.christianforums.com]?
This is more than expressing an opinion. It is directly stating that ”Any flavor of Arminianism is error‘.
Will the moderators of CF continue to allow me, a Reformed Arminian, to post on this site when it has been labelled that Arminianism ‘is error’? Does this evangelical site authorise the promotion of ‘error’?’
Calvinist: ‘No more than we should examine you. You think Calvinism is in error, and it falls within the pale of orthodoxy’.
Arminian: ‘What’s the pale of orthodoxy? Is Arminianism orthodox Christianity or not?’
Calvinist: ‘No more than we should examine you. You think Calvinism is in error, and it falls within the pale of orthodoxy’.
Calvinist: ‘Yes, it is’. (This was in answer to the question, ‘Is Arminianism orthodox Christianity or not?)
Arminian: ‘Back at #469 you stated, ‘Any flavor of Arminianism is error‘ (emphasis added). You did not say that, ‘In my opinion any flavor of Arminianism is error’.
On this forum I would not say ‘Calvinism is error’. I do not support some of its teaching but I would never say (my emphasis) on this forum that any flavour of Calvinism is error’.
It is interesting that you now say ‘Pedobaptists are in error in my opinion‘. That is not how you said it with regard to Arminianism. I urge you to please be consistent’.
Arminian: ‘I have never stated that ‘I think Calvinism is in error’, so why are you stating, “You think Calvinism is in error”?’
Calvinist: ‘So if you don’t believe Calvinism is erroneous, why are you committing so much time of your life arguing against it? Isn’t it implied in any debate that you believe your opponent’s view is erroneous? It’s amazing how PC we have become’.
Arminian: ‘It’s how you state this position. I would never say of Calvinism what you stated of Arminianism: “Any flavor of Arminianism is error”’.
What’s going on here?
Some keys to understand this kind of interaction include:
- His stated position that ‘any flavor of Arminianism is error’, commits a logical fallacy of hasty generalization without providing the evidence to refute such a view. Besides, it’s like a sound bite when a person just gives this one bite without exposition and doesn’t deal with the issues I raised. This fellow who labels Arminianism as error is among those described by Jack Zavada in his ‘Biography of Jacobus Arminius’ as:
Today, nearly 500 years after Arminius’ death, many Calvinists consider him a heretic. They equate his doctrines with those of Pelagius, a fifth century Roman Catholic monk who taught that humans are born without original sin and can choose God through their free will. Pelagianism was condemned as heresy by several church councils, both Roman Catholic and Protestant.
- I cannot see any reconciliation between Arminians and Calvinists unless the free will response of human beings to the common grace of God is understood in responding to Christ’s offer of salvation. God’s drawing people to salvation is not under discussion. I, an Arminian, am convinced of the truth of what Jesus said in John 6:65, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father’ (ESV).
- Based on the evidence available to me so far in my Christian journey, I support the major premises of Reformed or classical Arminianism. See the article, ‘What’s the difference between Reformed Arminianism and Wesleyan Arminianism? Three scholars answer’ (February 25, 2015). Reformed or Classical Arminians are those who espouse many of the teachings of Jacob Arminius. In fact, they were the Arminians who issued the Remonstrance to which the Synod of Dordt responded with its formulation of TULIP Calvinism. To his dying day, Jacob Arminius maintained he was Reformed and a promoter of Reformation theology. He was a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church until death.
The accusations fly back and forth between Calvinists and Arminians with one blaming the other of error or heresy. Therefore, there is heat on both sides of this debate. I can’t see it being resolved soon – if ever – during our sojourn on this earth.
The issues seem to boil down to interpretation of the biblical texts. Roger Olson, an evangelical Arminian, has summed it up concisely:
There is no middle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism with regard to the three crucial doctrines about which they differ: election (conditional or unconditional), atonement (limited or universal) and grace (resistible or irresistible).
I wish Lemke and others like him would read Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities where I argue that, whereas Calvinists and Arminians have much in common, there is no hybrid of them or middle ground between them. In fact, Arminianism IS the middle ground between Calvinism and Semi-Pelagianism!
 The statement at the foot of this article was, ‘This post is adapted from a transcript of a seminar from the 2007 Shepherds’ Conference, titled “Closet Calvinists”’. Available at: https://www.gty.org/resources/articles/10194 (Accessed 30 October 2015).
 The link to this article provided by Christianity Today was not available on 30 October 2015, but I have sourced it elsewhere online and have included it in this CT quote.
 This is from the link above, the Society of Evangelical Arminians, available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/an-outline-of-the-facts-of-arminianism-vs-the-tulip-of-calvinism/ (Accessed 30 October 2015).
 For an explanation, see Rev Barry Gritters 2000, Reformed Churches of America (online), ‘T.U.L.I.P or The Five Points of Calvinism’, available at: http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_41.html (Accessed 30 October 2015).
 Ibid., griff #458.
 Ibid., OzSpen #461.
 Ibid., griff #469.
 All unorthodox theology, on Christian Forums rules, can only be discussed in the directory, Unorthodox Theology.
 Christian Forums op cit, OzSpen #417.
 Ibid., OzSpen #471.
 Ibid., griff #472.
 Ibid., but this is another Calvinist poster who is a moderator, Hammster #474. Since I’m not an IT whiz, I do not know if Hammster and griff are the same person. A person has investigated this on the forum and has stated that people have multiple identities on this forum.
 Ibid., OzSpen #475. This was a response to griff.
 Ibid., OzSpen #476. This was a response to Hammster.
 Ibid., griff #478.
 Ibid., griff #479.
 Ibid., another Calvinist’s response, nobdysfool #480.
 Ibid., OzSpen #484.
 Ibid., Hammster #487. This is in response to my questions as OzSpen #484.
 Ibid., OzSpen #486. This was a response to Hammster.
 Ibid., Hammster #487.
 Ibid., Hammster #491.
 Ibid., OzSpen #492.
 Ibid., OzSpen #493.
 Ibid., griff #499.
 Ibid., OzSpen #501.
 Steve W. Lemke is one of the editors of Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, David L. Allen & Steve W. Lemke eds. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2010. Lemke is Provost and Professor of Philosophy and Ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. See HERE.
 This is Roger E Olson’s 2006 publication by Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic.
 Roger E Olson 2011. ‘Is there a middle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism?’ Patheos, June 4. Available at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2011/06/is-there-a-middle-ground-between-calvinism-and-arminianism/ (Accessed 30 October 2015).
Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 January 2018.