What is Predestination?

Predestination as proposed by John Calvin (1509-1564) can be summarized in 5 points (TULIP representing the first letters):


(1) Total depravity: The whole human race is lost in sin, and each individual is totally corrupted in intellect, will, and emotions by sin. Man is unable to respond to God’s offer of salvation.


(2) Unconditional election: God elected or predestined certain individuals to salvation. His choice rested solely in His own sovereign will. It was unconditional because it was not based on any foreseen response from the elect.


(3) Limited atonement: Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only. The effect of atonement was limited only to the redemption of the elect.


(4) Irresistible grace: In addition to the outward general call to salvation, which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call. This internal call cannot be resisted or rejected; it always results in conversion.


(5) Perseverance of the saints: All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Holy Spirit are eternally saved (“once saved – always saved”). Because God’s election must never fail, the elect is kept in faith by the power of God and thus will always persevere to the end. The elect will never lose salvation.


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What is Arminianism?

Arminianism as proposed by Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) can be summarized in 5 points corresponding to the 5 points in Calvinism:


(1) Human free will: Although human nature was seriously affected by the Fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. Each sinner possesses a free will. All people are able to choose to believe and be saved.


(2) Conditional election: God’s choice of electing certain individuals to salvation before the foundation of the world was based on His foreknowledge that they would respond to His call. The elect are those whom He knew would freely believe the gospel.


(3) General atonement: Christ died for everyone. The effect of atonement is sufficient for the redemption of all humanity (universal), although only believers are saved.


(4) Resistable grace: The Spirit calls inwardly all those who are called outwardly by the gospel invitation. But as man is free, he can successfully resist the Spirit’s call.


(5) Falling from grace possible: Those who believe and are truly saved can lose their salvation by later deliberately refuting their faith.



Is Arminianism regarded as orthodox faith?

The arguments between followers of Calvinism and Arminianism resulted in the Synod of Dort [1618–1619] where the Dutch Reformed Church declared Arminianism as heresy. However, the harsh decision was made because of political struggles associated with Spain at that time. [Spain had massacred thousands of Dutch in religious battles.] Later, the Arminians were granted official tolerance [1631] and Arminianism was no longer regarded as heresy.


When the Methodists (under John Wesley, 1703–1791) and the General Baptists (middle of 17th century) adopted Arminianism in their doctrines, the question of predestination was no longer regarded as an essential doctrine. They were joined later by some Congregationalists and Pentecostals (20th century). Today, while there are still more theologians subscribing to Calvinist predestination, Arminianism is regarded as an orthodox alternative.