The Five Points of Calvinism and The Five Points of Arminianism

There are two major theologies in the religious world. One is the doctrine of "Calvinism", named after John Calvin. The other is the doctrine of "Arminianism", named after Jacabus Arminius.

I hope you understand that I cannot give a great theological discussion on these two conflicting views in this short bulletin. It may be that I will address these issues further at a later date, but for the time being, I trust this short study will suffice.

There are some who would question why we should know about something that happened so long ago. The answer is that these doctrines have a profound effect on the religious world. A study of religion is incomplete without a study of the doctrines of John Calvin and Jacabus Arminius.

The Doctrine of John Calvin

John Calvin was born July 10, 1509 and died May 27, 1564. He was pastor in Geneva, Switzerland, and practically ran the entire city from Sept. 13, 1541 until his death. He more or less re-established the doctrines of grace during the reformation. He wrote extensively and became very popular, even to the point of being persecuted by those who disagree with him. His book, Institutio Religionis Christianae (The Institutes of the Christian Religion) is the most outstanding Protestant theology work of the 16th century. There is no work equal to it today.

There were times, no doubt, that Calvin went too far in his theology, for he believed in "double predestination", or that God had predestinated some folks to heaven, and others to hell. This theology takes all responsibility away from man, and gives it all to God. It must be noted, however, that the burden of Calvin's heart was to glorify God and to refute the idea that anybody could resist or refuse to do God's bidding.

The Doctrine of Jacabus Arminius

Jacabus Arminius was born in Oudewater, Holland, on Oct. 19, 1560 and died Oct. 19, 1609. He was a disciple of Theodore de Beze, who was an admiring biographer and successor of John Calvin. Arminius was ordained to the ministry in 1588 and soon after he was asked to defend the doctrine of supralapsarianism (the doctrine that election took place before the fall of Adam) which the minster of Haarlem, Direk Volckertszoon Coornheert, was severely proclaiming to be against the clear teachings of scripture. As Arminius studied the book of Romans and Calvin's papers he became convinced that the Dutch Calvinist were stricter than the Bible or Calvin. He openly proclaimed his "new" religion, and in spite of his strong stand against the orthodox beliefs, in 1603 he was appointed Professor of Theology in the University of Leiden, a minister training center for the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1610, shortly after the death of Arminius, 45 of his fellow ministers, lead by Episcopius, introduced the following five points to the ecclesiastical authorities in a paper called "The Remonstrances".

The Five Points of Arminianism

1. Conditional Election - Election is based on the faith or belief of men.

2. Universal Atonement - The atonement is for all, but only believers enjoy its benefits.

3. Saving Faith - Man, unaided by the Holy Spirit, is unable to come to God.

4. Resistable Grace - The drawing of the Holy Spirit can be resisted.

5. Uncertainty of Preservation - This doctrine was left open to inquiry.

From November 13, 1618 to May 9, 1619, 47 years after Calvin's death, the Orthodox party called a general international synod at Dort (Dordrecht) where they introduced the Belgic Confession which contained 37 articles of belief, 5 of which have become known as the "five points of Calvinism". The Belgic Confession was written in 1561 by Guido de Bres, a comtempory of John Calvin. It was adopted by various synods from 1566-1581, and finally by the Great Synod of Dort in 1619. At the international Synod, the Orthodox party (Calvinists) were in the majority, and wouldn't let the Arminians speak definitively, thus the Arminian doctrine was publicly defeated, and the 45 ministers deposed from their ministry. Later, they were sentenced to banishment. In 1630, however, they were granted complete freedom to live and work anywhere in Holland.

The Five Points of Calvinism

T = Total Depravity - Man is completely a sinner, without any hope of helping himself.

U = Unconditional Election - God elected saints to salvation when they had no merit at all. God did not look down upon the earth and see some sinners believing, therefore elected them to salvation, but He looked down upon the earth, and saw all were sinners, therefore elected some to salvation.

L = Limited Atonement - The atonement is limited to the elect.

I = Irresistible Grace - It is impossible for a sinner to resist salvation once the Holy Spirit begins drawing him.

P = Preservation - A saved person will be saved forever, and will live a holy and Godly life.

Information for this article is from:

1.   Collier's Encyclopedia, 1979, Volume 2, page 667;

2.   Collier's Encyclopedia, 1979, Volume 5, page 183-187

3.   Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1972, Published by MacMillian Publishing Co., Inc, and The Free Press, New        York; and Colier MacMillian Publisher, London; Volume 1, page 164,165;

4.   Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1972, Published by MacMillian Publishing Co., Inc, and The Free Press, New        York; and Colier MacMillian Publisher, London; Volume 2, page 6-9

5.   Encyclopedia of Religion, Vergilius Ferm, PH.D; topics entitled: five points of Calvinism, five points of Arminianism, Synod of Dort, John Calvin, Jacabus Arminius