Perhaps the harshest divine within Evangelical Christianity is whether we Christians are chosen or free or both. Whether one looks to Calvinist James White or Arminian Jerry Walls, each side has warriors that are blessed with sharp minds but often sharper tongues. Regardless of where you land, it is important to treat those on the other side of the camp with grace and that begins by truly understanding the position with which one disagrees. So, I will begin to try to outline the positions of Calvinism, Arminianism and Molinism. If I make a mistake, please feel free to correct me in the comments section but please begin practicing grace with me!
Let’s start with Calvinism, which is the theology I embraced in 2006 when I first read through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan 1996). I connected with Reformed theology because it seemed to best reflect the teachings of Scripture, which I had just began to believe was the inerrant Word of God.
Calvinism is often broken down by the acronym TULIP and breaks down as follows:
Total Depravity or the inability of anyone to seek after God due to their sinful nature (Romans 3:9-12)
Unconditional Election or salvation by the sovereign choice of God, not by individual merit (John 6:65)
Limited Atonement or the penal substitutionary death of Jesus for the elect only (John 10:11-14)
Irresistable Grace or the Spirit alone regenerates the elect enabling them to believe (1 Cor. 12:3)
Perseverance of the Saints or the salvation of the chosen cannot be lost because it is not their work but the perfect work of the Holy Spirit (John 10:27-30)
But are there other, better ways to understand these verses?
Many Arminians agree with Calvinists that all humans are depraved and that without “a second work of grace” by the Spirit, no one can be saved but they disagree on how this work happens. Most Arminians, however, believe in conditional election in that a person is not “once saved always saved” but can walk away from the faith after genuinely believing. They also believe that Christ died for all (John 3:16) in that everyone is welcome to come to faith through Jesus. Arminians point to scriptures such as Luke 7:30 in which it appears the Pharisees defy the will of God for themselves. They also highlight warnings for believers to repent or else (Revelation 2-3), which indicates a true church filled with true believers can lose their salvation.
Calvinism has been a growing movement over the last ten years thanks to popular preachers like Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, John Piper, Joshua Harris, John MacArthur. Moreover, most systematic theologies are Reformed in nature with Wayne Grudem’s massive but readable Systematic Theology leading the pack. Yet, the majority of western Christians remain Arminians. For example, the Independent Christian Church is one of the few denominations that seem to be growing.
But Calvinism isn’t the only theological stand with an increasing number of adherents, there is also Molinism or “Middle Knowledge.” To overly simplify, Molinism teaches,