Calvinism vs. Arminianism: How are they different?

As a Christian, I often hear a lot of speculation, especially about what we are supposed to believe and how to interpret the Scripture. However, being in the ministry for 15 years has enabled me to build a personal relationship with God, which spiked a certain curiosity in me to look at other denominations and what their beliefs are. A debate that really intrigues me is the Calvinism-Arminianism debate. So, I decided to dig into the two beliefs, Calvinism vs. Arminianism; how exactly do they differ?

Calvinism and Arminianism are both theological systems that aim to explain the correlation between God’s sovereignty and human salvation. However, while Calvinism mostly emphasizes the sovereignty of God and predestination, Arminianism opposes these beliefs and majorly dwells on everyone’s free will to follow Jesus for salvation.

In this article, I will dig deeper into these fascinating beliefs and further elaborate on their main points of emphasis. Keep reading on to find out more.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism: Difference in the definition

Calvinism is a system of biblical doctrine that follows the theological practices set by theologian John Calvin and centres around predestination, total depravity, limited atonement, unconditional election, perseverance of saints, and irresistible grace. Arminianism, on the other hand, refers to the beliefs based on theologian Jacobus Arminius that believes in a conditional election, unlimited atonement, resistible grace, partial depravity, and conditional salvation.

Major points of disagreement between Calvinists and Arminians

Calvinism vs. Arminianism
Disagreement between Calvinists and Arminians. Image source: Pixabay


Calvinists believe in total depravity, while Arminians believe in Partial depravity.

In total depravity, it is believed that humanity is corrupted by sin and unable to redeem itself due to the fall of Adam and Eve. In contrast, partial depravity states that as much as the human race is tainted by sin, we are still able to accept salvation from God by His prevenient grace.


In Calvinism, election is believed to be unconditional, while Arminianism believes that election is conditional.

In the unconditional election, it is believed that God chose some individuals for salvation entirely according to His will and is not based on man’s future response since he is not able to respond. Conditional election, on the other hand, suggests that God elects individuals that He foresees having faith in Him.


In Calvinism, atonement is believed to be limited: It is believed that Jesus died only for those who were chosen by God in unconditional election, that they may get salvation. In Arminianism, it is believed that atonement is unlimited, meaning that Jesus died for everyone, including those who were not chosen, and by believing in Him, everyone can be saved as He did not die for anyone in particular.


Calvinists believe that grace is irresistible, whereas Arminians believe that grace is resistible.

According to Calvinism, when God calls a man, He will inevitably come to salvation whether he chooses to do so or not, as they are entirely incapable of rejecting God. This is known as Irresistible grace, according to the Calvinists.

Resistible grace, which the Arminians believe in, emphasizes mainly on free will and implies that anyone can reject God’s call to salvation since prevenient grace is given to us all by the Holy Spirit.


Calvinists hold to the perseverance of the saints, which means that the person chosen by God in the unconditional election will persevere in faith and never turn away from Christ. In other words, those who are truly born again will never get lost from God.

On the other hand, Arminians believe in conditional salvation, which implies that one may lose salvation and fall from grace if they willingly reject Christ and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

How do Arminianism and Calvinism beliefs differ?

Calvinism vs. Arminianism - How are they different?
Arminianism and Calvinism beliefs. Image source: Pixabay

Arminians and Calvinists differ in that Calvinists place God as the sole decision-maker of all our choices. At the same time, Arminians believe that each person should be allowed to choose for themselves to gain salvation.

Moreover, the Calvinists believe that God already chose His own people according to His will and that those are the ones who Jesus died for. Arminians, on the other hand, believe that God chooses people who have faith in Him.

Why did Arminius reject Calvinism?

Arminius argued that the Calvinist’s belief in God’s unconditional election made Him seem evil and that God’s election was meant to be conditioned on faith as it was an election of believers.

Additionally, he argued that humans should be able to be sinless and choose good over evil without any help from God and that they can reject God’s call. He emphasized on free will and opposed the Calvinism beliefs that grace is irresistible, and that man is incapable of rejecting God.

Which belief is correct between Arminianism and Calvinism?

Calvinism vs. Arminianism
Arminianism vs Calvinism – Which is correct? Image source: Pixabay

The correct belief depends on one’s interpretation of scriptures. However, most theologians tend to believe in Calvinism more than Arminianism. This is because most of the Calvinist’s major points and teachings are based on the Bible. Here are some examples:

1. Total depravity is proved in the book of Genesis 6:5, where we are told that God saw how the wickedness of humankind was great, and all the intent of his heart’s thought was evil all the time. Furthermore, the passage from Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful and beyond cure. These verses imply that humanity has been corrupted by sin beyond cure.

2. According to Ephesians 1:4-6, God chose His people before creating the world to be blameless and holy before His eyes and predestined them to be his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with His will. The word from Romans 8:29-30 further elaborates that there are those that God had predestined to be conformed in His son’s image and that those that were predestined were also called, justified, and glorify. These passages prove that God’s election is unconditional.

3. Matthew 1:21 implies that Jesus was to die specifically to save His people from their sins. The scripture from John 10:11 further tells us how Jesus compared to a good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. This puts more emphasis on the point of limited atonement.

4. John 10:16 tells us that Jesus will bring others to Him and that they will listen to Him and become part of His sheepfold. John 6:37 further clarifies this by implying that all who God calls to Jesus shall go to Him, and those who go to Jesus shall never be cast away. This is evidence that grace is indeed irresistible.

5. Calvinists believe that God’s people will keep His faith. In John 10:27-29, Jesus says that His sheep shall hear His voice and follow Him and that He shall give them eternal life, and no one can take them away from Him. Additionally, the passage from Ephesians 1:4-7 says that those predestined by God have redemption through His blood and forgiveness of sins according to His grace. This is confirmation of the perseverance of the saints.

These passages make it easier to believe in Calvinism as they give us a clear picture of what is virtuous according to the word of God.

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