Scripture references are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless stated otherwise.
Do you profess to be a Bible believing Christian? All Bible believing Christians fall into one of the three categories of Christian beliefs, known as Calvinism, Arminianism and Universalism. These are the three distinct and separate schools of Christian theology. With regard to SALVATION, every professing Christian inevitably falls into one of them, whether he understands or is aware of these terms or not. So, if you claim to be a Bible believing Christian, after you remove all of your denominational clothing, you are a Calvinist Christian, or an Arminian Christian or a Universalist Christian.
Each belief system claims to be biblically based, and theologians have argued and debated the issues related to each of them for centuries. They have been unable to reconcile any of these groups because they are irreconcilable, and there is no middle ground between them with respect to salvation.
There are five points in Calvinism, five points in Arminianism, and even five points in Universalism, which outline each of these belief systems. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight and summarise the core differences between these three belief systems, without a detailed complicated theological analysis of each point.
Calvinism was the most dominant and widely held view of Protestant Christians from the time of the Reformation for hundreds of centuries up until the last century. Arminianism has now overtaken Calvinism by a long way, and currently most Christian churches are Arminian in their belief. There is sufficient historical evidence to show that Universalism was the most widely held view for the first five centuries following the death of Jesus Christ. However, this all changed when the Roman Catholic Church pronounced an anathema in 573 A.D. on anyone who believed in Universalism. Currently, Universalism is a very small minority view, perhaps no more than 2% of Bible believing Christians.
What is Calvinism?
It is a system of theological belief promoted by a French man, John Calvin (1509-1564), and expressed in the document called Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvinism laid the foundation for the Reformed Theology of the Reformation period. Calvinism is the basis for the doctrine of many Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican and Reformed churches.
According to Calvin, God predestined before the beginning of the world, to save a certain group of people called God's Elect. God's sovereign will for His Elect cannot be resisted or thwarted, as His irresistible grace ensures that all of them will willingly accept Jesus Christ at some point in their lives before they die. The Non-Elect cannot come to Christ because natural fallen man is totally sinful and depraved. Salvation is entirely the work of God from start to finish. All believers (the Elect) will go to heaven, but all unbelievers (the Non-Elect) will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire (hell), where they will be tortured forever.
Some Calvinist Christians believe in annihilism instead of endless torture.
What is Arminianism?
It is a system of theological belief promoted by a Dutch man, Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). Arminius started out as a strict Calvinist, but later changed his views as stated in the document called, 'The Remonstrance'. Arminianism is the theological basis for Methodists, Wesleyans, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, Free Will Baptists, Holiness churches and many charismatic churches. Roman Catholicism is also basically Arminian in its belief.
According to Arminius, Christ died for all people and God wills all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth. However, God's will can be frustrated and thwarted by man and God's grace can be resisted by man's freewill. This is because ultimately it is left to each person to decide whether he wishes to be saved or not. Therefore, in order to go to heaven each person must choose to accept Jesus Christ before he dies. All those who die without choosing Christ will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire (hell), where they will be tortured forever.
Some Arminian Christians believe in annihilism instead of endless torture.
What is Biblical Universalism?
Origen of Alexandria (185-254 A.D.) is the earliest Christian theologian known to have written about Universalism that eventually everyone will be saved. However, we do not believe that Origen had the full revelation of true Biblical Universal Salvation.
According to the Bible, Jesus Christ died for the sins of the whole world. God wills all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth. God is the Saviour of ALL people and He will save ALL people. He is working out His plan of salvation for all people in Ages, in His time and in His order. God first saves His Elect, whom He predestined from the foundation of the world, to believe in Jesus Christ during this life before they die. They are the Firstfruits who have a special salvation, and they will rise as the Bride of Christ in the First Resurrection.
All people who die as unbelievers (the Non-Elect) will be resurrected in the Second Resurrection, in their immortal yet still unsaved bodies. This is when they will be judged in the Lake of Fire, during the Great White Throne Judgement Age. This fiery yet loving judgement of God will lead to the fear of God, humbling of hearts and repentance. The Bride of Christ, who is the Firstfruits, will play a vital role in helping unbelievers to repent and believe. Thus, the Bride of Christ united with Christ as His Wife will give birth to the Great Harvest of more fruits. Ultimately, everyone without exception will freely and thankfully accept and believe in Jesus Christ and be reconciled to Father God in fulfilment of Colossians 1:15-20.
Which God are you serving?
The God of Calvinism sacrificed his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for his Elect only, and he predestined only his Elect to be saved. This must also mean that he predestined, knowingly and willingly , to cast the vast majority of humanity (the Non-Elect) to be tortured in hell forever. This makes the God of Calvinism an evil god, infinitely and unimaginably more evil than Hitler could ever be.
The God of Arminianism sacrificed his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for all people, and he wills all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, but he has made himself helpless to save all by allowing man's freewill to override his will. Against his will, the God of Arminianism is forced to throw the majority of humanity into hell to be tortured forever because, for one reason or another, they failed to accept Jesus Christ in this life before they died. Even worse than that, the God of Arminianism knowingly and willingly created human beings, with his full foreknowledge that the vast majority of them would reject salvation and end up being tortured in hell forever. This makes the God of Arminianism both an evil god, as evil as the god of Calvinism, and a weak god who allows Satan and sinful men to override his will in salvation.
The God of the Bible sacrificed His son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for all people and He wills all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. He has unlimited wisdom, power and love to save all people in His time and in His order. Therefore, ALL people will eventually freely and thankfully accept and receive the free gift of salvation in this life or the next life, and be reconciled to God through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. This makes the God of the Bible an all-powerful, wise, merciful, loving, gracious and forgiving God.
Make no mistake about it, you are profoundly affected by how you understand these three belief systems: Calvinism, Arminianism and Universalism. Your understanding of God's sovereignty, His love, His justice, His righteousness, His grace, His forgiveness, and above all the full work of the cross, are all fundamentally governed and coloured by each belief system.
People who believe that God will punish unbelievers in hell forever lack the spirit of forgiveness, which Jesus had when He prayed on the cross and asked His Father to forgive His very murderers.
Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
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