I recently had some conversation with a young woman who was raised Catholic, fell away and lived a secular life, and was then “saved”. She attends a Baptist church in our area, which is run by John Piper, a well-known author and preacher.
She is not (praise God!!) hostile to the Catholic faith, and has recently read Jeff Cavins’ “My Life on the Rock” that her father gave her to read. She also showed interest in the Stations of the Cross (she remembers them from her childhood), and so I invited her to come to Stations at our church – I think she just might!
During our conversation, she referred to Romans 9 as support for some form of predestination. She referred to both Calvinism and Arminianism, but I’m afraid we got off on a tangent and so I didn’t get a feel for where she stood herself. Could someone tell me the essential differences between Catholicism and Arminianism, not the obvious differences of authority, etc., but in the area of salvation? (The differences with Calvinism are much more clear to me and I’m much more familiar with apologetics in that area).
Thank you, and please pray that she (Jennifer) comes back Home.
Before you can truly understand the differences between the Catholic and Arminian understanding of salvation, you must understand the fact that Catholicism teaches predestination. Where we primarily differ from Calvinism is in our understanding of the relationship between the number of those who are justified and the number of those who are predestined. Calvinists believe that all of the justified are numbered among the predestined and hence only the predestined will be justified. And hence all of the justified will persevere, which is the Calvinist doctrine known as perseverance of the saints.
Catholics believe that all of the predestined will be justified, but not all of the justified are numbered among those who are predestined. That’s because not all of the justified persevere to the end, as taught by Scripture (John 15:2, 6, 1 Timothy 1:19-20, Hebrews 6, 10:26-29). Since the Bible teaches that the predestined are assured glorification (Romans 8:29-30, John 10:28-29), then all those who lose lose their justification and die in that state cannot be numbered among the predestined. They were truly justified but were not numbered among the predestined. This is what is taught by the Bible, taught by Saint Augustine, and taught by the Catholic Church for nearly 2000 years. This was also taught by Martin Luther. Here are a few links that will help you in this area:
Arminians, like Catholics, affirm man’s free will. Calvinists believe that regeneration - being born again - must precede faith and that this spiritual rebirth does not involve human cooperation. This is called monergism. Once regenerated, a person cannot fail to believe. This is called irresistible grace. Arminians generally believe that one is regenerated through faith - not in baptism - and that God must first enlighten you in order to come to faith and this enlightening is called prevenient grace. Unlike Calvinists, Arminians believe this prevenient grace is resistible. As Catholics, we believe that we are regenerated in the Sacrament of Baptism. In the case of an adult, a person must believe and be repentant in order to receive the grace of the Sacrament. However, like Arminians, we believe that man must be enlightened by God’s grace first before they can come to faith and repent. Man cannot chose to believe and repent without the assistance of God’s grace. However, Arminians generally make the efficaciousness of this grace completely and absolutely dependent on man. In other words, man has the absolute final word on whether he is saved or not. This is not the case in Catholicism. However, the precise nature of the relationship between efficacious grace and free will is the subject of debate between two groups of Catholics, the Thomists and the Molinists. You should read the links I provided for more information on this.
Classic Arminians/Wesleyans (Methodists, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, etc.) also believe that a true Christian can lose their salvation. I emphasize “classic” because there are Arminians that do not believe that true Christians can lose their salvation and believe in eternal security or OSAS (Once Saved Always Saved). Calvinists do not call their version of eternal security OSAS. As I stated earlier, they call it perseverance of the saints. Catholics believe that a true Christian can lose their salvation, but we differ from Arminians in our understanding of predestination. Arminianism limits predestination to God’s foreknowledge of what will occur. In other words, God’s elects/predestines those He foresaw would chose to respond to His grace in faith. So God’s decrees regarding the elect are purely and simply a response to man’s choices. According to Arminianism, God offers grace to all and it completely and absolutely depends on man to make it efficacious and thus divine election completely depends on man. So they unduly exalt man’s free will to the point that they make divine sovereignty absolutely meaningless. Many Arminians even deny a particular election before the foundation of the world and only believe in a corporate election. For more on Arminianism, read the following article:
I take object, sir, to your accusation that we Arminians exalt the free will of men above the sovereignty of God and render his soverignty void. Next thing you know, you’ll be calling us Semi-Pelagians like the Calvinists do.
Arminianism came about not so much to champion the will of men, but to argue against Calvinism’s claims about the character of God. The Calvinist claims that God has decreed EVERYTHING that will ever happen. They say that God cannot know everything unless he first decrees it himself. This also means that God decreed the fall of Lucifer, the birth of Sin, and the Fall of man. He did this in order that he might save some while at the same time damn the rest of humanity to a fiery hell. We cannot accept this view of God, indeed, this view makes God far worse than Satan himself.
Rather, we say that election was conditional. Firstly, on the condition that God would send his Son to die for man. Secondly, if that person would accept his Son. Those whom God forknew would come to him, he chose and predestined.
We also stress that we cannot save our selves, but must be drawn to Christ by the Holy Ghost, by the Lord’s prevenient Grace, as you would agree with no doubt. We just also believe that if a person rejects the offer of salvation, God respects that choice to the damnation of the person.
The difference between Arminianism and Calvinism in layman’s terms is this, I believe.
In Arminianism, a person goes to hell because they are sinners and have rejected God’s offer of Salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ. While in Calvinism, you go to Hell because God wanted you to go to hell. Had he not wanted you to go to Hell, he would have elected you unto Salvation.
I think, when honestly compared, the Arminian position is the more Biblical position.
P.S. For some great Christian reading, I recomend John Wesley’s works, especially his sermons called “Free Grace” and “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.”
Before I answer your objection, let me just clarify that I do not believe that Arminians are Semi-Pelagians, a typical accusation Calvinsts often make against both Arminians and Catholics. However, what I do believe is that Arminianism’s explanation of predestination/election does not concord with the testimony of Scripture. While hypotheticaly speaking God could have exercised His sovereignty over salvation by merely electing those He foresaw would believe, that is not how Scripture says He exercised His sovereignty (Romans 9). And hence since that is not how God exercised His sovereignty over salvation, that is why I believe Arminianism unduly exalts man’s choice, making divine sovereignty as revealed by Scripture void.
I have a question. Do you accept all of the five points of Arminianism? More specifically, do you believe salvation can be lost? And if you do believe salvation can be lost, do you believe this salvation can be restored?
Okay, I promised myself that I would not get involved in any prolonged debates or discussions for a while. So I’m oficially on break. I need the rest. But I will respond by saying that the problem I have is that the explanation of the “synergist” view has a particular Calvinist spin that I don’t think accurately reflects the Catholic view and perhaps not even the Arminian view. I’ll let Crimson Seraph discuss the Arminian view. But what is implied is that God and man are co-equal partners in salvation and that they are equally dependent on each other. Man completely depends on God to receive the grace and God completely depends on man to make that grace efficacious. IMO, this critique applies to Arminianism, not Catholicism.
I suspected that. Welcome to CAF! Most of the Protestants I’ve met in these forums are Calvinists. I respect the strong intellectual tradition found in Calvinism and enjoy having disussions with Calvinists. There is one Calvinist in particular that I had a number of discussions with, but I found out he was recently banned. Though we often bumped heads, I was genuinely saddened by his expulsion. He was intelligent and passionate about his faith. Perhaps a little too passionate. But I respected his intelligence and passion. Believe me, a debate with him was a real debate. May God bless him.
Howie, I hope this is the beginning of a fruitful and blessed online relationship. May almighty God richly bless you in Christ.
I overlooked the "John Piper"part, a noted Calvinist.
On my way back Home many years ago, I actually did attend Bethlehem Baptist church and heard John Piper. Of course, I was utterly ignorant about Christianity, so I couldn’t tell you what he preached (and it was a long, long time ago). But, I did look him up online after my recent conversation with the young lady, and I see that he describes himself as a “happy Calvinist” – I wondered if this was a humorous tag that Arminians might use for themselves.
Thank you, Mikeledes, for the excellent information. You have been most helpful.
I’m specifically Wesleyan-Arminian, so my views of Sanctification are perhaps a little different than my Reformed Arminian bretheren. Some Arminians also do not believe that an Apostate can come back, I’m of a mixed feeling when it comes to that. I believe that as long as the Spirit of God is drawing someone back, they have the chance to come back. When the Spirit of God no longer draws someone, they cannot come back to Christ. Here are the five articles of Remonstrance.
Article I - That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John iii. 36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” and according to other passages of Scripture also.
**Article II - **That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins, except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John iii. 16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”; and in the First Epistle of John ii. 2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Article III — That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free-will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John xv. 5: “Without me ye can do nothing.”
Article IV — That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of an good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without that prevenient or assisting; awakening, following, and co-operative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, inasmuch as it is written concerning many that they have resisted the Holy Ghost,—Acts vii, and elsewhere in many places.
Article V — That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand; and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the word of Christ, John x. 28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before they can teach it with the full persuasion of their minds.
Now tell me, how does election work in Catholicism that is different from that in either Calvinism or Arminianism.
Mikeledes interpretation of Catholic thinking comes across as excessively Calvinist. Catholics do not believe Once Saved ALways Saved, and the Catholic form of Calvinism (namely Jansenism) has been condemned several times.
Mikeledes posts might lead one to the view that Catholics believe that God selects those to go to heaven and to hell arbitrarily, and that humans have no input into their own salvation and persistence in grace, which is not true.
The thing that I always come back to in discussions of the Catholic view of predetermination is that while it is truly Catholic doctrine, it has no real effect on how a Catholic leads his life.
In the Catholic view of salvation, we are given sufficient grace to be saved when we are baptized. This gift is through no merit of our own, it is simply Grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Once in the state of Grace through Baptism, we need to stay that way by demonstrating our faith through works of love for God and man. If we fall from Grace through sin, we can regain sufficient grace to be saved through the sacrament of Reconciliation. If we die in the state of Grace, we will be rewarded with eternal bliss in heaven.
Now underlying the realities discussed above is the fact that God has a plan that man can not change. Hence, predestination. However, in the Catholic view, man also has free will that God respects. The mystery is that God’s plan was put in effect without impacting man’s free will. There is debate in Catholic circles about how God manages that, with the main views being that God made us in such a way that we will respond as he plans (thomism) or that God knows in advance what man will do and plans accordingly (molinism). In fact, it really doesn’t matter what mechanism God employs because the results are the same: Man’s free will cooperates in God’s plan. And from a practical perspective, Man can not know God’s plan for him so he simply does his best to stay in the state of Grace, doing the will of God to the best of his ability and begging forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation when he fails.
Jansenism? I never said that Catholics believe in OSAS. What we believe - both Thomists and Molinists - is that the number of those predestined to glory is immutable, none can be added and none can be lost. This is not my opinion, it is Catholic teaching. However, we also believe that not all of those who are justified are also predestined to be glorified. And hence a person can be genuinely justified and then lose that justification. Everything that I’ve said is in line with Catholic doctrine and I have provided the documentation to demonstrate it.
Can you explain what this means? Is there an individual election or a corporate election? On what basis is this election made? I believe that the difference betweent the Catholic view and Arminianism lies in your response to these questions.