Is the Church "Arminian" in its teaching?

A Protestant friend claimed that the Church is more of an Arminian church … as opposed to a Calvinistic church…and then stated that this is a new way of thinking for the Christian Church (thus insinuating that the Catholic Church of today is neither biblical nor historical).

First, let’s understand what Calvinism and Arminianism are before we try to compare them to Catholicism.

Calvinism is the system of Protestant thought formulated by John Calvin in the sixteenth century. Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, wove together a systematic theology that’s primary features centered around doctrines that would be remembered by the mnemonic device that uses the acronym TULIP: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistable grace, and perseverance of the saints.

After the wars of religion that had shattered Christendom had settled down, Protestant theologians began to consider that Calvin’s system, particularly the theories of limited atonement and predestination to hell (i.e., “double predestination”), were incompatible with God’s love and with human reason. One such reaction became known as Arminianism, after its principal theologian Jacobus Arminius.

Arminianism itself could be distilled to the five points it made against Calvinism (known as the Remonstrants): that God did not predestine anyone to hell; that Christ died for all men (i.e., universal redemption), although some would not accept the redemption he won for them; that those who were not among the elect might be saved; that saving belief is a gift of grace from God; and that man could throw away saving grace.

Now where do we fit Catholicism into all this? In some respects Catholicism and Calvinism agree (e.g., Catholic theologians from Thomas Aquinas to Robert Bellarmine have taught unconditional election) and in some they disagree (e.g., the Church does not teach that anyone is predestined to hell). In some respects Catholicism and Arminianism agree (e.g., the Church teaches universal redemption) and in some they disagree (e.g., the Church teaches that all who are saved are among the elect; we simply don’t know in this life who is among the elect).

For more information on the agreements between Catholicism and Calvinism, please see
A Tiptoe through TULIP by Jimmy Akin. Also helpful is Akin’s book The Salvation Controversy.

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