Before my Arminian friends get their guard up, let me explain what this article is NOT. This is not a defense of Reformed theology. It is a critique of arguments offered in defense of Arminianism. I originally wanted to write a post about bad arguments for Arminianism and Reformed/Calvinist theology, but I could not find or recall enough from the Reformed side to write a post that would seem balanced, so I am hoping to generate comments from this post from which to build a second article about bad arguments for the Reformed view.
For an argument to be valid, the conclusion must follow from the premises, and to be sound, the premises must be more plausible than not. If you argue “If X then Y, X, therefore, Y” and I can show that X is false, (not sound) or that Y does not follow from X, (not valid) I have not shown that Y is false. Likewise, showing these to be bad arguments for Arminianism says nothing about the truth of Arminianism.
For those unfamiliar with the terminology of Arminianism and Calvinism (I have used the term “Reformed” because it is a little broader, but for my purposes here, I will switch to “Calvinism”) let me explain. In it’s simplest form, with respect to salvation, Calvinism holds that God’s election precedes one’s faith, (one comes to faith because God has elected him) and his non-election precedes one’s persistent lack of faith (one fails to come to faith because God has not elected him.) Arminianism holds that one’s faith precedes election, and persistent lack of faith precedes non-election.
- Calvinism means double predestination. If God predestines people for Hell, it’s unfair.
The view that the non-elect are predestined for damnation is taught explicitly in Calvinistic circles. However, the Arminian view does not get God “off the hook” so easily. The Calvinist and the Arminian agree that, as Jesus said, God must draw one to Jesus before they will come. They disagree on whether this is done for all. The Calvinist believes that God draws the elect such that the elect will come. The Arminian holds that God draws all that they may come. Both views require action on God’s part for someone to put their faith in Jesus. Since God knows how everyone will respond to the Gospel, then by not drawing some so that they will respond, God could be said to be electing some to damnation. Both views entail God not drawing some so that they will respond. Therefore, God is just as responsible for the damnation of the nonbeliever on the Arminian view as he is on the Calvinist view (if it could be said that he is responsible at all.)
- Calvinism leaves no reason to evangelize since on their view the elect will be saved.
It may be the case that a Calvinist view could reduce one’s sense of urgency to evangelize, however we are not commanded to respond to our feelings, we are commanded to make disciples. God commands means and ends. If Calvinists are slow to evangelize because of their view, shame on them. However, Calvinism does not entail non-evangelism. The disobedience of Calvinists does not prove that Calvinism is false.
- Calvinists believe in “limited atonement” but the Bible says, “God so loved the world…”
Calvinists hold that Christ’s work on the cross only works for those who place their faith in him. Arminians (mostly, since their may be some who are universalists) hold that Christ’s work on the cross only works for those who place their faith in him. Limited simply means that it does not apply to those who do not place their faith in him. Again, both groups see the atonement as limited.
- Calvinists believe in “limited atonement” but the Bible says, “…whosoever will…”
Calvinists also believe “whosoever will…” but on their view, the “whosoever” are the elect. Again, the debate is over how one comes to be a “whosoever.”
- “Irresistible grace” means people are saved against their will.
Arminians often see this doctrine as God acting in a manner that forces people to do something against their will. However, the Calvinist holds that God moves on the will in such a way that the elect person has no desire to resist.
Calvinist bad arguments
One bad argument I hear from the Calvinist side is “If human beings have libertarian free will, God is not/less sovereign. The problem with that is it assumes that God could not sovereignly choose to create human beings with libertarian free will. Similarly, I have heard it argued that if man has libertarian free will, God is dependent on man for his omniscience. However, this objection conflates the divine attribute of omniscience, which he has necessarily, and the content of God’s knowledge, which could be informed by the free choices of his creatures.
I hope my friends on both sides of the debate will comment on this. I intentionally omitted Molinist views (of which I am most sympathetic.) I would ask that any Molinists who comment will limit their comments to additional bad arguments.
 Exceptions may be children, people with developmental disabilities, etc.