Calvinism Arminianism comparison grid

by Matt Slick

Calvinism and Arminianism are two main theological perspectives that deal with salvation. Calvinism is named after the teachings of the theologian John Calvin (1509-1564). Arminianism is named after the teachings of the theologian Jacobus Arminius (1559-1609). The Calvinist perspective has been summarized in TULIP:  Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints.  No corresponding acronym is widely used for the Arminian perspective.

Calvinism emphasizes the sovereignty of God and God's right to choose people for salvation (Acts 13:48; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Arminians emphasize the ability and freedom of man to choose God (Joshua 24:15).

In Calvinism, God is the ultimate and deciding factor in the salvation of individuals. In Arminianism, man's response to God's grace is the deciding factor.

Calvinists affirm God's sovereignty over his creation (Rom. 9:22-23), sinful man's inability to freely choose God (1 Cor. 2:14), in God's electing and predestining people to salvation (2 Thess. 2:13) which is by God's choice not man's (John 1:13; Rom. 9:16), and that the saved are eternally secure because their salvation rests in Christ's work, not man's faithfulness (John 10:27-28). Arminians affirm the sovereignty of man's will and ability to choose God, that God's predestining of people is based on his foreseen knowledge of their choices, that Jesus died for all people who ever lived, and that it is possible to lose one's salvation.

Calvinism and Arminianism comparison grid
Man Total depravity.  Man is completely touched/affected by sin in all that he is (in nature he is completely fallen) but is not as bad as he could be (in action, i.e., not all murder, etc.). Furthermore, this total depravity means that the unregenerate will not, of their own sinful free will, choose to receive Christ. Free Will.  Man is totally affected by sin in all that he is, but with the prompting of the Holy Spirit the unbeliever is capable of freely choosing God. 
Election Unconditional election.  God elects a person based upon nothing in that person because there is nothing in him that would make him worthy of being chosen; rather, God's election is based on what is in God. God chose us because he decided to bestow his love and grace upon us, not because we are worthy, in and of ourselves, of being saved. Conditional Election.  Election to salvation is conditioned upon God's foreseen faith in the person.
Atonement Limited atonement.  Christ bore the sin only of the elect, not everyone who ever lived.1  Universal Atonement.  Jesus bore the sin of all people, the elect and the non-elect.
Regeneration Irresistible grace.  The act of God making the person willing to receive him. It does not mean that a person cannot resist God's will.  It means that when God moves to save/regenerate a person, the sinner cannot successfully resist God's movement and he will be regenerated.  Resistible Grace.  The sinner can successfully resist the grace of God and not be regenerated when God convicts that person.
Security Perseverance of the saints.  We are so secure in Christ that we cannot fall away.  Falling From Grace.  It is possible to fall away from the faith and lose one's salvation.2
  • 1. Calvinists also call this particular redemption which means that Christ's death was particularly for the elect.
  • 2. Though Arminians generally hold that it is possible to lose one's salvation, there are many Arminians who believe in perseverance of the saints.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.