Both Calvinists and Arminians hold that forgiveness of sins and eternal life come through faith in Jesus Christ. However they offer very different descriptions of how God’s grace works in salvation and what role a person plays in responding to the gospel.
In order to illustrate these two contrasting views on salvation we can use an electrical circuit. In order for a light bulb to be lit the wires in the circuit must be connected and form a closed loop. This allows current to flow and the bulb to be lit. When the loop is broken there is no way that the light bulb can be turned on.
In this example the junction box, wires, and light bulb represent a person. When the light bulb is lit the person has exercised saving faith. When the light bulb is off the person is in a state of darkness and unbelief.
Both Calvinists and Arminians hold to the inability of man to respond to the gospel in his natural state. This can be illustrated by an electrical circuit in which the wires in the junction box are disconnected. Without a reconnecting of the wires the current cannot flow through the circuit and the light can not be turned on. There can be no positive response to the gospel.
|The monergistic view can be illustrated as an electrical circuit that has had the loop closed by hard wiring the wires together. This technique enables the current to flow causing the bulb to go on and remain on. In his natural state man cannot respond to the gospel but God, through efficacious, irresistible grace, connects the wires, regenerating the person so they will respond with faith.||The synergistic view can be illustrated as an electrical circuit that has had a switch wired into the circuit. The switch can be used to close the loop, causing current to flow and turn on the bulb. However the switch can remain in the off position. This would leave the loop open and the light would remain unlit. In his natural state man cannot respond to the gospel but God, through prevenient, resistible grace, wires in a switch enabling man to accept or reject salvation.|
|Creedal Statement||Creedal Statement|
|God [doesn’t] bestow the power or ability to believe, and then expect that man should by the exercise of his own free will consent to the terms of salvation and actually believe in Christ, but […] works in man both to will and to work, and …, produces both the will to believe and the act of believing also. (Synod of Dort; 3rd & 4th Head; Article 14)||Therefore, in the first place, when God calls sinners to Himself through the Gospel …, He not only bestows necessary but also sufficient grace for sinners to render faith and obedience. … sufficient grace for faith and conversion not only comes to those who actually believe and are converted, but also to those who do not believe and are not really converted.
(Arminian Confession of 1621, Chapter 17)
|In their own words||In their own words|
|According to Calvinism, … the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the Gospel. The entire process is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation. (What is the Gospel? Lorraine Boettner)||“Prevenient grace” is simply a term for the grace of God that goes before, prepares the way, enables, assists the sinner’s repentance and faith (conversion). … According to classical Arminianism it is an operation of the Holy Spirit that frees the sinner’s will from bondage to sin and convicts, calls, illumines and enables the sinner to respond to the gospel call with repentance and faith (conversion). (Prevenient Grace: Why it Matters; Roger Olson)|
|Opposing comments||Opposing comments|
|Whereas all the manifold wisdom of God (as well as all his power and goodness) is displayed in governing man as man; not as a stock or stone, but as an intelligent and free spirit, capable of choosing either good or evil. Herein appears the depth of the wisdom of God, in his adorable providence; in governing men, so as not to destroy either their understanding, will, or liberty. (Sermon 67; John Wesley)||what is actually contended is not that God does not save some only but that he really saves none – he only opens a way of salvation to all and if any are saved they must save themselves. …
They are faced with the even greater difficulty … of accounting for the failure of God’s grace, now safely conveyed to all men, to work the salvation of all men. … [They must] attribute the difference in the effects of grace to men’s differences in dealing with the grace. (Plan of Salvation; B.B. Warfield)