I would agree; generalizing Christians is erroneous. Notwithstanding, I want to outline a point of clarity prior to proceeding. The following statement will not be a generalization; the following statement is factual. Every Christian, whether consciously or subconsciously, falls into one of the categories below, namely Calvinism and Arminianism. This statement can be proven by simply asking a Christian to weigh in on say, the issues of free will vs. predestination. There isn’t one that is without opinion. There are some who will be reluctant to share their point of view; however, that isn’t to say that they do not have one.
The following section will outline the central tenets of both theologies. It is rather extensive, but an understanding of both positions is essential in understanding my point. My point is that these positions contradict one another. They have been in contradiction since the 17th Century. Moreover, both positions are supported clearly by verses in the Bible. Therefore, the contradiction isn’t rooted in these differing theologies. The contradiction is rooted in the Bible, hence disproving the existence of god. If god is perfect, his message to mankind would be clear. Nonetheless, when considering the apparent support for these opposing views, imperfection can be deduced.
Points of Calvinism
The Calvinist doctrine of salvation is summarized in what is commonly called the Five Points of Calvinism, or the Doctrines of Grace, known by the acronym TULIP. These five points are a summary of the Canons of Dort which in turn was the judgment of the Synod of Dort (1618–1619) against related Arminian teaching. These five points are not intended to be a comprehensive summary of Calvinism or Reformed doctrine, but an exposition of the sovereignty of God in salvation — arranged to address the particular points in dispute raised by the Arminians of that day.
Calvinism teaches that humanity is totally depraved. Due to the Fall, the original relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God was severed by sin. This affected the entire human race, corrupting the heart, mind, and will of every person born. Thus, people’s natural actions and affections, whether viewed by man as bad or good, are never pleasing to God. The Calvinist understanding of total depravity does not mean that people are as evil as they possibly could be. People still make good choices (from a human perspective), but no matter how good they may be, they never gain favor with God. While total depravity is commonly associated with John Calvin, this theological viewpoint is based on the theology of Augustine (b. 354).
Unconditional election is the doctrine which states that God chose those whom he was pleased to bring to a knowledge of himself, not based upon any merit shown by the object of his grace and not based upon foreseen faith (especially a mere decisional faith). God has elected, based solely upon the counsel of his own will, some for glory and others for damnation (Romans 9:15, 21). He has done this act before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4–8).
Limited atonement (also known as “definite atonement”) is a doctrine offered in answer to the question, “for whose sins did Christ atone?” The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9). Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28). Specifically, Christ died for the invisible Church — the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name “Christian” (Ephesians 5:25).
The result of God’s irresistible grace is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit, when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ, himself, teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37). Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the very Spirit of God leads God’s beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14). What a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard, sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 5:10)!
Perseverance of the Saints
Those called and justified will certainly be glorified (Romans 8:28–39). The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Phil. 1:6). Christ assures the elect that he will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the “last day” (John 6:39). The Calvinist stands upon the Word of God and trusts in Christ’s promise that he will perfectly fulfill the will of the Father in saving all the elect.
Points of Arminianism
Arminianism is a school of theology based on the teachings of Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius, for whom it is named. It is perhaps most prominent in the Methodist movement and found in various other evangelical circles today. It stands in contrast to Calvinism, with which it has a long history of debate. Arminians as well as Calvinists appeal to various Scriptures and the early church fathers to support their respective views, however the differences remain — particularly as related to the sovereignty of God in salvation and the ideas of election and predestination.
The Arminian party suggested five anti-Calvinist corrections, articulated in the Five articles of Remonstrance of 1610, which gave rise to the historic controversy and are summarized as follows:
Universal Prevenient Grace
This grace purportedly restores man’s free will which was impaired by the effects of original sin and enables him to choose or refuse the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ. Some would say that freedom of will is man’s natural state, not a spiritual gift — and thus free will was not lost in the Fall, but cannot be exercised toward good apart from the grace of God. In either case, God’s universal prevenient grace works upon all alike to influence them for good, but only those who freely choose to cooperate with grace through faith and repentance are given new spiritual power to make effectual the good they otherwise impotently intend. As John Wesley stated more forcefully, humans were in fact totally corrupted by original sin, but God’s prevenient grace allowed free will to operate. Universal prevenient grace is the “hair’s breadth” that separates Wesley from the Calvinist view of total depravity.
See main articles: Universal prevenient grace, John 12:32 Conditional election
This point holds that man is the final arbiter of his election, and that God elects him on the basis of foreseen faith which is exercised by libertarian free will, thus making man ultimately decisive.
God has decreed to save through Jesus Christ, out of fallen and sinful mankind, those foreknown by Him who through the grace of the Holy Spirit believe in Christ; but God leaves in sin those foreseen, who are incorrigible and unbelieving. This is in contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election.
Christ’s death was suffered on behalf of all men and benefits all men alike. God then elects for salvation those whom he foresees will believe in Christ of their own free will. This is in contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of Limited atonement.
Arminians believe that whatever the atonement accomplished, it did so universally for all alike, not just the elect. This point rejects that the atonement has any component which is decisive or effectual in gathering of the elect. Rather, the atonement is seen as a universally effective propitiation and the basis for a universal offer of salvation. The key verse used for this position is 1 John 2:2.
This point holds that God never overcomes the resistance of man to His saving grace. While both Calvinists and Arminians hold that men often resist God’s grace, Arminianism teaches that this resistance is rarely conquered by God because this would be a violation of man’s libertarian free will. The grace of God works for good in all men, and brings about newness of life through faith. But saving grace can be resisted, even by the regenerate. This is in contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of Irresistible grace.
Those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith have power given them through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit, sufficient to enable them to persevere in the faith. However, it may be possible for a believer to fall from grace. This is in contrast to the Calvinist’s Perseverance of the saints.
Not all Arminians have historically embraced this fifth point as stated. Some have embraced a form of eternal security which does not require perseverance in the faith and an attitude of repentance for final salvation. The majority of Arminians, regardless of their position on this point, still affirm that man retains libertarian free will throughout the entirety of earthly life.
The following are also distinctive doctrines and emphases of Arminianism:
Libertarian Free Will
A key tenet of Arminianism is libertarian free will. This means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God. All “free will theists” hold that libertarian freedom is essential for moral responsibility, for if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called a free choice.
Arminianism emphasizes God’s equal, impartial, and undifferentiated love for all individuals and denies that God has any sort of electing, particular love that secures one’s redemption from the foundation of the world. It infers from this universal love that God would never predestine anyone to hell or hate anyone without reference to their wickedness.
Arminians hold that God calls all people to Himself through Christ, whether or not this call is effectual depends upon the individuals libertarian free will.
Arminianism, as mentioned above, is based on the theology of Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius (1560–1609). His opposition to some of the teachings of the Belgic Confession was formalized into five articles of Remonstrance published by his followers in 1610, on the heels of his death. This Remonstrance was the basis for formal debates in the Reformed churches and resulted in the national Synod of Dort (1618–1619) where Arminianism was condemned by the State church. Arminian theology later received official toleration by the State and has since continued in various forms within Protestantism.
John Wesley later adopted Arminianism and it has become the theological position of Methodism and the Wesleyan tradition. It was propagated in America through the revivalism of the Second Great Awakening and the burgeoning Methodist movement. It is also found today in other denominations such as the Nazarene, the Pentecostal, the Assemblies of God, the Churches of Christ, the Seventh-day Adventist and many Baptist groups. Elements of Arminianism (or its older sister Semi-Pelagianism) may also be found in Roman Catholicism.
The first point of contradiction that I want to point out is Limited Atonement versus Universal Prevenient Grace. Calvinists believe in Limited Atonement. In other words, Christ died for specific people. To the contrary, Arminians believe in Universal Prevenient Grace. In other words, Christ died for everyone.
Is the Calvinist position supported by the Bible? Undoubtedly.
Is the Arminian position supported by the Bible? Absolutely.
Thus, the Bible says that Christ died for some Bible and it also says that Christ died for all people. Yet god is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). Indeed he isn’t for he does not exist. Nonetheless, men are fallible and hence confusion is to be expected.
The second point of contradiction that I want to point out is Unconditional Election versus Libertarian Free Will.
Is the Calvinist view supported by the Bible? Yes.
This particular view is supported by the Irresistible Grace view. Is this view supported? Of course.
These cooperating views are opposed by the Arminian view of Libertarian Free Will. Is this particular view supported by the Bible? Let the verses speak for themselves.
The first verse hints at free will in the words “whoever believes in him.” The latter verse speaks of believers who become nonbelievers. Therefore, it also implies that there is a choice. Do we choose to believe or has god chosen them who shall believe? It is evident that the Bible yields support for two contradictory views. Furthermore, one has to be cautious if one chooses to defend the point of view of predestination. One will admit that this omnibenevolent god intentionally damns people. There is evidence to support that position; however, would such a god still be considered benevolent?
I’ll address a possible rebuttal. One can argue by appealing to god’s supposed sovereignty. Notwithstanding, would this omnibenevolent god create someone to fail? Would this god set someone up for a fall? Therefore, it is safe to conclude that the Judeo-Christian god isn’t omnibenevolent. Moreover, god’s way isn’t perfect and his word isn’t flawless (Psalm 18:30) and since his existence hinges upon the infallibility of the Bible, it is safe to conclude that he does not exist.
In closing, I want to point out a key distinction between the Christian faith and the sciences. In science, there could be two or more opposing theories. For instance, Einstein theorized that the universe was static or infinite. Others postulated that the universe had a beginning. In 1929, the static universe was put to rest by Edwin Hubble. Therefore, we no longer hear about the possibility of an infinite universe. There is a possibility that the universe exists in an infinite plain of universes. However, that is another tale. The Calvinist view and the Arminian view have disagreed since the 17th century. Both views are founded in the Bible. After 4 centuries, common ground has not been found. More importantly, after roughly 400 years, neither view has been refuted. That is the issue with conclusions based on faith; if there is no empirical manner of making conclusions, opposing views can continue to persist indefinitely. Thus, let the evidence show that these contradictory views will battle on.