I recently was listening to an online debate about salvation. There were two debaters that were Calvinists and two who were Wesleyan. If you are not familiar with these descriptions of Christian beliefs I will try to shortly break down some of the differences. If you are already familiar with these differences please feel free to skip the next part:
Total Depravity-Because humans are dead in their sins they are not able to call out to God at all. This means we are without free will due to divine sovereignty.
Unconditional Election-This means that the elect people were chosen before they were born for salvation, while those not of the elect were chosen before they were born for damnation.
Justification-Being justified with God is limited to those who were predestined to be of the elect, completed at Christ’s death.
Irresistable Grace-Those who were chosen to be the elect will be called by the Holy Spirit and will not be able to resist.
Preservation of the Saints-Commonly known as “Once Saved Always Saved” meaning that those who are of the Elect can never walk away from God’s salvation for them.
Free Will- That while we were dead in our sins, God reached out to us in his prevenient grace and has made it possible for us to choose or not to follow him. This is only possible by God’s grace in our lives.
Conditional Election- In this view God knows who will choose him, yet that does not mean that God predecided who would go to Heaven and who would go to Hell. As people we still have our free will to choose if we are going to follow God and accept the gift of salvation.
Justification-The gift of salvation has been available to all (not just the elect) through Jesus’ death and resurrection. This gift is received by choosing faith in Jesus Christ.
Resistable Grace-We are able to resist this gift of God because of the grace given to us in our free will.
Preservation is Conditional-It is possible for people to walk away from Jesus and salvation through him. In our free will we can choose to no longer follow Christ.
This is a simplistic and in no way exhaustive description of some of the differences of both Calvinists and Wesleyans. A sincere concern and question that arose in me while listening to the calvinists’ speak during the debate was that they believe God chose the elect to show his grace and mercy to, and that he also chose to send most people to eternal damnation to demonstrate his sovereignty and power. My question would then be if this is true and people do not have free will would it not show God’s mercy more and God’s power more by saving all? If human kind was dead in sin, and does not have free will, would it not be an even more powerful and merciful display if all were rescued? One of the key words that you will hear those of a Reformed/Calvinistic background say in referring to God is sovereign. One way to describe that word sovereign is to say “supreme in authority and power.” So if there was not free will, if we can’t by the grace of God choose to follow Jesus, then how is it more loving, powerful, merciful and sovereign of God to choose a small group of people “the elect” for salvation while sending the majority of humanity to Hell? What would show the glory of God more?
I also want to add that while I have significant differences with the Calvinistic beliefs, I also have dear friends and family who align themselves with those beliefs and are very devout Christians. I am a Christian who believes that the Wesleyan interpretation of Scripture is a more accurate display of God, but I also know that there are those who would disagree with me and sincerely love God and others.
I have included the two parts of the debate I referenced below…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QR0lN5aBWdY Old Debate, New Day: Calvinism Proposition 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6prrlabhGtg Old Debate, New Day: Calvinism Proposition 2