The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #7: Arminianism Leads to Universalism

Related Fallacies:
Slippery Slope

“The choices are not between Calvinism and Arminianism; it’s between Calvinism and universalism. Arminianism is a self-contradictory mess that can never defend itself.” – James White

This is a favorite rhetorical jab of many Calvinists, but is in fact one of the more obvious fallacies they often employ. The logic behind it is simple and can be summed up with the statement:

“If Christ’s death saves, and Christ died for everyone, then everyone would be saved.”

Seems pretty easy, right?

Problems with this logic

Turns out the simplicity of the argument is its weakness, because it masks a hidden difference in underlying assumptions. The critical distinction lies in the first part of the sentence, “…Christ’s death saves….”

The differences in viewpoint on atonement

5-point Calvinists (and those of similar belief) view Christ’s atonement as a definite and unconditional act, that is to say, those who Christ died for will definitely receive its benefit, with no exceptions. Arminians (and most other Christians) view His atonement as provisioned upon faith, so that all the people it’s made for will receive its benefit only if they believe.

One can further clarify what is meant by “Christ’s death saves” from these beliefs. For the Calvinist, it means, “Christ’s death saves absolutely everyone for which it was made.” For the Arminian, it means, “Christ’s death saves all who believe in Him.” So the summary statement above makes sense if the Calvinist view of the atonement is assumed:

“If Christ’s death saves absolutely everyone for which it was made, and Christ died for everyone, then everyone would be saved.”

Of course, Calvinists aren’t using this kind of logic to argue against their own view. Since they’re trying to show how ‘self-contradictory’ the Arminian view is, it would be only fair to assume the Arminian view of the atonement when making the statement, which would then be:

“If Christ’s death saves all who believe in Him, and Christ died for everyone, then everyone would be saved.”

This of course doesn’t follow, since it’s not been shown that everyone Christ died for will necessarily believe in Him. Given God’s foreknowledge that He reveals in scripture concerning some people and the Arminian view of resistible grace, it’s quite evident that no Bible-believing and logically consistent Arminian can accept the idea of Universalism.

I suppose that if it could be proved that Arminians (who believe the scriptures which tell us that Christ died for all men) for some mysterious reason could only become ‘consistent Arminians’ by accepting the non-Arminian/Calvinist view of the atonement, then the accusation of inevitable Universalism might hold water. Until then, the assertion remains a ridiculous slippery slope.

10 thoughts on “The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacy #7: Arminianism Leads to Universalism

  1. Knowing the James White quote, I cannot consider myself surprised in any manner by such atrocious convoluted logic. I am more surprised at why few seem to connect the similarities between Calvinist predestination of a few to eternal glory and the Universalists, many having come out of Calvinism, who predestines all to eternal glory. Both philosophies are bed rocked on aberrant foreordination teachings.

  2. I still think that if a Calvinist takes the scripture seriously (e.g. Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11; I Timothy 2:42; and Peter 3:9) his view of election will lead to universalism.

  3. Debra, no one is disputing election, but unconditional election. Kielar’s first text from Isaiah doesn’t follow as evidence for his point, since it assumes God’s purpose is unconditional election -which isn’t implied. So his whole premise for dismissing the meaning of 2 Peter 3:9 is fundamentally flawed, since it doesn’t necessarily follow that God would irresistibly save all that He wanted to be saved. The Bible plainly does state that some people who God wishes to be saved in fact do not come unto Him, e.g. Luke 13:34 (Christ’s lament over Jerusalem).

  4. Debra,
    JC is absolutely on the mark. Even if the intent of quoting Isaiah’s remark was to merely to show that God does what he wants, the scriptures do not tell us that what he wants is to irresistably save people. Furthermore, we are told in Jeremiah 7 as well as Luke 13 that people are allowed to do other than what God wants: I see no other conclussion than that God wants people to be able to go against what he wants. Otherwise, 2 Peter 3:9 would have the opposite effect the speaker suggests–God wants all to be saved, so he will save all, since it is in his power (through irresistable grace and unconditional election) to accomplish it, and none can thwart him.

  5. Hello to all 🙂

    I am “reformed” in my theology and have read James White’s Book “The Potter’s Freedom”.

    I am curious of how people respond to John 6:37-40. Verse 37 Jesus says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me…”

    Do you realize the order of events in that people are given to the Son from the Father? The giving preceeds the coming. This is the basis of Election as taught by Jesus in John 6.

  6. Troy,

    I address the basics of such John election passages here:

    For a very detailed exegetical analysis, see Hamilton’s article here:

    I think White’s interpretation has serious problems. The same is the case with many other intepretations White assigns to various Scriptures (I own and have read “The Potter’s Freedom” and have read a lot more from White as well).

    God Bless,

  7. It should be clear to all students of the Bible that the scripture should be in Harmony. Jesus stating :”a house divided cannot stand” and also “how can two walk together unless they be in agreement” Adam was God’s crowning creation and yet he allowed him the power of choice. In the thoughts of 5 point calvinist Adam was created perfect so he could not sin?? We know even Satan had a choice!! He chose to rebell against God. All through the scripture it is impossible to deny men and women have had a choice. Just as Jesus was weeping over Jeruselem saying ” I would have gathered you unto me as a hen gathers her young, but you would not” It was not they could not. It was they would[optional] not!! There is too many examples to list. God has a elect, but to think he will redeem just a select is not consistant with other scripture.This debate is a ploy of many to take us away from the fact that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. It is not about anything other than limiting the power or reach of God’s amazing grace and the application of the blood to cleanse–to the uttermost. Let it be clear to all though. The precious , pure and cleansing blood of Christ will not be applied to any rebellious, unrepentent ,hell bound sinner which is the state of all humans born since Adam.

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