Both are adamant that we are justified by faith alone. Again, Calvinists say that regeneration completely precedes faith, while Arminians have to allow for at least a small amount of faith to be present prior to regeneration in order that we may choose God.
Both are adamant that salvation is not of works. Calvinists say that even the little bit of responsibility that Arminians place on man's shoulders constitutes a work. Arminians argue that it is not a work in the usual sense; it is merely the desperate act of a person that has come to recognize his need for God.
Both agree that man has no inherit righteousness of which he can boast.
Calvinist’s argue that God offers grace to the elect, and while they may struggle against it, ultimately and inevitably their will is broken. In the Calvinist view, there is no such thing as a seeker. Someone may appear to be a seeker, but what they are really seeking is the peace that they desire and see in Christians; they are not seeking God but the gifts of God.
there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. (Rom. 3:11)Arminians argue that there is Prevenient Grace. This is grace available to all men and is sufficient to make any man recognize his sinful nature and seek God. Arminians do believe that man, utilizing Prevenient Grace, can seek God and of their own free will can choose to answer the knock:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20)Calvinists say that God chooses some and not others. The distinction is at God’s pleasure.
Arminians say that some choose God while others don’t. The choice is ours.
At this point, the two sides usually unleash the scriptural support for their respective position, and then demonstrate how the other side is using verses that are out of context or verses that mean something else entirely.
I am not in the mood for that methodology.
I would, however, like to ask what I think is one of the more difficult questions for the Arminian view: Why do some people, of their own free will, choose God while others reject him? We all agree that there can be two people with similar backgrounds, both can hear the same gospel message, and yet only one of the two responds positively. The one who chooses God does so because at that instant he wants God more than he doesn’t want God. Why?
Is it because God has given more grace to one than to the other? No, that would be no different from the Calvinist doctrine of divine election.
Is it because one person just happened to have the right combination of personality, experiences and education-- that one has gifts the other does not possess? Is that not some form of natural election? Or divine election through secondary causes?
Is it because one person recognizes his need for God, while the other doesn't? Is that not a humble, righteous act? Is he not then dependent on his own righteousness? Does he not then have something, namely his righteous humility, of which he can boast?
I don’t know the answer, but as a Calvinist I am not overly concerned. But I am interested. So if you have an explanation I would love to hear it.