man standing with galaxy showing

Calvinism vs. Arminianism vs. Universalism

man standing with galaxy background, universalismCalvinism says:
If you don’t believe in God and Messiah,
then probably
— unless you believe before you die —
God doesn’t want to save you.

Arminianism says:
If you don’t believe in God and Messiah,
God wants to save you,
but he will keep letting you
choose exile and darkness.

Universalism says:
If you don’t believe in God and Messiah,
God will never leave you alone,
until you do.


  1. Though I still haven’t come to a conclusion, having mostly grown up in an Arminian community and currently attending a reformed church while entertaining the idea of universalism, I’ve come to see the two former theologies more as stepping stones to the latter than opponents. At the very least Calvinism attempts to recognze, more than Arminianism, that salvation is PURELY a work of God. Calvinism grasps for the truth about HOW salvation occurs. It says “there’s more to the ‘it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God’ than we’ve been acknowledging.” When it becomes prescriptive rather than descriptive is where you go wrong. Fortunately, It was presented to me in a very humble and descriptive way as if to say “all we know is that the turning of our hearts is not of our own doing and try to go from there.” Sadly, most reformists think they’ve cornered the market on theology and the journey is over. I find them surprisingly more in agreeance than most proponents of both theologies would care to admit.

  2. I.e. Calvinism says: “If you’re chosen, God won’t leave you alone until you believe.”
    Universalism says: “yes, and all are chosen.”

    1. The problem, Lindsay, is that “Limited Atonement” is a cornerstone of Calvinism. But the way you formulated it is correct, “If you are chosen, God won’t leave you alone until you believe.” The problem is many (the majority) of human beings are Not-Chosen. Why not? It’s completely arbitrary (which is why I call the Calvinist belief “Arbitrary Election” and not “Unconditional Election”).

  3. Which is why I call it a stepping stone. The idea of limited atonement is a product of a. Understanding that salvation is purely a work of God in the hearts of man, not the consequence of our “choosing God” and b. The observation that not everyone believes (seemingly). This is the point that Calvinists wrestle with the most for that very reason– the elect seems arbitrary. I’ve never been sold on all points of Calvinism (if most Calvinists are honest with themselves, neither are they.) I’m just saying that had I not first entertained from the Calvinist perspective l the idea that my belief was solely a work of God, I would never have considered the idea that the work of God will result in all people believing.

  4. What’s wrong with just believing that God has provided for us a method for forgiveness , called repentance that no man had to die for my sins . Or anybody sins.
    But our faith results in actions change in order to please the creator.

  5. I have trouble thinking about “limited atonement”. I do believe Yeshua´s atonement is there for all like it is said in Rev.22, 17 “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”
    – I do believe salvation is purely a work of God we did not and could not do anything to bring it about.
    – I also firmly believe with hundreds of scripture that there is a human part. Free will, the ability and responsibility to choose is part of being created in God´s image. Yes, repentance is needed, but I see also, it is God´s grace that He grants room for repentance. It is God who pours out His Spirit which leads to repentance, left alone, we could not even repent.
    – I do believe everything God does follows a deep purpose and meaning, He is absolute sovereign, but never arbitrary. I guess things seem only arbitrary from our human side, because we can´t see the full picture from God´s perspective, but when He returns we will understand.
    – I do believe God´s choosing some, like Israel, is always for the benefit of all, it does not mean rejection of others.
    It must be both and, I´m really struggling for insight and understanding, how it all fits together. Thank you, Derek, for providing room to think about these things together. Let us seek God with all our heart and ask Him to reveal himself to us.

  6. Derek said: “The problem with this idea is that God isn’t like that. He doesn’t just rescue people who please him.”

    Although I agree with this whole concept, I have a question: What happens to all those people that God commanded the Israelites to annihilate (men, women and children) on their journey to conquest the promise land? How are there “saved/rescued”?


    1. Rodrigo,

      If people were killed by natural disaster, war, or even a divine salvation of Israel which resulted in people being killed (by the way, there are historical questions about genocide and Torah that I am skipping over here), none of these conditions preclude hope beyond hell. Neither death nor life, angels nor demons . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God.

  7. Like Lindsay, I guess I’m a Calminian because of the many conditional scriptures like the following:

    Heb 3:12 14
    Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of
    unbelief, in departing from the living God. {13} But exhort one
    another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be
    hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. {14} For we are made
    partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence
    stedfast unto the end;

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