“I’m not a Calvinist or Arminian…I’m a Biblicist!”

How many times have you heard that statement made? It’s often made with an air of superiority, as if the person making this claim has a completely biblical theology “untainted” by any theologian. Both the Calvinist and Arminian lay claim to the idea of Biblicism. Both systems of theology believe they are expressing the literal, historical, grammatical meaning of scripture within each system so it is a pejorative when you claim the Calvinist or Arminian is not a Biblicist. Rather than try and paint each other as a “Calvinist” or an “Arminian,” [not to mention Lutherans, Anabaptists and Roman Catholics] the discussion could be broken down into monergism and synergism.

A monergist believes the Holy Spirit will act effectually bringing sinners to salvation by spiritual regeneration. This is done without the sinner assisting God, period. From beginning to end the work belongs to God.  A synergist on the other hand believes the sinner must cooperate in the salvation process. It is the act of the unregenerate sinner in believing that begins the process of salvation. One dictionary stated, “there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate.”

This is the hinge on which the discussion swings;

Do you believe a sinner must be saved purely by an act of God? or,

Do you believe a sinner is saved by cooperating with the Holy Spirit?

It has been my experience that when the statement is made, “I’m not a Calvinist or Arminian…I’m a Biblicist,” the person making the statement is in fact a synergist. Without knowing, their doctrines often mirror the views held by Arminians and it is with this in mind that I ask the following questions to help get to the bottom of the issue.

Questions on the Will

Do you believe that human nature was gravely affected by the fall of Adam, but that sinners have not been left powerlessness in spiritual matters and can choose to be saved?

Do you believe that God enables every sinner to repent and believe but does not override man’s freedom to do so?

Do you believe each sinner possesses a free will that they will use to decide their final destiny depending on how they uses it?

Do you believe the sinners free will enables them to choose good over evil in spiritual matters?

Do you believe the sinner has the power to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and be regenerated or refuse to accept God’s grace and perish?

Do you believe the lost sinner needs help from the Holy Spirit but does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit to believe? Or that faith is man’s act and precedes regeneration?

Questions about Election


Do you believe that God’s choice in election is based on what He foresees?

Do you believe that some sinners would respond to the preaching of the Gospel and God therefore elects them unto salvation based on His knowledge of their choice? Or that God decided to elect only those who would believe the Gospel?

Do you believe election is ultimately determined by man’s faith foreseen by God from eternity past?

Questions about the Atonement

Do you believe that Christ’s saving work on the cross made it a possibility for everyone single person that has ever lived to be saved but did not really secure the salvation of anyone?

Do you believe that Christ died for all sinners but only those who believe on Him are saved?

Do you believe Christ’s death enabled God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe?

Do you believe that Christ’s death did not actually put away anyone’s sin?

Do you believe that redemption becomes efficient only if man chooses to believe it?

Questions on the Work of the Spirit

Do you believe that the Holy Spirit calls inwardly all those who are hear the preaching of the Gospel?

Do you believe the Holy Spirit does all that He can to bring every sinner to salvation but man is able to over power the Spirit and resist the call?

Do you believe the Holy Spirit cannot regenerate the sinner until he believes?

Do you believe the sinners free will limits the power of God the Holy Spirit in drawing sinners to Himself for salvation?

Do you believe God’s grace can be opposed and frustrated by the sinners free will?


If someone answers yes to some of the questions above it’s safe to assume they are a synergist. If they answer yes to half of the above questions they are definitely a synergist and if they answer yes to all of the above they are an Arminian…or something worse.



Information from this site was used to create the above questions as well as info from the Puritan Board.

Helpful definitions from YourDictionary.com:

Biblicist: 1. a person who takes the words of the Bible literally, 2. an expert on the Bible; specialist in biblical literature

theology: 1.the study of religious doctrines and matters of divinity; specif., the study of God and the relations between God, humankind, and the universe, 2. a specific formulation or systemization of religious doctrine or belief as set forth by a given religion or denomination or by one or more individuals

Calvinism: 1. Christian Theol. the doctrines of John Calvin and his followers, esp. the doctrine that the elect are predestined to salvation, 2. a set of religious practices and beliefs based on Calvin’s teachings, often associated with a stern moral code

Arminianism: a liberal Christian movement based on the doctrines of Jacobus Arminius, that stressed free will as opposed to Calvinistic predestination



  1. Theodore A. Jones · February 5, 2011

    “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13
    “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” Jas. 2:24
    Actually salvation is predicated upon the Way a law that has been added is obeyed.
    For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change (modification) also of the law.” Heb. 7:12

  2. brookesaugust · February 6, 2011

    Very good thought. I can’t but think and notice that the more healthy spiritual relationship comes from a view of total depravity of humanity and complete supremacy of God.

  3. Theodore A. Jones · February 6, 2011

    In the Bible the word depraved is only used to describe false teachers. The condition of total depravity is not the general state of the worlds populous. This is part of the philosophical error of Calvinism. Everybody else is totally depraved according to the Calvinist, but the Calvinist does not include himself.

  4. charles · February 11, 2011

    Gen6:5The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.

    Gen8:21The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.

    Mark 10:18“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.”

    every inclination of man’s heart is “only evil all the time” since the fall. “no one seeks God…no, not one.” if God alone is “good,” what is the appropriate description for man?

    seems clear enough…

    1Cor2:12We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    Eph1:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

    yep – the Spirit really has more power than you think, theodore. He makes us alive and our revived spirits go to war with our depraved flesh. disobedience is replaced with obedience. we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” because “it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

    John8:42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You belong to your father, the devil…47He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

    those who have God for a Father…who have been born again or “born from above”…are able to hear and obey. those who have not been born again are “unable,” yet they remain responsible.

  5. Truth Unites... and Divides · February 14, 2011

    As a monergist… I think there are a good number of synergists in Heaven.

    • jm · February 14, 2011

      If they are true synergists, adding to the cross with their own works, I disagree. Some will say they believe the Gospel is synergistic but are really Calvinists…at least “on their knees” as Spurgeon wrote.

  6. Theodore A. Jones · February 14, 2011

    RE 1 Cor. 2:12
    The pronoun ‘we’ is not general. The ‘we’ only refers to the apostles in this passage and certainly cannot be a reference to you.

  7. charles · February 15, 2011

    that is a pretty silly distinction.

    do those who accept the apostle’s teaching as from the Lord do so because they have the Spirit or not? Those without the Spirit clearly do not accept their teaching…and they cannot. how can you claim to understand what God has given us apart from giving all credit to the Spirit? you really interpret the passage to teach that while the apostles needed the Spirit to understand the work of God in Christ, you ought to credit your flesh and human wisdom?

    yow! the heresies men run towards out of a desperate fear of “calvinism.”

    if you accept the apostle’s teaching that Jesus was raised from the dead to reign and are united with them in purpose as the Lord prayed (John17), it is because the Spirit has opened your eyes. and that same Spirit will continue to conform you to the image of the Son, quite against the desires of your flesh…until you eventually put aside all of your boasting in human wisdom and affirm paul’s teaching earlier in that letter that

    It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

  8. Theodore A. Jones · February 15, 2011

    Why do you think you are in Christ?

  9. Pingback: calvinism - Page 4 - Christian Forums
  10. jm · March 19, 2012

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