To many, the issue of issue over whether a person is an Arminian or Calvinist comes down to whether or not a person believes that they can lose their salvation. Those who only hold to the doctrine of eternal security or “once saved, always saved” may be considered one point Calvinists.
One point Calvinists may hold to Arminian doctrine with the exception of the issue of eternal security or they just may not have any formed beliefs regarding the other points of Calvinism outside of the security of one’s salvation.
Because the issue of eternal security is so key to many Christians’ beliefs, a person may hold to four points of Arminian doctrine but still call themselves a one point Calvinist because the one point is most important to them.
Unlike Calvinists, Arminians do not tend to identify themselves with how many points of Arminianism they believe in.
A belief of Calvinism that Christ did not provide atonement for all but only those whom God elected. The reasoning behind this is that God would not cause Christ to suffer for the sins of those who He knew would not accept Him. If Christ really did provide atonement for all the sins of the world, the entire world would be saved regardless of the volition of man.
This is the most controversial of the five points of Calvinism and probably the most confusing. Critics immediately point out John 3:16 says that Christ came for the entire world while defenders insist that “world” does not literally mean every person but rather people all over the world that will be saved.
Because of the controversy with this point of Calvinism, some Calvinists consider themselves to be four point Calvinists while others who do not accept another tenet of Calvinism may even consider themselves to be three point Calvinists.
A Calvinistic belief that man cannot refuse God’s grace. Because man is depraved and unable to save himself, he is also unable to resist God’s grace. This likewise fits the nature of election because God would not elect someone who would resist Him, if it were theoretically possible.
The debate about irresistible grace the sovereignty of God and the freewill of man. If man has total free will, he can resist even God’s call of salvation. If man has partial free will, can God still be considered sovereign? Or is it possible that God is sovereign in matters of salvation but allows man to have freewill in other aspects of life?
The sovereignty of God cannot be denied in scripture but there is also strong evidence for man’s free will as well. Although it is impossible to determine where the balance lies, there most likely is a balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Because of this, it does not negate the possibility of irresistible grace or the Arminian alternative, prevenient grace.
Four point Calvinism means that a person holds to four of the five points of Calvinism. Often but not always, the point of contention for four point Calvinists is the doctrine of limited atonement. These people instead accept the Arminian doctrine of unlimited atonement.
Some Calvinists argue that the five points of Calvinism are an “all or nothing” package and that one cannot pick and choose what they believe because each point is dependent upon the others.
The belief that once a person is saved there is nothing that can be done to cause them to lose their salvation. As a point of Calvinism, this is known as perseverance of the saints.
While this is a Calvinistic belief, there are many who are not Calvinists who hold to the belief. There are numerous approaches taken in defense of this belief.
1. You are sealed with the Holy Spirit upon salvation and absolutely nothing can be done to break that seal. Therefore you cannot lose your salvation.
2. As a Christian God will supernaturally give you the ability to maintain your salvation. Passages speaking of those who overcome are in reference to all believers because God will allow them to persevere. This is sometimes also called the preservation of the saints.
3. Because God elected the believer, He would not elect someone who would later lose their salvation. While loss of salvation is theoretically possible, God would not elect those who would later lose their salvation.
The alternative is that man can indeed lose his salvation and he must be faithful until the end. This is known as conditional perseverance.
Also known as: perseverance of the saints, preservation of the saints, once saved always saved, OSAS
For more information, see the article Eternal Security.