For those of you who don't know what Arminianism and Calvinism are, that's good. This is a knotty theological debate and there's been many a Bible discussion I've been in where a Calvinist and Arminian have butted theological heads. To sum up the debate quickly, a Calvinist is like 'See those non-Christians? That's not God's incompetence, that was intentional' and an Arminian is like 'Why, oh why, does humanity resist the gospel?'
Here are 5 kinds of views about this difficult theological debate that I collected earlier.
'Free Will' Calvinism
Here's a chart summarising each view, with more of an explanation below:
We can totally define free will and that free will is 'compatibilist' free will. That is, although humans have the freedom to choose our desires within the personality God gave us, we can’t go outside our original personality and choose what desires to have outside of that. We can only do what's in our nature, which creates our desires, and God is the author of our nature. Regardless, God is not responsible for our sin because free will = choosing within our desires, which creates human responsibility.
My comments: it explains free will at the cost of making it into something that isn't that great (compatibilism). If I was a Calvinist I would choose the position below.
Free will Calvinism
People have a kind of free will that we can't define rationally, so there is an ability for people to do other than they in fact do. This doesn't contradict, however, Ephesians 2:5 which says that we are dead in trespasses and sins. As we can't think in a totally loving way, so then no one wants to join God's heavenly kingdom - although they may think they do, no one could choose such a thing. Everyone freely chooses to be separated from God in a CS Lewisian sense of hell, or the Twilight Zone's 'A Nice Place to Visit' (episode) sense. But for some people, God violates our desire to spend eternity in our own style and makes us desire to be with Him forever, according to a selection of grace which is not based on works.
My comments: I think this is the most reasonable Calvinism, because we do have a genuine kind of free will, so we are responsible even though no one comes to Jesus without God calling them, and when God saves us He's actually going against our free desire to be separated from God.
(I would also add (if I was thinking of being a free will Calvinist) that if humanity had been in the Garden of Eden we would all have made Adam's choice. Therefore, our desire to separate from God isn't a result of God being a bit ‘inconsiderate’ and letting us 'Soz guys, Adam represents y'all'-style fall under original sin, but it would have also been our choice if we had been there. I think of it like Adam's free will was more protected than our free will, but he can still go off the railway tracks. E.g. in Adam's style of freedom God is sort of like a good angel sitting on our shoulder and saying, 'Really Adam? Do you really want to light fire to that forest? What about all those animals?' (for example) in favour of a free will where there is no shield, no protection given internally in our thoughts from God against selfishness, so we can become the worst devil quite easily with nothing to hold us back).
People have a kind of free will that we can't define rationally, so there is an ability for people to do other than they in fact do. Like the free will Calvinist, a ‘mysterious’ Arminian accepts Ephesians 2:5 which says that we are dead in trespasses and sins, and so we cannot choose to come to God. But here is the difference with Calvinism: God performs a miracle on everyone when they hear the gospel, so that in that moment and only after that moment do they have the ability to accept Christ - i.e. everyone but by miracle. And here is the difference with other kinds of Arminianism: the choice to come to Christ has nothing to do with our personality or character. So no one gets an advantage in accepting Christ over another person, or suffers a disadvantage in accepting Christ compared to another person. A really nice guy doesn't get an advantage in accepting Christ over a psychopath. Someone who loves blindly accepting everything their culture says doesn't get an advantage of an inveterate skeptic. The decision to accept Christ completely transcends (goes over and above) personality and character. A person rejects or accepts without respect to their personality or character (works). And yet the response comes from them.
My comments: because this last part is so hard to understand I call this 'mysterious Arminianism'. It does, however, avoid the 'Pelagian issue'. My view.
People have a kind of free will that we can't define rationally, so there is an ability for people to do other than they in fact do. Like the free will Calvinist, a Works-Response Arminian accepts Ephesians which says that we are dead in trespasses and sins, and cannot choose to come to God. Similarly to 'mysterious' Arminianism, God performs a miracle on everyone when they hear the gospel so that everyone can come to Christ despite our deadness in trespasses and sins. But unlike with mysterious Arminianism, our ability to respond to God's offer of salvation does relate to our personality and character. So the person who loves blindly accepting everything people tell them does get a better shot at eternal happiness than the skeptic. The good person gets a better shot than the psychopath. It's not a really reliable correlation, so yeah, feel free to go and preach to that crazy guy, but our own goodness does help us accept God. That is, our works do come into whether we reject God's grace - but only after God's power makes the offer available.
People have a kind of free will that we can't define rationally, so there is an ability for people to do other than they in fact do. Unlike the free will Calvinist and the other forms of Arminianism above, we are not so dead in trespasses and sins that we cannot initiate a relationship with God. We have a desire for God and seek Him out. People want His grace even though they haven't been offered it yet. We still need grace to be saved, of course, but we don't need grace to accept the offer of grace, if that makes sense. It's like accepting a briefcase with a million dollars in it - I don't need help receiving the briefcase full of cash, but I definitely couldn't have gotten it on my own.