Eternal Truth Ministry

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EvangelismLife Application

Think like a Calvinist, live like an Arminian

Leonard Ravenhill, one of my favorite pastors, had a saying he would quote often: “think like a Calvinist, live like an Armenian.”

I told this quote to a Calvinist friend of mine the other day who replied saying “If I felt the souls of everyone here was on me I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”  It took me a few days to digest what exactly he said in relation to the quote, but really it gets to the heart of what Ravenhill meant.

See, Ravenhill was a great man of prayer. He spent countless sleepless nights praying that God would penetrate the lives of the lost and would penetrate the hearts of those already saved (a.k.a. bring Revival).

What is a Calvinist?

A Calvinist believes (for the purposes of this article) that the salvation of men is 100% up to God not decided by what man does at all. This can easily lead to a Calvinist not evangelizing and not spending time bringing the lost before the throne of God in prayer. I know because that is how I felt when I started to believe this. I would neglect praying for the lost and I would neglect witnessing to those who are lost because “it is up to God,” and I would use that to excuse the tough work of evangelism that we are called to.

Living like an Armenian

On the other hand, an Armenian believes that it is man’s decision to follow God or not, so someone who believes this spends a lot of time evangelizing and praying for the lost because the more people who hear the gospel the more people have a chance to choose God.


With this in mind think about what Ravenhill said. “Think like a Calvinist, live like an Armenian.”  He is saying that yes, it is completely up to God who accepts and who rejects Christ, but regardless of that knowledge we are to spend our time evangelizing and praying for the lost and doing what we can to get the gospel to the lost.


Because we are told to.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “ How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” – Romans 10:14-15

I do not know what part man plays in helping spread the gospel, if it is 100% up to God who receives the gift, then what part could we possibly play in this whole thing? And my answer is, I do not think it matters. It is not our job to understand how God works things out or why He tells us to the things He tells us to do.

Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. – Luke 10:2

You do not need to know the engineering details of how a car works in order to drive. Does your knowledge of how a carburetor works or how a spark plug works enable you to start and drive your car any more efficiently? No. In order to operate a car, you just need to know how to start the car and (safely) maneuver the vehicle.

In the same way we do not need to know how the engine of salvation works or exactly what part our prayer plays in the whole picture. All we need to know is how ot operate it. We only need to know how to follow God’s directions regardless of if we understand everything or not.

I will admit that obedience without fully understanding how it works is hard to do sometimes, but it must be done.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. – Romans 10:1

I know in my own life I need to pray that God makes this burden real to me despite the knowledge that I have. My friend was right, this should keep us up all night with the souls of so many being lost right around us.  I have to ask myself why this burden does not rip at my conscience more than it does.  I do not have an answer for that, but I do know how to fix it – Prayer.

So yes, think like a Calvinist, but live like an Armenian.

“but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” – Acts 6:4

Jon Zenor

Jon is the founder and leader of ETM, a ministry dedicated to sharing the gospel across the Internet. You can find more information about him on his personal website,

24 thoughts on “Think like a Calvinist, live like an Arminian

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  • Its a great quote. I feel the same way many times. To need to be ashamed of agreeing with Armenians on certain things like action, care, interest or polity to some degree. Nice article.

  • Dr. Roger Beshears

    Thank you for this writing. So many Baptist Seminary students are going full Calvinism. Evangelism is taking a back seat in many Churches.

  • Much is made over what we are to be doing. While the most important issue is over looked; one MUST LOVE GOD with all our heart, mind, body and strength.
    Works mean nothing without one’s love, His work was fulfilled/completed because of His strong love/strength
    One must respond in like manner as He has revealed his wonderful desire of us, to have offered his life, not only to save but to get our attention. If we would as he told Moses look upon [trust] the cross of his desired affliction [I must go to Jerusalem and be handed over to the sinners, put to death and arrise, which is our hope of His marvelous promise. Though I personally believe that we have the task of sharing the good news of God’s Christ we fail miserably to do so in love, often placing ourselves in position of the Ghost.
    We badger [harass or annoy persistently] people with facts that they are sinners in need of salvation, not that God desires to expose them to his perfected love for them. Sinners we will always be !!!
    From the pit of my newly given heart Lord, I thank you for loving me, one that is prone to sin, whose old nature is born to sin while my new nature is at war with such strongholds. Nevertheless God is mighty to save Amen.
    We need to place ourselves on the paths God/Christ walks everyday, thus Christ beckons us to follow while ministering to the needs we find there physically as well as spiritually. Sharing the good news as we feed, clothe etc…
    That it is because of God’s love inwhich I have come to know I do this thing !!!!

  • i would really like to see what great men of prayer like John Hyde and David Brainerd and Thomas Haire thought about these issues, if they did at all… because they had more anguish over the lost than anyone and yet they were also closer to Gods heart than anyone and were more aware of the sovereignty of God than any of us…. oh, how i long for this passion for the lost.

    Oh, for a heart that is burdened!
    Infused with a passion to pray;
    Oh, for a stirring within me;
    Oh, for his power every day.
    Oh, for a heart like my Savior,
    Who, being in an agony prayed.
    Such caring for others, Lord give me;
    On my heart let burdens be laid.
    My Father, I long for this passion,
    To pour myself out for the lost-
    To lay down my life to save others-
    To pray, whatever the cost.
    Lord, teach me, oh teach me this secret,
    I’m hungry this lesson to learn,
    this passionate passion for others,
    For this blessed Jesus, I yearn.
    Father this lesson I long for from thee-
    Oh, let Thy Spirit reveal this to me.
    -Mary Booth

    • That is an awesome quote. I might have to use that sometime in an article…

      Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Great way to put it. I love Leonard Ravenhill. He is my favorite preacher.

  • Jack Hanley

    I have heard a simular quote from my own pastor. He told me, he was taught to believe reformed, but preach arminian. While I admit this sounds wise, I do not believe it truly is. If we were to believe reformed theology and live as armiain, what we are saying with our lives, is that we have added to the work God has done. That we in some way were smart enough to come to the realization of our need for salvation apart from the Holy Spirits work in our lives. We would also be saying, that we do not believe the truth of the gospel is pwerful enough to do what it says. I believe that if we were to live our lives, as we truly are, sinners who deserves God’s wrath, but instead have been given his mercy, I believe this would truly impact the lost, as they would see that I am no better than they. They would truly see that it is not about who we are, or what we do, that brings us to salvation, but rather Who and what we believe. In other words I believe the Gospel truly preached as God as the only one who can save, has the power to change lives.

    • That is a good point, but I do not think “Live like an Armenian” means that we live out like we are adding to the work of God. It is more of live the way an Armenian would live, but not because we need to work towards salvation at all but because it is what we are called to do. To help others, spread the gospel, and live holy lives. Not because it is a requirement to keep, but because we have been changed.

      • Jack Hanley

        Thanks so much for the response. Allow me to cut to the chase, and I respond in the love of Christ. If Armenian theology is correct, should we not think and live in that light? And certainly the same goes for reforrmed. My point is, either reformed theology is correct or Armenian, or possibly both are incorrect. However they cannot possibly both be correct. You state, we should live like an Armenian, not becuse we need to work toward our salvation. However, that is exactly what Armenian theology teaches. I guess, my question is, should we not think and live in the light of the truth, whether the truth is reformed or Armenian, or as I said earlier, if both are wrong, should we not be seeking the truth, and live and think in that light?

        • wombat

          Yes im replying to a really old post but i think its important to understand ravenhill isnt talking about theology. He’s known as saying “you cant love a theology you can only love a person, that is jesus Christ.” He is talking about the behavior of modern calvinists, and the behavior of modern armenians. Calvinists in his time often in thier reverence for God which aligns so adequately with scripture would put evangelism as a backburner issue, but Christ himself says “it is religion that helps widows and feeds the poor that is perfect.” So a Calvinist ought in his reverence and understanding still aggressively pursue the hearts and minds of the poor that they might know God and find his lasting joy. This doesn’t require mincing two theologies, it requires not letting reverence for God’s sovereignty get in the way of action for the sake of immediate suffering in the world.

          • I agree. It isn’t just a theological debate on titles that we put on things, but a way to live.

  • I am the exec director of a shelter. We have 22 souls in house.Done allot of street evangelism, and I have seen the damage osas has done in the wotld. Have talked to many people who were dooped into thinking that praying a prayer is all there is. While I totally understand the purpose of the prayer, it surely is not what Paul, Jesus, or any other NT character lived and taught. The church at large needs to wake up and preach the Gospel in its pure form. Like the Marines and Christ–God wants a few good men!! Blessings. Go and share Christ!! Thank you for your site—good stuff!!

  • Thank you for sharing this good work for Christ! I would only comment that rather than “Thinking like a Calvinist and Living like an Armenian,” we should “Think like Christ and live like Christ.” As for the thougts of man: The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity (Psalm 94:11).

  • Not trying to be contrary but I’ve listened to Ravenhill sermons since I was born-again and I have never heard him say “Think like a Calvinist, live like an Arminian.” As a matter of fact I couldn’t imagine him saying such a thing because in all his preaching and writing that I’ve ever heard or read I’ve never gotten I single Calvinist notion. Leonard Ravenhill was a Pentecostal evangelist who believed in the healing power of God and the power of prevailing prayer. Can you recall which sermon or book which you found this quote? Thanks

    • I do not recall the exact sermon. I used to listen to them all the time, but haven’t lately. If I come across the exact sermon again I’ll make sure to update the article.

  • When Jesus sent out the 12, He didn’t tell them that they would find the elect. He didn’t give them instructions on that at all. He basically said, “put one foot in front of the other and go and tell…” I am called to put one foot in front of the other and go and tell… Does God know who, what, when, where, and how? Certainly! But I don’t. All I know is what I’ve been told to do.

  • Interesting article. I respectfully disagree with the idea that a Calvinist would not feel the need to evangelize. As David points out, we do not know who the elect people of God are, so this should not hinder us from sharing our faith with them. We should be sharing the Gospel with everyone and allowing God to do the work in a person’s heart. That is the most any Christian can do in terms of evangelism, and that is also what God’s word calls us to do. (Matthew 28:19-20).

    As one preacher has stated recently, the main issue isn’t Calvinism or Arminianism. It is whether or not someone has been saved. If the Spirit of God is operating in someone, they will be known by their fruits (Matthew 7:16). There are many Christians throughout history who have done enormous amounts of work for the Church and have adopted different theological perspectives.

    Note: Also, it is “Arminian.” Armenians are people who come from Armenia. I’m sure they have varying beliefs concerning salvation, predestination and election :). Thanks again for the article.

    God Bless,

  • I believe I am a ‘Calminian’,…for I cannot fathom my Lord purposing, choosing, or desiring to send anyone to eternal damnation. Calvinism would that such folks would be given no choice. The cross was not meant for them. The “whosoever” doesn’t really mean whosoever. I also believe we were created in God’s image an this included a free will…which was seen “live” in the Garden. I believe God desires for us to choose a relationship with Him. He foreordained the entire plan of salvation, from the beginning. But, I’m not a theologian so I’d best stop here… 🙂

    • Agreed. God gives each of us the choice as to whether we will go His way or not.

  • Johnathan Murdock

    What a horrible outlook on God and Christianity, to imagine that God has created billions of souls that he never intended to offer Salvation is more than just heresy, it’s demonic. Calvinism is not Christianity, it is satanism masquerading as righteousness.


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