Theologically, Calvinism and Arminianism are distinguished from each other in the way they attempt to explain why and how salvation is limited to the few. Calvinism claims that all those chosen to be saved will be, in accordance with God's Will and without regard to the will of man. Arminianism, on the other hand, states that God designed salvation for all men but that it is ultimately effective for only those who have responded correctly. In the broader sense, we might conclude that salvation, in Calvinistic thinking, is achieved for only a few because God does not desire to save more. In the case of the Arminian, God saves only a few because, despite what He might desire, man's necessary involvement limits the effectiveness. The question of the effectiveness of God's plan of salvation is vital because of the way it reflects on the very nature and power of God. If a God ordained plan is not or cannot be executed completely, then the attributes typically attributed to God, such as omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, are called into question.
In my mind the basic problem in both these theological approaches is a fundamental misunderstanding of what salvation involves. As in most traditional schools of Christian theology, both of these persuasions accept that salvation involves escape from God's wrath over mankind's malfeasance. This concept goes back to the interpretation of the Genesis account and what it implies about God's plan for mankind and whether that plan was diverted or thwarted by unforeseen or unavoidable actions by man.
If God's plan of salvation serves a different purpose, one in which all that has happened in human history served God's original purpose for mankind, then we don't need to assume that God 's wrath is the real issue addressed. Also, if we don't accept that God's original plan was or even could have been altered by the actions of men, then we can actually honor the concept of God's sovereignty and reject the idea that the plan will be only marginally successful, i.e. few will be saved. Neither Calvinism or Arminianism successfully maintain the divine image. They offer a patched up theology which demeans rather than exalts.