In Evangelicalism there is much debate over the teachings of Calvinism, as well as a tremendous amount of misinformation. In this article, we will learn about the meaning of Calvinism and I hope to clarify some of the confusion.
What is Calvinism?
Calvinism did not actually start with John Calvin. This doctrinal stance is also known as Augustinianism. Historically, this soteriology understanding is what had been historically accepted by the church as far back as the apostles. Adherents to this doctrinal stance are called Calvinists because John Calvin is best remembered for his writings on the Biblical concept of election. In his book Institutes, John Calvin says this about his own conversion:
“Now this power which is peculiar to Scripture is clear from the fact that, of human writings, however artfully polished, there is none capable of affecting us at all comparably. Read Demosthenes or Cicero; read Plato, Aristotle, and others of that tribe. They will, I admit, allure you, delight you, move you, enrapture you in wonderful measure. But betake yourself from them to this sacred reading. Then, in spite of yourself, so deeply will it affect you, so penetrate your heart, so fix itself in your very marrow, that, compared with its deep impressions, such vigor as the orators and philosophers have will nearly vanish. Consequently, it is easy to see that the Sacred Scriptures, which so far surpass all gifts and graces of human endeavor, breathe something divine.”
What we know now as Calvinism took root during the Protestant Reformation due to the works of John Calvin. The Reformers broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Other great Reformers who helped propagate this doctrine was Huldrych Zwingli and Guillaume Farel. From there the teachings spread and became the foundations for many of the evangelical denominations we have today, such as the Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.
Christian quotes about Calvinism
- “In Reformed theology, if God is not sovereign over the entire created order, then he is not sovereign at all. The term sovereignty too easily becomes a chimera. If God is not sovereign, then he is not God.” R. C. Sproul
- “When God saves you, he doesn’t do it because you gave him permission. He does it because he’s God.” — Matt Chandler.
- “We are secure, not because we hold tightly to Jesus, but because He holds tightly to us.” R.C. Sproul
- “As to myself, if I were not a Calvinist, I think I should have no more hope of success in preaching to men, than to horses or cows.” — John Newton
What is TULIP in Calvinism?
Is TULIP biblical? Let’s dive into TULIP theology. TULIP is an acronym that came about as a rebuttal to the teachings of Jacob Arminius. Arminius taught what is now known as Arminianism. He was heavily influenced by the heretic Pelagius. Arminius taught in 1) free will/human ability (that man can choose God on his own) 2) conditional election (God’s predestination is based on his looking down the portal of time to see who would on their own choose Him) 3) universal redemption 4) the Holy Spirit can be effectually resisted and 5) falling from grace is possible.
Pelagius taught doctrine that was contrary to what Augustine taught. Augustine taught about divine grace and Pelagius taught that man was essentially good and could earn his salvation. John Calvin and Jacob Arminius brought their teachings forward at the church council. The Five Points of Calvinism, or TULIP, was affirmed historically by the church at the Synod of Dort in 1619, and the teachings of Jacob Arminius were rejected.
The Five Points of Calvinism
T – Total depravity
Adam and Eve sinned, and because of their sin all mankind is now sinful. Man is completely unable to save himself. Man is not even 1% good. He cannot do anything that is spiritually righteous. It is completely impossible for him to choose good over evil. An unregenerate man may do what we consider morally good things – but it is not ever for the spiritual good, but is for selfish motives at their core. Faith itself is not possible for the unregenerate man. Faith is God’s gift to the sinner.
Verses that support total depravity
1 Corinthians 2:14 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
2 Corinthians 4:4 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Ephesians 2:1-3 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
Romans 7:18 “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.”
Ephesians 2:15 “By abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.”
Romans 5:12,19 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned… or as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”
Psalm 143:2 “And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no man living is righteous.”
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
2 Chronicles 6:36 “When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to a land far off or near.”
Isaiah 53:6 “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.”
Mark 7:21-23 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
Romans 3:10-12 “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, There is not even one.”
Genesis 6:5 “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
U – Unconditional election
God has chosen for Himself a particular group of people: His Bride, His church. His choice was not based on looking down the portals of time – because God is all knowing. There was never a split second that God did not already know, based on His choice, who would be saved. God alone gives the faith necessary for man to be saved. Saving faith is a gift of God’s grace. It is God’s choice of the sinner that is the ultimate cause of salvation.
Verses that support unconditional election
Romans 9:15-16 “For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
Romans 8:30 “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
Ephesians 1:4-5 “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”
2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”
2 Timothy 2:25 “correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”
2 Timothy 1:9 “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”
John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
John 6:65 “And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
Psalm 65:4 “How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.”
Proverbs 16:4 “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.”
Ephesians 1:5,11 “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will… also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”
1 Peter 1:2 “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”
Revelation 13:8 “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”
L – Limited atonement
Christ died on the cross for His people. It was Christ’s death on the cross that secured everything necessary for the salvation of His Bride, including the gift of faith bestowed to them by the Holy Spirit. Christ, being the perfect spotless lamb of God, was the only one whose life could pay the penalty for our treason against the Holy God. His death on the cross was sufficient for the salvation of all mankind, but it was not effectual for the salvation of all men.
Verses that support limited atonement
John 6:37-39 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
John 10:26 “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.”
1 Samuel 3:13-14 “For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them. 14 Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
Matthew 15:24 “He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
Romans 9:13 “As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
John 19:30 “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
Matthew 20:28 “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
John 17:9 “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”
Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Romans 8:28-30 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
Romans 8:33 “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.”
Romans 9:11 “For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.“
I – Irresistible grace
We do not know when a person will answer the call of the Holy Spirit. This is why evangelism is so important. The Holy Spirit will at some point in the life of the Elect will place a special inward call that will inevitably bring them to salvation. Man cannot turn this call away – he does not want to. God is not dependent upon man’s cooperation. God’s grace is invincible, it will never fail to save whom He has set out to save.
Verses that support irresistible grace
Acts 16:14 “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”
2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
John 1:12-13 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
P – Perseverance of the saints
The Elect, those chosen by God, can never loose their salvation. They are kept safe by the power of the Almighty.
Verses that support perseverance of the saints
Philippians 1:6 “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Jude 1:24-25 “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”
2 Timothy 1:12 “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”
John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”
Famous Calvinist Preachers and Theologians
- Augustine of Hippo
- John Calvin
- Huldrych Zwingli
- William Ferel
- Martin Bucer
- Heinrich Bulinger
- Peter Martyr Vermigli
- Theodore Beza
- John Knox
- John Bunyan
- Jonathan Edwards
- John Owen
- John Newton
- Isaac Watts
- George Whitfield
- Charles Spurgeon
- BB Warfield
- Charles Hodge
- Cornelius Van Til
- A.W. Pink
- John Piper
- R.C. Sproul
- John Macarthur
- Alaister Begg
- David Platt
- Robert Godfrey
- Erwin Lutzer
- Voddie Baucham
- Paul Washer
- Josh Buice
- Steve Lawson
- Mark Dever
- Al Mohler
- Derek Thomas
- D.A. Carson
- Herschel York
- Todd Friel
- Conrad Mbewe
- Tim Challies
- Tom Ascol
- Timothy Paul Jones
- Tom Nettles
- Steve Nichols
- James Pettigru Boyce
- Joel Beeke
- Ligion Duncan
- John Frame
- Kevin DeYoung
- Wayne Grudem
- Tim Keller
- Justin Peters
- Andrew Rappaport
- James White
The Bible teaches that God is completely sovereign over everything – including salvation. Calvinism is not a cult that follows the teaching of John Calvin. I believe that Calvinism best represents God’s Word.
Charles Spurgeon said, “It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines that are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are truly and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make my pilgrimage into the past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me . . . Taking these things to be the standard of my faith, I see the land of the ancients peopled with my brethren; I behold multitudes who confess the same as I do, and acknowledge that this is the religion of God’s own.”
Q1 – What does TULIP stand for in Calvinism?
Q2- Do you agree or disagree with the 5 points of Calvinism?
Q3- Are you growing in your view of God’s sovereignty?
Q4- Are you praising the Lord for your salvation?