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What Is Calvinism?

In evangelical circles, there is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding about the beliefs held dear to the Calvinists. Just like with many denominations, there can be some variation between churches. Just like the Southern Baptist Denomination does not hold to the hate filled teaching of the extremists like Westboro Baptist Church, there are extreme versions of Calvinism (called Hyper Calvinism) to which regular Calvinists would vehemently disagree with.

What Is Calvinism? 5 Points of Calvinism Explained (Beliefs)

It is because of these Hyper Calvinists that many other evangelicals have a rather unfortunate misunderstanding as to what Calvinism actually is. Hyper Calvinists do not believe that there is a need for protolyzing.

But this belief is heartily rejected by Calvinists, because Jesus gave us the Great Commission. We do not know when one of the elect will come to a saving faith in Christ, nor do we know who God will use as an instrument to proclaim the Gospel to them.

Matthew 28: 16-20 “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Brief history of Calvinism

Calvinism did not start with John Calvin. This soteriological view is named after him because he is best remembered for his plethora of writings on this theological subject. He followed what was Augustinianism, which was the soteriological understanding of the church historically – all the way back to the apostles themselves.

Quotes about Calvinism

“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 surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.” Charles Spurgeon

“If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, “He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord.” I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible.”

“Calvinism is the consistent endeavor to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of His will.” J. I. Packer

“Calvinism is the consistent endeavor to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of His will.” J. I. Packer

What it Calvinism?

Total depravity

This is the biblical doctrine that shows us how sinful we are. Because of the fall, mankind is completely sinful. There is not an ounce of goodness in him. Man’s entire being is corrupted by sin: his heart, his mind, his will, his physical body. Because we are so corrupt, we cannot do anything that is completely GOOD, including seek God. The fall has made man a slave to sin. The Bible also says that man is DEAD in his sins. Dead men do not do anything. They cannot. They need the supernatural power of Christ to raise them from the dead and to breathe new life into them.

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.”

Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

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.”

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.”

Romans 6:20 “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.”

Ephesians 2:3 “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”

Ephesians 2:1 “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”

John 6:53 “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”

Ephesians 5:14 “For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”

Colossians 2:13 “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”

Unconditional election

This is such a precious and beautiful biblical doctrine. This is the teaching that God has not and will not base His election on anything that He sees in us. There is nothing we do to EARN our salvation. God, in His grace and mercy chooses to whom He will be merciful. That’s the whole definition of mercy – showing kindness to the undeserving. If He bestowed this upon everyone – it would no longer be mercy. It would just be the status quo. God did not look down through time to see who would choose Him. Because God is all knowing. Christ died for the sheep, not the goats. He CHOSE those whom He would call His own. Just as He chose for Himself a particular group of people, the Israelites – God has set aside a group of people for Himself, and has passed over the rest. God is who gives the faith necessary for salvation.

Romans 9:11 “For being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him who calls.”

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.” 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 He
predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”

Proverbs 16:4 “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.”

Limited atonement

Christ’s died on the cross for His people. Christ’s death secured everything necessary for the salvation of His people. Salvation is a work of Christ. It is all done by Him and for Him. Even the faith for us to believe in Him for our salvation comes to us as a gift from God. It was only Christ who could pay the penalty for our treason against God the Creator of the Universe. Even one sin against such a Holy God warrants being tossed into Hell away from His presence for an eternity. Christ’s death was sufficient for the salvation of all mankind, but it was not effectual for the salvation of each and every person. He died for the sins of people from all over the world – all kinds of people, not just the Jews. He died for all.

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. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 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.”

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. 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; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

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 1:4 “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love.”

John 17:6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”

John 10:26 “But you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.”

John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”

Irresistible grace

This biblical doctrine teaches that when God calls someone to salvation, that they cannot ultimately turn away from His calling. The Holy Spirit draws the person who has been chosen by God. God alone appoints who will believe. We don’t know when that person will answer the call – this is why we must continuously live in obedience to the Great Commission, and why we must pray for the lost. He will call and save those who He has chosen. And man is not more powerful than God – He cannot say no to what His creator has created Him to do.

Ephesians 2:1-5 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 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. 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. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)”

John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

2 Timothy 1:9 “Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”

John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

Perseverance of the saints

This is the Biblical doctrine that teaches that since we did nothing to earn our salvation, we can do nothing to lose salvation. Salvation is a work of God, done so for the glory of God. God the Father has chosen who will be saved. Christ the Son of God has redeemed the elect by His work on the cross. The Holy Spirit draws the elect to salvation and SEALS them. God has promised that they will be sealed until His work is complete – which is when we are in heaven, and perfected, and given a glorified state. Salvation is both an immediate occurrence as well as a progressive continual action. We have been saved and are continuously growing in sanctification. What God has started in us He will not allow it to go incomplete. He will not forget His promise. Salvation isn’t ours to loose.

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.”

Romans 8:30-31 “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against 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.”

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.”

John 10:28-29 “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 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.”

Romans 8:31-39 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ephesians 1:13-14 “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

1 Peter 1:5 “who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

John 6:39 “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.”

What is Hyper-Calvinism?

Hyper Calvinism is eschewed by most Calvinists. Their beliefs are so far from what historic Calvinism teaches that it is almost unrecognizable. It is a distortion of historic Calvinism In a nutshell, Hyper Calvinists believe that God saves His elect with little to no use of various methods to bring about his salvation. These methods include evangelism, praying for the lost, preaching, etc. This distortion says that it is unbiblical to invite people to Christ unless they give evidence of being one of the elect. That is completely unbiblical.

We must be in complete submission to what the Bible teaches. Even our thoughts and views. And this distortion is completely unbiblical. Yes God is Sovereign over all of His creation. And Yes, God has before time chosen whom He will call to Himself. However, we have multiple examples in the old and new Testament where God has ordained an apostle, teacher, or prophet to proclaim the truth of God’s word to the people. How many times have we read “Repent!!” being preached to a group of people in the Bible? That apostle wasn’t telling it to a group of people of whom he was 100% sure was elect.

We should not be so bold as to draw that false conclusion. We do not know the method God may use to proclaim the truth to someone, so that they may hear the truth of God’s Word and hear the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit.

Further, to believe in this false teaching is to eliminate the command that Jesus proclaims – to go out and make disciples, to go out all across the world, and teach the truth. We can not know who are the sheep and who are the goats. We are called to be faithful in preaching the gospel at every available opportunity. Hyper Calvinism denies the responsibility of man. While man plays no part in causing his salvation, he does have a responsibility to be a witness to others.

A Hype Calvinist is someone who goes beyond the bounds of what Calvinism teaches, and in fact beyond what the Bible teaches. They overemphasize God’s Sovereignty while underemphasizing God’s love.

Phil Johnson says “All five varieties of Hyper-Calvinism undermine evangelism or twist the gospel message.” He says that a Hyper Calvinist is one who:

Denies that the gospel call applies to all who hear, OR

Denies that faith is the duty of every sinner, OR

Denies that the gospel makes any “offer” of Christ, salvation, or mercy to the non-elect (or denies that the offer of divine mercy is free and universal), OR

Denies that there is such a thing as “common grace”, OR
Denies that God has any sort of love for the non-elect

Myths about Calvinism

Myth: That Calvinists do not believe that the Gospel is for all men
This is false.

Tim Challies said “The offer of the gospel is universal and God truly does command all men to heed it. Fatih is a duty for all men. God’s common grace extends to all men, and while, God does not love elect and non-elect in the same way, the Bible is clear that He does love all that He has created.”

Myth: Calvinism destroys evangelism

This is false. Historically and Biblically there can be nothing further from the truth. In fact, some of the earliest missionaries were Calvinists. Romans Chapters 8-10 clearly tell us about how necessary it is to preach the Gospel. No one is beyond hope. We do not have the mind of God – so we do not know whom He has pre-ordained and we do not know at what point in time he will heed the call of repentance. In fact, my being a Calvinist has been most encouraging to my evangelizing – it takes all the pressure off my trying to WIN THEM over and allows me to rest in God, knowing that if the person I spoke to is elect that he will eventually heed the Gospels call and that it isn’t up to me to force him to change.

Myth: Calvinism encourages pride

While pride may be a stumbling block for most people, this soteriological teaching does not encourage prideful thinking. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Romans 9:11-16 “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad- in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call- 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 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 depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

Myth: Calvinism teaches that men are merely robots

And my response is what’s wrong with that? Free will isn’t actually free. No one has a will that is entirely free. When we are not saved, we are living in service to the devil. When we are saved we are bought with a price and serve Christ. No one is free to make choices apart from God’s will. Nothing happens by chance or accident. God allows us to make voluntary choices based on our preferences and unique character traits, but it is all done according to His Providence. We are not being coerced but we do act out of necessity to God’s predetermined will. Everything is carefully thought out by God.

John Calvin said in his book Bondage and Liberation of the Will, “We allow that man has a choice and that it is self-determined so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this, it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt, he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is a necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.”

Calvinism Vs Reformed Theology

Calvinism is a tenant of Reformed Theology, but it is not the same as Reformed Theology. You can be a Calvinist and not be Reformed. But it is impossible to hold to Reformed Theology while not being a Calvinist.

In a nutshell: Calvinism holds to the 5 Tenants of Calvinism: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. (see our previous article on TULIP)

Reformed Theology is deeply rooted in the Protestant Reformation. The early reformers opposed the corruption within the Catholic Church and tried to reform the church so that it would hold to essential Biblical truths: That Salvation is by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, according to Scriptures Alone. Christ alone is sufficient for salvation.

Reformed theology is also all-encompassing: it is comprehensive in its biblical worldview as well as its doctrinal stance. It teaches that Scripture should be the sole authority for all aspects of our life and worship and teaches that the 10 Commandments are the summary of God’s moral law. If we do not rightly understand the law, then we can’t understand how far we are from the Perfectly Holy God and how desperately we need a Savior.

Romans 2:14-16 “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”

Another aspect of Reformed Theology is holding to a historic confession (like the London Baptist Confession of 1689 or the Westminster Confession), and Covenant Theology (instead of Dispensationalism.) The Reformed Baptists understand Covenant Theology a little differently than the Presbyterians do. Reformed Theology is also held to the cessationist in its understanding of the gifts. Reformed Theology also uses strictly Biblical regulations on how the worship service is to be conducted and how the church is to be run.

Famous calvinist preachers and theologians

Paul Washer
Voddie Baucham
John Macarthur
RC Sproul
Alaister Beigg
D.A. Carson
Steve Lawon
Greg Bansen
James Montgomery Boyce
Joel Beeke
Thomas Ascol
LIgon Duncan
Jonathan Edwards
John Frame
Josh Buice
Charles Hodge
Albert Mohler
Cotton Mather
Cornelius Van Til
James White
Todd Friel

Books on Calvinism

Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin

The Sovereignty of God, A.W. Pink

Concise Theology, J.I. Packer

The Mortification of Sin, John Owen

Reformed Ethics, Herman Bavinck

What is Reformed Theology, RC Sproul

The New Calvinism, Josh Buice

The Gospel’s Power and Message, Paul Washer

Conclusion

In all that we do, we need to make sure that we hold Scripture as our authority. It is the very Word of God. All our thoughts, all our beliefs should be held up against the scrutiny of Scripture.

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