”Are you a Calvinist?”
Vol: 21 Issue: 23 Friday, February 23, 2018
I get that question all the time. And it is almost always in the form of an accusation. It is also almost always asked in relationship to one of two doctrines espoused by Calvin, predestination and eternal security.
John Calvin (Jean Cauvin) was an influential French theologian at the time of the Reformation.
Calvin broke with the Roman Catholic Church around 1530 and fled to Basel, Switzerland where he published his reasoning in a work entitled ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’.
Calvin developed what are now called the ‘Five Points of Calvinism’ under the acronym TULIP:
- Total Depravity of Man: The doctrine that unregenerate man is incapable of living a sinless life.
- Unconditional Election: God chooses to save people unconditionally; that is to say, they are not saved on the basis of their own merit.
- Limited atonement: Christ died for the purpose of saving the elect.
- Irresistible Grace: When God chooses to save someone, that person will come to Christ.
- Perseverance of the Saints: This is the doctrine of eternal security, or ‘once saved, always saved’.
Calvinism is one of two schools of thought within Protestant theology. If one claims the title of ‘Protestant’, one is either a Calvinist or an Arminian.
Arminianism is the other model within mainstream Protestantism. It is named for Jacob Arminius, a Dutch contemporary of Calvin. Arminianism does not advance ideas of its own, but draws its doctrine from its opposition to Calvinism.
Are you an Arminian?
- Arminius rejects Unconditional Election in favor of Prevenient Grace. Prevenient, or prevenial grace is that grace extended by God to the unsaved.
- Arminius rejects the doctrine of irresistible grace. A person is equally free to reject the call.
- Arminianism rejects predestination and dispensationalism.
- It rejects unconditional election.
- It rejects limited atonement, arguing that it was made on behalf of all people, not just the elect.
- Believers can sin their way out of salvation.
What did you decide? Are you a Calvinist? Or an Arminian? Or did you find yourself hovering somewhere between the two? Is that even possible? What does it mean?
Are you hopelessly confused?
If you are a bedrock Calvinist or a bedrock Arminian, then you probably self-identify with a recognized Protestant denomination; Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, etc.
Calvinism and Armnianism are not the basic doctrines of Christianity; rather they are the basic doctrines of Protestantism. That is both a distinction and a difference.
One can be a Protestant without being a Christian, just as one can be a Catholic without being a Christian.
And one can be a Christian and not be either a Catholic or a Protestant.
Sometimes they are derided as ‘Fighting Fundies’ or just plain old ‘born-agains’ — and most also qualify as prophecy nuts. For my part, I’m neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian. I’m just a Christian with a Bible.
- I believe in the depravity of man because the Bible says all men since Adam are born sinners.
- I believe in predestination because 27% of the Bible is prophecy – that is to say, certain sequences of events are predestined – there is no other way to understand it. (Romans 8:29)
- I believe in dispensationalism because the Bible says history is divided by dispensations. (1st Corinthians 9:17, Ephesians 1:10, 3:2, Colossians 1:25)
- I believe that God foreknew who would be saved and that He predestined them to be conformed to the image of His Son because that’s what the Bible says.
And I believe that the Bible lays out twelve undertakings of God concerning salvation, any one of which are sufficient to prove eternal security is a Bible doctrine, not a religious one.
There are four undertakings related to the Father:
- The Sovereign Purpose and Unconditional Covenant: (John 3:16, 5:24, 6:37)
- The infinite power of God to set free and to save: (John 10:29, Romans 4:21, 8:31, 38-39, 14:4, Ephesians 1:19-21, 3:20, Philipians 3:21, 2nd Timothy 1:12, Hebrews 7:25, Jude 1:24)
- The infinite love of God: (Romans 5:7-10; Ephesians 1:4)
- The Father’s acceptance of the prayer of the Son of God (John 17:9-12,15,20)
There are four undertakings related to the Son:
- His substitutionary death: (Romans 8:1, 1st John 2:2)
- His Resurrection: (John 3:16, 10:28, Ephesians 2:6)
- His advocacy in Heaven: (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24;1st John 2:1-2)
- His Shepherdhood and intercession: (John 17:1-26, Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:23-25)
There are four undertakings related to the Holy Spirit:
- Spiritual regeneration – partaking of the Divine nature: (John 1:13, 3:3-6, Titus 3:4-6, 1stPeter 1:23, 2nd Peter 1:4, 1st John 3:9)
- Indwelling Presence: Jesus promised He would abide and indwell believers until Jesus comes for them: (John 7:37-39, Romans 5:5, 8:9, 1st Corinthians 2:12, 6:19,1st John 2:27)
- Baptism – through which the believer is joined to Christ: (1st Corinthians 6:17, 12:13, Galatians 3:27)
- The Sealing of the Spirit: (Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:30)
Any one of these twelve undertakings is sufficient to guarantee eternal security to the believer. There can be no genuine distinction between salvation and eternal security, since by definition, eternal salvation is the only kind there is.
I’ve given you a lot of verses and provided links that you can follow to see the context in which they were written.
The Bible doesn’t contradict itself. Don’t let anybody steal your victory with a bunch of religious claptrap about Calvinism and tulips and Arminius. Religion never saved anybody.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Featured Commentary: Are You a Red Letter Christian? ~Alf Cengia