My brothers, I think there has been a terrible misunderstanding. There has been a marginalization of some of the most faithful brothers in the faith. These brothers that are being marginalized are known as Calvinists. These Calvinists are seen as devils and may as well be homosexual. I recall a wonderful evening discussing the Scriptures with a couple of brothers over a cup of coffee and discussing how people react when they find out that we are “C” words. I made the comment that we live, as Calvinists today, as the homosexual of yesteryear and one of the brothers said, “And the reaction is exactly the same! ‘Oh no! I won’t have grandchildren!'”
He said that in quite a joking manner but he was exactly correct in his assessment. This is cause for grave concern I am convinced. So in this post I intend to outline what Calvinism is and refute a few challenges to the Calvinistic position.
Firstly, what is Calvinism? Well we really must start with what Calvinism is not. Calvinism is not a cult. Calvinism is not a conspiracy. Calvinism is not “just our interpretation.” Calvinism is best defined as a system of understanding the Word of God as he has given it to us in an orderly and coherent fashion. Calvinism, despite what the name might imply, did not originate with John Calvin and is by my estimation better entitled “Reformation Theology,” but for the purposes of communication I will refer to it as Calvinism for simplicity, convenience and consistency sake. Calvinism, I would argue, began with the teachings of Christ himself from the Old Testament. Why not in the Old Testament itself? Because Christ had not spelled it out for us yet. It then followed a line of succession running through the Apostles, mostly Paul but also his Apostolic brothers, and flowing right through to Augustine, and finding itself in Calvin 1,500 years after Christ preached the very things we speak of today.
Now the first question that will undoubtedly arise is “Why are you putting God in a box of your system?” The answer is that the Calvinist seeks to do no such thing. We are trying to understand what God has given us to understand in his Word. We put God in no smaller box than he has put himself in with the Bible.
So what do Calvinists believe? We believe in what are known as the “Doctrines of Grace.” These doctrines, clearly presented in the Scriptures, give us an outline to understand how sovereign, holy, perfect and omnipotent our God is. The biggest departure from the norm is found in Calvinistic “soteriology.” Soteriology is the study of salvation and how it comes about. The Calvinistic stance argues that the believer has no part in bringing about his salvation whatever and that it is all of God whose sovereign grace is bestowed upon the wretched dead person and is thereby transformed into “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV) This view is corroborated by Ezekiel 37, John 6:44, Romans 8:28-30 + chapter 9, and countless other passages throughout the Scriptures. This is an affront to the pride of man because man would rather boast and this salvation prevents all ability to boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
So naturally, the next question is “what is the point? If God predestines some to salvation and they will be saved regardless, why do we do anything?” This is what is known as hyper-Calvinism and it is a monumentally large problem. This is not the Calvinist way of thinking. Calvin himself was one of the biggest missionary proponents of all time. God does predestinate some to salvation and not others, but he has also ordered that it is the Christian’s job to present the gospel to all creatures. (Mark 16:15, Romans 10:13-17, 1 Corinthians 1:21) It has been appointed to us to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Not because God needs us to, but because that is how he ordered it to happen.
Next, “So why do we pray? God has already ordered for all things to occur exactly as they will occur so why even pray?” Yes it is true that God has ordered all things that ever will occur just as they are to occur, but he also would have us to pray. (Isaiah 46:10, James 4:2) So why pray? For us. It is the means by which we may directly speak with God and have him hear us as sons. He may grant our prayer if he so wills it or he may not, but that does not at all take away from his absolute sovereignty. It fills us with the Spirit and gives us encouragement to go forth.
“Why even go to church? Is church not there to save people?” We go to church first and foremost to worship the King who has saved us. If a person comes in and hears the Word of God for the first time and is saved, that is wonderful but it is not why we gather. If that were the point of church, why would we Christians be there?
“I heard about the TULIP. What is that?” The TULIP is an anagram outlining the five “points” of Calvinism. These are, in order: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. Total depravity means that man is absolutely unable to do anything good at all. (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3) This means that man is incapable of saving himself because that would be good and man cannot do good. God saves us via Unconditional Election and this means that God did not choose you based on any good you have done (Remember, you can do no good) so he must choose without condition. (Romans 9)
We did not merit our salvation, Christ did. But didn’t Christ die for everyone? We say, in a sense, yes but Christ only died to save his Church. (Matthew 1:21, John 10:15) Everyone reaps some amount of benefit from Christ’s death, burial and Resurrection but only the Church is saved. But how can we be sure that the Church will be saved? What if someone refuses? Irresistible Grace teaches that we cannot resist the call of salvation God gives us. (Romans 8:29-30) We cannot frustrate the purposes of God. But can we lose our salvation? Absolutely not. The Perseverance of the Saints tells us that the Church will persevere to the end. (John 6:37) There is nothing you can do as a Christian to become an unbeliever because of the Spirit that resides within you. If you depart from the faith, it is because you were never in it. (1 John 2:19)
So if you know any Calvinists and are leery of them, remember that they are your brothers and in no way trying to do anything but bring honor and glory to God. Because you ought to be doing the very same, hear them out. Have a good-spirited debate. Above all, realize that God would have us to study his Word. Study it and come to your own conclusions. Keep in mind that the biblical Calvinist loves you. Soli Deo Gloria!