What is a Calvinist?
Many Christians would equate Calvinism with Reformed Theology. They are not one and the same. All Reformed Theologians are Calvinists, but not all Calvinists are Reformed. If you are a Calvinist, cool. But if you do not hold to some form of Covenant Theology and/or if you are not in a Reformed church, then you are not Reformed. And hey, it’s ok, who cares about labels? Just, if you are going to use labels, use them rightly.
The word “Calvinist” comes from the name of the great Reformer, John Calvin, and Calvinism is a summary of his teachings on the doctrine of salvation. Please remember that the historical term “Calvinism” only has to do with the doctrine of salvation. John Calvin has taught me about as much theology as anyone in the history of the Church, but I disagree with him on a few things. Calvinism does not mean you believe all things John Calvin.
Calvinism was also a consensus of teachings among many pastors in Europe in 1618, in response to a guy named Jacob Arminius, whose teachings started becoming popular. This was about 50 years after John Calvin died, and it is worth noting that Arminius thought Calvin was a fabulous teacher. But the point here is Calvinism has come to us historically as a polemic against Arminianism, which is why the way the teachings are often worded sound strange to a lot of Christians. Here is a brief explanation about the five points of Calvinism:
- Total Depravity- mankind is wholly (totally) unable to make any move toward real righteousness without the grace of God (Genesis 6.5; Psalm 14; Romans 3.9-20).
- Unconditional Election- how then can anyone be saved? As I just said, they need the grace of God. And God has graciously chosen to save many people from before the foundation of the world, not because He foresaw anything good in them (it is unconditional), but wholly by grace alone (Deuteronomy 9.4-5; Romans 9.1-18; Ephesians 1.4)
- Limited Atonement- God then sent His Son to purchase those elect to be His holy bride. The purpose of the atoning death of Christ was to actually purchase their salvation. He paid the penalty for their sins, bought the work of the Spirit for them, bought their new hearts for them, bought their justification, sanctification, and glorification. In other words, this is an actual atonement. Limited Atonement is a little bit of a redundant phrase in that you simply have to understand what “atone” means to understand this work is not on behalf of every single human being, but rather for the incredibly large number of undeserving sinners God chose before the foundation of the world (Jeremiah 31.31-34; Luke 22.20; John 10.11)
- Irresistible Grace- God then sent the Spirit to draw all those Jesus paid for to Himself. He effectually calls them to salvation through the preaching of the gospel. It is grace in that it is undeserved. It is irresistible in that this is a reference to the mysterious work of the Spirit to blow on whomever He wishes, but when He blows, people are awakened to spiritual life (John 3.5-8; John 6.44; Romans 8.30)
- Perseverance of the Saints- All whom the Spirit truly regenerates will grow in sanctification until they become perfectly like Christ on the last day. Anyone who professes faith but falls away– and never returns to Christ– was never born again to begin with (John 6.44; Romans 8.30; 1 John 2.19)
If you want to find out more about these great truths, and about a growing movement of Christians in America who are upholding these truths, come watch the Calvinist documentary with us tomorrow at 5pm. I am a Calvinist, and you should be too!