You have heard of people calling them selves three-point or four point Calvinists and others parading banners of the New-Calvinist fame. But in what context do all these variances arise? J.I. Packer makes a very interesting point:
“The very act of setting out Calvinistic soteriology [the doctrine of salvation] in the form of five distinct points (a number due, as we saw, merely to the fact that there were five Arminian points for the Synod of Dort to answer) tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. For the five points, though separately stated, are inseparable. They hang together; you cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners.
“God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing.
“Saves – does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.
“Sinners – men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners – and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedaling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Savior. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners to not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.”
Excerpt from J.I. Packer, “Introductory Essay,” in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen (London: Banner of Truth, 1959) HT Awakening Grace
Randy Alcorn is a supposed “4 point Calvinist”. But then John Piper is a self appointed 7 pointer. I like them both although Piper is getting a little weird on us. Kind of like that screamer from last year’s America Idol who kissed his male bass player. You never know.
I have always had deep respect for Dr Piper though of late a couple of his associations and utterances have caused me some concern….yeah “he is getting weird on us” is the best description.