The label Calvinist is thrown about flippantly. In some circles it’s used with a snarl and a growl. In most cases people do not actually know what it means. However Times Herald has noted that….
This label that once was considered very bad in almost all Christian circles is enjoying incredible new popularity. Surging numbers of Christians are attending Calvinistic conferences and reading Calvinistic books and articles.
Calvinism is still misunderstood and is recovering from so many decades of bad press. In spite of that, however, more people opening called themselves Calvinists or variations of that, like mild Calvinists or moderate Calvinists. Have you been labeled a Calvinist? How can you know if you or someone else is such an animal? In a moment I’d like to give you a simple test to determine just that.
The nickname Calvinist comes from the Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564). Although John Calvin taught through books of the Bible day-by-day in Geneva, Switzerland, he is known mostly for teaching that God is sovereign over the salvation of sinners. He taught that God chose to save some people before time began, and then predestined that they would become believers in Christ.
The rest of people, according to Calvin, were free to reject God’s offer of salvation — which they would because of original sin leading them to become totally depraved.
It is probably unfair to call a Christian who believes that brief summary a Calvinist. First, John Calvin was just a Christian preacher. He certainly wouldn’t have wanted other Christians to call themselves by his name. Christians who do use that nickname only do so as shorthand to say that they believe that theological summary, not because they give undo attention to Calvin the man.
Secondly, Calvin taught lots of things in the Bible. He preached verse-by-verse through almost every book in the Bible, and he wrote a four-volume massive systematic theology, that covers almost every area of Christianity. Even though the Reformer stood for so much more than predestination, you only get the label Calvinist for believing that the Bible teaches predestination — not for believing everything else that Calvin believed.
There are Calvinistic Baptists, Presbyterians, Charismatics and all sorts of Christians who are members of Independent churches.
[Nuff said. How then can we know for sure if a person is a real Calvinist or not?]
The test question is: Whose fault is it that you are a Christian?
Virtually everyone — both Calvinists and Arminians — believes that God played some part in you becoming a Christian. For example, through God bringing someone to tell you about Jesus, you being raised in a Christian home, the gospel events themselves, and maybe the Holy Spirit convicting you of your sin and drawing you somehow to Christ…
Do you think that you repented and believed because God had first chosen you and had opened your heart to hear and accept the gospel? Or do you think that God chose you because he knew you would one day believe? Whose fault is it ultimately that you are a Christian?
If you look in your Bible concordance you will find the places where words appear in the Bible like “predestination,” “election,” and descriptions of God sovereignly choosing people. Of course, you will also find plenty of words like “repent” and “believe.” If you believe the Bible you have to acknowledge that both types of words exist within its pages.
The important thing is figuring out how these words connect.
[John Crotts, the writer of the article then concludes…] I am a Calvinist. I absolutely believe that it is God’s fault that I am a Christian. Yes, I heard the good news about Jesus dying for my sins and rising from the dead. Yes, I was responsible to repent and believe the gospel. But because of my spiritually dead heart, I would have never done that left to myself. God sovereignly opened my heart to get it. When I got it, I did repent and I did believe.
Seeing God’s sovereign hand in salvation means that I see God is much greater than I had realized. I also see that I am much smaller than I had realized — and much more sinful. But I also see that Jesus Christ and his work on the cross was a much bigger deal that I could have ever imagined.
Being a Calvinist doesn’t make me love John Calvin, it makes me love Jesus. It also helps me to understand the Bible’s big picture of God’s ultimate plan to save a people for himself. Ultimately, being a Calvinist means that I want the glory of God to be the accent over all of my life and ministry.