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A Dummy’s Guide to Calvinism

The Crucifixion- Matthias Grunewald (1470-1528)

Is there a God? Is He sitting some where twiddling His thumbs or biting His finger nails as the world spirals into debauchery? Ever fancied taking a peek over His shoulder and catching Him taking a cat nap or slumped over in a yoga- pose with legs helplessly inter twined? 

Calvinism is associated with Reformed Theology the Theological system associated with the Reformer John Calvin that emphasizes and underlines the vitally important truth that God  is in control of all things, not man; that God is the source of salvation; and that men and women can do nothing to save themselves. It emphasises our total dependence as guilty sinners on the mercy and grace of God for salvation. The Father chose a people, the Son died for them, the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.

In popular vernacular, Calvinism often refers to the Five Points of Calvinistic doctrine or Doctrines of Grace regarding salvation, which make up the acrostic TULIP. These are simply five key teachings found in the Bible that were written down as articles by the Synod of Dort in 1610. This was done to counter the five articles published by the followers of a man named Jacobus Arminius that were at variance with the Bible.

If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright. Martin Luther

T- Total Inability or Total Depravity

Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature, therefore, he will not – indeed he cannot – choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ – it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation – it is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.

Scripture references: Ephesians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 1:30; John 15:25; Luke 19:14; John 5:40; Isaiah 5:20; Titus 1:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Hebrews 2:1; John 12:39; John 6:44+65; John 3:18.

U- Unconditional Election

God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any foreseen response of obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause of God’s choice. Election therefore was not determined by or conditioned upon any virtuous quality or act foreseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus God’s choice of the sinner, not the sinner’s choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.

Scripture references: Psalm 65:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1:4,5,9,11; Romans 11:5; Romans 9:15,23; Psalm 103:11; 1 Peter 1:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Jonah 2:9.

L-  Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption

Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, therefore guaranteeing their salvation.

Scripture references: Acts 20:28; John 3:14+15; Galatians 1:4+5; Revelation 13:8; John 6:38+39; John 17:9,10+24; John 10:11; 1 Peter 2:21; Romans 5:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Romans 8:33+34; Luke 1:68; Revelation 5:9; Isaiah 53:11.

I-  Irresistible Grace  or The Efficacious Call of the Spirit

When the gospel is preached, an invitation is issued by the Lord to all people to come to him for salvation. However, as the first article clearly states, the natural state of all people renders them incapable of responding to this invitation, except to reject it. So when God calls an elect sinner to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, he does so by sending his Holy Spirit to work a great change in that sinner’s heart, enabling them to see their sin and their need of a saviour and leading them to put their faith in Christ alone for salvation. The Lord, by his Spirit, irresistably draws his elect to himself, raising them to spiritual life and making them willing to trust in Jesus.

Scripture references: Matthew 11:28-30; John 6:37; Matthew 23:37; John 5:40; Ephesians 1:12,19; Ezekiel 11:19+20; Psalm 110:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

P- Perseverance of the Saints

Once God has saved elect sinners, he continues to keep and preserve them by his power and grace and will never let them go. Thus, they persevere to the end and can never be lost. This doctrine is not  to be taken as a license to go on sinning, as if the believer is free to act in any way he chooses now that he is eternally secure in Christ Jesus. The true believer will show signs of a growing desire for holiness and an increasing loathing of sin. The one who attempts to use the grace of God as an excuse for sinful living is in all probability not a true believer, for where there is spiritual life, the fruit of the Spirit will become evident.

Scripture references: 1 Peter 1:5; James 4:6; Philippians 1:6+19; John 6:39; John 10:28+29; Romans 8:38+39; Romans 8:8; Galatians 5:13-26

In Conclusion Think this through:

1. Classic Arminianism• One must persevere in faith to be saved.
• True believers can lose their faith….
• Those dying without faith in Christ are condemned.
“The believer who loses his faith is damned.”

2. Antinomianism• One need not persevere in faith to be saved.
• True believers can lose their faith.
• Those who lose their faith are saved, since they once believed.
“The believer who loses his faith is saved.”

3. Classic Calvinism• One must persevere in faith to be saved.
• True believers cannot lose their faith, since it’s God’s gift.
• Those dying without faith in Christ are condemned.
• Those who “lose” their faith never had it to begin with.
• God will preserve true believers and they will be saved.

“The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.”—C. H. Spurgeon


15 responses to “A Dummy’s Guide to Calvinism

  1. Eddie Eddings May 16, 2010 at 06:08

    Very effective summarization. Wish this was in print in tract form. I would love to have a thousand of these to give out.

    • Acidri May 16, 2010 at 11:45

      Good to hear from you Eddie. I do love your blog and would like to let you know that your articles and cartoons have always made me double up in laughter. But more still you are always in my prayers. God bless.

  2. Eddie Eddings May 16, 2010 at 19:11

    Thank you VERY much for that. I really love what you’re doing here. Very nice. If I can invent an award of some kind, I will give you one!

  3. Cliff Parsons May 20, 2010 at 12:05

    So refreshing to come across a website that is not Arminian (giving glory to man for his salvation or making man his own saviour) but is Calvinistic (giving glory to God for the salvation which he freely bestows on the objects of his eternal love).

  4. Paul May 31, 2010 at 02:03

    Good Article.. But just wanted to let you know that its “Jacob Arminius” and not “James Arminius” from whom the term Arminianism sprang

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  7. Ann-Elise Stephenson December 23, 2010 at 20:25

    Great summation of such an important and misunderstood Bible truth. Thanks.

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  10. Andrew March 3, 2020 at 19:57

    Friend, your comment, ‘if God can’t control every event He can’t control any event’, comes directly from your fabricated imagination, not from scripture. Your use of such broad, unfounded generalizations clearly indictes the lack of scholarship in all areas of such investigations. You refute your own theological credibility. I doubt this will make it to your site. Have a nice eternity… at the back of the line.

  11. andrewoz100 March 4, 2020 at 06:12

    Friend, The ‘L’ ,limited attonement, places the origins of such limitations directly on God. He becomes the one, according to this heresy, who is then ultimately respossible for the ‘limited’ attonement of mankind since He Himself is said to have established such limits. 2.) If He then has placed these limit, the ‘unelect’ have no say in their eternal destiny to damnation. 3. If they have no say, they cannot be held accountable before a just God for that eternal punishment. God then becomes accountable for that decision. … 4.) Your doctrine therefore makes God accountable for their eternal destiny of unredeemable damnation and suffering. 5.) Is this then the grand parade of God’s grace to touted by Calvinist dogma? It is, instead, a mockery of God’s grace. … May I echo the warning of the Apostle James? ” Let not many of you become teachers my brethren knowing that as such we SHALL incur a stricter judgement.” (james 3:1) The teachings of these Calinist heresies, though many, will all be judged before the Lord. Have a great eternity… at the end of the line.

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