Monday, February 27, 2017

What is Calvinism?

The term Calvinism honors the contributions of John Calvin (1509-1564), who wrote one of the most important theology books to come out of the Reformation, Institutes of the Christian Religion, which has impacted nearly every denomination of Christianity.  Calvinists believe that God has planned and guaranteed, for his own glory and before time began, all that will come to pass, including the salvation of all those who will believe in him.

Some object to the famous Five Points of Calvinism, sometimes known as the Doctrines of Grace. You can learn more about those who object to Calvinism here. Of course, Calvinism is much more than five points, but history has spotlighted these:
  1. Human beings are completely and entirely to blame for the sinful condition that separates them from God. This condition affects their entire being, so that they are totally unable to choose God by their own power. Since they are dead in their trespasses and sins, they cannot do anything to save themselves. 
  2. God chose people to save from this dead and helpless condition. He did not have to choose anyone--he could leave them to their sin and punishment--but he chose some anyway.  He did the choosing because they cannot. 
  3. God sent Jesus to die for those he chose, by which he covered all their sins. Christ did not die just to make salvation possible for everyone; he died to make it absolutely certain for those he chose. This means that no one for whom Christ died will ever go to hell.  The most controversial implication of this is that Christ did not die for everyone in the exact same way.  
  4. All those God chose will definitely come to Jesus. He will lose none of them. God will not let anyone he chose die in their trespasses and sins.  
  5. All those God chose will continue in their faith until the day they die.  They might have ups and downs, but in the end they will never fall away from their faith. Those who do were never truly saved in the first place.   
These five points are often remembered using letters that spell the word TULIP:  Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints.

Can you hear in these Five Points why they are sometimes referred to as the Doctrines of Grace?  If everyone deserves condemnation, and God doesn't have to save anyone, but he does anyway through the gift of Christ, what else would you call that but grace? 

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