Friday, November 23, 2018

Calvinism in a nutshell

Sometimes when I talk to people in on line forums, I'll mention that I'm a Calvinist, and somebody will ask, "What's a Calvinist?" or "What is Calvinism?" Instead of explaining it over and over again, I thought I'd just leave this here for a quick reference so I can just find it and cut and paste from it whenever I need to. I'm lazy that way.

See also my post on "One point Calvinism."

Calvinism is a theological point of view that came out of the protestant reformation. Essentially, it boils down to the absolute sovereignty of God, especially when it comes to the subject of salvation. Calvinism is typically summarized by five points which all derive from the one principle of the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation. Here are the five points of Calvinism:

  • Total depravity--This is the view that apart from God's intervention, people have an inability to come to Christ for salvation. Our desires, character, hearts, etc. are in such a fallen state that we would never go to Christ for salvation willingly unless God changed us.
  • Unconditional election--This is the view that out of all the people who have existed, God elects some of them for salvation, and he does so purely for his own good pleasure and not because of anything any of them did to deserve it.
  • Limited atonement--This is the view that God only intended Christ's death on the cross to atone for the sins of those God elected to receive salvation. Most Calvinists prefer to call this "particular atonement" rather than "limited atonement" since even non-Calvinists limit the atonement in one way or another.
  • Irresistible grace--This is the idea that when God bestows his grace on his elect, those people will come to Christ for salvation. Having their hearts changed, they will not be able to resist the draw. In other words, they are unable to reject Christ.
  • Preservation of the saints--This is the view that all of those who God has caused to embrace Christ will continue to embrace Christ until they die. Of course they can backslide from time to time, but the over all effect is that they will remain in Christ.
There are some additional points that typically go along with Calvinist theology called "the five solas":
  • Sola scripture: This is the view that the Bible alone is God's infallible source of theological truth. This is not a denial that God can reveal things through prophets, though some Calvinists interpret it that way. Rather, it's the view that the Bible alone is the rule of faith for the Christian church. So any other supposed authority, whether a person claims it came from God or not, should be scrutinized in light of its consistency with scripture. Scripture is the ultimate test of theological truths.
  • Sola Fide: This is the view that it is through faith alone that we are justified. In other words, our good deeds do not contribute to our justification.
  • Sola gratia: This is the view that we are saved by the grace of God alone. In other words, salvation is a gift from God that is not based on any merit of our own.
  • Sola Christus: This is the view that Christ alone is our savior. This is something almost all Christians believe.
  • Soli Deo Gloria: This is the idea that God alone is glorified in salvation. The reason for it is because salvation is totally and completely the work of God alone. He gets the glory because he accomplishes it. Calvinists are monergists, as opposed to synergists. That means salvation isn't a cooperative effort between man and God where man does his part and God does his part; rather, God does it all. God takes people who are dead in sins and unable to repent or come to Christ for salvation, and he heals them, draws them to himself, and justifies them, giving them salvation, and he does it all for his glory.

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