Friday, May 25, 2007

One point Calvinism

As most of you know, I'm a Calvinist. Traditionally, there have been five points that define what Calvinism is--total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistable grace, and preserverance of the saints. Some people call themselves four-point Calvinists because they reject limited atonement. The five-pointers call those people "inconsistent Arminians."

Although I believe in all five points of Calivinism, I prefer to call myself a one-point Calvinist. The reason is because basically Calvinism all boils down to one point--the sovereignty of God in salvation. In other words, whether a person is saved or not is entirely up to God. Now granted, we have to embrace the gospel to be saved; however, the reason anybody ever embraces the gospel to begin with is because God chose them. So regardless of what decision we make regarding Jesus, that decision is ultimately determined by God.

All five points follow from this one point. If God decides who will come to faith in Christ and be saved, then nobody can come to Christ unless God enables him to. We are in such a state of rebellion against God that we are unable to come to Christ apart from God's enablement. That's total depravity.

If salvation is totally up to God, then it must be unconditional. If it were conditioned on our own choices or something about us that God had no control over, then it wouldn't be totally up to God. So God's election must be unconditional.

If God intended to save a specific people and not others, and if he sent Jesus to die to save those people, then he must've only intended Jesus' atonement to be for those he had chosen. That's limited (or particular) atonement. The atonement is limited to a particular group of people--those God intended to save.

If salvation is ultimately up to God, then the decision is entirely his. If the decision is entirely his, then those he decides will come to Jesus will come to Jesus. It's a necessity. Salvation is by the grace of God. In other words, we don't earn it. God gives it freely. That means the grace is irresistable to those God has chosen. If God chooses to bestow his grace on somebody by saving them, then that person will be saved. They can't resist it.

If our salvation is completely determined by God, then those God has chosen to be saved cannot lose their salvation. That's because God can't fail to save anybody he intends to save. That's preserverance of the saints.

So basically what it all boils down to is that God is completely sovereign in our salvation. It's all up to him. That's why I prefer to think of myself as a one-point Calvinist. It simplifies things.

Stay tuned. I have more to say on this subject...
Why is it that some believe and some don't, part 1


Paul said...

Here's a question I find interesting. According to the Calvinist position, Jesus' work on the cross actually pays for the sins of the elect rather than just having a certain general value that some may take advantage of if they freely choose to. So, if Jesus has paid for your sin but you don't yet believe, is it really necessary for the Holy Spirit to bring you to faith in order to be saved from the judgment? Is having faith technically required or is it just a blessing that God bestows on the redeemed?

Sam Harper said...


That's a good question. In Calvinism, God does both--provides the atonement and draws the person, causing them to place their faith in Christ. But what if, hypothetically, Christ died for somebody and God didn't draw them. Would they still be saved? I don't know. Since that isn't the reality, it's hard to say. My guess would be that, yes, he still saves them.

But the difficulty is that, in a sense, we are saved through faith. So faith has something to do with us being saved. Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith. Are we declared righteous because of our faith or because of substitutionary atonement?

Another question I've always had but haven't really delved too deeply into is the different ways atonement is characterized in the New Testament. On the one hand, Jesus died for our sins. He paid for them. On the other hand, we are forgiven. It seems to me, that if your debt is paid, there's no longer anything to forgive. To forgive is to cancel a debt, but our debt wasn't really cancelled so much as it was paid.