What Calvinists Believe, and What We Do Not

In no way is this a full-fledged defense of the Doctrines of Grace, but a rather a look into what Reformed Theology is about, and what it is not.

Our ultimate allegiance is not to Calvin, but to the Bible

Protestant Reformer John Calvin had some pretty awesome things to say. He had a brilliant mind, loved the things of God, and desired to be true to the Scriptures. However, even the most devout Presbyterians will point out the faults of both Calvin’s life and minor parts of his theological statements. After all, he was a sinner saved by the grace of God, too.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

— Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV)

The ideas of Predestination, Election, and God’s Irresistible Grace fill the pages of Scripture, and this particular interpretation, albeit the most consistent, dates back to the writings of early Church father Augustine, and arguably Paul the Apostle.

We love the Bible in its entirety

The main reason that we can get a little crazy when it comes to doctrinal matters is because we absolutely treasure God’s Word. We seek to read it from cover to cover, with the mindset of “Scripture interprets Scripture”, and Scripture shows us time and time again that we are wretched, degenerate people who need a merciful God to resuscitate us back to life.

From the laws of God, to the fulfillment of them in the obedience of Christ, from the grace shown in the Father’s giving of a people to Christ to atone for, to the Holy Spirit’s regenerating application of His grace to us, we love and cherish the full counsel of God.

We are not fatalists, but we realize God’s sovereignty is of the utmost importance

While we firmly believe in God’s total sovereignty in all things, we are not determinists, nor are we fatalists. It is a common misconception that Calvinists believe in a robotic people who make no choices and have no responsibility. We absolutely see man’s responsibility to be of the utmost importance, but us believers coming to the faith is merely a response to the regenerating work of the Spirit already effected in us.

You may have heard the analogy for salvation as such, “it’s like you’re drowning and dying, but God throws you a life preserver; all you have to do is take it.” Let me perhaps give you a better, more Scripturally accurate analogy. It’s like you’ve already drowned, and you’re dead. Not dying. You’re dead, and throwing a life preserver for you to catch is pointless, because you’re dead. God pulls you out and brings you back to life, and you did nothing but the sin that got you dead in the water.

“You were dead in the trespasses and sins… But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved… For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

— Ephesians 2:1, 4-5, 8-9 (ESV)

How much more so can you be confident in your salvation, if it wasn’t dependent on you in the first place?

Charles H. Spurgeon, British preacher nicknamed “Prince of Preachers”

We do not get to be lazy in evangelism

Perhaps some of the greatest evangelists you have ever known have been full-blown Calvinists, such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, John Stott and in modern-day, John Piper. Perhaps this names don’t mean much to you, but this next one probably does: Charles Spurgeon. If you’re a Baptist, chances are this guy is your quotation bread and butter. There’s a twist though! He was a Calvinist!

“But if God already elected those who would be saved, what is the point in evangelizing?” Simple, God commands us to, so we should desire to obey Him. We don’t know who God has set forth to display His mercy on, we are just called to proclaim the Gospel. Also, God not only determines the ends of salvation, but also the means. The means is working through us.

We do not think Christ’s atonement is insufficient for everyone

One of the hardest questions we can ever ask is “for whom did Christ die?” You’ve heard both sides misrepresented when it comes to this debate, but it comes down to the question that has to be asked afterwards, “did Christ die to save men, or to make men savable?”

If Christ died to make men simply savable, then no real work was done on the cross. Jesus only opened up an opportunity for people, but didn’t really accomplish anything or actually save anyone. Jesus’ crucifixion was merely a window of opportunity.

If Christ truly died for a specific people given to Him by the Father, He actually set forth salvation on that very cross. Sin was actually defeated, death was really overcome, and Jesus really meant it when He said “It is finished”. This wasn’t just some window of opportunity, it was the apex of the God’s master rescue mission.

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

— John 6:37-40 (ESV)

God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, Sovereign king of the universe. So why couldn’t He just elect and redeem all of mankind. I’ll warn you now, it’s a tough one to swallow, but it is what God’s Word says. Read Romans 9.

We do love sinners, as we were once dead in sin and enemies of God, but once and for all, He reconciled us in His body of flesh by His death, and we seek nothing but to praise Him.

Recommended Resources

Sermons and Messages
God Saves” by Matt Chandler
What is Reformed Theology?” teaching series by R.C. Sproul
For Whom Did Christ Die?” by R.C. Sproul
Why I am a Calvinist” teaching series by John MacArthur

Free eBooks
Five Points Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace” by John Piper
Does God Control Everything?” by R.C. Sproul
What is Faith?” by R.C. Sproul

The Potter’s Freedom” by James White
Chosen by God” by R.C. Sproul
For Calvinism” by Michael Horton


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