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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Bibliology: Doctrine of the Written Word | Main | Jesus Christ Fount of Every Blessing »

    The Five Points of Calvinism by Pastor John Samson

    The raging fire of the Protestant Reformation was sparked into flame by Martin Luther. A number of notable men opposed the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church before Luther did - men such as John Wycliffe (1329-1384), John Hus (1373-1415) and William Tyndale (c.1494 - 1536). Tyndale had a monumental role in translating the Bible for the English speaking world, and shared the same fate as Hus by being burnt at the stake. But certainly it was Luther who sparked the Reformation itself with his posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg on October 31, 1517.

    Following on from Luther, God raised up a Frenchman by the name of John Calvin to lead the growing Protestant movement. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin opposed the errors of the Roman Catholic Church concerning salvation, directing people to the truth of the Bible. Though definitely in agreement with the doctrine of justification by faith alone; John Calvin (based in Geneva, Switzerland) through both his preaching and his writings, systematically applied the message of the Bible to every aspect of life. Calvin's Institutes became the handbook of all the Reformers. Like Luther before him, Calvin believed in the Sovereignty of God. Concerning the doctrines of election and predestination, there was nothing in Calvin's writings and sermons that were not first found in Luther's. Yet Calvin also wanted society, as well as the church, to view the world through the lens of the Bible, so that the laws of the land were established upon biblical principles.

    These men were not only concerned with what the Scriptures taught, but that the common people had access to read the Bible in their own language. It would be a fair appraisal to see these men's earlier efforts (under God) as foundational to the sweeping changes throughout Europe that Luther and Calvin would bring. Wycliffe, Hus and Tyndale built the bonfire, so to speak, and Luther simply lit the match and held it to the wood! The result - most of Europe was set ablaze with the biblical doctrines of grace.

    As time passed, controversy ensued as a man by the name of Jacob Arminius began to raise strong objections to the teachings accepted amongst the Reformers. Arminius studied under the Calvinist teacher Theodore Beza at Geneva and became a professor of theology at the University of Leyden in 1603. Over time, his objections became stronger and stronger until they became a prominent issue amongst all the Church in Holland. The followers of Arminius, known as the Arminians, drew up their creed in Five Articles and outlined them before the state authorities of Holland in the year of 1610 under the name Remonstrance, signed by forty-six ministers. (These Five Articles can be read in Philip Schaff's, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3, pp. 545-547.)

    The official Calvinistic response emerged from the Synod of Dort (Dort is short for Dortrecht, the town in Holland where the Synod was held) which convened to consider the Five Articles raised by the Arminians. The Synod of Dort met from November 13, 1618 to May 9, 1619 and wrote what has come to be known as the Canons of Dort. They stated the Five Points of Calvinism in response to the Five Articles of the Arminian Remonstrants. This is a very important point to make because the so-called Five Points of Calvinism were not chosen by the Calvinists as a summary of their teaching. Calvin never wrote down his theology under five main points. There was far more to Reformed Theology than these doctrines. These five points were simply a response to the five Arminian objections.

    The Synod of Dort viewed the Arminian errors as extremely serious - a flat denial of the free grace of God in salvation, with God being robbed of His glory, and merely the first steps on a synergistic highway leading straight back to Rome. Therefore, the Synod classed the five Arminian doctrines as heretical, and many preachers in the Dutch Reformational Churches, holding to these ideas, were put out of the ministry.

    Knowing something of the history of the debate is helpful but it is far more important to know these doctrines are in fact biblical and at the heart of our Christian faith. They are not mere historical novelties - something in which only theologians and church historians should have an interest. These are biblical doctrines and they matter deeply. To ask why these things should be of interest to us is to ask the question, "Why is it important to understand what is at the heart of our Christain faith?" Where each of us stands on these five doctrines deeply affects our view of God, man, regeneration, salvation, assurance, the nature of the atoning work of Christ, worship, evangelism and missions. Somewhere along the way, at least for the English speaking world, the five points of Calvinism came to be summarized by the acrostic TULIP.

    T - Total depravity

    U - Unconditional election

    L - Limited atonement

    I - Irresistible grace

    P - Perseverance of the saints

    I was recently sent the following overview of the five points in an e-mail. I found it to be a very helpful, accurate and concise statement of the doctrines. I am not sure who the author is - perhaps someone could let me know, and I will be happy to give them credit for it.

    In this summary, the TULIP acrostic does not survive. TULIP is now changed to RUPEP, which obviously fails miserably as a memory device. Yet perhaps these terms (below) are better ones to use than the historical ones because they (the terms used in the TULIP) tend to be misleading. For instance, the "L" in the TULIP, which stands for Limited Atonement, could give the very false impression that Calvinists believe that Christ's work on the cross has only a limited value. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. I have met more than one person who struggled for years with the doctrine of Limited Atonement simply because they could not get past their understanding of what the term meant. However, once they did understand what was actually meant by the term, they began to see the concept was clearly demonstrated by the scripture. To avoid this kind of confusion, I believe that it is preferable to use a term which more precisely describes the doctrine concerned. Here then is the summary:

    RADICAL CORRUPTION - "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately wicked." (Jer. 17:9)

    Sinners are completely helpless to redeem themselves or to contribute anything meritorious toward their own salvation. Because of the Fall of man, the sinner is not morally neutral, but actually hostile towards God. He is, in fact, the sworn enemy of God. He is spiritually dead, and therefore blind and deaf to the things of God. 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. He cannot because he will not. Therefore it takes much more than the Spirit's assistance and wooing to bring a sinner to Christ - it takes a radical regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature - a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone. Faith is the evidence of the new birth, not the cause of it. Since both repentance and faith are possible only because of the regenerating work of God, both are called the gift of God. Gen 2:15-17; Ps 51:5, Jer 17:9; Jn 6:44; 8:34, 47; 10: 26; Rom 3:10-18, 5:12, 8:7, 8; 1 Cor 2:14, Eph 2:1-9; Ph 1:29; 2 Tim 2:25; Heb. 12:2; 1 Jn 5:1

    UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION - "... in order that God's purpose of election might stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls..." (Rom. 9:11).

    God's choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will, not being based on any foreseen response or obedience on man's part, such as repentance, faith, 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. God brings His elect 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. Jn 1:12, 13; Acts 11:18; 13:48; Rom 8:28-30; 9:6-21; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph 1:4-11; 2:1-10

    PARTICULAR REDEMPTION - "...you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." (Mt 1:21).

    "The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world. This death is of such infinite value and dignity because the person who submitted to it was not only really man and perfectly holy, but also the only-begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which qualifications were necessary to constitute Him a Savior for us; and, moreover, because it was attended with a sense of the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin." Canons of Dort - Second Head of Doctrine, Articles 3 and 4.

    The doctrine of Particular Redemption speaks of God's design in the atonement, and who it was He was intending to save when Christ went to the cross. Christ died as a substitute who bore the full weight of God's wrath on behalf of His people, paying the penalty for their sin. Christ intended to save His sheep and actually secured everything necessary for their salvation. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, thereby guaranteeing their salvation. Is 53:5-11; Mt 1:21; 20:28; Eph 5:2, 25-27; Tit 3:5-6, Jn 10:14-16, 26-30; 17:6-12; Acts 20:28; Rom 3:21-26; 5:12-21; 8:28-30; Heb 10:10-14; Rev 5:9-10; 7:9, 10

    EFFECTUAL CALLING - "...these whom He called, He also justified." (Rom. 8:30).

    In addition to the outward general call to salvation which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The external call (which is made to all without distinction) can be, and often is, rejected; whereas the internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected, it always results in conversion. By means of this special effectual call, the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man's will, nor is He dependent upon man's cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. Mt 22:14; 23:37-39; Jn 1:12-13; 3:1-8; 3:16; 6:44; Rom 8:28-30; Eph 2:1-6

    PRESERVATION OF THE SAINTS - "...these whom He justified, He also glorified." (Rom 8:30).

    God's saving purpose cannot be thwarted - none of Christ's true sheep will ever be lost. Though the elect may for a time fall into radical sin (such as Peter's denial of Christ), God restores them to fellowship with Himself, and assures their eternal salvation. This salvation involves the work of the Trinity - All who are chosen by God the Father, redeemed by Christ the Son, and given faith by the Holy Spirit, are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end. They persevere in faith because He preserves them. Jn 3:16; 6:35-40; 6:44; 10:27-29; Rom 8:28-39; Phil 1:6; 2:12-13; Eph 1:13-14; Jude 24-25

    Let me close with a couple of quotes from the prince of preachers, C. H. Spurgeon:

    "We believe in the five great points commonly known as Calvinistic; but we do not regard these five points as being barbed shafts which we are to thrust between the ribs of our fellow Christians. We look upon them as being five great lamps which help to irradiate the cross; or, rather, five bright emanations springing from the glorious covenant of our Triune God, and illustrating the great doctrine of Jesus crucified."

    "I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified unless we preach what is nowadays called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the Gospel and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the Gospel... unless we preach the sovereignty of God in his dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah. Nor do I think we can preach the Gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of his elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend the Gospel which allows saints to fall away after they are called."

    Posted by John Samson on January 5, 2006 11:12 PM

    Comments

    John,

    Thanks for this post. I am glad to have a good link to send to people who would be interested in knowing the absolute truth.

    There is one more problem that I am facing. I don't like to be referred as a Calvinist since I feel that the glory is going to the wrong person where as through out the bible God has always wanted and got His glory but if we start using the word Calvinism, don't you think a mortal is getting glory. I usually refer myself as a monergist or a tulipian. But people usually don't understand it until I say Calvinism.

    Just a thought.

    Thanks Abs.

    For some time, I too struggled with the idea of calling myself a Calvinist because the designation seemed to suggest the idea of someone being a devoted disciple of John Calvin. That never sat well with me, because I regard myself as a devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than Calvin. However, I found, just as you have been finding, that others had no idea what I was refering to when I used a different term.

    It would be wonderful if we could simply say, "I am a Bible believing follower of Jesus Christ." Yet sadly, this is far too vague in our day, because many in the cults would feel happy making that kind of statement. If we wish to relay to others exactly what we believe in a single phrase or statement (without necessarily going into a long theological treatise), we need to be a little more specific.

    I don't know of a Calvinist who is a strict follower of Calvin in the sense of "Calvin said it. I believe it. That settles it!" Calvinists are not followers of John Calvin in the Corinthian sense, where some declared themselves to be "of Paul," "of Peter" or "of Apollos," etc. There's no doubt that John Calvin had remarkable insights into Scripture. He was one of the best, if not the best exegete in Church history. However, I have yet to meet someone who would agree with every single statement Calvin made on every single subject. Calvin wrote a great deal, to put it mildly!

    In popular usage, when someone describes themselves as a Calvinist, it means that they adhere to the five points of Calvinism. I believe all of us would rather be called "Christian" than "Calvinist," but when asked if I hold to the doctrines espoused by Calvinism I certainly say "yes."

    To quote C. H. Spurgeon, "There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer — I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it." - A Defense of Calvinism

    Why I don't get is why can't I just call myself a Christian? Period? There is many different types of denominations and doctrines and yes I understand what ur saying about the cults. I was born into a charismatic family. Why God had me born into a Cathlic family instead, I don't know. I have always considered myself a Christian first and a charismatic second. I now as a matter of fact, go to a Southern Baptist church (with Abs.) because i want to go where I see the Lord working b/c I want to be apart of what the Lord is doing. My loyalty is not to a particular denomination, but to Christ, and Him only. If people ask me what kind of church background I have I am not ashamed to tell them. God, in His wisdom, knew exaclty what He was doing when I was born April 12, 1981. But if I don't adhere strictly to everyting on those five points, (am I am not saying I don't agree!) do u feel I am a Christian, truly? Do you believe only Calvinist adhering Christians will go to heaven?
    evie

    Evie,

    Where I am sure we'd all agree is that denominational affiliation is not really the issue regarding whether a person is truly saved, but where a person stands on the Gospel. Someone could be a member in the best of all churches (theologically) but may have not embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ for themselves. The issue then is "what exactly is a person trusting in for salvation?"

    To quote C. H. Spurgeon once more, "We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide, not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians, not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of the world. A man may be evidently of God's chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold that there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus."

    I think it would be a good discussion to ask the question, is Arminianism such a perversion of the Gospel that the Gospel is no longer present at all - and therefore all affirming Arminians are not saved, or is it merely a dangerous distortion of the Gospel? Perhaps other contributors might address this question.

    I would welcome everyone's comments on this important discussion.
    evie

    Obviously it's fine to simply go by "Christian," as opposed to "Calvinist," "Tulipian," "Rupepian," or what have you, since your religion centers on Christ alone.

    You don't need to be a Calvinist to be saved. You don't need to know a whole lot of things in order to call on the name of the Lord! In our church, all you need for membership is a credible profession of basic faith in the Gospel. But a good Christian wants to find out the things of the Lord, and will grow in one theological direction or another. Once you've got some ideas in your head, it's easier to be identified by a name like "Calvinist" than to sit down and explain every facet of your beliefs every time you introduce yourself. (Not that you must identify your theology everywhere you go!)

    There's also nothing wrong with showing loyalty to a denomination, insofar as the denomination honors Christ and is a true reflection of his Church. If your ultimate loyalty is to Christ alone, fine. But shouldn't there be some loyalty to His Church, then, because it is HIS Church? And if so, then the particular church or denomination that you're happy with (as a Bible-believing Christian) ought to get some of that loyalty.

    The same is true with the Church in a historical sense. If I sense that one tradition is more faithful to the Word of God than another, then my loyalty lies more with that tradition. If my elder brother in the faith, John Calvin, was one of the best churchmen in history, then he would have more respect from me than some others. I shouldn't be ashamed to call him my brother, or to say that my beliefs are in line with his. I can do this without sacrificing allegiance to Christ, because Calvin's allegiance was to Christ, and my loyalty remains to Christ through Calvinism.

    If I were to accept everything Calvin ever wrote simply because he wrote it, that would be wrong. He was a messed up sinner, too, and not all of his ideas were perfect. However, also being the great theologian that he was, his ideas at least deserve my looking into. And his ideas are ALWAYS checked against Scripture, to see if they are true. In this way, I feel like I can identify with the best theology of a fallible man who strived to be biblical at all times.

    I do not mind being called a Calvinist. I rather like the identification, and though I am not a worshiper of Calvin, I do find Calvin's exegesis rather edifying, truthful, and logical. Never in my Christian life have I ever seen God's sovereignty so clearly until I believed in the monergistic view of regeneration. In fact, not too long ago, I saw the mountains so clearly, since the pollution in the air was out of the way, and I thought, "Oh, Sovereign God, You are behind it all!" I now find myself noticing God's presence and being in awe.

    I've only been a Christian for a year and few months now, but I love to read the Word of God and I enjoy Christian theology, since theology is based on God, not on man. Anyway, I find that to be known as a Calvinist is a praiseworthy title. Never in my life have I ever been so eager to tell others of what I believe in, and I am not ashamed of what I know. I have taught two of my friends from church about Calvinism. One of them was very much in agreement with me when I brought up monergism and synergism one Sunday. Another friend of mine, she now believes the same thing that I and my friend believe in.

    I do know of some fellow church members who do not agree with what I believe in, and though I cannot force what I believe in onto others, it does make me feel a bit discouraged. Nevertheless, I am pleased to be known as a Calvinist! I wouldn't even mind being called an Augustinian, as a Calvinist would also be considered an Augustinian, since we hold much to Augustine's thought on soteriology.

    But that's just me. =)

    Have all you Calvinist received a memo from God telling you who will/will not be saved. Why do we read in 1 John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the begining (which we know by reading Genesis). For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. ( Paul stated that he acted out of ignorance and unbelief and surely that is our primary problem since the single act of disobedience committed by Eve and then Adam).
    Why would God have to send Christ again to reign for 1000 years when he could simply create a new heaven and fill it with creatures worthy of living in such a Eden. You all appear to be taking many bible passages out of context. Throughout both the Old and New Testament we read that Isreal is God's chosen nation and the Jews his elect, predestined etc whom he foreknew.
    Eziekel 18:21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. Verse 23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? These passages appear to imply that a man can turn from his wickness and live unless of course God has happened to tell a small fib just to conceal his real purpose.
    While we are on the subject of bible text rather than Calvins gospel how about 1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 1 Timothy 2:3-5 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will (not compel) have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. It was these passages that caused Spurgeon to reject hyper-Calvinim.
    As Jesus is the mediator it explains why he came to preach repentance which surely would have been a waste of time if God had ordained that some need not repent and he had made impossible for others to do so.
    All the above and many other bible passages would be a nonsense if God has already ordained who will/will not be saved. There would certanly be no need for the church, bible, preaching and the death of 150 million humans as a consequence of the crusades by the communist and Hitler.

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