Calvinistic Theology ~ Part 2
In my last post, we began to explore the basic tenets of Calvinistic Theology as well as its spread and affirmation to the faithful. In my next post, we will begin to explore the Five Points of Calvinism and the Doctrinal Affirmations of Calvinistic Theology. In order to ensure that I present the material on this topic and Arminian Theology without any preconceived bias, I have elected to utilize “The Moody Handbook of Theology” by Paul Enns as my source document.
Five Points of Calvinism
Calvin did not author the so-called “five points of Calvinism.” They originated at the Synod of Dort (1619) and are also a result of affirming the uniqueness of Calvinism over the centuries since. God as sovereign was central in the theology of Calvin, and that is reflected in the five points. The five points emphasize God in His sovereignty and grace but also man in his depravity and sin. The five points are popularly named: Total Depravity; Unconditional Election; Limited Atonement; Irresistible Grace; and Perseverance of the Saints. (Theologians have nicknamed these points T.U.L.I.P., a popular acronym based on the first letters of the doctrines.)
These five concepts are arranged logically and are contingent upon one another. If man is totally depraved, then he is unable to make an initial response to God; God must call man to salvation through unconditional election. God also makes provision for those whom He calls to salvation by the death of Jesus; He secures their salvation by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit and keeps them secure in order that they might receive the eternal life He has promised them. The accompanying table and the discussion that follows will give a more detailed explanation.
Doctrinal Affirmations of Calvinistic Theology
The following discussion will affirm the major tenets of Calvinism as it is generally taught today. There are also statements about John Calvin’s doctrinal teachings. It is recognized, however, that Calvinism has undergone some modifications over the centuries. The views that are presented are those generally held by Calvinists today and are taken from Calvinistic works.
FIVE POINTS OF CALVINISM
|Total Depravity||As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all humanity is dead in trespasses and sin. Man is unable to save himself.|
|Unconditional Election||Because man is dead in sin, he is unable to initiate response to God; therefore, in eternity past God elected certain people to salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not based on man’s response.|
|Limited Atonement||Because God determined that certain ones should be saved as a result of God’s unconditional election, He determined that Jesus should die for the elect. All whom God has elected and Jesus died for will be saved.|
|Irresistible Grace||Those whom God elected and Jesus died for, God draws to Himself through irresistible grace. God makes man willing to come to Him. When God calls, man responds.|
|Perseverance of the Saints||The precise ones God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure.|
The purpose of this study is simply to summarize the essential distinctives that set Calvinism apart from Arminianism and from other doctrinal systems.
Sovereignty of God
Foundational to the entire system of Calvinism is the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. “Calvinism asserts that the sovereignty of God is supreme; that He has absolute and undisputable authority over all creation, that nothing can lie outside of or be viewed as not being subject to the sovereignty of His will, that He is not only the Creator and Upholder but the Disposer of all events from the beginning of time to its close.” Calvin himself taught that God’s providence is manifested in three ways:
- God sustains all creation in its being ~ apart from Him it would be dissolved;
- God daily bestows life and ability to all things as it pleases Him ~ apart from Him nothing could have life and existence; and,
- God guides all things to their appointed end.
Calvin further taught that even though God sustains and guides the whole world and every individual, His providential care is particularly focused on the church, where He manifests His divine purposes. Calvin maintained, however, that divine sovereignty does not impair man’s responsibility. God imbued man with reason and with a will, and people are held responsible for their decisions. On the other hand, man’s responsibility does not dethrone God from His sovereignty. God does not simply wait to see what man’s decision will be before He moves to action; rather, God subdues the actions and decisions of men to accomplish His purpose. In a word, God is not governed by any circumstances outside of Himself, but only by His own good pleasure. God thereby determines the result of all people, events, and things.
The result of God’s sovereignty is that His purpose will be achieved. Nothing can thwart His plan; history will be worked out according to the predetermined will of God.
Calvin defined predestination as follows: “Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which he hath determined in himself what he would have to become of every individual of mankind…eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or to death.”
Predestination has both a wider and a narrower aspect. In its wider aspect it emphasizes that God has foreordained whatever comes to pass, based on Ephesians 1:11. From eternity past God has determined the events of history. The narrower aspect of predestination is personal; it means that from eternity past God has elected (or chosen) some to salvation while allowing remaining members of humanity to go their own way. This latter doctrine is known as reprobation (Romans 9:16-19). Although they deserved nothing and had no merit in themselves, God chose some to salvation; God also passed over some, condemning them to eternal punishment for their sins. Calvin called this a “horrible” doctrine but insisted that the Scripture clearly teaches it and that the doctrine could not be avoided.
The word predestinate (Gk. prooridzo) means “to mark out beforehand” (see Ephesians 1:5, 11; Romans 8:29; Acts 4:28; 1 Corinthians 2:7), On this basis Calvinists teach that God, in the act of predestination, elected certain ones to salvation. Election itself is based on the term call (Gk. kaleo), which means “to call out from among.” It suggests the sovereign work of God in choosing some people for salvation out from among the masses of humanity. The many references to call in the New Testament emphasize God’s sovereign call to salvation (e.g., Romans 1:1; 8:28, 30; 9:11;1 Corinthians 1:1, 2).
As indicated earlier, there are close relationships among the essential doctrines of the Calvinistic system. Calvinists insist that election and predestination are necessary because of man’s fall. If man is dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), then it is necessary for God to initiate salvation. If God had not marked out some to salvation, no one could have been saved. Man in his depraved state is utterly unable to make a move toward God.
In my next post, we will continue in our exploration of Calvinistic Theology by digging deeper into the essence of T.U.L.I.P.