Calvinism is one of the more controversial religious philosophies of our time. It has been debated more than any other religious topic since the Reformation. And now, after infecting all the various Protestant denominations, Calvinism is creeping into independent, fundamental, KJV only, Bible-believing churches. This is of grave concern to me.
I have personal experience with and understanding of Calvinism’s attraction and appeal. Because I remained a nominal Christian during the first several years after my salvation, I was an easy target for the teachings of Calvinism. I attended conferences and met some of Calvinism’s strongest defenders. I taught Bible in a Calvinistic high school and was a deacon in its church. I researched, completed, and defended my doctrinal dissertation on the Calvinistic doctrine of Divine Election at a seminary that, ironically, was not Calvinistic in its theology.
Despite all that influence and my personal investment in the philosophy, something continually bothered me; parts of Calvinism did not agree with the biblical image of the God that I knew from scripture. Scripture reveals that He is all-loving and all-just, so how could that all-loving and all-just God create human beings with the purpose of condemning them to hell before they were even born? I just could not accept that He would do that.
Some of you may not have a complete understanding of Calvinism’s Five Points or even have any understanding of it at all. Please allow me to briefly explain Calvinism’s Five Points. The acronym “TULIP” is used to describe them.
The first point is Total Depravity. Calvinists believe that men are so dead in the trespasses of sin that they are spiritually unable to freely accept Christ on their own. They claim that God must directly intervene to save some men. Another name for Total Depravity is Total Inability.
The second point is Unconditional Election. Calvinists teach that God elected/chose, some men to be saved before the foundation of the world. Nothing that these elected men, or for that matter, those non-elected men could do would change their destiny. This is called God’s sovereign decree of Predestination. Calvinists claim that God uses Predestination to save some men because men, due to their Total Depravity, are unable to choose Christ on their own to get saved.
The third point is Limited Atonement. This claims that Jesus’ death on the cross only atoned for the sins of the elect. Calvinists profess that Christ did not atone for the non-elect because they are unable to change their destiny.
The fourth point is Irresistible Grace. This states that the Holy Spirit’s grace forcibly overpowers a sinner’s depraved will and regenerates him. This regeneration provides faith to repent and accept Christ. Calvinists claim that regeneration must occur before faith can be acquired because men, due to their Total Depravity, are unable to repent or have faith on their own to accept Christ.
The fifth point is Perseverance of the Saints. This teaches that the elect will persevere in the faith, never fall away, and will inevitably die in a state of grace. Calvinists claim that God’s sovereign decree of Predestination makes this happen.
As you read about my journey into Calvinism and these definitions, I trust that the Holy Spirit moved you as He did me to understand this religious philosophy. I began to actively seek answers because my spirit was troubled. I pray that you will, too.
In the next part of this article, I will share with you some of what the Lord showed and taught me. This caused my path to grow from troubling and confusing to brightly lit and clearly marked.
Dr. Tom Johnson is the high school Bible teacher at Gospel Light Christian School
|The Other Side of Calvinism, Revised Edition|
By Laurence M. Vance