John Calvin

The Five Points of Calvinism

This system of theology was reaffirmed by the Synod of Dordt in 1619 as the doctrine of salvation contained in the Holy Scriptures. The system was at that time formulated into "five points" in answer to the unscriptural five points submitted by the Arminians to the Church of Holland in 1610.

According to Calvinism:

Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the triune God. The Father chose a people, the Son died for them, the Holy Spirit makes Christ's death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the Gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.

The Five Points of Calvinism are easily remembered by the acrostic TULIP
An Estimate of:
   • Calvin's Character - A must read!
   • Calvin's Work 
   • The Closing Scenes of Calvin's Life
   • The Will of John Calvin
   • Calvin's Commentaries


Total Depravity (Total Inability)

Total Depravity is probably the most misunderstood tenet of Calvinism. When Calvinists speak of humans as "totally depraved," they are making an extensive, rather than an intensive statement. The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality -- his thinking, his emotions, and his will. Not necessarily that he is intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to his entire being.

The unregenerate (unsaved) man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11f). This is why Total Depravity has also been called "Total Inability." The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God's making him alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5).


Unconditional Election

Unconditional Election is the doctrine which states that God chose those whom he was pleased to bring to a knowledge of himself, not based upon any merit shown by the object of his grace and not based upon his looking forward to discover who would "accept" the offer of the gospel. God has elected, based solely upon the counsel of his own will, some for glory and others for damnation (Romans 9:15,21). He has done this act before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4-8).

This doctrine does not rule out, however, man's responsibility to believe in the redeeming work of God the Son (John 3:16-18). Scripture presents a tension between God's sovereignty in salvation, and man's responsibility to believe which it does not try to resolve. Both are true -- to deny man's responsibility is to affirm an unbiblical hyper-calvinism; to deny God's sovereignty is to affirm an unbiblical Arminianism.

The elect are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). Thus, though good works will never bridge the gulf between man and God that was formed in the Fall, good works are a result of God's saving grace. This is what Peter means when he admonishes the Christian reader to make his "calling" and "election" sure (2 Peter 1:10). Bearing the fruit of good works is an indication that God has sown seeds of grace in fertile soil.


Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)

Limited Atonement is a doctrine offered in answer to the question, "for whose sins did Christ atone?" The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9). Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28). Specifically, Christ died for the invisible Church -- the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name "Christian" (Ephesians 5:25).

This doctrine often finds many objections, mostly from those who think that Limited Atonement does damage to evangelism. We have already seen that Christ will not lose any that the father has given to him (John 6:37). Christ's death was not a death of potential atonement for all people. Believing that Jesus' death was a potential, symbolic atonement for anyone who might possibly, in the future, accept him trivializes Christ's act of atonement. Christ died to atone for specific sins of specific sinners. Christ died to make holy the church. He did not atone for all men, because obviously all men are not saved. Evangelism is actually lifted up in this doctrine, for the evangelist may tell his congregation that Christ died for sinners, and that he will not lose any of those for whom he died!


Irresistible Grace

The result of God's Irresistible Grace is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit, when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ, himself, teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37). Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the very Spirit of God leads God's beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14). What a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard, sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit (I Peter 5:10)!


Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints is a doctrine which states that the saints (those whom God has saved) will remain in God's hand until they are glorified and brought to abide with him in heaven. Romans 8:28-39 makes it clear that when a person truly has been regenerated by God, he will remain in God's stead. The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Phil. 1:6). Christ assures the elect that he will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the "last day" (John 6:39). The Calvinist stands upon the Word of God and trusts in Christ's promise that he will perfectly fulfill the will of the Father in saving all the elect.

This description of the Five Points of Calvinism was written by Jonathan Barlow who acknowledges that not all those bearing the name "Calvinist" would agree with every jot and tittle of this document.

More Articles Defending/Explaining Calvinism

A Response to Free Will by Scott Bushey

The Institutes of the Christian Religion
By John Calvin - Translated by: Henry Beveridge

Perspectives on Predestination
by Rev. Barry Hofstetter
This is a sermon preached by Rev. Hofstetter attempting to give a good perspective on what predestination is, what it is not, and what it is for.

A Survey or Table Declaring The Order of Salvation and Damnation
by William Perkins 1558-1602 [image 1.7 Meg]

The Reformed Faith
by Loraine Boettner

The Five Points of Calvinism
by R.L. Dabney
This is a defense of the five points of Calvinism by R.L. Dabney (1820-1898)

The Sovereignty of God
by A. W. Pink
This is the unabridged edition.

The Sovereignty of God
by Prof. John Murray
John Murray's penetrating article The Sovereignty of God, published years ago in tract form by the Committee on Christian Education (Fighting the Good Fight, p. 157) is now available on the OPC website.

A Defense of Calvinism
by C.H. Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a Reformed Baptist minister(37.6 K)
     • Attractively Formatted Version (offsite)

Arminian Errors
by Rev. William MacLean, M.A. From the tract, Another Gospel

Are There Two Wills in God? Divine Election and God's Desire for All to be Saved (Offsite)
by John Piper
This is a great article which appeared in a great two-volume refutation of Arminianism.

Reprobation Asserted - Or, The Doctrine Of Eternal Election And Reprobation Promiscuously Handled: In Eleven Chapters
by John Bunyon

For Whom Did Christ Die?
by John Owen
A tidbit of good ol' Puritan logic from the good doctor.

The Call of Christ
by Arthur Pink
To whom did Jesus address the following words? "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." - The answer may surprise you. (See also Studies on Saving Faith in our Books section)

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith
by B. B. Warfield
A nice, 24-point bullet list of Reformed (Calvinistic) distinctives.

The Stone Lectures on Calvinism
by: Dr Abraham Kuyper
Six Lectures Delivered at Princeton University, 1898 under the auspices of the L. P. Stone Foundation. Dr Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a Dutch Calvinist theologian, philosopher and politician. As leader of the Anti-Revolutionary Party in the Netherlands he served as Prime Minister of his country from 1901 to 1905.

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (PDF)
by Loraine Boettner

Infant Salvation - This article is excerpted from The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, by Loraine Boettner, Eleventh Printing, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, PA 1963 435 pages. This is Section 11. of chapter XI. Unconditional Election, and is subtitled, Infant Salvation.

Calvin's Commentaries:

"After the reading of Scripture, which I strenuously inculcate, and more than any other ... I recommend that the Commentaries of Calvin be read ... For I affirm that in the interpretation of the Scriptures Calvin is incomparable, and that his Commentaries are more to be valued than anything that is handed down to us in the writings of the Fathers -- so much that I concede to him a certain spirit of prophecy in which he stands distinguished above others, above most, indeed, above all"

-Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609)

These documents are located at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College.From the Calvin Translation Society edition
Genesis: 1-23, 24-50
Harmony of the Law: Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3, Vol 4
Psalms: 1-35, 36-66, 67-92, 93-119, 119-150
Isaiah: 1-16, 17-32, 33-48, 49-66
Jeremiah: 1-9, 10-19, 20-29, 30-47, 48-52
Ezekiel: 1-12, 13-20
Daniel: 1-6, 7-12
Harmony of the Gospels: Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3
John: 1-11, 12-21
Acts: 1-13, 14-28
1 Corinthians: 1-14, 15-16
2 Corinthians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John

These electronic texts of Calvin's Commentaries were prepared through the labor of volunteers for the OnLine Bible project and the Christian Classics Ethereal Library in conjunction with the good folks at Ages Software. Much work in programming and editing was done by Skip Gaede. The commentaries contain Greek and Hebrew words which are encoded with fonts in this zip file. Proper rendition of the documents requires that these fonts be installed on your system. These files are in the public domain; use them for any purpose.

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