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bullet "God preordained...a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation. " John Calvin

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What is Calvinism:

It is a series of theological beliefs first promoted by John Calvin (1509-1564), one of the leaders of the Protestant reformation. They were affirmed by the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619 CE) as being the doctrine of salvation which is contained in the Bible. It laid the foundation for Reformed Theology.

Calvinism is often summarized by The Five Points of Calvinism, which are easy to recall by using the acrostic "TULIP:"

bullet T: This usually stands for "Total depravity:" This is often mistaken to mean that humans are all hopelessly, intensely sinful. Actually, it means something quite different: as a result of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God -- the Fall of Man -- sin has extended to all parts of every person's being: "his thinking, his emotions and his will." 1

Sometimes, this has been called "Total inability." This is the concept that it is impossible for the ordinary "natural" human to understand the Gospel's message. They are spiritually helpless. First, God must first decide to intervene in the form of the third personality within the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, the person is lost forever.

bullet Romans 5:12: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (KJV)
bullet Mark 4:11: "And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables."
bullet U: This stands for "Unconditional Election." This is the concept of predestination: that God has divided humanity into two groups. One group is "the elected." It includes all those whom God has chosen to make knowledgeable about himself. The rest will remain ignorant of God, and the Gospel. They are damned and will spend eternity in Hell without any hope of mercy or cessation of the extreme tortures. God made this selection before the universe was created, and thus before any humans existed. The ground or grounds that God uses to select the lucky few is unknown. What is known is that it is not through any good works on the part of the individual. It is not that he extends knowledge to some in order to find out who will accept salvation and who will not.

There is a degree of tension within the Bible concerning precise division of responsibility between God and humans on this matter. The Bible does not resolve this issue.
bullet Hyper-Calvinists believe that a person has zero responsibility for their own salvation; it is all up to God.
bullet Arminians teach that humans have free will and thus can accept or resist the call of God.

bullet Romans 9:15: "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."
bullet Romans 9:21: "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?"

bullet L: This stands for "Limited atonement" or "Particular Redemption." This is the belief that Jesus did not die to save all humans. He only died for the sake of specific sins of those sinners who are saved.

bullet Matthew 26:28: "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."
bullet Ephesians 5:25: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it."

bullet I: This stands for "Irresistible Grace:"  This is the belief that every human whom God has elected will inevitably come to a knowledge of God. The elect cannot resist the call.

bullet John 6:44: "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."
bullet Romans 8:14: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
bullet 1 Peter 5:10: "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."

bullet P: This stands for "Perseverance of the saints:" This is the "Once saved, always saved" belief -- that  everyone who has  been saved will remain in that state. God will begin and continue a process of sanctification which will continue until they reach heaven. None are lost; it is impossible for them to lose their salvation.

bullet Philippians 1:6: "That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ."
bullet Romans 8:28-39: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified....Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
bullet John 6:39: "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day."

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Objections to Calvinism:

There are many conflicting belief systems within Christianity which are opposed to Calvinism:

bullet Universalism: This term has many meanings. Today's most common meaning is that all individuals will eventually attain Heaven. None will be lost forever in Hell. Whether or not they have been saved during their lifetime is unimportant; the number and degree of sins that they have committed is also of no consequence.
bullet Arminiansm: This is comprised of a series of beliefs which were first advocated by a break-away group of Dutch Calvinists. They teach beliefs that deviate significantly from each of The Five Points of Calvinism:
bullet That each person is not spiritually helpless. She/he has free will and can choose to be saved
bullet God selected the Elect on the basis of his foreknowledge of who would respond and be saved.
bullet Jesus died so that everyone had a chance to be saved. But first, the person must choose to accept salvation.
bullet Man has free will and thus can resist the call of God.
bullet Arminians differ on whether a person can lose their salvation or not. 2
bullet Some religious liberals There is little unanimity of belief among this group, Many conservative Christians would call them non-Christians or pseudo-Christians. Liberals place little emphasis on the doctrines of salvation and Hell. Some believe:
bullet It would be irrational for God to create the universe, the Earth and humans, and have predestined almost all of people to spend eternity being tortured in Hell.
bullet The concept that, because of a single act performed by Adam and Eve, some 240 generations (6,000 years) ago, every human is now intrinsically sinful, is irrational.
bullet Supporters of Calvinism believe that individuals are sent to Hell because of their beliefs: i.e. they have not trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior who died for their sins. There are countries of this world who incarcerate and even torture people for their beliefs. But they are considered pariah nations. The best of humanity considers it immoral to imprison or punish people because of thought crimes.
bullet They believe that people have free will. We are quite capable of resisting a call by God.
bullet Calvinism asserts that God does not select some people to be the elect on the basis of any virtuous quality or positive act. Rather it is outside of one's power to become a part of the elect.

If a person chose to reward individuals on the basis of race, then we would call that person a racist. If they chose on the basis of gender, we would call him/her sexist. If the choice was made on the basis of sexual orientation, she/he would be called homophobic. Modern ethics condemn sexism and racism; many liberals consider homophobia equally unethical. We don't know the criteria that God chooses. But it would appear to be immoral by today's religious and secular ethical standards.
bullet Some religious conservatives who are not Calvinists also object to Calvinism. Feelings run high on this topic. Reviewing a book by Dave Hunt: 3
bullet Well known Christian author Tim Lahaye said that "...Calvinism is perilously close to blasphemy."
bullet Joseph Chambers, a pastor, author and radio host wrote: "Calvinism makes our Heavenly Father look like the worst of despots"
bullet Elmer Towns, Dean of the School of Religious Liberty, said "Hunts' book exposes traditional Calvinism for portraying God in a totally unscriptural manner."
bullet Michael T calls, a book reviewer for refers to Calvinism as "A God-dishonoring scheme." He quotes A. M. Hills: "...Such is Calvinism, the most unreasonable, incongruous, self-contradictory, man-belittling and God-dishonoring scheme of theology that ever appeared in Christian thought. No one can accept its contradictory, mutually exclusive propositions without intellectual self-debasement.... It holds up a self-centered selfish, heartless, remorseless tyrant for God, and bids us worship Him."
bullet Some of the other reviews of Dave Hunt's book are also quite vitriolic. 3

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Books about Calvinism.

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  1. "Calvinism" Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics," at:
  2. "Arminianism and Calvinism," a comparison at:
  3. Dave Hunt, "What love is this: Calvinism's misrepresentation of God," Loyal, (2002). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  4. Dave Hunt, James White, "Debating Calvinism: Five points; two views," Multnomah, (2004). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store


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Copyright 2001 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-JUL-13
Latest update: 2016-SEP-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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