Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I don’t like labels. One of the most notable labels in the Protestant church is Arminanism and Calvinism.But I don’t like labels many say; well that’s not the point. What we like or want is not what it’s all about. Whether we like it or not we all take a position doctrinally if we read Scripture. We become labeled. Protestants whether we like it or not live with the attachment of the two words above Arminian or Calvinist.

One of the most popular arguments for not being a Calvinist is "I don’t follow man". My doctrine is not man made. Following Calvin makes me a Calvinist. I am Bible that’s all. That’s it. This is a nonsensical statement. Interestingly, Arminians never claim to follow man but do in fact follow the doctrines of Arminius, James Arminius.

Also, it is more spiritual to be Arminian than Calvinistic. The reason is, it is more spiritual to choose God, to fight for God, and to keep following God on our own by our will. Calvinists who are less spiritual actually believe man cannot come to God of his own will, cannot follow God on his own, and that God helps man by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit giving man the power to do the will of God. And, Calvinists believe God preserves man until the end of his life. That it is by the power of God that man is brought into eternal life. This is considered by Arminians to be less than spiritual. Can it be imagined?

I have often heard the remark, I wouldn’t consider myself a Calvinist. I am just a Christian. There seems to be an embarrassment calling oneself a Calvinist. In the end, one cannot escape the fact that protestants are one or the other, Arminian or Calvinist(By the way, there are no 4-point Calvinists).

Now here is what it’s all about. In the year of 1618 the remonstrants (a strong expression of protest, a formal statement of grievances) were made by James Arminius a Dutch seminary professor and his followers. They insisted that the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism be changed to conform to the the Remonstrants. Now here it is, the five points of Arminiansm. This is how the five points of Calvinism originated.

The five points of Arminians are as follows:

1. God elects or reproves on the basis of foreseen faith or unbelief
2. Christ died for all men and for every man although only believers are saved.
3. Man is not so depraved that divine grace is necessary unto faith or any good deed.
4. Grace may be resisted
5. Those who believe and are truly saved can lose their salvation by failing to keep up their faith. (Some Arminians believe in eternal security)

The Synod of Dort in 1618 rejected the five points of the Armenians as heretical teaching. The remonstrants were rejected. The Synod of Dort reaffirmed a system of theology in response to the five points of Arminius submitted by the remonstrants and has been since known as the five points of Calvinism. John Calvin did not write the five points of Calvinism (John Calvin 1509-1564 note his date of birth and death). Fifty-four years after the death of John Calvin the five points of Calvinism come on the scene. So, don’t blame John Calvin for the five points of Calvinism. Usually this long after the death of a person, he is long forgotten. Evidently, a standard was set by the teaching of John Calvin among those refuting the remonstrants of Joseph Arminius.

The five points of Calvinism issued by the Synod of Dort in 1618 are as follows

1. Total depravity - The Sinner is spiritually dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free but is in bondage to his sinful nature.
2. Unconditional Election - God chose individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world. The complete choice was based upon God’s own sovereign will. The choice was not based upon foreseen faith or repentance but was a gift to those whom He selected. This glorious election was determined not by any condition or virtue in man but entirely upon the good pleasure of God’s grace.
3. Limited Atonement - Christ’s redeeming work was intended for the elect alone. The substitutionary work of Christ upon the cross endured the penalty for our sin.
4. Irresistible Grace - The Holy Spirit extends the call to the elect, a special work of grace that brings salvation. The Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ to be saved. The spirit is not dependent upon man’s response or cooperation at all.
5. Perseverance of the Saints - All those who are redeemed by Christ have been given faith by the power of God and thus preserve to the end.

J.I. Packer clarifies, "The difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content. One proclaims a God who saves, and the other speaks of God who enables man to save himself. Calvinism presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind. Election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly."

Packer continues, "It is very important not to equate Calvinism with merely five points because it tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. Although the five points are really inseparable, they stand together. If you reject one you are really rejecting them all. The major point of Calvinistic soteriology is concerned with the fact that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all. To God be the glory; Amen."

I wish for all reading this to really look at the five points of Calvinism and ask are these arguable points in my life? I believe after giving careful thought each Christian would say yes they are. Who can truly say, I saved my self by my decision, and I keep my self by my merit. Who is good enough? Who truly seeks God? Scripture teaches there is none righteousness no one seeks after God.

I am not saying I want people to become Calvinists. I am saying if anyone wishes Bible doctrine that is tight and beautiful and holy and God centered then check the two five point systems out. Do you want a God that saves by His power or a God that is dependant on man?

This is the God that saves to the uttermost.

And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom,And we would have been made like Gomorrah” (Rom. 9:29)
Meaning, He is the Lord of the hosts of armies of the heavens. He rules the world and He will reign. He alone saves by His power, by God the father, by God the Son, and by God the Spirit. Thus the doctrine of the Arminians were labeled as heretical and rightly so.

Ken Clouse
Lay leader
North East Michigan
Reformation Society

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