Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Five Points of Calvinism

Sorry, this post may be too elementary for some, but I suspect many in the pews do not know the basic beliefs some of their leaders hold...

I've been doing some reading on the 5 points of Calvinism. I faintly remember learning this stuff back in my days at Bible college. I think I recall thinking it seemed a bit far fetched back then. I remember some debates over dinner in the cafeteria, and then just ignoring it.

But now as I'm rethinking the tradition I've belonged to, I keep coming back to the influences of John Calvin.

I suspect that the average person in the pews of evangelical churches do not know what the 5 points of Calvinism are, or know much about the man John Calvin ( In a previous post here I discovered some disturbing info that I didn't learn in my Bible school days.)

However it seems that there are some influential Christian leaders that hold to these 5 points of Calvinism. They may not emphasize this fact in every message, but these basic beliefs they hold do influence their message... so I think it's worth studying what some of the underlying beliefs of these leaders are. I suspect many Christians are being influence by 5 point Calvinist, but don't even know it.

Here's a few influential Christian leaders who hold to 5 point Calvinism.... and others, but I'll end my list there since these are the only ones I found that I've been influenced by.

So what are the 5 points of Calvinism (TULIP):
  • T - Total Depravity
  • U - Unconditional Election
  • L - Limited Atonement
  • I - Irresistible Grace
  • P - Perseverance of the saints
Total Depravity
When man fell, sin permeated his entire being. This fall was so complete that man had no desire for God and righteousness. Man is so totally enslaved by sin that he can only choose evil; he cannot choose good. He is incapable of choosing God and His salvation. Man is totally blind and deaf to the gospel. Apart from a supernatural intervention from God, the gospel message absolutely has no effect on a person. Total depravity is also called total inability.
Unconditional Election
God has chosen some people to go to Heaven and other people to go to Hell. This choice is not based on any qualities of the person being elected. This selection is not based on God’s foreknowledge of who will "get saved" in the future.
Limited Atonement
God limited His atonement to only those who are elect. When Jesus died on the cross, He did not die for the sins of the whole world; He only died for those He wanted to go to Heaven.
Irresistible Grace
The grace that God extends to the elect cannot be refused. God puts into the hearts of the elect an irresistible desire to turn to Him and accept His salvation. This desire is so overpowering that no one can refuse it.
Perseverance of the Saints
Since God has determined who will get saved and they cannot resist His call, they are unconditionally and eternally secure in that election. Therefore, those who have been chosen to be saved will always stay saved. They cannot resist or lose their salvation.
(Above points taken from http://www.biblehelp.org/tulip.htm )

Some Concerns I have with this:

1)I don't think it fits with God's character of love for all his creation. If we say we are saved by grace alone, that it is all God's doing and not our own...
Do we also say the wicked are doomed by God's lack of grace alone, that it is all God's doing and not their own???

2) Where is free will? Why would God create humanity yet not allow us to exercise free will?

3) If God does everything, we don't need to seek and pursue Him?

4) As for once saved always saved... how I've witnessed that being applied to real people. We tell children when they say a prayer that they are saved and nothing can change that fact... but then if/when that child grows up and falls away from the faith we say "well, I guess they were not really saved to begin with... maybe they didn't mean it". So I'm going to just leave this one up to God to be the judge.

5) Yes there are some verses that support these positions. But there are other verses that seem to be ignored. If God wanted us to believe this system of beliefs I think it would have been clearly laid out... however it took 1500 years before John Calvin and his followers came up with this.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) - Total Depravity?
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) - Unconditional Election?
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
1 John 2:2 (NIV) - Limited atonement?
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Matthew 23:37 (NIV) - Irresistible Grace?
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."
Acts 17:30 (NIV) - Unconditional Election?
"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."
Matthew 6:33 (NIV) - free will? Ability to seek God? Yes!
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Related Posts:


Anonymous said...

This is very interesting and informative. Thanks for spreading some knowledge!

I agree that the Limited Atonement and Unconditional Election is flawed. If that were the case, then why would Christ have sent us on with the Great Commission, if God Himself does all the work anyways? What would have been the point of Christ Himself?

If the five points of Calvinists are true, then really, Christ is useless to us. That doesn't quite sit well with me.

Thanks Jon, I always enjoy reading about your journey with the Lord. It's been helping me along the way, too! (:


Jonathan said...

Thanks Amanda for the thoughtful and encouraging comments.
God bless!

Anonymous said...


I've attempted to address some of your concerns, just FYI. Have a good one.


wieger kooistra said...

Een reactie uit Nederland-Europa .
De leer van Calvijn is verwerpelijk en maakt dat velen het Koninkrijk van God niet kunnen binnengaan . Ik woon in Barneveld . wat men hier noemt de (Bibel belt)hetis zoals Jezus de Farrizeen verweet : jullie hebben de sleutel verborgen en wie binnen wil gaan houden jullie tegen . Jezus zegt: Elk die wil mag komen en drinken van het water des levens om niet. bless you .

Jonathan said...

Thanks Wieger for the comment.

With a little help from google translate here is the general idea I think...

"A response from the Netherlands Europe.
The doctrine of Calvin is reprehensible and makes many of the Kingdom of God can not enter. I live in Barneveld. what is here called the (Bible belt) reproached Farrizeen hetis like Jesus: you have the key hidden inside, and who wants to keep you from. Jesus said: All who will may come and drink the water of life freely. bless you."

Thanks for the comment, God bless!

Frank said...

Thanks Jon.
I keep running into a road block called Calvin when I enter discussions online.
Your article gives a good answer. Like your Dutch commenter I find Calvinism reprehensible. In fact although many are lovely brothers, Jesus could say to Calvin what he said to the Pharisees. Woe unto you Calvin, hypocrite, you shut up the kingdom of heaven to men......etc.
I won't say quite that Calvin didn't enter himself, but his doctrine certainly shut heaven. Thankfully I believe that God is not a Calvinist and in fact he is far more merciful than Calvin ever allows him to be.
What amazes me is that so many believers will hang their coats so strongly on a leader of any sort. What is the difference between this and "I am of Paul or I am of Apollos as condemned in 1Corinthians1v12.

Janis said...

The elementary school of faith and repentence can not compare to the university school of election and predestination.

It is like giving a 2nd grader calculus and expecting them to figure it out in a day of sitting and studying it.

When I started to hear about 5 points of Calvinism, I was very upset and against it because I could not wrap my brain around it. But with the perspective in mind, as I continued to read and study God's word, I could not help but see that scripture points so many times to that. Are there still verses that confuse me and sound contrary to it? Well of course, I do not have God's ability to understand it as it is! But, I firmly believe that the bible does not contradict itself and must be the interpreter, so seek God to help me to understand his ways.

Wrapping up, I don't believe that you can just hear about the 5 points of Calvinism in 1 day or one week and make a clear judgment on it with one's own understanding. My suggestion is to simply know what it is and what it stands for and as you continue to study God's Word, and see many scriptures supporting it, then you can make a better decsion on the matter. It is when we try to sit back and understand God without so much focus on scripture that we shut our minds of to things that bring him glory.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Janis for your comment. I appreciate the dialog. And I'm glad for you if you've found peace on this topic.

However I'm not sure if it's a good thing to view Calvinism as university level.

1 Corinthians 3:19 (NIV)
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” ;

Mark 10:14-15 (NIV)
"When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

I truly believe we've overcomplicated a lot of things. There are many simple truths in Scripture that Christ followers throughout the ages have agreed upon. Despite it's popularity in many circles, Calvinism is a relatively recent distictive.

Did Jesus teach the 5 points in any clear and simple teachings?

Or did any early Christians teach these teachings at their university level Bible Colleges?

Sorry for the sarcasm, but my point is I suspect this isn't an essential belief.

However, that being said, I agree there are some verses that fit these 5 points. And some that don't. I believe we can acknowledge the tension as we seek God to lead us to grow in knowledge and faith in Him.

Thanks! God bless!

debarnevelder said...


debarnevelder said...


debarnevelder said...


Twee links die mogelijk van belang zijn .
God Bless You
wieger kooistra

refinisher said...

Hi Jon
I have many friends that are Calvinists, to varying degrees. A few claim to be but cant explain its tenets. A few others can explain it and to varying degrees, live within its tenets. For instance, one man who is a scholarly type, and has even written a book recently on why house churches are God's preferred way for the saints to gather/live, told me a few years ago he wasnt sure he is saved. But, he walks carefully with God and man in the light of Christ he has. Our other friends also walk in the light of Christ they understand, and I consider all to be living holy lives. Im not sure its important to be entangled in the details of Calvinism, Arminianism or any other ism if that person is producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the love of God.
I was primarily influenced in my early walk with the Lord by a family that were Calvinist. They went far beyond any sacrifice of any non Calvinists Im acquainted with, in helping me and a lot of other very troubled, and troublesome youth.
Im not Calvinist, Arminian or anything, having categorically rejected labels as soon as I was saved. Im free to discuss anything with anyone without needing to protect a particular brand. My policy is 'Dont ask, Dont tell', but look for fruit.

Jonathan said...

Thanks refinisher for sharing. I also know and respect many believers who identify with Calvinism. I simply had to process the stuff here to some degree, and am with you with abandoning many of the extra labels. Thanks for commenting!