Not sure if you’ve heard or not, but over the last few months and years the word “Calvinism” has been thrown around like dinner rolls in a food fight. There has been an absolute firestorm over the name “John Calvin”, and not all of it helpful, to say the least. Unfortunately most of the people doing the loudest talking don’t have a clue who John Calvin really was, what his contributions really were, or what he really believed because…oh yeah, they’ve never read a single word that the man actually wrote. I’ve seriously never heard (or, regrettably, been a part) of such pointless bickering. People claim Calvinism (or a differing theological school of thought, like Arminianism) and then go to arguing like grade school children in a playground taunt.
Typically people who hold these views hold them very fiercely. “Young, restless, and Reformed” has become something of a uniting banner among young Christians who identify with Calvinist theology (Reformed or Reformation theology is just a general synonym for Calvinist theology these days). And of course, the pastor everyone knows – John Piper – was famously Calvinist when Calvinism wasn’t cool.
With all this chatter, a little clarity will go a long way. I’m no expert, believe me, but I’d like to offer a starting point for Christians to understand a little more about John Calvin and what he taught. If there were a more widespread, accurate knowledge of the man and his bible exposition (teaching), I think there would be less unfruitful division and more biblical unity in the body of Christ. No, I know that.
So let’s jump right into it.
First things first. You’ve probably have heard of “five-point Calvinism”, and the elephant in the room is a little acronym called T.U.L.I.P. It stands for: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. If you hear people arguing about Calvinism, they are probably up in arms over these points (or the topic of predestination, which is quite interwoven). But here’s a fun fact - John Calvin never came up with the acronym TULIP. He never preached “five points.” Ever. If you had come across John Calvin in the streets of Geneva one afternoon and walked up and said, “Mr. Calvin, what do I need to know about God?”, he would not have said, “Here are five points.” He did, of course, believe that the concepts that the acronym TULIP seeks to portray are true when rightly understood. But those ideas were not so organized and made into an acronym until after his death. That is an important distinction. (Side note: there are monumental debates and misunderstandings among Christians about each of the five points, what they mean, and whether they are biblical theological concepts or not. For the sake of brevity, I’ll leave these alone for now. Maybe the future holds a five-part blog series, you never know. For now, just know that the acronym exists, and that you should be very picky about who you let explain these things to you.)
Regardless, here is a hugely important fact – Read the rest of this entry »