Why I Agree with All 5 Points of Calvinism
Why am I a Calvinist? The answer is simple: it’s biblical.
What is the benefit of being a Calvinist? The answer, again, is simple: it serves as the immovable bedrock of my worldview.
It this brief article, I will unpack those propositions. But, first, a few introductory remarks are necessary because I understand why people grimace when they hear the word “Calvinism,” along with the name John Calvin, and the infamous acronym, “T.U.L.I.P.” That dirty little “C” word carries along with it a ton of baggage for a few reasons:
Calvinism (i.e., T.U.L.I.P.) is greatly misunderstood by most.
For example, many have been taught by an untrained pastor or lone-ranger eisegete that Calvinists believe Christians shouldn’t evangelize. Therefore, people have a knee-jerk reaction when they hear the “C” word because of unintentional ignorance due to what they’ve been previously and erroneously taught. Religious lies are extremely difficult to overcome.
Calvinism is pride-crushing.
The doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty delivers a pulverizing, knock-out punch to the arrogance of sinful man. It goes for the jugular of man’s so-called “free will” and paralyzes his innate desire for control. It dethrones sinful man, and enthrones our holy God. It humiliates and reduces the human intellect to ashes, but it extols and magnifies the glory of God. Therefore, man—in his pride—rejects it because to affirm it would demand a humility of the lowest kind.
Calvinism divides churches like no other doctrine in the Bible.
It’s sad, but it’s the reality. Therefore, it’s ignored out of fear of division. Even the most gracious, persuasive, biblical defense is met with hysterical, eye-popping resistance because of reasons 1-2 above. When the doctrine of Total Depravity and Unconditional Election enters into the discussion, many people automatically assume the worst about what you mean and would rather split than have a biblical discussion with an educated Calvinist. It’s true. As a pastor, believe me: I’ve seen the worst of it.
T.U.L.I.P. is Biblical
Total Depravity (AKA “Total Inability” or “Original Sin”) takes the position that “man’s nature is corrupt, perverse, and sinful throughout…the natural man is totally unable to do anything good…the unregenerate man is dead in sin, and his will enslaved to his evil nature.”
The Bible is crystal clear about the nature and falleness of man. He is wholly dead and enslaved in sin (John 8:34; Rom 6:18-20; Eph 2:1-3; Col 2:13), his heart is inherently wicked (Jer 17:9), he does nothing but evil continually (Gen 6:5), there is not one single ounce of good in him (Rom 3:10-18), he is spiritually blind (2 Cor 4:4), he’s born in sin (Ps 51:5), and—perhaps most shockingly—he’s a child of the Devil (John 8:44). A man who’s futile in mind, darkened in understanding, and ignorant in the knowledge of God (Eph 4:17-18) cannot do anything good.
Therefore, man’s depravity is “total” in the sense that he is utterly unable to come to a saving relationship with God. Man is not as bad as he can possible be, but by nature he cannot please God at all let alone by his own “free will” come to Christ for forgiveness of sin.
Unconditional Election “declares that God, before the foundation of the world, chose certain individuals from among the fallen members of Adam’s race to be the objects of His undeserved favor. These, and only these, He purposed to save.”
The Bible is chock-full of texts that reveal that the God of the Bible is an electing God. Perhaps the clearest and most often cited texts are Romans 8:28-30 and Ephesians 1:4-5. In both passages, Paul uses the Greek word proorízō, translated “predestined,” from the preposition pro, meaning “before,” and the verb horízō, which means “to determine or decree beforehand.” So, God in His sovereignty determined beforehand exactly who would be saved. This is an individual election, not a national or corporate election. This election had nothing to do with human volition or any human action whatsoever. Our election to salvation in Christ was decreed before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4).
Paul also uses a Greek word that’s translated “chosen” to refer to Christians in general (Col 3:12; 2 Tim 2:10; Tit 1:1). Eklektós (noun form) and eklégō (verb) literally means “to choose or select.” It involves thoughtful and deliberate consideration. So, it’s quite obvious that God’s choosing refers to those individuals whom were deliberately and graciously selected out of spiritual deadness and saved from eternal punishment. Any other interpretation would be a fast-and-loose mishandling of the text.
If there ever existed a “silver bullet” in the Calvinist’s gun, it has to be Acts 13:48:
When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
The word translated “appointed” means “to place, set, appoint, arrange, or order.” No matter what definition a translator selects, there’s no escaping the plain and objective meaning of what Luke is saying in Acts 13:48: those who were in ear-shot of Paul’s preaching were converted—not because of a choice they made—because God in eternity past appointed them to eternal life.
Limited Atonement (AKA “Particular Redemption”) is a doctrine which affirms “Christ’s redeeming work was definite in design and accomplishment—that it was intended to render complete satisfaction for certain specified sinners, and that it actually secured salvation for these individuals and for no one else.”
John 10:11-29 is one of the go-to passages to defend this truthfulness of Christ’s definite atonement. In it, we see that Christ came to lay down His life specifically for the sheep (those individuals that God elected before the foundation of the word; see Unconditional Election). Commenting on this passage, Dr. John MacArthur said,
That cannot be more specific, can it? Therein you have the words of the Lord Jesus Christ testifying to a specific atonement, a particular redemption an actual substitutionary sacrifice for His sheep. He knows them. The Father has identified them. They belong to Him by virtue of the Father. They are drawn to Him. They come to Him. It is for them He died.
For the record, everyone believes in a Limited Atonement regardless of whether they admit it or not. Otherwise, what you’re left with is Universalism—an old heresy that teaches everyone is saved, or will be saved, including the Devil himself. Whether or not one is totally convinced of the ‘L’ in T.U.L.I.P., one must affirm that Christ’s atonement—in the strictest sense of the term—was/is in a very real sense limited to those who believe in Christ. Alternatively, you’d be forced to confess that the countless number of people in hell right now had their sins atoned for by Christ, if one claims to believe in an unlimited atonement.
For a deeper study on the doctrine of Limited Atonement, you can see John 6:35-40, 17:1-11, 20, 24-26, Galatians 1:3-4, Hebrews 9:15, and Ephesians 5:25ff.
Irresistible Grace (AKA “The Efficacious Call”) is a doctrine that “asserts that the Holy Spirit never fails to bring to salvation those sinners whom He personally calls to Christ…the Holy Spirit performs a work of grace within the sinner, which inevitably brings him to faith in Christ … [this is] the inward, supernatural call of the Spirit, who through regeneration makes him alive and creates faith and repentance within him.”
If man is born dead in sin—completely unable to respond to the Gospel—the Spirit of God must perform the work of illuminating the mind of the estranged sinner to receive the gift of eternal life. In John 6:44, Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” The verb translated “draw” is also used to speak of someone being physically drug somewhere (Acts 16:19; Jas 2:6), but clearly Jesus is not talking about dragging someone to Him kicking and screaming. Rather, the drawing in John 6:44 is the deliberate, selective, and efficacious (producing the desired effect) call upon the elect to salvation.
People who reject the term Irresistible Grace may be more comfortable with “effectual calling,” referring to the same idea of God, in a spiritual sense, sovereignly summoning a sinner to saving faith through the revelation of the Gospel. In fact, whenever you come across the word “call” in Scripture, it almost always refers to God calling someone to salvation (Rom 1:6, 8:30, 9:24; 1 Cor 1:1–2; Gal 1:15; Eph 4:4; 2 Tim 1:9; Heb 9:15; Jud 1; 1 Pet 1:15. 2:9. 5:10; Rev 17:14). All we’re saying when we profess God’s irresistible grace is that He is able to overcome the elect’s natural resistance to the Truth by the Spirit through the Word.
Perseverance of the Saints
Perseverance of the Saints (AKA “Eternal Security of Believers”) affirms “all those who are spiritually united to Christ through regeneration are eternally secure in Him. Nothing can separate them from the eternal and unchangeable love of God…. They are kept by God’s power through faith and nothing can separate them from His love. They have been sealed with the Holy Spirit….”
There is little debate about the eternal security of the believer in today’s Evangelical circles because the Bible is so clear about it. Also, it’s a pleasant doctrine and therefore it requires very little humility to affirm. However, there still remains a common but false idea that someone can lose his or her salvation. All one has to do in order to see that one’s salvation in Christ is secure is consider what Paul wrote very plainly in Romans 8:35, 37-39:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Sadly, easy-believism allows false converts to abuse this precious truth. Many professing Christians who prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer” are made to think “once-saved-always-saved” translates to “no matter what I do or how I live, Jesus will always love me because I asked Him to come into my heart and now that I’m a Christian, I’ll always be one.” But the doctrine of eternal security was never meant to provide a sense of false assurance for worldly pseudo-believers. It’s meant to give genuinely born-again believers comfort and peace in knowing their future in Heaven is secured forever by Christ Himself (John 10:27-30,1 Cor 1:7-9; 2 Cor 4:14, 17; Eph 1:5, 13-14, 4:30; Heb 9:12, 15, 10:14; 1 Pet 1:3-5; Jud 1, 24-25).
Earlier, I made a claim that the theology of Calvinism is not only biblical, but it also has a practical effect: it serves as the immovable bedrock of my worldview. In other words, my knowledge and acceptance of T.U.L.I.P. allows me to glorify God in all of life’s circumstances. If God is supremely sovereign in the salvation of souls, that only means He’s sovereign in all other matters of life as well. And by sovereign I mean He has 100% complete control of every seemingly trivial detail (Pro 16:33). He makes “all things work together for good to those who love God, [i.e.,] to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28) and He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11).
John Calvin said, “Theology is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life.” At Glory Books, we fully embrace T.U.L.I.P. because 1) it informs us of how God saves His people, 2) it equips us to live life with the mindset that God is in control of the outcome of our labor (not us), and 3) it keeps us humble by reminding us that if not for the grace of God, we too would be dead in sin and bound for hell.