Why I Am Convinced the So-Called Five Points of Calvinism are True (Part 1)
Several weeks ago, I posted an entry on What is Reformed Theology? There I answer this way: Reformed theology is a sweeping understanding of all of life under the sovereign authority of the covenant God of Israel revealed in Jesus Christ.
Here I’d like to fill out a little more of what makes up Reformed Theology, the 5 point of Calvinism. Over the course of the last decade I’ve talked to friends and students about this issue, and I’ve come to a conclusion. I’m thoroughly convinced that roughly 80-90% of what people believe about Calvinism is mistaken and/or confused. Here are the so-called 5 points of Calvinism:
T- Total Depravity
U- Unconditional Election
L- Limited Atonement
I- Irresistble Grace
P- Perserverence of the Saints
Now, I’ll share my thoughts as bullet points.
1. I don’t believe in Calvinism because of the authority of John Calvin. In fact I know of very few people who feel comfortable calling themselves Calvinists who agree with everything the man taught. In fact, Calvin would be appalled that Christians are naming their theology after him (much as Luther was upset when he heard the early Protestants calling themselves Lutherans!). Calvin was a godly man and a fine teacher of the word of God…but he was merely a man. It’s really sad that the people you spoke to about this couldn’t explain it from the word of God but instead repeated what they’ve heard others say. Now to a degree that’s not bad, because we all help one another learn more about the Scriptures. But at the end of the day, it’s God speaking in Scripture that dictates what we should believe as followers of Christ.
2. Calvinism is only a nick-name. It’s theological shorthand for a cluster of doctrines that this group holds. In fact, I know many Calvinists who hate being called Calvinists and instead prefer the more historical title Reformed. Guys like Luther and later Calvin urged for biblical reform as they observed all of the excesses and unbiblical practices of the medieval Catholic Church. They didn’t get everything right, but God certainly used them as instruments to reclaim the gospel of salvation through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. But whether people feel comfortable with the label isn’t a big deal to me. If it’s a stumbling block, feel free to drop it. The only name that we’re required to own proudly is that of Jesus Christ as Lord.
3. As for me personally, I absolutely would not believe in it if I wasn’t convinced in my heart that the essential distinctives of Reformed Theology are a faithful reflection of what’s taught in the pages of Scripture.
4. I’ve found that many people who come to accept Reformed theology (and just to clarify I don’t mean “accept” in the same way I would when I speak of someone “accepting” Christ as savior! I just mean “come to be convinced that it’s true and biblical”) enter what James White calls “the cage stage” where all they want to do is debate the issue and correct people. That’s certainly not a proper and God-glorifying presentation of Reformed Theology. In fact, historically the 5 points of Calvinism have been called the doctrines of grace. Any presentation of the doctrines of grace that is not in itself graceful dishonors our Lord and distorts the message.