If you are looking for the name Calvin, well…no, you won’t find Calvinism. But Calvin didn’t invent anything new. In Calvin’s writings, and teachings, he simply taught about a sovereign God who is in control of every aspect of life and faith.Salvation is certainly a part of that. This idea didn’t start with Calvin, it started with God, and you see this idea throughout Scripture.
I think the big question we have to ask ourselves is this: Is God actively working out all things for the good and the joy of his people for his own glory, OR is he up in heaven just standing by, hoping that we are going to make the right choices? Is God and his will the center of all things, or is it man and his will. This doesn’t eliminate human responsibility: as clear as the Bible is about God’s sovereignty it is equally clear about man’s need for repentance and need to turn to God. The big question there is, do we repent and turn to God, then receive the Holy Spirit as the seal of our salvation…OR…is this repentance a result of God actively changing our hearts in order to make us into new creatures, and into the likeness of Christ?
So here are some things I think we should ask ourselves:
Is man able to do anything in order to save himself apart from God?(Total Depravity) I think Romans 3:11 and John 3:3(amongst many others) are clear that man cannot save himself if God does not do something to change his heart, because ultimately the issue isn’t our deeds, but our heart.
Is there anything within man, or any merit on the part of man that causes God to save him, or is salvation completely of God’s grace?(Unconditional Election) Romans 9:16 says no, salvation is all about grace…and not about anything that man does or can do. Also see Romans 8:29,30 and Ephesians 1&2.
Did Christ’s atonement cover the sins for all mankind, or did his atoning blood only atone for the sins of the elect?(limited atonement) I’m not saying anything about the sufficiency of Christ’s blood to atone(who can limit Christ?)…I’m simply asking, did Jesus’ blood cover all of man, or only those whom the Father gave him? (John 6:37-39) Didn’t Jesus himself say, ” Many are called, but few are chosen…”(Matthew 22:14) There is certainly an offer for salvation to all men, but obviously all men are not saved. But Jesus clearly says in John 6 that “All that the Father gives me will come to me…”
Are we saved because we cooperate with God? If God chooses to save us, can we resist His will?(irresistible grace) Scripture says in Ephesians 2 that we are spiritually dead apart from God and his grace. So my question is, what can a dead man do? Nothing. Did Lazarus do anything to contribute to his resurrection, or to his being made alive, or was it all a result of Jesus calling him forth from the grave? A dead person can’t contribute anything to life…this is obviously true in the physical world, it is no less true in the Spiritual. Again, as Jesus said, “You must be born again”(John 3:3)…but where does this birth come from? God of course…Does a newborn contribute to his being born? No, and neither do we contribute to our new birth. But like a newborn, we will breathe this new life we have in Christ. That is our human responsibility.
If God does save us, will any of those whom he has saved fall away?(perseverance of the saints) Does God grant salvation and then take it away? Does God pour out his love then snatch it back? Romans 8:35 asks the question, “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” The answer is NOTHING. Actually all of Romans 8 is a beautiful testament to this fact…But what does Jesus also say? We talked about it earlier…John 6:37, “All that the Father gives to me WILL come to me, and whoever comes to me I will NEVER cast out.” What about John 10:28-29, “I give them eternal life and they will NEVER perish, and NO ONE will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and NO ONE is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand….”
All of this being said, I think the Bible indeed speaks of what today, and has historically been called Calvinism. BUT, this should not be a point of contention amongst brothers and sisters in Christ. Many people who love God very much have rejected Calvinism. We need not ascribe to Calvinism or any system of theology, but what we must do is love God, love Jesus, and serve Him with all that we are. We don’t have to agree on John Calvin, but all should be able to agree on the beauty of who Jesus is…knowing we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and knowing that we all share the grace he has poured out on us, ought to move us to love one another without throwing rocks, or arguing over non-essentials.
There is a place to talk about theology, which is what I’ve done here…but whether anyone agrees or disagrees with my understanding of the Scriptures does not determine or measure where we are in our walks with Christ, or make any of us less a child of God. We all have equal footing at the cross…
For a much more eloquent defense of Calvinism, read Spurgeon’s ‘A Defense of Calvinism’.