To begin, I don’t have a problem with most Calvinists. Calvinists are Christians, so we’re part of the same religion, the same family of faith, the same holy catholic church.1 Some of my best friends are Calvinists, and (believe it or not) the church with which I regularly worship is characteristically Calvinist. As people go, I have no love lost for calvinists.
The doctrines of Calvinism, however… oh boy, where do I begin? Quite honestly, it seems to me that my Calvinist friends are loving and generous in spite of their Calvinist beliefs, not because of them.
In any case, I suppose I’ll just do this according to the T.U.L.I.P. acronym. In case you’re unfamiliar with this little mnemonic gem, the Calvinist doctrine centers around the following five points:
There is a logical progression to each of these points. They naturally build on one another in sequential order. For instance, if humanity is so depraved (Total Depravity) that we could never choose God, then God will have to do the choosing Himself (Unconditional Election). Because of this internal consistency, I think it’s fair to say that the five points of Calvinism tend to stand or fall together.
But because I think each point is worth considering on its own as well, each week I’m going to do a separate blog post for each of the five points. And just for funsies, next week let’s start at the end (Perseverance of the Saints) and work our way back.
One final note: I believe that if you are going to critically engage a belief system, it is important to engage it at its best. Therefore, I am going to try my hardest to give Calvinism a fair hearing even as I attempt to dismantle it. However, it is worth taking into consideration that some of the nicest forms of Calvinism that I have encountered are nice precisely because they employ euphemisms and avoidance tactics when it comes to the ugly implications of Calvinist doctrine. For these cases, engaging them at their best still means pointing out their logical conclusions.
Even so, I may be overlooking something as we go through this series, so I invite you (the reader) to challenge me on this. If there is a better way to understand Calvinist doctrines that remains true to the teachings of John Calvin and doesn’t simply gloss over the genuinely ugly parts, I sincerely want to know about it. And hopefully, if nothing else, we’ll get some good conversation out of this.
Thanks! This is gonna be fun.
1: I do not mean the Roman Catholic church, but in the original sense of the word "catholic" as the encompassing, global church.