In the next few weeks I’d like to lay down the biblical foundation for, although it is only one component of “Reformed Theology”, what is commonly referred to as Calvinism. This issue is of paramount importance to address in an appropriate depth and comprehensiveness for two reasons:
1. The very word Calvinism is fraught with misconceptions and often comes as a “loaded term” relative to who your talking to.
2. Here at Proclaiming His Glory we strive to magnify God in every way possible and we are convinced that if we are to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) then we must clarify and explain why we view God the way we do.
Therefore, in the course of this post I will explain how Proclaiming His Glory views the above two statements.
Allow me to begin with a word on definitions. Often times, in both my own personal communication and review of others, I have heard a concerned expressed over the very meaning of what Calvinism is. Does it express an agreement or indicate a follower of the teachings of John Calvin? Or does it simply refer to the “predestination, free will” talk that always gets thrown around with reference to its name? In its most literal sense it would seem to imply that Calvinists are followers of the teachings of John Calvin!
This is precisely why I either don’t call myself a Calvinist or immediately explain what I mean when I do so. It normally depends entirely on whom I’m talking to. As much as I would like to say I am a Calvinist in the literal sense of the word the problem is, I haven’t read any of his works or really extensively studied his views on every subject. Not only did the man write exhaustively on a wide breadth of doctrines, but I must be honest when I say that I haven’t taken the time to read any of his works! Oh sure, I’ve read a few quotes and excerpts here and there but I can’t possibly be honest and say, in the strictest sense possible, that I am a “Calvinist”. Starting to see some of the baggage that comes with the term?
Hold on a minute though! You may say, “Isn’t the very title of this post about why you do hold to Calvinism?” and of course this would be true. How does one resolve this dilemma? Enter TULIP.
Before I explain it allow me to give you a bit of important history first.TULIP, was a mnemonic formulated in the early 20th century which attempted to easily summarize the result of what came out of the main controversy that took place four centuries early at the Canons of Dort in 1618. Now its important to note that John Calvin himself died in 1564 and his most famous student Jacobus Arminius (surprised?) died in 1609. Therefore, it was Arminius’s followers that formulated the original five articles of the Remonstrance which demonstrated a departure from Calvin’s teachings on the will of man, election, predestination etc. At the Canons of Dort in 1618 Calvin’s followers developed and summarized their specific responses to the five articles of the Remonstrance. These responses were then organized and first described in print in a 1932 work on the reformed doctrine of predestination.
So why is it important to know that history? What I want you to remember is that the purpose of TULIP was not to describe the totality of what John Calvin, or Reformed Theology for that matter, teaches. Historically, the purpose was to easily identify the differences with the Arminian viewpoint. Now unfortunately that is not the way it is viewed today. Therefore, for the purposes of conversation in today’s common understanding of Calvinism (which is strictly an adherence to TULIP) I will, and the other authors on this blog, readily identify myself as such.
So what is this TULIP I have keep referring to? Now that we understand the way that I will using the word “Calvinism” I would say that TULIP is the best way to remember the tenets of Calvinism. They are the following:
Perseverance of the Saints
I will be the first to admit those titles can be misleading and slightly confusing as to what they are intended to represent specifically. Nonetheless, it will be my intent to clearly elucidate what we mean by them and why we hold to them.
Let me close this post on an important note. The question may arise “why would you claim to be a Calvinist when you haven’t read much, if any, of John Calvin’s work?”. The reason I haven’t read much of Calvin is because I don’t rest my belief in Calvinism on his shoulders. They stand 100% on scripture. Although I would never deny that I have been influenced by theologians I read, I must make clear that my adherence to Calvinism was formed before I had ever read a word written by the man. Therefore, it is essential when discussing these issues to primarily rest our discussions and debate over what the word of God says in its contents.
Additionally, please don’t view these posts like they are, as my favorite rapper would say “controversy for the sake of controversy or theological nitpicking”. A.W. Tozer once said “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What the Bible says on topic like Calvinism will profoundly affect how you view God and therefore it is essential to study carefully. That’s how we “rightly handle the word of truth” and by doing so we Proclaim His Glory.