Yesterday I tried to summarize Calvinism with my own words. This is always a dangerous task. In the book I am currently writing on Calvinism, I will always seek to let Calvinists present their views in their own words.
So, as a way of appeasing any critics of my personal summary of five-point Calvinism yesterday, I thought I would post a Calvinistic summary today.
Here is what David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas, and S. Lance Quinn have written in their book The Five Points of Calvinism:
Because of the Fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free; it is in bondage to his evil nature. Therefore, he will not—indeed, he cannot—choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ. It takes regeneration, by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation, but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation. It is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.
God’s choice of certain individuals for salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely on His own sovereign will. His choice of particular sinners was not based on any forseen response or obedience on their part, such as faith, repentance, etc. On the contrary, God gives faith and repentance to each individual whom He selected. These acts are the result, not the cause, of God’s choice. Election, therefore, was not determined by, or conditioned upon, any virtuous quality or act forseen in man. Those whom God sovereignly elected He brings through the power of the Spirit to a willing acceptance of Christ. Thus, God’s choice of the sinner, not the sinner’s choice of Christ, is the ultimate cause of salvation.
Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substiutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith, which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, thereby guaranteeing their salvation.
In addition to the outward general call to salvation, which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The external call (which is made to all without distinction) can be, and often is, rejected. However, the internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call, the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited to His work of applying salvation by man’s will, nor is He dependent upon man’s cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God’s grace, therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended.
All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit, are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of almighty God, and thus persevere to the end (The Five Points of Calvinism, pp 5-8).
Other Calvinists might summarize the Five Points of Calvinism somewhat differently, but this summary from three leading Calvinists is fairly typical.
However, here is one super succinct summary, from leading Calvinistic pastor and author, John MacArthur:
(1) Sinners are utterly helpless to redeem themselves or to contribute anything meritorious toward their own salvation (Rom. 8:7-8). (2) God is sovereign in the exercise of His saving will (Eph 1:4-5). (3) Christ died as a substitute who bore the full weight of God’s wrath on behalf of His people, and His atoning work alone is efficacious for their salvation (Isa 53:5). (4) God’s saving purpose cannot be thwarted (John 6:37), meaning none of Christ’s true sheep will ever be lost (John 10:27-29). That is because (5) God assures the perseverance of His elect (Jude 24; Phil 1:6; 1 Peter 1:5).
As you read over these summaries, you may not see anything that stands out as overly objectionable. You might think that based on the statements above, Calvinism sounds pretty reasonable, and quite biblical.
Yes, that is one of the strengths of Calvinism.
Yet as we look at each of the Five Points in more detail in subsequent posts, we will make room for other Calvinistic voices to be heard as well, and as we look at the biblical passages they use to defend their theology, we will see that Calvinism may not be as reasonable or biblical as it first appears.
If you are a Calvinist, do you think the summaries above are fair? What would you clarify? If you are not a Calvinist, or are just learning about Calvinism, what are your thoughts so far?