Calvinism is primarily a view on salvation, but it affects many other parts of life. It is sometimes viewed as Reformed theology because it is the theology that came out of the protestant reformation against the Roman Catholic Church.
Calvinism teaches God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.
In the Old Testament Josephs brothers did evil things to him, they tried to kill him, and sold him into Egypt as a slave. Good things came out of this because he was able to stockpile food for a coming famine and have a large influence in Egypt. In Genesis 50:20 he tells his brothers “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
In Philosophy this is called “Compatibilism”[i]. Either we are autonomous and God can do nothing that over rides our freedom (Libertarian Free Will) or God is responsible for evil and we are automatons who can’t make choices (Determinism) or our freedom and God’s sovereignty are compatible.
Freedom or Bondage of the Will?
Calvinism do not think human have free will in the sense most people think of free will. We believe that our freedom is limited to our nature. Just as God cannot sin because it is contrary to our nature, humans are limited because those things are contrary to our nature (e.g. we can’t fly).
Jesus says that “out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
And also that everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin (John 8:34)
Jeremiah 14:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick who can understand it?”
Romans 6:20-22 says “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”
Also see, Romans 3, Ephesians 2:3, Romans 5:12-14, 1 Corinthians 15:55
So what are the consequences of this? It is that the unregenerate person is not able to accept or understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14) this is because of our sins and because of this, no one can come to a saving faith unless the father draws him (John 6:44)
Did God Chose us?
Why does he draw some and not all? If he did this all people would be saved. Romans 9:11-23 says that God loved Jacob and hated Esau (v.13) and this is before they were born or have done anything wrong (v.11). Paul also says this of Pharaoh “For this very purpose I have raise you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (v.17)
A natural reaction to this teaching is “how can he hold us responsible if he has not chosen us?” (v.19) Paul rebukes the askers of this question:
“who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” (Romans 9:20-21)
Porcelain is used for honorable and dishonorable use. We can make a jar to drink fine wine out of and we can also make a toilet out of the same lump.
We don’t know all the details of God’s election but we do know it is for the Glory of God (v.23)
Also see: Ephesians 1:4-8; Matthew 13:27; Romans 8:33; Matthew 11:27;
Christ died for…?
There are many verses that say Christ died for the “world” or for “all” (2 Corinthians 5:15; John 3:16; 1 John 2:2) . Calvinists are usually mocked because we say that Jesus died for only the elect. People see this as a flat contradiction to clear verses in scripture. However, it is often not thought through. Salvation prior to Jesus was for the people of Israel. With the coming of the Messiah, salvation is extended to the WHOLE WORLD (Matthew 28:19), every tribe, nation, people group, race (Revelation 14:6). This would have been a big deal to 1st century Jews.
But let’s examine the claim that Christ died for every single person. If this is true, then wouldn’t every single person be saved? Is the blood of Christ efficient enough to save those? The non-Calvinist (Arminian) would reply and say that the person would need to believe and Christ paid for all sins except the sin of unbelief. But, now we have the problem of double payment, I.E. Jesus paid their fine but they will also pay their fine in hell. The other option is every person in hell will only pay for the sin of unbelief, so murderers will not pay for the sin of murder in hell but will be treated the same as a moral old lady. Matthew 12:36 Jesus tells us that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”
Matthew 26:28 says “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
John 10:11 Jesus says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Also verse 15 “Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (notice this is not the goats talked about in Matthew 25)
Can God revoke the sacrificial payment made on behalf of the elect?
All the previous points will lead us to believe that God eternally preserves His elect so they don’t fall away. But, logical inference isn’t the only thing we base this doctrine on.
1 John 2:19 speaks about those who do fall away “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” this verse says that if they have left us it is made apparent that they were never saved to begin with.
John 10:27-29 says “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 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.”
Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The objection comes “does that mean we can sin all we want” technically the answer is YES because if we have been saved we will not want to sin (2 Corinthians 5:17). The sin that we commit, we hate (Romans 7). This objection is also brought to Paul …. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)
The Golden Chain
Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
This verse describes what God does with those whom he predestines. He sends out a call to them (by the hearing of the Gospel) and this same group is Justified in time/space once they are granted faith and repentance, and these people whom God predestines, calls, and justifies are also glorifies them in heaven. This “chain” is not a maybe; this is God telling us what is going to happen to those whom he predestines.
Calvinism affects much more than the views expressed here, it affects almost all areas of life and doctrine. Many people say Calvinist should not evangelize people because God will choose who he will. Paul says right after teaching election “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”…” (Romans 10:13-15) unlike the Arminian we can ask God for help in our evangelism, not on our ability to persuade the unbeliever but rather that we will proclaim His gospel faithfully and that God would enable them to hear.
[i]Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy-Compatibilism http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/