Why I'm a Calvinist

Here is a brief summary of biblical teaching on the five points of Calvinism.

There are two simple reasons why I’m a Calvinist. The most fundamental is that I believe the Bible clearly teaches Calvinism. The second is that Calvinism describes my experience of the power of sin, the effectual grace of conversion, and my confidence in the power of God.

As a Calvinist, I believe five core truths:

1. The Bible teaches that human beings are basically evil rather than good. Not only does Scripture teach that the wickedness of men is great and that every intent of the thought of his heart is evil continually (Genesis 6:5), it teaches that the heart of man is full of evil (Ecclesiastes 9:3), desperately corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9), that our minds are hostile to God (Romans 8:7–8) and corrupt (Titus 1:15). In short, the Bible teaches that human beings love and prefer darkness rather than light (John 3:19). The evidence of this is not hard to prove from the idolatry, sexual deviance, murder, theft, adultery, perjury, war, drunkeness, hatred, cowardice, and treachery that litters the landscape of human history. But this teaching of the Bible also accords with my personal experience. I really loved sin before my conversion to Christ. I was enslaved to it, and unable to disentangle myself from it. I was, at times, able to stop sinning in action, but I could not take away the inward delight in sin that had characterized me from birth. I did not hunger and thirst for righteousness, and could not until God saved me by his grace.

2. The Bible teaches that before time began, God in his mercy selected specific individuals unto salvation in Christ Jesus. For example, Scripture teaches that God chose believers before the foundation of the world in Christ (Ephesians 1:4). It teaches that he predestined them to salvation and glorification (Romans 8:29–30), and that he saved them “according to His own purpose and grace which was given to [them] in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9). After conversion, I began to relish in the idea of God’s particular love and grace for me, even when I was wicked, ungodly, and sinful. I began to appreciate for the first time that the love I was experiencing (Romans 5:5) had its roots in eternity and was specific, rather than general, in its intention.

3. The Bible teaches that God powerfully conquers the recalcitrant heart of sinners and draws them to himself at his appointed time through the gospel of Jesus. For example, the Bible records the conversion of Lydia in the book of Acts. As Lydia listened to the gospel, it says, “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). This is a description of the doctrine of effectual grace. Lydia truly heeded Paul’s words of gospel truth—she repented and believed them, but she was able to do that because of the efficient cause (i.e. the Lord who opened her heart). This reality is also mentioned earlier in Acts 13:48. When the Jews rejected Paul’s gospel message, Paul announced that he would turn to the Gentiles and preach to them. Upon hearing this, it says that the Gentiles “were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Belief was the fruit of their appointment (note the passive tense) to eternal life. My own experience confirms what God’s word states. One day in college, I was sitting in a Bible class. As the professor spoke about the realities of God’s new covenant (i.e. the gospel) from Jeremiah 31:31–34, God effected a change in me, opening my heart to believe his word. Things have never been the same since!

4. The Bible teaches that Christ went to the cross to accomplish salvation for his elect people (i.e to die for their sins). Not only does Isaiah 53 (the clearest prophecy of Messiah’s suffering in the Old Testament) declare that after his death and resurrection he would “see his seed [i.e. the elect]” (Isaiah 53:10), but Jesus’ consciousness of his own messianic mission is manifested in the gospel of John where Christ spoke of “laying down his life for the sheep” and of “knowing his own” and of “having other sheep” not of the fold of the Jews (i.e. from the Gentiles) and of the charge he received from the Father to “lay down his life” for them specifically (see John 10 in its entirety). Earlier in the gospel, Jesus said it was the Father’s will that he should lose nothing of all that the Father had given him, a clear reference to people (i.e. elect sinners, John 6:35–40). Christ’s understanding of his mission in the gospel of John accords perfectly with Paul’s statements in Ephesians 5:25 that Christ “loved the church and gave himself up for her” (the language of particular, redeeming love). In the song of redemption in Revelation 5:9–10, Jesus is extolled as the worthy Lamb who redeemed sinners “from out of [note the partitive genitive] every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” This is a clear indication that he did not redeem all universally.

5. The Bible teaches that all of God’s elect people will attain glorified, resurrected existence (i.e. the age to come). They will do this because they are “kept by God’s power for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5), because the work that God begins, he will bring to completion (Philippians 1:6), and because God “is able to keep [them] from stumbling, and to present [them] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). Christ will shepherd all of the people for whom he died to their eternal home in the new creation (Revelation 7:17). The entire roster of the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 13:8) will attain glory. If God be for them, who can be against them (Romans 8:30–31)? In my own Christian experience, confidence in the Father’s power, Christ’s redeeming love, and the Holy Spirit’s grace has given me great assurance that I can apply the words of Philippians 1:6 to myself. I am not what I will one day be, but by the grace of God I am what I am, and “I press on, that I might lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).

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