The Five Points of Calvinism
The Canons of Dort present to us five major doctrines concerning our salvation. They are more popularly known to us as the “Five Points of Calvinism,” not because John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote them (since he was already with the Lord when the Synod of Dort met in 1618), but because Calvin, among many other Reformers, had previously reopened the eyes of the Church to this teaching of the Scriptures. The doctrines of grace formulated were not the inventions of Calvin, but are the teachings of Scripture which Calvin and others have carefully examined and systematically outlined. God forbid we should ever build our faith on the teachings or authority of any mere man or manmade creed. The Five Points of Calvinism are not historically conditioned doctrines which eventually can be abandoned, but they are the teachings of our Sovereign, Covenant God. Christians for generations have given life and possessions that these truths may be upheld.
At the mention of “Calvinism” many mouths drop open – aghast that anyone still believes in these antiquated teachings anymore. Such reaction usually indicates two things – a lack of knowledge of what Calvin actually taught and, more seriously, an ignorance of Scripture. My effort in this short study is to demonstrate from Scripture that God is sovereign just as Calvin and multitudes of people since then have taught and believed.
For the most part “Calvinism” is falsely characterized by opponents to the doctrines of grace. It is necessary to counter such portrayals and to present these doctrines from the perspective of someone who actually believes these teachings.
The most outspoken archrival of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty is a system of doctrine which has come to be known as Aminianism. Arminianism cannot stand the test of Scripture and must therefore be considered a heresy which depends on sinful man’s concept of human justice and freedom. The fires of Arminianism which have burned their way into the majority of church denominations were fanned by such movements in history as the Renaissance, the French Enlightenment, Revivalism, Liberalism, Neo-Evangelicalism, and today’s Post Modern Self-Esteem Theology.
Arminianism continues yet today as an attempt to exalt man, the natural result of which is to dethrone God. Not only the absolute power of God, but the authority (ie. His right) and justice of God are called into question and denied. If God is no longer the sovereign God revealed to us in Scripture, then Satan has succeeded in his deception first taught to Adam and Eve, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5 NKJV). Arminianism is certainly not a new concept. It had its roots in the Fall; the result of which was that man desired “autonomy” in which he claimed the right to make all his own choices according to his own will which he admits is slightly tarnished, yet still retains the ability to make good choices. This proud spirit is evident in those who reject God’s perfect, sovereign will over them.
In fairness to many who espouse Arminian doctrines, it should be noted that few of them have ever been exposed to the real teachings of Calvinism. Some detractors have never thought through their own faith sufficiently to see its real ramifications and logical conclusions.
A Present Concern
I am concerned with the state of the Christian Church today. It may appear to some to be undergoing a healthy numerical expansion. Yet, I fear that it is being built with shoddy and combustible materials (cf. I Cor. 3:11-15). The confessions of Christians have been reduced to “I believe in Jesus.” According to Acts 16:31, that is the requirement for salvation and we rejoice to hear those words. But sadly, that confession often has little definition. Who is the I? What is belief? Where does it come from? How long will it last? Who is Jesus? Why was He sent? For whom did He die? For whose glory am I saved? How do you explain the unbelief of many who hear and reject the gospel? How is it that I have come to believe? Will this faith, and hence my salvation, last, and if so, by whose power?
It is appalling to witness the number of people in Reformed Churches who are really “closet Arminians.” They can neither define nor defend the Scripture’s teaching on the sovereignty of God in all things. For some, this is an optional doctrine. Many consistently fail to see the distinction between the Creator and the creature. Some appear to actually apologize for the Reformed faith, as though it did not come from the Word of God. While many claim to be in the Calvinistic tradition historically, they betray themselves by their own confessions and lives.
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author. If you’ve enjoyed reading it, you can purchase a copy for yourself.
If you’d like to read other blog posts in the series, start here.