Notes on Calvinism

(edited 5/19/21)
The "gospel" is not really good news if it's just for God's own glorification and not an expression of God's compassionate love for all people.
-Roger Olson

I have never written a post on Calvinism.  This is a compilation of some of my notes.  

9 Things a Calvinist Can Not Say:

  1. "Jesus died for you"
  2. "God loves you"
  3. "God wants you to be saved", or "God does not want you to go to hell"
  4. "I want you to be saved"
  5. "I am praying for you, to be saved"
  6. "God please save this person"
  7. "God does not want you to do that" or "believe that"
  8. "I used to be on my way to Hell"
  9. "You were not born a homosexual"
FAQ: Isn’t there a “middle ground” between Calvinism and Arminianism? A: No, there isn’t, not that is logically coherent. In fact, Arminianism is the middle ground between Calvinism and “semi-Pelagianism” which is the heresy (so declared by the Second Synod of Orange in 529 and all the Reformers agreed) that sinners are capable of exercising a good will toward God unassisted by God’s grace. With semi-Pelagianism (still an extremely popular view in American Christianity) Arminians believe sinners have free will, but with Calvinists Arminians believe free will in matters of salvation must be given by God through prevenient, assisting grace. Left to themselves, without the liberating power of grace, sinners will not exercise a good will toward God, but under the pressure of liberating, enabling grace many do reach out to God who has already reached down and into them, calling them to repent and believe. Against semi-Pelagianism and with Calvinism Arminianism believes and teaches that the initiative in salvation is God’s and that all the ability in salvation is God’s. But against Calvinism and with semi-Pelagianism Arminians believe sinners can resist God’s grace and, in order to be saved, must accept it freely. (Roger Olson)

Arminianism is not the opposite of Calvinism.  See the graphic below.   


I am not Calvinist, but lean towards Aminianism.

  • I believe in conditional election,  Salvation by faith alone.
    • Calvinism teaches unconditional election, the idea that God determines who will respond.
  • I believe in universal atonement, that Jesus died for all (John 3:16).
    • Calvinism teaches limited atonement, that Jesus only died for the predetermined ones.
  • I believe in grace and faith for salvation.  God gives all grace and we exercise faith.
    • Calvinism teaches irresistible grace, which means choice is gone.  "You choose, but you could not resist the choice".  Calvinism downplays free will.
  • I believe in free will.
    • Calvinism teaches total depravity, which means the will is so corrupted by sin, that man can not choose.
  • I believe that a person can "fall away", and that we must take responsibility to walk with Christ and maintain our relationship with God.
    • Calvinism teaches, "once saved, always saved", which means that you can live as a "carnal Christian", and be ok.
The Five Points Of Calvinism
The heart of Calvinism, behind these five points, is the very nature of God.  This is, in my view, the core problem of Calvinism.  Calvin's God predetermines that people go to hell, with no choice in the matter.  The God of Calvinism has a predestined script written for each one of us.  

In the debate over, or the balance between, human responsibly with free will against God's predestination and election, Calvinism says it is all on one side: we have no choice.  God chooses for us or God has a script that we follow that is predetermined.  

In Calvinism, God really is not love, certainly not unconditional love, because He really only loves the elect whom He chose for salvation.  Humans in Calvinism, have no free will to choose salvation.  In Calvinism, the sovereignty of God means, we have no free will or no choice, because if we did, Calvinism seems to teach; God would not be sovereign.  But the Bible teaches that God is completely sovereign and mankind has free will and responsibility.

Myths Calvinist might believe about Arminianism that simply are not true:
  • It is a myth that Arminianism is the opposite of Calvinism.  They actually have much in common.  Arminius was a Dutch reformed pastor.
  • It is a myth to say that Arminians are not orthodox evangelicals.
  • It is a myth that the heart of Arminianism is free will.  The real issue for Arminians is the character of God.
  • It is a myth that Arminians deny the sovereignty of God.  They view it differently and reject the absolute determinism of Calvinism.
  • It is a myth that Arminianism is human-centered.
  • It is a myth to say Arminianism is not a theology of grace.  Arminian theology fully denies a salvation by works, and teaches that God's grace brings a person to faith, and hence, to salvation.
  • It is a myth to say that Arminians do not believe in predestination.  The truth is they do, but define the term differently.  Predestination  in Arminian theology is grounded "in Christ".
  • It is a myth to say that Arminian theology denies justification by faith through grace alone. (Saved unto good works).
  • It is a myth to say that Arminians do not believe in the Penal Satisfaction Atonement theory.

God is love?

Walls does an excellent job of driving home the Achilles Heel of five point Calvinism which is that a believer in it cannot say to any group of people or any individual: “God loves you, Christ died for you, and you can be saved.” Of course, John Piper and some other five point Calvinists argue that they can say that to any group of people or to any individual. However, the “explanation” of that basic evangelistic statement, if made by a five point Calvinist, is so tortuous as to be laughable. As one five point Calvinist explained the first part of it “God loves all people in some ways but only some people in all ways.” And Piper argues that Christ’s death on the cross benefits even the reprobate—those God has predestined to hell—with “temporal blessings.” As I have said many times that amounts to giving them a little bit of heaven to go to hell in.

Walls:  Chapter 1, The Love of God: The Blind Spot of Calvinism 

Arthur W. Pink is a Calvinist theologian.

John Calvin's big work was his Institutes.  It is over 1,500 pages long.  It is his systematic Theology.  He discusses thousands of Biblical texts, but not one time does Calvin quote, "God is love", from 1 John 4:6 or 16; according to Walls (p. 5)

Calvinists seem to believe that by firmly rejecting universalism, that they must also believe that God does not love everyone.  So, they embrace a warped view of God.  The God of Calvinism is not good in the sense that He does not deeply and sincerely love all persons.  John 3:16