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HISTORY OF CALVINISM


In 1610, just one year after the death of James Arminius (a Dutch Seminary professor) five articles of faith based on his teachings were drawn up by his followers. The Arminians, as his followers came to be called, presented these five doctrines to the State of Holland in the form of a "Remonstrance" (i.e., a protest). The Arminian party insisted that the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism (the official expression of the doctrinal position of the Churches of Holland) be changed to conform to the doctrinal views contained in the Remonstrance. The Arminians objected to those doctrines upheld in both the Catechism and the Confession relating to divine sovereignty, human inability, unconditional election or predestination, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. It was in connection with these matters that they wanted the official standards of the Church of Holland revised.


A national Synod was called to meet in the city of Dort in Holland in 1618 for the purpose of examining the views contained in the Remonstrance in light of Scripture. The Great Synod was convened by the States-General of Holland on November 13, 1618. There were 84 members and 18 secular commissioners. Included were 27 delegates from Germany, the Palatinate, Switzerland, and England. There were 154 sessions held over a period of seven months that the Synod met to consider these matters, the last of which was held on May 9, 1619.


The Synod compared the "five points" presented in the Remonstrance with the teaching of Scripture. Upon close examination they were unable to reconcile the teaching of the Remonstrance with the teaching of Scripture, and so they unanimously rejected the "five points" of the Remonstrance. However, the Synod did not believe that a mere rejection of the views of the Remonstrance was sufficient. They believed that it was important to set out the true biblical teaching that had been called into question. They did this by embodying the biblical position in five chapters, which have ever since come to be known as "the five points of Calvinism." The name Calvinism was derived from the great French reformer, John Calvin (1509-1564), who had done so much in expounding and defending these biblical views.


The five points of Calvinism were organized into an acronym called TULIP by a theological student who was trying to devise a way to help him remember what the five points of Calvinism were. So, the five points of Calvinism, represented by the acronym TULIP, are as follows:


1. Total depravity. Both because of original sin and their own acts of sin, all mankind, excepting Christ, in their natural state are thoroughly corrupt and completely evil, though they are restrained from living out their corruptness in its fullness by the instrumentalities of God's common grace. Accordingly they are completely incapable of saving themselves.


2. Unconditional election. Before the creation of the world, out of his mere free grace and love, God elected many undeserving sinners to complete and final salvation without any foresight of faith or good works or any other thing in them as conditions or causes which moved him to choose them. That is to say, the ground of their election is not in them but in him.


3. Limited atonement. Christ died efficaciously, that is, truly savingly, only for the elect, although the infinite sufficiency of his atonement and the divine summons to all to repent and trust in Christ provide the warrant for the universal proclamation of the gospel to all men. I personally prefer the terms "definite atonement," "particular atonement," or "efficacious atonement" over "limited atonement," both because of possible misunderstanding of the word "limited" and because every evangelical "limits" the atonement either in its design (the Calvinist) or in its power to accomplish its purpose (the Arminian).


4. Irresistible grace. This doctrine does not mean that the non-elect will find God's grace irresistible; indeed, God's saving grace is not even extended to them. Nor does it mean that the elect will find God's saving grace irresistible the very first time it is extended to them, for even the elect may resist his overtures toward them for a time. What it does mean is that the elect are incapable of resisting forever God's gracious overtures toward them. At his appointed time, God draws the elect, one by one, to himself by removing their hostility and opposition to him and his Christ, making them willing to embrace his Son.


5. Perseverance of the saints. The elect are eternally secure in Christ, who preserves his own and enables them to persevere in him unto the end. Those professing Christians who have apostasized from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1), as John states, "went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us" (1 John 2:19).


(From a sermon by Freddy Fritz, Jesus Presents Believers to God, 6/25/2010)


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