“Well can I remember the manner in which I learned the doctrines of grace in a single instant. Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when I first received those truths in my own soul – when they were, as John Bunyan says, burned into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man – that I had made progress in Scriptural Knowledge , through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God.”
“One week night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, “How did you come to be a Christian?” I sought the Lord. “But how did you come to seek the Lord?” The truth flashed across my mind in a moment – I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make my constant confession: “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”
[CH Spurgeon: Defense of Calvinism]
Like Spurgeon, quoted above, the writer was not of the Calvinistic faith when converted to Christ. I only began to be aware even of its existence, listening every week to a fellow open air preacher in Belfast who, no matter what his text, always made his way to total depravity, unconditional election etc. At first, I fumed with several others, as my cherished doctrine of freewill * was demolished by this brother. Indeed, we used to encourage him to preach first, but only that we might go out after him “and repair the damage.” However, the issue would not go away and I decided to investigate it further. Romans 9 was an obvious passage to go to and I left it very uncomfortable indeed with a forced interpretation which practically denied its central message.
I came to be convinced of the truth of God’s sovereignty in salvation largely through reading Iain Murray’s book: The Forgotten Spurgeon. Since then I have always been an proponent of that system of thought commonly called Calvinism but what is indeed the very heart of the gospel.
There is much that could be (and has been) written about Calvinism but it is not my purpose to go over old ground or duplicate what might be found elsewhere.
Those who desire a positive declaration of the
Doctrines of Grace should follow this web link:
These are a series of messages preached at the opening of Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle in London when a number of men preached on the five points of Calvin.
My intention on this page is to simply set forth a few things which Calvinists do not believe i.e. clear up a few misconceptions. There is a world of difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism. I have read quite a number of booklets etc., all setting forth to refute Calvinism when it is obvious that the refuter had not done his home work. The thoughts below might not convince Arminian (non-Calvinist) believers of the truth of these doctrines, but hopefully it will enable them to understand Calvinists a little better.
* The term freewill has many connotations. It should not be opposed per se without having it defined. See below.
We intend generally to give an appropriate quote from Calvin. This is not because we hold him to be of joint authority with the word of God but simply to show that the man himself after whom these doctrines have come to be named (the wisdom of which is debatable – but we are just taking things as they stand) refuted the misunderstandings that are attached to his name. A useful book for Calvin quotations is Calvin’s Wisdom by Graham Miller subtitled: An Anthology Alphabetically Arranged and published by the Banner of Truth.
1) CALVINISTS DO NOT BELIEVE IN FATALISM:
There is an old joke on the go about the Calvinist who fell down the stairs … and laying somewhat bruised at the bottom praised the Lord and said: “I’m glad that’s that over!” Certainly we believe God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1:11) having ordained whatsoever comes to pass. But this is a far cry from fatalism. Fatalism places the running of the universe into the hands of blind random chance. Calvinists place the running of the universe in the hands of all wise, all loving and all just God. There is a world of difference.
CALVIN: He next adds, Jehovah our God is just in all his works. In this clause the Prophet confirms his former teaching, and the phrase, God is just, appears like rendering a reason for his dealings; for the nature of God supplies a reason why it becomes impossible for anything to happen by the blind impulse of fortune. God sits as a judge in heaven; whence these two ideas are directly contrary to each other. Thus if one of the following assertions is made, the other is at the same time denied; if God is the judge of the world, fortune has no place in its government; and, whatever is attributed to fortune is abstracted from God’s justice. (Commentary on Prophecy of Daniel)
The providence of God, as it is taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous accidents. (Calvin’s Institutes: 1:16:2)
2) CALVINISTS DO NOT BELIEVE THAT MEN ARE MERE ROBOTS OR PAWNS:
This flows from the above. We believe that men are free agents i.e. they are free to follow the dictates of their own will. We deny, however, that man’s will is free in the sense that the will is always dictated to by the heart and man’s heart is naturally sinful (Jeremiah 17:9/Proverbs 23:7) Man is the slave of sin and that slavery extends to his way of thinking and acting. But God still holds man responsible for his actions. It cannot be right that because man, through sin, loses his ability to serve or please God that he is no longer responsible to obey God’s commands. Judas freely chose his deed in betraying the Lord Jesus, as did the Jewish nation at that time. God holds them both accountable and refers to this in explaining why they were punished accordingly. (Acts 1:25/2:23) If man was a robot or a pawn, then there could not be a hell awaiting him when he died unrepentant. Indeed, he would have nothing to repent of.
CALVIN: The blame lies solely with ourselves, if we do not become partakers of this salvation; for he calls all men to himself, without a single exception, and gives Christ to all, that we may be illuminated by him. (Commentary on Isaiah the Prophet)
3) CALVINISTS DO NOT BELIEVE THAT MEN OWE THEIR DAMNATION PURELY TO THE DECREE OF GOD WITHOUT ANY REFERENCE TO MAN’S OWN SIN:
Both Calvinists and Arminians agree that there is such a thing as predestination from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) However some Arminians perceives that the Calvinist thinks that all men were viewed by God as being in a kind of state of neutrality and that He arbitrarily decreed that one would go to Heaven whilst another would go to Hell. This is not so. When God made His sovereign choice before time began, He viewed the whole human race as fallen in sin and so there were no neutrals. He could have left us all to be damned because of our sin and saved none. The wonder of grace is that He decreed to save any. If He was not obliged to save any, then He certainly was not obliged to save all. Spurgeon’s maxim stands true: Salvation is all of grace…damnation is all of sin.
CALVIN: [The Reprobate] are not induced to sin, as the faithful are to act aright, by the impulse of the Spirit, but they are the authors of their own evil, and follow Satan as their leader. [Commentary on Genesis]
Such blinding and hardening…must be ascribed exclusively to the depravity of man. (Commentary on Isaiah the Prophet)
4) CALVINISTS DO BELIEVE THAT ALL MEN ARE DUTY-BOUND
TO REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL:
Granted that there are some who call themselves Calvinists (but are in reality hyper Calvinists) who deny what is called duty faith and duty repentance. Since the Lord Jesus began to upbraid those cities wherein His mighty works were done because of they repented not (Matthew 11:20) and since the Holy Spirit reproves or convinces the world of sin because it believes not on Christ (John 16:7-9) we conclude that man, although unable to believe/repent in himself without divine strength (because of sin), is held fully responsible and therefore has a duty. If the sinner perceives himself here to be “caught between a rock and a hard place” … then isn’t it time that he cried out to the Lord to save him? God says: Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me… (Isaiah 27:5)
CALVIN: It is the ordinary practice of Scripture, whenever redemption is mentioned, to exhort to repentance. (Commentary on Isaiah)
5) CALVINISTS DO BELIEVE THAT THERE IS A NEED FOR EVANGELISM:
Again, although there are hyper Calvinists who deny either verbally or by their actions that evangelism is unnecessary, yet true Calvinists will seek “by all means to win some” The great evangelists whose praise is still in the churches were Calvinists e.g. George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Robert Murray McCheyne, John Bunyan etc., (to name but a few) William Carey, who has been called the Father of modern missionary endeavor, was a Calvinist. We evangelize because  it is commanded of God (Mark 16:15 etc.,) and  because God who has ordained the end (the ingathering of His elect) has ordained the ends thereto (evangelism). As above, we are not fatalists.
CALVIN: God commands the gospel to be preached indiscriminately to all. (Commentary on Genesis)
6) CALVINISTS DO NOT KNOW WHO THE ELECT ARE:
The writer once heard an Arminian preacher take up a comment of Spurgeon along this line. When Spurgeon first met his wife to be, she had not yet openly confessed the Lord, but was showing evidences of grace. Spurgeon said that he perceived that she was already a Christian. Now, out of the many ways Spurgeon could have worded this e.g. I knew she was a Christian…I knew she was born again…I knew that she belonged to Christ…or was in union with Him etc., he worded like this: I knew that her name was in the Lamb’s Book of Life. This comment was produced as evidence that Calvinists claim to have access to the Lamb’s Book of Life. Silly isn’t it? Admittedly I have only ever heard one frustrated preacher at it, but let us lay that spectre to rest. We don’t…at least not before they profess faith in the Lord Jesus. Then we can urge them to make their calling and election sure.
CALVIN: As we cannot distinguish between the elect and the reprobate, it is our duty to pray form all who trouble us, to desire the salvation of all men. (Commentary on Psalms)
7) CALVINISTS DO BELIEVE IN THE FREE OFFER OF THE GOSPEL:
Click here to see this point fully developed
Again, hyper Calvinists will only offer Christ to those whom they discern to be spiritually awakened enough to receive it, but true Calvinists will offer Christ freely to all men, assuring all that there is salvation if they will prevail of it. Whitefield’s sermons and Spurgeon’s are full of gospel invitation without any limitations of any kind. Here is how Arthur Pink closed one sermon preached in 1927:
Why not believe in him for yourself? Why not trust his precious blood for yourself, and why not tonight? Why not tonight, my friend? God is ready, God is ready to save you now if you believe on him. The blood has been shed, the sacrifice has been offered, the atonement has been made, the feast has been spread. The call goes out to you tonight. ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ (Studies in the Scriptures 1927)
We note how Paul in his great sermon in Acts 13 made good use of the phrase “unto you” when preaching, including those great words of v38:
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
Yet we read that many to whom these words were spoken rejected them. Here is indiscriminate preaching at its best.
CALVIN: The gospel is to preached indiscriminately to the elect and to the reprobate… (Commentary on Isaiah)
God offers his word indiscriminately to the good and bad… (Commentary on Ezekiel)
8) CALVINISTS DO BELIEVE THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT
CAN BE FINALLY RESISTED:
Stephen said so: Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. (Acts 7:53) There is a time when the Spirit of God stops striving with men (Genesis 6:3) and this is when they resist His convictions and He “leaves them alone in their darkness to dwell” But we believe that the elect cannot always resist Him – that there comes a time when the Spirit prevails and they are born again. We call this irresistible grace.
Let me point out something here. When Arminian Christians offer up petitions to God for the lost: “Lord, save my love ones…” etc., they are praying Calvinistic prayers. Arminianism effectively teaches that God has done everything that He can do since He cannot interfere with man’s free and sovereign will. Calvinism teaches that God needs to do everything and we can consistently ask Him to do more and save our lost ones etc., Thank God for inconsistent Arminians! Keep praying!
CALVIN: God…closes up the way of salvation against those who spurn the Holy Spirit, the only true guide. (Commentary on Hebrews)