Calvinist: a term which historians believe John Calvin himself did not like as it was originally coined as a term by Lutherans who disagreed with some aspects of Calvin’s theology, mainly, his stance on the nature of communion. But this short article is not even the beginning of a theological defence of the doctrines of Calvinism, lest I have to resign myself to writing a book!
It didn’t take long after my ‘theological conversion’ as I like to call it, for opposition against my convictions to rise; even to the point of being told I have fallen into heresy and thus, I must not be saved and should repent. Usually, I found it had something to do with a poor understanding, or even a completely absurd misunderstanding of the doctrine of predestination or the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Ask people to define these terms and they are often found to be unfairly represented. Yet even when accurately defined, one of these two doctrines usually really agitate some people and cause offence. And you know what? I get it.
Calvinism is uncomfortable and our old nature does not like it. Calvinism makes much of God and much less of us. It’s a worldview where man is very small and God is very big and that is actually good news because God is good. It removes us from the centre of our world and tells us that life actually revolves all around God. It’s all about Jesus. The doctrines of grace, as they are called, tells us that we are only recipients, mere beneficiaries of the grace, mercy and love of God. They are 100% unmerited and they are 100% dependent on the will of God, not ours. Perhaps why Calvinism irritates so many people is because deep down, there is still a part of us that likes to delude us into thinking we actually contributed something to our salvation, we actually had something to offer that made God love us or we actually reached out our hands before He reached out His.
My calvinistic convictions have nothing to do with my alleged “obsession” with John Calvin or St. Augustine (the theologian who people have accused Calvin of stealing these ‘novel’ ideas from instead of seeing these actually originate in and are founded by the bible itself). In fact, I identified as a ‘Calvinist Christian’ before I knew a single thing about Calvin and there was a time when I, for some reason, assumed he was a 17th century English theologian! It was only when my husband revealed Calvin’s true identity as a 16th century French pastor, theologian and reformer that I began to appreciate the extent of my poor church history! I took on this label of ‘Calvinist’ simply because I found scriptural support for its doctrines and it sounded then, as it does now, to accurately describe the God the bible speaks about.
But do I believe you have to identify as a Calvinist to be a true Christian? No, I don’t and I fully embrace those with Arminian convictions as my brothers and sisters in Christ. But do I believe Calvinism is supported by scripture and is therefore, true? Absolutely, I do. Otherwise, I would not believe it.
So in sum, how did I become a ‘Calvinist’ type of Christian? I approached Calvinism how anyone should approach it: with the belief that the bible is right and anything that contradicts it is wrong. So ultimately, I’m a Calvinist because I believe it’s biblical and I can see the scriptural support. And to me, it’s not actually ‘Calvinism’, it’s just Christianity. If I saw a difference between Calvinism and Christianity and still identified as a Calvinist regardless, then I have committed idolatry. But I maintain just as Charles Spurgeon did, namely that:
It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.