I remember going through seminary and having a professor challenge me to always define my terms.
Never just assume that your audience knows exactly what you're talking about and never assume that you are always on the same page with people, even if they claim to have the same opinion as you do. There is no situation in which this is more true than in the context of theology. Calvinism has become such a loaded term that everybody and their cousin has a different definition of what they believe it to be. The same can be said for reformed theology as a whole. A very wise man I know would say jokingly, "opinions are like armpits, everybody has them and they all stink." Primitive but effective. With that statement fully intact and the mental picture fully seared, please allow me to share with you my stinking opinion and define some terms that I believe need to be defined in order for you to understand where I'm coming from.
In the next few blogs, I'm going to define for you what I believe to be the main aspects of Calvinism. (I know, trigger word.) This blog will serve as an intro to this short series. Keep in mind, this is my definition and not the definition of a confession or counsel. I have nothing against confessions or councils by the way. I think they are very effective and beneficial for the Christian to study. This is just my personal definition of how I believe Calvinism can be explained in a clear and concise manner. I do believe that my opinion is correct, otherwise I would not be saying it, but I do not believe that this is the only correct way to define these terms. With that caveat in place, I’ll not try to be boring here.
I have to confess first that theology is something of a lifestyle for me. If you ask my friends, or better yet, my wife, they might say it’s more of an obsession. If I am going to be totally honest and transparent…I have no idea what they’re talking about. All I do is talk about it all the time, have a Charles Spurgeon’s portrait on my wall and John Calvin’s birthday as my password. Their concerns are obviously and seriously unfounded. (Ok...maybe I have a problem.)
Now it is important to note that once you embrace the first point of Calvinism (and biblically it is unescapable), you logically must accept the other four. Many will disagree with this and attempt to call themselves “four pointers”, but with respect to those that take this stance, the reality is the truths found in the Five Points of Calvin are not able to be taken individually or apart from each other. Each point builds on and binds the other four. You are either a “five pointer” or you don't truly believe in them at all. Harsh? Maybe, but the truth is harsh at times. I do not say this to cause a ruckus, but simply to emphasize the importance of all five of these points.
So now that I have totally lost you, I want to talk about Calvinism. Calvinism is generally used as a term that describes the doctrine behind the Five Points of John Calvin. Traditionally, (I say traditionally because they have gone through many different alterations from the original acronym) the Five Points are known through the quaint acronym TULIP. These five points are:
Perseverance of the Saints
One thing that I want to emphasize is that John Calvin taught many more things than just these five points. I think it’s ironic that for some reason this is really all he is acknowledged for. I can hear him saying “the best you groupies can do is five points? I talked about a heck of a lot more than that.” I’m sure that is exactly what he would say. Just way smarter and through the muffled filter of an epic beard. (If it’s not obvious, I’m displaying my total depravity at the moment.)
It is my hope that this series will be an encouragement to you as well as perhaps be an eye opening experience. There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to Calvinism. It is my hope that as you read this series you will come to a greater love for God and His Gospel, that you will realize your need for Christ and His grace and that you will find the peace and assurance that I believe comes from these truths. I pray you enter into this topic with an open mind that is wanting to know God more. I pray the Lord uses this series to do that. All glory to God!