Very often when one hears the term “Calvinist,” there are negative experiences that go with the title. In my younger days, I had many arguments with those labeling themselves as followers of Calvin and with the advent of social media it is even easier to find others to disagree with. In person things can remain civil, but online all that can change.
It is not uncommon to log into Twitter and see a Calvinist superhero or Calvinist fictional character of some sort. Sadly, what is also uncommon is seeing them respond to others that hold to different beliefs with love. The veil of anonymity can really cause some to act not only abrasive, but nothing like Christ.
In my debut article I want to explain something. Being a Calvinist is not some amazing accomplishment that we gain by putting in extensive work or study of the Scriptures. You see, what Calvinists do believe are the doctrines of grace—something more commonly known as Tulip.
I will not be explaining each point in depth, but I do want to show that if we believe those points then we should not be arrogant or aggressive, but, instead, we should be humble. As a quick disclaimer, I am not doing this to defend Calvinism but rather to explain how believing these points should humble us.
Total Depravity—Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Due to Adam’s sin, we are also born into sin. Simply put, we are sinners to the core. Our hearts, minds, and souls are all tainted by sin. We are not as bad as we can be, but the potential is there.
Unconditional Election—Romans 9:10-13 “‘And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'” We do nothing to get chosen for salvation. God chose us before the foundations of the earth, not because of our merit or because we would have chosen him.
Limited Atonement—John 10:14-15 “‘I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.'” Christ died for the sheep. His death both secured and guaranteed salvation for the Elect. This is some times referred to as Definite Atonement, although it does not fit the acronym as well!
Irresistible Grace—John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” Sometimes called Effectual Grace it means that it is the work of God alone that brings us to Christ. We are dead before God quickens our hearts and it is completely his work that awakens us.
God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it. —R.C. Sproul
Perseverance of the Saints—Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” We will never fall from grace. We will have ups and downs but not “fall away.”
Those are very basic descriptions and, in the future, I can go more in depth, if needed. Please note, the point I am making is not really with TULIP itself. The point is that reading through each of those definitions makes it very clear that if God does all of the work, how can we be boastful?
Knowing that we were once dead in our sin should cause us to look at others differently. In 1 Corinthians 6:11 we read, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” How quickly do we forget where we came from?
If we understand that we do nothing to earn God’s favor or get him to choose us, then why do we look down on others? Our theology should affect how we view things. It should help us with our attitudes. Will we have times where pride and arrogance take the reins? Will we let our frustration get the best of us at times?
The answer is yes, but our general attitude should be different. We need to remember that before we were shown grace from God, we had no understanding of the theology that we now so boldly proclaim. We should be the humblest and the most heartfelt of worshippers if we truly understand the doctrines of grace.
My brothers and sisters, if we are going to say that we are Calvinists, then we should really understand what that entails. We are often looked at as aggressive and prideful and that needs to change. We should always seek truth and want everyone to come to a right understanding of Scripture, but we must have the right attitude and heart when doing so.
I am a Calvinist, but I pray that I let my love for others, and my desire to see them saved, outshine any arrogance in my theology.