Calvinism past and present

Calvinism is a branch of the Protestant church based on the teachings of French reformer, John Calvin (1509-64). The most fundamental tenet of Calvinistic belief is that God is sovereign. In addition to this core belief, there are five tenets of Calvinism, which are sometimes taught using the acronym TULIP:

  • Total depravity is the belief that humanity cannot be saved without God’s grace. This is due to original sin or the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.
  • Unconditional election is the belief that the few individuals who achieve salvation do so by the grace of God not by their own good works.
  • Limited atonement means that Christ died only for those individuals who are predestined for salvation, not for the world at large.
  • Irresistible grace dictates that individuals who are predestined for salvation cannot reject God’s grace.
  • Perseverance of the Saints is sometimes referred to as “once saved always saved,” that is, the elect chosen for salvation cannot lose that privilege.

Calvinists admit that men can are capable of good works without the guiding hand of God but insist that these acts are imperfect. Acts of charity without the influence of God are tarnished and serve only to stroke the givers ego. An additional belief that guides the modern Calvinist church is the regulative principle of worship. This means that all the elements necessary for worship are described in the Bible. Musical instruments were once forbidden in worship services because John Calvin theorized that musical instruments were not used in New Testament churches. Modern churches brush this belief aside and add singing and instruments to their services.

Calvinist belief is experiencing a new popularity in North America according to Time magazine writer David Van Biema. His article on Neo Calvinism is included in the March 12, 2009 article “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.” The somewhat rigid belief system appears to have a growing appeal to individuals swamped by an anything goes morality. The new spokespeople for Neo Calvinism include John Piper of Minneapolis, Mark Driscoll of Seattle, and Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.