Calvinism’s Popularity


Adam B. Cozort

The doctrine of Calvinism has been a staple doctrine in almost every “protestant” religion for the last few centuries. Though most denominations do not hold to all five tenets of Calvinism (Total hereditary depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints – or TULIP), they do believe in at least one or two of the afore mentioned attributes. However, the question which often surfaces when discussing this topic is “Why do so many people believe it?”

There are three answers to this question which revert back to the attitudes behind Calvinism. There are many people who will sincerely state they are simply trying to be obedient to the Scriptures. But the attitudes portrayed through the doctrines they purport show another side to the story. Consider the implications of Calvinism and why it is attractive to so many people.

It denies personal responsibility. The first two tenets of Calvinism are the express culprits to this line of reasoning. Total hereditary depravity teaches that man is born lost. He has retained the sins of those who came before him (called the “Adamic nature” in reference to the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden), and therefore is born into this world completely depraved of salvation. Thus God is made a liar when He spoke through Ezekiel: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Eze 18:20). Another culprit in this mentality is the tenet of unconditional election. This belief in predestination states that it doesn’t matter what I do in life, if God wants me to be saved it will be so. Because of these beliefs, there is no feeling of personal responsibility for those who cling to Calvinism. They can go through life and do what they will because, ultimately, they are not responsible. They entered this life with the sins of others and with an election of God with no strings attached. Therefore, it is a “eat, drink, and be merry” doctrine with no personal responsibility necessary or implied.

It leaves God holding the bag. The two components of Calvinism called limited atonement and irresistible grace place all of the responsibility for salvation upon God and not man. Limited atonement states that God has only chosen a select few to be saved, the rest will be lost. Combined with unconditional election, this precept teaches that God arbitrarily selected a random group of individuals to be saved; taking into account nothing of their lifestyle, beliefs, or desires. Anyone not in that group is simply lost and out of luck. This is where irresistible grace enters the picture. Within the doctrine of irresistible grace is the mentality that if God wants to extend His grace to you, you couldn’t deny it if you wanted. This mentality, combined with the lack of personal responsibility, seeks to place upon God the full responsibility for each person’s eternal situation. It states that God, ultimately, does not want all men to be saved, but only a select few. Therefore, if you were not selected by God at the beginning of time, tough luck. You can simply blame God for putting you in this situation both now and throughout eternity. Such is a very dangerous doctrine on which to try to hold. This doctrine makes God a liar when He revealed, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9). It is God’s will that all men be saved, but it is much easier for many to make God responsible for all things, good and bad.

It gives a false sense of security. The final tenet of Calvinism teaches the perseverance of the saints. This doctrine, (generally called “once saved, always saved”) teaches that once God has chosen you, there is nothing you can do to lose your salvation. This is a very attractive belief for many people, believing they can live their lives however they wish and God will not hold them accountable. However, God stated that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give account for the things we have done (II Cor. 5:10-11). There is also the principle of restoration set forth in Scripture which would be unnecessary if this were true (Gal. 6:1; Jam. 5:19-20). Therefore, this false sense of security only leads souls to their destruction.

The reasons why so many believe in Calvinism are many, but they are all dangerous. The Bible in no way teaches, nor endorses any of these tenets. Therefore, we must lovingly but firmly deny and disassociate ourselves from any such beliefs.