Calvinism Its Tenets and Impact in the South and in the World Essay

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Calvinism in the South

Calvinism

Calvinism is an interconnection of beliefs and influences adopted by many denominations, and creeds (Bowen 2014). It was first known as the reformed theology, produced by the Protestant Movement started by Martin Luther in the 16th century. It sought to alter or reform the perspectives of the Roman Catholic Church in explaining the basis for man's salvation through the sovereignty of God (CARM 2014). Since then, it became known as Calvinism after the name and works of John Calvin, a French theologian and Protestant reformer (Christianity Guide 2014, Wilson 2004). Calvin belonged to the second-generation of reformed theologians, along with Heinrich Bullinger, Wolfgang Musculus, Peter Martyr Vermigii and Andreas Hyperius. First-general theologians included Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Bucer, Wolfgang Capito, John Oecolampadius and Guillaume Farel. These first-generation theologians came from different academic disciplines but soon their thoughts and beliefs cohered with the Scripture as the primary source of authority. The doctrine of the reformed churches then took a separate direction from Luther's under the influence of many writers and reformers. When Calvin eventually gained fame in association with these reformed church, their entire doctrine became known as Calvinism It covers all the doctrines and practices of the reformed churches. Its strongest doctrines are predestination and election (Bowen, CARM, Wikipedia 2014).

John Calvin was the most eminent among the many writers and reformers of the Reformed Church. He was a French theologian and Protestant reformer of the 16th century (Slick 2014, Bowen 2014, Christianity Guide 2014, Wilson 2004). He was first a lawyer and later a pastor in Geneva, Switzerland. He wrote commentaries on the various books of the Bible. But he is best known for his work, "The Institutes of the Christian Religion," on Christian theology he published at the young age of 26. It was revised a number of times in his lifetime. It even had a French version. His polemical and pastoral works, contributions to confessional documents for churches and numerous commentaries on the Bible created a direct influence on Protestantism (Slick, Bowen, Christianity Guide, Wilson).

Calvin's influence spread far and wide. His main practice was in Geneva but his works brought his ideas to other parts of Europe (Christianity Guide 2014, Bowen 2014). These included Scotland, the Netherlands, parts of Germany, France, Hungary and Poland. Most of the initial settlers in the Mid-Atlantic and New England were Calvinists. The first successful European colonizers of South Africa were Dutch Calvinists from the start of the 17th century. Calvinist settlers were also the biggest populations in Sierra Leona. And among the largest communities established in Korea and Nigeria by missionaries of the 19th and 20th centuries were Calvinists (Christianity Guide, Bowen).

The central principles of Calvinism are soteriology and the regulative principle of worship (CARM 2014, Slick 2014), Wilson 2004). Soteriology is the doctrine of salvation, which states that man cannot do anything or add anything to himself in order to obtain salvation. Only God can initiate man's salvation in every stage and aspect of it. This includes the infusion of faith and man's very decision to follow Christ. This doctrine was created and codified during the Synod of Dori in 1618-1619. Calvinism is also alternately called Augustiniaism because of the centrality of soteriology drawn from St. Augustine's argument with Pelagius, the British month. It entirely opposes the doctrine of decisionism by Charles Finney and his fellow dissenters. Calvinism leans heavily on the perpetual goodness of the original creation as well as the total uselessness of ma's endeavors. It underscores the sense of frustration in the entire creation because of sin. It concludes that salvation is then is the sole work of God and not the product of man's works (CARM, Slick, Wilson).

God chooses to deal mercifully rather than justly with man. Although it would be perfectly just for God to condemn man to ruin because of sin, He chooses to show mercy but only to some chosen individuals for His own glory (Slick 2014, Wilson 2004). Man's willingness, his faith or any virtue he may have practiced well cannot earn him salvation. He is saved only when God, out of His mercy, is one of those chosen. Even his belief or faith and obedience as a result of faith are not his doing but only God's gift to him. It is entirely a matter of grace. This, according to Calvinism, is how God saves sinners. Calvinists stress the doctrine of grace strongly in order to enliven the church on the extent of God's saving love towards those who could or would not obey him. At the same time, the emphasis on grace was strongly taught in order destroy pride and self-reliance and trust God instead. Calvinism taught sanctification to mean a sustained trust in God to cleanse and empower the Christian's depraved heart from the power of forgiven sin, thus increase Christian joy (Slick, Wilson).

Calvinism states that the plan of God goes unhampered in every situation of life, despite seeming contradictions (Slick 2014, Wilson 2004). He is not only the Creator but is also the preserver and overseer of every detail in His creation. Thus, everything depends on God. The consciousness of it does not occur only with acts of piety, such as when a person prays or contemplates. This absolute dependence on God pervades even the most mundane activities of man. In a word, the Calvinist views all of life as the Christian religion itself (Slick, Wilson).

The five points of Calvinism insure the salvation of the chosen despite the unrighteousness of the rest (CARM 2014, Bowen 2014). They also constitute the differences Calvinism has from Arminianism. These are total depravity or inability, unconditional election, Limited atonement, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. By total depravity or inability, Calvinism means that man, by nature, is not inclined to love God with all his heart, mind, soul or strength. Instead, by nature, he tends to serve his own interests and reject God's rule. This disables him from obeying God and getting saved. Unconditional election means that God chooses those whom He will save by grace from eternity. Others cannot be saved by anything else, such as by the practice or virtue, merit or faith. The election or selection is based unconditionally upon His mercy. Limited atonement is also called particular redemption or definite atonement. It means that the death of Christ on the Cross will erase the penalty only of those whom God chooses from eternity. Christ's atoning death is limited to them. It is also definite and particular and as certain to come to those already chosen. Irresistible or efficacious grace is sent to those God specifically chooses at His chosen time. It is irresistible or efficacious in that it will overcome the resistance, if any, of these chosen ones. By this grace, they will heed the call of the gospel and receive the salvation by faith in Christ. And perseverance or preservation of the saints means that a chosen person who has been saved will persevere and never come to damnation. He cannot be condemned any more. He is called a saint, or someone set apart by God and who may not be exceptionally holy or someone canonized or already in heaven (CARM, Bowen).

Calvinism teaches that God alone chooses who will be saved.

2. Calvinism and Southern Religion and Southern Culture

The two largest Christian evangelical organizations in America today are the Southern Baptists and the Free-Will Baptists (Dishman 2014). They have common beliefs but they evolved from separate and different original theological movements. These beliefs differ in the matters concerning salvation, grace and fellowship. The Baptists of the 17th century belonged to the Arminian movement, which upheld human free will and free choice. But a movement with members who held Calvinist beliefs, surfaced. They argued for God's exclusive prerogative to choose who will be saved. Neither of these groups believed or practiced infant baptism, which distinguished them from other Christian sects. Southern Baptist churches grew out of European Calvinist movements (Dishman).

All Baptists are Protestants who, like mother other Christians, believe in the Divine Trinity and the meritorious death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Dishman 2014). All Baptist groups practice immersion baptism for persons who are old enough to learn and to know how to practice the Christian faith. Both Southern Baptists and Free-Will Baptists believe that man must trust in Jesus Christ as his personal savior in order to obtain eternal life. But they again differ on how man should accept Christ. Southern Baptists uphold the Calvinist principle that once a person is saved, he is always saved. This means that such person is forgiven by God even if he sins. On the other hand, Free-will Baptists, who uphold Arminian beliefs, maintain that a believer who is saved is still free to commit apostasy by rejecting his faith. He needs to persist in following Christ in order to preserve salvation. And they differ again on the age-old Christian practice of foot washing. Southern Baptists today no…[continue]

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