John Calvin Short Biography John Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Although sometimes attributed to Calvin, the Synod of Dort actually wrote the Five Points of Calvinism in 1619. In the article, "New outlook, Volume 104," Alfred Emanuel Smith wrote that the Synod of Dort created the five points of Calvinism "to controvert the Five points of Arminius, which formed the basis of the discussions through the six months of the sessions of that Synod" (p. 394).

The Five Points of Calvinism include:

1. Divine Predestination

2. The Redemption of Men through the Death of Christ

3. Total Depravity.

4. Redemption through Grace.

5. Perseverance of Saints. (Smith, p. 394)

The Five points of Arminiusm are as follows:

1. Personal, Gratuitous Election to Everlasting Life.

2. Particular Redemption

3. Depravity, Native and Total.

4. Effectual Calling, or Regeneration, by the Holy Spirit.

5. Certain Perseverance of Saints unto Eternal Life. (Smith, p. 394)

Some individuals consider Calvinism to reflect another name for biblical Christianity. Matthew McMahon concurred with many writers regarding the propensity of Calvinism to stimulate controversy in the article, "A Short History of Calvinism." McMahon wrote: "Calvinism creates turmoil. It has shaken theological minds since the Scriptures attest to it time and time again. It has stirred countries such as Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, England and America; the Reformation was a central turning-back point in history" (¶ 1). Controvert regarding the Reformation and Calvinism, however, extend beyond Calvin's lifetime.

The Calvinistic Reformation, particularly in England during the 1539-1625 a.D. period aggressively opposed the Roman Catholic's beliefs. Particularly contrary to Catholic beliefs promoted during this time, Calvinists believe that one is saved by grace alone; that human works prove futile in regard to salvation. Calvinists also believe that not all men are "predestined" to receive eternal salvation.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism

When speaking of free will and predestination, John Calvin and Jacob Arminius are two primary theologians known to disagree on the two topics. Calvin, not only a prominent theologian, was also highly trained durian his University years on matters of humanity. Calvin also considered concerned the reform of the Church to be a primary personal concern. Erwin W. Lutzer reported in the book, the Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historic Doctrines That Separate Christians, because Lutheranism was suppressed in France, Calvin fled to Geneva Switzerland, in 1538 and was persuaded to stay there by Farel, a man who was part of the reform movement in Switzerland" (p. 178). Calvin was twenty-seven years old at this time in his life. He also begin to publish his highly know Institutes of the Christian Religion at that time.

The Institutes of Religion were written and contained pertinent, concise Biblical Theology. Long after they were published, these works written by Calvin were still considered the basic textbook of theology for the Protestant religion. Lutzer explains that "Calvin's overriding concern was an understanding of the sovereignty of God and the assurance that his purposes will be accomplished. Calvin agreed with Luther that the will of the unconverted was in bondage" (p 178). Calvin also believed that all men can be rescued from bondage by God. God will give some of these men eternal life and will send other to reprobation.

Calvin believed that all men were destined to be either exalted to eternal life and others to eternal damnation. Lutzer explains that the "reason for the divine choice is inscrutable, but the choice is not arbitrary…. Calvin called this the dreadful decree" (Lutzer, p. 178). These views dramatically differed from those Jacob Arminian taught.

The differences between Calvinism and Arminianism include different views on predestination and free will. Roger E. Olson wrote in the book, Arminian theology: Myths and realities, "at a more polemical level, some say the disagreement is more about grace (Calvinism) and good works (Arminianism). Arminians take umbrage at that. They affirm grace just as emphatically as any other branch of Christianity, and more some than some" (Olson, p. 19). Arminians do believe in predestination and Calvinists believe in free will to a certain degree.

Grace depicts another subject Calvinists and Arminians agree on. Olson explained that grace "is what makes Arminian synergism 'evangelical'. Arminians take with almost seriousness the New Testament's emphasis on salvation as a gift of grace that cannot be earned (Ephesians 2:8)" (Olson, p. 36). Arminian and Calvinist theologies both travel different paths, however, when discussing the salvation of mankind. Calvinists believe that the Bible teaches particular redemption, while Arminiams believe in salvation of men through Christ.

Calvin's Doctrines: Predestination and Free Will

John Calvin's theologies are the foundation for Presbyterianism today. Calvin ended up in Geneva, Switzerland after leaving France. Calvin believed that men do have freewill, but at the same time we are all sinners. Paul Brians asserts in the article, "John Calvin: Free Will and Predestination," "God is necessarily good, i.e., it is of his very nature to be good; yet the fact that He cannot do anything evil is not a limitation on him, i.e., does not show that he is lacking in some liberty" (p. 1). Calvin believed that all men are responsible for their own actions, because our actions are all done voluntarily. Calvin also believed that God knows what is going to happen, he believed in predestination.

Calvin believes that God has predestined knowledge that mankind will sin and they should be condemned for that. Brians explains that Calvin believed that "God has pre-ordained, at the beginning of time, who it is that He will graciously save -- in Calvin's words, "favored with the government of His Spirit" (p. 1). Calvin taught that it is not mankind's job to understand why some people are saved and others are not.

Calvin also believed that justification and sanctification are two separate entities but they are still tied together to a certain extent. Calvin often spoke of a "double grace" of Christ. Dennis E. Tamburello asserts in the book, Union with Christ: John Calvin and the mysticism of St. Bernard, "by keeping sanctification distinct, he maintains an understanding of justification as totally the work of God. Calvin defines justification "simply as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as righteous men" (p. 50). When Calvin speaks of justification, he speaks of "acceptance" or "being acquitted." He in essence believes that sinners, in God's eyes are confirmed to be just. Calvin also taught that God does not make us feel guilty for our sins. He believes that God instills in us the righteousness of Christ.


In the book, Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin and Henry Beveridge wrote that when Calvin lived in Geneva, Calvin presented biblical lectures prior to preaching. For years, citizens' councils met in Geneva. In 1537, Farel and Calvin presented governmental and ecclesiastical recommendations to Geneva's little Council, which the council adopted in a modified form. Individuals from Bern, a neighboring city and the fact Calvin was considered a fiery foreigner, Calvin and Beveridge explain, fomented opposition to Farel and Calvin. In turn, officials banned Farel and Calvin from Geneva.

When Calvin later moved Strasbourg, he pastured French refugees as well as lectured, and wrote a commentary on Romans. In Strasbourg, he also revised and expanded his Institutes. During this time, Martin Bucer, one of Calvin's mentors, encouraged him that he needed a wife. In 1540, at the age of 31, Calvin married Idelette, the recent widow of John Storduer, an intelligent mother of two, also an articulate Anabaptist leader. Calvin accepted Idelette's children as his own. Calvin and Idelette did not have any children to survive their infancy. After Idelette died in 1549 from an illness suspected to be tuberculosis, Calvin did not remarry (Calvin and Beveridge).

Calvin created and wrote theology that to this day dominates Western culture. Calvin is considered a great Reformer for today's American cultures. His views and beliefs are at the heart of what most American's believe regarding Christianity today. Although Calvin was a lawyer, he was extremely dedicated to Reforming the Church. Richard Hooker asserts in the article, "Discovery and Reformation: John Calvin," "he was saturated with the ideas of Northern Renaissance humanism. He was dedicated to reform of the church and he got his chance to build a reformed church when the citizens of Geneva revolted against their rulers in the 1520's" (¶ 2). At that time Calvin was invited to go to Geneva to build the new Reformed Church.

One of the most important things that Calvin did during this time was organizing the governance of the Reformed Church. He organized from a social stand point the Church and the city in Geneva. Hooker explains that Calvin was "the first major political thinker to model social organization entirely on biblical principles. At first his reforms did not go over well" (¶ 5). Calvin created leaders within the new church and also developed a catechism for each member of the church.

Calvin, along with Guillaume Farel together mandated a strict moral code on all the citizens in Geneva. This moral code…

Sources Used in Document:


Brians, Paul. "John Calvin: Free Will and Predestination." Institutes of the Christian

Religion. Vol 2 Reading about the World. Washington: Washington State

University, 1998. . Web. 24 Jan. 2010.

Calvin, Jean. Institutes of the Christian religion, Volume 1. Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian

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