12-myths-calvinism

1. Calvinism is not a system of theology that denies God’s universal love.

While there are some Calvinists who do deny God’s universal love for all men, this is certainly not a necessary or a central tenet of Calvinism. Calvinists do, however, believe that God has a particular type of love for the elect (an “electing love”), but most also believe that God loves all people (John 3:16). It is a mystery to Calvinists as to why he does not elect everyone. (More on this here.)

2. Calvinism is not a belief that God creates people in order to send them to hell.

Again, this is not representative of normative Calvinism. While supralapsarians do believe that God creates people to send them to hell, the majority of Calvinists are not supralapsarians. (More on this here.)

3. Calvinism is not a belief that God is the author of evil.

Because of Calvinism’s high view of God’s sovereignty, many mistakenly believe that Calvinists hold God responsible for sin and evil. This is not true. There are very few Calvinists who believe that God is the author of evil. Most Calvinists believe that to ascribe responsibility for evil to God is unorthodox.

As John Calvin put it:

“. . . the Lord had declared that ‘everything that he had made . . . was exceedingly good’ [Gen. 1:31]. Whence, then comes this wickedness to man, that he should fall away from his God? Lest we should think it comes from creation, God had put His stamp of approval on what had come forth from himself. By his own evil intention, then, man corrupted the pure nature he had received from the Lord; and by his fall drew all his posterity with him into destruction. Accordingly, we should contemplate the evident cause of condemnation in the corrupt nature of humanity-which is closer to us-rather than seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God’s predestination. [Institutes, 3:23:8]”

4. Calvinism is not a belief in fatalism.

A fatalistic worldview is one in which all things are left to fate, chance, and a series of causes and effects that has no intelligent guide or ultimate cause. Calvinism believes that God (not fate) is in control, though Calvinists differ about how meticulous this control is.

5. Calvinism is not a denial of freedom.

Calvinists do not believe that people are robots or puppets on strings. Calvinists believe in freedom and, properly defined, free will. While Calvinists believe that God is ultimately in control of everything, most are compatibilists, believing that he works in and with human freedom (limited though it may be). Calvinists believe in human responsibility at the same time that they hold a high view of God’s providential sovereignty. (More on this here.)

6. Calvinism is not a belief that God forces people to become Christians against their will.

Calvinists believe in what is called “irresistible grace.” This might not be the best name for it since it does not really communicate what is involved. Calvinists believe that people are dead in their sin (Eph 2:1), haters of God, with no ability to seek him in their natural state (Rom 3:11John 6:44; 1 Cor 2:14). Since this is the case, God must first regenerate them so that they can have faith. Once regenerate, people do not need to be forced to accept God, but this is a natural reaction—a willing reaction—of one who has been born again and, for the first time, recognizes the beauty of God. That is an action that they will always choose due to their new inclinations.

7. Calvinism is not a belief that you should only evangelize the elect.

No one knows who the elect are. I suppose that if there was a way to find out, both Calvinists and Arminians (the main alternative to Calvinism) would only evangelize the elect (since Arminians also believe only the elect will be saved even though they understand election differently). Since we don’t know, it is our duty to evangelize all people and nations. Some of the greatest evangelists in the history of Christianity, such as Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards, have held to the doctrine of unconditional election.

8. Calvinism is not a belief that God arbitrarily chooses people to be saved.

Calvinists believe that God elects some people to salvation and not others and that this election is not based on anything present or foreseen, righteous or unrighteous, in the individual, but upon God’s sovereign choice (Rom. 9:11). But this does not mean that the choice is arbitrary, as if God is flipping a coin to see who is  saved and who is not. Calvinists believe that God has his reasons, but they are in his mysterious secret will.

9. Calvinism is not a system of thought that follows a man, John Calvin.

While Calvinists obviously respect John Calvin, they simply believe that he correctly understood and systematized some very important Apostolic teachings concerning election, man’s condition, and God’s sovereignty. However, much of this understanding did not originate with John Calvin, but can be seen in many throughout church history such as Aquinas, Anselm, and Augustine. Ultimately, Calvinists will argue, they follow rightly interpreted Scripture.

10. Calvinism is not a system that has to ignore or reinterpret passages of Scripture concerning human responsibility.

Calvinists believe that all people are responsible to do what is right even though, as fallen children of Adam, they lack the ability to do what is right (in a transcendent sense; see below) without God’s regenerating grace. Therefore, God’s call and commands apply to all people and all people are responsible for their rejection and rebellion. It is upon this basis that judgement takes place.

11. Calvinists do not believe that no one can do any good thing at all.

Calvinists believe in what is called “total depravity” (as do Arminians). However, total depravity does not mean that people cannot ever do anything good. Calvinists believe that unregenerate people can do many good things and sometimes even act better than Christians. But when it comes to people’s disposition toward God and their acknowledgment of him for their abilities, gifts, and future, they deny him and therefore taint all that they are and do. An unbeliever, for example, can love and care for his children just as a believer can. In and of itself this is a very good thing. However, in relation to God this finds no eternal or transcendent favor since they are at war with him, the Giver of all things. Therefore, it might be said, while all people can do good, only the regenerate can do transcendent good.

12. Calvinists do not necessarily believe that God predestines (wills) everything, including the color of socks I chose this morning.

There is a spectrum of belief about God’s sovereignty in Calvinism. The one thing that unites all Calvinists is their belief in God’s sovereign choice to elect some people to salvation and not others. However, Calvinists differ concerning God’s involvement in other areas (for more on this, see here). Some Calvinists believe in what might be called “meticulous sovereignty,” where God has not only predestined people to salvation, but he has also predestined everything that occurs. As the old saying goes, “There is not a maverick molecule in the universe.” However, most Calvinists believe in what might be called “providential sovereignty.” Here, Calvinists would distinguish between God’s permissive will and his sovereign will. In his permissive will, many things happen that he permits, but is not necessarily bringing about as the first cause. In his sovereign will, many things happen because of his direct intervention (for more on this, see here).

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C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.

Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    11 replies to "12 Myths About Calvinism"

    • Missy M

      Apparently you know “most Calvinists ” since you claim to know what most of them subscribe to. Yeah, I didn’t think so. Maybe you can find a caring theology Professor to submit these essays to before you publish them here, she would keep you from such dubious claims

      • Chaplain Scott

        Missy M perhaps you are unaware that Michael is well educated and based on his experience debating contemporary and historic theology is quite qualified to write about this topic? When someone owns a blog they get to write whatever they choose, and don’t require permission from your “caring theology professor” to do so

      • Michael Patton

        Why would I need a caring theology Professor when I have you? 🙂

    • Kevin Simonson

      Let me make sure I understand this. Do Calvinists all believe God knows ahead of time who will be saved and who will not? Do any Calvinists believe that?

      Compatibilism was mentioned. I think that’s the belief that it’s possible both for God to know everything that’s going to happen in the future, and also for each of us to have free will. Is that what compatibilism is? If it is, why should I believe in compatibilism?

      • Kenny

        Compatibilism says that man is freely doing what he wants, but what his choices are based solely on his fallen nature. In Calvinism, that nature of man is decreed by God. Therefore, a sinful man is trapped into his fate and can’t do otherwise unless God internally changes the man’s nature and makes him want to believe. As for the majority of humanity (the reprobate in Calvinism), no amount of general revelation, reading of the Bible, hearing preaching, or outward conviction of the Holy Spirit can convince a person to humble themselves, seek God, believe in Christ, put their trust in Him, and repent. In other words, man after the fall (the fall decreed by God, in Calvinism) lives basically by animal instinct. Also, all of the external revelation God has graciously provided for man is not powerful enough to allow man to understand his condition and need for a savior. Calvinists tend to focus on man’s condition while diminishing the power of God’s word, which God decided Himself to reveal to man. Man cannot seek God in his own, but does that also mean man created in God’s image cannot respond to his Creator when confronted with the truth that He has revealed? That should be the starting point, not on the condition of man. God has done something about it. Paul makes it clear in Romans 1, Romans 2, and Acts 17 that no one has an excuse for unbelief. You have to be careful with Calvinists. I find they have a tendency just to paint their system from one side and shove the other half side under the rug.

    • Bob Ruby

      “Calvinism IS NOT a system of theology that denies God’s universal love.”

      Immediately after:

      “There are some Calvinists WHO DO deny God’s universal love”

      How can you say denial is a myth when you literally admit it yourself in the same breath?

      • Michael Patton

        Because it is not a part of normative or historic Calvinism. This is called “Hyper-Calvinism.” It is the same thing on the other side when people accuse Arminians of denying God’s foreknowledge (as prophetic) and his eternality (that he does not read outside of time). While there are some Arminians who believe this (Open-Theists), it is not a part of normative or historic Arminianism and it would be unfair to accuse Arminianism of holding to Open-Theist doctrine.s

    • Kenny

      So would you label A.W. Pink as a hyper-Calvinist? He regularly denied God’s universal love.

    • Eric A Smith

      Though I wouldn’t label myself a Calvinist (I’m not comfortable labeling myself after denominational or particular theological labels), I certainly have no problem with God’s sovereignty, man’s depravity, and the redemptive work of Christ because it is Biblical. I think the label “Calvinism” gets a bad rap because some of the truths of scripture aren’t properly taught or sometimes even ignored in what I call a “John 3:16 love lens” theology. I appreciated this blog to clarify some of the misconceptions, but I wasn’t surprised at the push back. In fact, Leighton Flowers has done multiple podcasts trying to refute each point in the last few months. It is sad that he is taking time and energy to do up to a dozen YouTube videos on a blog written two years ago, but this is the depths of the hatred of the Calvinism. Because so many have a presupposition of it, they can’t see the scriptural truth that is from God and not man.

      • Kenny

        Michael Patton also published an article dealing with the 12 myths of Arminianism. Would you have a problem with a Calvinist pushing back on that article? I bet not. Be consistent. Dr. Flowers was a Calvinist and his church split over the issue, and then he studied Scriptures in their historical context and recanted Calvinism. He has every right to push back on a system that causes issues in his life when he adopted Calvinism. There’s a reason he has a bunch of followers, and that’s growing by the hour. I’m thankful for men like him standing up for their beliefs.

    • Kenny

      I’ve done some very deep study on how the Scriptures were interpreted by the original audience, and it’s obvious when you do so to see the errors of Calvinism. I’m glad people like Dr.Leighton Flowers are pushing back on this system because it brings a ton of presuppositions and interpretations to the Scriptures that simply aren’t there nor were seen or believed by the original audience in the historical context. I reject Calvinism for a variety of reasons and none of it has to do with emotion or “John 3:16 love lens.” I’ve never used John 3:16 to make a case against Calvinism; I don’t need to. Calvinism is simply not the orthodox view of the original audience or among the early church before Augustine (a former Manichaean gnostic who relied on neo-Platonism philosophy) came along almost 400 years later. That’s just historical fact, not an opinion. That should be an immediate red flag. If any other doctrine had such shaky origins and background from such a shaky founder, it would be dismissed immediately. Somehow Calvinism gets a pass. It’s also clear to me that that Calvinism is a system built on a few prooftexts that create a lens through which the entire Bible is read, and it doesn’t follow the narrative of what’s being told and revealed from Genesis to Revelation. You can’t just park at a verse here and there and ignore the historical context of what’s going on at that time or any further revelation or clarification given before the conclusion of Revelation.

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