What we Calvinists believe in response to anti-Calvinism

There is a great deal of anti-Calvinism rhetoric recently on the internet. Therefore, following is a brief response to some of their attacks.

First of all, there is a great deal of misrepresentation by anti-Calvinists of what Calvinism actually is. This is to be expected when something is attacked.  After all, you don't want to present what you attack in a good light.  You want to present it in the worst possible light.  This is exactly what is done. Some anti-Calvinists go so far as to present Calvin's involvement with Servetus as proof that he was a bad person.  The implication is that if Calvin was bad, then how could his writings be of God?  Of course, this is called the genetic fallacy and is an error of logic on their part where they try and attack the person instead of the doctrine.  This fallacy hasn't stopped the anti's from continuing to use the tactic.  Nevertheless, regarding Servetus.


Servetus was considered a heretic, a teacher of false doctrines because he denied biblical Christianity.  Executions for heresy were common in Calvin's time...after the Peasants' War in Germany, after the siege of Munster...In England 39 people were burned at the stake for heresy between 1547 and 1550, etc.  If one says that Calvin was in error in agreeing with the execution of heretics then why is there not equal indignation against all the other leaders who did the same thing?  Furthermore, Calvin went France to meet Servetus to try and convert him to the Christianity.  In Catholic France Calvin would have been executed as a heretic himself if he had been caught.  Yet, Calvin went to France at the risk of his own life to speak to Servetus.  Is this the work of an "evil" man who "murdered" Servetus as so many anti-Calvinists proclaim?

But, Servetus did not heed the warning of Calvin and he went to Geneva anyway. After Servetus was arrested and condemned by the council as a heretic.  Calvin pleaded with the members of the council saying that if Servetus was going to have to be put to death, that he be beheaded and not burned, since burning was too cruel.  But, Servetus was burned at the stake nonetheless on Oct. 26, 1553.

Furthermore, i
t was the law of Geneva that heretics be killed.  So, it was a lawful execution  according to scripture (Rom. 13:1-2).  Calvin was not the prosecutor in Geneva.  He was only a witness and as a witness, he did not have the power to have Servetus executed.  Are the anti-Calvinists interested in a fair representation of Calvin regarding Servetus?  Apparently not since these points are never raised by them. 


Anti-Calvinists think they accurately represent Calvinist doctrines completely and faithfully, and that it is we who are not representing Christ properly. They speak about the freedom of choice, about God's love for all people, how He died for everyone, and about how Calvinism often presents God as a horrible, uncaring, and unfair being.

I certainly understand the sentiments of those who would consider the theology of Calvinism in such unflattering and negative terms. After all, who would want to believe in a God who forces someone to believe in Him, who doesn't love everyone enough to die for all of them, who shows favoritism by picking one person over another, and who predestines people to be saved in spite of what they want - even if they want to pick God - and makes others for the express purpose of going to hell without any chance of be saved.  That is how Calvinism is represented and so it is a misrepresentation.  Far too many of anti-Calvinists present Reformed theology (Calvinism) only in the terms that satisfy their agenda and they give it an ugly face from which we are expected to recoil.

They constantly misrepresent our position and when we point it out to them and use scripture upon scripture (as I will later in this paper) to substantiate our position, they say that we are the ones either misrepresenting Calvinism and the Bible or that we don't know what Calvinism really teaches.  Sometimes, they go so far as to quote one or two verses and pronounce Calvinism defeated, not realizing that we have responses to their positions.  We Calvinists, in spite of what the anti's will admit, actually do read and study the Bible.  That is why we are Calvinists.  We are not surprised by their "proof texts" nor are we dismayed by them.

Why would we Calvinist believe what we do? Are we so blind we can't see the clear teaching of Scripture - as the anti's repeatedly state? Are we so hardened in our hearts that we cannot understand the love of God for all people?  Are we so given over to our sordid agendas that we twist God's word to suit our own depraved and vile needs?  Well, that is what so many of the anti's imply and actually say about us.  Sometimes I feel they would treat us as Servetus was treated in Geneva - that is actually the impression I have received from many anti-Calvinists when they spew forth their hatred of Reformed Theology.

What we Calvinists believe about sin

We Calvinists see the reality and the severity of sin upon us. We recognize and we admit that sin is so powerful that it has incapacitated our ability to be holy.  It has removed our ability to please God in any way (Rom. 3:10-12) even by our sincerity of choice.  We believe that even our so called sincerity is touched by sin and is, therefore, unacceptable to God.  We believe that our sinfulness kills us, insulates us, and makes us unable to freely choose God of our own free will (John 1:13). We believe this because we believe the Scriptures teach us that the sinner, the unregenerate, is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:14-20), dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1), cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), and does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12). We believe that such a person described in scripture is necessarily unable to believe by his own free will because his own free will can only follow its sinful tendencies.  Remember, the unbeliever is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), possess a sinful and deceitful heart (Jer. 17:9), and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14).  Therefore, we believe that the unregenerate sinner will act in a manner consistent with his sinfulness and that he does have the freedom to choose whatever he desires - and he desires to choose sin.  We believe God's word.

Then why does God command that people believe?

Why would God then tell people to believe and repent of their sins if they are slaves of sin and cannot?  Wouldn't that would be cruel to require someone to do that which they cannot do? Such is the anti-Calvinists complaint.  Nevertheless, God requires that we be holy.  He says, "You shall be holy, for I am holy,” (1 Pet. 1:16).  Who among us would claim that we can be holy even when God commands that we be?  Not I.  The simple fact is that God does require of us what we cannot do, not because He is mean, but because He is the standard of righteousness and holiness.  The standard does not become invalid because of someones failure to keep it.  He commands that we repent (Acts 17:30), yet it is God who grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:25).  He commands that we believe in Him (Exodus 20:1-3), yet He grants that we believe (Phil. 1:29).  God commands that which is holy and right even if we cannot accomplish it.  Yet, He grants the ability to people to do that which they cannot do themselves.  Therefore, God gets the glory.  Merely saying that God tells people to believe doesn't mean they can believe anymore than God commands that we stop sinning means that we can.


But, the anti-Calvinists respond by saying that the Bible tells us "... whoever believes in Him should not perish," (John 3:16).  Therefore, the "whosoever" proves that the unbeliever can freely choose God - in spite of his sinfulness.  But this is no proof of their position.  It is proof only that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish.  Who are those who believe?  The ones who believe are those who have been appointed to eternal life, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed," (Acts 13:48).  The ones who believe are those who have been granted to believe, "For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake," (Phil. 1:29).  The ones who believe are those who have been born again not of their own wills, "who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," (John 1:13).  The ones who believe are those who have experienced the work of God in them - for our believing is God's work, "They said therefore to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent,” (John 6:28-29).

These kinds of scriptures are almost never referenced by the anti-Calvinists because they support our position too strongly.  Instead, we are told that they are out of context or that somehow we misrepresent the Bible.  Well then, read them in context.  They say what they say and we Calvinists believe them.

What we Calvinists believe about predestination

We Calvinist further believe that the enslavement of the wills of the sinner to sin (Rom. 6:14-20) and that it has incapacitated the freedom of the unregenerate so much that this necessitates the intervening work of God. We believe that if God did not intervene by predestining sinners to salvation, that no one would ever be saved. We rightfully admit that the cross of Christ is the only way by which anyone can be saved from the righteous judgment of God's wrath upon the sinner and that this salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 5:1). Therefore, we believe that God must predestined us to salvation according to the kind intention of His will according to His purpose (Eph. 1:3-5).  This means that we see God's predestination as a very loving act of His will because without it, all of us would be lost.  Yet, the anti-Calvinists refuse to see this.  They claim that the Reformed doctrine of predestination shows favoritism on God's part, all the while failing to see that their own interpretation of predestination (that God looks into the future to see who would pick Him) is exactly what shows favoritism.  How so?  If God looks to the future to see who will pick Him and then He picks them based on that criteria, then God has predestined someone based on what is in them!  This means that God picks one person over another based on a quality in them.  That is favoritism. 

But, when we ask them who forms the body of the person in the womb, who makes the mind, the will, the personality of a person, and who puts these persons in the circumstances, in the time, in the location, with their parents, they rightfully admit that God does this.  Then, when we ask "Doesn't God, by bringing all these factors into place, by His sovereign plan and design, know exactly what the outcome will be of the person's "free will choice" as to whether they will "choose" God or not?"  They say yes.  Then, we ask, how is that not predestination?

We Calvinists believe that all people rightly deserve eternal damnation and that it is God's sovereign right to elect some into salvation and let the rest go their natural way, to hell.  We believe that God has made all things, even the wicked for the day of destruction (Prov. 16:4).  We believe that God has mercy on whom He desires and hardens whom He desires (Rom. 9:14). We believe that God endures with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom. 9:22).  We believe God's word.

What we Calvinists believe about believing

As stated earlier, we Calvinists believe that our believing is the work of God (John 6:28), that we are granted to believe (Phil. 1:29), that we are granted repentance (2 Tim. 2:25), that we are appointed to eternal life Acts 13:48), and that we are born again not of our own wills (John 1:12-13).

We Calvinist believe that this work of God upon us is exceedingly merciful and loving. We believe this because without the merciful and loving work of God not only upon the cross but also in our hearts, that none of us would ever be able to freely believe in God - because of the power, and the depth, and the strength of sin upon us.  We do not believe that we are greater than the effects and the power of sin in us.  Unlike the anti-Calvinists, we do not believe that in our unregenerate state our free will is capable of breaking loose from the enslavement of sin by the exertion of our sin-stained wills. We do not believe that the free will of the unregenerate is capable of overcoming their own wicked hearts that are full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), deceit (Jer. 17:9), and are enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:14-20). We do not believe that their free will is strong enough to resurrect itself from the state of its own deadness (Eph. 2:1).  We do not believe that our sincerity (an appeal to that which is in the self) or our works are anything but filthy rags before God (Isa. 64:6). This is why we believe that God must predestine (Eph. 1:3-5; Rom. 8:29), grant to us the act of believing (Phil. 1:29), and cause us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3), not of our own wills (John 1:13).  In other words, we believe God's word.

The Sacrifice

We Calvinists believe in the strength of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross.  We believe that it is so strong, so powerful, so perfect that all for whom Christ died will be saved. We do not believe that the blood of Christ was wasted. We do not believe that even one drop of his precious blood was for no avail.  We do not believe that the atoning sacrifice of Christ becomes powerful upon someone's believing.  We maintain that the atonement is powerful and effectual by the nature and fact of its very occurrence - because it was God who died on the cross.  Therefore it will save all who are covered by it.  We believe that the sheep for whom Christ said He laid down His life (John 15:11,15) will be saved and that the goats (Matt. 25:33-34) are not atoned for.  We believe that even the sin of unbelief has been paid for on the cross, thereby negating the idea that those thus atoned for, that those whose sins have been paid for by Jesus, go to hell due to their unbelief, for the sin of unbelief is also born by Christ in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24).  If this were not the case, then anyone who has ever disbelieved God could never be saved.

Furthermore, we believe in the power of the blood of Christ to actually remove sin, not to make possible the removal of sin.  We limit its scope by saying the blood was shed for the sheep alone (John 15:11,15).  It is the anti-Calvinists who limit its power because they say some for whom Christ's blood was shed will not be saved and in so stating this, they weaken the power of the blood of Christ to save since it does not cleanse all for whom it was allegedly shed.  Therefore, it is we Calvinists who affirm the infinite power of God's blood to actually cleanse us and to make that cleansing a reality that is not dependent upon the choice of men to receive, but because it is a payment already made whether or not it is received, and it is made real to us when we have been granted belief by God (Phil. 1:29).

Furthermore, we believe 1 John 2:2 that says, "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."  We believe that "the world" spoken of here is the Gentiles also, not just the Jews.  Jesus said in Matt. 15:24, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Jesus was sent to the Jews, not for the Gentiles.  Yet, due to the Jewish nation's failure to recognize the Messiah, Jesus became the propitiation "not only for our sins [the Jews], but also for those of the whole world [the Gentiles]."  This explains why Paul says in Rom. 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

We believe that only those for whom Christ has died have also died with Christ as the scriptures teach:  "Now if we have died with Christ..." (Rom. 6:8); "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world..." (Col. 2:20); "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3); "It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him" (2 Tim. 2:11).  Therefore, we believe that when 2 Cor. 5:14 says, "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died," that the 'all who have died' are only the Christians.

Furthermore, we believe that only the Christians are justified before God by faith (Rom. 5:1)and that Rom. 5:18 teaches us that the 'all who are justified' are only the believers. "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men."1  Again, since not all are saved, we believe that the all there is only the Christians.  We believe God's word.

Eternal Security

We Calvinists believe that we are eternally secure in Christ. We believe that when we have eternal life that we will never perish, just as Jesus said, "I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand," (John 10:28). We believe that God knows who are His (2 Tim. 2:19).  He knows whom He has called and predestined, and He makes no mistakes because He is all knowing.  He does not give us eternal life only to remove it if we are not faithful because when we are not faithful, He remains faithful (2 Tim. 2:13).  We do not believe that what is begun by God in our hearts is maintained by man in the flesh (Gal. 3:1-3).  We believe that God receives the glory for our believing and that He is faithful, and that He is true, and that we are sinners who are saved by grace.  Therefore, because God atoned for us (1 Pet. 2:24), God grants us belief (Phil. 1:29), and God says we will never perish (John 10:28; 3:16), then we believe we will never perish.

We believe that all who are said to have believed and perished are covered under the scripture that says, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us," (1 John 2:19).  We believe God's word.

Holiness before God

We Calvinists do not believe that our security in Christ means that we can go and sin freely without worry or consequence.  On the contrary, we believe that since we have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb, and this by His great grace, we are to love and serve Him by honoring Him and bringing glory to Him.  We do not glorify God by using His grace to do that which is contrary to His will.  We have been redeemed and do not desire to use His grace for our sin.  May it never be!  We value Christ's sacrifice for us and we seek to demonstrate our love and appreciation before God.  Therefore, we seek to be holy even as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:16) because we are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  We Calvinists believe what the Bible says.

Who brings discord?

The anti-Calvinists help to sow division in the body of Christ by setting the Christian against the Christian in their misrepresentations and attacks upon Calvinism.  They help to bring discord and resentment in the body of Christ by focusing on in-house debates and do not follow Rom. 14:1-13 that speaks of allowing differences of opinion among Christians.
Rom. 14:1 commands us thusly:  "Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions."  Also, verse 5 says, "Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind."  And, verse 10, "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God."

We Christians are to be united in the body of Christ.  We are to be living according to the words of Jesus:  "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another," (John 13:35)The anti-Calvinists who misrepresent Calvinism and who attack it and Calvinists do much to bring discord, division, and resentment.  In so doing, they disobey the word of God. 

We ask who is it who wants division in the body of Christ, God or the devil?  If they bring discord and division, then are they working for God?  How can they be?


We Calvinist believe that our salvation is God centered, that the very act of our believing is granted to us (Phil. 1:29), and that God shows His mercy to whom He will and He hardens whom He will (Rom. 9:14). We Calvinist believe in the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the omniscience of God, and His right to do with His creation as He desires. We believe that God loves us and is His love is the motivating factor behind the cross of Christ - that and His glory. We trust in Jesus. We accept Jesus - because He has enabled us to. We do not trust in our own ability to choose God, nor in our own ability to keep our own faith in Him. We do not hold ourselves in such a high regard as to assert that it is we, while in our sin-enslaved and sin-dead state, who possessed the wisdom and ability to have trusted in Jesus.  On the contrary, we hold ourselves in such lowness of opinion, that we dare not assume that we are wise enough or capable enough in our sinful state to have chosen God - for we believe the unregenerate never would since they are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1), slaves of sin (Rom. 6:14-20), full of evil (Mark 7:21-23), and incapable of understanding spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14).

But others, those who deny and oppose Calvinism, apparently believe that in their sinfulness they had the wisdom and the ability, where others did not, to choose to believe in Jesus on their own. We Calvinists, would never make such a boast. We know better than to exalt ourselves to such a high level of goodness and wisdom.  Why?  Because we believe God's word.

1. The verse quoted is from the NASB and is the most correct translation.  Many other Bible add words such as "free" and "gift" to the translations which are not in the Greek.  This is done to soften the strength of the verse which says all will be saved.  The "all" can only be the Christians.  For more on this, please see All Men Saved.

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Copyright by Matthew J. Slick, B.A., M. Div., 2012
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