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From what I understand, Calvin not only taught, but effectively systematized the doctrine of "predestinarianism," which holds that:

God for His own glorification, and without any regard to original sin, has created some as "vessels of mercy", others as "vessels of wrath". Those created for hell He has also predestined for sin, and whatever faith and righteousness they may exhibit are at most only apparent, since all graces and means of salvation are efficacious only in those predestined for heaven.

See http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12376b.htm

Is strict Calvinism that extreme? If so, then what criteria did he say a person could use to determine whether or not they were created to be destroyed?

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destroyed? not to my knowledge. tortured forever in hell? depends on how you read it. This is a matter of when God decided to create humans, and when he decided to elect them. I'll have to look up which order Calvin taught (pretty sure it was creation first, election second). –  wax eagle Aug 11 '13 at 15:32
You're looking for information on "double predestination," or reprobation. It's difficult to give a simple "yes" or "no" answer, primarily because of the various subtleties of that doctrine. A comprehensive / exhaustive answer would also consider elements of supralapsarianism / infralapsarianism. One of the few people with a commanding understanding of both, as well as of the teachings of Calvin, is R.C. Sproul; he has an article on "double predestination" that answers your question here. –  Philip Schaff Aug 11 '13 at 16:11
If you would like to get the answer from Calvin himself, go here: Institutes, Book 3, Ch. 21. More: Many references at Monergism; A very readable summary from U. of Oregon's history dept.; Two documents on predestination that Reformed.org claims were written by Calvin. –  Philip Schaff Aug 11 '13 at 16:26

2 Answers 2

More or less, yes, but the question is slightly misleading by the word 'only' (but about that later). As this discussion is so complex and visited by so many people with so many quotations, etc., I prefer to try and give you a summary view from many years studying many books on the subject. Mine is not the 'only view' but really on this question you can only get a well-read opinion.

Calvin, like St. Augustine before him believed in dual predestination, whereby God determines in advance of one's birth, if they will ultimately perish or be saved. However unlike St. Augustine who did not believe that we could obtain clear assurance that we are 'the elect' the reformation largely developed by Luther and then in some sense 'systematized' by Calvin, as you say, added the belief that one could and should enjoy the confidence of knowing they are 'elect'.

The doctrine is more or less just a simple resignation to some bible verses that seem to say exactly the same thing. For example if one just accepts these words without much resistance they automatically become a Calvinist of some sort:

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “ For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “ Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “ Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory — even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:17-24, ESV)

Now it is difficult to accept this doctrine for two reasons, one good and one bad. The good reason is that we say but 'What about God's love?' and the bad reason is just human pride that will not accept being liable to destruction on any account but 'demands' God's love, even when fully deserving eternal wrath.

Now we come to the word 'alone'. This is the hinge where controversy turns, because it either allows God to be full of love for sinners, or refuses it. If we were to say, 'Did God only created the Devil and the apostates in hell, for the 'sole purpose' of simply suffering, in order that God might be glorified' we would be going a tad further than what anyone has ever believed as we would absolutely be excluding his love for sinners in every way. We would not allow any other reason (.i.e., some loving reason) for their being created other then their destruction (which seems like hate to me). If we say that 'God created the Devil and apostates in hell, full knowing that they would only end up in hell, although they may have served another purpose, yet, nevertheless as they will be in hell, it is now there ultimate purpose for being created as respects there own life', we would be more along the lines of a Luther or Calvin.

But back to the question about God's love. Here is where Calvin does seems to fail somewhat, compared to say Luther. Luther would say, yes God chooses without men's will determining anything, yet he would also say God loves each one and to resolve the contradiction he would say, I do not know, it is a mystery, both are true and the answer is hidden from puny men. Calvin would not directly disagree with Luther but he simply would leave some of the encouragements about God's general love for all, absent from the discussion, leaving some with the impression that his view of God was a cruel one. In this sense yes, as great as he was in explaining so many doctrines possibly better than any other before him since the Apostle Paul himself I think he makes the impression that his hear was starting to grow a little cold on this subject as he did not seem to make much effort countering the balance of election and God's boundless love. In other words, I am a Calvinist and although I do not disagree with anything Calvin said on the subject of election, I do disagree on what he left out of the subject, which other like Luther put almost front and center.

Now regards assurance, this is quite straightforward. The Calvinist belief is that anyone who sincerely believes in Christ, and has at least some moral assurance from a changed life aft conversions and a sense of their adoption by the Holy Spirit, proven foremost by their love of other believers, can and do entering into a blessed assurance of their eternal blessed state. I guess we could say this is the warmer side to Calvin, for although he has little heart to consider God's love for the damned, he swings the gates wide open for the enjoyment of God's love without fear for any who flee from God's wrath to the dying love of Christ.

While generations before Calvin and Luther had to suffer without any assurance of their good state, performing penances and various works that were not able to cleanse the conscience, believers now filled with assurance really had the impetus to break away from every kind of cold legalism. If you read Christian history, what really happened after Calvin was an explosion of missionary work across the globe as had never been seen before. This was partly due to the discovery of the new world and exploration of Europeans, but at the same time knowing God's love without fear, must have made people have a bit more heart for the lost and the opportunity of finding eternal security. Therefore although the doctrine seems to have a cold edge to it, it many ways it seems to produce a warm effect and confidence in the free love and grace of God. Seems almost like a contradiction, yet, so does the love of God and his dealings with Pharaoh. Maybe Luther had it right. Don't try and explain it just believe both. God loves everyone and he elects some to heaven and some to hell according to his unknowable judgments and omniscience.

Note: ( I apologize that I do not have the time to collect a bunch of quotations to prove my summary but I actually have already posted them all in other answers on the same subject, so If asked about a particular point I might add a link to another answer where requested.)

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@Mike Very informative answer. A lot of times the Reformers are demonized by Catholic apologists, and this helps me to form a more unbiased understanding of reformed theology –  Charles Alsobrook Aug 13 '13 at 15:19
I reluctantly must disagree with your statement of how the doctrine of assured salvation has "liberated" evangelization. It is empirically evident that the Catholic Church has played the dominant role in the building/evangelization of Western Civ. In fact, it was my undergrad concentration on history that led to my conversion. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/… en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/… storialibera.it/epoca_medioevale/monachesimo/…. –  Charles Alsobrook Aug 13 '13 at 15:20
At any rate +1 for this being a very constructive answer. It seems to me that Luther's view of pred. is ffor the most part Catholic (Augustinian) with the exception of assurance of salvation. Perhaps this is why the Lutheran/Catholic joint justification agreement was successfully drafted. Dr PeterKreeft (former Calvinist) gives a synthesis of Augustinian/Thomistic predestination theology. peterkreeft.com/topics-more/freewill-predestination.htm –  Charles Alsobrook Aug 13 '13 at 15:29

Calvinist believe in the "Once Saved Always Saved" doctrine. The other doctrine is Arminianism which believes in "PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY." That God created all people with FREE WILL, God "Will Never" interfer with a persons free will. Each individual has the choice to choose to either accept or reject Jesus Christ. Calvinist believe it doesn't matter how you live your life, they just believe if you accepted Jesus as a small child that is good enough and you have earned salvation, and can go on living the rest of your life as you please because no matter what happens, you murder, rape, rob, lie, cheat or steal and never repent for these sins and you die with these sins, they have already been forgiven and thus you go to Heaven. Personal responsibility teaches that if you have accepted Jesus in your heart as your Lord and Savior and have asked his forgiveness of your sins, you are protected by the precious blood of Jesus. Like you are under an umbrella of blood. But if you choose to walk out from being under the precious blood and turn your back on Jesus, and go on to commit sin, murder, rape, rob or steal and die in your sin you will be judged by God as having rejected salvation when you walked away. However, many many people have walked away from being under the precious blood, because we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, but if we sin, and repent of our sin He is righteous to forgive us. We all are as filthy rags in the sight of God, but He is always there to pick us up, no matter how many times we sin, if we repent we will be forgiven. You will be judged by the intentions of your heart. I don't know and cannot judge, only the Father will judge your intentions, but I want to serve the Lord.

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Welcome to the site. Glad you decided to participate. This is kind of hard to read because it is a large block of text and seems to lack direction. Also, It doesn't actually answer the question "Did John Calvin teach that God creates certain souls only to be destroyed?" That means a decent answer will quote John Calvin's writings that either confirm or deny this. –  fredsbend Jun 26 '14 at 5:17
Not to mention that the content of this answer is factually incorrect in regards to the reformed (calvinist) position on soteriology and personal responsibility. –  Raphael Rosch Aug 7 '14 at 6:17

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