How does the Calvinist notion of predestination differ from that of the Valentinian Gnostics' predestination? There are several sources outlining the Valentinian Gnostic system (anti-heretic "church fathers" like Ireneaus), but it basically had three classes:

  1. materials (Greek hylics or sometimes somatics, the non-elect)

  2. soul-lys (Greek psuchics, the partially or temporarily elect)

  3. spirituals (Greek pneumatics, the true elect or those both elected and granted perseverance).

What further information is there on the relationship between these two systems? Is there evidence that Calvin borrowed from the Valentinian system through his study of the "church fathers"? did that borrowing come mediated through Augustine?

  • If you're still around, I'd want to know why you think Calvinism has any similarity to this three fold gnostic theology. I've never heard of partially or temporarily elect in Calvinism.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 24, 2020 at 22:40

2 Answers 2


What was predestination according to Calvin?

Predestination According to Calvin According to John Calvin, predestination is God’s unchangeable decree from before the creation of the world that he would freely save some people (the elect), foreordaining them to eternal life, while the others (the reprobate) would be “barred from access to” salvation and sentenced to “eternal death".
Source: Calvin on Predestination

What led Calvin to teach predestination?

According to this Article - John Calvin: Predestination and Justice -

[Basing ] his conviction that the Bible is God’s beneficial and sufficient revelation for humanity, John Calvin felt constrained to teach the doctrine of predestination. To the extent that predestination is part of scripture, Calvin thought it should be taught for the benefit of God’s people.

Therefore from this and other few articles I perused online, Calvin chose to teach predestination because it was in the Bible, and to him, it ought to be taught because he was convinced the Bible was God's beneficial and sufficient revelation for humanity.


To respond to the question in particular - that of the "Valentinian" three states of election - yes, we do see the exact same three states enunciated by Calvin.

However Calvin - (and his predecessors) did not (and do not today) use the exact same terms enunciated by the ancient Stoics, Epicureans, Gnostics, or NeoPlatonists - even though many of their concepts are synchronized into Augustinianism doctrine (i.e., Calvinism) - and quite naturally resurface within Calvinist language. Its just a matter of knowing what indicators to look for.

Calvin would of-course refrain from using the terms "hylics", "psuchics", and "pneumatics" to describe the 3 states of election within his doctrine - and for obvious reasons.

But yes the 3 states of elect-status enunciated by Valentinus are reiterated by Calvin.

However, that being said, it must also be recognized that the Augustinian system which Calvin revises is approximately 1 part Gnosticism, 3 parts NeoPlatonism, and 7 parts Christian.

One can observe scripture in general, interpreted through the lens of Gnosticism's good-evil dualism - Christian salvation interpreted through the lens of Gnosticism's tripart election status, and a THEOS conforming to Plato's doctrine of divine immutability.

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  • 1
    Please edit this to show quotes from Calvin that have these three states.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 24, 2020 at 22:37

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