2

I have heard that John Calvin either stated, or made reference to, the necessity of holding all 5 points of Calvinism. If one is dropped, the whole system collapses. I can't find this reference.

If this in fact IS in his writings, could someone provide a reference? Where was this said, and do any modern Calvinists teach this as well? (i.e. John Piper, etc)

  • 7
    Calvin didn’t create the five points; the five points were responses, at the synod of Dort (1618), in opposition to the 5 articles of Remonstrance(1611?), or the basic tenets Jacob Arminius’ followers expounded upon. Calvin had no idea of the five points since they were created 54 years after his death. – Logan Baxter Mar 5 '18 at 6:40
  • I have heard something like this, but I can't remember who it's from. – curiousdannii Mar 5 '18 at 7:06
  • Although my answer is basically, “No, he did not because he could not”, I have picked up on the point about the extent to which Calvin’s name is rightly ascribed to the 5 Points. However, I will enter into no debate here about the actual 5 Points of Calvinism or about the illustration I used (re. the formation of the Trinity doctrine) as those topics require separate questions. – Anne Mar 7 '18 at 10:31
2

Given that Calvin died in Switzerland on May 27, 1564, and that what became known as 'The Five Points of Calvinism' were not written down until after 154 sessions of the Synod of Dort called in 1618, the answer has to be that Calvin could not possibly have said all those five points had to be held, as even one being dropped would collapse the whole system. The system was not finalised in that form (of five points) until seven months of deliberation in 1618 had passed.

However, in response to the comment: “Calvin had no idea of the five points since they were created 54 years after his death”, it needs to be said that that is only half true. Calvin had more than a mere ‘idea’ of all of those points, as his massive work, 'Institutes of the Christian Religion' shows. The reason why the Synod of Dort’s conclusions came to be known as 'The Five Points of Calvinism' is because his theology provided the Reformers at that Synod with all the grounds they needed to counter the rise of what became known as Arminianism. Calvin’s written works were based on his study of, and regard for, the biblical scriptures. Though he died half a century before the Synod, he could have agreed with all five points and argued for every single one of them being interlocked and essential for the unity of the Protestant faith. The situation is not unlike the way the official Trinity doctrine was formed. Long before Councils put down in writing the finished wording (to prevent men like Arius from perpetuating what was seen to be heretical teaching) the subject had been debated and written about. The climax of all that discussion over several hundred years resulted in the official Trinity doctrine. So with the debate raised by James Arminius – he and his followers wanted to change the position of Protestantism subscribing to the Belgic and Heidelberg Confessions of Faith. Upon examination, the Synod of Dort could find no ground on which to reconcile the Arminian viewpoint with that expounded in the Word of God, and Calvin had expertly expounded that Word so that the climax - the conclusions - could justifiably be called Calvin’s five points.

How, precisely, can that be claimed? Consider how Luther’s lack of a systematic theology was handled by other Protestant leaders. The Swiss Reformers were keen to organise and systematise the new Protestant theology. The teaching of Zwingli and Calvin greatly helped to enable this. Calvin’s first edition of his 'Institutes' was published in 1536, when he was aged 25 years, and yet had

not only given genuine dogmatic form to the cardinal doctrines of the Reformation: he had molded those doctrines into one of the classic presentations of the Christian faith. [1]

Here is a scholar’s comment on Calvin’s theology, which illustrates how he would have heartily agreed with those ‘five points’:

Calvin rejected natural theology in favour of God’s Word as the surest path to knowledge of God and elevated Scripture, inspired and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, as the sole supreme authority for Christian faith and practice. Although God is adequately revealed in nature and in his Word, sin has so blinded humans that they cannot gain a true knowledge of God apart from a special illumination of the Holy Spirit that Calvin called the inner testimony of the Spirit, which is given only to the elect when they are regenerated (born again). Calvin based his doctrinal arguments and beliefs entirely on Scripture and seldom appealed to philosophy or Christian tradition as absolute authorities, because both err frequently in matters pertaining to God and salvation… For Calvin, everything that happens redounds to God’s glory, even if we humans cannot see how, and God’s glory is the purpose why everything happens, even if we are unable to reconcile it with love, mercy or justice… his teaching on [predestination] is in all essentials identical to what we have already observed in Luther and Zwingli. [2]

We can fairly assume that, because of Calvin’s systematic theology, written down in his 'Institutes of the Christian Religion' 82 years before that Synod of Dort, the Synod could summarise its response to The Remonstrance of the followers of Arminius (the Five Points of Arminianism) presented to the Dutch Parliament in 1610. That is why their response is rightly attributed to Calvin, whose theology was used to counter the five points of Arminianism. The five points of the Synod of Dort have ‘John Calvin’ written all over them!

[1] T.H.L. Parker, John Calvin: A Biography (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975) p50

[2] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (USA: InterVarsity Press, 1999) pp410-412

  • Edited only to add quote blocks. – KorvinStarmast Mar 7 '18 at 13:40
  • Why does there need to be a second paragraph and beyond? The first paragraph answers the question; nothing below the first paragraph even addresses the question, but rather my comment. We can discuss my comment in chat if you would like, but I don't see the necessity of breaking it down in the context of this answer. – Logan Baxter Mar 8 '18 at 22:09
2

From ‘The Five Points of Calvinism Defined Defended Documented’ by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1963, Part 1, section V: The One Point Which the “Five Points” of Calvinism are Concerned to Establish: Here is a brief extract (on page 23) from a quote by J.I. Packer:

... the very act of setting out Calvinistic soteriology in the form of five distinct points (a number due, as we saw, merely to the fact that there were five Arminian points for the Synod of Dort to answer) tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. For the five points, though separately stated, are really inseparable. They hang together; you cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners.

Packer goes on to say:

This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the ‘five points’ are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.

Source: James I. Packer, “Introductory Essay,” James Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, p. 6 Italics are his.

  • A quote from Packer is almost as good as from Calvin ;) – curiousdannii Oct 14 at 13:42
  • This is one of my favourites - J.L. Packer on Heresies: “Since it is beyond the wit of man to invent a new heresy, it is a great help to know the old ones, so that one can spot them when they reappear in modern make-up.” – Lesley Oct 14 at 14:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.