Calvinism was begun by John Calvin (1509-1564). Calvin began studying for the priesthood at age 14 but studied law after he came into a conflict with the bishop. In 1533 or 1534 he was converted to Protestantism. He was imprisoned for his beliefs and later released.
Calvin became a leader of the Reformation in Geneva when he befriended a man named Guillaume Farel. They were both banished but after a political change, Calvin returned to Geneva in 1541 and worked with Farel once again.
Calvinism spread through Europe quickly. The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563 by friends of Calvin, influenced Reformed churches in Holland, Germany, and America. “The Synod of Dort met in 1618-1619, condemned Arminianism and the Remonstrants, and reaffirmed Calvinistic doctrine as expressed in the Heidelberg and Belgic Confessions.”
The Westminster Confession arose during the political turmoil of the reign of Charles I. In 1643 the English parliament asked the Westminster Assembly to develop the creed of the Church of England. It was completed in 1646 and it “affirmed a strong Calvinistic postion and disavowed, ‘the errors of Arminianism, Roman Catholicism, and sectarianism.’”
Calvinism is built upon five points which (the first letters of which conveniently spell out TULIP). The following description of the five points of Calvinism is taken from The Moody Handbook of Theology.
|Total depravity- As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all humanity is dad in trespasses and sin. Man is unable to save himself.|
|Unconditional election- Because man is dead in sin, he is unable to initiate response to God therefore, in eternity past God elected certain people to salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not based upon man’s response.|
|Limited atonement- Because God determined that certain ones should be saved as a result of God’s unconditional election, He determined that Christ should die for the elect. All whom God has elected and Christ died for will be saved.|
|Irresistible grace- Those whom God elected and Christ died for, God draws to Himself through irresistible grace. God makes man willing to come to Him. When God calls, man responds.|
|Perseverance of the saints- The precise ones God has elected and drawn to himself though the holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure.|
These are just the very basics of the Calvinistic theology. For a more in depth discussion, check out Arminianism vs Calvinism.
* selected quotes taken from The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns