What I Like About Calvinism

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m no Calvinist.  I cringe at the thought of ever becoming one.  But nevertheless, there are a couple of things about Calvinism as a system of theology that I like.  For instance:

  1. I like the logic of it all.  The way that the 5 main points of T.U.L.I.P. interlock is something to behold.  And it is this logical consistency that has me convinced that there can be no hybrid system of Calminianism or Arvinism (or whatever other strange concoction of a theological buzz-word you can think of).  If any one point falls then the system falls. 
  2. I like the idea of the theocentrism that is supposed to stand as the foundation of Calvinism, although I have to be honest in saying, that in practice, most of Calvinists I interact with seem superficial on this point.  Most like the lofty language of God’s “freedom,” “sovereignty,” and “glory,” but in practice they seem much more concerned with the language than the God who the language supposedly refers to. 

I’m hard-pressed to think of a third thing that I like about Calvinism, but as an ardent Arminian, I think liking two things should be good enough. ;)


Update: Peter Kirk has shared some thoughts on what he doesn’t like about Calvinism, here.  Basically, the logic I like is what he doesn’t.  And while he rejects 3½ of the 5 points, I reject them all. 

See also, Geoff Smith’s post on the same subject. He likes a bit more than I do, but I really appreciated his 5th point of dis-like:

Calvinism typically assumes it is correct from the get go and that traditional reformed theology was on the minds of the NT authors all the time no matter what they wrote about.


29 thoughts on “What I Like About Calvinism

  1. Mike: I nearly mentioned that, but I don’t like the extent to which they take total depravity (i.e., that we must be regenerated first in order to believe). I like Arminianism’s total depravity much better. ;)

  2. Not all Calvinists would take it that far though – I wouldn’t. I would say that belief and regeneration are two sides to the same coin and occur in the same instant.

  3. Mike: Two things:

    (1) I don’t really consider you a Calvinist. I know you always say that you are, but you’re really a closet Arminian (and a Roman Catholic cardinal turned Chassidic Jew). :-P

    (2) Chronologically, you might hold that position. But the question becomes, which is logically prior?

  4. logically, I would say that’s the wrong question – predestination comes logically prior.

    That’s interesting you say that and I’m really curious about why…

  5. Mike: But we’re talking about the relationship between faith and regeneration. Regeneration holds the logically prior position in Calvinism because “dead men” can’t excercise faith in God, and the depraved can’t do anything that is pleasing to God, therefore God must first regenerate them so that they can be made alive and believe which is pleasing to God.

    And regarding the other, you just don’t come off like a Calvinist (which is not necessarily a bad thing). ;)

  6. If define it that way, then I suppose I’m not a Calvinist, but I’m then also not an Arminian. I accept all five points of TULIP as true though – just not in the traditional sense.

    So I concede.

    But hey, I’m an linguist & exegete, not a theologian.

  7. Mike: Norman Geisler says that he affirms all five points as well, just in a “moderate way. And no one on either side of the debate will claim him as their own.

    But stick with lingusitcs and exegesis. I’m convinced that in doing so you’ll become a militant Arminian one of these days. ;)

  8. I don’t care for Geisler either…he’s too dogmatic on other things – do some google searching and read about the debates surrounding Geisler and Murry Harris.

    No, I’ll summarize, it’ll be more fun!

    Harris: Christ body was different after the resurrection

    Geisler: You heretic! Christ has the very same body as before the resurrection! I’m going to have you kicked out of ETS!

    Harris: But he could walk through walls!!

  9. If I may say so, any logicality to the Christian faith or even the Christian story, in my opinion, should be viewed with some suspicion.

    How is Jesus coming not with peace but sword and division logical? According to one preacher I heard, in the parable of the talents – investing the money was highly risky and completely illogical – in fact the guy that buried the money was following Jewish law – Jesus was turning Jewish understanding of the Law upside down. How is that logical?

    I could be missing the point altogether.

  10. Mike: Yup! That’s the Geisler I know. lol!

    Brian: I hear what you’re saying, but I think that any system of theology is just a way to make sense of the Christian experience. We’re human, we like things neat and explainable.

    Geoff: Thanks! I’ve updated the post with a link to yours.

  11. Nick, I’ve heard the logic of Calvinism as more of a criticism, but I do like your spin on it.

    However, if Calvinism is all about a logical system, then it is not worth embracing.

    But if each point can be successive demonstrated from Scripture, well, that’s another case.

    Regarding theocentrism of Calvinism, I guess you’re right. Let me paraphrase St. Augustine, “The abuse of a philosophy doesn’t mean that that philosophy is no good.” Something like that!

    At any rate, we’re all called to be theocentric while maintaining our humanity.

  12. Barth explains the problem perhaps the best in CD in the Doctrine of God. The problem with TULIP and with the Westminster Confession is that it is rooted in an absolute decree from God before anything including the witness of Scripture. That anything would be logically prior to God revealed in Scripture is problematic among other reasons.

  13. tc: Oh, I quite agree. theocentrism seems key for all Christians, no matter what theological camp they fall into.

    Drew: My main problem with TULIP is that it’s not Biblical. I can appreciate the way it fits together, but I can’t appreciate that it fits with Scripture, because ultimately, it doesn’t.

    And all this talk of Barth lately is reminding me that I have to finish his commentary on Romans. Hopefully after that, my blog will be popular enough to get Logos to send me the digital version of CD for free like they did Ben Myers. ;)

  14. interruption of the regular post:

    I’d have to think about reading Barth (blasphemy, I know) – I have Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology and he take Barth to task on many issues – one that stands out to me is Barth’s insistence on Special Revelation over and above General Revelation – such that General Revelation cannot be known apart from Special Revelation – (again, not having read Barth in context) if this is true, it would seem Barth disagrees with Paul (cf Rom 1)!

    brian runs to duck and cover….

  15. guys… my theology is the correct theology too.
    You’re wrong if you dont agree with me…

    rediculous nick… i’ve responded….


  16. Roger: My sentiments exactly. And my spelling of ridiculous is the correct spelling. You’re wrong if you don’t agree with me! :-P

    And I’m glad you didn’t mean to be mean in the post, because, well… you weren’t. ;)

  17. No I’m still pretty sure my spelling was correct. But its hard to know. My England nor so very powerful. Good thing I dont have a degree in the language or that would just be embarrassing

  18. Nick, if you go back and read the comments on Peter’s post, you’ll see that he actually and only accept 1/2 point of Calvinism:

    “Mike, thinking again, I’m not sure I can accept more than half a point, a version of total depravity which would not be considered adequate by many Calvinists.”

  19. Mike: I was going off of his saying:

    But this is just what I don’t like about Calvinism: not so much the individual doctrines (although I reject 3½ of the 5 points)…

    But if he now rejects even more than that after thinking about it, then all the better. ;)

  20. From what I’ve read, I’m pretty sure Harris would agree that Jesus’ body was still physical – he might even say that it was the same body. I think he would say that the body was transformed – like what Paul said about us not all being raise, but we all will be transformed.

    That’s just a guess though. I’ve only read a little about this debate. It took place in the 80s. My father told me that it was generally pretty ridiculous.

  21. Peter: Looking at your comment, you actually reject all five points, because as you pointed out, your view of depravity is not likely to be accepted by Calvinists, although it is pretty much exactly what Arminians believe.

    Mike: I think you’re right about Harris, which btw, I would agree with. Jesus’ body was certainly physical, but it was transformed/glorified. And if the debate involved Geisler, then I think your father’s description must be accurate. ;)

  22. Maybe, Nick, but I have also had Calvinists say that the proper Calvinist understanding of total depravity is exactly what I believe. From memory, Jeremy Pierce said that. I think John Hobbins manages to call himself a five point Calvinist while agreeing with my more or less Arminian position on all five points. But I don’t remember the details.

  23. Peter: Yeah, I remember the thing with Hobbins. I’d feel fine calling him a Calvinist as long as we get to completely redefine what Calvinism is, so that it no longer resembles what Calvinists have classically called Calvinism. ;)

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