Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism
that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian
practice set down by John Calvin
and other Reformation-era theologians
. It emphasises the sovereignty of God
and the authority
of the Bible
Calvinists broke from the Roman Catholic Church
in the 16th century. Calvinists differ from Lutherans
(another major branch of the Reformation) on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist
, theories of worship
, the purpose and meaning of baptism, and the use of God's law for believers
, among other things.
The term ''Calvinism'' can be misleading, because the religious tradition which it denotes has always been diverse, with a wide range of influences rather than a single founder; however almost all of them drew heavily from the writings of Augustine of Hippo
twelve hundred years prior. In the context of the Reformation, Huldrych Zwingli
began the Reformed tradition in 1519 in the city of Zürich
. His followers were instantly labeled
'', consistent with the Catholic practice of naming heresy after its founder. Very soon, Zwingli was joined by Martin Bucer
, Wolfgang Capito
, William Farel
, Johannes Oecolampadius
and other early Reformed thinkers.
The namesake of the movement, French reformer John Calvin, renounced Roman Catholicism and embraced Protestant
views in the late 1520s or early 1530s, as the earliest notions of later Reformed tradition were already espoused by Huldrych Zwingli
. The movement was first called ''Calvinism'', referring to John Calvin, in the early 1550s by Lutherans who opposed it. Many within the tradition find it either an indescriptive or inappropriate term and would prefer the word ''Reformed'' to be used instead. The most important Reformed theologians include Calvin, Zwingli, Martin Bucer
, William Farel
, Heinrich Bullinger
, Peter Martyr Vermigli
, Theodore Beza
, and John Knox
. In the twentieth century, Abraham Kuyper
, Herman Bavinck
, B. B. Warfield
, J. Gresham Machen
, Karl Barth
, Martyn Lloyd-Jones
, Cornelius Van Til
, Gordon Clark
, R. C. Sproul
, and J. I. Packer
were influential. Contemporary Reformed theologians include John MacArthur
, Timothy J. Keller
, David Wells
, and Michael Horton
The Reformed tradition is largely represented by the Continental Reformed
, Evangelical Anglican
, and Reformed Baptist
denominational families. Several forms of ecclesiastical polity
are exercised by a group of Reformed churches, including presbyterian
, and some episcopal
. The biggest Reformed association is the World Communion of Reformed Churches
with more than 100 million members in 211 member denominations around the world. There are more conservative Reformed federations such as the World Reformed Fellowship
and the International Conference of Reformed Churches
, as well as independent churches
Calvinism is named after John Calvin
. It was first used by a Lutheran theologian in 1552. It was a common practice of the Roman Catholic Church to name what it viewed as heresy after its founder. Nevertheless, the term first came out of Lutheran circles. Calvin denounced the designation himself:
Despite its negative connotation, this designation became increasingly popular in order to distinguish Calvinists from Lutherans and from newer Protestant branches that emerged later. The vast majority of churches that trace their history back to Calvin (including Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and a row of other Calvinist churches) do not use it themselves, since the designation "Reformed" is more generally accepted and preferred, especially in the English-speaking world
. Moreover, these churches claim to be—in accordance with John Calvin's own words—"renewed accordingly with the true order of gospel".
Since the Arminian controversy
, the Reformed tradition—as a branch of Protestantism
distinguished from Lutheranism—divided into two separate groups: Arminians
and Calvinists. However, it is now rare to call Arminians a part of the Reformed tradition, with the majority of Arminians today being members of the Methodist Church
es and General Baptist Churches
. While the Reformed theological tradition addresses all of the traditional topics of Christian theology, the word ''Calvinism'' is sometimes used to refer to particular Calvinist views on soteriology
, which are summarized in part by the Five Points of Calvinism
. Some have also argued that Calvinism as a whole stresses the sovereignty
or rule of God in all things including salvation.
First-generation Reformed theologians include Huldrych Zwingli
(1484–1531), Martin Bucer
(1491–1551), Wolfgang Capito
(1478–1541), John Oecolampadius
(1482–1531), and Guillaume Farel
(1489–1565). These reformers came from diverse academic backgrounds, but later distinctions within Reformed theology can already be detected in their thought, especially the priority of scripture
as a source of authority. Scripture was also viewed as a unified whole, which led to a covenantal theology
of the sacraments
and the Lord's Supper
as visible signs of the covenant of grace
. Another Reformed distinctive present in these theologians was their denial of the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord's supper
. Each of these theologians also understood salvation to be by grace alone, and affirmed a doctrine of particular election
(the teaching that some people are chosen by God for salvation
). Martin Luther
and his successor Philipp Melanchthon
were undoubtedly significant influences on these theologians, and to a larger extent later Reformed theologians. The doctrine of justification by faith alone
, also known as sola fide, was a direct inheritance from Luther.
(1509–64), Heinrich Bullinger
(1504–75), Wolfgang Musculus
(1497–1563), Peter Martyr Vermigli
(1500–62), and Andreas Hyperius
(1511–64) belong to the second generation of Reformed theologians. Calvin's ''Institutes of the Christian Religion
'' (1536–59) was one of the most influential theologies of the era. Toward the middle of the 16th century, the Reformed began to commit their beliefs to confessions of faith
, which would shape the future definition of the Reformed faith. The 1549 ''Consensus Tigurinus
'' brought together those who followed Zwingli and Bullinger's memorialist
theology of the Lord's supper, which taught that the supper simply serves as a reminder of Christ's death, and Calvin's view that the supper serves as a means of grace
with Christ actually present, though spiritually rather than bodily. The document demonstrates the diversity as well as unity in early Reformed theology. The remainder of the 16th century saw an explosion of confessional activity. The stability and breadth of Reformed theology during this period stand in marked contrast to the bitter controversy experienced by Lutherans prior to the 1579 Formula of Concord
Due to Calvin's missionary work in France, his programme of reform eventually reached the French-speaking provinces of the Netherlands. Calvinism was adopted in the Electorate of the Palatinate
under Frederick III
, which led to the formulation of the Heidelberg Catechism
in 1563. This and the Belgic Confession
were adopted as confessional standards in the first synod
of the Dutch Reformed Church
in 1571. In 1573, William the Silent
joined the Calvinist Church. Calvinism was declared the official religion of the Kingdom of Navarre
by the queen regnant Jeanne d'Albret
after her conversion in 1560. Leading divines, either Calvinist or those sympathetic to Calvinism, settled in England (Martin Bucer, Peter Martyr
, and Jan Łaski
) and Scotland (John Knox
). During the English Civil War
, the Calvinistic Puritan
s produced the Westminster Confession
, which became the confessional standard for Presbyterians
in the English-speaking world. Having established itself in Europe, the movement continued to spread to other parts of the world, including North America, South Africa, and Korea.
Calvin did not live to see the foundation of his work grow into an international movement; but his death allowed his ideas to break out of their city of origin, to succeed far beyond their borders, and to establish their own distinct character.
Although much of Calvin's work was in Geneva
, his publications spread his ideas of a ''correctly'' Reformed church to many parts of Europe. In Switzerland
, some cantons are still Reformed, and some are Catholic. Calvinism became the theological system of the majority in Scotland
(see John Knox
), the Netherlands
(see William Ames
, T. J. Frelinghuysen
and Wilhelmus à Brakel
), some communities in Flanders
, and parts of Germany (especially these adjacent to the Netherlands) in the Palatinate
with the likes of Olevianus
and his colleague Zacharias Ursinus
. In Hungary
and the then-independent Transylvania
, Calvinism was a significant religion. In the 16th century, the Reformation gained many supporters in Eastern Hungary and Hungarian-populated regions in Transylvania. In these parts, the Reformed nobles protected the faith. Almost all Transylvanian dukes were Reformed. Today there are about 3.5 million Hungarian Reformed people worldwide.
It was influential in France, Lithuania
before being mostly erased due to the counter-reformational activities
taken up by the monarch in each country. In Poland disconnected from Calvinism the Polish stream called Polish Brethren
. This stream was started on January 22, 1556, when Piotr of Goniądz
(Peter Gonesius), a Polish student, spoke out against the doctrine of the Trinity
during the general synod of the Reformed (Calvinist
) churches of Poland held in the village of Secemin
. Calvinism gained some popularity in Scandinavia
, especially Sweden, but was rejected in favor of Lutheranism
after the Synod of Uppsala
Most settlers in the American Mid-Atlantic and New England
were Calvinists, including the English Puritan
s, the French Huguenot
s and Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam (New York), and the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians
of the Appalachian back country. Nonconforming Protestants
, English religious groups coming out of the English Civil War
, and other English dissenters
not satisfied with the degree to which the Church of England
had been reformed, held overwhelmingly Reformed views. They are often cited among the primary founders of the United States of America. Dutch and French Huguenot
Calvinist settlers were also the first European colonizers of South Africa, beginning in the 17th century, who became known as Boer
s or Afrikaners
was largely colonized by Calvinist settlers from Nova Scotia
, who were largely Black Loyalist
s, black people who had fought for the British
during the American War of Independence
. John Marrant
had organized a congregation there under the auspices of the Huntingdon Connection
. Some of the largest Calvinist communions were started by 19th- and 20th-century missionaries
. Especially large are those in Indonesia
. In South Korea
there are 20,000 Presbyterian
congregations with about 9–10 million church members, scattered in more than 100 Presbyterian denominations. In South Korea, Presbyterianism
is the largest Christian denomination.
A 2011 report of the Pew Forum
on Religious and Public Life estimated that members of Presbyterian or Reformed churches make up 7% of the estimated 801 million Protestants globally, or approximately 56 million people.
Though the broadly defined Reformed faith is much larger, as it constitutes Congregationalist (0.5%), most of the United and uniting churches (unions of different denominations) (7.2%) and most likely some of the other Protestant denominations (38.2%). All three are distinct categories from Presbyterian or Reformed (7%) in this report.
The Reformed family of churches is one of the largest Christian denominations. According to adherents.com the Reformed/Presbyterian/Congregational/United churches represent 75 million believers worldwide.
The World Communion of Reformed Churches
, which includes some United Churches
(most of these are primarily Reformed; see ''Uniting and united churches
'' for details), has 80 million believers.
WCRC is the third largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Many conservative Reformed churches which are strongly Calvinistic formed the World Reformed Fellowship
which has about 70 member denominations. Most are not part of the World Communion of Reformed Churches because of its ecumenical attire. The International Conference of Reformed Churches is another conservative association.
Church of Tuvalu
is the only officially established state church
in the Calvinist tradition in the world.
Revelation and scripture
Reformed theologians believe that God communicates knowledge of himself to people through the Word of God. People are not able to know anything about God except through this self-revelation. Speculation about anything which God has not revealed through his Word is not warranted. The knowledge people have of God is different from that which they have of anything else because God is infinite
, and finite people are incapable of comprehending an infinite being. While the knowledge revealed by God to people is never incorrect, it is also never comprehensive.
According to Reformed theologians, God's self-revelation is always through his son Jesus Christ
, because Christ is the only mediator between God and people. Revelation of God through Christ comes through two basic channels. The first is creation
, which is God's creating and continuing to work in the world. This action of God gives everyone knowledge about God, but this knowledge is only sufficient to make people culpable for their sin; it does not include knowledge of the gospel. The second channel through which God reveals himself is redemption
, which is the gospel of salvation
from condemnation which is punishment for sin.
In Reformed theology, the Word of God takes several forms. Jesus Christ himself is the Word Incarnate. The prophecies about him said to be found in the Old Testament
and the ministry of the apostles
who saw him and communicated his message are also the Word of God. Further, the preaching
of ministers about God is the very Word of God because God is considered to be speaking through them. God also speaks through human writers in the Bible
, which is composed of texts set apart by God for self-revelation. Reformed theologians emphasize the Bible as a uniquely important means by which God communicates with people. People gain knowledge of God from the Bible which cannot be gained in any other way.
Reformed theologians affirm that the Bible is true, but differences emerge among them over the meaning and extent of its truthfulness. Conservative followers of the Princeton theologians
take the view that the Bible is true and inerrant
, or incapable of error or falsehood, in every place. This view is very similar to that of Catholic
orthodoxy as well as modern Evangelicalism
. Another view, influenced by the teaching of Karl Barth
, is found in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
's Confession of 1967
. Those who take this view believe the Bible to be the primary source of our knowledge of God, but also that some parts of the Bible may be false, not witnesses to Christ, and not normative for today's church. In this view, Christ is the revelation of God, and the scriptures witness to this revelation rather than being the revelation itself.
Reformed theologians use the concept of covenant to describe the way God enters fellowship with people in history. The concept of covenant is so prominent in Reformed theology that Reformed theology as a whole is sometimes called "covenant theology". However, sixteenth and seventeenth-century theologians developed a particular theological system called "covenant theology
" or "federal theology" which many conservative Reformed churches continue to affirm today. This framework orders God's life with people primarily in two covenants: the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.
The covenant of works is made with Adam and Eve
in the Garden of Eden
. The terms of the covenant are that God provides a blessed life in the garden on condition that Adam and Eve obey God's law perfectly. Because Adam and Eve broke the covenant by eating the forbidden fruit
, they became subject to death and were banished from the garden. This sin was passed down to all mankind because all people are said to be in Adam as a covenantal or "federal" head. Federal theologians usually infer that Adam and Eve would have gained immortality had they obeyed perfectly.
A second covenant, called the covenant of grace, is said to have been made immediately following Adam and Eve's sin. In it, God graciously offers salvation from death on condition of faith in God. This covenant is administered in different ways throughout the Old and New Testaments, but retains the substance of being free of a requirement of perfect obedience.
Through the influence of Karl Barth, many contemporary Reformed theologians have discarded the covenant of works, along with other concepts of federal theology. Barth saw the covenant of works as disconnected from Christ and the gospel, and rejected the idea that God works with people in this way. Instead, Barth argued that God always interacts with people under the covenant of grace, and that the covenant of grace is free of all conditions whatsoever. Barth's theology and that which follows him has been called "monocovenantal" as opposed to the "bi-covenantal" scheme of classical federal theology. Conservative contemporary Reformed theologians, such as John Murray
, have also rejected the idea of covenants based on law rather than grace. Michael Horton
, however, has defended the covenant of works as combining principles of law and love.
For the most part, the Reformed tradition did not modify the medieval consensus on the doctrine of God
. God's character is described primarily using three adjectives: eternal, infinite, and unchangeable. Reformed theologians such as Shirley Guthrie
have proposed that rather than conceiving of God in terms of his attributes and freedom to do as he pleases, the doctrine of God is to be based on God's work in history and his freedom to live with and empower people.
Traditionally, Reformed theologians have also followed the medieval tradition going back to before the early church councils of Nicaea
on the doctrine of the Trinity
. God is affirmed to be one God in three persons: Father
, and Holy Spirit
. The Son (Christ) is held to be eternally begotten by the Father and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeding
from the Father and Son. However, contemporary theologians have been critical of aspects of Western views here as well. Drawing on the Eastern
tradition, these Reformed theologians have proposed a "social trinitarianism
" where the persons of the Trinity only exist in their life together as persons-in-relationship. Contemporary Reformed confessions such as the Barmen Confession
and Brief Statement of Faith of the Presbyterian Church (USA) have avoided language about the attributes of God and have emphasized his work of reconciliation and empowerment of people. Feminist theologian Letty Russell
used the image of partnership for the persons of the Trinity. According to Russell, thinking this way encourages Christians to interact in terms of fellowship rather than reciprocity. Conservative Reformed theologian Michael Horton, however, has argued that social trinitarianism is untenable because it abandons the essential unity of God in favor of a community of separate beings.
Christ and atonement
Reformed theologians affirm the historic Christian belief that Christ
is eternally one person with a divine and a human nature
. Reformed Christians have especially emphasized that Christ truly became human
so that people could be saved. Christ's human nature has been a point of contention between Reformed and Lutheran Christology
. In accord with the belief that finite humans cannot comprehend infinite divinity, Reformed theologians hold that Christ's human body cannot be in multiple locations at the same time. Because Lutheran
s believe that Christ is bodily present in the Eucharist
, they hold that Christ is bodily present in many locations simultaneously. For Reformed Christians, such a belief denies that Christ actually became human. Some contemporary Reformed theologians have moved away from the traditional language of one person in two natures, viewing it as unintelligible to contemporary people. Instead, theologians tend to emphasize Jesus' context and particularity as a first-century Jew.
John Calvin and many Reformed theologians who followed him describe Christ's work of redemption in terms of three offices
, and king
. Christ is said to be a prophet in that he teaches perfect doctrine, a priest in that he intercedes to the Father
on believers' behalf and offered himself as a sacrifice for sin, and a king in that he rules the church and fights on believers' behalf. The threefold office links the work of Christ to God's work in ancient Israel
. Many, but not all, Reformed theologians continue to make use of the threefold office as a framework because of its emphasis on the connection of Christ's work to Israel. They have, however, often reinterpreted the meaning of each of the offices. For example, Karl Barth interpreted Christ's prophetic office in terms of political engagement on behalf of the poor.
Christians believe Jesus' death
makes it possible for believers to attain forgiveness for sin and reconciliation with God through the atonement
. Reformed Protestants generally subscribe to a particular view of the atonement called penal substitutionary atonement
, which explains Christ's death as a sacrificial payment for sin. Christ is believed to have died in place of the believer, who is accounted righteous as a result of this sacrificial payment.
In Christian theology, people are created good and in the image of God
but have become corrupted by sin
, which causes them to be imperfect and overly self-interested. Reformed Christians, following the tradition of Augustine of Hippo
, believe that this corruption of human nature was brought on by Adam and Eve's first sin, a doctrine called original sin
. Although earlier Christian authors taught the elements of physical death, moral weakness, and a sin propensity within original sin, Augustine was the first Christian to add the concept of inherited guilt (''reatus'') from Adam whereby every infant is born eternally damned and humans lack any residual ability to respond to God. Reformed theologians emphasize that this sinfulness affects all of a person's nature, including their will. This view, that sin so dominates people that they are unable to avoid sin, has been called total depravity
. In colloquial English, the term "total depravity" can be easily misunderstood to mean that people are absent of any goodness or unable to do any good. However the Reformed teaching is actually that while people continue to bear God's image and may do things that appear outwardly good, their sinful intentions affect all of their nature and actions so that they are not pleasing to God. From a Calvinist viewpoint, a person who has sinned was predestined to sin, and no matter what a person does, they will go to Heaven or Hell based on that determination. There is no repenting from sin since the most evil thing is the sinner's own actions, thoughts, and words.
Some contemporary theologians in the Reformed tradition, such as those associated with the PC(USA)'s Confession of 1967, have emphasized the social character of human sinfulness. These theologians have sought to bring attention to issues of environmental, economic, and political justice as areas of human life that have been affected by sin.
Reformed theologians, along with other Protestants, believe salvation from punishment for sin is to be given to all those who have faith
in Christ. Faith is not purely intellectual, but involves trust in God's promise to save. Protestants do not hold there to be any other requirement for salvation, but that faith alone
is the part of salvation where God pardons the sin of those who believe in Christ. It is historically held by Protestants to be the most important article of Christian faith, though more recently it is sometimes given less importance out of ecumenical
concerns. People are not on their own able even to fully repent
of their sin or prepare themselves to repent because of their sinfulness. Therefore, justification is held to arise solely from God's free and gracious act.
is the part of salvation in which God makes the believer holy, by enabling them to exercise greater love for God and for other people. The good works
accomplished by believers as they are sanctified are considered to be the necessary outworking of the believer's salvation, though they do not cause the believer to be saved. Sanctification, like justification, is by faith, because doing good works is simply living as the son of God one has become.
Reformed theologians teach that sin so affects human nature that they are unable even to exercise faith in Christ by their own will. While people are said to retain will, in that they willfully sin, they are unable not to sin because of the corruption of their nature due to original sin. Reformed Christians believe that God predestined
some people to be saved and others were predestined to eternal damnation. This choice by God to save some is held to be unconditional
and not based on any characteristic or action on the part of the person chosen. This view is opposed to the Arminian
view that God's choice of whom to save is conditional
or based on his foreknowledge of who would respond positively to God.
Karl Barth reinterpreted the Reformed doctrine of predestination to apply only to Christ. Individual people are only said to be elected through their being in Christ. Reformed theologians who followed Barth, including Jürgen Moltmann
, David Migliore, and Shirley Guthrie
, have argued that the traditional Reformed concept of predestination is speculative and have proposed alternative models. These theologians claim that a properly trinitarian doctrine emphasizes God's freedom to love all people, rather than choosing some for salvation and others for damnation. God's justice towards and condemnation of sinful people is spoken of by these theologians as out of his love for them and a desire to reconcile them to himself.
Five points of Calvinism
Most objections to and attacks on Calvinism focus on the "five points of Calvinism", also called the doctrines of grace, and remembered by the mnemonic
"TULIP". The five points are popularly said to summarize the Canons of Dort
; however, there is no historical relationship between them, and some scholars argue that their language distorts the meaning of the Canons, Calvin's theology, and the theology of 17th-century Calvinistic orthodoxy, particularly in the language of total depravity and limited atonement. The five points were more recently popularized in the 1963 booklet ''The Five Points of Calvinism Defined, Defended, Documented'' by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas. The origins of the five points and the acronym are uncertain, but they appear to be outlined in the Counter Remonstrance of 1611
, a less known Reformed reply to the Arminians that occurred prior to the Canons of Dort. The acronym was used by Cleland Boyd McAfee
as early as circa 1905. An early printed appearance of the T-U-L-I-P acronym is in Loraine Boettner's 1932 book, ''The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination''. The acronym was very cautiously if ever used by Calvinist apologists and theologians before the booklet by Steele and Thomas.
The central assertion of these points is that God saves every person upon whom he has mercy, and that his efforts are not frustrated by the unrighteousness or inability of humans.
* "Total depravity
", also called "total inability", asserts that as a consequence of the fall of man into sin
, every person is enslaved to sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God, but rather to serve their own interests and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to trust God for their salvation and be saved (the term "total" in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as they could be). This doctrine is derived from Calvin's interpretation of Augustine
's explanation about Original Sin
. While the phrases "totally depraved" and "utterly perverse" were used by Calvin, what was meant was the inability to save oneself from sin rather than being absent of goodness. Phrases like "total depravity" cannot be found in the Canons of Dort, and the Canons as well as later Reformed orthodox theologians arguably offer a more moderate view of the nature of fallen humanity than Calvin.
* "Unconditional election
" asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people; rather, his choice is unconditionally grounded in his mercy alone. God has chosen from eternity to extend mercy to those he has chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen. Those chosen receive salvation through Christ alone. Those not chosen receive the just wrath that is warranted for their sins against God.
* "Limited atonement
", also called "particular redemption" or "definite atonement", asserts that Jesus's substitutionary atonement
was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned
for by Jesus's death. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is intended for some and not all. Some Calvinists have summarized this as "The atonement is sufficient for all and efficient for the elect."
* "Irresistible grace
", also called "efficacious grace", asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved. The doctrine holds that this purposeful influence of God's Holy Spirit
cannot be resisted, but that the Holy Spirit, "graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ." This is not to deny the fact that the Spirit's outward call (through the proclamation of the Gospel) can be, and often is, rejected by sinners; rather, it is that inward call which cannot be rejected.
* "Perseverance of the saints
" (also known as "perseverance of God with the saints" and "preservation of the believing") (the word "saints" is used to refer to all who are set apart by God, and not of those who are exceptionally holy
, or in heaven) asserts that since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with (1 John 2:19), or, if they are saved but not presently walking in the Spirit, they will be divinely chastened (Hebrews 12:5–11) and will repent (1 John 3:6–9).
More recently, a broad range of theologians have sought to reformulate the TULIP terminology to reflect more accurately the Canons of Dort; one recent effort has been PROOF, standing for Planned Grace, Resurrecting Grace, Outrageous Grace, Overcoming Grace, and Forever Grace.
Comparison among Protestants
Reformed Christians see the Christian Church
as the community with which God has made the covenant of grace, a promise of eternal life and relationship with God. This covenant extends to those under the "old covenant" whom God chose, beginning with Abraham
. The church is conceived of as both invisible
. The invisible church is the body of all believers, known only to God. The visible church is the institutional body which contains both members of the invisible church as well as those who appear to have faith in Christ, but are not truly part of God's elect.
In order to identify the visible church, Reformed theologians have spoken of certain marks of the Church
. For some, the only mark is the pure preaching of the gospel of Christ. Others, including John Calvin, also include the right administration of the sacrament
s. Others, such as those following the Scots Confession
, include a third mark of rightly administered church discipline
, or exercise of censure against unrepentant sinners. These marks allowed the Reformed to identify the church based on its conformity to the Bible rather than the Magisterium
or church tradition.
Regulative principle of worship
The regulative principle of worship is a teaching shared by some Calvinists and Anabaptists
on how the Bible orders public worship. The substance of the doctrine regarding worship is that God institutes in the Scriptures everything he requires for worship in the Church and that everything else is prohibited. As the regulative principle is reflected in Calvin's own thought, it is driven by his evident antipathy toward the Roman Catholic Church and its worship practices, and it associates musical instruments with icon
s, which he considered violations of the Ten Commandments
' prohibition of graven images.
On this basis, many early Calvinists also eschewed musical instruments and advocated a cappella exclusive psalmody
in worship, though Calvin himself allowed other scriptural songs as well as psalms,
and this practice typified presbyterian worship
and the worship of other Reformed churches for some time. The original Lord's Day service designed by John Calvin was a highly liturgical service with the Creed, Alms, Confession and Absolution, the Lord's supper, Doxologies, prayers, Psalms being sung, the Lords prayer being sung, Benedictions.
Since the 19th century, however, some of the Reformed churches have modified their understanding of the regulative principle and make use of musical instruments, believing that Calvin and his early followers went beyond the biblical requirements
and that such things are circumstances of worship requiring biblically rooted wisdom, rather than an explicit command. Despite the protestations of those who hold to a strict view of the regulative principle, today hymn
s and musical instruments are in common use, as are contemporary worship music
styles with elements such as worship band
The Westminster Confession of Faith
limits the sacraments to baptism and the Lord's Supper. Sacraments are denoted "signs and seals of the covenant of grace." Westminster speaks of "a sacramental relation, or a sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other." Baptism is for infant children of believers as well as believers, as it is for all the Reformed except Baptists
and some Congregationalists
. Baptism admits the baptized into the visible church
, and in it all the benefits of Christ are offered to the baptized. On the Lord's supper, Westminster takes a position between Lutheran sacramental union and Zwinglian memorialism: "the Lord's supper really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance as the elements themselves are to their outward senses."
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
does not use the term sacrament, but describes baptism and the Lord's supper as ordinances, as do most Baptists Calvinist or otherwise. Baptism is only for those who "actually profess repentance towards God", and not for the children of believers. Baptists also insist on immersion or dipping, in contradistinction to other Reformed Christians. The Baptist Confession describes the Lord's supper as "the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance", similarly to the Westminster Confession. There is significant latitude in Baptist congregations regarding the Lord's supper, and many hold the Zwinglian view.
Logical order of God's decree
There are two schools of thought regarding the logical order of God's decree to ordain the fall of man: supralapsarianism
(from the Latin
: ''supra'', "above", here meaning "before" + ''lapsus'', "fall") and infralapsarianism
(from the Latin: ''infra'', "beneath", here meaning "after" + ''lapsus'', "fall"). The former view, sometimes called "high Calvinism", argues that the Fall occurred partly to facilitate God's purpose to choose some individuals for salvation and some for damnation. Infralapsarianism, sometimes called "low Calvinism", is the position that, while the Fall was indeed planned, it was not planned with reference to who would be saved.
Supralapsarians believe that God chose which individuals to save logically prior to the decision to allow the race to fall and that the Fall serves as the means of realization of that prior decision to send some individuals to hell and others to heaven (that is, it provides the grounds of condemnation in the reprobate and the need for salvation in the elect). In contrast, infralapsarians hold that God planned the race to fall logically prior to the decision to save or damn any individuals because, it is argued, in order to be "saved", one must first need to be saved from something and therefore the decree of the Fall must precede predestination to salvation or damnation.
These two views vied with each other at the Synod of Dort, an international body representing Calvinist Christian churches from around Europe, and the judgments that came out of that council sided with infralapsarianism (Canons of Dort, First Point of Doctrine, Article 7). The Westminster Confession of Faith also teaches (in Hodge's words "clearly imples
) the infralapsarian view, but is sensitive to those holding to supralapsarianism. The Lapsarian controversy has a few vocal proponents on each side today, but overall it does not receive much attention among modern Calvinists.
The Reformed tradition is largely represented by the Continental Reformed
, Evangelical Anglican
, and Reformed Baptist
Continental Reformed Churches
Considered to be the most oldest and orthodox bearers of the Reformed faith, the continental Reformed Church
es uphold the Helvetic Confessions
and Heidelberg Catechism
, which were adopted in Zurich and Heidelberg, respectively.
In the United States, immigrants belonging to the continental Reformed Churches joined the Dutch Reformed Church
there, as well as the Anglican Church.
The Congregational Churches are a part of the Reformed
tradition founded under the influence of New England Puritanism
The Savoy Declaration
is the confession of faith
held by the Congregationalist churches. An example of a Christian denomination belonging to the Congregationalist tradition is the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference
The Presbyterian Church
es are a part of the Reformed tradition and were influenced by John Knox
's teachings in the Church of Scotland
. Presbyterianism upholds the Westminster Confession of Faith
Historic Anglicanism is a part of the wider Reformed tradition, as "the founding documents of the Anglican church—the Book of Homilies, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion—expresses a theology in keeping with the Reformed theology of the Swiss and South German Reformation."
The Most Rev. Peter Robinson, presiding bishop
of the United Episcopal Church of North America
Reformed Baptist Churches
Reformed Baptist Church
es, also known as Primitive Baptist Churches, are Baptist
s (a Christian denominational family that teaches credobaptism
rather than infant baptism
) who adhere to Reformed theology as explicated in the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith
Variants in Reformed theology
Amyraldism (or sometimes Amyraldianism, also known as the School of Saumur, hypothetical universalism, post redemptionism, moderate Calvinism, or four-point Calvinism) is the belief that God
, prior to his decree of election, decreed Christ's atonement
for all alike if they believe, but seeing that none would believe on their own, he then elected
those whom he will bring to faith in Christ
, thereby preserving the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election
. The efficacy of the atonement remains limited to those who believe.
Named after its formulator Moses Amyraut
, this doctrine is still viewed as a variety of Calvinism in that it maintains the particularity of sovereign grace in the application of the atonement. However, detractors like B. B. Warfield
have termed it "an inconsistent and therefore unstable form of Calvinism."
Hyper-Calvinism first referred to a view that appeared among the early English Particular Baptists
in the 18th century. Their system denied that the call of the gospel to "repent
and believe" is directed to every single person and that it is the duty of every person to trust in Christ for salvation. The term also occasionally appears in both theological
and secular controversial contexts, where it usually connotes a negative opinion about some variety of theological determinism
, or a version of Evangelical Christianity or Calvinism that is deemed by the critic to be unenlightened, harsh, or extreme.
The Westminster Confession of Faith says that the gospel is to be freely offered to sinners, and the Larger Catechism makes clear that the gospel is offered to the non-elect.
Neo-Calvinism, a form of Dutch Calvinism, is the movement initiated by the theologian and former Dutch prime minister Abraham Kuyper
. James Bratt
has identified a number of different types of Dutch Calvinism: The Seceders—split into the Reformed Church "West" and the Confessionalists; and the Neo-Calvinists—the Positives and the Antithetical Calvinists. The Seceders were largely infralapsarian
and the Neo-Calvinists usually supralapsarian
Kuyper wanted to awaken the church from what he viewed as its pietistic slumber. He declared:
No single piece of our mental world is to be sealed off from the rest and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'
This refrain has become something of a rallying call for Neo-Calvinists.
Christian Reconstructionism is a fundamentalist
movement that has remained rather obscure. Founded by R. J. Rushdoony
, the movement has had an important influence on the Christian Right
in the United States. The movement declined in the 1990s and was declared dead in a 2008 ''Church History
'' journal article. However, it lives on in small denominations such as the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States
and as a minority position in other denominations. Christian Reconstructionists are usually postmillennialist
s and followers of the presuppositional apologetics
of Cornelius Van Til
. They tend to support a decentralized political order resulting in laissez-faire
New Calvinism is a growing perspective within conservative Evangelicalism that embraces the fundamentals of 16th century Calvinism while also trying to be relevant in the present day world.
In March 2009, ''Time'' magazine described the New Calvinism as one of the "10 ideas changing the world".
Some of the major figures who have been associated with the New Calvinism are John Piper
, Al Mohler
C. J. Mahaney
, and Tim Keller
New Calvinists have been criticized for blending Calvinist soteriology with popular Evangelical positions on the sacraments and continuationism
Social and economic influences
Calvin expressed himself on usury in a 1545 letter to a friend, Claude de Sachin, in which he criticized the use of certain passages of scripture invoked by people opposed to the charging of interest. He reinterpreted some of these passages, and suggested that others of them had been rendered irrelevant by changed conditions. He also dismissed the argument (based upon the writings of Aristotle
) that it is wrong to charge interest for money because money itself is barren. He said that the walls and the roof of a house are barren, too, but it is permissible to charge someone for allowing him to use them. In the same way, money can be made fruitful.
He qualified his view, however, by saying that money should be lent to people in dire need without hope of interest, while a modest interest rate of 5% should be permitted in relation to other borrowers.
In ''The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
'', Max Weber
wrote that capitalism in Northern Europe
evolved when the Protestant
(particularly Calvinist) ethic influenced large numbers of people to engage in work in the secular world, developing their own enterprise
s and engaging in trade and the accumulation of wealth for investment. In other words, the Protestant work ethic
was an important force behind the unplanned and uncoordinated emergence of modern capitalism
In his book, apart from Calvinists, Weber also discusses Lutherans
, but also notes differences between traditional Lutherans and Calvinists), Methodists
, and Moravians
(specifically referring to the Herrnhut
-based community under Count von Zinzendorf
's spiritual lead).
Politics and society
Reformed church in Koudekerk aan den Rijn
(Netherlands), 19th century
Calvin's concepts of God and man led to ideas which were gradually put into practice after his death, in particular in the fields of politics and society. After their fight for independence from Spain (1579), the Netherlands, under Calvinist leadership, granted asylum to religious minorities, e.g. French Huguenot
s, English Independents
), and Jews
from Spain and Portugal. The ancestors of the philosopher Baruch Spinoza
were Portuguese Jews. Aware of the trial against Galileo
, René Descartes
lived in the Netherlands, out of reach of the Inquisition
, from 1628 to 1649. Pierre Bayle
, a Reformed Frenchman, also felt safer in the Netherlands than in his home country. He was the first prominent philosopher who demanded tolerance for atheists. Hugo Grotius
(1583–1645) was able to publish a rather liberal interpretation of the Bible and his ideas about natural law
in the Netherlands. Moreover, the Calvinist Dutch authorities allowed the printing of books that could not be published elsewhere, such as Galileo's ''Discorsi''
Alongside the liberal development of the Netherlands came the rise of modern democracy
in England and North America. In the Middle Ages, state and church had been closely connected. Martin Luther
's doctrine of the two kingdoms
separated state and church in principle. His doctrine of the priesthood of all believers
raised the laity to the same level as the clergy. Going one step further, Calvin included elected laymen (church elder
) in his concept of church government
. The Huguenots added synod
s whose members were also elected by the congregations. The other Reformed churches took over this system of church self-government, which was essentially a representative democracy. Baptists
, and Methodists
are organized in a similar way. These denominations and the Anglican Church
were influenced by Calvin's theology in varying degrees.
In another factor in the rise of democracy in the Anglo-American world, Calvin favored a mixture of democracy and aristocracy as the best form of government (mixed government
). He appreciated the advantages of democracy. His political thought aimed to safeguard the rights and freedoms of ordinary men and women. In order to minimize the misuse of political power he suggested dividing it among several institutions in a system of checks and balances (separation of powers
). Finally, Calvin taught that if worldly rulers rise up against God they should be put down. In this way, he and his followers stood in the vanguard of resistance to political absolutism
and furthered the cause of democracy. The Congregationalists
who founded Plymouth Colony
(1620) and Massachusetts Bay Colony
(1628) were convinced that the democratic form of government was the will of God. Enjoying self-rule, they practiced separation of powers. Rhode Island
, and Pennsylvania
, founded by Roger Williams
, Thomas Hooker
, and William Penn
, respectively, combined democratic government with freedom of religion
. These colonies became safe havens for persecuted religious minorities, including Jews
In England, Baptists Thomas Helwys
( 1575 – 1616), and John Smyth
( 1554 – ) influenced the liberal political thought of the Presbyterian poet and politician John Milton
(1608–1674) and of the philosopher John Locke
(1632–1704), who in turn had both a strong impact on the political development in their home country (English Civil War
of 1642–1651), Glorious Revolution
of 1688) as well as in North America. The ideological basis of the American Revolution
was largely provided by the radical Whigs
, who had been inspired by Milton, Locke, James Harrington
(1611–1677), Algernon Sidney
(1623–1683), and other thinkers. The Whigs' "perceptions of politics attracted widespread support in America because they revived the traditional concerns of a Protestantism that had always verged on Puritanism
". The United States Declaration of Independence
, the United States Constitution
and (American) Bill of Rights
initiated a tradition of human and civil rights that continued in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
and the constitutions of numerous countries around the world, e. g. Latin America, Japan, India, Germany, and other European countries. It is also echoed in the United Nations Charter
and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In the nineteenth century, churches based on or influenced by Calvin's theology became deeply involved in social reforms, e.g. the abolition of slavery
, Harriet Beecher Stowe
, Abraham Lincoln
, and others), women suffrage
, and prison reform
s. Members of these churches formed co-operatives
to help the impoverished masses. The founders of the Red Cross Movement
, including Henry Dunant
, were Reformed Christians. Their movement also initiated the Geneva Conventions
Some sources would view Calvinist influence as not always being solely positive. The Boers
and Afrikaner Calvinists
combined ideas from Calvinism and Kuyperian
theology to justify apartheid
in South Africa. As late as 1974 the majority of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa was convinced that their theological stances (including the story of the Tower of Babel) could justify apartheid. In 1990 the Dutch Reformed Church document ''Church and Society'' maintained that although they were changing their stance on apartheid, they believed that within apartheid and under God's sovereign guidance, "...everything was not without significance, but was of service to the Kingdom of God." These views were not universal and were condemned by many Calvinists outside South Africa. Pressure from both outside and inside the Dutch Reformed Calvinist church helped reverse apartheid in South Africa.
Throughout the world, the Reformed churches operate hospitals, homes for handicapped or elderly people, and educational institutions on all levels. For example, American Congregationalists founded Harvard
(1701), and about a dozen other colleges.
Clifton E. Olmstead, ''History of Religion in the United States'', pp. 80, 89, 257.
* List of Calvinist educational institutions in North America
* List of Reformed denominations
* Synod of Jerusalem (1672)
: Eastern Orthodox council rejecting Calvinist beliefs
* Criticism of Protestantism
* ''The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
'' (1905) – Max Weber
's analysis of Calvinism's influence on society and economics
* Common grace
* Reformed confessions of faith
* Boer Calvinists
s that hold to Reformed theology
s: followers of Calvinism in France, originating in the 16th and 17th century
: English Separatists who left Europe for America in search of religious toleration, eventually settling in New England
: Calvinists in Scotland, Ireland and England
s: English Protestants who wanted to purify the Church of England
* Continental Reformed church
: Calvinist churches originating in continental Europe
: Italian Protestants, preceded Calvinism but today identify with Reformed theology
Similar groups in other traditions
, an ancient Indian religion with a similarly deterministic view of predestination
: German Protestants accused of Calvinist leanings within the Lutheran church in the late-16th century
: a radical, Roman Catholic Augustinian school with some doctrinal distinctives similar to those of Calvinism
* Calvinistic Methodists
* Christian universalism
* Eastern Orthodoxy
* Free Grace theology
* Open theism
* Bratt, James D. (1984) ''Dutch Calvinism in Modern America: A History of a Conservative Subculture'excerpt and text search
* Hart, D.G. (2013). ''Calvinism: A History''. New Haven, CT: Yale University Pressexcerpt and text search
* "Five Points of Calvinism"
by Robert Lewis Dabney