What Do Calvinists Believe?

What Do Calvinists Believe? May 5, 2016

What do Calvinists believe?  Is it the same thing that John Calvin did?

Who Was John Calvin?

John Calvin was one of the early Reformers and followed closely in the footsteps of Martin Luther, although never directly working with him as he was considerably younger than Luther, Calvin was still seen as somewhat of the successor to Luther.   And just like Luther, Calvin studied law.  John Calvin was born in 1509, just when the ripples of the Reformation were being felt, thanks in large part to Martin Luther.  Calvin was the leading French Protestant during his day and wrote one of the finest theological books of all time and the book, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” intending it to be the French Protestant statement of beliefs but the king rejected it and for his own personal safety, he fled the country and ended up in Geneva but an anti-Protestant movement forced Calvin to leave there too.   John Calvin’s “Institute of the Christian Religion” was the most comprehensive explanation of the Biblical doctrines concerning grace, works, salvation, and the much controversial “predestination.”


Calvinism is a misnomer.  In other words, it’s not so much what Calvin taught but what he brought out of the Bible.  His teachings were not primarily about predestination but about grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone; the foundational principles of saving faith.  Calvin believed that some people are saved ahead of time, at least in the mind of God, and much of his set of beliefs was based upon the Book of Ephesians where it says about Christ, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11) and “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph 1:4-5). Calvin believed what the Bible teaches about those who are saved and it is summed up by Jesus statement to His disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16) and had earlier said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).  In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, it is written that the prodigal father said, “this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:24).



There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about Calvinism.  For example, some believe that Calvinism teaches that God predestines some to go to hell while He predestines others to be saved.  I think this does Calvin injustice. The idea that God sends people to hell against their will is not easily resolved with Bible verses like “Whosoever believes” or “Whosoever will come to Me” but the Bible says that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18) “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Rom 1:19) and “So they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20b).  God never violates the human will but He does enable us, by His Spirit, to know Christ.  How freewill and predestination work together for God’s purposes can only be fully known by God.  I am just glad that the main things are the plain things and not major on the minors.


So called Hyper-Calvinism is the belief that God sends people to hell against their freewill.  How human freewill and the sovereignty of God interacts, I cannot precisely say.   Imagine two linear lines extending in a straight line into eternity.  They are parallel to one another and nearly touch but both headed in the same direction.  They don’t necessarily have to cross paths in order to reach the same point.   When reading William Stacy Johnson’s book “John Calvin; Reformer for the 21st Century,” I couldn’t find a place where Calvin states that God casts people into hell but doesn’t violate their freewill.  The expression Hyper-Calvinism was not accepted by any of the churches and in the 19th century it became known as “False Calvinism.” Since God is going to save anyone He purposes to save, the Hyper-Calvinist sees no reason for evangelism, preaching, or praying for family and the lost.  It’s almost like a defeatist attitude. Why pray. God will do what He chooses to do. That is true but God may use our prayers as a means to the end which He purposes.


The doctrine of Calvinists should not trouble us.  Debating over something that is not essential to salvation leads to the ruin of the hearers.  The Apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy, said “charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2nd Tim 2:14). Cling steadfastly to those things we know to be true (John 3:16; Acts 4:12) and avoid those things where the Bible is not absolutely, 100% clear.   Especially those things that have nothing to do with the fact that we are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone because that is the foundational principles of saving faith.

Article by Jack Wellman 

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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  • pud

    ” It’s almost like a defeatist attitude. Why pray. God will do what He chooses to do. That is true but God may use our prayers as a means to the end which He purposes.”

    Is it “true” SJ? Tell me how you “know” whether or not something is “true”

    Your “god” “may” use your prayers? Well does he or doesn’t he? Why would an omnipotent all powerful “god” “need” your bleating as a means to an end? Didn’t your “god” create the entire universe? With his “will”? Why would you pray all day like an idiot (since it’s a fact that nothing comes of it) if you don’t actually “know” if they serve as “means to an end”? What “end” SJ? Do you even have a clue what you’re babbling about?

    PS Simple Jack…”gods” do not “need” or “want”or “have” to “choose” Choice implies indecision that requires pondering….Do I make a universe today or next Thursday? LOL

    Can’t you ever think anything through?

    • I agree with some of what you say. Question: What do you think (or think most Christians think) is the purpose of prayer?

      • pud

        Prayer is a ritual of self delusion. At the most fundamental level it is begging the celestial dictator for special favors. It is a learned ritual “believers” are indoctrinated with. It is a cult tactic to instill fear into people and offer them a way to seek a favorable judgement…a carrot and stick technique whereby the religious are brain washed into states of self loathing and self hatred and offered a means to deal with their cult humiliation by appealing to the supernatural. It’s wish thinking and communal humiliation as well as a means to reinforce the cults beliefs through repetition.

        • Hmm…I would say that is more of a critique of prayer than a working definition. It seems you have no wish to dialogue thoughtfully, have a good day.

          • pud

            A self reinforcing ritual of self delusion is a definition.

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    Calvinism is about the worship of the concept of Sovereign Power, not of the sort of God revealed by Christ. Calvin practically deifies the power of the state, and can envision God only as the ultimate despot.

    Calvin argued that human kings have a right to force subjects or captives to swear oaths of allegiance in God’s name, that refusing to swear oaths is a major sin, and that breaking an oath is a worse sin that any other sins that keeping the oath may require. Calvin supported the death penalty for doing what Jesus said and letting your yes be yes and your no be no rather than swearing oaths.

    (However, Calvin would sometimes excuse those who have a role in government from keeping their oaths. A nobleman who swore allegiance to a king could rightly in Calvin;s view rebel, depose, and replace his monarch to punish him for such sins as allowing heathens or heretics to live in peace rather than forcibly convert, expel, or kill them all. A citizen in a democracy however could only check the power of the rulers by voting, and must submit to the outcome of elections even if a winning candidate orders him to personally murder innocent children.)

    Calvin also supported the death penalty for practicing believers baptism rather than infant baptism.

    If you can read Calvin’s “Institutes” (particularly the sections on civil government) without recoiling in disgust, then there is something seriously wrong with your moral compass.

    Even if Calvin’s God did exist, it would be wrong to worship him.

  • pud

    Who cares what anyone “believes” Jack? “Beliefs” are useless, meaningless and destructive. What matters is what you “know” not what ridiculous non empirical crap you “believe” Lots of people “believe” in alien abduction, that Elvis is still alive, that homeopathy cures illness, that prayer works, that angels and demons exist, that ghosts are real etc etc etc…Who cares? Under your delusional world view EVERY “belief” is as valid as the next. If you can’t show it, you don’t know it and if you don’t know it to a high degree of certainty and if you can’t back it up with evidence, then you and all “believers” in all nonsense are totally delusional.

    • Apparently, you care enough what other people believe to waste a lot of your life trolling. It’s funny that you scream at everyone else about their “delusions” while you continue to demonstrate your own delusion that you have something of value to say. You would need two promotions just to make pathetic, pud-puller.

      • pud

        1. That is not an argument

        2. I don’t give a shit what anyone “believes” if they keep it to themselves! The religious zealots can’t, don’t and won’t therefore you are my mortal enemies. I will not allow you to brainwash children without a fight. I will not allow you to dictate public policy based on your absurd superstitious nonsense.

        “Believe” whatever stupid ridiculous idiotic crap you want but do not bring your delusional nonsense into the rational world I live in

        • Facebook User

          Pud, Pud, Pud,
          Then why don’t you keep your ‘beliefs’ to yourself? You obviously don’t believe what you said (I don’t give a shit what anyone “believes” if they keep it to themselves!), so you are either (1) a liar or (2) delusional. Either way, you continue to reveal to all that you are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually stuck in neutral. Pud, your ONLY hope is to trust Jesus Christ.

          • pud

            I have NO “beliefs” I know things to degrees of certainty. I “believe” nothing as I just explained.

            Oh no! Hep me jayzus!!!

            Your only hope is to trust Muhammad…One billion people say so and they all “believe” it….you better do it or else!!

            See the stupidity of your pathetic attempts at reason?

          • Facebook User

            What I ‘see’ is your denial of reality. Do you really think that you believe nothing? Do you really think you have no worldview that colors everything you see? It is you who are deluded. Spiritually, intellectually, blind to the truth. But you are that way because you choose to be. As pigs wallow in the mud.

          • pud

            Let’s take apart your post shall we?

            Demonstrate where and how I am denying “reality”

            Define “reality” and tell me how you know what is real and what isn’t

            I do not “believe” anything. Absolutely nothing. I have levels of confidence in things based upon evidence and personal experience but I do not “believe” anything. I “Know” things to lessor and greater degrees. I trust the the things more that have greater reliability and evidence and I trust less those things that don’t but I do not “believe” anything

            I do not subscribe to any “worldview” I am neutral. I do not belong to any cult, political party, club, organization etc. I do not blindly identify with any ideology. I follow where the empirical evidence leads.

            Define “spiritually” or “spirit”…It is nothing but a woo woo word

            Again..define exactly how you determine “truth” and how you separate it from fiction


          • Facebook User

            Your argument is really no argument at all. You merely twist the definition of ‘believe’ and then claim the exact thing I am claiming…hence, no argument. I have ‘levels of confidence in things based upon evidence and personal experience’ just the same as you…the only difference being is that, in your words, you don’t ‘believe anything’. So, you claim to ‘know’ things, but you don’t live as if you ‘know’ them. Is that what you mean?

            You are in denial about the worldview issue too, Pud. No one is a blank slate with no preconceived ideas…or do deny that reality too? You do belong to a ‘cult’, by the way. The ‘cult’ of Godlessness. You continually ask for ‘proof’ of God (which is all around you, by the way, you just refuse to acknowledge it. Instead claiming unguided forces are the cause of all we see), but you have no ‘proof’ that He doesn’t exist. You continue to create caricatures of God, caricatures that no Christian would agree with, and then proceed to argue against that caricature. Then, you end your comments with a cryptic ‘waiting’. You have nothing to wait on, you’ve been given the answers you ask for many many times, but you persist in simply asking them again. Foolishness personified, pud. In that case, there is nothing left to say…you ask for answers…they are given…then you ask again. Jesus loves you, pud. Believe it or not…your choice.

          • pud

            What utter rubbish.

            “proof of “god” all around you” LOL

            Which “god” What “proof” Don’t waste my time with baseless “claims” and “assertions” for which you have NO evidence or rationale. Arguments from ignorance carry no weight…arguments from credulity carry no weight.

            Rational people don’t “believe” in things because they can’t prove they DON”T exist…LOL…dude! Think about how stupid that is

            I have no preset ideology and I buy into no one elses.

          • Facebook User

            I don’t think anything carries any weight with you except your own opinion. Too bad.

          • pud

            You miss the mark yet again. Evidence carries lots of weight with me. Demonstrable facts carry lots of weight. That’s why I don’t hurl myself off of a building “believing” that I can fly

          • pud

            “jesus loves you believe it or not’ LOL

            I don’t “believe” in meaningless claims about invisible deities from the Iron Age “loving” me.

          • Facebook User

            Fortunate for you that He doesn’t require YOUR belief in Him in order for Him to love you.

          • pud

            Really? Do you mean “fortunate” in that if I don’t accept this compulsory “love” I’ll be tortured forever? LOL

            “Love” freely given is valueless. “Love” like respect is earned or it is meaningless.

            I don’t want to be “loved” by your invisible sky ghost and I’m not psychotic enough to imagine him either

          • Facebook User

            Once again, you create a strawman to attack. Love must be earned? That attitude explains a lot about your comments. “Fortunately” God’s love doesn’t depend on what you ‘want’ or don’t ‘want’. It’s amazing how much time and energy you use arguing against something you say you don’t believe is real. Could it be that deep down inside you know you’re wrong? Hmmmmmmm

          • pud

            Nonsense. Rubbish.

            Nothing that is given away has as much value as that which is earned. This is a fact.

            “gods love”…a mindless absurd made up feel good woo woo “claim” You can’t even demonstrate that ANY “gods” exist!

            I don’t argue against your made up myth, I argue against you and all religious nonsense because it pollutes peoples minds, you indoctrinate children with this rubbish, it causes nothing but conflict in the world…all religious cults are insults to reason and impediments to human advancement. You would all be living in caves still if some brave men hadn’t broken your curse on humanity and embraced thinking over “believing”

          • Facebook User

            It is you who pollute people’s minds, pud. And you attempt to lead people away from God. You are a blasphemer who will inevitably face God and have to answer for every word and action…as will we all. You had better realize that things are not so simply because pud thinks they are…you do not have the final say on anything…that is God’s right, not ours. (And if God hadn’t given you a brain, and the ability to use it, you would be able to do nothing). Over and out, pud buddy.

          • pud

            LOL…you better run along and pray for more forgiveness…the celestial dictator is watching your every move and reading every thought

          • Facebook User

            You better realize your sin and repent.

          • pud

            Or what? I won’t get to spend trillions and trillions of years singing the praises of your celestial dictator? It is so sad that you “believe” this nonsense out of so much fear. Sick that you people can use the word love and fear in the same sentence when talking about your deity…that’s the very definition of totalitarianism. It’s what you’re required to do in North Korea

          • pud

            Yeah..The omnipotent all powerful maximally great creator of universes sits around all day gavel in hand judging every dead person that floats up to the celestial court house. The maker of suns and black holes, entire galaxies of hundreds of billions of stars sits there day in and day out tallying up the sins of every pitiful primate that is escorted down the hall to his chambers….LOL

            Did you lust after that hottie 4 summers ago asks the lord? Why yes..she was smoking hot! SINNER! Your have offended me!! Eternal damnation is your sentence with no appeal!

            Do you “believe” in my son who is really me and a ghost who I sent down as myself and a man as a human sacrifice to myself to forgive you and get you to stop killing goats? …Asks Yahweh….Ah, no your lordship all I ever got was some ancient book with a lot of nonsense in it…SINNER! You have OFFENDED me!! Eternity in flames for you!

            Dude…do you at all see how absurd this junk you’ve bought into is? How so out of proportion?

          • Facebook User

            You are an excellent strawman builder, pud. I guess it’s because you get so much practice at it.

          • pud

            Not a strawman at all…it is exactly the nonsense your cult puts forward as reality. Can you construct a single rational argument to support a single one of your claims? Can you? Try? Pick one and challenge me to present a rational one of my own to counter it. You won’t…you know how it would end

        • 1. You haven’t posted an argument either.

          2. Nobody is forcing you to read this blog. No, people of faith don’t have to keep it to themselves just because you don’t like it. You have as much right to ignore it as you do to respond to it.

          3. You think you live in a “rational” world? Have you read the news lately?

          4. We are your “mortal enemies”. Really? Do you use the red crayons when you write our names on your enemies list?

          5. You don’t get to “allow” or disallow anything, pud-puller. We have the same rights you do and will speak accordingly. Put on your big-boy pants and deal with it.

          • pud

            Your comprehension skills are somewhat lacking…I always make rational arguments….”MY” world not “THE” world and it is very rational….”people of faith” are my enemy because they DO NOT keep it to themselves. They vote and campaign and seek to force their views on others…..I’m not trying to deny anyone’s “rights” I’m trying to defeat your sick ideology and save you and others from these delusional cults you subscribe to.

          • I guess I missed all of the “rationality” in your arguments amidst the sputtering, swearing, and name-calling. How dare people of faith vote…the nerve of us. And all your bluster and posturing is saving nothing but your ego.

          • pud

            You’re starting to get it! Good for you!

            I don’t want nazis, fascists, communists, muslims mormons or born again wackos forcing their distorted dysfunctional views on me or mine through the democratic voting mechanism. I want people of reason and virtue debating and deciding policy not psychotics who believe in talking snakes, demons and the garden of eden.

            See? That’s an argument…that’s my reasoned explanation why I must oppose you and other cults. It’s my motivation for exposing your distorted delusional world views and urging others to reject your nonsense in favor of reality. You’ll not have a theocracy so long as I breathe

      • I’m assuming you are a Christian, so I must point you to this:

        1 Peter 3:13-16

        13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

        Your defense lacks gentleness and respect. Ad hominem arguments usually (always?) do.

        • I’m showing him the respect he deserves; no more, no less.

    • “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

      • pud

        “Belief”? I know exactly what it means. You either “know” something to a degree of certainty or you “believe” something with no degree of certainty required.

        If you “know” something you have no reason to “believe” in it.

        Knowing requires empirical evidence, a rational argument,and can be disproved with new evidence. Belief requires nothing, needs no rational argument and cannot be disproved.

        All “knowledge” is not equal. All “belief” is exactly equal. Some knowledge can be judged true by the weight of evidence and the lack of a competing theory. Some knowledge is tentative pending further evidence. Belief in unicorns is just a valid as belief in Bigfoot or devils. There is NO evidence for any of these “beliefs” so they remain equally valid…not true but valid.

        “Belief” in mormon golden plates is just as valid as “belief” in muslim flying horses and dead men rising from the grave. Since there is NO evidence for any of these “beliefs” they are all equally lacking and cannot be viewed as knowledge

        I think I know what I’m talking about

        • I don’t mean to imply you don’t. Would you consider, however, that the definition of belief you are using is a modern one, and not the traditional definition?

          • pud

            No I wouldn’t consider it. I only care about what is true and what can be demonstrated as such through rational argument and empirical evidence. All religion is “faith based” it is not “knowledge based” All religion is “belief” not “knowing” Psychotics “believe” things. Children “believe” things. The stupid “believe” things. Rational people “know” things and are honest enough to assign probabilities to everything they claim to “know” Religion is arrogant and absolute and “knows” nothing. If it did it could demonstrate it, it wouldn’t be “revelation” based, personal experience based, emotionally based. It could be shown if it were known.

          • Fair enough, I shall bother you no further.

          • pud

            You’re not bothering me at all. I enjoy this.

          • I’m glad you do 🙂

          • Well, for your sake anyway….

    • Doug Barron

      How are ya? Boy, your’e still a total dipstick, hmmm?
      But a lovable one! Every life needs some entertainment, and you do provide it in spades! Keep it up, I enjoy the laughs!
      Love you, PUD thing!

      • pud

        You remain an excellent example of what your cult can produce

  • Ahasuerus Christian

    There is no such thing as grace, if there is no election (Romans 11:5-7), and nothing can be more important than who your Savior is: your free will, or God from before the foundation of the world. This article doesn’t accurately portray Calvin’s thoughts on the matter. He, though a feeble human, would clearly say that anyone denying election denies grace.

  • Calvin was most definitely not a successor to Luther. He used some of Luther’s ideas, but he was more of Augustine’s successor than Luther, who had very strong views against the Reformers in Switzerland (Zwingli) and Geneva (Calvin). It can only be posited that Calvin was a successor to Luther in a very general way. Otherwise I find little to quarrel with.