Calvin’s Lens

A bold theology can provide a comforting outlook on life


Antoine Caron

Calvinists in Lyon, France looting churches in 1562. The process of iconoclasm, or the elimination of ornate symbols in churches, was very common among protestants during this time period, Calvinists included.

Marcus Falcomata, Staff Reporter At-Large

It is no secret that our society today is extremely disconnected from the world of religion, faith, and theology. When I have religious discussion, it is not typical for the surface of theology to even be scratched. Typically, only a “Do you go to church?.

Within Christianity, there are around 33,000 different doctrines on how to interpret scripture (the Bible), called denominations. The denomination that I have aligned with for the whole of my life is termed “Southern Baptist”. Another doctrine on scriptural interpretation transects across denominational boundaries, and sheds the world and faith in a unique light.

This past summer my friend and I read Romans 9 for the first time. Although we had rejected the idea of election (that God chooses those who are saved ahead of time) for so long, these verses made us think:

Verse 16 – So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Verse 18 – So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Verse 22 – What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction…


Upon reading this chapter I immediately had a new outlook on my salvation.


The Calvinist Movement originated in 16th Century Geneva, Switzerland, led by its namesake, John Calvin. After pouring over scripture, Calvin found these five solid truths which make up the Calvinist doctrine:

  1. Total Depravity – Asserts that man is predisposed to break the law of God and live in sin.  No man can do anything on their own to keep from this sin. Therefore humans are completely submerged in sin from the beginning of their lives.
  2. Unconditional Election – God has chosen a set amount of people to be saved from the payment by the blood of Christ. Those who are not chosen will pay the wrath that comes from their sin.
  3. Limited Atonement – Christ’s death in the place of man was directly for those elected and for nothing else. This belief is not to put a limit on the immense power of Jesus’ sacrifice but to define whom will benefit the sacrifice.
  4. Irresistible Grace – A person who is chosen to be saved by God cannot succeed in rejecting his gift of grace. The Holy Spirit will allow the person who is chosen to realize the truth of the gospel, and once the truth is known, there is no chance of rejection.
  5. Perseverance of the Saints – Those who have truly been chosen will inevitably continue in faith until the end of their life on earth. If they falter from this faith, it can only mean they were never truly chosen by God.

For Calvinists, these statements are truths, upheld by scripture, and they shape the way one thinks about salvation and the love of God. They are most definitely not the most appealing or desired beliefs from man’s perspective. With inclusion of the first point though, all men have fully and completely earned eternal death in hell. A God that rescues anyone from this is not just, but good, because we justly deserve hell. Therefore, we have a God that is good.

This doctrine is extremely bleak and depressing as it applies to our lives today. In a time when human rights were not nearly as valued, Calvin’s doctrine was much more palatable. The culture in the world, and especially the western world today, purveys that all people are created equal and are inherently good. The worldly view of salvation would deem almost all people as qualifiers for passage into a heavenly realm based on their lives, yet Calvinism teaches the opposite.

Even with modern ideas, Calvinists tend to find joy in a belief which includes ideas opposite to modern ones. The moment when God called on me, tapped me on the shoulder, and made it clear that I am his, was one of the most comforting things I have ever experienced. In that moment I knew that there is nothing I can do to lose his grace, and I felt pure joy rush over me.

Many Calvinists use the selective nature of their beliefs in order to avoid evangelism. I think this is reprehensible and anti-scripture. There is scriptural support for Calvinism, but there is also scriptural support for evangelism.  The two are not mutually exclusive, because no man can know who is chosen by God and who is not. Therefore, God’s plan may be for Calvinists to evangelize those who are non-believers and help them realize the glory of God.

Looking at the world through a Calvinist lens is not depressing. It is encouraging, and helps Calvinist thinkers become better people who want to be the best possible ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. There is no greater motivator to love and serve others than the knowledge that you may be worked through to help others receive God’s gift.