Where Did Calvinism Originate?


By Dr. Ken Matto


One of the most hated words in Christendom today is the word “Calvinism.”  Those who berate Calvinism have never really studied it nor do they know the origins of it.  They just listen to some free will fundamental pastor ramble on about how evil it is and these pastors know that Christians will never check anything out.  Laziness is the second greatest trait of Christianity as apathy is the first.  The reason that Calvinism is so hated is because it treads on the arrogance and pride of the free will movement which is widespread in Christianity.  I would probably estimate that 95% of all Christians and churches embrace the erroneous concept of free will. True Calvinism sees God in control of salvation and not sinful, spiritually dead people.  This short article is not about the essence of Calvinism which is based totally on the scriptures but it is about where Calvinism originated.  John Calvin was born in Noyon, France on July 10, 1509 and died in Geneva, Switzerland on May 27, 1564.  Calvin died shortly before his 55th birthday.


John Calvin had disseminated the belief that God was sovereign in all affairs of life and especially in the predestination of the believer.  He was the leader of the French Protestant Reformation and became a prominent figure in the second generation of Reformation divines.  John Calvin was the spiritual father of America because all those pilgrims who came to American in 1620 were Calvinists.  The teachings of Calvin have been adopted by the Reformed churches including the Reformed Baptist churches and other churches who espouse the Sovereignty of God.  Many free will churches claim that they hold to the sovereignty of God and yet teach that a person has to “accept Christ” to be saved.  That is nothing more than espousing the sovereignty of man which is diametrically opposed to the true teaching of the sovereignty of God.


Where did the Five Points of Calvinism originate?

The free willers will point out that John Calvin created the five points of Calvinism but in their flagrant ignorance of truth, they never tend to actually study the origins of the five points of Calvinism.  The Five Points of Calvinism was not a systematic theology but rather it was a response to the “Remonstrants” of 1610.  In 1609 Jacob Arminius created five points which he believed was a solid interpretation of the Bible however what Arminius did was to interpolate the Bible rather than accept straight biblical teachings.  Arminius died in 1609 so to preserve his teachings, his followers published “The Remonstrance” in 1610 and those disciples of his were known as “The Remonstrants.”


The five articles of the 1610 Remonstrance are:


1) Free will of man to accept or reject Christ

2) Conditional Election

3) Universal Redemption

4) The Holy Spirit can be resisted

5) A Christian can lose their salvation


Arminius had desired a synod where he could present his views but he died of tuberculosis in 1609.  After his death his followers continued to preach and teach his five points and as it continued to spread, it started to cause troubles in the churches because it went against established church teachings especially in the Netherlands and had gotten to the point where there was nearly a civil war.  So in 1618 the Synod of Dort was convened November 13, 1618 and the concluding meeting was held May 29, 1619.  There were 180 sessions of meeting.  Keep in mind that John Calvin had already been dead for 55 years when the Synod of Dort published its findings. 


Their five responses to Arminianism are:


T – Total Depravity

U – Unconditional Election

L – Limited Atonement

I – Irresistible Grace

P – Perseverance of the Saints


Though these points do not embrace the full scope of Calvinism and are better regarded as Calvinism's five answers to the five errors of Arminianism, they certainly lie at the heart of the Reformed faith, particularly Reformed soteriology, for they flow out of the principle of absolute divine sovereignty.


When one reads, in its entirety, the findings of the Synod of Dort, there are no quotations or scripture definitions from John Calvin.  John Calvin’s name is not even mentioned in their findings because all of them are tied to the Scriptures alone.  The conclusions given by the Synod are all based on Scripture and they give the Scripture references where they received their answers from.  Scripture was the only criteria used by the Synod to come to the conclusion whereby they declared Jacob Arminius a heretic and banned his teachings.  Calvinism became the official theology of the Netherlands.


So to summarize, the Five points of Calvinism, as they are erroneously called today was created by the Synod of Dort 55 years after the death of Calvin.  It should be noted that if the followers of Calvin were as gung ho for Calvinism, then within that 55 years between Calvin’s death and the completion of the Synod of Dort, why didn’t Calvin’s followers publish the five points of Calvinism as a systematic theology or just as a theology book for Christians of that time?  The reason is because Calvin’s teachings aligned with the teachings of scripture and there was no need to emphasize those teachings since the churches had it right.  It was only when the followers of Arminius published his five points which were opposed to scripture did the Synod have to challenge those five heretical points to show from the scriptures that Arminius was teaching a false gospel.


So there it is, the five points of Calvinism were a response to the heresy of James Arminius and was not previously a systematic theology but a rebuttal of heresy according to the scriptures.  Actually you would be more in line with truth if they were called “The Five Points of Dort!”