Calvinism is a large branch of Protestantism. Roughly 500 years after the great schism that divided the East and Western European Christianities, another schism took place within Roman Catholicism. The Protestant Reformation of 1517 divided the Roman Church into several new branches. The Lutheran church began the reformation at the hand of Martin Luthor, but it was John Calvin who took the reformation to an entirely new level.
John Calvin was a French protestant thinker who developed ‘Reform’ Christianity with a radical take away from the old doctrines, and formed a new church that looked nothing like the Catholic Church of his day. Today, over 75 million ‘Reformed” Christians share the principles of his theological system, called Calvinism.
At its core, Calvinism teaches the absolute sovereignty of God and the total depravity, original sin, of humanity. According to John Calvin and the supporters of his movement, humans do not have free will, simply because God is so supreme, that everything in creation is already predestined. So, everything we do is completely predestined.
As a consequence of the Fall, which was Adam and Eve’s disobedience of God’s command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, all people are in every respect enslaved to sin. Meaning that sin extends to all parts of every person’s being, thought, emotion, and will.
Some critics have maintained that Calvinism makes God the author of evil, to which Calvinists respond that God is sovereign even over the forces of evil and that he uses evil within his eternal plan for the world and mankind.
The five points of Calvinism are described by the acronym TULIP. These stand for
Total depravity – Man’s heart is evil and a slave to sin.
Unconditional election – God chooses who he wants, when he wants, and has nothing to do with you as an individual. It’s all about his divine will. If he hasn’t chosen you, you are simply not chosen.
Limited atonement – Jesus died only for the elect, and for everyone else… Too bad, nothing personal, and nothing you can do.
Irresistible grace – God’s grace is so irresistible that when the elect is called to salvation, they simply cannot resist. While God extends the gospel message to All, the internal call cannot be resisted. And finally,
Preservation of the saints – Once saved, the elect are eternally secure. There is nothing you can do to lose his grace or lose Christ, it is with you forever.
Calvinism also introduced something called Iconoclasm, which was the removal of statues and paintings from churches. During the Calvinist reformation, many of the religious icons, paintings, and statues were removed and burned from all of the churches. They also ceased to wear any form of colourful clothing, reducing their garb to whites, browns, and blacks. This belief stemmed from the idea that fashion was a form of vanity, and christians should not be vain.
There is also a thing called Hyper-Calvinism, which emphasizes the sovereignty of God to such extend that man’s human responsibility is denied. In actuality, Hyper-Calvinism is a rejection of historic Calvinist thought, which many Calvinists do not agree with.