It’s Not About John Calvin

Blue Twirl Flip BorderChristians outside the Reformed tradition frequently accuse those of us who embrace Reformed Theology of following John Calvin rather than worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ.  Perhaps our willingness to accept the Calvinist label,  contrasted with their general unawareness that they follow the teachings of Jacobus Arminius, causes them to make this mistake.  And very few will call themselves Arminians.

Most often, Arminians simply don’t know how much of their theology derives from teachings that Arminius began. Yet accusing Arminians of following Jacobus Arminius instead of following their understanding of Scripture would be absolutely unfair, as well as showing an ignorance of church history. Just as Calvin’s approach to doctrine didn’t reach full development until the Synod of Dort, so the Five Articles of Remonstrance weren’t drafted until the year after Arminius died.

I disagree with the Five Articles of Remonstrance based on my understanding of the Bible, in much the same way that Christians in the Arminian camp disagree with the Five Points of Calvinism that the Synod of Dort developed in response to the Five Articles. Although I pretty much subscribed to Arminian thought (without knowing I was an Arminian) for over three decades, my study of God’s Word in the last ten to fifteen years has changed my perspective. Frankly, I didn’t have any idea that I had become one of those dreaded Calvinists!

Furthermore, I disagree with Calvin regarding infant baptism. Calvin would have rejected me as one of his followers based on that fact alone. But, while I understand and respect my Reformed brothers and sisters who baptize their babies, I don’t believe the Bible really lends support to that practice.

If I followed Calvin rather than Scripture, don’t you think I’d reject my believer’s baptism in 1971? After all, I lost that baptism certificate decades ago, but I have the certificate from my “baptism” that my parents arranged when I was only four (I thought it would hurt). Clearly, I don’t look to Calvin as my final authority. I doubt many Reformed Christians do.

So, while I no longer accept Arminian theology, I can’t in good conscience declare that my Arminian brothers and sisters follow Jacobus Arminius instead of following the Lord. I no longer agree with the Five Articles of Remonstrance, but I trust that my friends in the Arminian camp genuinely love Christ and follow God’s Word as faithfully as I do. I know that Christians in both groups have blind spots — we all need the Holy Spirit to correct us through His Word.

But I would ask those who take issue with Calvinism to stop accusing Reformed Christians of following John Calvin more than we follow Christ Jesus and His Word. Such accusations not only ignore history,  but they disrespect people who love the Lord with the understanding we believe God’s Word provides.

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