What I Mean When I Say I’m a Calvinist

I actually almost never say that I am, but people call me one and I wear the moniker when they do.  When I nod and say, “Yeah, that’s fair; you can call me a Calvinist,” this is what I mean:

  • I mean that God is in control of the universe.  
  • I mean that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, and that He lived a life of perfect righteousness, died a sacrificial death, rose from the dead, ascended to the right hand of God the Father, and is returning to judge everyone who has ever lived and to rescue His people once and for all. 
  • I mean that faith in the God of that Jesus is the only way someone can be counted as righteous before God. 
  • I mean that only God can make you love God. 
  • I mean that the determinative factor in my rescue from sin and death was God’s grace, not my will.  The determinative factor.  
  • I mean that the freest will in the universe is God’s. 
  • I mean that God loves me more than I love my sin.  
  • I mean that I can trust God to keep me in the faith, and to use all the means He describes in His Word (the church, the Spirit, brotherly rebuke, etc.) to do so. 
  • I mean that the Bible was written by God through human authors, and that it doesn’t have any errors, and that it is good, beautiful, life-giving, and authoritative.  
  • I mean that I want to tell people who don’t know about Jesus or who don’t know Him what He has done and who He is, and to ask them to turn from their sins and believe in Him.  
  • I mean that the church has believers and unbelievers in her midst, but that all of the people who have been spiritually brought to life by God through faith in Jesus are really and truly a part of her.  And God has given the world local churches, little bodies of Christians in a particular time and place, to live out the Christian life publicly, preach the Good News of Jesus to the lost, and care for each other in brotherly, Christlike love.  
  • I mean that I want my ministry to be God-centered, not man-centered.  I want to drive people to God and to Jesus and to His Word, not to self-help or endless psychological introspection.  I want to live and preach and speak and be a husband and parent in such a way that if you removed Jesus and His Cross and His Gospel from it all, there’d be almost nothing left. 

Now, there’s more than that to Calvinism, to be sure, and there’s certainly even more than that to my own theology and practice of the Christian life, but those are the main things I have in mind when I wear the label of Calvinism at a ministry function or barbecue.  I know many people might think of a Calvinist as someone who doesn’t believe in evangelism, or who has a fatalistic or arrogant outlook on life since he believes in predestination, which many modern American Christians find strange or even repugnant.  But I’m confident that John Calvin believed in evangelism and had great hope and humility.  I know I believe in evangelism, and I hope the other parts can someday be said about me as well.  

My Calvinism was carved out in my heart by Biblical, expository, joyful preaching and by an increasing view of God’s sovereignty from my study of the Bible.  It’s not a complicated thing to explain.  My Calvinism is simply about a big God, a beautifully saving Jesus, a Holy Spirit who brings spiritually dead people to life, and a Bible that is perfect.  

A big God with a big Gospel.  That’s my Calvinism.

The disposition of it isn’t cold pride; it’s grateful awe.  

So I guess the next time you call me a Calvinist, call me a happy one. 


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