John Calvin: In His Own Words

July 1, 2012

By Ron F. Hale.
He has served as Pastor, Church Planter, Strategist (NAMB), Director of Missions, Associate Executive Director of Evangelism and Church Planting for a State Convention, and now in the 4th quarter of ministry as Minister of Missions.

Did John Calvin teach a double predestination, that is, an election to salvation for some and reprobation to eternal punishment for many others?  In his own words, Calvin shares the following:

“By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man.  All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:21:5)


John Calvin believed that in eternity God decreed a plight and path for every man. He believed that “all are not created on equal terms.” Some (the Elect) are chosen to eternal life, while the rest of humanity to eternal damnation.

Some would teach a positive-positive schema in God’s activity; meaning that God actively works to bring about regeneration and faith for the Elect and actively works sin and unbelief in the lives of the non-Elect.  The classic position would be more of a positive-negative schema of viewing the monergistic work of God’s grace for the Elect, while passing by the non-Elect leaving them to themselves and the results of their sin.

Calvin believed the destiny of each person is determined. Predestination to life (heaven) or death (hell) is the decision of God.  If double predestination is true, then the biblical phrase “whosoever will may come” may only be a sad sentiment for those created and preordained to eternal damnation.

Double Predestinarians seem to be on the rise in the Southern Baptist Convention according to blog articles that I’ve read for the last few years.  They will argue that: 1) God sovereignly elects or chooses some unto salvation; 2) God does not elect all people for salvation; 3) therefore, since God infallibly elects (to save some and pass over the rest) he has made a sovereign choice concerning every person. Some will be saved and the rest will be damned.

Calvin is very clear and concise in what he believed.  Others have made it sound even more monstrous, while others have used every skill of oratory and written composition to carefully coat this bitter pill with sugariness. Most Southern Baptists have never swallowed this sour pastille.  Just reading his words (above) leaves a bad taste in your spirit if you believe the character of God is that of love, mercy, and grace.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10); and for this reason, I support … Article One: The Gospel in A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation, it says:

We affirm that the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for any person. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved.

We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.

Genesis 3:15; Psalm 2:1-12; Ezekiel 18:23, 32; Luke 19.10; Luke 24:45-49; John 1:1-18, 3:16; Romans 1:1-6, 5:8; 8:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 4:4-7; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-16; 2 Peter 3:9


Many in the Reformed tradition will teach that a genuine desire for salvation in Christ is a mark of election and therefore none who truly come to Christ for salvation will be turned away.  However, could it be, they are only referring to those who have been created for that end (predestined for life)?

When Jesus died on the cross, the Father tore the veil in the temple from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51); graphically proclaiming the barrier between sinful men and God has been removed by the sinless sacrifice of the Lamb of God.  Calvin’s theology has erected another barrier, not between Jew and Gentile, but between the Elect and non-Elect.

After almost five centuries of word wrangling (prison, torture, drowning, burnings at the stake) between Calvinists, Arminians, and non-Calvinists, the barrier seems longer than the Great Wall of China and taller than the Berlin Wall. Southern Baptists should not be paralyzed by the medieval mêlée of two Presbyterians living under the long shadow of a Catholic monk named Augustine. The time has come to tear down that wall by forging a new Baptist consensus centered on Jesus Christ and the Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation!