I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Autobiography: 1, The Early Years, p. 168)
I decided to write this post, and likely the couple that will follow it, because I get so many search queries from people wanting to know what Calvinism is, is celebrity pastor X a Calvinist, and today one asking the question “Why are people so offended by Calvinism?”
I’ll start with a very brief summary of what Calvinism is. Or, at least what has come to be called Calvinism, which is just the Biblical soteriology, or understanding of salvation. It isn’t my intent to go into much detail, but rather to explain why people are so offended by Calvinism.
What is Calvinism?
Calvinism is the soteriology named after John Calvin, who was not the inventor of it, but rather one who clearly wrote about it. Calvin’s soteriology wasn’t unique to Calvin, Augustine seems to have subscribed to it, as did most others. That is because it is the understanding of salvation that the Bible teaches.
We Calvinists believe that God is sovereign in salvation, just as He is in all other areas.
We believe that all men are born dead in trespasses and sin, with no hope of salvation on their own. But, that Jesus died to pay for the sin of His chosen people.
We believe that our nature is so broken by the Fall that even though salvation is freely offered to us that we would never repent and trust in Christ, but since we are dead in our sin it takes the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate the heart of man, to give the gifts of repentance and faith, that the man may be born again.
We believe that God chooses to save us not based on anything we have done, haven’t done, or will do, but rather by God’s sovereign will He predestined us to be saved.
We believe that those whom Jesus died for, chose before the world began, and regenerated will not fall away, because Jesus doesn’t lose His sheep. If we weren’t saved by something we have done, then we also cannot slip through His fingers. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, He doesn’t lose His sheep.
We believe that the Gospel of our salvation glorifies God and humbles man.
Why then is this so offensive?
The Bible teaches that Christ and His Gospel are offensive. All men, even those who are saved by God’s grace, want to think they had something to offer. If God brought them to a neutral state where they could choose, then a man could claim that he chose Christ and thus was saved. Or, if the heart of man were not so corrupt, a man could just choose Christ and not even need the work of the Holy Spirit.
But, the Calvinist teaches, and I think rightly so, that man has nothing to do with his salvation, other than committing the sin that made him need to be saved.
The heart of man is deceitfully wicked. Man’s pride wants to at least take some credit, but the Bible teaches that salvation is fully the work of God, and man is the passive recipient. Not only the passive recipient, but until God’s work in him, the man is fighting against the one whom he needs to trust in.
That is why Calvinism is so offensive, because it is the Gospel, it glorifies God, and humbles man.
When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul – when they were as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron; and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown all of a sudden from a babe into a man – that I had made progress in scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God … I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, I ascribe my change wholly to God. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Autobiography: 1, The Early Years, Banner of Truth, p. 164-165)