Calvinism

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Peter Berger, "Southern Baptists Go Swimming in Lake Geneva."
The original, full-bodied version of Calvinism has been symbolized by the acronym TULIP (it is probably not accidental that this is also the national flower of the Netherlands). The first letters of the acronym stand for:
  • Total depravity: human nature has no good features whatever;
  • Unmerited election: we are saved by God’s grace, which we don’t deserve;
  • Limited atonement: not all men are saved, only the elect;
  • Irresistible grace: we cannot resist God’s action in saving us;
  • Perseverance of the saints: once God has placed us among the elect, we can never lose that status.
Put together, these propositions add up to the so-called doctrine of double predestination—the assertion that God, from all eternity, has decided who will be saved and who will be damned. Arguably, this is the most repulsive doctrine in the history of the Christian religion. Understandably, most adherents of the Reformed tradition found it unbearable, and sought ways of softening it. ...
The soft version of Calvinism has been associated with the name of Jacob Arminius (1560-1609). The Arminians had a number of differences with Calvinist orthodoxy, prominently including a rejection of the doctrine of double predestination. They split from the orthodox Dutch Reformed Church over a number of issues, spelled out in the so-called Remonstrance of 1610. A major issue was their assertion that election was conditioned by a free choice of the will—thus rejecting the doctrine of double predestination. In 1609 (the year of Arminius’ death) an English-speaking Baptist church was established in Amsterdam. Ever since Baptists have taught the idea of “soul competency”—that is, the freedom of individuals to embrace salvation. Arminianism has exerted an enormous influence on American Protestantism—not only among groups explicitly derived from the Reformed tradition (such as Presbyterians), but on Methodists and Baptists, and indeed on all Evangelicals.

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