Calvinist? Reformed? Who are They?

In 1993, Dr. Richard Muller, Professor of Historical Theology at Calvin Seminary (Grand Rapids, MI), published an essay entitled “How Many Points,” republished in:

Here, he demonstrates the fallacy of the claim that believing in the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism” makes one a Calvinist. This reminds me of a controversy in our former denomination in the Philippines back in the 1970s, when some of the youth argued for the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” versus the denomination’s doctrine of the perseverance and preservation of the saints. Believing thus, those contentious youth claimed that they were “Calvinists.”

Who should be considered Reformed and Calvinists? Dr. Muller says these two terms mean much, much more than the Five Points:

“The Reformed faith includes reference to total inability, unconditional election, limited efficiency of Christ’s satisfaction, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints [TULIP], not as the sum total of the church’s confession, but as elements that can only be understood in the context of a larger body of teaching including the baptism of infants, justification by grace alone through faith, the necessity of a thankful obedience consequent upon our faith and justification, the identification of sacraments as means of grace, and the so-called amillennial view of the end of the world. The larger number of points, including but going beyond the five of Dort, is intended, in other words, to construe theologically the entire life of the believing community.”

And may I add this to Muller’s list: Reformed worship as practiced by Calvin’s Geneva and Strasbourg churches (this is completely foreign to present-day evangelical worship):

Service of the Word
Invocation (Psalm 124:8)
Confession of Sin
Absolution of Sin
The Ten Commandments (Sung)
Psalm (Sung)
Prayer for Illumination
Scripture Lesson
Pastoral Prayer (may end in Lord’s Prayer)
Apostles’ Creed (Sung)
Prayer of Consecration

Service of the Lord’s Supper
Words of Institution
Instruction on the Lord’s Supper
Sursum Corda (Psalm 25:1)
Distribution of the Elements
Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Song of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32) (Doxology)

To those of you who wonder what I’m talking about when I refer to the Reformed faith or Calvinism, may Dr. Muller’s article (please persevere in the long reading!) enlighten you why we believe what we believe. A pastor of a Reformed church told me that once another pastor accused Calvinism of being from the devil!


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