The question in our title is not asking whether someone is a citizen of Armenia. Rather it is framing a question from theology which dates back 400 years, but is still relevant today.

John Calvin was part of the Reformation of the early 1500s in Europe which gave rise to Protestantism and modern denominations in contrast to Roman Catholicism. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin attempted to present a comprehensive view of Christian theology based on Scripture alone. This was in contrast to Roman Catholic theology which was a combination of Scripture, tradition, and papal and church council decrees. Calvin’s theological views are often referred to as “Calvinism,” probably a term Calvin himself would have found offensive.

While Calvin’s views and teachings were wide ranging, most people today think of Calvinism in terms of the acronym “T.U.L.I.P” These letters represent five key beliefs of Reformed, Presbyterian, and some Baptist groups. They stand for:

  • TOTAL Depravity
  • LIMITED Atonement
  • PERSEVERANCE of the Saints

TULIP, nor even this precise wording of these five doctrines, never appeared in Calvin’s own writings. The doctrines were perhaps more precisely agreed upon at an extended meeting in Dordt, Netherlands in 1618-19. But the actual TULIP acronym is not found in history until the early 1900s according to this Wikipedia article and this blog article.

Arminianism” takes its name from a Dutch teacher named Jacobus Arminius who took exception to some of the teachings of followers of Calvin around 1600. After his death in 1609, others who believed issued a document called The Remonstrance in 1610 questioning these five views from Calvinism. Those then and now who think along the lines of this Remonstrance are popularly called Arminians.

As I have done in some previous articles, I want to point to a short podcast called “Simply Put” in which Barry Cooper contrasts these five views of Calvinism with Arminianism. Cooper is a Calvinist as he himself affirms. Nevertheless, I felt his presentation useful in helping those unfamiliar with the differences to understand the issues being considered. Read the transcript or hear the audio of his podcast on “Five Points of Calvinism” here.

By now perhaps you’re wondering why I am not giving you more details about these two different views about what the Scriptures teach. That is because I hope you will take the time on your own to read some of these articles and decide which view seems more consistent with what you believe the Bible teaches, or… if there might even be other ways to understand these concepts.

What we all might find interesting, yet is seldom acknowledged, is that Martin Luther himself did not endorse Calvin’s teachings as a whole. (We acknowledge however that Luther died [1483-1546] before Calvin [1509-1564] so was only familiar with the earlier versions of Calvin’s writings). Read more about that here.

Our image is of the title page of the last edition of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion which was printed during his lifetime. It is from the Wikipedia article on The Institutes of the Christian Religion.