What Denominations Are Calvinists

By Paul King •  Updated: 10/24/23 •  15 min read

Calvinism, originating from the teachings of theologian John Calvin in the 16th century, holds significant influence in various Christian denominations. This theological system emphasizes the divinity of Jesus Christ, the authority of scripture, and the necessity of grace for salvation.

Let us delve into the denominations that have embraced Calvinist beliefs, understanding its historical impact, and exploring modern-day Calvinist beliefs through relevant facts and biblical quotes.

One prominent denomination that adheres to Calvinism is the Presbyterian Church. They embrace the teachings of John Calvin, emphasizing the sovereignty of God, the importance of scripture, and the doctrine of predestination. In their Book of Order, they state, ‘God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men.’

Another denomination influenced by Calvinist beliefs is the Reformed Church. Their tradition traces back to the Protestant Reformation, where Calvin’s teachings played a significant role. They hold to the five points of Calvinism, also known as the TULIP acronym, which stands for Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. These points are derived from a thorough examination of scripture, seeking to understand God’s sovereignty and human depravity.

To better grasp the impact of Calvinism, let us turn to the story of Job from the Bible. Job, a blameless and upright man, faced unimaginable suffering and loss. In the midst of his trials, he uttered these profound words, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1:21). Job’s story reflects the sovereignty of God, reminding us that even in the face of adversity, we should trust in His divine plan.

Furthermore, Calvinist beliefs find support in the teachings of the apostle Paul. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9). This verse highlights the central tenet of Calvinism, emphasizing salvation through God’s grace alone, rather than human effort.

In conclusion, Calvinism has left an indelible mark on various Christian denominations, including the Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Church. The teachings of John Calvin, rooted in scripture, have shaped their beliefs regarding the sovereignty of God, the authority of scripture, and the necessity of grace for salvation. Through biblical stories like that of Job and the writings of the apostle Paul, we can perceive the depth and significance of Calvinist beliefs.

Key Takeaways

Overview of Calvinism

Calvinism, founded by the Protestant Reformer John Calvin, is a system of Christian theology that upholds the divinity of Jesus, the authority of Scripture, and the necessity of grace for salvation. As stated in Ephesians 2:8-9, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.’

One story from the Bible that supports the teachings of Calvinism is the conversion of Saul, who later became the apostle Paul. In Acts 9, Saul was a devout persecutor of Christians until he had a life-changing encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. This event demonstrates the irresistible grace of God, as Saul’s conversion was not the result of his own efforts or merit, but a divine intervention. This aligns with the concept of irresistible grace in Calvinism, which teaches that God’s grace is freely given to those whom He has chosen for salvation.

The five points of Calvinism, often referred to by the TULIP acronym, further explain the process of salvation through God’s grace. Let’s explore each point in light of biblical references:

  1. Total Depravity: This doctrine recognizes the fallen nature of humanity due to the original sin of Adam and Eve. Romans 3:23 reminds us that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ It emphasizes that without God’s intervention, humans are incapable of saving themselves.

  2. Unconditional Election: This doctrine emphasizes that God’s choice of those who will be saved is not based on any merit or foreseen faith on their part. Romans 9:11 states, ‘though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue.’ It highlights God’s sovereignty in the salvation process.

  3. Limited Atonement: This doctrine teaches that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was specifically for the redemption of the elect. John 10:11 affirms this, as Jesus says, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ This point reminds us of the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death for His chosen people.

  4. Irresistible Grace: This doctrine asserts that when God extends His grace to someone, it cannot be resisted or rejected. In John 6:44, Jesus says, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.’ This verse emphasizes that it is through God’s grace that individuals are drawn to Him and enabled to respond in faith.

  5. Perseverance of the Saints: This doctrine affirms that those who are truly saved by God’s grace will persevere in their faith until the end. Philippians 1:6 provides assurance, stating, ‘And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.’ It assures believers that their salvation is secure and that God will continue to work in their lives.

The Five Points of Calvinism

The Five Points of Calvinism are a set of theological beliefs that were developed by John Calvin and his followers, based on relevant facts and quotes from the Bible. These points include:

  1. Total Depravity: According to the Bible, all humans are sinful and unable to save themselves. In Romans 3:23, it is written, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ This verse clearly depicts the fallen nature of humanity.

  2. Unconditional Election: The concept of God’s choice of those to be saved being unconditional and unchangeable is supported by various Bible verses. Ephesians 1:4-5 states, ‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ.’ This verse emphasizes that God’s choice is not based on any human merit or action.

  3. Limited Atonement: The belief that Jesus died only for the elect is rooted in biblical teachings. In John 10:11, Jesus himself says, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ This verse indicates that Jesus’ sacrifice was specifically for those whom God has chosen.

  4. Irresistible Grace: The idea that those who are chosen by God cannot resist His grace is supported by biblical evidence. In John 6:44, Jesus declares, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.’ This verse reveals that it is God’s grace that enables individuals to respond to His calling.

Calvinist Theology places great emphasis on the authority of scripture, the divinity of Jesus, and the necessity of grace for salvation. It is also known for its Predestination Doctrine, which states that God has already chosen who will be saved and who will not. This doctrine finds support in Romans 8:29-30, which says, ‘For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son… And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.’

To further illustrate the depth of meaning behind these beliefs, let us turn to the story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). Paul, formerly known as Saul, was a zealous persecutor of Christians. However, on his way to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him in a blinding light and called him to be an apostle. This powerful encounter demonstrates God’s sovereign choice and irresistible grace in transforming a persecutor into a faithful follower.

Major Denominations Adopting Calvinism

Calvinism, a theological doctrine rooted in the belief of predestination, has been widely adopted by major religious denominations, making a lasting impact on Protestant Christianity. The divinity of Jesus, the authority of scripture, and the necessity of grace for salvation are central tenets of this influential doctrine. As we explore the influence of Calvinism, let us turn to relevant facts and quotes from the Bible to shed light on its significance.

One story that exemplifies the profound influence of Calvinism is that of the conversion of the Apostle Paul. In Acts 9:3-6, we read, ‘As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’

This transformative encounter with the divine not only changed Paul’s life but also laid the foundation for his teachings, which align closely with Calvinist beliefs. In his Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.’

Paul’s teachings emphasize the necessity of grace for salvation, a core principle of Calvinism. This biblical narrative serves as a powerful testament to the enduring influence of Calvinist doctrine.

Turning our attention to the major denominations that have embraced Calvinist beliefs, we find the Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Church, the Baptist Church, and the Congregational Church among the prominent ones. These denominations draw upon Calvinist theology to shape their official doctrines and guide their congregations.

Furthermore, Calvinism has permeated the Dutch Reformed Church, which has been profoundly influenced by its teachings. This influence extends even to smaller sects like the Quakers and the Anabaptists, who have found resonance with Calvinist beliefs.

To fully grasp the global impact of Calvinism, we must consider its enduring relevance in the religious world. By adhering to Calvinist principles, these denominations and sects uphold the divinity of Jesus, the authority of scripture, and the indispensable role of grace in salvation. Such steadfast commitment to these theological foundations has contributed to the development of Protestant Christianity on a global scale.

Historical Influence of Calvinism

Since its conception in the 16th century, Calvinism has had a profound impact on Protestant Christianity, with its influence extending to various aspects of society and faith. As we delve into the discussion of modern-day Calvinist beliefs, it is crucial to acknowledge the historical influence of this theological movement.

One of the significant contributions of Calvinism lies in the realm of education. Inspired by the belief in the importance of biblical knowledge, Calvinists established schools and universities dedicated to educating the youth in the teachings of the Bible. This commitment to education is rooted in Proverbs 22:6, which states, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.’ This verse encapsulates the belief that early religious education provides a solid foundation for lifelong faith.

Furthermore, Calvinism’s impact on politics and government cannot be underestimated. In countries such as Scotland, England, and the Netherlands, the influence of Calvinist principles was evident in the establishment of constitutional frameworks and the shaping of political ideologies. This influence stems from the Calvinist belief in the sovereignty of God and the idea that earthly rulers should adhere to biblical principles. Romans 13:1 reinforces this notion, stating, ‘Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.’

Moreover, Calvinism played a pivotal role in the Reformation, challenging the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. This movement was driven by the belief in the authority of scripture, as expressed in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which states, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ The emphasis on scripture as the ultimate authority in matters of faith and the rejection of certain Catholic traditions shaped the trajectory of Protestant Christianity.

Lastly, Calvinist theology continues to exert a lasting influence on Protestant Christianity. The central tenets of Calvinism include the sovereignty of God, the depravity of humanity, and the doctrine of predestination. These beliefs are deeply rooted in various biblical passages, such as Ephesians 1:4-5, which states, ‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ.’

Modern-Day Calvinist Beliefs

Modern Calvinism continues to shape Protestant theology and practices today. As followers of Jesus Christ, Calvinists firmly believe in the divinity of Jesus, as the Bible states in John 1:1, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’

The authority of Scripture is another core belief of Calvinism, as the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16, ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.’ Calvinists view the Bible as the inspired and infallible Word of God, guiding their beliefs and practices.

Grace is also central to Calvinist theology, based on Ephesians 2:8-9, which says, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.’ Calvinists understand that salvation is a free gift from God, received through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

In Calvinist worship, the preaching of the Word holds utmost importance. Hebrews 4:12 declares, ‘For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.’ Through the exposition of Scripture, Calvinists seek to bring about transformation in the hearts and minds of believers.

Prayer is also integral to Calvinist worship, as Jesus Himself taught in Matthew 6:6, ‘But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ Calvinists value the power of prayer and seek to commune with God in both private and corporate settings.

Singing of hymns is another cherished aspect of Calvinist worship, as seen in Colossians 3:16, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.’ Hymns serve as a means of expressing gratitude and worship to God, as well as a way to teach and remind one another of biblical truths.

In addition to these practices, Calvinists prioritize personal holiness, understanding that God calls His people to live holy lives. As 1 Peter 1:15-16 states, ‘But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Calvinists emphasize the importance of fellowship with other believers, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 10:24-25, ‘And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’ They believe that gathering together in worship, study, and fellowship strengthens and encourages believers in their faith journey.

Furthermore, Calvinists recognize the importance of stewardship, understanding that everything they have is ultimately from God. As 1 Corinthians 4:2 states, ‘Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.’ Calvinists strive to use their resources wisely and generously, recognizing that they are accountable to God for how they steward His blessings.

Finally, Calvinists place a strong emphasis on evangelism, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19-20, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ They believe in the urgency of sharing the Gospel with others, as it is through a personal relationship with God that salvation is found.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.