Calvinism and Free Will
Calvinism is a theological system based on the foundational belief that the Bible says God chooses whom to save (that is, who will be granted eternal existence in heaven), because human beings are rendered so incapacitated by sin as to be incapable of ever choosing to accept the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.1 The rest of their teachings flow from this point as logical and necessary conclusions, resulting in the belief that man2 is completely and utterly evil, to the point where even a person’s most altruistic thoughts are considered “sinful”.3
While the belief that there can be no such thing as free will is not limited to subsets of Christianity (each of which would strongly object to being so desginated, believing their system to be true, mainstream Christianity), Christians cannot be expected to begin with a worldview antithetical to their own; Calvinists themselves would wholeheartedly agree to this, since they classify themselves as presuppositionalists.4 Yet at the same time, Calvinism relies heavily on philosophy and logic. So I will first examine the philosophy of free will within the presuppositional framework, and then focus on specific Calvinist teachings.
- 1 Calvinism Defined, see Total Depravity (PDF)
- 2 “man” is used in this document as a generic reference to humanity, to people in general
- 3 Calvin– first sermon on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, approx. paragraph 17
- 4 Apologetics: A Summary of Positions (PDF) has a handy chart comparing four major philosophical viewpoints