Non-Reprobate Dopers: How does one officially become a Calvinist? (and who isn't one?)

From what I heard, Calvinism is based on the idea that God would be able (being omniscient) to know who will be saved and who will not. The elect and the reprobates.

This appeals to me greatly, since I feel like I am surrounded by reprobates everywhere, and of course, being blessed with the sacred light of the Master (Straight Dope Master, that is), I am (of) the elect.

  1. But then, what do I do? How does one actually become a Calvinist? I’ve never heard anyone describe themselves as one, or mention the term elect or reprobates (I’ve only read it). Aren’t the Presbyterians Calvinist? Do I have to join them or are there other churchs who believe this? If you join one of them can you say you are one of the elect?


  1. What are the responses from non-Calvinistic churches to Calvin’s doctrine? (Such as the Roman Catholic dogma which appears to consider it a heresy called Fatalism; but I dont know the details behind this claim). Calvin’s argument that an omniscient God would therefore know who will be saved seems solid to me, but I am gullible, having no theological training, and having not even studied for the priesthood.

Please explain, lest we all be reprobates . . . (unless we can’t avoid it)

You already are one…or not.

Predestination is a doctrine of Calvinism, but it’s not “what Calvinism is about”. Calvinism is about having faith in a loving God, who, through Jesus’s death and resurrection, chooses to forgive our sins and give us the grace necessary to enter into a relationship with Him and spend eternity in his loving embrace.

But both the Presbyterian and the various Reformed churches are Calvinist churches.

If God doesn’t recognize me as elect, than God has no taste.
Assuming God exists, of course.

Of course, He only forgives the sins of those who He chooses. Or am I misunderstanding predestination?

Calvinism isn’t as simple as you’ve put it. It is a theological system based upon 5 tenants taken together. It also gets a lot more complicated than that seeing as how there are several schools of interpretative thought within those that generally accept those tenants.

You may first need to come to understand the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism. Your description fits the latter more, especially with your phrase, “God would be able to know…”. In strict Calvinist thought, God chooses the elect and damned ahead of time (or outside of time); thus the elect choose to believe because God chose them to. In Arminian thought God chooses the elect because he can see into the future (because he is omniscient) and thus he already knows which free acting souls will accept grace and which won’t. They are chosen by God because they will have chosen to be chosen.

If you want to become a “Calvinist” you would start by doing a lot of reading to come to an understanding of Reformed Theology. Of course you would also have to accept many of the general beliefs underpinning Christianity before you could accept Calvinist principals. Once you are convinced that those tenants are true you may want to join a church that traditionally accepts those beliefs too. Presbyterians, Reformed Churches, and certain Baptist churches would most explicitly support your newfound beliefs, but many Mainline Protestant churches have certain degrees of Reformed Theology built into their systems. Even the Anglican/Episcopal church has a few notable church leaders who describe themselves as Calvinist, though that doctrinal strain is generally rejected in that tradition.

Orthodox churches, such as the Roman Catholic, eastern Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion reject Calvinism on several fronts, but they also accept some of the tenants. While protestant churches tend to slug it out between Calvinism and Arminianism, the Catholic Church had its own coming to terms over predestination in a separate sort of dialogue between two schools of thought (see Augustine vs. Pelagius & Thomism vs. Molinism). It can get complicated, and the Catholic and other orthodox churches have their own ongoing arguments on these issues. But if you are looking for a really simple answer: it isn’t the doctrine of predestination per se that is a problem in orthodox theology, but rather some of the other tenants that construct Calvinism. For instance the Catholic Church flatly rejects the third tenant of Calvinism, Limited Atonement, by saying that Christ died to make salvation possible for all men. There is a laundry list of biblical and extra-biblical support presented by the Catholic Church to support that position. Many orthodox theologians contend that the stability of the entire Calvinist construct depends upon the stability of each leg, and therefore if leg number 3 is kicked out the whole thing collapses into a mess, and a better more complete theological paradigm is available through the Orthodox tradition. That is just a very simplified version of one objection the Catholic Church may have with Calvinism. Orthodox Christians also tend to focus attacks on the 5th Calvinist tenant, Perseverance of the Saints.

Psst, it’s tenet, not tenant. Nice post, by the way.

God has taste. It is a kind of subtle chicken flavour.

Huh. So God is everything and everything does taste like chicken.

To become a Calvinist, I suggest you read through the Holy Scriptures.
(well, somebody had to do it)
As others have said, Calvinism goes beyond just saying God knows who will and will not be saved: God chooses (elects) those who will and will not be saved.

Speak to me Maddie!, that was an excellent post.

What did the Calvinist say after falling down four flights of stairs?
“Thank goodness that’s over with!”

Q. How many Calvinists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. They can’t change it if it’s meant to stay dark.

To be of the “Elect” you do not have to be anything…yet. As long as you will eventually be saved before you die you are of the “Elect”. As long as you are a Christian (ie believes in such things as Jesus dying for people’s sins, Jesus is the Son of God and was Resurrected etc.) then you’re regenerated and thus you know you are of the Elect.

There are Four-Point Calvinists who reject limited atonement-even John Calvin (that point is disputed) may have been one of the.

Isn’t this whole line of thought just a bit a pretzel logic to try to claim God knows everything, and therefore must know how we’ll live our lives, and yet it’s still our fault how we live our lives?

You see, God leaves us to our natures-similar to how a driver let’s go of a steering wheel. The person will still act but since (even taking myself as an example) people’s natures are depraved they cannot help but constantly go from one sin to another.

Yeah, it is a bit of pretzel logic. See, humans are totally depraved. That means you can’t renounce sin on your own, you are doomed to sin and cannot stop. Only God can help you. Except, since all human beings are depraved, no human being deserves to be helped. We all deserve damnation.

However, because God is so super-cool, he’s decided to save some people. These people don’t deserve to be saved. They aren’t better than anyone else, they’re totally depraved like everyone else. But God saves them anyway. And the rest of humanity is doomed to eternal damnation. That might sound unfair, but it’s not unfair that most of humanity is doomed to eternal torment, because they totally deserve it. The unfair part is that God saves people even though they deserve eternal torment. That’s God’s mercy winning out over God’s justice.


Ockam’s Razor is pushing me toward a simpler explanation - God doesn’t exist.

Even committed Christians have difficulty understanding the divisions within christianity. Essentially there are four major divisions and several minor ones under the umbrella of Christianity.

Orthodoxy: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican. (yes, I know Anglicanism is distinctly different from the others, but it is still basically an orthodox practice. Doctrine relies heavily on historical precedent and extra-biblical documentation. Even Mormonism could be classified as neo-orthodox.

Calvinism: Presbyterian, Reformed, some Baptist. Belief in doctrine of the elect, predestination, etc. Calvinism tends to be very dry, doctrinaire, legalistic. Calvinists are the lawyers and accoutants of the church world. They can be formidable in debate because their doctrine is very precise and well-documented. The modern doctrine of fundamentalism originated with the Calvinists.

Armenianism: Methodist, Penticostal, Holiness movement. Largely supplanted by Wesleyianism. Tends to be faith-based and experiential and rely less on strict doctrine. Believe that salvation is available to all, but not necessarily that all will avail themselves of it. Modern evangelicism is usually associated with the Armenian churches.

Unitarianism: Quaker, Mennonite, Jehovah’s Witness, Uniitarian/Universalist. Largely non-doctrinaire and non-sacremental, non-christocentric. Often humanistic in outlook. Most regard Jesus Christ as a teacher and leader, but not as God. Specifically deny the doctrine of the trinity.

To address the OP…one can become a Calvinist simply by joining one of the calvinistic faiths. They do have the advantage of the eternal security thing. If you join their church, you’re automatically one of the elect. Of course that means you have to buy into everything they’re selling.

No, if you fall away it is proof that you were not “saved” in the first place.

Bring your stuffed tiger to church. Preferably a Presbyterian church.

I was raised Presbyterian, and my father is an Elder in the church. He’s the one who tells me I’m going to hell because I’m no longer Christian.

But when I was attending church regularly, all through my childhood, I was always told that God created me knowing what my choice of behavior was going to be. And I was created by a god that knew I was going to engage in certain behavior THAT HE CREATED ME KNOWING I WAS GOING TO ENGAGE IN, AND THAT HE WAS GOING TO PUNISH ME FOR.

Yea. At five, I knew that kinda logic was, frankly, wtf.

I mean, if I’m Wiccan now, then God created me knowing that I would become that, knowing that he would have to punish me through eternal damnation, and created me anyway.