What’s so good about being a Calvinist?

What’s so good about being a Calvinist?

By Dr. D. Clair Davis

What’s so good about being a Calvinist? Well, it’s good for nostalgia. If your people came from Scotland, then you can put on your tartan bathrobe, play a bagpipe record, and say the first question of the Catechism. But then you’re only playing a game. You’re not a Scot, you’re a Tarheel. Grits beat oatmeal anytime.

It gives you something special to do while everyone else is into Halloween. You can have a Reformation Day slide show of the pastor’s wife in front of the John Calvin statue, which does brighten it up! Back in college we used to bring out a history prof to talk about Luther with a Norwegian catch in his voice. Then he disappeared for another year. He was the only Lutheran we had and we treasured him. Calvinists are rare too, but are you ready to be a prized antique?

You can hear far-out sermons on the Five Points of Calvinism … But basically the Five Points tell you how God saves people, and you’ve been saved for years. What you need to know is how to be a better wife and mother. You need to know how to get ready for your next mid-life crisis. You need to know how to pray when the pain gets sharper. How does being a Calvinist help then?

It helps because underneath all those questions about how to live is a much bigger, much more essential one: Why bother? How do you know the Lord really cares?

You don’t ask that one out loud in your Sunday-school class. But you know you’re eaten up with worry. You’ve gotten used to being bored with the Bible. You can’t identify with the things the other Christians talk about. You need a fresh start with the Lord. But where do you begin?

Now that’s where Calvinism really comes through for you. It applies the Bible where you need it the most. Think through the basics. Jesus died for you personally (Personal Atonement). He loves you, not what he can get out of you (Unconditional Election). He pours out his love on every bit of you, not just on what you think is your sweeter and nicer side (Total Depravity). His love is stronger than all your doubt and foolishness and fear put together (Irresistible Grace). He keeps on loving you, all the way through to the end (Perseverance of the Saints). That’s the Five Points of your Father’s love!

When you’ve digested how much the Lord has done for you, then you’ll know what you’re doing. That’s why the Lord kept telling his people, ‘Remember the Exodus!’ In the middle of the clutter and snarls in your life, keep in mind the Lord’s mighty, loving arm that lifted you out of slavery into the Land of Promise. ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ (Rom. 8:31-32).

Pondering the five points of God’s grace isn’t a nostalgia trip. When you’re alert about your salvation, then you know what life is all about. When you see how your salvation comes only from the Lord and not a bit from yourself, then you understand a lot of other things too. You know what’s really important and what to do next…

But don’t stop there. Orthodox Presbyterian minister Henry Coray once told his congregation to turn 360 degrees from sin, and it took them five minutes to figure out where that would take them. But your problem isn’t in going too far, but in not going far enough. After turning away from glorying in yourself, be sure to start glorying in Jesus Christ. If you stop half-way, all you have left is apathy. But the Lord has called you to enjoy him forever. You do that by looking at Philippians 2 and doing some solid thinking about what Jesus gave up for you. Weigh what it means for him to be a servant. Consider his obedience all the way to death. Try to grasp Jesus Christ crucified, crying out, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!’ Now you’re ready to start telling yourself and the Lord how wonderful and glorious Jesus Christ is.

And then worship him in the Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can turn your foolish heart away from that list of achievements to the cross of Christ. Only the Spirit can show you Jesus in his glory. Only the Spirit can focus your whole heart and life and hope upon your Savior.

That’s what so good about being a Calvinist. You have a way to apply the splendor of God’s love to the nitty-gritty of your life. Go on taking the Lord seriously, in all his grace and mercy. Go on living before his face with joy.

Dr. D. Clair Davis, published in the Presbyterian Journal (Dec. 3, 1986) and republished in The Practical Calvinist: An Introduction to the Presbyterian and Reformed Heritage in Honor of Dr. D. Clair Davis (Mentor/Christian Focus; Great Britain) 2002, pp. 47-49.


(Published on the TSS blog with permission of Christian Focus).


Click here to access previous posts in the Humble Calvinism index.


14 thoughts on “What’s so good about being a Calvinist?

  1. Nice series. I wonder if I am the only one who had to look up tarheel? I like his comment of Reformation Day filled with pictures of the pastors wife standing next to a statue of Calvin, very funny until I recall a picture of of you, Tony, proudly standing next to Jonathan Edwards Tome. ;>)

  2. Hello Bill! Yes, you are right. I join a few hundred (or thousand) very nerdy Reformed people who have their picture taken at Edwards’ grave. Make fun of me all you want, I know you’re jealous that your on not on the Reformed (East) coast :-) Thank you for the kind words from a bagpipe-lovin’ Husker!


    [notice the 2 new hyper links in the article!]

  3. When my wife looks into the eye of the precious man she married, she cannot help but smile! :-) Tony

    PS – my daughter slept right trough Edwards, Warfield, Hodge, pretty much most of the Princeton walk!

  4. You guys are funny! Personal greetings from Seattle, Tony. I fly home tomorrow (Thursday). I didn’t tell you but I nearly got bumped off the first leg of my flight west, which would have landed me in Minneapolis instead of Detroit! I tried, brother, I nearly begged – a pitiful sight – but not to be. In May, if not before. Blessings to you and yours. You doing ok with all of the ice that blew through?

  5. Hello Steve! We’ll I will be looking for you as you fly over us today :-) I trust all went well out West. We got a little snow but no ice or anything nasty up here. It’s finally getting cold and with the little snow recently it’s beginning to feel like a Minneapolis winter. And now I’m certain to be hearing about this from SoCal Bill!

    Blessings, Steve!


  6. Why would i Google my own name anyway? But I did and found people still reading this old article! After 38 years at Westminster TS Phila. I’m now working with John Smed and Steve Laug training church planters in Vancouver BC. Here’s the question: is it good or bad to be in a place “with on Christian memory?” On the one hand, you have to explain everything. But on the other hand, you have a blank piece of paper to work with. Luther said that we overcompensate against error so in order to avoid falling off the horse on one side we end up falling off on the other. I think that danger is less in Van. DCD

  7. Hello Dr. Davis, Thank you for stopping in! It was a treat and surprise to hear from you. This article is such a treasure. Thank you for your years of faithful ministry of the gospel. I will be praying for your planting endeavors in Vancouver. If anyone can explain the biblical storyline and the gospel to a culture that’s never heard it, you are the man. I’ll be praying God gives you opportunities and strength to impact hearts in Canada as you have impacted mine recently! Blessings, Tony!

  8. Hi Tony! Do you folks know T. J. Mahaney’s Humility book? A timely intro to the beginning of Bk 3 of the Institutes, the link between self-knowledge and God-knowledge. DCDavis

  9. Tony,
    Thanks for posting the article by Dr. Davis. I had him as a student at Westminster(69-73) and can rightly say all the anecdotal material in “The Practical Calvinist” is true.

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