[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Shades of Grey: Are you a Four-Point Calvinist or a One-Point Calvinist?

by Matthew

The middle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism is a lot greyer than a lot of people tend to think. It is common to speak of Four-Point Calvinists, that is those who aspire to believe in all of the points of Calvinism except Limited Atonement. However, I would suggest that most of those who are described as Four-Point Calvinists are not so close to Calvinism as that description would suggest.

Four-Point Calvinists strongly maintain that election is Unconditional. There is almost no difference between them and Five Pointers on this point. However, it is on the other points that they are usually more ambiguous.

Four Pointers claim that they believe in Total Depravity, as do some who reject all Five Points. However, they tend not to understand this in terms of Total Inability, as do Five Pointers. They argue that unbelievers could believe; that they are capable of believing, they just do not do so and will be condemned for not believing. Likewise, they tend to be uncomfortable with Irresistable Grace. They seem to see the Elect as unable to resist God's grace, but view the non-elect as being offered a grace which they resist. Rejecting Limited Atonement tends to result in accepting the idea of grace being offered to all.

Four Pointers always profess to believe in Perserverance. However, their view tends to be closer to Eternal Security or Once, Saved Always Saved. They tend not to hold a consistent Free Grace position, but they usually allow the possibility of some sort of apostasy and its subsequent judgment both in this life and the next.

A good example of a theologian who calls himself a Four-Point Calvinist, but who is probably really a One-Pointer is Robert Lightner. He has written some really excellent books from a Dispensational Fundamentalist perspective. He rejects Lordship Salvation and often quotes Zane Hodges.

The fact that there is so much uncharted ground between Calvinism and Arminianism means that the old and popular categories of Arminian and Calvinist are simply no longer relevant. They belong to the days of Whitefield and Wesley and were probably unhelpful back then.


  • There is a certain "four point Calvinist" I know. I am going to send him over here to see if this is right in his case. I can only say, before I began blogging and he had explained Calvinism to me, it was as you say and not as the internet Calvinists have educated me. IOW, there was no "inability to believe" and "Eternal Security" was equivalent to the "Perseverance of the Saints." There was/is none of this "you will persevere in good works and faith or you weren't saved in the first place."

    Actually, Matthew, it seems to me that "the doctrines of Grace" is not the same as the Calvinism that many of these people hold, but a narrower, more pungent view of these doctrines.

    In fact, one pastor I know of, who is a self-proclaimed Calvinist, says that he had to leave a church because the "doctrines of grace" movement invaded his church, he wouldn't embrace it, and he was compelled to move on over the issue.

    I wish I understand the history of this better. IOW, what does the historical Calvinism look like?

    By Blogger Rose~, at Tuesday, July 25, 2006 4:59:00 AM  

  • Great post Matthew. We've gone way past Baskin-Robins 31 flavors with classifications. Let's drop the tags and pursue Christ! ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at Tuesday, July 25, 2006 5:37:00 AM  

  • Thanks, Kc.

    Rose~, what historical Calvinism is like is a question for historians and there could a lot of different answers. The Calvinism of the Puritans was often even more narrow and rigid than the Calvinism that is usually encountered on the internet.

    Calvin seemed to shift his views at times. His thought in the Institutes is often thought to be quite different from that of his commentaries.

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, July 25, 2006 5:46:00 AM  

  • I have launched a new weblog initiative, the free grace network (http://www.freegracenetwork.com). You can learn more about it by reading the “about” page.

    I would like your permission to link to your blog; actually I have already taken the liberty to do so. Would you be interested in returning the courtesy by linking to this blog?

    By Anonymous Bud Brown, at Tuesday, July 25, 2006 11:23:00 AM  

  • You are welcome to link here. I shall have a look at your site, Bud.

    God Bless


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, July 25, 2006 11:56:00 AM  

  • My theologically astute friends and colleagues reel when I tell them, "I'm a ZERO point Calvinist and I am DEFINITELY NOT Arminian." One of them said, "But that's not possible!" because he presumed the Calvnists were correct when they taught him that those are the only two systems!

    There are several books that I would recommend for those of you who would like to know more about a mediate theology of salvation. George Bryson's, "The Dark Side of Calvinism"; Gordon Olson's, "Getting the Gospel Right," and Earl Radmacher's, "Salvation."

    By Anonymous Bud Brown, at Tuesday, July 25, 2006 12:12:00 PM  

  • Bud, I have not read those books, but I have heard good things about Radmacher and Bryson. I am currently reading Olson's huge work 'Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: An Inductive Mediate Theology of Salvation'. That is an excellent work.

    God Bless


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, July 25, 2006 12:15:00 PM  

  • I'm still closer to four, I think, but do not take the hard line that many do on the issues.

    By Blogger The IBEX Scribe, at Tuesday, July 25, 2006 2:11:00 PM  

  • Matthew, I was a 4-pointer for the longest time and I would not have agreed with much of your assessment of the 4-point position. That’s just me though.

    I think the redefinition of the some of the points of Calvinism by men such as Geisler have muddied the waters on who is a Calvinist. I really don’t understand why he would want to be labeled a Calvinist.

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at Tuesday, July 25, 2006 4:15:00 PM  

  • In light of the many different varieties of Christianity, in your view, where does the truth reside? I see the arguments back and forth, each side defending their position, presenting scriptures that make their case, knocking down the other's interpretation. Matthew I see you do battle with these Christians who don't subscribe to the FG positions. Often times these discussions get very heated and it makes me wonder, who has the truth?

    By Blogger Chris, at Tuesday, July 25, 2006 8:13:00 PM  

  • Chris, the Word of God of course. The problem is that people often interpret it according to their traditions.

    Angie, I do not think you are a consistent Four-Pointer.

    Jonathan, I am not sure why Geisler wants to be called a Calvinist either.

    God Bless


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, July 26, 2006 12:44:00 AM  

  • Thanks for the post. This kind of writing is needed to clear up some of the ambiguity of this area.

    I appreciate the balance of your thoughts.

    By Blogger Cameron Cloud, at Wednesday, July 26, 2006 10:09:00 AM  

  • Thanks, Cameron.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, July 26, 2006 10:17:00 AM  

  • Dear Matthew,

    So I have to go to England to find intelligent thought on this matter. Either you are a Calvinist or you are not. Unless you agree with the whole package, why would you want to define your view of salvation as a percentage of a view you don't fully accept.

    Dr. Paige Patterson President of the Southwestern Baptist Seminary describes himself as a three point Calvinist but with a totally different interpretation of what election means. What's the point?

    There's no shame in being a Calvinist, but there's no shame in not being one either. Efforts to examine points of agreement or disagreement are instructive. Efforts to discover just how much a Calvinist you are if you are not totally one and then define yourself seem intellectually insulting. My bet is that a 4 pointer wouldn't want to be called an 80% Calvinist. According to my calculations, there are 34 possible permutations to define your fit to Calvinism.

    Glad to discover your blog

    Jerry Grace
    Satartia, MS

    By Blogger Jerry Grace, at Thursday, July 27, 2006 12:06:00 PM  

  • Thanks for visiting, Jerry.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 27, 2006 3:07:00 PM  

  • Matthew~
    Good post here. Rosie just now finally "sent me over."

    I very strongly reject the puritanical view of Calvinism, often referred to as the “doctrines of grace.” This is nothing less than hyper-Calvinism and is a man made attempt by some to appeal to man's diminutive intellect and bolster his pride.

    However, when it comes to trying to understand what the apostles have said on the topic of the pre-determinative will of God in salvation and its fulfillment, including total depravity of man, election of those in Christ, UNlimited atonement, efficacious or received grace which is irresistible and irrevocable, and yes the eternal salvation or perseverance of the saints, then I cannot correctly be called a non-Calvinist since much of what I am trying to understand here is classic Calvinism.

    BTW Dr. Robert Lightener has written some great books, do you have his book on Neo-Evangelicalism Today (c) 1978?

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at Wednesday, August 02, 2006 4:39:00 PM  

  • Interesting article. You said four pointers: "argue that unbelievers could believe; that they are capable of believing, they just do not do so and will be condemned for not believing."

    Actually, that is a position a lot of five-pointers take, including me. Even the five-point Westminster Confession of Faith takes that position. In essence, all humans have in their created natures nothing that prohibits them to believe, but they willfully, on their own, refuse to believe. This is why they are responsible for their unbelief. It is when the Holy Spirit opens the heart/mind of the unbeliever then that willful rebellion turns to repentence and faith.

    Certainly there are five-pointers who take a harder line on this. I know many who disagree with me. But those people take away human responsibility.

    By Blogger Earl, at Wednesday, August 02, 2006 9:52:00 PM  

  • Oh yes, you also say four-pointers: "seem to see the Elect as unable to resist God's grace, but view the non-elect as being offered a grace which they resist."

    Again, that is the position of many five-pointers, including me. God scatters his grace far and wide, as seen in the parable of the seed and the sower. This permiscuois grace is seen in many places in the Bible and cannot be neglected.

    By Blogger Earl, at Wednesday, August 02, 2006 9:58:00 PM  

  • John, thanks for giving your view.

    But do you actually believe that believers will perservere in the faith?

    Earl, thankyou for your clarifications.

    God Bless


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, August 03, 2006 12:51:00 AM  

  • All this brings up an interesting point. "Five Point Calvinism" is a poorly defined set of doctrines. This is because the "Five Points" has no standard or accepted definition. You can recite the titles -- but what each of those titles mean is open for debate within those who call themselves Calvinists and those who look in from the outside.

    "Confessional Calvinists" don't have as much of a problem. By "Confessional" I mean those who hold to one of the standard confessions of Calvinism, such as the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, the London Baptist Confession, of the Three Forms of Unity in the Dutch Reformed area (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort). These documents carefully outline what is meant in the areas referred to as the "five points" plus much, much more.

    By Blogger Earl, at Thursday, August 03, 2006 11:06:00 AM  

  • Yes, I suppose they do.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, August 04, 2006 11:30:00 AM  

  • DF~
    Yes! Believers will perservere in the faith. I do hold to the perseverance of the saints or eternal salvation you called it "good stuff" here.

    In Him,

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at Saturday, August 05, 2006 12:56:00 PM  

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