Calvinism

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Calvinism
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Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice of John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians.

Calvinists broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Calvinism differs from Lutherans on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, theories of worship, and the use of God's law for believers, among other things. [1] [2] As declared in the Westminster and Second Helvetic confessions, a basic principle is that the Bible is to be interpreted by itself, meaning the parts that are harder to understand are examined in the light of other passages where the Bible is more explicit on the matter. [3] [4] The term Calvinism can be misleading, because the religious tradition which it denotes has always been diverse, with a wide range of influences rather than a single founder. The movement was first called Calvinism by Lutherans who opposed it, and many within the tradition would prefer to use the word Reformed. [5] [6]

Early influential Reformed theologians include Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, Martin Bucer, William Farel, Heinrich Bullinger, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Theodore Beza, and John Knox. In the twentieth century, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, Karl Barth, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Cornelius Van Til, and Gordon Clark were influential. Contemporary Reformed theologians include J. I. Packer, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, Timothy J. Keller, John Piper, David Wells, and Michael Horton.

Reformed churches may exercise several forms of ecclesiastical polity; most are presbyterian or congregationalist, though some are episcopalian. Calvinism is largely represented by Continental Reformed, Presbyterian, and Congregationalist traditions. The biggest Reformed association is the World Communion of Reformed Churches with more than 80 million members in 211 member denominations around the world. [7] [8] There are more conservative Reformed federations such as the World Reformed Fellowship and the International Conference of Reformed Churches, as well as independent churches.

Etymology

Calvinism is named after John Calvin. It was first used by a Lutheran theologian in 1552. It was a common practice of the Catholic Church to name what they perceived to be heresy after its founder. Nevertheless, the term first came out of Lutheran circles. Calvin denounced the designation himself:

They could attach us no greater insult than this word, Calvinism. It is not hard to guess where such a deadly hatred comes from that they hold against me.

— John Calvin, Leçons ou commentaires et expositions sur les Revelations du prophete Jeremie 1565 [9]

Despite its negative connotation, this designation became increasingly popular in order to distinguish Calvinists from Lutherans and from newer Protestant branches that emerged later. Even though the vast majority of churches that trace back their history to Calvin (including Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and a row of other Calvinist churches) do not use it themselves, since the designation "Reformed" is more generally accepted and preferred, especially in the English-speaking world. Moreover, these churches claim to be—in accordance with John Calvin's own words—"renewed accordingly with the true order of gospel".

Since the Arminian controversy, the Reformed tradition—as a branch of Protestantism distinguished from Lutheranism—divided into two separate groups, Arminians and Calvinists. [10] [11] However, it is now rare to call Arminians a part of the Reformed tradition, as many see these two schools of thought as opposed, making the terms Calvinist and Reformed synonymous. While the Reformed theological tradition addresses all of the traditional topics of Christian theology, the word Calvinism is sometimes used to refer to particular Calvinist views on soteriology and predestination, which are summarized in part by the Five Points of Calvinism. Some have also argued that Calvinism as a whole stresses the sovereignty or rule of God in all things including salvation.

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