- Total Depravity
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Irresistible Grace
- Perseverance of the Saints
Today I just want to point out quickly (what many others have already pointed out) that in fact there is just one point of Calvinism: Total Depravity. From that one doctrine, all the other four are natural consequences.
As a corollary, there is no such thing as a "four point" Calvinist. If you accept Total Depravity you cannot rationally reject any of the other four. Often it is Limited Atonement that gets tossed out. This is because it is the most misunderstood of the five planks.
Interestingly, the other four points do not have to be merely accepted as consequences of Total Depravity. They can be postulated as stand alone doctrines and then independently supported in scripture. To me, this is one of the great comforts of the doctrines of grace and sovereignty. If the bible proclaims Total Depravity, then our only hope is Unconditional Election (predestination). Anything else and all men are damned. Lo and behold, that is what the scriptures teach. And if scripture teaches Unconditional Election, them it had better teach Irresistible Grace otherwise the whole system collapses on itself since, without Irresistible Grace, man can thwart God's plan, rendering Him sovereign no more.
In a nutshell then:
Total Depravity refers to the state we are in as a consequence of original sin. This is key: original sin is sometimes misunderstood as meaning that we are born, not with balanced books, but with a debit on our account. That is not true. A just God would not condemn a righteous man to hell because of someone else's sin. Original sin means we are not just born but conceived as sinful. In the womb we sin. Original sin refers to the radical nature of the fall and our subsequent inability to do anything that is pleasing to God. Anything.
If you accept that the bible teaches Total Depravity, then your only hope is that you will be saved in spite of what you do, not because of what you do. That is the essence of Unconditional Election. If it is impossible for us to choose God, He better choose us, or nobody will be saved. I believe anyone searching the scriptures recognizing the necessity of predestination will come away comforted by what he finds.
Limited Atonement should not be controversial. It is a requirement for everyone except universalists, who are in such violation of the whole of scripture as to be properly labeled as heretics. Everyone else, i.e., Calvinists and Armininians, believes the same thing: Christ's atonement was sufficient for the entire human race, but is applied redemptively only to believers. As long as you do not believe that everyone is saved, then you believe in a Limited Atonement, not in extent but in application.
If we are so utterly lost that we cannot choose God, and so God chooses us, and has sent his Son to pay the price, then we must accept that the call of God is (ultimately) irresistible. A better way to put it is that an omnipotent and sovereign God will not make any ineffectual calls; every call He makes to the elect is effectual. The Holy Spirit does not lose a tug of war for a soul, either with the person in question or with Satan. If we can forever resist God's saving grace, then we have clearly undone the concept of Unconditional Election.
Likewise, if God doesn’t sovereignly preserve His saints, then everything once again collapses. The Holy Spirit is not along for the ride. He is our helper, comforter, and teacher. God promises eternal life to those who believe. Once you have the gift of eternal life, it cannot be revoked, otherwise it wasn't eternal and God has become a liar. If losing one's salvation were possible, then surely some (if not all) men would oblige. God must preserve the saints, to fulfill His promise and save a people for Himself.