Calvinism and Westboro Baptist Church: An Introduction

Posted by Capn Coconuts On Wednesday, January 11, 2012 0 comments
As Westboro Watch is about the beliefs and actions of Westboro Baptist Church, it isn't complete without an examination on Calvinism. Why not go into a brief history lesson about John Calvin (obviously the man this dogma was named after) and his followers?

An Incredibly Condensed History of Calvinism

In 1517, Martin Luther wrote to his bishop, criticizing the selling of indulgences (partial or full remission of sins paid with money) used to fund the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica, among other things he saw as corrupt within the Roman Catholic Church. With his letter he sent The Ninety Five Theses which would spread throughout Europe. This was the primary catalyst of the Reformation, in which people with minds like Luther joined to protest corruption in the Roman Catholic Church.

Two notable minds were Huldrych Zwingli (key reformer in Switzerland) and John Calvin (key reformer in France).

In 1533, Calvin had a religious experience which majorly changed his mindset. Though scholars disagree on the interpretation of his accounts, it is known that Calvin left the Roman Catholic Church afterward and began work in the Reformation when he published his Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536. Influenced by the works of Augustine, he adopted the doctrines of predestination and absolute sovereignty of God.

Calvin's followers eventually crossed paths with Jacobus Arminius (founder of the opposing theology known as Arminianism) and his followers. Arminius's followers, desiring not to be called after him, named themselves Remonstrants.

When Arminius died before he could fulfill a request for a 14-page document on his views, the Remonstrants fulfilled the request in his stead, making the Five Articles of Remonstrance. These articles were reviewed by the Synod of Dort, in which Arminians were denied entry. The Calvinists in the Synod of Dort eventually ruled that Arminianism was heretical and provided the Five Points of Calvinism as a response.

The TULIP of Doom

The Five Points of Calvinism (which most Calvinists hold to, including WBC) are as follows:
  • T: Total Depravity. Due to the Fall of Man caused by Adam and Eve, mankind is totally enslaved in sin. Because of this, man is inclined to serve his own lusts and desires instead of the God to the point of being morally unable to follow God without His intervention. (Total here means that sin affects every part of man--it doesn't mean that every man is as evil as possible.)
  • U: Unconditional Election. God has chosen from the beginning who he will reconcile to himself--not based on their virtue, merit, or faith, but grounded in his mercy alone. God chooses to extend mercy to those he chooses and refuses mercy to those he hasn't chosen.
  • L: Limited Atonement. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is meant to atone for only the elect God has chosen, and no one else. It is limited in scope, not in power.
  • I: Irresistable Grace. God's grace to the elect will, at some point in their lives, forcibly overcome all their resistance to accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
  • P: Perseverance of the Saints. As God is the sovereign predestinator of the fate of all mankind, none of the elect can cease to be the elect and lose their salvation. Christians that fall away were either not saved to begin with or will return to Christianity.
Other Beliefs

Calvinists also believe in Covenant Theology (which splits the Bible history and theology into separate covenants) and the regulative principle of worship (anything that isn't permitted in the Bible is not allowed in worship, even if there was no specific passage condemning its inclusion). These theological bits may not be covered as much as the five points simply because they do not matter as much when looking at the Westboro Baptist Church's practices.

In the next part of this series, I will look at the five points with a critical eye.


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