The One Point of Calvinistic Soteriology

Tim Brister —  July 1, 2012 — 6 Comments

J.I. Packer, in his introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, makes the following argument about the “one point of Calvinistic soteriology” – namely the conviction that God saves sinners.

For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners. God—the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. Saves—does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners—men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners—and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedaling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.

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  • When I was an Elder at Covenant Presbyterian, we were interviewing Elder Candidates. Someone asked one what attracted him to “reformed theology”, and I’ll never forget his response: “It seems, to me, to be the form of doctrine which acknowledges the greatest sovereignty on the part of God”.

    We sure liked that.

    • I would add that, the above explanation attributes soli deo gloria to salvation most faithfully. Preeminently, God’s salvation is for His glory alone, and when I look at Scripture, I don’t see how freewill self-determination honors that overarching theme.

  • Amen indeed. Classic work by Owen with which all believers should be acqainted. The entire introduction by Packer is excellent as well. As he indicated, Owen’s argument never has been, nor can be, truly refuted. Thanks for posting.

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  • John Calvin, in “The Bondage and Liberation of the Will” (1543) described the two main points on which he and all the Reformers were in agreement contra Roman Catholic theology as: 1) all things occur according to absolute necessity (that is, God is sovereign over everything that happens), and 2) ‘free-will’ after the fall of humankind into sin (as recorded in Genesis 3) is an empty term, existing in name only.

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