Why Calvinism? Why has it gained such popularity, especially among young Christians today?
Let it be said that I have a bunch of respect for Calvinists, both today and in history. My aim is also not to prove Calvinism to be right or wrong. But, one simply has to glance at modern evangelicalism today for a moment and realize that Calvinism has spread like wildfire. And I think that the reason is a lot bigger than “it’s what the Bible says”. Because the most intelligent evangelical scholars can say that the Bible can say a lot of different things when it comes to this topic. So, again, my goal is not to say that it is or isn’t the most biblical way of looking at doctrine. I’m also not saying that Calvinists haven’t done their research, study, and put in hours and hours pondering their position. But, being a former Calvinist, I just wanted to look at a few reasons why Calvinism may be so prevalent today, especially among the young evangelical crowd.
1. Calvinism has answers.
A lot of people get introduced with language like “election”, “predestination”, and “foreknowledge” in the Bible for the first time. It takes a lot of people by surprise. Usually, they would say “Well, I don’t believe in predestination.” But, when shown that it is explicitly in Scripture, they realize that they have to do something with it. (Un)fortunately, Calvinism is there to give answers. Because, the thing is, Calvinists love talking about those topics, since it is such an important aspect of their whole theological framework. It’s almost as if other theologies are afraid to talk about it, or either have really poor support for their own answers. So, when these people who have to do something with this language start searching for answers, they are overwhelmed with the amount of answers that Calvinism has to offer. Just the fact that Calvinism is answering these questions can greatly influence one’s decision to identify with Calvinism.
2. The sugar is sweet.
One thing that won me over to Calvinism was the sweetness of the picture of salvation that it painted. God personally chose me. Before the foundations of the earth, He decided that He was going to love me. Salvation was not by works, but completely and utterly a free gift of God. Growing up in a more legalistic Pentecostal mindset, this kind of thinking was revolutionary. It was so intimate and personal, after being a nominal Christian for so long. I was brought up in a framework that promoted morality as a way to please God, so to hear all of these ideas? It was like tasting sugar for the first time. And the sugar was sweet. After tasting the sweet sugar, it made the bitter parts of Calvinism worth ‘dealing with’. “God (in)directly damns people to hell? Okay… but, just look at what He did for you and me though!” The good part of Calvinism was revolutionary. And in an attempt to hold on to the sweet part, people usually bear with and try to justify the bitter parts.
3. There is community and acceptance.
I swear, one of the biggest influencing factors of my decision to be a Calvinist was the community and acceptance it provided. For me, specifically, it was on Tumblr. There were so many Calvinists, and it was the cool thing to do. Another factor was the amount of influential pastors and preachers who were Calvinists. “Mark Driscoll was cussing?! Maybe I’ll look into Calvinism. John Piper’s video clip was so powerful. He’s a Calvinist, so maybe it has some legitimacy”. Calvinism is a very common ground that you can find with others. If you find out a friend is a Calvinist, you literally have a ton of things to talk about. You can talk about TULIP, the latest Matt Chandler sermon series, Tim Keller’s newest book, and a list of other topics. It’s an easy way to easily connect with someone, to feel accepted, to gain a community. When you accept the teachings and the label of “Calvinism”, all kinds of doors open.
4. It gives a concrete framework.
One of the things I miss about being a Calvinist is being able to have an answer for everything. Why are some people professing Christians and others not? Unconditional election. Why is humankind so evil? Total depravity. What was the exact intent and nature of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross? Particular redemption. This kind of ties in with the first point, but rather than occurring at the “seeking” stage, it is an ongoing thing. Calvinism is a great way to systematically explain so many things. It gives such a solid framework, one that is grounded in a history that goes back to the Reformation. If you have a question about a certain topic, you literally have hundreds of years of authors, philosophers, and theologians from whence to draw. And though I thought this was nice, now I am personally starting to realize that it is a dangerous place to be.
Here are just a few reasons why I think Calvinism is so popular amongst young adults today. This list in not comprehensive, all-encompassing, or even necessarily always applicable. But they are definitely a few factors that contributed to my Calvinist stage. So, my challenge to my readers who may be Calvinists is not to be mad at me and prove that you believe Calvinism is biblical. It may or may not be. And that’s fine. Rather, I want this to be food for thought. Just analyze the reason why you are a Calvinist. Is it solely because of one of these reasons? Just think about it.