There Is No Such Thing As A “Five Point” Calvinist

There are, therefore, more than five points and — as far as the confessions and the Reformed dogmaticians from Calvin to Kuyper are concerned — there cannot be such a thing as a “five-point Calvinist” or “five-point Reformed Christian” who owns just those five articles taken from the Canons of Dort and who refuses to accept the other “points” made by genuinely Reformed theology. The issue here is more than simple confessional allegiance. The issue is that the confessions and the classical dogmatic systems of Reformed theology are not an arbitrary list of more or less biblical ideas — they are carefully embodied patterns of teaching, drawn from Scripture and brought to bear on the life of the church. They are, in short, interpretations of the whole of Christian existence that cohere in all of their points. If some of the less-famous points of Reformed theology, like the baptism of infants, justification by grace alone through faith, the necessity of a thankful obedience consequent upon our faith and justification (the “third use of the law”), the identification of sacraments as means of grace, the so-called amillennial view of the end of the world, and so forth, are stripped away or forgotten, the remaining famous five make very little sense. Read more»

Richard A. Muller, “How Many Points?” Calvin Theological Journal 28 (1993): 428–29


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  1. Since when did amillenialism become undisputed orthodoxy in the Reformed churches on the same level as the five points? I must have missed something in the WCF.

    • Bob, I had to look it up….I remember learning it. You are right that the WCF does not seem to avow any particular eschatology. But the WLC does….

      Question 87: What are we to believe concerning the resurrection?

      Answer: We are to believe, that at the last day there shall be a general resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust: when they that are then found alive shall in a moment be changed; and the selfsame bodies of the dead which were laid in the grave, being then again united to their souls forever, shall be raised up by the power of Christ. The bodies of the just, by the Spirit of Christ, and by virtue of his resurrection as their head, shall be raised in power, spiritual, incorruptible, and made like to his glorious body; and the bodies of the wicked shall be raised up in dishonor by him, as an offended judge.

      Question 88: What shall immediately follow after the resurrection?

      Answer: Immediately after the resurrection shall follow the general and final judgment of angels and men; the day and hour whereof no man knows, that all may watch and pray, and be ever ready for the coming of the Lord.

    • I don’t hold to any detailed systematized eschatology anymore. I believe and understand the broad eschatological outlines in the WCF. I have come to believe that our understanding of the details of the Second Coming has the same kind of limitations as people in the time of Jesus had about his first coming. Prophecy seems to have more utility as a confirmation of God’s actions after the fact rather than a precise predictor of events before the fact.

    • “Prophecy seems to have more utility as a confirmation of God’s actions after the fact rather than a precise predictor of events before the fact.”

      I agree wholeheartedly with that statement Bob. The primary purpose of prophesy seems to be demonstrating that God is in control of all things at all times, and can only be clearly understood in hindsight…..using it to predict the future is little ore than a guessing game. God does not just predict the future, He is the cause of all things. Knowing this can serve to strengthen us when our faith is tested. So much more could be said.

      And while being dogmatic about one’s eschatology can be divisive if not handled properly, a strong understanding of eschatology is also a great help in understanding the totality of God’s word. Eschatology involves so much more than just prophesy, and when combined with a right reformed covenental perspective, tends to make the Bible come alive.

      I attended churches holding to the premillennial eschatological position for the first 40 years of my life. At the age of 35 (I’m 62 now) I just felt that so much of what I was being taught did not have a strong Biblical basis… was as if I had to believe that the eschatology was correct in order to understand God’s word. That seemed backwards to me, so I began learning what the Bible said on the subject (I was actually taught that there was no Biblical basis for the amillennial position so I could ignore that one). My goal was to simply learn each eschatological position well enough to teach it, to try to understand why learned and Godly men like Sproul and MacArthur couldn’t agree, and become a force for mediation, all the while avoiding taking any one position as being more right than the others. Try as I might to avoid it, the amillennial position rose to the top.

      Most people have no clear idea of what eschatology they adhere to, after all, it is not a prerequisite for faith or salvation. And for many it is simply too confusing and abstract to bother with. I dare say that the vast majority simply go along with whatever their Pastor believes. Most of my close friends are premillennialists, and we get along great. We should not allow differences to divide us…..we are united by Christ, not by what we believe about the future. But I am extremely thankful that I was able to learn so much from so many that did take eschatological theology seriously.

  2. I too, was under the impression that the Confessions allow for three eschatological positions: Historical Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism.

  3. Bob,
    When the Westminster/Philly faculty published a Critique of Theonomy (Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, 1990), Dick Gaffin wrote a chapter in which he argued that, while many of the early Reformed theologians were self-described “post-millenialists,” it was because the term “amillenial” did not exist in common theological discussion. He demonstrated fairly convincingly (to me, anyway), that “post-millenialists” were actually a-millenial, but just didn’t use the term.

    • David,

      Thank you for this. Indeed, the term amillennial did not come into use until the late 19th century and didn’t become widely used until after WWII. Even the term post-millennial is relatively new. The only term that was used in the medieval and Reformation periods was chiliast, and typically (though not always) as a epithet. Most of the 16th-century Reformers were what we would today call amillennialists. The Second Helvetic Confession was as was the Belgic.

      What we know today as postmillennialism, i.e., the idea of an earthly glory age before the return of Christ, though not chiliast technically, bears a strong resemblance to some of its features. It’s not unusual to see chiliasts become “postmillennialist” when they become Reformed.

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