Is Calvinism Defensible

I’ve read multiple articles and papers on the five points of Calvinism but they all seem too simple and undefensible. They quickly turn into scripture mining arguments. A calvinist finds 5 verses. So the Arminian or Catholic finds 6 verses to refute them. So the calvinst then argues with 7, 8, 9 verse ad nauseam.

My question then is if there exist serious books that can not only argue Calvinism scripturally but philosophy/logically as well.

I don’t think Calvism at its core can be defended. As a Catholic I am still trying to understand synergism and molinism vs. Thomistic views but want to know if any serious calvinist (no James White suggestions need apply) has written scholarly and logical books about the tenets of Calvinism.

I don’t know the subject area that you are talking about, to much of any extent.

Calvinism seems to be associated with the idea of predestination (sooner or later, as one gets into it) and, in a nutshell, Catholicism does not support that idea.

But, I can’t resist the temptation to expound on a general matter regarding the Bible. All protestants use Martin Luther’s version of the Bible, eliminating 7 books and other verses in the Old Testament. So, calvinism, all protestantism (seventh day adventists, mormons, evangelicals, etc.) which uses Luther’s Bible is following his heresy of denying scripture.

2 Tim 3 is where Paul says that all scripture is inspired by God. This is concise but vague. What should one understand about the meaning of “all scripture”? Well, it seems to me and to many Catholic sources that I have consulted, that the “scripture” of the Old Testament in Paul’s time was the Septuagint, from which all the quotations of the OT in the NT are taken. (Note, the Septuagint and the Masoretic texts agree in many places, so you needed assume that only some citations in the NT are from both sources – one source, the Septuagint) is sufficient.

So, along comes Luther. On the day he was born there were 73 books in the Bible; on the day he died, his Bible translation had only 66 books.

Now, a lot of Protestants like to brag that their only authority is the Bible. Well, where did it say Luther could take out those 7 books et al. ?

Dr. Scott Hahn (EWTN) sometimes discusses his early calvinist beliefs. Generally, he says that calvinists and a lot of other protestants don’t take their ideas to the logical conclusion, which would lead them back to the truths taught by the Catholic Church.

By all mean, continue your study, but I have the conviction that it cannot be defended, right from the get-go i.e. what is the Bible?

I think you would be interested in the website Called2Communion. The writers are all former Presbyterians, and they delve into Calvinism quite thoroughly.

Here’s a link to the Ligonier website:

R.C. Sproul is the founder of Ligonier, and he is the best Calvinist pastor and apologist in the U.S. at this time in history.

Peruse the website (especially the “Learning” section), and you will find all kinds of questions and answers about Calvinism.

One thing that my husband and I appreciate about Pastor Sproul is that he is always accurate in his Catholic doctrines, teachings, etc.

There’s always Calvin’s Institutes themselves:

For myself, while I disagree strongly with Calvin’s arguments and conclusions - you can certainly see that he had persuasive arguments from logic, reason, and theology.

if you’re interested in the philosophical defence of Calvinism a good book to read is “Freedom of the Will” by Jonathan Edwards. You can find several free online versions.

If we were to accept the argument that the disputed books are found in the Septuagint which was used by the apostles and therefore are canonical wouldn’t we also accept 1 and 2 Esdras, 3 and 4 Maccabees, prayer of Mannasseh and Psalm 151?

Of course Calvinism is defensible, Calvin was a lawyer. Whether or not it is consistent with the patristic vision of the Scriptures teaching of a loving God who became incarnate to save his creation from its own self-wrought destruction is another thing entirely though.

My copy of Luther’s translation has 74 books. :shrug:


For two books that defend the doctrines of grace, try these:
Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace
R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God
It’s not simply “mining scripture” that must be done. It’s a proper hermeneutic of interpretation, and allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.

But the “five points of Calvinism” are not the same thing as Calvinism, or Reformed theology. There are Baptists who agree with the “five points” who are not Reformed (because they reject the structure of biblical covenants upon which Reformed theology depends).

I speak as a Reformed Anglican who very definitely believes in predestination and election, and very definitely affirms that Calvinism is the official teaching of the Anglican Church.

I don’t think it’s “defensible” but people will defend it. I mean every weird belief out there has defenders, so the fact that some people will defend this moloch god dreamed up by a 26 year old lawyer turned tinpot dictator is no surprise.

Have you seriously interacted with John Calvin’s works? And are you aware that “Calvinism” (or Reformed theology) is not just what was “dreamed up” by Calvin but was the culmination of a Reformation begun with Martin Luther, and extending well into the 17th century, recruiting some of the finest theological minds of the era?

Do you really mean to be so dismissive and insulting towards those who are honestly convinced this represents a theology agreeable to the Word of God?

Thank you for your fairness. Ligonier and the lectures of Dr Sproul are a reliable source for anyone who is seriously interested in Calvinism (Reformed theology).

I have one of Dr. Sproul’s books lying around somewhere. I found it quite informative.

Muling this question over a bit - I would say the problem with Calvinism is that it’s too defensible. It’s logical, rational, and legalistic - and it fits very well with the way modern man would like to think.

The problem is, is that Faith is not reached through rational thought - but instead is given to us with the indwelling of Grace given to us by God.

Zwingli argued with Luther about the Eucharist that “the finite can not contain the infinite” - this is a very logical and defensible Calvinistic viewpoint. And if Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father - then he can’t be in mere bread!

Luther responded irrationally by pointing to God’s word: “This is my body”

So yes… Calvinism is very much defensible with rational thought. But as we can see, certain aspects of it’s Calvin’s theology are utterly defeated by God’s mystery.

Not quite sure what you mean here. The example you use is that of Zwingli and his disagreement with Luther over the eucharist - which is an odd example, since John Calvin strongly disagreed with Zwingli’s eucharistic theology and was much closer to Luther. The Reformed Confessions also teach Calvin’s doctrine and not Zwingli’s with respect to the Lord’s Supper.

I used a bad example - but Zwingli and Calvin both use logic and reasoning to deny the Lutheran profession of faith that the Eucharist is a mystery of God.

Reading Calvin’s description of what happens in Communion is intellectually satisfying and it’s backed up with scripture and logic. That’s what makes Calvinism so difficult - it is defensible.

Calvin’s main problem with Luther’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper (which theologians have commonly called consubstantiation, a term that Lutherans reject in favour of sacramental union) isn’t so much to do with a rejection on Calvin’s part of the idea of mystery, but rather concerns Luther’s need to affirm, in order to maintain a substantial presence of Christ in the eucharistic elements, the doctrine of ubiquity.

The doctrine of ubiquity holds that there is a real communication of the divine attributes of Christ to his human nature. This, for Calvin and the Reformed church, stood contrary both to Chalcedonian Christology - that the two natures exist ‘without mixture, confusion, separation, or division’ - it also seems at odds with Scripture’s teaching about Christ’s human body, even his glorified body (cf. Matt. 28:6).

Keith Mathison (Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, 2002) explains Calvin’s position thus:
‘According to Calvin, Christ’s body is present in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, but the mode of his presence is not specifically connected with the substance of the elements. The elements of bread and wine are a necessary part of the sacrament, but they are not the primary focus. Christ is present by the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit, not by the transformation or combination of material substances.’
For Calvin, the bread and wine, and the Body and Blood of Christ which they signified, were in a union somewhat analogous to the two natures of Christ: distinct but not separate.

I agree, with reservations that I imagine you are also making! That said, I’d also like to separate Jean Calvin from ‘Calvinism’. My experience of the former is more satisfying than the latter.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a Calvinist, and I’d want to qualify what Indifferently says about Calvinism vis-a-vis the Church of England, but I’d say that Church theologians (whether RC, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, etc.) would gain a lot from a careful study of Calvin. Like Luther, reading Calvin is great and profitable even if (when!) you don’t agree with everything he says.

You’re quite correct - even though we disagree with Calvin’s teaching, we Lutherans would say that Calvin’s actual teaching vastly closer to what we Lutherans would accept than what I’ve seen some modern Calvinist’s profess - that’s it’s a memorial meal, or something similar.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit