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Calvinism belongs to the Reformed tradition of Protestantism. This tradition goes back to John Calvin and other theologians.

Important Calvinists from Europe include: Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and Huldrych Zwingli, and from England, reformers Thomas Cranmer and John Jewel. Because John Calvin had great influence and played an important role in the confessional and ecclesiastical debates throughout the 17th century, the tradition generally became known as Calvinism.

Today, this term also means the doctrines and practices of the Reformed churches, of which Calvin was an early leader, and the system is perhaps best known for its doctrines of predestination and total depravity.

Historical background

John Calvin's international influence on the development of the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation began at the age of 25, when he started work on his first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1534 (published 1536). Together with his contributions to confessional documents for use in churches it founded the direct personal influence on Protestantism of Calvin. He is only one of many to influence the doctrines of the Reformed churches, but he eventually became the most prominent.

The rising importance of the Reformed churches, and of Calvin, belongs to the second phase of the Protestant Reformation, when evangelical churches began to form after Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Calvin was a French exile in Geneva. He had signed the Lutheran Augsburg Confession in 1540, but his importance came from the Swiss Reformation. This was not Lutheran, but followed Huldrych Zwingli and then Calvin.

True Calvinism (historical Calvinism) does not teach that God chooses who will be saved and who will not be saved. it teaches that for God's on glory He recreates men with a new nature (a nature that loves God and Hates sin) because with our old nature we would never seek God (Romans 3:10-12) if it was not for God choosing to save someone there would be no one saved

The spread of Calvinism

Although much of Calvin's practice was in Geneva, his publications spread his ideas of a correctly reformed church to many parts of Europe. Calvinism became the theology of the majority in Scotland (see John Knox), the Netherlands, and parts of Germany and was influential in France, Hungary, Transylvania, and Poland. Calvinism was popular as well for some time in Scandinavia, especially Sweden, but was rejected in favor of Lutheranism after the synod of Uppsala in 1593.

Most settlers in the American Mid-Atlantic and New England were Calvinists, including the Puritans and Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam (New York). Dutch Calvinist settlers were also the first successful European colonizers of South Africa, beginning in the 17th century, who became known as Boers or Afrikaners.

Some of the largest Calvinist communions were started by 19th and 20th century missionaries; especially large are those in Korea and Nigeria.


  • John Wesley (2001). Calvinism Calmly Considered. ISBN: 0-88019-438-3
  • C. Gordon Olson (2002). Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: An Inductive, Mediate Theology of Salvation. Global Gospel Publishers. ISBN: 978-0962485046

Calvinist websites

Calvinism and other theological systems

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