branch of Protestantism
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Calvinism belongs to the Reformed tradition of Protestant Christianity. 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.



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). He also contributed to confessional documents for use in churches, and his beliefs and practices left a direct influence on Protestantism. He was only one of many people to influence the doctrines of the Reformed churches, but he eventually became one of the most prominent theologians.

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

True Calvinism (historical Calvinism) does not teach that God chooses the people who will be saved. Instead, it teaches that for God's own glory recreates men with a new nature, a nature that loves God and hates sin, instead of men keeping their old nature since if they kept their old nature, they would not want to follow God.(Romans 3:10-12). Historical Calvinism also teaches that if God does not choose to save someone, he can do nothing to be saved.



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

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

Some of the largest Calvinist communions missionaries were started in the 19th and the 20th century, especially in Korea and in 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

Other websites


Calvinist websites


Calvinism and other theological systems

  • What is Calvinism? - A Summary of the Presbyterian Religion.
  • Calvinism & Arminianism - a brief comparison of Calvinism and Arminianism from The Five Points of Calvinism - Defined, Defended, Documented by Steele