It is common to hear Calvinists declare themselves 5 point Calvinists. This refers to what has come to be known as "The 5 Points of Calvinism." Still others say that they are 4 point Calvinists, 3 point Calvinists, etc.
But Calvin didn't formulate the five points. Actually the Synod of Dort in 1618-19 did that for us. This synod was a gathering of church leaders to refute the errors of Jacob Arminius. Arminius' theological errors were spreading throughout the churches and needed to be demonstrated false. The synod answered Arminius with five main points.
I will work my way slowly through the Canons of Dort. In doing so, the question, "What is Calvinism?" will be answered. Those wishing to find that answer need look no further than these magnificent five points.
Canons of Dort (1619 A.D.)
The Synod of DordrechtNovember 13, 1618—May 9, 1619
First Head of Doctrine. Divine Election and ReprobationFIRST HEAD: ARTICLE 1. As all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin, according to the words of the apostle: "that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God." (Rom 3:19). And: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Rom 3:23). And: "For the wages of sin is death." (Rom 6:23).
FIRST HEAD: ARTICLE 2. but in this the love of God was manifested, that He "sent his one and only Son into the world, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (1 John 4:9, John 3:16).
Here we see (articles 1-2 of 18) beginning to set forth the doctrine of election and reprobation. "All have sinned in Adam" and are justly deserving to perish. Man, woman, boy or girl. The elderly and the newborn. All are accountable to God and should God have left us all to perish He would be just. We deserve it. We have sinned in Adam our federal head and we are guilty from the womb.
But God...! For God so loved the world...(John 3:16). God, rich in love and mercy, sent His son to save sinners. Not every person who ever has or ever will live will be saved from the wrath of God. That would be what is called universalism. But He chose to save some of the undeserving out of all the undeserving. More on that later.
To be continued...