Yes, John Calvin DID Preach Double Predestination

John Calvin Double Predestination Election Institutes

Well I finally got around to it – I am reading through some of the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. I say “some” because the complete work spans more than 1500 pages and deals with some of the most weighty and complex theological issues known to mankind. I have chosen for now to plod my way through the most controversial aspects of Calvin’s writings; the topics of predestination and election.

Most of my friends who call themselves Calvinists are eager to disassociate themselves from the doctrine of “double predestination”. They state that God has predestined some to eternal life, but they assure me that He would never send people to hell. People get there on their own, I am told. And what did Calvin teach? I ask. Usually, I receive some sort of vague answer – like how Calvin’s writings are difficult to understand or how misunderstood he is by other denominations. Ok, I get that. He was an intellectual giant – but what did he say about double predestination and if you don’t know exactly, then why do you call yourself a Calvinist?

So I decided to have a look for myself. Surprisingly, The Institutes of the Christian Religion are not so difficult to read or comprehend, despite the complexity of the topics discussed.

Calvin begins his discourse on the doctrine of predestination and election in Chapter 21 of Book 3 of his Institutes. If one just reads the title of this chapter and nothing else, he or she quickly ascertains Calvin’s view on double predestination – for the chapter is titled “OF THE ETERNAL ELECTION, BY WHICH GOD HAS PREDESTINATED SOME TO SALVATION, AND OTHERS TO DESTRUCTION.” That’s pretty clear, is it not?

But in case you still doubt his position, allow me to share with you this excerpt from Section 5 in Chapter 21:

All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.

He goes on to address the “arrogant” and “blasphemous” objections which are leveled at his view of predestination. And there are plenty of such objections. In typical Calvin style, he does not back down nor does he attempt to soften his message. God ordains some people to heaven and some people to hell, end of story.

“If that is what Calvin truly taught,” a Calvinist friend told me recently, “then I shouldn’t call myself a Calvinist. That’s not what I believe.”

There is no doubt that Calvin fully subscribed to the doctrine of double predestination. He invented it! Maybe it’s time for some Calvinists to revisit these Institutes of his and reevaluate their desire to affix this label on themselves.


Calvin, John. Institutes of Christian religion. Trans. Henry Beveridge, Esq. 1599. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Nov. 1999. 20 Sept. 2001 <>.

10 thoughts on “Yes, John Calvin DID Preach Double Predestination

  1. Predestination and free choice are not hard to understand and vindicate when looked at from God’s perspective…they are not mutually exclusive… eternity, both are absolutely true….we have free choice in God’s eternal plan but he knows the end from the beginning….

    1. Thanks WM Craven, for your comment. I have heard predestination and free choice described before as “the twin truths”. After all, they are both present in the Bible. I am not convinced, however, that double predestination is a Biblical concept.

  2. Romans 9:22 – What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

    God did indeed predestine everything, because He causes everything to happen. However, it is due to man’s own sin that they are predestined to Hell.

    Anyways, ‘double predestination’ is just 2 buzz words, and it’s just a different way of describing the same thing as single predestination.

    1. I disagree. Most Christians that I know believe in single predestination – where God does elect some to salvation but in no way sends others to hell. Double predestination is where God actively elects some to salvation and sends others to hell. There is a big difference between the two, is there not?

      1. No, there is absolutely no difference and the reason is simple.

        If God (allegedly) chose to save a relative few out of the mass of lost humanity — let’s say 1 in 100 — then the 99 that He chooses not to elect are automatically consigned to the Lake of Fire BY HIS CHOICE NOT TO ELECT THEM.

        Given the doctrine of omniscience, which means He knows everything and everyone, the logic is unassailable: the reprobation of the 99 would be just as much a choice on His part as election. It cannot be otherwise.

        Even Calvin admitted reprobation is true:

        “All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.”

    1. Hi CJ. Thank you for the suggestion. I was not aware that Aquinas wrote much about predestination although given that he wrote about everything else, I guess I should not be surprised 🙂

  3. It is always difficult to see this subject being discussed when the basic understanding of the problems of translation has not been cleared up first. If one is unaware that God never used the word “eternal”, or any word denoting endless anything in the Scriptures, then clear illumination will not be gotten. God’s intention in recording His word in the Greek language is not an insignificant detail that believers can afford to ignore. He chose a particular point in time to commission His Son, the Logos, when Greek was the universal language. His words are refined like silver, seven times, and reliance upon English translations without also consulting the Greek on matters as serious as “eternal damnation” is a sure way to perpetuate erroneous doctrines. Words like everlasting, eternal, never ending, for ever and ever, do not exist in the Original Manuscripts, and are the fruit of philosophy mixed in with religious superstitions. The word “aion” and its derivatives do not, in any case, denote endless anything. Any discussion based upon error only leads to more of the same.

  4. Calvin in his Institutes stated; “Those therefore whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because HE IS PLEASED TO EXCLUDE THEM from the inheritance which he predestines to his children.”
    Scripture however says: FOR I TAKE NO PLEASURE IN THE DEATH OF ANYONE declares the Lord, so turn and live. Ezek. 18:23,32; 33:11
    1 Tim 2:3-4 God … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
    Is. 45:22 Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the Earth

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