In every movement within Christianity, rumors and false information start to spread. So we have to question some of the possible misinformation before we accept it. That’s why I’m digging into this topic.
Not all Calvinists agree on the extent of miracles in the current church, but they all believe that God acts in supernatural ways. Some Calvinists believe that the Holy Spirit no longer gives any revelatory gifts, but others believe in the continual and necessary use of the revelatory gifts.
I’ll dig deeper into exactly what this means, what Calvin himself taught, and what some popular Calvinists believe in the rest of this article.
It Depends on What You Mean by ‘Calvinist’
The term Calvinist can be used in one of two ways.
First, it can refer to someone who believes in Calvin’s understanding of salvation (theologians call this sotereology).
Some people, like myself, call themselves Calvinists because they agree with the acronym TULIP. These are called the 5-Points of Calvinism.
They stand for:
- Total Depravity
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Irresistible Grace
- Preservation of the Saints
If a Calvinist is in this group, they might believe in miracles and the revelatory gifts of the Spirit.
The other group of Calvinists call themselves that because they are either confessionally reformed or agree with Calvin on almost all of his views.
To be confessionally reformed might sound confusing but it is super simple. It just means that they fully agree with one of the confessions of faith that were written during the reformation.
None of these confessions are continuationists. Therefore, you can assume that those in this group do not believe in miracles in the way that you might think.
However, its very important to understand what you mean when you say miracles.
It Depends on What You Mean by ‘Miracles’
Almost every Calvinist regardless of which group they are in would believe that God can do miraculous things.
They do believe that God heals.
They do believe that God works supernaturally.
There are very few Christians, Calvinists included, which would deny supernatural acts of God.
What Calvinists might not believe in is the continual gifting of God’s people with the power to perform miracles.
While many believe that God heals, they do not believe that God grants people with the gift of healing.
Many Calvinists might also push back against a common understanding of the frequency of miracles. They believe that they are a lot less frequent than many think or believe.
Calvinists who do not believe that God currently gives specific miraculous gifts do believe that God used to.
Every Calvinist would believe that the miracles that God performed in the Bible were true miracles that actually happened.
The disagreement comes because many Calvinists believe that God stopped giving those gifts at a certain point in history. Other Calvinists do believe that God still give those gifts.
Note: The most common understanding of Calvinism is compatible with continuationism. Some might disagree with this.
What Did Calvin Teach?
I searched through John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion to find exactly what he wrote regarding miracles.
The most relevant piece of information came in his response to some who were asking for miracles to verify his gospel.
He writes this to begin his response:
In demanding miracles from us, they act dishonestly; for we have not coined some new gospel, but retain the very one the truth of which is confirmed by all the miracles which Christ and the apostles ever wrought.John Calvin
You do see from this that Calvin accepts the miracles of the Bible and early church as real miracles.
However, he said this regarding their comments:
The deception would perhaps be more specious if Scripture did not admonish us of the legitimate end and use of miracles.John Calvin
The implication that Calvin makes here is that he believes that the Bible admonishes us that miracles came to an end.
If you continue reading through this chapter, you can come to understand Calvin’s argument. He teaches that the purpose of miracles in the early church was to verify the gospel that they were preaching.
Since the gospel has been fully verified and the Bible is complete, he believes that miracles are no longer necessary.
Note this important distinction:
- Calvin does believe that God can perform miracles.
- Calvin does not believe that God still performs miracles.
So, Calvin did teach that miracles had ceased and therefore can’t be performed by the church today.
Calvinists Who Believe in Miracles
I would encourage you not to think less of any believer because of their view on miracles. Personally, I believe that the Spirit still performs miracles. But many faithful, God-loving Christians disagree with me.
Here are a couple of examples of Calvinists that still believe in miracles and what they’ve said about it.
John Piper is still one of the most influential pastors in the world, calling many to live their life in service to Jesus Christ. He jokingly even calls himself a “7-Point Calvinist” adding 2 more points to TULIP. Regarding miracles, Piper says:
If we could collect all the authentic stories all over the world — from all the missionaries and all the saints in the all the countries of the world… we would think we were living in a world of miracles, which we are.John Piper
John Piper not only believes in miracles, he believes that we are living in a world of miracles.
Sam Storms is an influential pastor in Oklahoma City, OK. He wrote a book defending Calvinism entitled Choosing Life: The Case for Divine Election. He is also a staunch defender of miracles in the current time. He writes:
So, does God work miracles among us, or do gifted individuals work miracles among us? Yes! God works miracles among us by awakening faith in his Word, in conjunction with or as a result of which he imparts a gracious divine enabling (i.e., a charisma, a gift) so that the believer can work miracles among us.Sam Storms
Here, he defends God’s continual performing of miracles as well as God’s gifting of working miracles to his people.
Calvinists Who Don’t Believe in Current Miracles
Again, there are many God-loving people on this list who are worthy of our respect whether or not we agree on this.
Here are a couple of examples of Calvinists who do not believe in miracles and what they’ve said about it.
Sproul was a faithful pastor and theologian who championed the glory and majesty of God in a time when many are focused on man. He wrote this:
I get this question all the time, “R.C., do you believe that miracles happen today?” If you want me to give the simple answer, the answer is no.R.C. Sproul
He believed in the ultimate power of God, but he did not believe that God still performs miracles.
Charles Spurgeon was one of the most influential pastors and teachers in the last few hundred years of church history. He made the gospel accessible and preached nothing but Jesus Christ. Regarding miracles, he wrote:
When the Holy Spirit was given in the earliest ages, He showed His presence by certain miraculous signs.Charles Spurgeon
What Spurgeon clearly believed is that miracles were for the earlier ages when the authority of the gospel was not clearly established.
Brooks is pursuing an MDiv with an emphasis in Biblical Counseling from Midwestern Seminary. He has a certificate in Bible and Missions and is the Marketing Manager at Bethany Global University, a college dedicated to training missionaries to reach the unreached.