So what makes a Calvinist, a Calvinist? Or, you may ask, what makes a person "truly Reformed"? On this very Blog, a Calvinist insisted that John MacArthur was not truly Reformed.
I'd like to cite Laurence Vance on how he unites all Calvinists under one banner: The doctrine of Unconditional Election. Calvinists can disagree over many of the finer points of Reformed Theology, but any Calvinist who rejects Unconditional Election, is simply not a Calvinist at all, and thus cannot rightly ride under the banner of a "moderate Calvinist." I would like to quote Vance, and then offer my thoughts:
Laurence Vance: “All Calvinists, whether they be Presbyterian or Reformed, Primitive Baptist or Sovereign Grace Baptist; all Calvinists, whether they be premillennial or amillennial, dispensational or covenant theologist; all Calvinists, whether they go by that name or not; all Calvinists have one thing in common: God, by a sovereign, eternal decree, has determined before the foundation of the world who shall be saved and who shall be lost. To obscure the real issue, a vocabulary has been invented to confuse and confound the Christian. The arguments about supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism, total depravity and total inability, reprobation and preterition, synergism and monergism, free will and free agency, common grace and special grace, general calling and effectual calling, perseverance and preservation, and the sovereignty of God are all immaterial. The stumbling block for the Calvinists is the simplicity of salvation, so upon rejecting this, a system has to be construed whereby salvation is made a mysterious, arcane, incomprehensible, decree of God. Thus, the basic error of Calvinism is confounding election and predestination with salvation, which they never are in the Bible, but only in the philosophical speculations and theological implications of Calvinism: the other side of Calvinism.” (The Other Side of Calvinism, p.35, emphasis mine)
What makes a Calvinist, a Calvinist? Belief in the doctrine of Unconditional Election.
In simple terms, it's the belief that God has an eternal flock of sheep, that is, "the eternal flock of the Father," whom He alone truly loves, and has eternally "purposed to glorify," as one Calvinist explains: “Do Calvinists secretly believe that God chose them for some reason other than their need for salvation? Would I, as a Christian, believe that God chose me for some other reason than my need for salvation? Yes, I do. God chose me for His glory, for His pleasure, for His purposes. Sure I had a need for salvation. But that is not why He saved me primarily ... in the Bible, God does not say He chose us because of our desperate need. He chose us before our need ever arose.”
In technical terms, whereas the New Testament speaks of us being "in Christ," for Calvinism, the elect must eternally reside "in the Father," which is a point that I stress again and again, in order to have a proper understanding of Calvinistic Election.
Here are my thoughts on Election, as I constrast Arminian Election with Calvinistic Election: