Bible Class Curricula - Denominational Doctrines (Part 1) - Lesson #6 - The Presbyterian Religion

  1. History of the Presbyterian Religion
    1. When did this movement start? 1535–1560
    2. Where did it start? It began in Germany under the thinking of John Calvin and was later moved to Switzerland where it became the state religion under John Knox.
    3. Where is their official headquarters?
      1. Presbyterian Church (USA), Louisville, Kentucky.
      2. Presbyterian Church of America, Atlanta, Georgia.
      3. (Originally, the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church were at Westminster in London, England.)
    4. Who founded this movement? John Calvin (1533) and John Knox (1560).
    5. What is their authority? An appeal is made to the Scriptures as their authority. However, one also must acknowledge the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechism to be a faithful Presbyterian.
    6. Why did this new denomination start? The Presbyterian denomination had its roots in the revolt against Catholicism. The Presbyterian Church (USA) states:

      Martin Luther, a German priest and professor, started the movement known as the Protestant Reformation when he posted a list of 95 grievances against the Roman Catholic Church on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517. Some 20 years later, a French/Swiss theologian, John Calvin, further refined the reformers’ new way of thinking about the nature of God and God’s relationship with humanity in what came to be known as Reformed theology. John Knox, a Scotsman who studied with Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland, took Calvin’s teachings back to Scotland. Other Reformed communities developed in England, Holland and France. The Presbyterian Church traces its ancestry back primarily to Scotland and England.1

  2. The Five Fundamental Teachings of John Calvin’s T.U.L.I.P.
    1. Most modern denominations today incorporate some, if not all, of what has come to be known as the “T.U.L.I.P.” of Calvinism. Let’s notice what these five doctrines are and what God says about them.
    2. Total Depravity – Adam and Eve caused all of us to be born with sin automatically on our records and with an absolute inability to even respond to God of our own free will:

      Our first parents … fell from the estate of innocency wherein they were created. … [A]ll mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression. … The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, … which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions. … Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way are conceived and born in sin. … [W]e are by nature children of wrath, bond slaves to Satan, and justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.2

      Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God … [but,] by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.3

      1. Scriptures offered in support of this doctrine: Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 13:23; John 6:44; Romans 3:10-11; Ephesians 2:3; Psalm 51:5
      2. Scriptures that refute total depravity: Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Ezekiel 28:15; John 1:29; Hebrews 4:15; Deuteronomy 1:34-39; Romans 9:11; Jeremiah 19:2-6; Isaiah 7:15-16
    3. Unconditional Election/Predestination – "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined to life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestined and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed: And their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or decreased."4
      1. Scriptures offered in support of this doctrine: Romans 9:16; Ephesians 1:4; John 1:13; Exodus 33:19
      2. Scriptures that refute this doctrine: Joshua 24:15; Acts 10:34-35; Galatians 2:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Acts 2:38-39; Mark 16:15-16
    4. Limited Atonement – John Calvin taught that atonement was sufficient for all but efficient only for the elect.5 Thus, Jesus died for all men, but in reality, His death will be able to save only a few.
      1. Scriptures offered in support of this doctrine: John 10:14-15; 17:9; Ephesians 5:25
      2. Scriptures that refute this doctrine: 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Matthew 7:13-14; Titus 2: 11; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9
    5. Irresistible Grace – "This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it."6
      1. Scriptures offered in support of this doctrine: John 6:37, 39, 44-45, 65; Romans 8:28-30
      2. Scriptures that refute this doctrine (which nullifies the need for any evangelism): Titus 2:11; Acts 6:10; 7:51-55; Revelation 22:17; Matthew 11:28
    6. Perseverance of the Saints/Once Saved, Always Saved – "They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved."7 Bill Foster, Baptist preacher in Louisville, Kentucky, made this comment: "If I killed my wife and mother and debauched a thousand women I couldn’t go to hell – in fact, I couldn’t go to hell if I wanted to."8
      1. Scriptures offered in support of this doctrine: John 5:24; 6:37; Jude 24; Romans 8:31-37; Romans 11:29
      2. Scriptures that refute this doctrine: Galatians 5:4; Acts 8:20; Hebrews 6:1-12; Revelation 3:4-5; 1 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Peter 2:20; Hebrews 3:12-14
  3. Errors that the Presbyterian Denomination Advocates
    1. Presbyterians are “open-minded” on abortion.
      1. The latest major statement on abortion by a Presbyterian General Assembly came in 1992. Here is an excerpt from that position statement:

        There is [both] agreement and disagreement on the basic issue of abortion. The committee [on problem pregnancies and abortion] agreed that there are no biblical texts that speak expressly to the topic of abortion, but that taken in their totality the Holy Scriptures are filled with messages that advocate respect for the woman and child before and after birth. Therefore the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) encourages an atmosphere of open debate and mutual respect for a variety of opinions concerning the issues related to problem pregnancies and abortion.9

      2. The Scriptures are clear on the sinful nature of abortion (Amos 1:13; Jeremiah 1:5; Exodus 21:22-25; Proverbs 6:17).
    2. The Presbyterian religion believes that we should not prohibit the use of alcohol.
      1. In 1986, the reunited church adopted the following statement: "The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) does not advocate the prohibition of alcohol, a policy which would appear to attribute the entire problem to alcohol itself. Responsible and non-problematic uses of alcohol have been part of human experience and the Judeo-Christian heritage since the beginning of recorded history."10
      2. The Bible teaches that Christians should abstain from the use of alcohol except for medical purposes (Ephesians 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; Proverbs 30:4-5; 1 Peter 5:8).
    3. Presbyterians are opposed to the death penalty.
      1. In 1978, the General Assembly went on record as saying, "Capital punishment is an expression of vengeance which contradicts the justice of God on the cross."11
      2. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that the government has the God-given right to take the lives of evil people (Romans 13:1-8; Ecclesiastes 8:11).
    4. The Presbyterian denomination uses instrumental music in worship, even though John Calvin condemned it.
      1. Calvin stated, "the Papists, as I shall have occasion to show elsewhere, in employing instrumental music cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God’s ancient people as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative and terminated with the gospel."12
      2. In the New Testament, singing is always seen without the accompaniment of instruments of music (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:15).

Study Questions

  1. Compare the origin of the Presbyterian denomination with the origin of the New Testament church. Do the two match?
  2. What roles did Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox play in founding this denomination?
  3. The five main teachings of Calvinism are often associated with the acrostic TULIP. List what doctrine each letter of that acrostic represents.
  4. Total depravity teaches that man is born in sin and is evil from birth. What Scriptures refute this false doctrine?
  5. The doctrine of unconditional election teaches that some people are foreordained to be saved and some to be lost. What does this doctrine suggest about the nature of God?
  6. If Jesus died for all, but is only able to save a few, is the power of Christ’s sacrifice limited by the doctrine of Limited Atonement?
  7. The doctrine of Irresistible Grace teaches that the Spirit of God must do something to a person before he is able to receive God’s grace. Much of the Pentecostal world has capitalized on this doctrine. What passages refute the doctrine of Irresistible Grace?
  8. Prove from Scripture that Once Saved, Always Saved is not true.
  9. Presbyterians state that there are no clear passages on the topic of abortion. Prove this point false from Scripture.
  10. On moral issues like alcohol and the death penalty, Presbyterians have failed to say what God says. What Scriptures teach these practices are sinful?
  11. What did John Calvin say about Instrumental Music?


  1. 1Online: (, retrieved April 2, 2014 .
  2. 2Online: (, retrieved April 2, 2014 .
  3. 3Online: (, retrieved April 2, 2014 .
  4. 4Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter III, pp. 1-7.
  5. 5Lingle, Walter L., Presbyterians: Their History and Beliefs (John Knox Press, March 7, 1944 ), p. 41.
  6. 6Westminster Confession of Faith, Article 10.2, Online: (
  7. 7Ibid., Article 17.1.
  8. 8Bill Foster, The Weekly Worker ( March 12, 1959 ).
  9. 9Online: (, retrieved April 3, 2014 .
  10. 10Online: (, retrieved April 3, 2014 .
  11. 11Online: (, retrieved April 3, 2014 .
  12. 12Calvin’s Comments on Ps. xcii. 1. Online: (
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