If Calvinists believed in predestination what was their motive to behave well?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If people believe in predestination, as the Calvinists were supposed to, they should have no reason to behave in a proper way.  Predestination is a doctrine that holds that God already knows which people have been condemned to spend eternity in Hell and which will be able to enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Since God knows this already, people have no way to affect their fate.  They are not able to do anything that will help them get into Heaven.  On the other hand, they cannot do anything that will cause them to go to Hell.  For this reason, there is seemingly no point in obeying God’s commandments or doing any other sorts of good behaviors.  Calvinists might as well (one would think) commit every sin in the book because doing so will not change their eternal fate.  However, we know that Calvinists did not simply disobey all of God’s laws.  Instead, they tried to act according to the Commandments.  Why did they do this?

Let us look at three reasons why the Calvinists would have done this.  First, they believed that their behavior could affect their lives here on Earth.  They believed that God would reward or punish communities or other groups of people depending on whether they obeyed his will.  Even if your behavior could not affect your eternal destiny, it could have an impact on whether your country or your community would prosper.  This might be a reason to behave properly.

Second, Calvinists believed that their behavior could be an outward sign of whether they were members of the elect.  They believed that people who were destined to go to Heaven would tend to behave well on Earth.  Therefore, they would want to behave well if they could so as to make it seem more likely that they were among the elect.

Finally, we have to realize that Calvinists would also have wanted to please God out of their love for him.  Christians are not supposed to behave well simply because they fear Hell and hope for Heaven.  They are also supposed to behave well because they love God and want to please him.  Therefore, Calvinists would also have behaved well because it was what God wanted.

For these reasons, Calvinists would have tried to behave well even though they believed in predestination.

robyn-bird96 | Student

The Calvinists believed in predestination, that God had already decided what would happen.  They were elitists, believing that they were God's chosen people, and as God's chosen people, they should behave well because they need to prove that they were selected by God.  They lived a devout and holy life as a means to prove that they were different from everyone else.  The Puritans, a form of Calvinism in England and the United States, even kept tabs on each other, forcing each other to prove that they lived a righteous life.

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