I have a question that may seem odd, but bear with me. Basically, I'm wondering whether there's any Jewish theology analogous to Calvinist Christianity. I am NOT wondering about the salvation/sacrifice/Jesus aspect per se, since obviously there's no analogy there. Instead, I'm wondering about Calvin's general view of God and humanity.

The basic tenets of Calvinism, in a nutshell, are:

  • You're inherently awful and loathsome
  • Even if you do all the right things, that doesn't get you into Heaven
  • There's an in-group (Heaven-bound) and an out-group (Hell-bound), chosen by God for His own inscrutable reasons and not for their merits, such as they are
  • Whether you're In or Out, nothing you do can change your status. (So if you're going to Heaven, no amount of sinning will change God's mind.)

I know there are plenty of sources that talk about God's sovereignty (e.g., Job and Qohelet both talk about the impossibility of trying to know the mind of God). So I'm not asking about that. This is about whether the Calvinist emphasis on human depravity and helplessness exists in Jewish theology, and, if so, where.

  • Doesn’t Calvinism reject free will?
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 1:37
  • 8
    would "no" be an acceptable answer?
    – rosends
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 1:53
  • @DonielF As I understand it, yes, but I know that there are several subtypes of Calvinism, of different degrees of stringency. So there might be some variation there.
    – crmdgn
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 2:02
  • 1
    @ezra actually "No" may just be the only answer with nothing to back it up. The OP is asking for the possibility of a universal negative. Sometimes one cannot prove a negative. Example: Does Judaism believe in vampires? Answer: No. The answer is based on the fact that the Torah makes no mention of vampires. It is not the answer's job to find a verse stating" And Moses said: vampires do not exist." So sometimes No is sufficient. Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 8:33
  • 1
    @crm judaism.stackexchange.com/q/5687/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 13:09

1 Answer 1


That philosophy violates some core tenets of Judaism:

  • The concepts of teshuva and atonement are very important in Judaism, and say that we can repair a damaged relationship with God. The "you're damned and there's nothing you can do about it" idea is in direct opposition to that. Even non-Jews who God had decreed against (Nineveh in the book of Yonah) were able to save themselves. Every year we have Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, on which -- if we have returned from our bad ways, made amends, and asked for forgiveness -- we receive atonement. For more about atonement, see this article from Chabad.

  • Christianity, and thus Calvinism, has as a core concept "original sin", that people are born sinful and must be "saved". Judaism, on the other hand, holds that we have a yetzer hatov (good inclination) and a yetzer hara (bad inclination) (more information) and that we need both. Having the yetzer hara does not make us evil or sinful; in fact, it is necessary for life (Yoma 69b).

  • It sounds like Calvinism has quotas -- some people are going to Heaven and some to Hell (we don't really do Hell either, not in the way Christians do), and there's nothing you can do about it. Judaism aspires to a time when the whole world will follow God, as expressed in the Aleinu prayer that is part of every service.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .