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While the Reformed theological tradition addresses all of the traditional topics of Christian theology, the word Calvinism is sometimes used to refer to particular Calvinist views on soteriology and predestination, which are summarized in part by the Five Points of Calvinism.

Some have also argued that Calvinism as a whole stresses the sovereignty or rule of God in all things including salvation.

The 1549 Consensus Tigurinus brought together those who followed Zwingli and Bullinger's memorialist theology of the Lord's supper, which taught that the supper simply serves as a reminder of Christ's death, and Calvin's view that the supper serves as a means of grace with Christ actually present, though spiritually rather than bodily.

The document demonstrates the diversity as well as unity in early Reformed theology.

This and the Belgic Confession were adopted as confessional standards in the first synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1571.

Calvinism was adopted in the Electorate of the Palatinate under Frederick III, which led to the formulation of the Heidelberg Catechism in 1563, and in Navarre by Jeanne d'Albret.Even though the vast majority of churches that trace back their history to Calvin (including Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and a row of other Calvinist churches) do not use it themselves, since the designation "Reformed" is more generally accepted and preferred, especially in the English-speaking world.Moreover, these churches claim to be—in accordance with John Calvin's own words—"renewed accordingly with the true order of gospel".Each of these theologians also understood salvation to be by grace alone, and affirmed a doctrine of particular election (the teaching that some people are chosen by God for salvation).Martin Luther and his successor Philipp Melanchthon were undoubtedly significant influences on these theologians, and to a larger extent later Reformed theologians.