Calvinism is natively experiential. Before it is a theological system, Calvinism is deeply affectional, God-centered, cross-magnifying religion. A man may loudly trumpet his adherence to the distinctive tenets of Calvinism, but if his life is not marked by delight in God and His gospel, his professed Calvinism is a sham. In other words, there is no such thing as “dead Calvinism.” Such is a theological oxymoron for one simple reason: Calvinism claims to be biblical religion, and biblical religion is not only profoundly theological, it is deeply experiential and engagingly affectional! Wherever men and women claim to be Calvinists, their lives and their ministries will pulse with life—the life of living, Spirit-inspired, Christ-glorifying, God-centered truth. – Ian Hamilton
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As a teenager growing up in east Fort Worth, in the summer of 1995, I can remember it well. Stuck in the doldrums of my own sin, like a washing machine on spin cycle, I was miserable. With a number of dark industrial bands blaring in the background of my room, in anger I tried to ignore and suppress the Lord calling me, until one day this guy showed up to my house, in my room, and brought a presence with him that I couldn’t explain. We chatted some, then he looked at my CD collection and said very directly, “You need to get rid of all these and throw them away.” Now normally, anyone else could have told me this and I would have cynically blown it off as some religiousy call to “clean my act up.” Not that day.
A recent formal doctrinal statement on the nature of salvation (or in technical theological terms, soteriology, or the study of salvation) signed on to by none other than Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (as one example), amongst others, like Emir Caner, is making quite the stir, even amongst classical Arminians (click to read). The statement was meant to counter what they view as the “threat” of Calvinism spreading in the SBC. At best, it is theological and historical sloppiness. At worst, it is theological and historical revisionism and an open slide toward heresy as it relates to the nature of man’s will as a result of the transmission of the sin of Adam to mankind.
The authors and signers claim they are speaking for the traditional view of the SBC on the issue of salvation. However, as Tom Ascol from Founders Ministries points out, this is hardly the case. Hopefully this will bring to light some issues that have been brewing for quite some time. They have drawn a line in the sand and either need to repent or split in my opinion. Yes, it’s that serious. These issues go beyond Calvinism versus Arminianism into the issues of Original Sin and the nature of the will, pre/post-fall, no less. In addition, I’ve included Tom Ascol’s response. Read on:
Part 1 – Tom Ascol (Beginning of Response)
Semi-Pelagian/Pelagian Point in Question: The Recent SBC Statement on Salvation: A Point of Concern – John Aloisi
And finally, for a historical, theological background on what the early church concluded pertaining to not only Pelagianism but Semi-Pelagianism, you just have to read the Canons of Orange from 529 AD.
From a Reformation Theology post in 2007. It is a good reminder that we have more in common with Arminians than we’re willing to admit many times. We stake out our positions (even if we’re right) at the expense of common ground, that is, that we’re united in Christ alone, same Lord, same faith, same eternal commonality:
In a sermon on Romans 9:16, Charles Simeon [Puritan] declared, “Many there are who cannot see these truths [the doctrines of God’s sovereignty], who yet are in a state truly pleasing to God; yea many, at whose feet the best of us may be glad to be found in heaven. It is a great evil, when these doctrines are made a ground of separation one from another, and when the advocates of different systems anathematize each other. . . . In reference to truths which are involved in so much obscurity as those which relate to the sovereignty of God mutual kindness and concession are far better than vehement argumentation and uncharitable discussion” (Horae Homileticae, Vol. 15, p. 357).
Simeon lived out this counsel is seen in the way he conversed with the elderly John Wesley. He tells the story himself:
“Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?
Yes, I do indeed.
And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?
Yes, solely through Christ.
But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?
No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.
Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?
What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?
And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?
Yes, I have no hope but in Him.
Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.” (Moule, 79f)
As I was reading Hebrews 10 last night, I came across a verse I’ve read many times, but thought I’d comment on. The verse is verse 14, which states, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” In other words, by the single offering, blood atoning, propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, He has perfected (past tense, i.e. it happened in history) for all time the very people who are being (present tense) sanctified (made holy). His sacrifice was not a potential sacrifice. His sacrifice accomplished something objectively, for certain people, namely those who are being sanctified now, i.e. believers. This work is something that has happened to them, not by their initiation per se, but by His own perfect, infinite power and work on the cross in particular, as stated here. His work accomplished the very perfecting necessary to bring people into heaven. However, not everyone is perfected. Therefore His sacrifice was made for particular persons, namely the remnant, chosen by His grace (Ephesians 1 expands upon this).
“To this reviewer the Reformed Faith means four things. First, there is a love for Martin Luther and what God wrought through him in the amazing re-establishment of the doctrine of justification by faith and clarity about salvation which has its source in the sovereign grace of God and not in the merit of the free will of man. Second, the Reformed Faith is confessional. I subscribe to all the chapters of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, known as the 1689 Confession. That Confession is the legacy of the English Puritans. Third, there is the clarity of the Five Points (TULIP) formulated at the Synod of Dort. Fourth, there is passion. Another word for passion is love. The church at Ephesus was commended for orthodoxy but was running low on love (Rev. 2:1-7). The doctrines of grace mean little if they reside merely in the head and do not live with love and passion in the heart. And if grace rules in the heart we will not be sectarian, cultish, censorious, judgmental or superior to others who are not ruled by grace.”
“So how do things stand now in the USA? To discover more about the Calvinistic resurgence Collin Hansen’s first call was to the ministry of John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Hansen describes Piper (whose signature book Desiring God has sold 275,000 copies) as the chief spokesman for the Calvinist resurgence among young evangelicals. In the year 2000 40,000 students gathered at a venue near Memphis to listen to John Piper on the theme ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’. Subsequently 250,000 copies of Piper’s book with that title have sold. If Piper is the most influential living leader in the resurgence then Jonathan Edwards is the most read theologian from the past.”
“This is not the time for Reformed triumphalism. It is time for quiet gratitude to God and earnest intercessory prayer, with tears, that what has begun will flourish beyond all human expectation.” – D.A. Carson
Link originally found here: http://www.reformationtheology.com/2008 … nce_in.php
I have asked a few people this now, and the overwhelming majority of those I asked said that what did it for them was the section on limited atonement in the position paper entitled What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism written by John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church. I was actually kind of surprised to hear this because for most people, this point is by far the most controversial. But upon thinking about it, I can also see now why it makes sense that this would be the one thing convincing people of Reformed theology’s truthfulness.
When you start distinguishing Christ’s sacrificial work, not as something that He just lobbed out there for us to grab a hold of by our own supposed moral power, but rather paint the Scriptural picture that Christ’s death is what effected even your faith in Him, you begin to see a stark contrast. It is the difference between an atonement that did not go the extra mile to raise you from the dead and get you in its benefits, and an atonement that grabbed a hold of you when you were running headlong into hell, dead in trespasses and sins, regenerating your will that was in bondage to sin, giving you eyes to see when you were blind, ears to hear when you were deaf, and a new heart made anew in the likeness of Jesus’ heart, that will inevitably be fully conformed to His one day. It is the difference between an atonement presented where Christ made it available to all and saves no one in particular effectively, and an atonement of power presented in the Scriptures that grabbed a hold of the sinners’ soul and will, raising them from the dead, breathing life into them when there was none there to start with.
I don’t know about others, but the latter descriptions above, in each instance, is how I was saved. I did not get myself “in” His benefits, but rather He got me “in” at the cross, from beginning to end. He united me to Himself and nothing could stop Him. I take no credit for my love for God, my faith, and my affirmation of the reality and truthfulness of the Gospel. That was God’s work, specifically effected in the cross of Christ, His atonement. What child of God in heaven is going to ever take credit for their coming to Christ? Was this itself not the work of God?
John Owen has a rather long quote in The Death of Death that Jon Dansby summarized a while back that I think is really helpful in distinguishing the difference between the common, American, traditional, “churchy” perception of the atonement and the atonement presented in the Scriptures: “If Christ died for all in the same way and faith itself is not a gift of the cross, then those who are in heaven have no more to thank Christ for than those who are in hell.” Why? Because they got themselves in. How does that honor God? That’s just wrong on so many levels.
The term limited atonement is very misleading because it makes it sound as if we are saying the power of Christ’s atonement is limited. But that is not what is intended, which is why I like the terms definite atonement or particular redemption more, but it messes up the TULIP acrostic. But oh well, who needs a silly acrostic anyway? The power of Christ’s atonement is infinite, able to save an infinite number of lost souls. I confess with John Calvin that the atonement is “sufficient for the whole world, but efficient for the elect,” that is Christ bought for His people more than just the possibility and opportunity of salvation, He actually and really bought their souls at the cross, making sure they would get in, which includes the purchasing and granting of the gifts of faith, repentance, the desire and the very will to come to Christ.
This section of Piper’s article apparently seems to be the most convincing argument for many people when it pertains to Reformed theology, because it is riddled with Scripture that shows these truths to be self-evident. But I know many others have been convinced of the truthfulness of them in other ways. Regardless, it may be helpful for some of you who are just not quite sure about the whole thing or those who are opposed to them, to go through this rather short section.
There are many people out there, including the Reformed, who have done a terrible job of presenting these truths in a way that is loving, Biblical frankly, and God-honoring. For that I am sorry. But what camp or movement does not have those within its circles who do a terrible job of presenting their positions, who are also the most vocal, yet also the minority of those confessing the position? To discount Reformed theology because a few loud, vocal wing nuts who were arrogant, emotionally heated, and unloving in their desire to prove these truths to you, does not negate the truthfulness of the teachings themselves. So just give it a chance and check it out.
How about me, you ask? What convinced me? Well, I was simply presented with the five points and Reformed theology in high school, and because of how God had previously worked in my life to save me, they just made sense. Of course God chose me first! I was running away from Him when He invaded my life. Of course He had me in mind when He purchased me with His blood before I came into existence. He set His affection on me in eternity. This just made sense and squared with the picture of God’s love in the Scriptures. Basically, by God’s grace alone, I needed no convincing, because the Scriptural salvation truths echoed within Calvinism exactly matched up with my salvation experience. God saved me, I did nothing, faith was just the inevitable response of a heart supernaturally changed by grace alone.
For those of you who claim to be Calvinists (or even if you don’t really), this is a must read article. So you’re a Calvinist. Alright then: have you seen God, been shocked by His glory and your utter unworthiness before Him, as to why He would have mercy on you through the work of Christ and not another?
Here are some quotes:
“I say by way of application, do not talk about being a Calvinist simply because your itch for logical consistency has been relieved by Calvinism’s theological system. Have you seen God? Have you been brought near to Him? That is the issue. I remind you of the words of B. B. Warfield: ‘A Calvinist is a man who has seen God’.”
“The expression, a proud Calvinist, is a misnomer. If a Calvinist is a man who has seen God as He is high and lifted up, enthroned, then he is a man who has been brought to brokenness before that throne as was Isaiah. A carnal Calvinist? Another misnomer! The enthroned One is the holy One, and He dwells in conscious communion with those who are rightly related to Him as the enthroned One and as the holy One. These two things are brought together beautifully in Isaiah 57:15 where the prophet says: ‘Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and a humble spirit’. What is contrition? It is the reaction of a sinner in the presence of a holy God; and, what is humility? It is the reaction of a subject in the presence of a sovereign. Isaiah never forgot this vision, and he says, ‘This great God dwells in that high and holy place, with him also that is of a humble and a contrite spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’”
“If your understanding of Calvinistic thinking has led you to the place where you can, as it were, boast in your liberty and use it as an occasion for licence, then you have never become a biblical Calvinist. God makes Calvinists today the same way he made them in Isaiah’s day.”
“I submit that a man has no right to speak of being a Calvinist because he can repeat like a parrot phrases brought to him in the great heritage of Reformed literature. He must ask himself, Has the Holy Spirit brought me to this profound sense of God that has worked in me at least in some measure the grace of humility. Has God endowed me with gifts and abilities? if so, what have I that I did not receive? Who makes me to differ? if God has endowed me with gifts and abilities whether intellectual or otherwise, I acknowledge that I have those because a Sovereign upon a throne was pleased to dispense them to me, and the only difference between me and that poor retarded child that moves the pity of my heart, is that He was pleased to make me different. ‘Who maketh thee to differ?’ The man who stands in the presence of a God upon the throne, and who has had this sight and sense of the majesty of God, recognizes that all that he has, has been given. Humility is not diffidence. Humility is that disposition of honest recognition: He is God, I am but a creature. All that I have comes from him and must be rendered to him in praise, and in honour. It will bring with it the submission that we see in Isaiah. He sits upon a throne; I have no rights to assert, but I have the unspeakable privilege of knowing and doing his will. Was not that the reflex action of Isaiah? The Lord is upon the throne; I am the creature. What else can I do but say, ‘Here am I?’”
Here is another excellent quote about the point of Calvinistic doctrine by James White:
“[The Doctrines of Grace] tell us that God is the one who saves, for His own glory, and freely. And they tell us that He does so only through Christ, only on the basis of His grace, only with the perfection that marks everything the Father, Son, and Spirit do. The doctrines of grace separate the Christian faith from the works-based religions of men. They direct us away from ourselves and solely to God’s grace and mercy. They destroy pride, instill humility, and exalt God. And that’s why so many invest so much time in the vain attempt to undermine their truth. The religions of men maintain authority over their followers by 1) limiting God’s power, 2) exalting man’s abilities, and 3) ‘channeling’ God’s power through their own structures. A perfect salvation that is freely bestowed by God for His own glory is not a ‘system’ that can be controlled by a religious body or group. And even more importantly, such a system is destructive of any sense of pride in the creature man, and if there is anything man’s religions must safeguard, it is man’s ‘self esteem.'”
Best explanation of Calvinism I have read (Another must read!): http://www.davidwesterfield.net/static. … =calvinism
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:44
When sticking with this one verse (Jesus’ own statement) you cannot escape the conclusion: No one comes to Jesus, believes in Jesus, cares anything about Jesus, unless the Father who sent Jesus draws that person to Him, and the one who comes to Christ in faith will be raised on the last day. Which comes first, the giving of the person by the Father to Jesus, or the person coming to Jesus? This verse is clear. The Father does something that has an effect. Regeneration (the new birth) precedes and gives rise to faith, monergism. Bryson attempts to reconcile his free-will theology with what is plainly stated in this verse.