October 23, 2017

Whither Calvinism?

I’m a bad Calvinist. (UPDATE 4/05. I’m not longer a Calvinist.) Meaning, I’ll call myself a Calvinist, but I have more than a few exceptions and quibbles with Calvinism. So when someone in the camp speaks up plainly and says things aren’t quite perfect, I will listen.

This extended quote comes from someone at Pilgrim Publications. It has a bit of “Wretched Urgency” in it, but it also has a lot of truth. It’s well worth hearing a couple of times. Calvinists…what do you think?

The challenge that now confronts this theological train is, where does it go from here? Shall it expand or expire? “Go to seed” and rot, or flourish evangelically? Mr. Iain Murray complains in his book, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, that “it may well be that we have not been sufficiently alert to the danger of allowing a supposed consistency in doctine to override the biblical priority of zeal for Christ and the souls of men” (page xiv).Calvinism’s immediate future as an aggressive evangelistic entity with “zeal for Christ and the souls of men” may hinge upon a few fundamental elements:

1. The respectful toleration of differing theological concepts held by others who have little understanding or appreciation of Calvinism as a system, yet are engaged in evangelistic outreach. Hardcore, hardline, hardheaded, hair-splitting Calvinism which becomes isolationist, exclusivist, nitpicking, and deliberately confrontational in attitude will generally be perceived as “hyperism,” “extremism,” and “sectarian,” if not “cultic.”

2. Engagement in aggressive, simplistic evangelism. The average Joe and Jane, Jose and Maria, will only be reached and converted with the basic Gospel, not with the layers of logical propositions which characterize theological systems of thought. Ministers and churches rooted in Calvinistic principles will not make converts to Christ except by the simple A-B-C Gospel. Calvinists must devote evangelistic effort to convert the unsaved rather than being overly evangelistic in efforts to make proselyted theologians of those already converted. Too often we have witnessed churches begin with a few proselyted believers, then “die on the vine” for lack of evangelistic, soul winning outreach to the unsaved around them. The “reformed” pedobaptists, such as the proteges of Berkhof, Sproul, and Murray, have little to be concerned about in the making of disciples, so long as they have families which beget their own “converts” biologically; but Baptists have only the Gospel as the means of making converts. If Baptists do not win converts with the Gospel, they will not grow and thrive for the cause of God and truth, therefore evangelism is imperative.

3. Magnify Christ and the Word of God more than Calvinism as a theological system. One does not have to be a Calvinist to be a good Christian, nor does being a Calvinist make one a good Christian. And contrary to some, the two are not necessarily synonymous. It is not more important to be Calvinist in theological thought than to put Christ and the Bible first in practical living.

4. Avoiding attachments to certain tangents on theological concepts. There has always been a tendency associated with the acceptance of Calvinism of “going to seed” on certain issues, riding a hobbyhorse. It is especially noticeable today on the Internet, how much “muscle flexing” on certain points of Calvinism is emphasized by some websites. It’s like going to a Cafeteria and the only selections offered are steak, ham, pork, chicken and turkey, but no veggies, beans, potatoes, salads, fruits, relishes, breads, desserts and condiments. Variety is still the “spice of life” and there is more in the Bible than strong doctrine and theology.