Fad. Driven. Calvinism.

By Nathan White

The mention yesterday of the Christianity Today article is a perfect introduction to the topic of this post.

“…my advice to young Calvinists is to learn your theology from the historic mainstream Calvinist authors, not from blogs and discussion forums on the Internet. Some of the forums may be helpful in pointing you to more important resources. But if you think of them as a surrogate for seminary, you’re probably going to become an ugly Calvinist—and if you get hit in the face with a rotten egg, you probably deserve it.” – Phil Johnson, ‘Quick and Dirty Calvinism

Over that past several years, we have witnessed a resurgence of sorts in regards to reformed theology, particularly in regards to Calvinism. This shift towards accurate New Testament theology is happening to some extent within all age parameters, but is certainly most notable among the ‘younger generation’. Personally, I see this recovery of sound doctrine as a backlash of the easy-believism, seeker-sensitive movement that has captivated evangelicalism for many years. Once people come out of that mindset and focus on getting back to the Bible, lo and behold they begin to see what the bible actually teaches. Nevertheless, this resurgence is not absent of its weaknesses, as I wish to highlight one of those concerns today:

Fad. Driven. Calvinism.

A while back, one of my anti-Calvinist friends was a little fed-up with not having a solid answer to some of the scripture-passages brought up in our discussion. During the course of our conversation, he made a fallacious comment that has stuck with me for quite some time:

“Calvinism is just a fad right now. I don’t know why, but everybody and their brother is turning into a Calvinist, especially the younger crowd –and all they want to do is sit around and argue for their position. Let’s pick this discussion back up in 5-8 years and you will see that fads like these do not last long. Just wait. You won’t believe these things for long.” (paraphrased).

He then went on to explain that this fad, Calvinism, is coming from the popularity of people like John Piper –an emotional, ‘rebellious’ type of speaker that is easily winning over the younger crowd, and that this fad was no different than the WWJD, Prayer of Jabez, Rick Warren craze that we are all familiar with -only that Calvinism is just a little more complicated and is geared towards intellectualism.

At first I wrote his comments off, as they were spoken in the heat of a moment when the position he so proudly held was crumbling upon a closer, exegetical examination of Romans 9. But upon further reflection and experience, I believe that there is some definite truth to his words. Here are a few reasons why:

Rebellion:

Too harsh of a term? Probably so, but at least you get the point. A better understanding might be to use the term ‘dissent’.

AW Tozer once said:

“The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, “Come and assert yourself for Christ.” To the egotist it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrill- seeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship.” The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.”

My point has nothing to do with the specific message itself (unlike Tozer above), but rather, it has everything to do with the self-fulfilling benefits of reformed theology. Just as people come to Christ to fulfill their desire for thrills (while easing the conscience), young people are flocking towards Calvinism to fulfill their desire for dissent.

Calvinism can be a thrill, let me tell you. Those who oppose it usually hate it with a passion. Those who have never heard of it are quick to repulse it with great fervor -and getting these reactions out of people can be very satisfying to some. In a church-culture that is decidedly free-will, a Calvinist does not have to go far to find dissent. A bent for rebelling against authority will quickly yield numerous opportunities for the fad-driven Calvinist to display his dissent with authority. Dissent towards an older generation is unfortunately, in my opinion, a breeding ground for Calvinism right now. It has made the Calvinist position a desirable fad among those who do not like to submit to authority.

Piper, Mark Driscoll, and other influential pastors towards young people:

If you haven’t noticed, John Piper is a huge hit among the younger crowd right now. Personally, I love Piper and I thank God for his wonderful ministry. He has immensely contributed to my spiritual growth. But, Piper often preaches a message of ‘get radical’, and of ‘do something crazy’, perhaps mimicking Jonathan Edwards’ 6th resolution:

“Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.”

Or, instead, his 52nd resolution:

“I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.”

This type of message, though commendable and essentially Biblical (denying yourself no matter the cost in order to serve Christ), can sometimes breed the rebellion discussed above. Like Tozer said, people sometimes come to Christ simply because they want to fulfill their fleshly pleasures without the ache of conscience. So likewise, the younger crowd likes to hear someone tell them to lose control. They hear this and then come to Calvinism, so to speak, in order to fulfill their desire to be unconventional, to get radical, to go against the flow. Young adults are easily susceptible to making quick, rash decisions rather than giving time for thought and prayer, and ensuring that a decision isn’t made simply out of emotion.

Please do not get me wrong, I am not faulting Piper for anything. As I mentioned, Tozer was harping on the message, I am not. I simply wanted to point out how Piper’s tendencies toward radical Christianity, a marvelous message indeed, have attracted some crowds for the wrong reasons: just more dissent towards authority. And because Piper is a staunch Calvinist, praise God, young people are latching on to his message and then identifying themselves with what he believes –before they actually understand his message. This must be understood in light of my next point:

Anti-Intellectual, believe it or not:

Well, maybe ignorance is a better term. But I can’t tell you how many young people I have run into lately who can recite the 5 points word for word, but don’t have a clue how this plays out in their daily lives. They don’t even have a clue as to how to explain passages that counter their opinion. They don’t have a clue on how to defend their position from a Biblical standpoint rather than a philosophical or a reasoning standpoint. They don’t have a clue how these doctrines should affect their daily walk. They don’t have a clue how the sovereignty of God should affect our methodologies, our evangelism, our preaching, our praying, etc.

In a recent conversation, I was observing a friend arguing long and hard for limited atonement, and the man he was arguing with, an Arminian, threw out 2 Peter 2:1 as evidence that the atonement was made for unbelievers as well. After reading the verse, my Calvinist friend just said, ‘wow, I had never thought of that one before, I guess I will have to look at this a little closer and get back with you. But I know one thing, it doesn’t mean what you say it means.’

I was a little stunned. Not because of his gracefullness in admitting that he didn’t have all of the answers -that was definitely a breath of fresh air. But I was surprised that he was advocating such a deep doctrine without even dealing with the tough passages that seemingly lead in the direction of a general atonement. In addition, I was sad to hear him affirm that he was right, but that he didn’t know why. That is simply advocating a position because you have heard it from others instead of learning it by way of personal study. I told him, ‘are you telling me that you hold to the ‘L’ and you haven’t dealt with 2 Peter 2:1!! How can you say you have studied this enough to come to a firm opinion on the matter?’

So then, we have people (young people especially) who have a bent for dissent. They have a bent for radical living as if there were no rules. They enjoy speakers like John Piper, and they latch on to his message -which by default makes them agree with his Calvinist theology, and so they identify themselves as believing in what he believes without ever understanding the real issues.

Unfortunately, I believe that these concerns are most evident among young people of all denominations, but that they are also evident among some older people in the SBC. I have many friends who attend rank Arminian, seeker-sensitive, shallow-gospel SBC churches, who claim to know and love the doctrines of grace, and who have no real clue as to why this should change the way their church does things. Yeah, they will disagree with their pastor on a few minor points of theology, but to them they don’t see why it ultimately matters by way of methodology, or philosophy of ministry, and they don’t know the doctrines well-enough to see how they play out in holiness of living.

Let’s be cautious of this fad-driven mentality, please. May we shed the ‘wine and cheese theologian’ label (no pun intended towards Res. 5). May we study these doctrines not to recite them in a debate, not to use them as a righteous weapon that gives us the right for dissent, and not simply because it is becoming the cool thing to identify with. Let us study these doctrines to know God more fully, to grow in holiness, and with the intense purpose of letting these doctrines change the way we live, breath and think. Studying these doctrines without submitting to the obedience that they demand is nothing short of idolatry.

Don’t be mistaken, the doctrines of grace are of most profitable to proclaim, as Paul through the Holy Spirit identifies below. May we go and do likewise:

Titus 3:4: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

SDG

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26 Comments on “Fad. Driven. Calvinism.”

  1. Gene Says:

    This shift towards accurate New Testament theology is happening to some extent within all age parameters, but is certainly most notable among the ‘younger generation’.

    Actually, Nathan, I’d say it’s mora accurate biblical theology as a whole. My OT Theology is much stronger and clearer because of where I stand on these issues. Paul did not write his letters in a vacuum. Jesus did not preach his sermons in a vaccuum. The promise-fulfillment cycles link the two testaments and thus the covenants. Calvinism depends on covenantal arrangements. The doctrine of imputation is related to this. Adam fails the Covenant of Works, Christ fulfills it. God makes a covenant with Abraham; he is justified by faith alone; Christ administers that to us in the New Covenant. The use of the Law in evangelism is related to this.

    Now, Calvinism itself does range along a continuum from progressive dispys to Covenantalists, to NCT. Of these NCT is the mediating position, but it is becoming more covenantal over time. The dispy’s often agree with Covenantalism too. All three of these strands are trying to view Scripture as a unity. So, it’s not just about NT theology, its also about OT theology and the unity of Scripture.

  2. Mathew Sims Says:

    Nathan,
    This article hits the nail on the head. I just recently heard (from a friend who attended the ordination of a mutual friend) that at an ordination a friend when asked about Calvinism said he was a four point Calvinists…nothing wrong with that. The council asked him to explain election and what he believed and he said that he could not.

    They asked him which point he rejected and (of course) it was Limited Antonement, but when asked to explain why he rejected it he said he could not.

    Off topic, they asked him to explain his eschatology and he said he was a pretrib/premil, but then could not explain his position from Scripture.

    He was ordained regardless, but I just think it sad for a couple reasons. First, like you said, how can you say “I believe this,” but not be able to explain it from Scripture ESPECIALLY If you are going to be preaching and a pastor. Second, how could other elders and pastors feel that these issues are not important enough to say “study this out and we can talk again.”

    Anyways…good post. May we never accept a position as ours without studying it from Scripture. May we not teach the doctrines of grace just to be cool or in the in crowd, but b/c these doctrines above all other exalt the Lord and give Him the glory.

    MBS
    Soli Deo Gloria

  3. Joe L. Says:

    Nathan, thanks for your thoughts, my experience here in the hinterlands of religion (near Seattle, Driscoll country…) bear the same testimony. In local Reformed circles, intellectualism and legalism is rampant, which has always mystified me since coming to the Reformed faith years ago. When I study the older authors on Reformed theology, there is richness in their writings, and real concern for the soul of man. I call it affection theology. Much of what we find on the Internet these days is simple ego-driven Calvinism, playing to the intellect (which is not a bad thing, I guess…), which, to me, is a contradiction in terms.

    I have always though the most humble folks should be people who understand Reformed theology, but that is not always the case. I pray that the wonderful doctrines of Reformed theology spread, and that real reform will come to our churches, because don’t we need that?? Just like what Gene said above, Paul did not write in a vacuum, and we do not live in one either. We must be serving in our churches, and of all people, Reformed folk should care about their local church. Yet, so many young Reformed I meet are not too concerned with church, but rather debate and the finer points of the infra/supra debate (for example. J.

    I am no anti-intellectual by any means, but there must be balance, and there must be charity. The affections must play a role in our theology. It always blows my mind when I speak with other Reformed folk, and the topic of love is non-existent. What is that? Again, of all people, we should know what love is!!!

    Anyway, thanks again Nate for your thoughts, I always appreciate them.

    In Christ,
    Joe

  4. Revyrev Says:

    Nathan,

    I think your assesment of the mentality of Calvinism among young people is accurate.

    But let me suggest that what looks like rebelion, anti-intelectualism comes with the

    Fact is, when a your worldview shifts to the raedically God centered paradigm of calvanistic theology it rocks a young person’s world.

    What people saw as rebellion to me felt like trying not to compromise truth and concience

    What people saw as fadish was simply a movement of influence. Call it fad, or young people entering the calvinistic paradigm and being so changed by it they convince others the truth of it.

    What seems as anti-intelectual are young people figuring the ins and out of a new paradigm. Sometimes young people who embrace the God centered worldview of Calvinism havn’t got the categories straightened out complety.

    So as accuate as your assesment is i don’t know if it encourages a wisdom in how to understand and associate with young calvinists.

    May i suggest that many of these young people are stuggling with their concience and conviction that rubs against the grain of all they were told before. They need to be encouraged, strengthened, and mobilized by the older reformed community. But if we mock them, scold them, and tell these bunch of enthusiasts to “sit down”, we are only hurting what God is doing among young and growing calvinists

  5. eric Says:

    I don’t understand how this term, “intellectualism and legalism is rampant”
    is manifested.
    Please give me some concrete examples of the “intellectualism”
    and “legalism” shown by some folks.

    Thanks Bro,
    Eric

  6. Josh Says:

    “The doctrines of the bible are not a subject to be studied; rather we should desire to know them in order that, having known them, we may not be ‘puffed up’ with knowledge, and excited about our information, but may draw nearer to God in worship, praise, and adoration, because we have seen, in a fuller way than we have ever seen before the glory of our wondrous God.”
    –Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Great Doctrines of the Bible

    Too many folks are excited about all their information. They have the intellectual capacity to understand the concepts of Reformed theology but they haven’t nailed it all down with scripture yet. They’re like those people Paul was talking to in Athens who were excited about this new thing he was discussing, but only because it was new. I’ve been there, though, and its not to do that when you’re so full of energy and you’ve just got do do something all the time. I’m not that young, but I have spent too much of my life ministering to others by disgorging information at them. I’d rather know the Lord. Thats a lot better.

  7. Terry C Says:

    When I saw the cover of Christianity Today I thought, “Great! An article about us!” Then I remembered that I am a 50 something homeschool mom with kids in their late teens. Has anyone done a connect with the resurgence of Reformed Theology and the growth of homeschooling among evangelicals? We didn’t start out reformed (we were strong dispensationalist with SBC roots), but as we have endeavored to teach math, science, history, the scriptures, etc. in one integrated whole we began to bump up against people we had never heard of before (or at least not much). People like Wycliffe, Luther, Huss, Knox, Calvin, Edwards, Judson, Jim & Eliazabeth Elliott, Francis & Edith Schaeffer, Douglas Wilson, John Piper, Joshua Harris, CJ & Caronlyn Mahaney, Mark Dever, etc. You get the picture. Just as we took back out children’s education from the schools, we also took back their “instruction in righteousness”.

    Piper was not the first from whom we heard the battle cry to “do hard things”. It was from Reb Bradley, a homeschool dad and pastor in California who speaks at homeschool conventions about parenting issues. He compared typical American parenting with a cruise ship (hope you are having fun so you will continue cruising with us) and effective Christian parenting with a battle ship (we are in a war, it is not about us, and you are being trained for battle).

    It was in the late night discussions with our teenagers that we would delve into the scriptures and started seeing the fallacy of the me-centered gospel and the glory of the God-centered gospel. I took the plunge into understanding TULIP when I became a little baffled by CJ & Carolyn Mahaney. How can someone grasp the depravity of his sin and yet laugh with such abandon? How does a family find such joy together while confronting each other about their sin? Why does he read so many puritans?

    I wish I had understood the doctrines of grace sooner, but the kids say they are grateful we are on the journey together. They say they benefit from our struggles. Their dad confronts and cautions them (and me) on their over-zealousness. We continue to confront the local church who wants to entertain our kids, but the children have become very discerning students (critical thinkers?).

    So again my question from a different angle – is the growth of reformed theology partly due to fathers taking back their families for Jesus Christ and men (many of them young) asking hard questions from scripture about how to do that?

  8. George H. Rank Says:

    I guess I’m the exception. I came to understand the doctrines of grace at age 63. Previous to this point in my life I have to admit I walked in arrogance and pride thinking I was somehow superior in intellect to others who were not smart enough or spiritual enough to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. When I came to realize that my salvation was due all to God’s grace and Him choosing me and not my superior intellect or ability it impacted my relationship with Christ beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
    Sharing this with other christians has at times been difficult, in fact in most cases I simply state I believe that scripture teaches the doctrines of grace and if I am asked to explain I do. I refuse to be drawn into debates and “proof texts” discussions. I believe if people are truly open to study and understand God’s word then fruitful discussion can be had. I am not interested in winning arguements.
    I truly feel grieved if people are using the doctrines of grace (Calvinism) as a fad or a vehicle to show rebellion or to be part of the “in crowd”.

  9. J.D. Says:

    My children were all grown and on their own before I came to know “reformed” theology. All in God’s time, they will come to know also, but oh how I wish that they had been raised under reformed teaching!

    BTW my journey into calvinism was helped greatly by the internet. I don’t understand Phil Johnson’s concern in that area.

  10. Fred Butler Says:

    It seems as though your friend is a tad historically unaware, because there was a similar resurgence with Reformed theolgy and Calvinism under the ministry of Martin-Lloyd Jones during the 1950s.

    I see it as a reaction to excellent, solid biblical exposition of the text of scripture. The more people get serious about the authority of the Bible, the more they come to love the sovereign grace of Calvinism. MLJ, Piper, and MacArthur are serious about the text of scripture and present it with expository preaching. Thus will produce people who love Calvinism.

    Fred

  11. Joe L. Says:

    Hi Eric,

    I assume you question is directed at me… Thanks for the question regarding clarification, I probably should have been more specific. My wife and I decided two years ago to leave the church we had been attending to find a Reformed congregation in our area to become involved in, with the goal of becoming members. At the time, I did not care if the church was Reformed Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist. So, we started our search by attending various churches in the Western Washington area.

    On the legalism side, I found that at least two churches we attended had some unspoken expectations on the women in the congregation, such as not working in a job (other than raising children which is a full time job!!) and wear certain types of clothing to church (read: no pants). My wife works full time, and wears pants. I know that sounds completely silly, like “what’s the big deal?”, well it’s a big deal to us. As well, since we do not have children yet, there was pressure (at least I felt, and she did to) to have children. Additionally, last year, a gentleman and his family left our church for another church because occasionally, we use a different hymnal other than the Trinity hymnal. Now, you may not think the above examples fall into the legalism category. True enough, but when these types of examples can be replicated in other congregations we attended, I started to wonder what the issues where. I struggled on the above issues, and found that I was more concerned about clothing types, jobs and children more than I was concerned about the Word preached and serving in the church. Legalism to me is imposing unwritten (read: unscriptural) expectations upon congregants. Am I wrong? Maybe my definition of legalism is wrong? I am open to correction for sure. In any case, the above describes our experience in more than one Reformed church in the Puget Sound area.

    On the intellectualism side. How do I say this without writing pages. What kind of examples do you want? In the area I live, the community of Reformed folk is small, so I am able to interact with a lot of other Reformed men in the area via meetings, breakfasts and such. So often, theological debate is the course of discussion, rather than meaningful unity over things we all agree on. Splits over the types of hymnals we use has happened. Some men who are Calvinists in soteriology are shunned because they have soft spots for dispensationalism. I see a willingness to divide over secondary issues rather than trying to find unity in the essentials and moving from there. I do not know where you live, you may be from the Seattle area, but in any case, the Puget Sound area is very “unchurched” and there seems to me to be a great opportunity to bring the Gospel to the area. Yet, in the Reformed circles in the area, there is more debate over secondary issues (which, I think ARE important debates to have, but not at the sacrifice of Gospel proclamation).

    I may be wrong about the above, and apologize if I generalized too much. Generalizations to do not help, and I should have been more specific in my comments. I really hope I am wrong, but I cannot deny what I have seen and interacted with. I want to clarify as well, my experiences have been within the Reformed church communities, which are few and far between here. I have many great and Godly friends that attend those other churches, and my comments are not meant as an attack on them in any way. I am simply telling the story of what I have seen. We in the Reformed churches can do much better, I know we can. Gospel unity is vitally important.

    Thanks for reading my post, I am interested in what you think, and any corrections you may suggest.

    Thanks again Eric, take care my friend,

    In Christ,
    Joe

  12. Peter Says:

    I really appreciated this article. I haven’t come across too many fervent Reformed members who know enough to realize the theology that their church ascribes to (in person, I mean). But in the few that have actually argued for this, it seems like most of them had a hard time accepting Calvinism, especially limited atonement. So I think theres a different reason why people are accepting Calvinist theology. However, I think you are spot on when it comes to describing how Calvinism plays out in many of the younger followers. The one Calvinist friend I have actually engaged me in a debate and challenged me at first, “Are you open minded?”. I said yes, but when I showed her 1 Tim 2:3-6, she has never come across the verse before! I was a little shocked. So I really appreciated the anti-intellectualism point that you made. I think there is a dangerous personal satisfaction from the general concept of debating and proof-texting that can mis-motivate individuals on both sides of the issue. That is, the process of challenging, “struggling” with arguments, and then coming out on top. If the underlying satisfaction is this, then there is something being lossed when it comes to realistic/personal devotion and reverance to one’s theology. Again, this goes for both players of the issue.


  13. Joe L. wrote, “As well, since we do not have children yet, there was pressure (at least I felt, and she did to) to have children.”

    I have felt this as well. Certainly it could all be in my mind as such a thing was never spoken, but I felt the pressure nonetheless. Especially after reading blogs by folks like Al Mohler. Now mind you, I also feel certain that if the people I’ve been around knew that our childlessness was not a choice, then they would not look down upon us, but I hate the feeling that I have to make such private information public just to keep people from thinking that my wife and I are “sinfully” using contraception. Which I don’t think is sinful anyway. Just because children are said to be a blessing doesn’t mean that we are commanded to have them. Good wives are said to be a blessing as well, but it is certainly clear in Scripture that not all people should get married. But that is besides the point because it doesn’t apply to us. It just bothers me that I feel that I have to explain why we don’t have kids in order to be in good standing. It is nobody’s business. Especially when the reason is medical.

  14. Nathan White Says:

    Great thoughts, everyone. Let me just agree with you all in saying that this resurgence is good, it is producing in people a true passion for God’s truth, and that it’s coming from a variety of sources -not just the Pipers of this world (yes, even from home-school moms 🙂 and the internet! ).

    Also, the resurgence is still in its infancy, and the younger crowd has not worked out all the kinks in their theology, and how to deal with people who oppose it.

    Fred, you rightly state the resurgence in the 50’s, and I agree that a lot of this is due to the faithful preaching of the men you listed.

    This article was simply to point out a disturbing trend that I see in that some people are latching on to these doctrines for all the wrong reasons. By no means am I painting all Calvinists or even the majority of Calvinists with this brush. Overall, there is ten times as much good as there is bad in this movement. But that doesn’t mean that the bad doesn’t exist and that we must all fight these tendencies.

    SDG

  15. eric Says:

    Hey Joe,

    You Wrote:
    “Thanks for reading my post, I am interested in what you think, and any corrections you may suggest”.

    You express a humble and teachable spirit. Buy the way; Perhaps courtesy would have led me to address you by name.
    My interest is perked when folks use the terms “intellectualism and Legalism” I won’t presume to “correct” you, but will ask us to think thru what true legalism is and is not, so that we can exhort one another (when needed) to press on in holiness as we walk in the spirit.

    I’m often called legalistic by my friends as various issues come up in discussions, for instance modest dress. Taking the position that women should not wear pants, is not necessarily being legalistic, though it can be. I live in S.C. where a Christian University is located; They have a few rules which on face value may lead one to cry “legalism” which would not be a true statement.

    I’m not defining what legalism is at this time,because I don’t want to get it wrong.

    Later Bro,
    Eric

  16. Mark Brown Says:

    Ok I will take a stab at legalism.

    Legalism is adding to the work of Christ on the cross for salvation. Like the Judaizers maintaining ceromonial law must be observed for salvation.
    What many consider “legalism” is confused with standards or expectations.
    With the example of wearing pants, I did not see where your wifes’ salvation was questioned. So she was just doing something contrary to what the other women in the congregation did. Believe me there are Arminian churches that hold that women should not wear pants and that you can only use a KJV. I supply preach. I use a NKJV, but keep a KJV in the car for those congregations. I preached at an Arminian church that believed you were not saved unless it was under the preaching of a minister using the KJV. Now that is legalism, among other things.

    The reformed community in my area does not have a problem with the anti intellectism issue. Though some could be happier. Some of the brethern in the men’s group act as though a smile would crack their face. And I must admit, on this site I could be thought of as one of the “sour” calvinsit. I have a werid sense of humor. I love the 3 stooges. And shemp is not a stooge! Nor that curley joe or joe guy.

    The reformed church and the children issue. Did the church embrace CT or NCT. Both are big on children and biblical roles for husbands and wives.
    That was an issue here inthe reformed baptist church we attended. They also thought sending your children to public school was a sin. They are still my brothers, but we disagree on the school issue. We homeschool our children. All 5 of them. In the present church I attend, the mega church, we know the unspoken rule is that homeschooling is “wrong” and public schooling “good” (thought the associate pastors send their kids to private christian schools) and large families are oddities. And don’t you dare bring your kid into worship. They belong in the nursury or Kings Kids.
    We are told inthe worship outline and with ad on the big screen tv to please take the kids out. That is line item #1 on the welcome to vistors.

    The arguing and harsh feelings I have seen in reformed circles is usually from those who do not really understand reformed theology. Also they may not be able to communicate well and get fustrated or scared, hence the wall with those that disagree. One of the most stubborn in our mens group is a guy who thinks to admit not knowing or that he was wrong is a sign of weakness. My mens group has ministers and laymen who hold pedo and credo baptisamal positions. We disagree and still enjoy each other. The stubborn one calls the infant baptizers sinners and always tries to attack their position. All of the others hold it is not an essential. Just like the position the OPC minister holds that Mel Gibsons Passion of the Christ violated the commandment not to make an image of God. Mature christians can differ on the non-essentials like mode of baptism. Now maturity in this case is not restricted to physical age, but spiritual age.

    I would encourage Joe to continue to seek out a mature reformed church. The ones in my area are in the PCA. But, remember I doubt you are going to find a church that you will agree with 100%. Find the one that embraces Christ in a true biblical manner and loves your family.

    May God bless your search.

  17. Mickey Says:

    What an excellent post, thank you for your timely words.

    I’ve linked to your post here.

  18. Dembie Copenhaver Says:

    I was reading with interest the statements that Calvanism is growing among the youth perhaps for it shock value and to show their knowledge of the scriptures and rebellion against the older Christians.

    I was thinking perhaps the internet has played a very big roll in this resurgence. Ten years ago Christians would get in chat rooms and argue. Some of it was good debate; but no matter the position there were people who were angry at anything opposite their entrenced opinions. In all that rudeness there was a lot of good light that began to show had sound scriptural basis.

    In a face to face conversation, this was never possible. The Calvanists were only given the opportunity to listen. We were few in number and the acceptable free-will religion never gave the podium. There were no debates.

    I have contributed scripture in chats that the other Calvanists did not even know was there. They have found in scripture much to be excited about.

    As a youth as early as 3 years of age, I was so scared of hell. I tried over and over to get saved. Prayed the prayers I was told. Nothing ever changed. And why would God want to? If I could do it by my prayer — go ahead. If the blood of the Lamb is only half of obtaining eternal salvation, then God has to share His glory. Why would He bother? And that may be why so many of the youth stray for such a long time. The result was rebellion and a season of sin.

    I tried psycologically and historically to find God. Nothing ever changed. He waited until I was completely convinced there was no God, and then He awakened me with the wind of the Holy Spirit and I was “born again.”

    I’m glad to hear this “fad” toward Calvanism. You know the apple tree needs to go through a dormancy in winter in order to put on fruit. It is not a warm climate fruit. Perhaps we are in the apple fruit season. Amen

    I have seen many a teenager from a religious free-will Christian family stray away for all that upbringing. When they experience grace, it is so completely different from the way they had been taught to receive it. Now they seem to be rebelious against their adults.

    Once you have that Calvanist foundation, it is easier to know right from wrong. And the scriptures are indeed new — because they aren’t hearing anything but flip-flop Calvanism from free-will pulpits.

  19. ed Says:

    I suppose that I was a “young” person (around 20ish) when I realized that I believed the doctrines of grace. (Incidentally, I believe I am still young at 30.)

    Reformed theology came to me sans Piper, Sproul, etc. and I was completely internet stupid at that time. What I was finding were answers to all the huge “holes” in easy-believism that had bothered me from the very beginning. One incident in particular really stands out in my mind: engaging in beach evangelism with a guy who was nursing a beer who asked me “if Christ paid the penalty for my sins, why are you saying I will go to hell if I don’t believe?” I had no idea how to answer that; those and similar questions created a great deal of unrest for me.

    After I began getting into discussions about tulips, I could have easily been that guy who said “wow” when someone showed me 1Peter 2:1. But I can remember having a fuzzy, yet powerful, awareness of the sovereignty of God at age six, and that would have probably left me saying “but I know there’s something missing here.” Deep down, I always knew Who saved me.

    Once I really latched onto the truth of sovereignty, friends and family began to insist I was simply embracing fad theology. Some treated me as though they were certain it would pass with time, and others were stern in warning me to avoid what they said would cripple me spiritually.

    As it turns out, the Gospel of Grace still becomes more certain to me with each passing day. It causes a great, wonderful disturbance in my soul to reflect on those times when I KNEW that God had saved me, but I couldn’t line it all up. How could I, as a man, ever be made aware of such mercy? That is how wonderful Grace is! And there are not enough years in a lifetime to discover the edges of that kind love.

    There is a faddish atmosphere a lot of times, but when I was younger, the little groups and discussions were all there was for me at that time. Everyone I really knew was an Arminian. I can tell you that there were guys around who just wanted to be part of a group, preferably a smaller group no doubt, but for the most part, we were just all bothered by the same convictions. Everytime I hear someone use “elitist” in reference to Reformed theology, I remember that time and wonder how anyone could mistake a bunch of knuckleheads as elitists!

  20. ed Says:

    Oops, *2Peter 2:1.

    See, still a bit of a knucklehead, and still under Grace!

  21. DembieC Says:

    As a 2 week babe-in-Christ, I excitedly told a Christian sister I had just found in the scriptures that God from before the foundation of the world predestined to call an elect people to salvation and those that were called were glorified. This dear saint said, “You will find that there are some scriptures that teach ‘free-will’ and there are some scriptures that teach ‘election’. You will just have to pick the scriptures that please you.” Understood by omission, “and ignore the others.”

    I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t have much knowledge of scripture; but I knew that God wasn’t one way to some Christians and completely opposite to others. That would mean scripture WAS for private interpretation. That would mean I would never be sure of my foundation. It would be sifting sand. I was soon blessed to learn my own mother belonged to an old historic denomination that came to America as Calvinistic called, Primitive, (meaning original), Baptist. I was given to read many good teachings by old Calvinistic preachers. Some reprinted journals dated back to the 1700’s of preachers riding horseback in backwoods country to preach in the colonial days. They document their history back long before Martin Luther and Calvin.

    In my opinion after 13 years of attending a Reformed PCA church, these young reformed churches have a taste of the truth of the Calvinistic doctrine; but do not have adequate knowledge to rightly divide the word, in order to eliminate contradictions. God’s word does not contradict itself. Contradictions can be eliminated.

    Take the scriptures mentioned above by Peter. — I Timothy 2: 1-4. When it is realized that the word “saved”, most often, does not mean eternal salvation; but an earthly deliverance; and the word “world” and “men” does not mean all mankind; it becomes easier and makes more sense.

    Please don’t take my comments as a rebuke but a discussion for your consideration. I learn by being challenged to verify and rethink. Please point out any scriptural contradictions you may have to my opinion.

    I Timothy 2: 1-4 Paul exhorted that supplications, prayer, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for three different people. (1) all men, (2) kings, and (3) all that are in authority. Paul says this is good in the sight of God our Saviour.

    Praying for kings and all in authority who probably were not friendly? Wow! That was probably a startling thought. Why did Paul say God would want them to do this?????? So all men, (the 1st group), can be saved, (delivered from the kings and all in authority), and come to the knowledge of the truth.

    It has been my experience with much reading and prayer, that every scripture that seems to teach ‘free-will’ can be eliminated. I have never met a ‘free-will’ believing Christian who can explain the many scriptures that teach election and predestination to mean ‘free-will.’ They will jump to some other verse, and another verse, and another after each one is explained to NOT be teaching ‘free-will.’ But they won’t explain away the verses that teach reformed Calvinistic doctrine.

  22. Fred Says:

    Good stuff here.

  23. JTTravis Says:

    Just an observation.
    I have never understood the point or edification of Calvinism in regards to being a Christian. It is circular reasoning, an extrapolation of the truth and the exclusion of the truth a the same time. ( The scriptures that seem to teach free- will can be eliminated?) Someone said on this blog that calvinism is the gospel (?!) I suppose the next logical extrapolation is that Jesus was a Calvinist, being that God is not held by space or time.
    The Trinity is not something that we can understand, but scripture says it in various places and I believe it. But if I only extrapolated on the deity of Christ and excluded all other scriptures, to its logical conclusion, I would become a “:Jesus is the only God” cult. Gods veto power and mans free will are both taught in the scriptures, does that seeming contradiction get my tail in a twist? No. Does the free choice He gives deny his sovereignty? Actually only the really sovereign can give free will. Calling myself one of the elect and giving assent to calvinism doesn’t give me assurance of salvation. In fact it might frighten me, as I don’t have as much self esteem as those who always got chosen for the team in high school. I never got chosen, why should i suppose that God would choose me? Believing in and abiding in Christ gives me all the assurance I need. I am not working for that salvation by believing. Unfortunately for many who have only been exposed the intellectual arena of belief, they think saturating themselfs in calvinism is abiding in Christ. We all have the tendency of thinking God’s personality is like our own, in essence making God into our own image, this includes theology. Fear can shape our theology.
    Our arrogance can also. I have to admit that the calvinists i’ve come to know
    are generally quite content with the status quo of their lives, no matter how worldly, for after all, they are predestined to it. The prayers they pray are
    “God, you are so sovereign” but not heartfelt requests, because everything is going to happen the way it was predestined anyways, so what’s the point?
    If that doesn’t make you in utterably sad, I don’t know what would.
    Also, I found many of them to be rather controlling and exacting, very much like Calvin was.
    I was never exposed to calvin or arminian till after I was a Christian
    for seven years. That ignorance was bliss. This may come as a shock but I really find the whole thing laughable and silly, except the damage it does to people lives. It has divided the church, and is the only “contradiction” that unbelievers can latch on to to denegrate Chrsitianity.
    I would never identify myself as a calvinist or arminian, for we become like those we identify with. Let us always identify with Christ, that is Who we want to be like and adhere to. There is no profit in arguing about these things this side of heaven or in eternity. If we had authentic prayer meetings instead of debates, that would have a huge impact on the church and this world that God so loved.

  24. Gene Says:

    >>>The scriptures that seem to teach free- will can be eliminated?

    What Scriptures would these be? Calvinists do not eliminate free will. They merely teach there are limits on what men are able to do. When Scripture says man cannot do something, we affirm it. Libertarian freedom is thus excluded.

    >>>I suppose the next logical extrapolation is that Jesus was a Calvinist, being that God is not held by space or time.

    Well, if Jesus taught that man can do no spiritual good accompanying his salvation or that God gave a particular people to Him, and that these persons are drawn to him and given eternal life, what would you say?

    >>>Calling myself one of the elect and giving assent to calvinism doesn’t give me assurance of salvation.

    If you believe the basis of election is divine foreknowledge of your free will choice to believe, you do the same thing. In fact, since on that view your election depends on you and not God, you are elected because you selected to quote Dr. Ergun Caner. I guess he can boast. I hope you are not insinuating that unconditional election means that God plays favorites? That wouldn’t be what Calvinism affirms. Favoritism is when you look into the future to see who will believe and who will not. Since everybody has a different reason, you’re basing election on something in them. That’s real favoritism. We affirm that God chooses Himself but not for reasons associated with anything in us. If you believe in general atonement and believe it is necessary to underwrite the call of the gospel from the pulpit to give assurance to the hearers that Jesus died for them and the call is therefore genuine, you’ve done the same thing.

    >>>I never got chosen, why should i suppose that God would choose me?

    Because you believe and you could not believe apart from God having chosen you! Brother, if you’ve felt unloved or unliked because of your childhood and not getting picked, then this should be a great boost. What’s more, God did this for no reason in you, so you’re right, you shouldn’t have been chosen, but He did anyway. Rejoice and praise God for His great mercy toward you.

    >>> Believing in and abiding in Christ gives me all the assurance I need.

    Amen! How is this something Calvinism does not affirm?

    >>>Unfortunately for many who have only been exposed the intellectual arena of belief, they think saturating themselfs in calvinism is abiding in Christ.

    Who are these persons? If that’s so, you should be able to name them.

    >>>I have to admit that the calvinists i’ve come to know are generally quite content with the status quo of their lives, no matter how worldly, for after all, they are predestined to it. The prayers they pray are “God, you are so sovereign” but not heartfelt requests, because everything is going to happen the way it was predestined anyways, so what’s the point?

    God has ordained the ends and the means. This is elementary, and this objection tells me you don’t really know what you are talking about.

    Brother, when you pray, are you consistent:Do you say: Dear Lord, please change my lost friend’s heart? Or do you pray Dear Lord, please send somebody to tell them about Jesus but don’t violate their free will? Why make “heartfelt requests” if a man’s free will can thwart what God does?

    >>Also, I found many of them to be rather controlling and exacting, very much like Calvin was.

    Ironically, Calvin died at a young age and was very sickly. He worked tirelessly all during his Christian life. He was no antinomian. He sent missionaries as far as Brazil. Oh, and that Servetus myth you are trying to allude to here is just another myth that you have believed. Calvin was not even in power in Geneva when that happened. He was out of favor with the local government. How did that make him “controlling?” Perhaps one of these days folks will get their facts right when discussing that issue. Incidentally, given the controlling nature of so many non-Calvinist pastors in the churches at present, I often wonder why these pastors protest Calvinism, when they run their churches the way they believe we think God runs the universe.

    >>This may come as a shock but I really find the whole thing laughable and silly, except the damage it does to people lives. It has divided the church, and is the only “contradiction” that unbelievers can latch on to to denegrate Chrsitianity.

    Apparently, you’ve not acually had conversations with real atheists before. Try heading to Triablogue and reading the archives from this past year. Incidentally, I’d like to thank you for repeating the claims of Rome during the Reformation. It’s always fun to find persons that name the name of Protestant or Baptist holding to Rome’s own views, minus the sacramentalism, claim to be biblical Christians and tell us that we’re the ones dividing the church. For that matter, the unspoken assumption here is that division is a necessarily bad thing. But Paul says otherwise in 1 Cor. 11:18-19, “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you.”

    He speaks of division negatively here: 1 Cor. 1:10, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

    Then he speaks of division positively here: 1 Cor. 11:19 uses the Greek word “haireses” for “factions”. We get the English word heresy from this Greek word. A heresy is a false teaching, something that deviates from orthodoxy. If we see that the Scriptures declare something clearly (orthodoxy), and if someone teaches contrary to that clear teaching, then he or she is teaching heresy. The Scriptures teach that there is a place for division and that is when opposing teachings that are contrary to sound doctrine. But division can only occur when the truth is known and those who abide with the truth should correct those who do not.

    >>There is no profit in arguing about these things this side of heaven or in eternity.

    Yet you took the time to do just that. Also, we are here not because we wish to debate, but because Reformed Theology is incessantlly attacked and misrepresented in the pulpits of the SBC, the internet, at universities and seminaries, etc. If this was not going on, dare I say we would not be “debating.”

    These doctrines lie at the heart of the doctrine of salvation itself. Either it is all of God or not. This in turn shapes our evangelism. It shapes our ethics. It shapes the way we do missions.

    Don’t believe me? Well, the current SBC statistics tell us that less than half of the membership shows up on Sunday morning. Over 80 percent of the youth who make professions of faith fall away when they leave for college and do not return. It is common currency in SBC churches for them to teach that even if you fall away you are “eternally secure,” and while we affirm the security of the believer as Calvinists, we also deny that you can apostatize and still consider yourself “saved.” There is doctrine out there saying that you can accept Jesus as Savior and not your Lord. We deny that as well. Calvinism did not deliver these doctrines to the SBC or cause its deterioration. It wasn’t under our watch that this happened.

    >>If we had authentic prayer meetings instead of debates, that would have a huge impact on the church and this world that God so loved.

    Why not both? Our Baptist forefathers held over 100 between 1644 and 1701. Apparently, they didn’t feel the same way. Apparently, the early church didn’t either, since they debated doctrine frequently in the churches. If they had followed this around, say, the 325 AD, you’d be an Arian today, not a Trinitarian. If this was about the doctrine of the Trinity would you feel the same way? Christology? Where do you draw the line?

  25. DembieC Says:

    It is very important to believe the correct thing about God. He says He wants to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. The ‘free-will’ doctrine and the doctrine of ‘predestination and election’ are complete opposites. You can’t be the one if you are the other. If you try the one way and it doesn’t work the way they say, then He is not what is said about Him. A false picture is presented.

    Yes, Jesus was a Calvinist. He identified His church from the rest of the Christians churches He knew would come. Not the other religions. He said there is one church that is the one true church. And the identifier of this true church was election. How can I say that?

    When He asked whom the people say He is, the disciples did not know. They wanted to know. They guessed first one prophet and then the other. But Peter, a stone, knew! Jesus said that the reason Peter knew (different from the others) was because it had been revealed to him. That does not mean the other disciples where not His children. Individual revelation from God the Father, is the only way to know that Jesus is the Christ.

    “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto you,” (no preacher, no missionary, no teacher, no one), “but my Father which is in Heaven. Upon this rock will I build my church-”
    Which rock? Not Peter. He was a mere stone. Stones are placed, one on top of another, upon a foundation rock to make the walls. Jesus is the chief cornerstone of this church bringing the foreshadow walls of the Old Testament and the fulfillment walls of the New Testament together in Him.

    A Christian’s life takes two different paths depending upon whether they are feverously working to help God populate Heaven by how they can persuade the minds of listeners; or they are resting in a work that Jesus said is finished. That work was the shedding of innocent blood of a spotless Lamb for His people. Making eternal salvation by the blood. Earthly salvation by the Good News when it is delivered according to when and where God dictates beautiful feet to take it.

    We are thankfully, not under the Law. But Jesus was. He could not break it in the slightest way. By looking at the Old Testament Law we not only see foreshadows of the coming Lamb to be sacrificed; but we see the High Priest. There was only one High Priest. If the High Priest is now in heaven making intercession for us, then there can’t be a second High Priest (a pope) on earth. There was only ever one.

    No where in the Old Testament did the High Priest place the shed blood on the mercy seat and then come out into the Court of the Congregation and say, ”Now, if you will only believe I placed the blood on the mercy seat for you — then I did. But if you don’t believe it — then I didn’t.”

    “Whosoever believeth HATH (past tense, already has) everlasting life/” Not the way to get it. It is the evidence of eternal life already possessed.

    May I make one more statement taught by the old hardshell Primitive Baptist. Predestination is of people, not events. God is two dimensional, at least. He is in the present tense guiding, teaching, chastising, blessing, etc. Prophecy is going to happen as God causes it to happen. But before the foundation of the world, He predestined a people. Whom He predestined THEM He ALSO called. Whom He called THEM He ALSO justified. Whom He justified THEM He ALSO glorified. (They got to heaven based entirely upon the blood.) And that number is as numerous as the sands of the sea and the stars in the heaven —- uncountable — the number is so numerous that are going to heaven.

    But the number from records and surveys that actually say they worship Jesus is quite small. Certainly countable, the numbers are so small. Especially, in countries outside the US. They need the good news. Missionaries are running here and there. The number is still small. Why? Because many preachers have been called to preach. From that number, God weeds out Christian preachers. The result is that few from that calling are chosen to continue in that calling. That is why Jesus said to the disciples to pray that God send laborers. The harvest was ripe and numerous. But if God does not send them, all their efforts are useless. That was what Jesus was saying.

    In my humble opinion.

  26. DembieC Says:

    Gene
    I believe the following is a misquote.
    “The scriptures that seem to teach “free-will” — can be eliminated?”

    No scripture is ever to be eliminated or ignored. But if the scriptures that teach “free-will” can be explained so that the “free-will” doctrine is eliminated and the scripture then conforms to “election” and “predestination” then the “free-will” doctrine must be wrong.

    Especially, since they have to ignore lots and lots of scripture in order to make those scriptures mean “free-will.”

    If I said it the say you quoted it, I hope I have now made an understandable correction.
    Thanks


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