Wednesday, September 27, 2006

John Calvin: Arch Enemy of the Gospel?

Jerry Falwell, whom I respect greatly, is one of my spiritual heroes. He recently preached on Philipians chapter three. In it he warned of the dangers of the enemies of the gospel in Paul's day, the Judaizers. Then he said:
What are some modern ‘foes of our faith’ in our day? Let me list but a few:

Liberalism—which says not all the Bible is inspired and inerrant.
Relativism—which says there is no absolute truth.
Evolutionism—which denies the creative acts of God as Biblically recorded.
Radical feminism—which promotes political correctness and redefining of the family.
Universalism—which would say all religions are equally valid.
Legalism.
Extreme Calvinism (
http://sermons.trbc.org/20060917_11AM.html).


Now we say Amen!

Liberalism has destroyed the church and with all of the mainline churches brazenly liberal, and former evangelical bastions falling toward that trajectory, it is a powerful statement. Relativism as well and the great ecumenical movement are eating away at our faith. Evolutionism is the destructive power that stole the faith of Charles Templeton the great preacher and friend of Billy Graham. Radical Feminisms and the ordination of Lesbian woman, the destruction of the family are plagues tearing across our nations, and we could name church after church, organization after organization. Universalism and Unitarian Churches, the new openness of God, movements, etc, are definitely a danger. Legalism always has been and remains a danger for many. And extreme Calvinism….

Um, can anyone name an extreme Calvinist in the evangelical church? Can we document a threat that is on par with Liberalism, Evolutionism, Universalism as a threat to the faith? I have, as a student at a SBC seminary and a member of an SBC church, heard these warnings over and over.

I join in the warning and I OPPOSE HYPER-CALVINISM. So I want to know where they are, I want to go to them and reason with them from the Scriptures on the necessity of the gospel call. I want to assure them that belief in the tenants of Calvinism are no where mentioned in Scripture as the prerequisites for salvation. So I began to research and to discover where this cancer lay. I found this link that intrigued me:

…every and any form of Calvinism is somehow dubbed as hypercalvinism in the SBC. The term is seldomly defined and ambiguously defended. Wise voices such as Adrian Rogers, Danny Akin, and Paige Patterson have warned about the dangers of unchecked hyper-Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention. Now, where has it been documented and clearly noted where the “unchecked hyper-Calvinism is in the Southern Baptist Convention? With all the “white papers” being written by professors at seminaries and all the sermons being preached against hyper-calvinism in the SBC, one would think that they could provide the names of leaders or proponents of hypercalvinism in the SBC. But has one name been given? No. Not one (
http://strangebaptistfire.com/2006/05/15/sbc-the-presidency-and-hypercalvinism/).

Having researched the issue, I believe that this is true. That these warnings are truly aimed at any and all forms of Calvinism, through lack of knowledge and historical misunderstanding. While it is not vital to me, whether one claims to be Calvinist, or Arminian, It is vital that our gospel message be Biblical.

I don't think that it is right to summarily dismiss a massive part of the evangelical church as a threat to the gospel, because of a name. To that end I have included an extent quote from a Calvinist website that lends clarity to the conversation:

Hyper-Calvinism

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Most Calvinists reject as deplorable the following hyper-Calvinistic and destructive beliefs:


  • that God is the author of sin and of evil

  • that men have no will of their own, and secondary causes are of no effect

  • that the number of the elect at any time may be known by men

  • that it is wrong to evangelize

  • that assurance of election must be sought prior to repentance and faith

  • that men who have once sincerely professed belief are saved regardless of what they later do

  • that God has chosen some races of men and has rejected others

  • that the children of unbelievers dying in infancy are certainly damned

  • that God does not command everyone to repent

  • that the sacraments are not means of grace, but obstacles to salvation by faith alone.

  • that the true church is only invisible, and salvation is not connected with the visible church

  • that the Scriptures are intended to be interpreted by individuals only and not by the church.

  • that no government is to be obeyed which does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord, or that Biblical Law is its source of authority

  • that the grace of God does not work for the betterment of all men

  • that saving faith is equivalent to belief in the doctrine of predestination

  • that only Calvinists are Christians (Neo-gnostic Calvinism)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

(http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/hypercalvinism.html).

One of these "Calvinists", was also one of the greatest soul winners the world has ever known, Charles Hadden Spurgeon. He replies to these same accusations in this way:

This doctrine, stern as it may seem to be, does not oppose the consolation which may be rightly derived from any other truth of revelation. Those who hold the free-will theory, say that our doctrine, that salvation is of the Lord alone, and that he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, takes away from man the comfort derivable from God's goodness. God is good, infinitely good in his nature. God is love; he willeth not the death of any, but had rather that all should come to repentance. "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn unto me and live." Our friends very properly insist upon it that God is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works; that the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy; let me assure them that we shall never quarrel on these points, for we also rejoice in the same facts…. Do I not, again and again, assert the universal benevolence of God—the infinite and overflowing goodness of the heart of the Most High? ….There is not the slightest shadow of a conflict between God's sovereignty and God's goodness. He may be a sovereign, and yet it may be absolutely certain that he will always act in the way of goodness and love. It is true that he will do as he wills; and yet it is quite certain that he always wills to do that which, in the widest view of it, is good and gracious. If the sons of sorrow fetch any comfort from the goodness of God, the doctrine of election will never stand in their way ( Election, No Discouragement to Seeking Souls:
http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0553.htm).

Whether you choose to identify with one camp or the other, let us focus on what is most important, being biblical. Preach the gospel. But please apply reason to this debate and lets be careful not to call our great Baptist missionaries (William Carey 5 point Calvinist), our modern evangelistic role models (Bill Bright 5 point Calvinist), and our Baptist heroes of the faith (C.H. Spurgeon 5 point Calvinist) enemies of the gospel.

Neither John Wesley, nor George Whitfield, were enemies of the gospel, though one was Arminian, and the later Calvinist. This is an important issue, that should be talked about, debated and settled in each of our minds, but lets do it based on the Bible, instead of on baseless accusations of ignorance.

3 comments:

The Armchair Theologian said...

wait a minute. Doesn't ergun Caner say that those guys aren't 5 pointers? HMMM?

Eleutheros said...

There is a movement called Neo-Gnostic Calvinism, as noted in the list above. People in this system regard the presence of Calvinistic theology in the mind of a person as an indicator of regeneration. Hatred of Arminianism becomes a subtle replacement for love for Christ. Finding hidden traces of Arminianism relegates one to the realm of unregeneracy, even if one thought he was regenerate before, because true regeneracy removes any defects in the gnosis. Calvinists who think that God might save an Arminian despite his bad theology are considered Tolerant Calvinists (TCs), and are regarded as unregenerate because their gnosis is also defective. People who tolerate TCs are really suspicious because they look and sound so close the "truth," yet their tolerance of TCs reveals a serious defect in their gnosis, and so on an so on ad nauseum. I have met such folks. They are very dangerous to naive Calvinists of the classical sort. I know this from very painful personal experience. Introspection is a wonderful thing in its proper place, but it is Jesus who is the Author and Finisher of our faith, not our seen-through-a-glass-darkly knowledge.

Richard D said...

Eleutheros: I too have met people such as you have described and I agree that they are a dangerous breed that holds to a theology because the philosophical construct of that theology suits their overarching epistomology. It is always dangerous and dishonoring to God to hold to any beliefs for reasons other than the fact that it is taught in Scripture.

However, I have not found any of these people behind the pulpits of our churches, but rather behind the keyboard of an internet-active computer. There are many blogs that reveal such beliefs, but the pastors who come to such an understanding tend to be unemployed in short order.

We all need to check out religious traditions at the door of scripture with the intention of never picking them back up again.