It is a funny thing, and I am not sure if this is only a feature of Baptist seminaries, but it seems as though every professor must, regardless of the class, say at least once in that class that Calvin was not a Calvinist. Most of time, the professor makes the claim and nonchalantly moves on as though he had just made a statement tantamount to the sky is blue, and as if Calvinists were running about declaring that the world is flat. Therefore, since I have not ever heard from the horse’s mouth why Calvin was not a Calvinist, I have had to assume that they who claimed thus meant one of two things:
Archive for February, 2009
26 FebSola Fide, II. The Nature of Saving Faith and the Potential Fallacy Inherent in the So-Called “Sinner’s Prayer”
Before we continue further in our text in Romans 10, it would beneficial to look at the essence of belief and faith (which shall for all intents and purposes be here considered synonymous, for they are English variations of a single root in the Greek). As my Theology professor, Dr. David Hogg, accurately pointed out in a lecture, faith and belief cannot be reduced to a list of mental assents to the nature of the work and person of Jesus Christ. In other words, granting our natural state, belief in Jesus Christ is by necessity a supernatural work of God that brings about genuine change, not a checklist of doctrinal affirmations. This by no means diminishes the necessity for doctrinal orthodoxy by the renewal of one’s mind by the Spirit to the Scriptures, but it does highlight the simplicity of original faith in Jesus Christ.
In a beautiful analogy, John Piper likened original faith to the cry of baby at birth. Just as a baby springs forth from his mother’s womb into new life and cries because he is alive, so the child of God at regeneration simultaneously cries out in faith, believing with his fleshly heart upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as it could be said on the one hand that a baby is alive because his mother borne him and on the other that a baby is alive because he cries, so on the one hand it is said that we are alive in Christ because the Spirit borne us and on the other that we are alive in Christ because we believe in Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord.
Oftentimes, we in the church tend to oversimplify the canon of Scripture. Some look upon the Old Testament and the Nation Israel and consider it a particular dispensation of salvation through sacrifices, rituals, etc. and look at the New Testament and the time following it as a dispensation of Grace whereby God saves men by grace through faith in Jesus Christ–his death, burial, and resurrection.
The Apostle Paul, however, will not allow us to think in such neat divisions and dispensations. Thus, throughout his letter to the Roman church, the apostle has instructed us with phrases such as, “Not all Israel is Israel” (v. 9:5), “a Jew is one who is one inwardly” (v. 2:29), there is no distinction between Jew and Greek (v. 3:22), Abraham was saved by faith alone (v. 4:3), and, now, Moses writes both about a righteousness based on the law and a righteousness based upon faith (vv. 10:6-8).
For salvific dispensations to be true (i.e. that men at different points in history are justified before God by different means), the means by obtaining righteousness must be singular in each dispensation. The apostle, writing to the Roman church, demonstrates that this notion of salvific dispensations is false in vv. 10:5-9:
Remember this and stand firm,
….recall to mind, you transgressors,
Remember the former things of old;
….for I am God, and there is no other;
….I am God, and there is none like me,
Declaring the end from the beginning
….and from ancient times things not yet done,
Saying, “My counsel shall stand,
….and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Is. 46:8-10)
For the most part, I am a man of few doubts when it comes to my faith in God in Christ. Intellectually, by no merit of my own, I waver little in my assent that Yahweh is the one true God–One and existing in three Persons–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In spite of my typical surety with regards to faith, the other night, while I was (not for personal pleasure, mind you) reading up on some philosophy and arguments against the existence of God, I, for a moment, genuinely thought to myself, “What if these philosophers are right? What if there really isn’t a God? Or what if they are wrong, and there is a God, but I am worshiping a false one?” For a brief moment, I was caught in my own speculative despair and doubted the God of the Bible.
A common question is often raised, often in hostile dialogues, “If one believes in a God who has determined beforehand the destination of souls, why would one ever evangelize or do missions?” When that question is raised, I, more often than not, hear an inadequate or just plain bad response given instead of a proper response. Usually the answers are given by some poor, young soul who has not given much thought to the matter and does not want to get burned at the stake for the denying the present validity of the Great Commission, thus he says something like, “God has commanded us to do missions. We do not know who the elect souls are. Christ will not return until the Gospel has reached the ends of the Earth, etc.” All of these are true statements, but none of them are a proper answer to why we as Christians are to be about the work of evangelism and missions.
However, contrary to the popular belief that those who hold to a more Reformed view of theology are less apt and motivated to preach the Gospel and to reach the Nations than those who are not, I believe that the opposite is true, namely that those who are truly Reformed in their theology are better equipped both doctrinally and historically to be about the work of the Great Commission. Therefore, I hope that this post will not only adequately answer the question, “Why do Calvinists do missions?” but will also demonstrate that those who are genuinely Calvinists cannot help but “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of [Christ's] name among the Nations” (Rom. 1:5).
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Ps. 119:11).
It always is terribly convicting to me to hear of people groups who do not have printed Scripture in their language (or enough to distribute) who love the Word of God so much that they memorize large portions of it. Yesterday, I personally had had enough with my hypocrisy in this regard and was looking for resources on how to effectively memorize Scripture. What I found was a good resource written by a man who I already knew had memorized a large portion of the Bible–Andy Davis at First Baptist Church in Durham. I post this on my site today for two reasons: one, so that you might be encouraged to memorize large portions of Scripture yourself, and, two, so that I might be held accountable in my own endeavor which, FYI, is the book of Romans by October 25th. Just click the link below to download the PDF.
19 FebWhy I Write Reborn
Having just completed my one-hundredth post here at blog.xpistou.com, I thought that it might do well for me to revisit my reasons for writing on this site day after day. I have written a post prior to this one entitled, “Why I Write,” and hence the name of this present post, “Why I Write Reborn.” Though I did address the same question in said prior post, it was by no mean exhaustive nor adequate. I hope that this post will better answer the question, Why do I write?
I Write To Glorify God
If you were to press me and ask what verse in all of Scripture drives my life day in and day out, I would tell you 1 Corinthians 10:31. In this well known verse, the apostle Paul writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all the glory of God.” In it, Paul uses the most common activities of men, viz. eating and drinking, to demonstrate that every action that we take, no matter how minute or how menial, should be an act of worship to God.
My goal, therefore, is that this blog will be an act of worship to God. I know very well that, because I am a sinful man, this site falls well short of this goal often, but nevertheless God’s glory is the bar that I set. This means by necessity that I write some things that I might should not have written and that I am inaccurate and wrong in some of the statements that I make, and for these things I must constantly turn to God by repentance. Though I do falter often in this regard, I continue to write because I am compelled to do so.
Having studied John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9, and 1 Timothy 2:4 in their proper contexts and having determined the author’s intent through the Holy Spirit in those passages, we have seen that the doctrine of God’s sovereignty over the salvation of souls is in no wise refuted nor is its potency compromised. What we have found instead is that persons, be they well-meaning Christians or otherwise, have felt compelled either to take the charge in defending the supposed “problem of evil” that the doctrine of a sovereign God creates, or they have felt compelled to defend their own natural understanding of reality and have twisted the Scriptures, like those texts aforementioned, to fit their particular understanding of the world. They do all of this under a guise of humility declaring, “If the Church has not reconciled the concept of free will and the doctrine of God’s sovereignty by now, it was never meant to be reconciled.” I would rather postulate that the Church has been and is filled to this day with sinful men whose personal agendas have trumped their desire to honor God by a humble submission to his Word.
To such a charge, I am sure someone is thinking, “What an arrogant person, to think that he is right and that those who disagree with him are wrong!” I have one question of such a thought: Does believing and proclaiming that which is declared to be truth by God and, by necessity, that which is false warrant a verdict of “arrogant”? If so, one would have to label Jesus Christ an arrogant man, as well as the apostle Paul who rebuked the apostle Peter (the nerve!), and any other prophet who was ever sent by God to proclaim to men their wickedness and lack of understanding. The idea that the proclamation of truth is arrogance is a product of postmodernity and not some right understanding of “speaking the truth in love.” What we find today is that evangelicals reject postmodernity when it comes to those outside the Faith who declare that Jesus is not the only way to the Father, but when those evangelicals are within the Church they say ridiculous and arrogant things like, “What does this text of Scripture mean to you?” as if they were lords over the meaning of Holy Scripture! This seems to me the grossest of arrogance.
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Tim. 2:3, 4).
As promised, I am continuing my survey of texts that supposedly contradict the doctrines taught in Romans 8-11, et al. Several weeks ago, we dealt with the texts of John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9 and how those classic texts supposedly portray God as a God who is, respectively, desperately in love with the world and is wringing his hands at the thought that any person on this planet should have to perish. We demonstrated through these texts’ context and through biblical theology that this is not the God that is portrayed in these verses, but instead we find a God who is quite the opposite.
Despite this clarity in context, we must realize that we live in a reader response society and among Christians who use the Bible as a reference book rather than the meat upon which they feast daily. Thus we find not Christians who read the Scriptures through and thoroughly in its own context, but we find Christians who google, “Why Calvinism is evil,” and find a website of some other person who also only uses his Bible as reference book and then compiled a list of verses and spouted the infamous lie that Calvinists do not believe in evangelism and missions, despite the fact that the greatest preachers and evangelists (e.g. George Whitefield, C. H. Spurgeon, etc.), the leaders of great revivals (e.g. Jonathan Edwards), and the one who is called the father of modern missions–William Carey–were all Calvinists.
Living the Christian life is a particularly daunting task when one looks back upon the history of the church and examines the lives of others who loved and devoted their lives to the Lord. Of course, one looks to (or ought to look to) Christ and how every breath he breathed he breathed to the glory of his Father. Then one can look upon the countless and unnamed martyrs who confessed Christ as Lord and denounced heresy and were thus burned at the stake, drowned, shot five times in the stomach and left for dead on the street, sawed and hacked into pieces, and on and on. Then one could look at those such as John Calvin, John Gill, and Jonathan Edwards who wrote tens of thousands of pages a piece, two of whom, Calvin and Gill, both wrote systematic theologies and commentaries on the whole Bible, and Edwards who still wrote more. These wrote all that they contributed to the Faith, with two of them, Calvin and Edwards, dying at age fifty-five. All of these, from Christ to Edwards, were not idle men and were busy about the glory of the Father.