Thursday, March 02, 2006

A False “Vision”?

I have wanted to comment further on some of the charges made against Calvinism. I commented last week on Ergun Caner’s comments left on the Founder’s blog slamming Cavinism. In that post I also mentioned how I listened to a sermon by a guest speaker for a Bible Conference at the church I attended in my home town, where he listed Calvinism as one of the beliefs (or as he put it, “visions”) that were problematic in the church today. The theme of the two sermons that he preached were on the church establishing a vision or focus for the ministry. The whole issue of listing Calvinism as a false “vision” really irritated me because it is just a display of ignorance of church history and ignorance of the text of Scripture. Not once did he explore the passages of Scripture that dealt with predestination and election, but loosely referred to the concepts in such a way as to present them in a negative light. What he discussed had more to do with hyper-Calvinism that is really only held by a relative minority, not orthodox or moderate Calvinism. He mentioned the common misperception that if you believe these doctrines, that there is no reason to be involved in evangelism. He also made some outlandish statements such as embracing Calvinism inevitably leads to postmillennialism and amillennialism, ultimately leading to political and social activism.

First of all, the charge that those who embrace reformed theology see no reason to evangelize is unwarranted. Charles Spurgeon, who adamantly embraced the tenets of Calvinism, also had a heart and compassion for the lost. “Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay, and not madly to destroy themselves. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” (C.H. Spurgeon, “The Wailing of Risca”). Alistair Begg just went through a series on evangelism on his radio program “Truth for Life”, and he falls under the category of Reformed as well. I do not know of anyone personally who embraces Reformed theology and yet does not think evangelism is important.

Another outlandish statement was that the natural outgrowth of Calvinism is postmillennialism and amillennialism. Really? Yes, there are a number of people who do embrace those millennial views, but certainly not everyone does. In fact, while a large number do, there are plenty of others who embrace pre-millennialism including myself. And I am not about to go postmillennial or amillennial any time soon. How about John MacArthur? He is pre-millennial in his views of eschatology and yet embraces Calvinism. There are a wide variety of beliefs on eschatology in the Reformed camp. But I do not see how Calvinism ultimately leads to these millennial views or to any particular millennial view for that matter.

But the charge that Calvinism will ultimately lead you to become preoccupied with social reform and political activism is the one that really got me. Huh? Really? Yes, certainly there are some that are, but let’s look at evangelicalism today and see how many are preoccupied with political activism and social reform. Most of the key people involved in what we call political activism are certainly not associated with Reformed theology. Look at James Dobson for example. Or look at Rick Warren and how he is now preoccupied with environmental and social concerns. In fact, many of the men that I am familiar with who are Calvinists are opposed to political and social activism. John MacArthur has taught a series against political activism. Steve Camp has also spoken out against political activism as well. Many others in the reformed camp have also been outspoken against these things, recognizing that Scripture does not teach that the church’s primary mission is social reform. So this is another charge that is totally unwarranted.

Many of the things that were mentioned were things that I would agree are detrimental to the church. However, to list Calvinism as something that is harming the church was absolutely absurd. One of the greater issues contributing to the weaknesses in evangelicalism is the overt pragmatism that has become so prevalent today and is rooted in full-blown Arminianism. But nothing was mentioned about that. A careful study of church history reveals almost invariably that when the church to turns to a synergistic view of salvation, the church is generally characterized by a sharp spiritual decline. Look what happened during the period of time leading up to the Great Awakening. Arminianism had taken root in the church and the spiritual fervor of the people waned. It was the straight forward preaching of men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield that helped ignite the fire of the Great Awakening. And they were Calvinists.

How about the wholesale departure from biblical preaching and teaching? What about the preoccupation with experience over truth? Those are the real hindrance to the mission of the church today. Political activism and preoccupation with social issues and reform are certainly detrimental, but to tie these things to Calvinism is ridiculous.

1 comment:

4given said...

Excellent post.

To Go be all the glory.