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Worthless Calvinism

June 13, 2012

Paul Jenkins

 

By now, we have written several articles supporting Reformed theology, and why you should believe it. But that doesn’t mean that everyone who calls themselves a Calvinist has solid theological grounding.

In fact, some people’s Calvinism is worthless. And since they have misunderstood and poorly handled Scripture, they may even have misled ideas surrounding evangelism and our role in God’s work.

One of the most common objections raised against Calvinism is that it puts a damper on the need for evangelism. If God is going to save the elect, and this is no less certain now than it was before the foundation of the world, why do we need to evangelize?

This complaint is often heard from those just encountering Calvinism for the first time, but I have also heard this from pastors as well.

History proves otherwise – some of the world’s greatest evangelists of all time, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and Charles Spurgeon were Calvinistic in their theology. But that doesn’t prevent people from raising it.

My answer to this question is this: If you think that your evangelistic efforts are the cause of someone’s salvation – then I agree – there is no point! Scripture’s consistent witness is that it is God who changes hearts and lives, not man. No matter how brilliant, articulate, and loving we are (although we should seek to have these traits) we have exactly zero power inherently. However, God has promised that through the preaching of the Gospel (Romans 1:16), He will save people and change hearts.

God doesn’t need you or me to accomplish his purposes, but he uses us nonetheless. It is one of the great privileges of being a Christian; an example of the works “…which God prepared beforehand” for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). It always surprises me when Christians believe God created the world from nothing, upholds it with the word of his power, yet he cannot ordain the means by which people are redeemed (by the foolishness of the Gospel preached) as well as the ends (salvation as a result of being predestined). 

When I was first considering/embracing the doctrines of grace, I was considering its impact on my personal evangelism. At the time, I didn’t think it really changed anything. I still wanted to preach the Gospel to everybody I could, with grace and truth. So whether someone is Calvinistic or otherwise, why does it really matter?

As a few years have gone by however, I have come to the realization that it changes everything.

When we witness, we absolutely have the goal of seeing people saved. But even deeper than that is the desire to bring glory to God. He is glorified by his people stepping out in faith, even if no one responds to the message positively. We see this all throughout the New Testament, although we also see in Scripture a faithful Gospel message usually results in converts, amongst other responses. But even Jesus, the Son of God, who was the best preacher who ever lived, did not save everyone who heard him. Did he not have the power to do so?

Our understanding of salvation gives us the confidence of knowing that no mere human will can thwart or frustrate the will of God. That is a strong statement, and an objectionable one to many people. Our offerings to God through biblical evangelism will always have 100% effectiveness.

Some people’s Calvinism is worthless. It hasn’t brought them joy and thankfulness, and hasn’t lit a fire in their souls to go out and expend themselves for the sake of God. To these people, I would say this: just drop it.

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2 Comments
  1. Francis permalink

    Hi,
    Forgive me if this sounds crass but I’m truly looking for an honest answer.
    I’ve been wondering what you believe the importance of holding to a Calvinistic/Reformed view of theology actually is. I mean apart from maybe some of the differences you hold to in your beliefs and how those might affect the way you practice your faith.

    I can’t see it being based on purely action, if it was, surely a social gospel approach would be far more beneficial to the world in a tangible action-only sense.
    Or a far more evangelistic approach (in the same style of Jehovah’s Witnesses) would seem preferable from a “let’s tell as many people as we can before it’s too late” stand point.

    So I would assume there has to be further reason. I’m just wondering what it is.
    Do you believe that in the big picture, eternal perspective that all this makes a difference? Are Calvinists rewarded more than other Christians? I can’t see it being based on salvation since that comes down to election anyway. Is it a belief that God will reward you for this particular theological understanding or is the reward all in the here and now? And if so, what is that reward? A feeling of superiority in knowing the truth? A better understanding of the bible? Of God?

    I guess I just want to know why choose reformed theology?
    You said that you’ve given articles why we should believe it but I don’t see a real practical reason.

    Are Calvinists superior to other Christians?

    Thanks, and again I apologize if these questions sound biting. My intent is not debate. Just truth and conversation.

  2. Francis,

    In the big picture, it absolutely makes a difference. Scripture says to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The Arminian view, I believe, does not bring glory to God comparatively. And of course, this is also to say that Scripture clearly teaches these principles. I wouldn’t dare believe something about God that wasn’t revealed in the Bible. God is glorified not only in our actions, but also in our thoughts about Him.

    Practically, yes the Arminian and the Calvinist practice evangelism, but I would say the underlying motivations are often different (not to mention the ministry philosophy is often drastically different).

    I can’t tell if you’re approaching this issue as a believer or not, but Scripture says that everything that we have – whether physical or spiritual blessings are a gift from God (1 Corinthians 4:7), and this certainly pertains to spiritual knowledge and theology. This verse says there is nothing to boast in, and no, there isn’t some special ‘reward’ for Calvinists.

    There certainly isn’t a feeling of superiority – in fact, quite the opposite. These doctrines, when properly understood, humble us and draw us to our knees in worship.

    Why choose reformed theology? Because it’s biblical theology. Jesus commanded us to love the truth. There is no superiority between us. There are sinners, and redeemed sinners, that’s it.

    I do hope that helps. Hit us back with any clarification!

    Thanks for your comment,

    Paul

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