Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Musings on Calvinism...

Am I a Calvinist?  The truth is...I don't know...

I was raised in an environment that at times adamantly opposed Calvinist ideas.  Often times it was said that Calvinists were heretics, but that as long as their heretical ideas didn't affect their teaching/preaching, they were okay.  I assumed that statements such as this were true.  I was also told that often times Calvinists can be cold and distant because their Calvinist ideas caused them to have a view of God's sovereignty that caused them to feel like since God is in control of everything, they don't have many responsibilities (evangelism/loving the brothers).  There were even some experiences I had that seemed to validate this last view.

It wasn't till I went to college that I started to realize that what I had been taught might not be entirely accurate.  I started hearing about John Piper and about how he was a 5 point Calvinist, and everything I was hearing about the things he taught sounded really good.  I even found out that he was extremely passionate about world missions, and he seemed like an extremely loving and awesome man of God.

I continued to muse on these things I was being exposed to.  I was reading books for classes that explained some of the ideas like "Total Depravity" that really made sense.  I started realizing that even among Calvinists there was a wide variety of beliefs, and to make broad brush statements about them in general is not fair.  Many of them defined the points in different ways than I had been taught growing up.

Also, many of my professor's were/are "Calvinistic" in their beliefs, and they seemed so passionate for the Word and for Evangelism and the growth of the Church.

Even with all this exposure, I still wasn't quite sure I could say for certain where I stood, and I still don't...but today I was reading in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology book for my Systematic Theology 3 Class (this class discusses the Doctrines of Anthropology, Hamartiology, and Soteriology) and he was discussing the sovereignty of God, and the things he was saying got me thinking about this...and I figured I would share some of the thoughts I had, and some things that he said...

First of all, my own musings on the reason why I was taught as I was when I was younger.  Many Fundamentalists Churches, in a reaction against perceived and possibly even valid problems with Calvinists, have swung so far away to the point of denying God's sovereignty in the election by God of believers.  To deny the election of the saints is to completely disregard a plethora of NT scriptures that support it.  I recall when I was younger that preachers/teachers would try to explain away these passages by saying that it was talking about being predestined for sanctification (which would follow that if you believe it means people are predestined for sanctification that God would also choose them for salvation, but I don't know what their answer would be to this argument), or that it is giving us assurance of our salvation.  I don't think these can be truly argued from the text...this is trying to impose presuppositions on the text...they're presupposing that God does not choose people for salvation, so they explain the meaning of the passage so that it fits their presupposition.  But we must be faithful to the Word of God...and not compromise the truths found in it!

Now, onto what Mr. Grudem says.  I was going to explain why each quote was significant to shaping my beliefs on this matter...but a commentary would make this post far too long...so I'll just post these quotes and then give some concluding comments (all quotes are taken from Grudem's book:  "Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine").

Election is Paul's guarantee that there will be some success for his evangelism, for he knows that some of the people he speaks to will be the elect, and they will believe the gospel and be saved.  It is as if someone invited us to come fishing and said, "I guarantee that you will catch some fish -- they are hungry and waiting." (pg. 674)

God's act of election was neither impersonal nor mechanistic, but was permeated with personal love for those whom he chose. (pg. 674)

If the ultimate determining factor in whether we will be saved or not is our own decision to accept Christ, then we shall be more inclined to think that we deserve some credit for the fact that we were saved:  in distinction from other people who will continue to reject Christ, we were wise enough in our own judgment or good enough in our moral tendencies or perceptive enough in our spiritual capacities to decide to believe in Christ.  But once we begin to think this way then we seriously diminish the glory that is to be given to God for our salvation.  (pg. 678)

The doctrine of election tells us that I am a Christian simply because God in eternity past decided to set his love on me.  But why did he decide to set his love on me?  Not for anything good in me, but simply because he decided to love me.  There is no more ultimate reason than that.  It humbles us before God to think in this way.  It makes us realize that we have no claim on God's grace whatsoever.  Our salvation is totally due to grace alone.  Our only appropriate response is to give God eternal praise. (pg. 687)

There were many more things that Grudem said as well, that I didn't include in these quotes, and that's the fact that even though God sovereignly chooses us for salvation...from our perspective, we choose to believe, but this is only because God sovereignly ordained it to happen.

So...where am I on this?  I really don't know...I think I'm too uneducated to say for certain what I believe yet.  We're going to be discussing the Calvinism vs. Arminian debate in class, so I'm looking forward to looking more closely at the Biblical Arguments for both.  I hope and pray, though, that whatever I decide to believe, or "lean toward"...I will attempt to, by God's abundant grace, be humble and gracious and faithful to the Word in the midst of it all...and that I will be more faithful to the Word, than the traditions of man.

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