First of all I need to take care of a hat tip (ht) to my buddy Seth at Contending Earnestly. This posting is being created out of my thoughts triggered by this fellow blogger’s posting and comments. The posting is about being labeled a Calvinist, and the label or term being used as a dirty word.
I really didn’t know what I was until I started reading books on theology. Speaking of theology; The word is much like the word doctrine, and Calvinism. Theology has also been reduced to a dirty word. At least a drastically minimized word in terms of evangelical importance.
Theology – the study of God. Come on, what’s more important?
I didn’t think theology was important until I ran into some blatantly bad theology. For years I had been indoctrinated in meeting peoples needs above doctrine. Now, I believe, if you don’t have sound biblical doctrine and theology, how can you truly meet the peoples ultimate need? Their need is to hear the true gospel of Jesus Christ. What do I mean by the true gospel? Funny I should ask, because it brings up the point of this post.
When I heard about the Five Points of Calvinism I will admit I had heard the term or label Calvinism and immediately thought “one of them”, and “I heard they don’t believe we have a free will.” But after reading these five points I basically recognized and interpreted it as the gospel. The gospel spoken of in scripture. These five points are also known as TULIP. This is an acronym which is defined below.
T otal Depravity – We suck. (a verb meaning we are sinners and do not seek God) (Ref. Romans 6:20, Romans 3:10-12)
U nconditional Election – God does the choosing. No matter who you are and what you’ve done. (Ref. Eph. 1:4-8)
L imited Atonement – Christ died and His blood covers those who the Father chose. (Ref. Eph. 5:25-27)
I rresistable Grace – God’s elect hear the gospel and the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of the those elect and they willing come to God. (Ref. Romans 9:16, Phil. 2:12-13)
P erseverance of the Saints – The elect of God cannot lose their salvation. For heaven’s sake the elect didn’t do anything to earn salvation. God did the choosing. They are eternally secure. (Ref. Romans 8:26-39)
I think that pretty much sums up the gospel as it is told in scripture.
So, am I a Calvinsit? If you prefer a label or a badge, I will gladly wear it. I have one on my sidebar as a matter of fact. It looks like this:
A few months ago I found an article from a blogger that did a real good job of describing why he was a Calvinist. I give a high hat tip to Kevin DeYoung and his article.
July 10, 2009 at 8:21 am
Thank you for the thought provoking post, honey.
I am of the opinion that labels are what have helped water down the truth of THE Gospel. And the elect have allowed it by becoming too lazy to just share THE Gospel in full, instead of condensing it down to a title or label.
You know what you do to condensed things? You add water!
I’m just saying…
July 10, 2009 at 11:00 am
Thanks for comment Rib. Labels, schlabels …. God calls us His own. That is what’s important.
July 10, 2009 at 8:28 pm
This is a very good post. I also don’t like to wear labels. I just want to be a Christ follower. However, I must admit that the Christian authors I have read who offer the most sound and biblical theology have been reformed and some of the best sermons I have ever listened to have been from Tim Keller. I cannot deny the very positive influence in my life of those who do wear the label of Calvinism. I think the reason I resist the label is because of the overwhelming misconception that anyone who believes in election does not believe we have free will. That is simply not true.
I grew up in a very unusual, cultish group that taught perfection as a salvation requirement. I did not hear the Gospel until I left at the age of 43. I did not know grace. I did not know who Jesus was (because we were taught he was God’s first creation and the Trinity was a lie). Since God has delivered me out of that, I have had a hard time seeing any possible explanation for my deliverance other than God choosing to show mercy to me. I didn’t get out because of superior intelligence or better judgment or because I am in any way more deserving of God’s mercy than the people who remain there. There is no explanation I can come up with apart from God having mercy on whom He will have mercy.
Some people think that believing in election leads to a feeling of superiority (thinking they are chosen and someone else is not). I think it’s the total opposite. The idea that I have done nothing to deserve His mercy and to belong to Him merely because He chose to make me His own is very humbling. It prevents me from looking down on someone who does not appear to “choose” God. But since I do not know whom God has chosen, it does not prevent me from wanting to share the Gospel with all others any time I have the opportunity. I know I have a role in God’s plan if He has chosen me.
I still don’t like to get too deep into the subject with people who have a preconceived idea of what it means to believe in election. Their grasp of reformed theology, I have found, is often very narrow and they don’t really understand what Calvinists believe. So for that reason, I don’t wear the label. But when someone else tells me that they embrace a Calvinist view of faith, I no longer put them in a box and label them the way I once would have.
And I do wholeheartedly agree with you that the most important thing is sound theology. Keep up the good work.
July 11, 2009 at 12:04 pm
Thank you for sharing Shari. The hardest thing about calling yourself a Christian in the culture today is that so many others with false or no doctrine wear that label. So we might tend to separate ourselves from that label. Because of our doctrine and beliefs we look for another way of identifying ourselves. This makes me wonder if this is a humanistic or cultural need. Anyway, so we choose Reformed, Calvinist, or even Non-denominational, which is one I’ve used before. We do this mainly because of some of the presuppositions folks have that you mentioned. I have to chuckle at your mention of folks who think the doctrine of election leads to a feeling of superiority having been chosen. I think this conclusion is still derived from the notion that God chooses us based on something we’ve done or who we are. In actuality it has the opposite effect of humility. If we did not do anything to warrant God’s grace in salvation, who can boast? (Ephesians 2:8-9)
July 11, 2009 at 12:42 pm
Excellent! Reminded me of an old post of mine…
What really concerns me about the facination with “Calvinism” is not the doctrines of grace but rather the the startling move toward what I call neo-puritanism.
July 11, 2009 at 10:23 pm
I couldn’t agree more. When I hear friends say things like, “Well, God must have seen something in your heart that made Him choose you” I just shake my head and say, “No. The bible says I was dead in my sins and there was nothing good in me. It’s all about Him. It’s not about me!” But people look at you very strangely and just don’t understand. I’ve had friends say that I am beating up on myself as if I’m not a good person and just totally miss the whole point. I talked until I was blue in the face (well, not quite) once until I finally got across to one friend that I was not being “down” on myself but I wanted to always take a posture of humility before God. She finally did comprehend what I was saying. But it took a LONG time of discussion to get her to see that I was saying something different than she was hearing. I think this has so much to do with our culture of self-esteem.
Those are good points about wanting to define ourselves beyond the label of Christian for the reasons you offered. There is just no way to avoid any negative association. : )
I have one suggestion concerning your blog. You should post more often. Take care.
July 12, 2009 at 12:49 am
My wife would agree with your last sentence. She has been encouraging for the last week to start posting again.
I had forgotten that you had moved your blogging. I need to change my sidebar link.
So, after re-reading your posting you might characterize me as a dispensational Calvinist. LOL. I had not heard of the Paedobaptism doctrine being assumed of most Calvinists. I think for the most part folks who would call themselves Calvinists do so out of their agreement over the doctrines of grace.
July 14, 2009 at 10:11 pm
Yeah I prefer the title “reformed” over Calvinist because, although I greatly respect the work of John Calvin and agree with him in many ways, I am not a Calvin follower. It is however the major doctrines that came out of the reformation (a turn back to the Bible as the sole authority) that I whole heartedly agree with. So “reformed” fits better for me, but I call myself a Calvinist at times simply because it is a quick way to identify what you believe to others. Although there are so many misconceptions about Calvinism sometime I think it is better to say you are reformed and clarify what that means. lol. Just my thoughts.
May 23, 2010 at 12:17 am
I find no fault with the name “calvinism.” Since the time that God gave the task to naming the animals in the garden, man has been naming things. It’s fine. However, the key issue seems to me to be – whatever you call yourself, can you affirm Dan 4:35 without ambiguity?
May 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm
Excellent verse, and Amen. God is indeed sovereign over all things.
January 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm
nope..not a calvanist..and thankful I am not!!