Archive for the ‘Calvinism’ Category

I woke up early today (6 AM) and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to start the day early. Part of that early start was some devotional reading though 2 Thessalonians. Very interesting letter, to be sure.

Saint Paul of Tarsus

One interesting part is that Paul boldly asserts what many Christians simply do not believe: “God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 2:13-14). Both classical Arminianism and historic Semi-Pelagianism (in different ways) assert that God chooses us because we choose him. Paul (as we shall see, contrasting the believers with the ungodly Gospel deniers of Thessaloniki) artlessly asserts that God chose the Thessalonian Christians. At this point, I pause to wait for all the yeahbuts… (more…)

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I ran across a gorgeous little ditty from John Calvin today. It fits into the discussion about God’s will and the salvation of people. Calvin’s little tract is called “Articles concerning Predestination”; it’s found in a volume translated and edited by J.K.S. Reid entitled Calvin: Theological Treatises. In that the article is short, I will reproduce the whole thing below and then add some comments afterward.

Articles concerning Predestination

Before the first man was created, God in his eternal counsel had determined what he willed to be done with the whole human race.

In the hidden counsel of God it was determined that Adam should fall from the unimpaired condition of his nature, and by his defection should involve all his posterity in sentence of eternal death.

Upon the same decree depends the distinction between elect and reprobate: as he adopted some for himself for salvation, he destined others for eternal ruin. (more…)

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Here’s one of the things I’ve been wondering for years: what do people actually mean when they utter or write the words “God want everyone to be saved”? These words are commonly used; it is regularly asserted of God that he wants everyone to be saved. In this post, I do not offer an answer to this question. This is partly because I don’t tend to use this sort of language. Even so, I do seek to understand what folks mean when they use it. Thus, I want to press beyond sloganizing and get past mere equivocation. I want to begin to explore some different possible meanings of that proposition to see if I can make sense out of them without doing damage to classical Christian theology. What I mean by that is that Christians have almost always (rightly) held that God is self-consistent, that is, consistent with himself. Now, sometimes it takes some work for us to understand that consistency, but it is always there. So, let’s move forward and consider possible meanings for this very common sentiment. (more…)

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Don't be a hater...

For the past 14 years I’ve been engaged in theological discussion. I’ve grown a tremendous amount through these discussions, and I owe my eschatology and ethics (for starters) to brothers in Christ who took the time to *argue* with me.  Now, when I say *argue*, I don’t mean be a jerk or call nasty names. What it means that brothers were willing to listen to my ideas with understanding and engage with them. They were willing to love me enough to challenge my false notions. This is what brothers are for… well, at least one thing they’re for.

Most of my theological discussions have taken place face-to-face (or, more accurately, side-to-side). My deep preference is to sit down with a brother, light up a cigar (more…)

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Heidelberg Catechism #44

Q. 44 – Why does the Creed add, “He descended into Hell”?

A. To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.

Theological: It is interesting to note that the Catechism basically bypasses all the discussion of the harrowing of hell in its answer. The wisdom in this policy is the controversy is not very edifying. (more…)

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Augustine & Calvin

I’m always amused when people say that the majority of church history is not “Calvinistic.” I’m amused because it’s both true and false. It’s true in that the Reformation put a fine point on issues of divine sovereignty and human inability. Take note that I said the Reformation, not Calvin. If by “Calvinism” we mean a commitment to the utter helplessness of humanity and a profound commitment to the sovereignty of God in the salvation or damnation of sinners, then we might just as well call it by a name reminiscent of any of the Reformers. Arminius himself was absolutely committed to the utter and absolute helplessness of humanity. If, however, by “Calvinism” we (anachronistically) mean the five points of Calvinism, then a great deal of the church is not Calvinistic… that is, completely Calvinistic.

When I think of the “Calvinism” of the church in broad historical terms, I’m thinking of it in a general sense: a commitment Augustinian anthropology and soteriology. (more…)

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What's the Problem?

With all the hubbub surrounding the atonement of late, some comments have surfaced that are quite interesting as to what people think Calvinists think (and say). These comments are telling, as some of them indicate that Calvinism’s being opposed, but  not fully understood. (That, by the way, is a VERY important point, as “Ready! Fire! Aim!” is not the best method.) One of my friends (a genuinely intelligent, well read, and well-intentioned brother in Christ) made this comment:

So once again “everyone who believes” is justified. Reminds me of John’s gospel saying “whosoever will”. Funny how these phrases keep popping up in regard to the unlimited extent of the atonement.

Now, of course it is a non sequitur to think that “whosoever will” implies an “unlimited extent” to the atonement. (more…)

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This is how I make people feel.

Causing embarrassment in others is nothing new to me… just ask my immediate family. I own it. I do dumb stuff. I think even mere Facebook friends would agree. Well, it seems I’ve outdone even myself this time. I’ve gone and made my friend, Billy Birch, all embarrassed by my lack of exegetical prowess. These are new and uncharted waters for me. Usually it’s my lack of taste, decorum, or personal hygiene that causes others to blush in embarrassment, not my lack of exegetical prowess. Let’s see what I can do to sort all this out.

Indulge me, kind reader, to remind you the purpose of my post, the one that’s caused all this embarrassment. I set out to list a handful of texts from which Calvinists have historically drawn their doctrine of limited atonement. I decided to compose this short list (more…)

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What Calvinists read instead of the Bible

In the spirit of equity and fairness, the block quote below was directed toward Calvinists like me regarding the doctrine of particular redemption or limited atonement. Evidently it struck a chord, as it was even referenced in the comments of the post with an, “EXACTLY! Good stuff.”

They [Calvinists] do not argue that Scripture clearly teaches a limited atonement view (in its intent) and then demand that we answer Scripture…. They insist that Arminians answer their philosophical meanderings about the amount of people for whom Christ died (whom Scripture names “the world”), which is a speculative argument entirely absent from the tenor of Scripture itself.

Well, I don’t know what this whole “Scripture” thing is, but I’ve been reading Mad Magazine, (more…)

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I thank my friend and brother, Billy Birch, for responding to my post yesterday. I have to admit, however, a certain amount of disappointment with the response. Even with all my warm-hearted tenderness, he didn’t answer my question. Here is the question I asked him:

What exactly, in the final analysis, did Christ actually do on the cross for one who never believes and ends up in hell? Billy cannot retreat into words like “provisional” or “potential” unless he both 1) define EXACTLY what’s meant by such language, and 2) show that such a concept is expressly set down in Scripture or can be deduced by good and necessary consequence.


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