Thursday, July 12, 2007

No. I mean, I don't like to be painted with that brush.

Are you a Calvinist? Many of us have been asked that question before.

Rev will tell you that he's not a follower of John Calvin and I've already suggested an alternative to the TULIP, the "loveliest flower in the Lord's garden."

But, am I a Calvinist?

Well, it depends on what you mean by Calvinist, of course. There is so much misinformation and caricaturization out there (like confusion about Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism) that such a term is enigmatic.

In many respects "Calvinist" would be an appropriate label of my theological perspective, but not my preferred label. I mean, I don't like to be painted with that brush. Just as others prefer not be called Arminians. Since we're not followers or Jacobus Arminius or John Calvin, those labels are inadequate, but I would certainly be more at the Calvinistic end of the spectrum.

I have nothing against John Calvin (whom I'd call great) and find his writing very helpful. I also admire his resolve to stand for truth.
A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's Truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.
-John Calvin

So, I don't want to give the impression that I'm trying to "distance" merely out of fear it will seem I got my theology from Calvin, which is not the case. I got it from the same place he did, from the same place Luther did, etc., from the Bible. It just so happens that there are great similarities between our theologies. In short, "Calvinism" is much bigger and predates Calvin.

Yet, there is some of some of Calvin's theology that I don't embrace. I prefer the more inclusive term "Reformed"as it reflects a return to the theological mindset of the Protestant Reformation, particularly the 5 Solas.

I prefer "Reformed" as it's more descriptive of principles that lead to theological precepts, instead of "Calvinist" which tends to be more descriptive of a set of theological precepts, which may vary some in the eye of the beholder.

With regard to the election & predestination stuff, I call it just like I see it on the biblical page (see Slooge Sheet). I believe in the sovereignty of God in election, but also believe every human being has a responsibility to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. I don't think they can or will unless aided by the Spirit, but I give them all the Gospel and leave it to God to do what only He can do, particularly among His elect.
Evangelize 'em all. Let God sort 'em out.

Yet, God's sovereignty motivates me to do evangelism and I love the doctrine, much as Spurgeon did.
Some men hate the doctrine of divine sovereignty; but those who are called by grace love it, for they feel if it had not been for sovereignty, they never would have been saved.
-Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Upon reflection, if I had to claim "a" guy with which to align my theology, I'd probably prefer to be a Spurgeonist, but he was more comfortable wearing the label "Calvinist" than I.

In a "Defense of Calvinism," Spurgeon wrote:
"I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor."

I guess I could also be called an Augustinian or a Whitefieldian or Edwardsian or an Owenite or a Lutherite or Sproulian or even a Piperite. You could make a case for each one (as well as Mueller, Carey, Knox, Boyce, Boice, Judson, Dagg, Broadus, Carroll, Strong, etc.), but at the end of the day the "Calvinist" just wants what everyone wants, to follow Christ and bear his name.

I would also suggest that none of those men would want their followers to bear a name other than Christ's.

The labels can be helpful, but they can be problematic as well.

Am I a Calvinist?

In short, I don't like to be painted with that brush, but if words mean the things they're supposed to mean, then I would be dishonest if I denied the accusation of being a "Calvinist."

What about you? What's your preferred nomenclature?



At 12 July, 2007 08:25, Blogger Rev. said...

Spurgeonist. I can roll with that.

At 12 July, 2007 10:45, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Gunny. I guess that is why I am called a Hartmanist.

See you at the compound,

At 12 July, 2007 12:29, Anonymous Anonymous said...

is this a recycled post?

At 12 July, 2007 13:12, Blogger GUNNY said...

Although it's a post for the ages and one worthy of reposting near and far ... alas, it is not.

However, I have written about related issues (e.g., my theological perspective, caricature of Calvinism pet peeve, rise of Calvinism, John Calvin, TULIP, how to discuss such issues, and hyper-Calvinism) in the past (some more germane than others).

How many of the movies can you guess the origin for the quote/title?

1. Theological Perspective (shamefully, no movie quote)

2. Won't you gentlemen have a Pepsi?

3. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable.

4. Alderaan? I'm not going to Alderaan. I've got to go home.

5. Some folks call it a sling blade; I call it a Kaiser blade.

6. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline.

7. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

At 12 July, 2007 14:11, Blogger M. Jay Bennett said...

WWCD, that's greatness!

Well, let's see?

He would . . .

At 12 July, 2007 15:51, Anonymous NCguy said...

I suppose that if I were a pastor, I would seldom refer to myself as a Calvinist. There are a lot of sheep (and preachers too) that are very prejudiced against the term. If they heard that I was one, they might not bother to come and hear me preach, much less entrust themselves to my shepherding.

But since I am just a non-degreed ‘lay person’, I don’t mind identifying myself as a Calvinist in addition to the cherished label of Christian. After all, the people I work with are stuck with me day in and day out anyway. They are forced to get to know me to a degree. And once they hear the term ‘Calvinist’ or ‘Calvinism’, they become curious, even if they are familiar with the term and prejudiced against it. Perhaps by the time they realize I’m a Calvinist, they’ve already gotten to know me, and they probably think, “Well Ncguy, he’s not such a bad guy. In fact, he’s pretty bright, likable, and reasonable. Maybe there’s something to this Calvinism that I don’t know about.” Or others who aren’t entirely familiar with it: “Calvinism? What’s that??” And then there are the warring Arminians who hate Calvinism and make it their mission in life to ‘de-calvinate’ me.

You see, the thing is, in any of these scenarios, good conversation almost always ensues. People hear the gospel at work. Some believe. And some even become ‘Calvinists’!


At 13 July, 2007 05:47, Blogger GUNNY said...

Good point(s), NCguy.

I'd also say you've got a great(er) opportunity in being an undercover evangelist (so to speak).

Your experience and example are good reminders of the different opportunities God gives each of us and the potential for fruit coming from time invested in personal relationships.

At 13 July, 2007 16:14, Blogger Neeci said...

I stick with Reformed. I'm not Calvinist, but I am Reformed.

At 14 July, 2007 16:49, Blogger Jared Nelson said...


At 07 August, 2007 09:33, Blogger Timothy said...

Yes, I am a Calvinist and like the term! I guess I like the occasional fight that goes with it.

At 03 January, 2011 22:17, Anonymous Chosen to Choose said...

I'm just an ordinary Biblical Christian who sees that Calvin (like all men) was right about some things and wrong about others. And that Arminius (like all men) was right about some things and wrong about others.

What bewilders me about both men (and all men like them) is their inability to accept, without fear or question, what God's Word tells us about "predestination" (a term found in Scripture) and "free will" (a theological term which attempts to express a Scriptural Truth).

Why not just "fess up" and accept the fact that the Bible teaches us both without contradicting either?


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