Whither Modern Calvinism?I hope you enjoy this article by Brother Bob Ross. It was sent originally to his email list. He later sent it to me and somehow I let it slip through the cracks and didn't post it.
See also What's Wrong With Modern Calvinists?, another article by Brother Bob.
No wonder one pastor wrote Brother Bob to say,
I am a Southern Baptist and a Calvinist. I used to attend the Founder's meetings, but these guys are completely out of balance. I wonder why some of them are not Presbyterians.Sad but true.
They claim to revere Spurgeon, but know nothing of the fire and evangelistic zeal that Spurgeon modeled. By and large, these Sovereign grace men are arrogant and proud. I know I am sterotyping, but I am not comfortable with them.
Last time we were hiring a Student minister, I interviewed a recent Southern graduate. This man was on a crusade to make everyone a Calvinist. I told him that I was one of the few who agreed with him, but that his beligerance on the subject would make him impossible to work with.
WHITHER MODERN CALVINISM?
The challenge that now confronts this theological train is, where does it go from here? Shall it expand or expire? "Go to seed" and rot, or flourish evangelically?
Mr. Iain Murray complains in his book, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, that "it may well be that we have NOT BEEN SUFFICIENTLY ALERT TO THE DANGER of allowing a supposed consistency in DOCTRINE to override the biblical priority of zeal for Christ and the souls of men" (page xiv).
Calvinism's immediate future as an aggressive evangelistic entity with "zeal for Christ and the souls of men" may hinge upon a few fundamental elements:
1. The respectful toleration of differing theological concepts held by others who have little understanding or appreciation of Calvinism as a system, yet are engaged in evangelistic outreach. Hardcore, hardline, hardheaded, hair-splitting Calvinism which becomes isolationist, exclusivist, nitpicking, and deliberately confrontational in attitude will generally be perceived as "hyperism," "extremism," and "sectarian," if not "cultic."
2. Engagement in aggressive, simplistic evangelism. The average Joe and Jane, Jose and Maria, will only be reached and converted with the basic Gospel, not with the "ordod salutis" layers of logical propositions which characterize theological systems of thought. Ministers and churches rooted in Calvinistic principles will not make converts to Christ except by the simple A-B-C Gospel.
Calvinists must devote evangelistic effort to convert the unsaved rather than being overly evangelistic in efforts to make proselyted theologians of those already converted. Too often we have witnessed churches begin with a few proselyted believers, then "die on the vine" for lack of evangelistic, soul winning outreach to the unsaved around them.
The "reformed" pedobaptists who baptize babies, such as the proteges of Berkhof, Sproul, and Murray, have little to be concerned about in the making of disciples, so long as they have families which beget their own "converts" biologically; but Baptists have only the Gospel as the means of making converts. If Baptists do not win converts with the Gospel, they will not grow and thrive for the cause of God and truth, therefore evangelism is imperative.
3. Magnify Christ and the Word of God more than Calvinism as a theological system. One does not have to be a Calvinist to be a good Christian, nor does being a Calvinist make one a good Christian. And contrary to some, the two are not necessarily synonymous. It is not more important to be Calvinist in theological thought than to put Christ and the Bible first in practical living.
4. Avoiding attachments to certain tangents on theological concepts. There has always been a tendency associated with the acceptance of Calvinism of "going to seed" on certain issues, and riding a hobbyhorse. It is especially noticeable today on the Internet, how much "muscle flexing" on certain points of Calvinism is emphasized by some websites. It's like going to a Cafeteria and the only selections offered are steak, ham, pork, chicken and turkey, but no veggies, beans, potatoes, salads, fruits, relishes, breads, desserts and condiments. Variety is still the "spice of life" and there is more in the Bible than strong doctrine and theology.
Since C. H. SPURGEON is so greatly admired by many Calvinists, perhaps this word of exhortation as to what is most important will be appreciated:
I want you to notice still further, that in this summary there is no exhibition of mere doctrine.
I believe, most firmly, in the doctrines commonly called Calvinistic, and I hold them to be very fraught with comfort to God’s people; but if any man shall say that the preaching of these is the WHOLE of the preaching of the gospel, I am at issue with him.
Brethren, you may preach those doctrines as long as you like, and yet fail to preach the gospel; and I will go further, and affirm that some who have even denied those truths, to our great grief, have nevertheless been gospel preachers for all that, and God has saved souls by their ministry.
The fact is, that while the doctrines of election, final perseverance, and so on, go to make up a complete ministry, and are invaluable in their place, yet the soul and marrow of the gospel is not there, but is to be found in the great fact that “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit,” and so on.
Preach Christ, young man, if you want to win souls. Preach all the doctrines, too, for the building up of believers, but still the main business is to preach Jesus who came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost.
The apostle tells us in the Corinthians that first of all he delivered unto us as soul saving truth, “how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” Facts about Christ Jesus, and the promise of life through him, these are the faith of the gospel. . . .
The gospel which is to be vehemently declared is this:-- “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” So long as London is reeking with sin, and millions are going down to hell, let us leave others to prophesy, let us go with anxious hearts to seek after souls, and see if we cannot by the Spirit’s power win sinners from going down into the pit.
You will, doubtless, have observed that this summary of the gospel is VERY SIMPLE. Whenever you meet with teaching which is cloudy and complicated, you may generally conclude that it is not the gospel of your salvation, for the truth of Christ is so plain that he who runs may read, and the wayfaring man though a fool need not err therein.
Perhaps some of you have been thinking that conversion and salvation are dark and mysterious things, and that you have to pass through many singular operations and feelings in order to be saved. Now, beloved, the whole of our faith lies in a nutshell. He that BELIEVETH in Jesus Christ the incarnate God, is saved.
These few truths if grasped by the mind, received and trusted in by the heart, will save you. It is at the cross that salvation must be found. We have not written over our religion, “Mystery, mystery, mother of harlots,” this is the sign of Babylon, but we have this to tell you, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned,” and the things which you have to believe are just these SIMPLICITIES:
Jesus the Son of God has come into this world as man to save men; he has bled and died; he is proclaimed and preached; he is to be received and believed in; he has gone up to glory to prepare a place for them that trust him, and that is all.
THE INFERENCES I draw from this are just these. If this be a great gospel, then how important it is for us to receive it. If the gospel were a laborious system of ethics, there are many in this house who never could be saved, for they could not understand it; but since it is SO SIMPLE, why do men refuse it?
"Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
O will you not lay hold upon that truth? I do pray the Spirit of God to take off your minds from all philosophies and mysteries, that you may come to Jesus only.
Trust in Christ and you are saved.
Receive this simple truth. God calls it great; angels think it great; the Holy Spirit attests it to be great; we who preach it feel it to be great; they who receive it acknowledge it to be great; Christ in glory bears witness that it is great; O ACCEPT this great salvation! May the Spirit lead you to believe in the great Savior of great sinners.
Again, if it be so great, how important it is for us to spread it! It does not require us to go to college in order to tell of Jesus: we can each in our sphere publish his fame abroad. If this simple truth be the message of God to perishing sinners, then in the name of common humanity, and above all, in the name of the love of Christ, let us deliver it.
How this text ought to encourage us to spread the gospel. When I am preaching the gospel, many may say, “Oh, he is only telling us commonplace truth.” Just so, I know that; and yet I feel within myself as if I was wheeling up God’s great cannon, which will blow the gates of hell to pieces yet.
“What! none of the venerable mysteries of Rome? What, none of the new philosophical discoveries? None of the imposing ceremonies?"
No, brethren, not one of them, they are all wooden guns, shams and counterfeits, and if ever they are fired off they will go to shivers. This plain truth, that “God was made flesh and dwelt among us,” is God’s great battering ram against which nothing can stand.
Never lose heart in the gospel, my brethren, but think you hear the apostle calling across the ages, “Great is the mystery of godliness.” Look for nothing greater, the gospel is great enough. Keep to it, never think you have told men times enough about it. As Napoleon told his warriors at the pyramids, “A thousand ages look down upon you!” bleeding martyrs who from their graves, call to you to be faithful; confessors who ascended to heaven in fiery chariots, implore you to be steadfast.
Hold fast that ye have received. Attempt not to mend the truth, venture not, to shape it according to the fancy of the times, but proclaim it in all its native purity. By this hammer the gods of Rome and Greece were dashed to shivers, by this lever the world was turned upside down; it is this gospel which has brought glory to God, filled heaven with redeemed souls, and made hell to tremble in all its palaces of flame.
Bind it about your heart, and defy the hosts of Rome or hell to unloose its folds. Wrap it about your loins in death, and hold it as a standard in both your hands in life.
This simple truth, that “Jesus Christ has come to seek and to save that which is lost,” and that “whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life,” must be your jewel, your treasure, your life.
[Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 13, Year 1867, #786, excerpts from pages 706-708].