Thursday, February 28, 2008

Today's "Calvinism" and evangelism

ARE "CALVINISTS" LACKING IN EVANGELISM?

While professed Reformed Calvinists are often wont to "wallpaper" their blogs and websites with Spurgeon photos, there is a noticeable lack of similarity between them and Spurgeon. For example, I know many who would probably decry Spurgeon's message on salvation by faith -- just as the "high" and "ultra" Calvinists did in Spurgeon's own lifetime.

Modern Reformed Calvinists react rather strenuously against the idea that "Calvinism kills evangelism" (See Ernest C. Reisinger, A Biography, page 72), and the usual retort is to mention past personalities such as Spurgeon who were evidently not retarded in their zeal and efforts by their version of Calvinism.

However, no less a Calvinist "reformer" than Iain Murray apparently recognizes the lack of Spurgeonic evangelistic emphasis in the so-called "resurgence" of Calvinism in our time.

In the Preface of his 1995 book, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, Murray says:

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In the 1960s it seemed to many of us that Spurgeon's continuing significance had to do with his witness to the free-grace convictions of the Reformers and Puritans over against the shallow and non-doctrinal evangelicalism of our day. Thirty years later that witness remains relevant and yet it is apparent that the recovery of doctrinal Christianity is not necessarily our chief need today.

In many churches there has been a real increase in knowledge and a resurgence of Calvinistic belief has occurred across the world. The word 'forgotten' is happily far less applicable to Spurgeon than it was forty years ago. But it may well be that the time has come when we need to be MUCH MORE FAMILIAR with a rather different emphasis in Spurgeon.

While I know of no evidence that Hyper-Calvinism is recovering strength, it would appear that THE PRIORITY WHICH SOUL-WINNING HAD IN SPURGEON'S MINISTRY IS NOT COMMONLY SEEN TO BE OUR PRIORITY.

The revival of DOCTRINE has scarcely been matched by a revival of EVANGELISM. While not accepting the tenets of Hyper-Calvinism 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 SOULS OF MEN.

Doctrine without usefulness is no prize. As Spurgeon says, 'You may look down with contempt on some who do not know so much as you, and yet they may have twice your holiness and be doing more service to God.'
>>

This leads one to wonder about the sort of "Calvinism" of this age when compared to that of former years. My own personal observation is that there has been far too much emphasis on what Murray calls "consistency of doctrine" than what he calls "the Biblical priority of zeal for Christ and the souls of men." I have -- for better or for worse -- since the mid-1950s had a firsthand knowledge of several centers or bases of what Murray calls the "resurgence of Calvinistic belief," and looking back upon the subsequent aftermath of those distant "resurgencies" is not very inspirational.

Groups of individuals and churches over the country which gathered around an emphasis on "Calvinistic belief" at "Grace Conferences" such as those held in Cincinnati OH, Ashland KY, Carlisle PA, Houston TX, London UK, and in other cities have not left a very desirable, attractive landscape. Few would care to recall in detail and with perfect candor what has developed in certain places across time. What began in various locales as a sort of "burning bush" has over the years become more like unto the "withered fig tree."

What seems to have been a "common" missing element in each of these "resurgent" scenarios is what Murray himself cites -- "the PRIORITY which soul-winning had in Spurgeon's ministry." What mattered most seems to have been theoretical "soundness," ecclesiastical "reformation," and what Founders' founder Ernest Reisinger called "experiential application in areas of worship and witness." Looking back on these areas today is to behold something on the order of an old Western "gold rush" town filled with balls of sagebrush rolling around on the streets.

An acquaintance of mine, Stephen Garrett, has recently reflected upon this same topic. You may read his article, Spurgeon and Today's Baptists, at the BaptistGadfly.

7 Comments:

At Friday, February 29, 2008 6:18:00 AM, Blogger Rick said...

Intersting take.

I wonder if you could comment on a thread sometime relative to a couple of points that I see as a weakness in the professions of many of these blogging "hybrids" we have today.

One, the facet that stands out to me is the declamation (strongly) that they are the only ones who have it right and everyone else (all other movements) are heretical and therefore damned.

Two, the ridiculous posturing that one needs to be militant to accomplish anything of value (aggresive, overbearing, intolerant).

Three, the completely fallacious concept that it is the mainstream who is to be blamed for the ills (secular and religious) of the world. In other words, wishing to ignor the fact that it is precisely the nut cases on the edge that actually cause the problems and it is the middle-class mainstream that ALWAYS has to pay for it and resolve it.

Where do they get this non-sense from? It's ridiculous.

 
At Friday, February 29, 2008 12:05:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...

RICK'S COMMENTS

Rick said...

One, the facet that stands out to me is the declamation (strongly) that they are the only ones who have it right and everyone else (all other movements) are heretical and therefore damned..

Bob: These sources you refer to are probably extremists. In most alleged "reforms" and "restorations," the "Indians" seem to always overrun the more compatible "Chiefs." In the Founders, for example,
Ernest Reisinger would disavow this type, so would the current "Chief," Tom Ascol.

Bob: This is how it was with Alexander Campbell, who started the "Restoration Movement" of the Campbellites -- the followers were far more extreme than Campbell himself. Also, the successors of J. R. Graves, who started the "Landmark" movement among Southern Baptists, have gone to extremes compared to Graves.

Today's "Reformed Calvinists" likewise go beyond Calvin and the Calvinist Confessions of Faith.

Two, the ridiculous posturing that one needs to be militant to accomplish anything of value (aggresive, overbearing, intolerant).

"Friends" or followers in "movements" always seem to need and appreciate dogmatism and authoritarianism, and so the would-be Leaders take advantage of that psychological factor.

Three, the completely fallacious concept that it is the mainstream who is to be blamed for the ills (secular and religious) of the world.

Bob: Any "reform" or "restoraton" worth its salt always has to have a scapegoat for the supposed ills which they allegedly are confronting in order to proselytize followers. For example, the Founders have pounced on the "numbers" element in the SBC's church membership statistics to mount attacks upon the supposed "evils" involved -- such as "Arminianism,"
"altar calls," and the "lack of church discipline."

In other words, wishing to ignor the fact that it is precisely the nut cases on the edge that actually cause the problems and it is the middle-class mainstream that ALWAYS has to pay for it and resolve it.

Unfortunately, in any reactionary "movement," the "nut cases" will eventually come out of the woodwork in due course of time, and there seems to be no surefire way to thwart their coming. Even "stop," "go slow," and "reduce speed" warnings do not usually serve much purpose.

 
At Saturday, March 01, 2008 3:04:00 PM, Anonymous Ben said...

The "hybrids," as you call them grow their churches through church splits, not evangelism. We have a church in our association which had a Founders man on the search committee and led the committee to call a Founders pastor. One year later the church split and the Founders pastor and committee member took over 80 members to start a "church plant."

This thriving church is now in turmoil, thanks to underhanded, dishonest men.

Bob and Charles, do you know if church splitting is encouraged by the Founders or does it just come naturally?

Ben

 
At Saturday, March 01, 2008 8:05:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...

CHURCH SPLITS?

Ben asked:
Bob and Charles, do you know if church splitting is encouraged by the Founders or does it just come naturally?

The Founders publish a book called "A Quiet Revolution" by Ernest Reisinger in which are offered "practical suggestions" for "local church reformation" (page 92).

The author says, "In genuine reformation of a church" [according to the Founders' formula] "three things will always happen: some will leave [split?], some will want to get rid of the preacher, and thank God, some will get right with God" (page 95).

The Founders' formula for local church reformation seems to be a surefire formula for a split of some description.

Those who do not go along with the Founders' version of "reformation" are apparently regarded as "unregenerates," especially the
"religiously ignorant deacons and leaders" (pages 95, 96).

It seems to be that "new" churches started by Founders-friendly disciples are started from splits.

A split usually will mean new "business" for those Hybrid Calvinist "Reformed" sources which have books, study courses, and other products for sale. These new churches will most likely zealously purchase lots of Founders and Banner of Truth materials for growth in the faith of Hybrid Calvinism and for distribution in the effort to proselytize others. Many will probably also pay to attend one or more Founders' "Conferences" where they can hear some of the leading Hybrid Calvinist ministers and buy Hybrid Calvinist products.

Some might even sign up and buy a ticket for a James White cruise!

 
At Sunday, March 02, 2008 10:20:00 AM, Blogger Rick said...

This subject of clandestine subversive "planting" of "hybrids" into SBC churches to convert them to reformed is being seen more and more. It deserves its own thread.

Has there been an untold formation of "uber" soldiers whose mission it is to make a turnover (hostile or otherwise) of peace loving non-5 pointers into calvinist churches?

It makes one wonder if people like Mohler have put all their cards on the table or are secretly plotting conversion with moles whose plans are not directly revealed to the populace of a church until a split or chaos has been effected.

 
At Monday, March 03, 2008 11:15:00 AM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...

COVERT "REFORMERS"?

Rick wrote:
Has there been an untold formation of "uber" soldiers whose mission it is to make a turnover (hostile or otherwise) of peace loving non-5 pointers into calvinist churches?

Since the 1950s, when I first began to observe churches splitting over "sovereign grace" issues, I have not personally seen anything on the order of this type of covert activity which you mention.

What I have observed is that, in most cases, it begins with the pastor and a few of his "inner circle" friends who become obsessed with emphasizing their theoretical system on "sovereign grace" or the "doctrines of grace."

If you've read Ernest Reisinger's "Instructions for Local Church Reformation" in chapter 4 of his book, A Quiet Revolution, it is rather obvious that Reisinger's instructions are primarily directed to pastors. A pastor is really about the only one who can lead in the "takeover" of a church in the name of "reform." Other than a pastor, lay peple in a church who may solicite "reform," are usually at best simply part of a small group which will eventually splits off and forms a new church.

One apparent inevitable attribute of a "reform" movement is that the splits never seem to terminate, as the various "reformers" are difficult to completely satisfy and they contend for the need of even greater "reformation." So another split occurs out of the first split, and the pattern seems to go on and on. This has happened time and again in places where the call for "reformation" has been given prominence.

 
At Wednesday, March 05, 2008 8:09:00 AM, Blogger Rick said...

Bob. Interesting answer.

I'm not sure what, if anything, would satisfy the blogging Calvinists I read. They are usually willing to acknowledge the value of non-Calvinist contributions to their learning but always end with the caveat that they would like non-5 pointers to see the "error of their ways" and convert to reformed thinking.

I think there is more than the issue of "grace" that antagonizes them. I think that if you gave them everything they wanted in a church, they still would not be happy.

In the little town I came from there was a few thousand people and there was one Catholic church, one Lutheran church, one Methodist church, and six Baptist churchs.

It is also cumbersome, I think, that so many enjoy throwing the "heretical" word out as if they are a gun-slinger from the old west and are going to make you collapse by its usage.

To throw out that word in the 16th century meant something very different from throwing it out today. I think the more it is used today the more insignificant it becomes and the more foolish one looks by uttering it.

 

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