Thursday, July 03, 2008

Calvinist evangelists?

"Where are the Calvinist evangelists?"

On the Pyromaniacs blog of July 2, 2008, Phil Johnson, who has long been John MacArthur's "righthand man," reprints an article which he first posted on June 1, 2005.

The significance of that date in relation to The Calvinist Flyswatter is that it was posted several months before Charles launched the Flyswatter and also before I had ever posted anything on anybody's blog.

Neither Charles nor I were the "creators" of the type of critical analysis of modern Reformed "Calvinism" which some have perceived as "anti-Calvinism." Phil Johnson voices the same type of analysis of "Calvinism" which The Flyswatter has simply applied to specific cases which exemplify characteristics which Phil enumerates in his blog.

Here is an excerpt from Phil's post:

Non-evangelism. Among more mainstream Calvinists, there are certainly some outstanding men who are earnestly evangelistic (Piper, MacArthur, and even Sproul). But it would be stretching things more than a little bit to insist that modern Calvinism as a movement is known by its passion for evangelism. Where are the Calvinist evangelists? I can think of only one outstanding example: John Blanchard. (There are surely more, but at the moment I can't think of any other famous Calvinists now living who have devoted their ministries primarily to evangelism). Of course, I fully realize that the Arminian caricature of historic Calvinism as anti-evangelistic is a total lie. But one could hardly argue that evangelism is a key feature of modern Calvinism. Neither the writings we produce nor the conferences we hold focus much on evangelism.

Polemicism. Today's rank-and-file Calvinists are more in the mold of Pink, Boettner, and J.I. Packer than they are like Spurgeon or Whitefield. In other words, modern Calvinism is producing mostly students and polemicists, not evangelists and preachers. That's because Internet Calvinism is simply too academic and theoretical and not concerned enough with doing, as opposed to hearing, the Word (
James 1:22). To a large degree, I think that's what the medium itself encourages.

For the rest of the post, click here for "Quick-and-Dirty Calvinism."

Lack of evangelism is perhaps the primary reason most Calvinist churches decrease and eventually even decease. This is especially true of Calvinist Baptist churches, for the Calvinist Baptist churches of my generation have been somewhat inclined to non-evangelism, if not anti-evangelism. Many of them oppose public invitations to accept Christ and other methods of evangelistic effort which seek faith-decisions from the unsaved. They think the "totally depraved" are just too "dead" for things of that sort, despite the power of the Word and Spirit to convict and draw them to Christ.

Phil Johnson refers to Piper, MacArthur, Sproul, and Blanchard as "evangelistic." If these are the best examples of Calvinist "evangelism," then the Calvinism of this era is not really very evangelistic -- at least from what I have observed.

If I really set my mind to it, and looked back at the record of more than 50 years of observation, I could probably come up with the names of at least 50 to 100 Calvinist churches which have deceased, and some others which are "lisping toward the starboard side." Why have they gone by the wayside?

Primarily, I think, for lack of evangelism. And why so? Primarily, I think, for "going to seed" in their obsessive emphasis on "sovereign grace," "the doctrines of grace," "reformed theology," etc. They can rattle off "the five points of Calvinism," but they are rather mum on promulgating the "A-B-C's" of the Gospel.

If your church or group is "Calvinist," just take inventory of what evangelism it has done in the past and what evangelism it is doing now. Take inventory on where and how the converts to Christ are being made, and consider whether or not they are the results of the evangelism of professing "Calvinist" churches and preachers?


At Thursday, July 03, 2008 3:59:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...


We need to be known for being passionate evangelists.

Let me encourage you as friends here:

Don't make heroes of pastors who are great preachers and theologians, but whose churches are not evangelistic. They are talking about the gospel without living it out.

What we celebrate we become. And if we celebrate those with strong theology but week witness, that is exactly what we will become.

. . . I know that Bill Ascol cautions his church here to not be "functional hyper-Calvinists."

Watching out for functional hyper-Calvinism is a good caution for all of us.

I know many who are "functionally hypercalvinist," Reformed and not-Reformed.

But, here is the important thing: Hyper-Calvinist or functional hypercalvinist, the result is the same: God is not honored and given the glory he is due. . . .

Maybe it would be better to listen to those who are already adept at evangelism rather than find it necessary to write a new version to correct theirs.

If you want to overcome the negative perception of Calvinists, Calvinists must be known as evangelists.

. . . We must evangelize and plant the gospel to start a church.

Remember William Carey, An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians
to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens

"As our blessed Lord has required us to pray that his kingdom may come, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven, it becomes us not only to express our desires of that event by words, but to use every lawful method to spread the knowledge of his name."
For more, click here

At Thursday, July 03, 2008 4:07:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...


Here is the proper link to the Ed Stetzer item mentioned above:

For more, click here

At Thursday, July 03, 2008 5:49:00 PM, Blogger My Daily Bread said...

Brother Bob:

I too saw that blog entry by brother Johnson. I wanted to leave a comment giving him a hearty "amen" but some others of his associates at pyromaniacs promote the "born again before faith" idea. I also was not welcomed with friendliness at their site, but I do have great respect for Phil.

I am glad that you called attention to this.

God bless


At Monday, July 21, 2008 3:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark Dever recently published a book entitled "Personal Evangelism."

At Wednesday, July 23, 2008 8:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am relatively new to your site and am in a church which has a pastor and an assoc. pastor which are both associated with the "Flounders".(We did not know this when we "called" them) Many people in our congregation do not know what Calvinism is, much less hyper-Calvinism. However, there are many who believe that if the preacher says it - it must be true. Therefore, although we have tried to educate as many as possible as to how this doctrine is very different from what a majority of our church members believe- they won't say anything because of the idea of "preacher rule".

Have you covered this in any of your previous posts? Or do you have any advice?There are no invitations being given and our "numbers" are declining quickly.No outreach and little ministry is going on.
What's the best way to get rid of the "Flounders" in our church?

At Monday, July 28, 2008 9:31:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...

"How to Get Rid of
the Flounders?"

Anonymous said...

I am relatively new to your site and am in a church which has a pastor and an assoc. pastor which are both associated with the "Flounders. . . . There are no invitations being given and our "numbers" are declining quickly. No outreach and little ministry is going on.
What's the best way to get rid of the "Flounders" in our church?

I'm not close enough to the situation to advise about this. You may be spinning your wheels staying in the church, if the control of the church is under Flounders' leaders. If they are not making any evangelistic efforts, you might be better off to try to find a church which is engaged in evangelistic outreach. From the description you give, it appears that this church is already in deterioration.

At Thursday, March 25, 2010 10:32:00 PM, Blogger Dr. James Willingham said...

The reason why so few calvinists today are evangelistic is because th knowledge of how to preach Soverign Grace evangelistically was lost. I did have pastors who were Sovereign Grace and evangelistic. Perhaps the best example was Dr.Ernest R. Campbell who would tell you that he was a supralapsarian, a hyper-calvinist. Two of his famous sermons that I remember were on the Great Supper and Why Sit Ye here till Ye die> Dr. Campbell once preached a revival in a rural church in Ga. and had 100 professions of faith. Dr. R.G. Lee thouht so much of
Dr. Campbell that he put it in his will for Dr. Campbell to preach his funeral. Dr. Lee had five preachers or that event, but Dr. Campbell use to laugh and say, "The only one who was legal was me. Dr. Lee put it in his will for me to preach it." Dr. Campbell was also the founder and first president of the American Race Track Chaplaincy (cf. Who's Who in Religion. 2nd edn. Chicago: Marquis, 1977) In addition to C.H. Spurgeon, there are instances of evangelisic sermons by Whitefield ad Jonathan Edwards. The latter has a sermon on "Pressing into the Kingdom." It was a great help to me to read Dr. John Eusden's comment in his introduction to his translationof Willia Ames' Marrow of Divinity, that, "predestination is an invitation to begin one's spiritual pilgrimage." His statement led meto preach on The Hardest Text in the Bible, Roms.9:13 as an invitation to be saved. I aso began to look for examples where our Lord used each one of the doctrines of grace as truths of evangelism. My comments long this line can be seen by googling - dr. james willingham, theology, and paradoxical inerventions - then clicking on - commentsbythirdgreatawakeningcom.blogspot...Back Type - whee som on gatherd about four pages o my comments.


Post a Comment

<< Home