Thinking Out Loud

June 11, 2013

Calvinist Doctrinal Diatribe Continues Online

In the first place, Calvinistic Christianity is nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity. It follows, then, that the future of Christianity itself is bound up in the fortunes of Calvinism…

from the website Founders.org

This week I got an email which contained the following:

Over the years, I have noticed on your blog that you have obviously had some less-than-edifying contact with Reformed brothers and sisters (and I should add, publishers).

In replying, I suggested a friendly amendment, namely that my in-person interactions with Reformed people — particularly those from my local CRC church — are actually most pleasant; it’s the online persona of more militant Calvinists such as the author of the quote which leads today’s article that I find somewhat objectionable.

Here’s the full quote from Founders.org with emphasis added:

In the first place, Calvinistic Christianity is nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity. It follows, then, that the future of Christianity itself is bound up in the fortunes of Calvinism….

…For whoever believes in God’s redemption through Christ and recognizes his own utter dependence on God, whoever recognizes that salvation is of the Lord, whoever seeks to glorify God in his worship and life, that person is already implicitly a Calvinist, no matter what he calls himself. In such circumstances, to make the person an explicit Calvinist, all we are required to do (humanly speaking) is to show the believer the natural implications of these already-held fundamental principles, which underlie all true Christianity, and trust God to do his work, that is, trust God to reveal these implications to the person.

Chris Hubbs writes:

Did you get that? Calvinism is “nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity”. And if anyone recognizes salvation from the Lord, and seeks to glorify God, then that person is implicitly a Calvinist! And all the Calvinists need to do is explain it in a way that the unknowing Calvinist might understand.

Just think, reader; you might be a Calvinist right now and not know it.

A year ago it was the same people wishing that Calvinism could be the default doctrine of the Southern Baptist Convention, North America’s largest Protestant denomination. Yes, that could be a Calvinist coup!

And just last week on this page it was our discovery of Calvinist kids being indoctrinated against Arminians in the form of children’s story books.

No wonder I despair.

Ironically, the post scheduled for today was a link to an article by Russell D. Moore — an obvious graduate of the Bible’s school of peacemaking — who talks about the commonality both Arminans and Calvinists have on the subject of religious liberty.

On the one hand:

Sometimes people caricature Arminians, and those who share some convictions with them. The Arminian tradition doesn’t believe that the human will is naturally free in this fallen era. They believe that God graciously empowers human beings with the freedom to choose. In fact, much of what some Christians call “Arminianism” is instead the sort of manipulative, emotional revivalism they’ve seen or heard about somewhere. Arminians are, above all people, opposed to manipulation.

They believe, after all, that the human will must make a free decision to follow Jesus or to walk away. That means a clear presentation of what the gospel entails, with all the “cost-counting” that Jesus tells us about. This must be a personal, free decision, and can’t be outsourced to or vetoed by some emperor or bishop or bureaucrat.

And on the other hand,

Well, like the Arminians, Calvinists are easy to caricature. Some assume they believe the will is like a computer program operated by God, or that the gospel isn’t freely offered to all people. Evangelical Calvinists believe in the free offer of the gospel to all people, just as they believe in the universal command of the law of God. They believe that, left to ourselves, we will all run away from the law and we will all run away from the gospel. We see the light of Christ, and we hide because, in our sin, we don’t want to meet our God.

The Calvinist doctrine of effectual calling means that the Spirit works through preaching to overturn the power of the devil, to liberate our wills so that we can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God doesn’t overpower our wills; he frees us from occupation by the deceiving demonic powers.

Toward the end, Dr. Moore concludes:

We will seek to search the Scriptures on everything God has told us. But we’re not that far apart. And even when we disagree, we can listen to the important emphases that each tradition brings, emphases that are grounded in God’s word and God’s gospel.

(here’s another link to Moore’s article, Why Calvinists and Arminians (and Those in Between) Can Unite for Religious Liberty)

…As someone who got to experience the tail end of the “Jesus People” era, I dream of a day when the labels won’t matter. Perhaps that day won’t happen in the present era. Still, I see a new generation moving toward a climate where the signs on the church door are a little less significant.

But I worry about the fragmentation that seems to be brewing in one particular segment of the larger Body. I worry about both how it looks and what it’s doing to us.

That’s what makes people like Russell D. Moore so vitally important. He gets both sides and also, I truly believe, dreams of a day when the sides don’t exist.

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August 29, 2011

Mark Driscoll’s Visions

Okay, I missed this one. But sometimes there are advantages in arriving late to the discussion. Especially when other people may have missed it, too. 

Mark Driscoll made a video in which he described how in counseling sessions, he sometimes ‘receives’ a picture of things the counselee isn’t necessarily sharing.  What some charismatics might call a ‘word of knowledge’ which Driscoll mistakenly calls a ‘gift of discernment.’ If Mark were an Assemblies of God minister, I don’t think anyone would bat an eyelash at this announcement. But Mark is generally seen sitting in the Reformed section of the church, so this raises all kinds of issues that non-Pentecostals haven’t seen hit so close to home.

Nor does it stop there. The nature of some of the images, or impressions, or visions that Pastor Mark has seen are, for lack of a better word, explicit. All of which led Phil Johnson at Team Pyro to refer to it as Pornographic Divination. No, Phil, tell us really think.  The link gets you nearly 300 comments and begins with this intro:

In a post last week, I pointed out that the preposterous claims, unhinged behavior, and spiritual quackery that are so prominent at the charismatic movement’s lunatic fringe are by no means limited to the outer edges. Goofiness and gullibility are necessary byproducts of a belief system that fails to take seriously the principle of sola Scriptura and its ramifications (i.e., the authority and sufficiency of Scripture).

So we know — actually we knew — where the bloggers at Pyromaniacs stand on revelatory supernatural gifts. But as I said earlier, this time the issue has come home to roost.

I remember years ago trying to nail down a definition of the “Charismatic Movement” that began around 1970, and someone much smarter than I said that it was a seeking after a deeper experience with God or a deeper experience with the Holy Spirit characterized by “a manifestation of spiritual gifts occurring in denominations which heretofore had no history of those gifts being operative.”

Now, I am not the president of Mark Driscoll’s fan club.  But what do you when someone has a supernatural word given to them? Do we say, “That turned out to be true, but they didn’t get it from God.” What if it’s a healing? Do we write it off to, “the meds kicked in” or some more earthly explanation?

I think Phil Johnson raises some valid issues. But I’m also convinced that in the Christian pilgrimage, some issues are simply not so black-and-white. Bloggers often want to be liked, and I know my desire is often to say, “I agree with him and I agree with her;” but I truly believe in the plausibility of Mark Driscoll’s story, and the conviction of Johnson’s trashing of it.

Problem is, I wasn’t there; I didn’t see what Mark saw. Whatever it was, he is giving God the credit. Whatever it was, the people at Team Pyro are not. The battle lines are drawn, and not a single Assemblies of God or Charismatic pastor started the fire.

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