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Why I’m Not a Calvinist

May 10, 2008

I have decided that this label is not an apt description of myself. This decision is not based upon any discrepancy between the doctrines of grace and my personal beliefs. In fact, I affirm the five points as helpful articulations of the gospel.

Rather, my decision is based upon a major discontinuity between my behavior and the radical implications Calvinism has upon the lives of its proponents.

Calvinism is more than the summary five points often used to define it (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints: better known as TULIP). These doctrines culminate to form full-orbed Calvinism, the system of belief that emphasizes God’s meticulous orchestration of history for the good of his people and the glory of his name. Full-orbed Calvinism also underscores the absolute authority Jesus Christ has over all of creation.

Therein lies the issue with my character. While I confess the sovereignty and eternal kingship of Jesus Christ, my actions deny my confession.

Ideas have consequences; beliefs have behavioral ramifications; theology transcends the theoretical realm.The truth of Christ’s authority is no different. He, himself, outlines the implications of this truth:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28: 18b-19a).

Because Christ is the glorious king of all creation, his followers should boldly go forth and declare the gospel. Throughout history, Calvinists, understanding this truth, have gone forth aggressively to spread the gospel.
Some examples are required.

Jonathan Edwards, while writing The End for Which God Created the World and other intensive theological treatises, was evangelizing Native Americans. Works like The End have made Edwards an influential figure in full-orbed Calvinism.

Charles Spurgeon, who called Calvinism a nickname for the gospel, worked six years without a vacation and often preached more than 10 times in a week. These sermons almost always concluded with a heartfelt evangelistic call to unbelievers. (When he did finally take that vacation, he toured continental Europe, and the gem of this tour was his visit to Geneva and the relics of Calvin’s ministry.)

Today’s most eminent Baptist historian is an ardent defendant of Calvinism and a student of Edwards. He has also worked for years in prison ministry.

Whitefield, Fuller, Carey, and others deserve mention as well.

Gone should be the misnomer that Calvinism is incompatible with fervent evangelism.

Rather, the truth of God’s sovereignty should be seen as a driving force of evangelism.

I’m not a Calvinist because I so often fail to proclaim the word to those in desperate need of it. But I want to be one, and I will strive to be one.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2008 9:21 am

    Thank you for this post. I think we who profess Calvinism need to really take a look at how we living out what we profess. I think a good question is whether or not we are adding to the black-eye that Calvinism already has or are we bringing back the historic faith that changed the world? Thanks for the “gut-check.”

  2. May 10, 2008 5:15 pm

    If you’re right, then I’m not a Calvinism because I’m often given to worrying, which is essentially denying God’s sovereignty!

  3. May 11, 2008 6:34 am

    Jesus does make God’s meticulous providence the basis for his prohibitions against both worry (Matt 6:25-34; “Look at the birds of the air…” ) and fear (Matt 10:26-33, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny…” ) . I often rebuke myself for worrying by thinking of worrying as subtle atheism.

    Maybe you should do your own “Why I’m not a Calvinist” post.

  4. May 11, 2008 2:30 pm

    I’m worried it wouldn’t be a good post. Just kidding.

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