The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Importance of Calvinism in Christianity (Part 1)



            There are really only two questions that matter in life: are you a Christian, and are you a Calvinist? The first, being a Christian, determines who you live for- yourself, or the God of the Bible. The second, being a Calvinist, describes how you actually know God, think of God, and ultimately live for God, as a Christian. Being a Christian means you live for Christ, and being a Calvinist is the correct way to live for Christ, at least for the purpose of this writing.
               
                 I say that without hesitation. I have come to learn, in the nearly three years of embracing and growing in the doctrines of grace (the doctrines of grace being another name for Calvinism), that you can’t fully know God, love God, and live God apart from Calvinism. To be a Christian and yet to not be a Calvinist is like being married and barely knowing your spouse. A Christian who thinks he or she knows God, loves God, and lives for God, yet denies or is ignorant of the truths of Calvinism as revealed in the Bible, does not know God, love God, or live for God as he or she needs to and should at a very fundamental level.

                This may sound harsh. I may sound cruel, as if I am sitting on top of the world with my heights of knowledge and certainty of my belief and interpretation of Scripture, and that anyone who disagrees with my interpretation and understanding does not know God aright and will not be able to grow as a Christian like I am able to grow. To that, I would first like to say, that one can hold to Calvinism and yet not live it out. These are the most miserable Christians of all, because they have, in my estimation, the highest knowledge of God, yet they live the least like Christ. They cannot use misunderstanding, or misinformation, as an excuse not to be obedient. And so, as the Bible says, to him who has been given much, much more is expected.

                So I hold myself to a higher standard than non-Calvinists, not because I am arrogant or think I am better than non-Calvinists, but because I know God has graciously put me in circumstances and softened my heart sufficiently to receive these great truths of Scripture, and has filled me with the Holy Spirit, armed with these truths, for a purpose. And that purpose is to tell the world the good news of the gospel- the Calvinistic, biblical gospel, the one true gospel. And from there, once we have the Calvinistic one true gospel established as our foundation, to build upon that foundation all the outworkings and implications of Calvinism. In short, I am called to teach and preach and proclaim, and most of all, live out, in everything I do, the Calvinistic/true Christian life.

                But to live the Calvinistic lifestyle, you must have Calvinism’s theology. Right thinking about God, right knowledge of God, is the only way we can have right loving and right living for God. In short, if our theology and doctrine is wrong, our understanding of God and Jesus and even ourselves is wrong, and the result is that our love for and devotion to God and Jesus will, by necessity, be faulty, shallow, stagnant, lax, apathetic, or worst of all, highly passionate and zealous, but not according to the Truth.
               And to have a love for Jesus apart from Truth, apart from who Jesus really is, is a most dangerous and sad position to be in. To have an insatiable zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, is a great sin that will not be rewarded. This is precisely what Paul says in Romans 10:2 regarding Israel: “For I bear witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.”

                So the reason I am writing on this subject is because I am convinced that many Christians out there today have a zeal for God, some greater than others, but a zeal nonetheless- yet not according to knowledge. Many know God as Lord and Savior, but only in a very shallow way, at the surface. They have not plummeted beneath the top waves of God, and realized that He is like an iceberg. When a person first gets converted, he or she will know very little about God, yet they have eternal life. The question then, is, what is eternal life? Besides the fact that eternal life is, indeed, eternal, there is a specific purpose in eternal life, a certain way it is to be lived out. We will be doing something forever with this gift of eternal life, and Jesus tells us what it is that we will be doing.

                “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3). There it is, right from the lips of Jesus. Eternal life is, in short, a quest to know God as He truly is, and to know Jesus Christ as He truly is. And in knowing Him more and more, to love Him more and more in light of who He is and what He has done, and then to live for Him more and more in light of who He truly is and what He has done. That is the life of the Christian. Eternal life.

                But you cannot do that to the utmost, you cannot be fully obedient to God, and love Him and His Son fully and as you ought to, if you are not a Calvinist. Why? Because Calvinism pertains to who God is, who Christ is, who man is, and what God has done, and had to do, in order to save man through Jesus Christ. Today, many reject Calvinism, whether they realize it or not. If you do not know what you think about Calvinism, and if you do not know if you are a Calvinist, here is a litmus test.  
·         Do you believe Jesus Christ paid for everyone’s sins, including those who are in hell? If you do, then you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God has no power, or has chosen to not exercise His power in bringing people to faith and repentance, and instead leaves the decision up to the power and will of man to choose Him on their own? If yes, then you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God is not sovereign over the choices of man, that man has total, libertarian free will outside of God’s sovereignty? If so, then you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that Jesus Christ died to make salvation a possibility for everyone instead of a guarantee and reality for a select number, His elect? If so, then you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that man is the determining factor in his own salvation by choosing to trust in Christ, instead of God being the determining factor in man’s salvation by choosing whom He will bring to faith and repentance by His irresistible grace? If so, then you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God looked down the tunnel of time to see who would choose Him, and that His elect are based off future, foreseen faith by God rather than by God choosing before the foundation of the world whose hearts He would soften and make willing to repent and believe the gospel? If this is the case, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that man is capable of loving God by his own free will, and capable of inclining his own heart to repentance and trusting in Christ as Savior and Lord? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God gives spiritual life/the new birth/regeneration only to those who first have faith, rather than God gives spiritual life/the new birth/regeneration so that man can and will have faith? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God wants every person who has ever lived and ever will lived to be saved from their sins, and that He is saddened or heartbroken when one sinner chooses not to repent and defeats His will? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God did not predestine the fall of man, but rather planted the tree with the forbidden fruit in the garden without knowing if Adam and Eve would obey? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God does only some things for His own glory, and other things, such as saving man, out of pity and apart from selfish, self-glorifying reasons? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God would not be good and loving if He didn’t offer a Savior? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that the difference between an unbeliever and a believer is that an unbeliever was more wicked/sinful than the believer, and the believer had faith because he rightly used his free will to choose God, rather than the difference between an unbeliever and a believer being the sovereign grace and will of God and work of regeneration? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God calls man to do good works by the power of their own will, instead of the enabling power of the Holy Spirit alone? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God loves everyone equally, both believers and unbelievers? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God has no wrath or hatred for unbelievers? If so, then you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, enduring God’s wrath for every sinner ever, actually does not count, actually does not save, unless man chooses to create saving faith out of his or her own heart and choose to be obedient to God by his own strength? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that Christ’s work on the cross plus your faith is what accomplishes your salvation? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe that God cannot or chooses to not save everyone, and instead leaves it up to man to determine his or her own fate and course of human history? If so, you are not a Calvinist.
·         Do you believe God loves every person, both believer and unbeliever, unconditionally? If so, you are not a Calvinist.

                I could pose even more questions, but I think that will suffice. There are many people who would reject most if not all of the points I have listed above, and prove to thoroughly be a non-Calvinist. And as I hope you can see, what Calvinism deals with is very important- it involves the purpose of the entire creation, how God saves man, the role of man in his own salvation, the role of God in man’s salvation, and how we are to live in light of our salvation. These are no small matters, and by the end of this writing I hope that everyone who is skeptical of Calvinism will see the truth of Calvinism, that Scripture indeed teaches it. But not only that, even more so I hope that you will see not only that Calvinism is biblical truth, but why the biblical truth of Calvinism is the best thing, and makes God and Jesus far more good, gracious, beautiful, and true, then whatever you thought possible before.

6 comments:

  1. God is precise Rev 22:18-19 no one must add to or take away from the words of the book of Revelation : It is a woman Rev 12 that delivers the true word John1:1, Rev 12:5, Rev 12:13 who restores Acts 3:21 all things to the world before Christ’s return. This woman exposes the lies of Satan who has deceived the whole world Rev 12:9. This woman creates a new thing in the earth by fulfilling God's promise to Eve Gen 3:15, Jer 31:22, Isa 14:16. Moses and Elijah are together with the word Matt 17:3 they all three are in this one woman. She is like unto Moses Num 12:3. She was raised up Acts 3:22 from the Laodicean church that becomes lukewarm because they refused to hear her Rev 3:14-17. She is bold like Elijah Matt 17:11, Luke 1:17. As Elijah was alone declaring the true God to the people so also her witness alone turns the hearts of the fathers to the children Mal 4:5-6 to prepare a people for the Lords return before the great and dreadful day of the Lord Matt 17:3, Luke 9:30. Those who will not hear Acts 3:23 the true word of God she now deliveres to the world free of charge, as a witness, at the heel of time from the wilderness Rev 12:6 will not be allowed inside the walls of God’s coming kingdom from heaven Rev 21. This true testimony of the true value of the blood of the Lamb delivers the truth that not one child of God will be put in a hell fire no matter what their sins. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer 7:31, Jer 19:5. God created evil Isa 45:7 to teach his children the knowledge of good and evil Rom 8:7, Gen 3:22 so that at their resurrection they become a god Matt 22:29-30, Ps 82:6. Prove all things. You cannot rightly judge this unless you read all that has been written by this woman first Pro 18:13. http://thegoodtale.blogspot.com Check out the bruising of Satan and the reason for all of mankind’s sufferings.

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  2. So then, I am to understand that since righteous Christian living spontaneously springs forth from the doctrines of Calvinism, this is why Calvin himself was such a lovely example of the Christian calling? The Bible makes it very clear that we should use much caution in choosing our spiritual heros (Matthew 7:15).

    The true test of a maturing walk with Christ lies in the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian, regardless of their adherence to the doctrines of Calvin, Arminius or any other human. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Gal. 5:22-23. Sound at all like your friend Calvin? False teachers teach through words AND works.

    BTW. . . I answered with Calvinism on a number of your questions and against it on others. That means I am not a Calvinist since I did not get a "perfect score, something I was already quite aware of. You should know that very few Christians of any persuasion would agree with many of your questions designed to imply that any one who is not a Calvinist, must agree. For instance I know literally no believers who think God would be in the wrong if He did not offer salvation or that He has no wrath for the wicked. Additionally, most of us do not deny the mercy (I believe you characterized it as "pity") of God simply because He clearly does all for His own glory. . . even demonstrating mercy itself. Can God not be both merciful and self-glorifying? There is not the time or space here to point out how much of your litmus-test is designed to dismiss and marginalize those who hold different views than you.

    When I meet Jesus face to face at the Bema seat judgment, I doubt that He will ask me if I was a Calvinist and I am sure that few of your "jump-through-the hoop" questions will be on the agenda either. What He will want to know I am fairly certain, is how I lived my life in accordance with His personal commands, if I grew steadily in grace and sanctification and if I increasingly demonstrated the fruit of the Spirit in my life. His evaluation of my life and yours will be based on the degree to which we were transformed into His image. I am sure I will fall short in many areas but I will leave it to Jesus himself to judge between me and thee.

    I'll give you one word of commendation; at least you do not condemn to hell all non-Calvinists as so many of your fellow Calvinists do. For that matter, as Calvin did. But, since it is no longer legal (at least for now) to kill your fellow believers who disagree with you, I guess the next best thing is to kill their assurance of salvation. If that doesn't sit well with you, kill their reputations as growing committed Christians who know their Lord and follow in His footsteps. But, I acknowledge that you seem to still believe that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, and not based on a personal understanding of the doctrines of Calvin? If so, you are a rare Calvinist indeed and deserve my respect on that score.

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  3. I'll respond to the above paragraph by paragraph.

    Paragraph 1:

    In what ways was Calvin not a lovely example of the Christian calling? If you want to give the standard "Servetus" cry go ahead, I'll just respond with the "David" cry, and you lose. Not to mention, what David did was murder, and adultery, yet God still called him a man after God's own heart. What Calvin did, though I disagree with it, was certainly not murder. So don't slander Calvin. On top of that, it is my understanding that he raised many children, some his own, some not his own I believe, and that he believed at least half of all funds from the church should be given to the poor and needy. I'm not sure if you are aware that the law of the land was much different than it is here in America. Was it wrong? Probably. It was, however, different, and par for the course at that time.

    Paragraph 2:

    Amazing how you are making a judgment call on how well, or not well, Calvin walked in the Spirit, when later on you act as if you want to be "humble" and not make such judgments. I'm not blind to that double standard, to the use of humility when it will make you look good, and judgmentalism when you need it to try and make your case. You can't have it both ways, that's theological suicide. Again I ask, why do you think Calvin was so lacking in bearing good fruit? What makes you think Calvin wasn't a very sanctified man? Please, enlighten me.

    Further, my whole point is that you can't rightly understand (at least not fully) HOW to live by the power of the Spirit apart from Calvinism, because Calvinism I believe is the faithful understanding of what God has done to save man, and as such, informs us on how to defeat sin by the power of the Spirit, and how to rightly bear fruits of the Spirit. Again, you can have a very unsanctified Christian who holds to the doctrines of grace, and a more sanctified Christian who does not adhere to all the doctrines of grace. My point is simply that, right theology can, and should, lead to right living. And because Calvinism is right theology, the potential to living a more holy, righteous life, is greater. You would say the same about your own theological convictions, don't even try to say you wouldn't.

    Paragraph 3: This paragraph doesn't make much sense to me. Perhaps you could try and explain yourself again so I can understand what your point is here. All I can say is that of course God is both merciful and does all for His glory, what did I say that would imply otherwise?

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  4. Paragraph 4: Again, that's my point entirely. Calvinism teaches us how to live life for God rightly. The more you err from the five points, the more you err from holy living. What I mean is, the less we live out the doctrines of grace, the BIBLICAL doctrines of grace, the less we are being faithful to the commands of God, the less obedient we are. It is not hard to see then, is it, that if you do not even adhere to the truthfulness of the doctrines of grace, that you could not possibly live in light of them. If you deny them, you will not live in accordance with them. That is my entire point- The more we live in accord with the doctrines of grace, the more conformed into the image of God we will be.

    This is also where you say you don't want to judge the degree of sanctification between "me and thee." You won't judge me, or even yourself, but you surely will judge Calvin, just to prove your point (or try to at least, it sounds more like a slander to me). Again, be honest and consistent. It may work on some who are less discerning, but you will run into people who are going to call you out on this, and then you will look rather foolish.

    Paragraph 5: This indisputebly demonstrates your lack of understanding of Calvinists today. I don't know hardly ANY Calvinist who claims one must be a five point Calvinist in order to be saved. So that's just a straw man argument, if you are trying to use that as an argument. And I would dispute that even historically Calvinists claimed you must be a 5 pointer or else you are going to hell.

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  5. I don't judge you because beyond what I see here in your post I do not know your heart attitudes or the choices and actions of your life. We are commanded to judge the fruits of a person's life in the form of their actual words and deeds (Proverbs 20:11, Matthew 7:20), but to refrain from judging their heart attitudes (Romans 14:10). To examine openly the life of one who claims to know and follow Christ and at a higher level than others is hardly slanderous. I know only your words which I judge. Your deeds and fruit I do not judge. I do know the fruit of Calvin's life and I do know many of his words and deeds. As to judging myself, since you do not know me you would have no idea to what degree I judge myself. Nothing in my post indicated that I do not judge myself nor do I live without expectation of having my works judged by Christ someday.And acknowledging that does not make me falsely humble, just a realist and someone fully aware of their own ability to fail. I also do not set myself up as a higher example of the Christian walk, or as a Judge and executioner of my fellow brothers in Christ as Calvin did. If you do either you should expect to have your life examined more closely. Furthermore, my reference to allowing Jesus to judge between you and I had nothing to do with self-righteous posturing, it was a response to your claim that my life could not possibly live up to the high standards of Christian commitment that yours does. . . because I do not interpret the scriptures as you do when it comes to Calvin's five points. That is what you so clearly said, is it not? In this case the discernment you rely upon may have failed you. You did not understand my intent and missed my point entirely.

    You say: "But to live the Calvinistic lifestyle, you must have Calvinism’s theology." and a little before that: ". . .you cannot be fully obedient to God, and love Him and His Son fully and as you ought to, if you are not a Calvinist."

    By these statements (and yes they do make you sound very arrogant, not judging now. . . just pointing out how you come across) you make yourself and your spiritual mentor more vulnerable to examination. I am not a particular detractor of Calvin's and I do recognize that there is some truth within Calvin's theology and the TULIP model, however, the man was deeply flawed in how he handled his detractors. To hold the "Calvinistic lifestyle" up as something to be attained. . . well, you got to admit, that sounds a bit arrogant.

    Yes, David was flawed too. But David grieved over his sin and brutal treatment of Uriah and repented, paying a huge price for his sin. Part of the reason David was a man after God's own heart, no doubt is because of his willingness to repent and humble himself in the sight of God (Psalm 51). Additionally, David never claimed to have killed Uriah in order to bring glory to God or uphold the Gospel nor did he claim to be the judge of other men. There is no record of Calvin having repented of not only Servetus death but of many persecutions of individuals that happened to stop short of actual death. I think on the deaths the most sympathetic and conservative estimates put them somewhere around 38 for the four years that Calvin was in Geneva and at the helm of such decisions. That of course does not include all the ex-communications, banishment and the denials of sacraments and other comforts of the faith before the executions, etc. I do hear that he tried to appeal for an easier method of death for Michael Serventus than being burned alive. Oh yes. . . the times were different than today, right. That argument is an old bed-fellow of the Calvinist. So I guess today we somehow have a more deeply moral sensibility than folks in Calvin's day? God's standards for His people flex with the ages?

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  6. I am not saying that there were not some good qualities in Calvin, his followers and the biographers who followed his teachings say he was a saint. His detractors paint him as a brutal killer. Whatever the truth, our actions in this life are affected by our theology, just as you say, and if you make that connection for others you should do so for your favorite theologian as well. Your real error in your first post was to claim that righteous living can only spring from Calvinistic theology. Your second error was to defend Calvin. Defend the five points if so inclined and preferably with proper Biblical, contextual, historical and grammatical understanding. But never defend the life of a flawed human being. It makes it look as though you are more about being "of Calvin" than you are the theology behind the personality.

    As far as my statement that Calvinists often encourage others to doubt their own salvation based on their adherence to Calvin's teachings: this is not only not a straw-man argument, it is no argument at all. I'm not arguing with you but stating the facts as I have experienced them. To teach something as necessary to salvation is not the same as making it an indicator of salvation. (You are accusing me of claiming more than I am. But the latter still packs a distinctive and destructive punch and it is diabolical. I, a non-Calvinist have a good deal of up-front and real personal experience on that particular front. Try posing as a non-Calvinist among a group of Calvinists who do not know you personally and see how quickly you will be encouraged to re-evaluate your salvation based on your definition of "sovereignty" or your pointing to the many passages that show that man can and does resist the grace of God. If you would dispute that this has been true either historically or currently Why not follow through on that? Let's see the evidence that Calvinism has never claimed that acceptance of at least the majority of the five points is indicative of salvation.

    For those of us who live with, fellowship with and sometimes worship with Calvinists, this is a very much acknowledged reality. Disagree, no matter how respectfully, and be sure your salvation will be questioned. Short of having your eternal destiny questioned you will have your character, intelligence, scholarship, heart attitudes, motives and walk with Lord all put in question. Oh yes, and you will likely be characterized as a slanderer if you suggest that the theology of those who kill their opponents should perhaps be carefully examined.

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