Responding to Critiques of Calvinism

When writing an article that finds its way to the internet, there is often feedback, both positive and negative. The process, including the negative reactions, can actually sharpen the thought process or enable things to be communicated in a better, more helpful way.

Sometimes though, someone is so irate that they call the doctrine you have espoused devilish and heretical. It is not always appropriate to respond. It can be a great time waster. However, sometimes, providing a response, while it may not help the person who first wrote, (in that they are not in any way open to receive a measured response) might be helpful for on-lookers so that they might know there are good answers available.

Way back in 2005 I wrote an article on 2 Peter 3:9 (http://www.reformationtheology.com/2005/10/understanding_2_peter_39_by_pa.php) discussing the verse in its biblical context. Today, almost 12 years later, someone named Vanessa wrote with a very critical review. I thought it worth the brief time it took to respond:

My responses are in bold (so it is easy to follow):

This argument makes the scripture redundant, and like most Calvinist beliefs, is composed of circular reasoning that is inconsistent when drawn out to its logical conclusions.

You would need to prove this point rather than simply asserting it.

Also, just because the epistle is addressed to the elect does not mean that when it says “all” it is referring only to the people the letter is addressed to. That is a faulty conclusion. Could you not write a letter to a particular someone and be talking about humankind in general? Why is that so hard to fathom? All means all. If he meant “all of you reading this”, he would have said “all of you reading this”.

All does not always mean all. Context tells us what the ‘all” means. Just as when a teacher asks “are we all here?” he/she is referring to students in his/her class, or a mother asking “are we all in the car?” she is asking about all her children, not everyone on the planet. Your argument seems to be “just ignore context, all means all, and I think it is just dead wrong to even ask the question ‘who might the “all” refer to. That just over complicates things.’

Secondly, your argument makes the passage redundant because it would be like saying “Hi everyone who God chose for salvation, God wants you to come to repentance and be saved. If everyone reading it is elect and only saved because God thought they were special, then why point out that God wants them to be saved?

Firstly, none of the elect are special, they have simply received a different measure of Divine grace and favor. Secondly, the point of the passage is to show why Christ’s second coming has not occurred as of yet, namely because God is not willing for any of His people to perish but to come to repentance. It is not redundant in any way at all to say this.

Of course He wants them saved if, according to Calvinism, they are saved through no choice of their own because God basically forced himself on them.

Straw man! – the elect do choose Christ, willingly, because of the Sovereign work of God in the heart.

Calvinism is false doctrine straight from the devil.

Well, isn’t that nice? Actually I honestly fear for you when you stand before the great I Am and find that He is every bit as Sovereign as the Calvinists have affirmed and you are called to account for your words here. For our part, “We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide, not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians, not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of the world. A man may be evidently of God’s chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold that there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus.” – C. H. Spurgeon)

If you draw it out to its logical conclusions it makes God into a monster who is responsible for baby rape, torture, and murder. It makes God a puppet master and a divine rapist, and makes the devil completely unaccountable by attributing the workings of Satan to God in the name of “sovereignty”.

Even in your foreknowledge view of God, He knew all that was to happen and still ordained it would come to pass, right??? so you have the same ‘problem’ to deal with. The biblical view is that God has ordained all that comes to pass including the sin that made the atonement of Christ necessary, and will work out only good and holy purposes through it all. I suggest this link for articles on this subject should you wish to know more: https://www.monergism.com/search?keywords=evil&format=All

Guess what, God is sovereign enough to give humans a choice in the matter of whether to be saved.

Sure, and I believe that, and also believe that the Bible teaches that all men will choose rebellion unless God works in their hearts. There was a Fall that has rendered all men in a fallen state, spiritually dead and unable and unwilling to come to Christ unless God draws them, and those He draws are raised up on the last day. It is Jesus who teaches us that and we take His words seriously. Seemingly, you do not (John 6:44).

That’s why CHOICE is all throughout the Bible. “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” “Behold I have set before you death and life, blessing and life, CHOOSE LIFE.”

Yes, and we embrace those verses. Do you think somehow that we have missed seeing them in our Bibles? No, we believe these verses AND we believe all the verses that teach that men are enslaved to sin, love darkness rather than light, do not seek God, etc… Therefore, I can and do call on all men to repent and believe and choose, knowing that only the elect will do so – Acts 13:48 “and all who were ordained to eternal life believed.”

We are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves. But God foreknew in the beginning who would choose Him, and predestined us according to the choice He knew we would make.

Biblically, in light of the Fall which He also foresaw – All God would foresee as He looked across time would be all of humanity’s rejection of Him unless He intervened in grace. (John 6:44)

He is not linear in His view of time like we are. He is higher than we are. We must receive the Word of God as little children, as the Bible says. That means don’t overcomplicate it and read things into it that aren’t there to fit your own preconceived ideas. Every Calvinist belief requires reading things into the Scriptures that are not there, and it requires ignoring a huge list of Scriptures that contradict it, twisting the meaning and “context” to try to make it fit your idea.

Actually I would suggest that it is you who ignore and twist the Scriptures. We seek to embrace all of what Scripture teaches.

Blind people who profess to be wise! You are turning people away from God by painting Him as directly responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to them. Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world, not because God is up there pulling every string and orchestrating chaos and evil. God is not evil, He is light and there is NO darkness in Him! The evil ideology of Calvinism is a cancer in the body of Christ that causes people to be apathetic about winning souls to the Lord.

I know you believe that. I might have said something similar years ago. I shudder though, for as I say, one day You will stand before the Sovereign One who has ordained every event in time and has promised to use it all for His glory.

If only certain people are “chosen” [as in your twisted definition of the word], then there is no point in witnessing to the lost because they are all damned to hell anyway according to Calvinism!

Actually, election is the only hope of evangelism and thankfully, it is a certain hope, for He has said He has His sheep in every tribe, tongue, people and nation and there will be representatives of all these before His throne, celebrating the redeeming work of the Lamb. The entire missionary movement, starting with William Carey, was born out of this conviction. Evangelism is the rounding up of Christ’s sheep.

“Whatever may be said about the doctrine of election, it is written in the Word of God as with an iron pen, and there is no getting rid of it. To me, it is one of the sweetest and most blessed truths in the whole of revelation, and those who are afraid of it are so because they do not understand it. If they could but know that the Lord had chosen them it would make their hearts dance with joy.” – C. H. Spurgeon (“Spurgeon At His Best” Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1988).

A quote from Mark Webb:
“After giving a brief survey of these doctrines of sovereign grace, I asked for questions from the class. One lady, in particular, was quite troubled. She said, ‘This is the most awful thing I’ve ever heard! You make it sound as if God is intentionally turning away men and women who would be saved, receiving only the elect.’ I answered her in this vein: ‘You misunderstand the situation. You’re visualizing that God is standing at the door of heaven, and men are thronging to get in the door, and God is saying to various ones, ‘Yes, you may come, but not you, and you, but not you, etc.’ The situation is hardly this. Rather, God stands at the door of heaven with His arms outstretched, inviting all to come. Yet all men without exception are running in the opposite direction towards hell as hard as they can go. So God, in election, graciously reaches out and stops this one, and that one, and this one over here, and that one over there, and effectually draws them to Himself by changing their hearts, making them willing to come. Election keeps no one out of heaven who would otherwise have been there, but it keeps a whole multitude of sinners out of hell who otherwise would have been there. Were it not for election, heaven would be an empty place, and hell would be bursting at the seams. That kind of response, grounded as I believe that it is in Scriptural truth, does put a different complexion on things, doesn’t it? If you perish in hell, blame yourself, as it is entirely your fault. But if you should make it to heaven, credit God, for that is entirely His work! To Him alone belong all praise and glory, for salvation is all of grace, from start to finish.”

Calvinism also leads to mental anguish and torment for believers who are caught in a constant state of questioning whether or not they are elect/chosen. This is not from God. God says all you have to do is repent and have faith in Jesus. There is no favoritism with Him, and He loves the whole world. He welcomes any who will come to Him in Jesus’ name.

Assurance of salvation is vital and we are told to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. The fact that you believe this is not from God matters little to me. To the scriptures… if my faith is real and genuine it will stand up to biblical scrutiny, and I will be able to see an enduring trust in the precious Savior who indeed saves by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ Himself alone.

Liturgical Protestant Worship

Article: 7 Things I Love about Liturgical Protestant Worship by Silverio Gonzalez (original source here)

Sometimes the idea of “formal worship” scares people. I hope to make that less scary. The Protestant traditions include Anglicanism, Lutheranism, the Reformed, and Presbyterianism. Although these traditions have important differences, they reflect important similarities in the way they worship. I could feel more or less at home in any of these traditions, so long as they are true to their Reformation heritage. A liturgy is an order of worship in which God gives grace in the gospel and we respond in faith, hope, and love.

1. I love that liturgical Protestant worship is shaped by the Gospel.

Common in Protestant liturgies is a movement from the law of God and our repentance to the Gospel. The Gospel announces our forgiveness and justification. A good liturgy is evangelical in the best sense in that it helps move the congregation through the ordinary patterns of the Christian life. I constantly feel the weight of the week’s sins lifted as I confess my sins in a prayer together with the congregation. Then I hear the pastor preach the gospel, telling me again that my sins are forgiven because of Christ alone.

2. I love that liturgical Protestant worship has specific prayers as part of the service.

In Protestant orders of worship, there is usually a prayer of adoration, a prayer of confession of sin, a pastoral prayer for the needs of the congregation, and a prayer of thanksgiving. Sometimes some of these prayers are expressed in song; other times the entire congregation reads a written prayer. The pastor leads the congregation in these prayers that reflect our unity. Through public prayer, we bear one another’s burdens. When I hear my pastor pray for me, I feel his love for the congregation, and me in particular.

3. I love that liturgical Protestant worship includes lots of Scripture reading throughout the service.

Usually there are readings from the Old and New Testaments, Psalms, Epistles, and Gospels. Sometimes the Psalms are sung. Protestant liturgies include a variety of arrangements and a number of Scripture readings. Hearing so much Scripture read in church is like being washed in God’s Word.

4. I love that liturgical Protestant worship includes the pastor preaching both the law and the gospel from the Bible.

A good sermon doesn’t just tell me about what happened in the past. A good sermon helps me to understand my life as a part of God’s story. A good sermon focuses on what Jesus did—and is doing—to save sinners like me. A good sermon shows me why Jesus had to die. A good sermon shows me how to respond in faith, hope, and love. Protestants preach God’s word of law to humble my proud heart and God’s gospel to show me my savior and remind me how God has promised to work in my life to save me from sin’s penalty and power.

5. I love that liturgical Protestant worship recites creeds.

If you have never been in a church that recites a creed like the Apostles’ Creed, then this is a great reason to visit. When we recite this creed, we recite something that reflects the basics of our faith. The pastor asks, “Congregation, what do you believe?” and we respond with, “I believe in God the Father Almighty….” We confess our common faith together. In this act we connect to the church past, present, and future. We are expressing the one faith that all Christians have sought to maintain for generations.

6. I love that liturgical Protestant worship sings old and new songs.

I love singing old songs, because they remind me of the different cultures and time periods in which God worked. I love singing new songs, because they remind me that the faith is still living, that Christianity is still vibrant today, and that God is still working. Singing new and old songs reminds me that God has promised to gather the nations as his people (Ps. 86:9).

7. I love that liturgical Protestant worship expresses a range of emotions.

Like the Psalms, Protestants know how to mourn, how to praise, how to ask God for our needs, and how to give thanks for what he has already given. When I come to church, I’m not forced to be happy or sad, but I get to express that weird mixture so common to Christians: joy and sorrow, praise and lament, and repentance and faith. I love that I get to express the way I actually feel, and am helped to express the ways I should feel, as I am taught to express the entire range of emotions that are part of the ordinary Christian life.

State of the Church

Interview with J. I. Packer (original source here)

Modern Reformation: Dr. Packer, you’ve done a great deal of writing and speaking on the subject of the need for a new reformation, a new awareness of the sovereignty and grace of God in our day. How do you assess the condition of the state of evangelicalism as it presently exists, and what do you think we can do about that condition.

J. I. Packer: I see evangelical strength in America needing desperately to be undergirded by Reformation convictions, otherwise the numeric growth of evangelicals, which has been such a striking thing in our time, is likely never to become a real power, morally and spiritually, in the community that it ought to be. I mean by Reformation truth, a God-centered way of thinking, an appreciation of his sovereignty, an appreciation of how radical the damage of sin is to the human condition and community, and with that, an appreciation of just how radical and transforming is the power of the Lord Jesus Christ in his saving grace. If you don’t see deep into the problem, you don’t see deep into the solution. My fear is that a lot of evangelicals today are just not seeing deep enough in both the problem and the need. But Reformation theology takes you down to the very depth of the human problem. And actually, the Reformation itself was a recovery of the tremendous contribution that the great St. Augustine made back at the turn of the 4th and 5th centuries. He was the man who, more than anyone else in Christendom, saw to the heart of the real problem. He saw how much damage sin had done, how completely we were oriented away from God by nature. He is the one who left us that phrase “original sin” which he got from the text of Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” He also saw in response to our sinful condition, how great a work of transformation was needed by the grace of God in human lives. The sixteenth century reformers stood on Augustine’s shoulders at this point. Of course they clarified the great truth that justification by faith is the way in which the grace of God reaches us. We need, even today, a Christianity that was as deep and strong as that. And this, it seems to me, is where modern evangelicalism is lacking.

MR: Would you say that there is a connection or a similarity between the man-centered theology of evangelicalism and the general humanistic spirit? Continue reading

Reformed Theology Gone Sour

Ray Ortmond: (original source here)

The Rev. William Still, a patriarch of the Church of Scotland in the twentieth century, preaching on Romans 5:5 and the love of God being poured into our hearts, said this:

“I wonder what it is about poring all over a great deal of Puritan literature that makes so many preachers of it so horribly cold. I don’t understand it, because I think it’s a wonderful literature. . . . I don’t know if you can explain this to me. I’d be very glad to know, because it worries me. But I hear over and over and over again this tremendous tendency amongst people who delve deeply into Puritan literature that a coldness, a hardness, a harshness, a ruthlessness — anything but sovereign grace — enters into their lives and into their ministries. Now, it needn’t be so. And it isn’t always so, thank God. And you see, the grace, the grace, of a true Calvinist and Puritan — that is to say, a biblical Puritan and Calvinist — is wonderful. . . . But O God, deliver us from this coldness!”

The problem is not Reformed theology per se. Inherent within that theology is a humbling and melting and softening and beautifying power. But Reformed theology is also intellectually satisfying, even captivating. Let’s realize a seductive power within ourselves at that very point. If we stop with the intellectual, if we allow our theology to remain cerebral and conceptual only, then this coldness, hardness, harshness and ruthlessness will enter in. And we will not even realize it, because our theology is objectively right and personally satisfying. It is our loss of reality with the Lord and our harshness with one another that will reveal our perverse use of our glorious theology.”

If we have become cold, hard, harsh and ruthless, then we are betraying the doctrines of grace even as we preach the doctrines of grace, and the time for repentance has come.

O God, deliver us from this coldness!

The Courage to Be Reformed

Article: The Courage to Be Reformed by Burk Parsons (original source here)

Rev. Burk Parsons is copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow, vice president of publishing for Ligonier Ministries, and editor of Tabletalk magazine.

When we come to grasp Reformed theology, it’s not only our understanding of salvation that changes, but our understanding of everything. It’s for this reason that when people wrestle through the rudimentary doctrines of Reformed theology and come to comprehend them, they often feel like they have been converted a second time. In fact, as many have admitted to me, the reality is that some have been converted for the very first time. It was through their examination of Reformed theology that they came face-to-face with the stark reality of their radical corruption and deadness in sin, God’s unconditional election of His own and condemnation of others, Christ’s actual accomplishment of redemption for His people, the Holy Spirit’s effectual grace, the reason they persevere by God’s preserving grace, and God’s covenantal way of working in all of history for His glory. When people realize that ultimately, they didn’t choose God, but He chose them, they naturally come to a point of humble admission of the amazing grace of God toward them. It’s only then, when we recognize what wretches we really are, that we can truly sing “Amazing Grace.” And that is precisely what Reformed theology does: it transforms us from the inside out and leads us to sing—it leads us to worship our sovereign and triune, gracious, and loving God in all of life, not just on Sundays but every day and in all of life. Reformed theology isn’t just a badge we wear when being Reformed is popular and cool, it’s a theology that we live and breathe, confess, and defend even when it’s under attack.

The Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century, along with their fifteenth-century forerunners and their seventeenth-century descendants, did not teach and defend their doctrine because it was cool or popular, but because it was biblical, and they put their lives on the line for it. They were not only willing to die for the theology of Scripture, they were willing to live for it, to suffer for it, and to be considered fools for it. Make no mistake: the Reformers were bold and courageous not on account of their self-confidence and self-reliance but on account of the fact that they had been humbled by the gospel. They were courageous because they had been indwelled by the Holy Spirit and equipped to proclaim the light of truth in a dark age of lies. The truth they preached was not new; it was ancient. It was the doctrine of the martyrs, the fathers, the Apostles, and the patriarchs—it was the doctrine of God set forth in sacred Scripture.

The Reformers didn’t make up their theology; rather, their theology made them who they were. The theology of Scripture made them Reformers. For they did not set out to be Reformers, per se—they set out to be faithful to God and faithful to Scripture. Neither the solas of the Reformation nor the doctrines of grace (the five points of Calvinism) were invented by the Reformers, nor were they by any means the sum total of Reformation doctrine. Rather, they became underlying doctrinal premises that served to help the church of subsequent eras confess and defend what she believes. Even today there are many who think they embrace Reformed theology, but their Reformed theology only runs as deep as the solas of the Reformation and the doctrines of grace. What’s more, there are many who say they adhere to Reformed theology but do so without anyone knowing they are Reformed. Such “closet Calvinists” neither confess any of the historic Reformed confessions of the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries nor employ any distinctly Reformed theological language.

However, if we truly adhere to Reformed theology according to the historic Reformed confessions, we cannot help but be identified as Reformed. In truth, it’s impossible to remain a “closet Calvinist,” and it’s impossible to remain Reformed without anyone knowing it—it will inevitably come out. To be historically Reformed, one must adhere to a Reformed confession, and not only adhere to it but confess it, proclaim it, and defend it. Reformed theology is fundamentally a confessional theology.

Reformed theology is also an all-encompassing theology. It changes not only what we know, it changes how we know what we know. It not only changes our understanding of God, it changes our understanding of ourselves. Indeed, it not only changes our view of salvation, it changes how we worship, how we evangelize, how we raise our children, how we treat the church, how we pray, how we study Scripture—it changes how we live, move, and have our being. Reformed theology is not a theology that we can hide, and it is not a theology to which we can merely pay lip service. For that has been the habit of heretics and theological progressives throughout history. They claim to adhere to their Reformed confessions, but they never actually confess them. They claim to be Reformed only when they are on the defensive—when their progressive (albeit popular) theology is called into question, and, if they are pastors, only when their jobs are on the line. While theological liberals might be in churches and denominations that identify as “Reformed,” they are ashamed of such an identity and have come to believe that being known as “Reformed” is a stumbling block to some and an offense to others. Moreover, according to the historic, ordinary marks of the church—the pure preaching of the Word of God, prayer according to the Word of God, the right use of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the consistent practice of church discipline—such “Reformed” churches are often not even true churches. Today, there are many laypeople and pastors who are in traditionally Reformed and Protestant churches and denominations who, along with their churches and denominations, left their Reformed moorings and rejected their confessions years ago.

Contrary to this trend, what we most need are men in the pulpit who have the courage to be Reformed—men who aren’t ashamed of the faith once delivered to the saints but who are ready to contend for it, not with lip service but with all their life and all their might. We need men in the pulpit who are bold and unwavering in their proclamation of the truth and who are at the same time gracious and compassionate. We need men who will preach the unvarnished truth of Reformed theology in season and out of season, not with a finger pointing in the face but with an arm around the shoulder. We need men who love the Reformed confessions precisely because they love the Lord our God and His unchanging, inspired, and authoritative Word. It’s only when we have men in the pulpit who have the courage to be Reformed that we will have people in the pew who grasp Reformed theology and its effects in all of life, so that we might love God more with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. That is the theology that reformed the church in the sixteenth century, and that is the only theology that will bring reformation and revival in the twenty-first century. For in our day of radical progressive theological liberalism, the most radical thing we can be is orthodox according to our Reformed confessions, yet not with arrogance but with courage and compassion for the church and for the lost, all for the glory of God, and His glory alone.

Introduction to the Reformed Faith

by John M. Frame (original source the student body was largely Reformed in background. Many of the students had been trained in Calvinistic1 schools and colleges; even more had studied the Reformed catechisms and confessions. Today, that is rarely the case. More and more, students have come to Westminster from non-Reformed backgrounds, or even from recent conversion experiences. And those from Reformed backgrounds don’t always know their catechism very well.

Many Westminster students, when they first arrive, don’t even understand clearly what Westminster’s doctrinal position is. They know that Westminster maintains a strong view of biblical authority and inerrancy; they know that we hold to the fundamental doctrines of evangelical Christianity. And they know that we explain and defend these doctrines with superior scholarship. But they are sometimes not at all aware of the fact that Westminster is a confessional institution, that it adheres to a definite historic doctrinal tradition– the Reformed Faith.

I am very happy to have all these students here! I am very pleased that Westminster is attracting students from far beyond our normal confessional circles. But their presence necessitates some teaching at a fairly elementary level concerning the seminary’s doctrinal position. It is essential that students be introduced to the Reformed faith early in their seminary career. That Reformed faith energizes and directs all the teaching here. Students must be ready for that. Hence this essay.

I also have another reason for providing this introduction: When you have begun your seminary study, you will come to see that there are a number of variations within the general Reformed tradition. You will learn about “hyperCalvinism,” “theonomy,” “antinomianism,” “presuppositionalism,” “evidentialism,” “perspectivalism,” “traditionalism,” etc., the various names we call ourselves and call each other. It will not always be easy to determine who is “truly Reformed” and who is not– or, more important, who is “truly biblical.” In this paper, I would like to show you, at least, where I stand within the Reformed tradition, and to give you a bit of guidance, helping you to find your way through this maze.

This is, of course, only an “introduction” to the Reformed Faith, rather than an in-depth analysis. The in-depth analysis is to be found in the entire Westminster curriculum. Particularly, the doctrinal points expounded here will be expounded at much greater length in your later courses in systematic theology and apologetics. Still, there are obvious advantages in your having a general overview at an early point in your studies. Together with this document, I suggest you read the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms, also the “three forms of unity” of the continental European Reformed churches: the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dordt. These are wonderful summaries of the Reformed doctrinal position, thorough, concise, and precise. The Heidelberg is one of the great devotional works of all time. I also believe there is much to be gained from the opening summary of the Reformed theology in Cornelius Van Til’s The Defense of the Faith.2 Continue reading

21 Misunderstandings of Reformed Thinking

Dr. Sam Waldron, I had the privilege of speaking at the Reformation Preaching 2015 Conference. I was given the delicious, but in some ways difficult topic: Misunderstandings of Reformed Thinking. After some thought and seeking counsel, I entitled this message: 21 Misunderstandings of Calvinism.

There are a few things beside the native darkness and pride of the human heart that are a greater danger to the doctrines of grace than the widespread misunderstandings of those doctrines and their implications. The best solution to these misunderstandings is a study of the Reformed tradition itself and its clear statements about what the Bible does, and does not, teach regarding the doctrines of grace.

Before I addressed this important subject, I gave the conference four points of introduction. The first of those is the subject of this first post on those 21 misconceptions of Calvinism.

The Sources of These Misunderstandings

I distinguished three sources of misconceptions about Calvinism

The first was Arminian Misrepresentation. It is unquestionable that both today and in the past history of the church, Arminians have constantly repeated misrepresentations of the doctrines of grace. While these misrepresentations may have seemed to them the necessary implications of the views of their Calvinist opponents, they were made in many cases in spite of the clearest denials by the Reformed. It is unfair for anyone to charge their opponents with holding views that they deny even though they seem to be the logical implications of their positions. It is fair to point out that their views do lead to such implications. It is not fair to affirm that they hold or believe such implications when they explicitly deny them. Continue reading

A Church for Exiles

Carl-TruemanArticle: no-fault divorce, and now gay marriage have made traditional sexual ethics look outmoded at best and hateful at worst. The Western public square is no longer a place where Christians feel they belong with any degree of comfort.

For Christians in the United States, this is particularly disorienting. In Europe, Christianity was pushed to the margins over a couple of centuries—the tide of faith retreated “with tremulous cadence slow.” In America, the process seems to be happening much more rapidly.

It is also being driven by issues that few predicted would have such cultural force. It is surely an irony as unexpected as it is unwelcome that sex—that most private and intimate act—has become the most pressing public policy issue today. (Who could have imagined that policies concerning contraception and laws allowing same-sex marriage would present the most serious challenges to religious freedom?) We are indeed set for exile, though not an exile which pushes us to the geographical margins. It’s an exile to cultural irrelevance.

American Evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism start this exile with heavy baggage. Evangelicalism has largely wedded itself to the vision of America as at heart a Christian nation, a conception that goes back to the earliest New England settlers. An advertisement for The American Patriot’s Bible (2009) proudly boasts that it “connects the teachings of the Bible, the history of the United States and the life of every American” while “beautiful full-color insert pages spotlight the people and events that demonstrate the godly qualities that have made America great.” Yet a nation where the language of “choice” and “freedom” has been hijacked for infanticide, the deconstruction of marriage, and a seemingly limitless license to publish pornography is rather obviously not godly. That’s a hard truth for those who believe America belongs to them by right.

For Roman Catholics, the challenges of our cultural exile are different. Rome has somehow managed to maintain a level of social credibility in America, despite holding to positions regarded as intolerable by the wider secular world when held by Protestants. Her refusals to ordain women or sanction the use of contraception do not seem to have destroyed her public reputation. But if, for example, tax-exempt status is revoked for educational and social-service nonprofits opposed to the increasingly mandatory sexual revolution, the Church will face a stark choice: capitulate to the spirit of the age or step out into the cold wasteland of cultural and social marginality. When opposition to gay marriage comes to be seen as the moral equivalent to white supremacism, it is doubtful that the Roman Catholic Church will be able to maintain both her current position on the issue and her status in society. She too will likely be shunted to the margins. Continue reading