Nine Reasons Why I Am Thankful To Be A Calvinist

Yesterday evening, Derek Rishmawy started a hashtag on Twitter called #keyCalvinistmoments. It is highly unusual for me to get into discussions of Calvinism nowadays. However, having earlier taken part in an exchange on the subject of divine and human will, the freedom of the will, and the phenomenology of ‘choice’, I was already reflecting on some familiar Calvinist discussions and doctrinal positions. When Derek’s hashtag appeared, I added a few tweets of my own.

Participating in the #keyCalvinistmoments hashtag gave me cause to consider once again what it is about the thought of Calvin and the Reformed faith more generally that has resonated with and been so formative for me. Perhaps most striking to me was the fact that hardly any of the things that came to mind were directly related to the so-called ‘five points of Calvinism’. Despite the fact that these points are presented by many as if they were absolutely central to the Reformed faith—and, indeed, to Christianity more generally—in the sort of Calvinism that captured my theological imagination, even when they were affirmed, these points exercised a far more muted role. Once again, I was struck by how little the sort of Calvinism that inspires me has to do with ‘TULIPism’, which is equated with Calvinism in the popular Christian imagination.

Calvinism is often encountered in the context of conflict, which tends to focus its presentation upon chief points of controversy. The ‘five points’ are an example of this effect, a bastardization of the teaching of the Synod of Dort, from 1618-19, against the followers of Jacobus Arminius. These controverted points have since become the centre of the presentation of ‘Calvinism’ for many. However, for those of us whose understanding of Calvinist thought isn’t framed by controversy, the relative prominence of various themes and doctrinal emphases can be quite different.

The following are a list of some of the things that have especially excited me about the theology of Calvin and the Reformed faith over the years. The points listed here are not exclusive to Calvin and the Reformed faith, nor do you need to read Calvin in order to learn about them. I believe that they are the common inheritance of all Christians and known and expressed by many brothers and sisters outside of my particular theological tradition. However, for me, as for many others, it was through studying the Reformed faith that I first came to understand and be gripped by these truths and realities.

1. The confidence and comfort in knowing that the God who has revealed himself to be for us in Jesus Christ works his gracious purpose in and through all things and that nothing can stop him from achieving his glorious end. It is such truth that allows me to say with the Heidelberg Catechism that my ‘only comfort in life and death’ is

That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

2. The joyful solemnity that results from reflecting upon the holiness and glory of God. In a world preoccupied with the frivolous and trivial, a sense of the weightiness of God—the heights of his majesty and the depths of his love—can hit us like a sledgehammer. Spending time with such a God changes you.

3. The gift of God’s inspired and sure revelation in Scripture, a trustworthy guide in which we encounter Christ and through which his authority is exercised in his Church. Before the searching light of this truth all of the hobgoblins of superstition cower, all idols are brought low, and speculation must wither. As we submit to Christ’s rule through his word, we are released from those who would tyrannize our consciences and prey on our ignorance and taught to glorify and enjoy the Lord our God.

4. The truth that, in the words of Abraham Kuyper, “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is over all earthly rulers, giving us confidence to live as his free people, whoever might try to persecute or suppress us. As all of creation belongs to our Lord Jesus we should fearlessly venture out into his world and serve him in it, living out the life of Christ in every area of life and activity. Creation is the theatre of God’s glory and we are God’s fellow workers, called to bring his life, love, and beauty wherever we go.

5. The fact that our salvation isn’t found in ourselves, but in Christ and in union with him by his Spirit. It is no longer I who live, but he who lives in me. My true identity is found, not by navel-gazing within, but by looking to the one who died and rose again and is now ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father. In him I have salvation in its entirety: justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification. He is the one who gives humanity’s true response to God and in him we are God’s beloved children.

6. The teaching that there is continuity in God’s purposes throughout history and unity between the people of God in the old and new covenants. These purposes reach their climax in Christ, in whom we are the sons and daughters of Abraham and the heirs of all of the riches of the covenant. The Old Testament is a book written for and about us, for our edification and instruction. It speaks of God’s effecting his salvation in history and of our forefathers, the Israelites. Christ is to be found throughout it.

7. That the Law of God is a delight and a source of grace, for in it we meet our Saviour, to whom it points, and learn of the character that God is forming in us by his Spirit. Through the ministry of the Law and the free gift of the Gospel the people of God are raised up into the full stature of Christ.

8. That Christ bore the condemnation that lay upon us on account of our sins at the cross, bringing the old humanity down to the grave, so that we might rise to new, holy, and glorious life in him. Christ did not die in vain, for by the power of his Spirit a new people is being formed through his shed blood. The death of Christ frees us from the guilt and power of sin and gives us confidence to come before the throne of God as those who have been fully forgiven.

9. That, through the mysterious work of his Spirit, we are given the presence of the risen and ascended Christ in the celebration of his Supper, where we feed on his flesh and drink of his blood.

Many other points could be mentioned. I could also discuss my appreciation of the Reformed tradition itself, of such things as its emphasis upon expository preaching. I could discuss the exciting breadth and catholicity of the historical Reformed tradition, a fact that might come as a surprise to those whose primary encounters with ‘Calvinist’ thought have come from more exclusive and ideological quarters.

Please add your thoughts in the comments. If you are Reformed, what are the things that you most appreciate about the tradition and its emphases? If you belong to a different tradition, what are the dimensions of your tradition’s teaching and practice that most powerfully resonate with you?

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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42 Responses to Nine Reasons Why I Am Thankful To Be A Calvinist

  1. Alistair,
    Thanks so much for this article! How wonderful it is to get beyond the 5 points! (More like the 5 stumbling blocks for me…)
    I was raised Roman Catholic. My parents took all five of us to church every Sunday regardless of if we were traveling or at home. The liturgy of the Mass laid an excellent foundation within me for understanding the Gospel when it was presented to me in a more pure form. I’ve thought about this a fair bit, but haven’t ever written about it. It’s an experience I want for my MC in the book I’m writing. Perhaps I need to write my own first, and then I’ll be able to write about my MC’s experience within the Anglican tradition.

  2. Tim says:

    Nice job, Alastair. I’m going to tweet a link to this, so that those who ask how I can be a Calvinist might give up their caricatures of Reformed doctrine and get a glimpse of the doctrine I actually do hold.

    Tim

  3. Alastair, as usual, this old man learns much from you. Would that more North American “Neo-Reformed” read and learn from Kuyper, Bavinck, Dooyeweerd et al. (And I say this as one who is more Wesleyan/Arminian in my theology — but have much appreciation for Kuyperian Calvinists.)

    • Thanks, Bill. Getting more Reformed people to read theologians like Bavinck would indeed be a very good thing. One of the things that I find great about a broader Reformed identity is that it gives you a much larger scope in which you can appreciatively explore those areas where the emphases of different traditions overlap, or those areas where others’ emphases can complement or develop those of your own tradition.

      • Indeed. Oddly enough, some of the folk who have had the most profound impact on my thinking as a Christian in the last decade are Neo-Calvinists (in the true sense of the term) like Jonathan Chaplin, Adrienne Dengerink, (Adrienne and Jonathan are now based in Cambridge – a great loss to Toronto) Gideon Strauss (now at Fuller), Toronto PCA Pastor Dan MacDonald — as well as the non-TGC version of Tim Keller. (That is written with affection and humour, in Tim’s case.)

  4. Clubbeaux says:

    Well-stated, as others have said it’s refreshing to see an appreciation of Calvinism that extends beyond the five points.

  5. Bronwyn Lea says:

    Love this, Alistair, and love this phrase in particular: “Before the searching light of this truth all of the hobgoblins of superstition cower..” I can almost picture those hobgoblins, burrowing for cover beneath a rock.

  6. whitefrozen says:

    If I may be so bold as to add one: #10. Barth and Torrance were Calvinists. That’s a bit of a slam dunk in my opinion.

  7. Mike Gantt says:

    “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified foryou, was he?” (1 Cor 1:12-13)

    Do those who self-identify as Calvinists just shut their eyes when reading these words, or is there a more sophisticated way you avoid their import?

    • Tim says:

      Neither. Calvinist is shorthand for a well thought-out understanding of Scripture. The long version of identifying that doctrinal; understanding is nothing like the problem noted in 1 Corinthians 1.

      Blessings,
      Tim

    • There really isn’t much difference between identifying as a ‘Baptist’, ‘Anglican’, ‘Methodist’, or ‘Presbyterian’ and identifying as a ‘Calvinist’, ‘Lutheran’, ‘Wesleyan’, ‘Mennonite’, etc. In fact, a number of these terms are relatively interchangeable. While this may be sectarian and divisive in some cases, all that such terms do is to locate us on the ecclesiastical and theological spectra of affiliations and perspectives. It doesn’t automatically imply the sort of contentions that Paul was dealing with in Corinth.

      • Mike Gantt says:

        “There really isn’t much difference between identifying as a ‘Baptist’, ‘Anglican’, ‘Methodist’, or ‘Presbyterian’ and identifying as a ‘Calvinist’, ‘Lutheran’, ‘Wesleyan’, ‘Mennonite’, etc.”

        Agreed.

      • There is nothing wrong with such identifications either. They name the sort of theological, ecclesiastical, geographical, historical, etc. differences that all Christians possess. Christians are not an entirely uniform species and so these identities are extremely helpful. There is no neutral form of Christian faith that is immune from such labels.

        The real thing that matters is what we choose to do with such labels.

      • Bobbienry says:

        I _do_ have a problem with Calvinists who think that if you aren’t Calvinist (or Protestant), then you’re not a Christian. People like Sproul and MacArthur come to mind. I’m glad you’re not like those guys. Especially given that there are so many Orthodox, Oriental, and Eastern Catholic Christians being killed for their faith over in the Middle East right now, the fact that Sproul and MacArthur are able to say such things and get away with it makes my blood boil, and really gives me a negative impression of Calvinism, or at least its most “popular” forms (why do so many more people read Sproul & MacArthur than Schaff or Dooeyweerd?)

  8. truthunites says:

    “If you are Reformed, what are the things that you most appreciate about the tradition and its emphases?”

    Sound Biblical justification for distinctive theological positions are made using a grammatical-historical exegesis.

  9. Joshua says:

    Hi Alastair,

    I read your post with great pleasure. I am a Protestant (of the Reformed persuasion) preparing to enter the Roman Catholic Church, and I can affirm that I agree very largely with all the points you listed there. I hold some slight reservations about points 3 and 9, since by ‘hobgoblins and superstitions’ you might have had in mind the veneration of Mary and the prayers to the saints, and in point 9 the key issue is the identity of the bread and wine after the prayer of consecration is said.

    That said, I’d like to know your thoughts on Roman Catholicism. What do you think is wrong about it? What repels you (or not) from that tradition? Would you regard us as fellow Christians?

    Note: for those who are tempted to jump in with an offhand remark like “Everything!”, please, at the very least, try to be a bit more substantive.

    • Thanks for the comment, Joshua. Good to have you here.

      First off, I regard Roman Catholics as fellow Christians. I think that the Roman Catholic Church is part of the Christian Church with particular errors. I have many friends within the Roman Catholic Church whose faith I admire and whose Christian fellowship I gain much from, even though there are important differences between us.

      I have a ridiculously full schedule today, so my response will have to be very brief. In no particular order, here are a few issues that I have with the Roman Catholic Church:

      1. The Roman Catholic Church’s teaching about its teaching (e.g. papal infallibility).
      2. The place given to the authority of tradition in Roman Catholic thought (I believe that tradition is authoritative, just not in the way that Roman Catholics typically hold).
      3. The place given to the pope.
      4. The sectarianism of the Roman Catholic Church. Just because the Roman Catholic Church is big doesn’t mean that its posture towards my Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters isn’t fundamentally a sectarian one. To my knowledge the anathemas and declarations of the Council of Trent haven’t been officially revoked and continue to stand between us.
      5. The place given to Mary and the saints in much Roman Catholic piety and teachings such as her immaculate conception and assumption.
      6. The fact that, no matter how Roman Catholics may defend their piety in theory, what I actually see on the ground is often very far removed from the sort of piety described in Scripture. Many of my deepest objections are to ‘actually existing’ Catholicism (I attended a Roman Catholic school growing up in Ireland and have seen plenty of Catholicism on the ground), not to an airbrushed Catholicism of the theological page, for which I have much sympathy in many areas.
      7. While I believe that we truly feed on the body and drink of blood of Christ in the Eucharist (Calvin’s teaching isn’t all that far from Aquinas’s), I believe that Roman Catholic teaching and practice tends towards a more magical conception of what is occurring here. The role of the Spirit, faith, and the category of the symbol (not as opposed to reality) tend to be neglected.

      This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it is for starters.

      • Bobbienry says:

        It’s worth pointing out that every theological tradition has its “actually existing” (folk) variants, which are often at odds with the tradition’s actual doctrines. Calvinism itself is not exempt. The obsession with covenant theology among some early Calvinists (which still persists today in some quarters), led to a number of questionable practices among the Afrikaners. Specifically, since the Afrikaners were generally ignorant of history, and also because there were no Jews around, the Afrikaners came to believe that they themselves were the Old Testament’s chosen people, that Africa was Canaan, and that blacks were therefore Canaanites and it was okay to enslave and discriminate against them. This eventually led to Apartheid.

        Likewise, the Afrikaner obsession with Siener van Rensburg is another example; they considered him a modern-day prophet. Don’t let John MacArthur or anyone else fool you into thinking that cessationism was always the norm among Calvinists until recently. The Afrikaners had always believed that prophets walked among them.

    • I would also genuinely be interested to know—not for the sake of arguing—what are some of the things that have particularly attracted you to the Roman Catholic Church.

      • Joshua says:

        Certainly.

        You note ‘The fact that, no matter how Roman Catholics may defend their piety in theory, what I actually see on the ground is often very far removed from the sort of piety described in Scripture.’ On many accounts, the doctrine and praxis of Sola Scriptura is similar – it sounds very good in theory, but the kind of practice on the ground made me seriously question its validity. It also made me question whether what I did not like about Roman Catholicism at first (use of images, invocation of the saints) – other than the fact that I believed that their doctrinal system, if faithfully followed, was sure to lead one to perdition – was more a function of how I wanted my church to look like. Of course, that doesn’t immediately invalidate the principle, but it made me wonder, first, whether there was and still is a church that does possess the complete fullness of truth (even if hasn’t, at present, discerned all there is to know in that deposit of truth) and has the authority to proclaim it, and second, whether there is another means of identifying that church other than agreement and disagreement on selected theological points.

        One thing that particularly shook me during my search was discovering that the Orthodox Churches hold an expanded canon that includes all of the Roman canon. Given that the Protestants generally admit that the NT canon was stabilised soon after the Councils of Carthage and Hippo in the late 4th/early 5th century, I wondered why they did not extend the same consideration to the Deuterocanon/Apocrypha, given that the Deuterocanon was included in the lists given by those some councils. Undoubtedly, the fathers did not agree on the books of the OT that were to be used, but why could that not have been settled just as the NT was settled? Moreover, once one moves beyond just considering the lists of books the Fathers produced, one sees a fair amount of usage of the Deuterocanon not only as mere exhortation (as a ‘canon in a canon’ theory would suggest), but being quoted definitively as Scripture and used to prove doctrine.

        I must end my reply now as I have to leave for work, let me continue this in a further reply.

      • Joshua says:

        (Note: I’m not sure if this will appear as a reply directly to you, Alastair, or whether it will addressed to Salvatore, since that is what WordPress is telling me right now. Nevertheless, this is continuation of my reply to you, and some discussion on the points of disagreement that you brought up.)

        Realising that the major bodies on Christianity all differ on the canon of Scripture made me realise that, even though, at the very end, we will stand before God alone and give an account of our actions, God has provided a means for us to know him while we’re on this earth *and* that he has given this knowledge to someone to pass on to others. This knowledge certainly comes down to us in the Scriptures, but the Scriptures do not exist in a vacuum – people wrote the Scriptures and eventually had to come to a decision over which writings were and were not Scripture. I hope my meaning here is sufficiently clear that we do not have to get into an argument about making what isn’t Scripture into Scripture.

        This logically leads to the question “if the process by which the Scriptures are known to us is a human-mediated one, then what did these mediators also have to say about other aspects of being a Christian?” How could I, supposing that I lived in a time rife with Donatism, Arianism, the various schools of Gnosticism, and Paulinism, each claiming to be the true body of Christians, know who carried the gospel message in its fullness? Cyprian of Carthage, even though he rails against Stephen of Rome when Stephen attempts to correct his practice of rebaptism, does not deny the importance of the succession of bishops. Irenaeus of Lyon, in Against Heresies III Ch 3, indicates that, while he certainly believes he can prove his doctrine straight from Scripture, defends himself and the Scriptures that he is using by stating that his doctrine and his Scriptures agree with the churches who maintain a direct line of succession from the apostles . Augustine, in Christian Doctrine II Ch 8, proposes to resolve the controversy on the canon by appealing to the practices of the church and, if the church is not uniform in its practice, to the judgment of the churches with greater prestige.

        Now, it would be presumptuous to immediately assume that this method still exists today, but currently I cannot find a reason why it *cannot*. It doesn’t contradict Scripture, and the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches can build a convincing case for the initial deposit of authority in the hands of the apostles which was understood by the fathers as having passed on to their successors. Apart from the modern bias against lines of succession, why should this not be a viable method for determining which authority I should receive Scripture and, accordingly, the full gospel, from? I do not feel qualified to assess the competing claims of the Orthodox, Anglo-Catholic, and Roman churches here, but suffice it to say that I think that their claims are more sustainable than the claims of the Reformed churches.

        Let me address some of your disagreements:

        1. The Roman Catholic Church’s teaching about its teaching (e.g. papal infallibility).
        2. The place given to the authority of tradition in Roman Catholic thought (I believe that tradition is authoritative, just not in the way that Roman Catholics typically hold).
        3. The place given to the pope.

        I think 2. is addressed by what I have already written. 1. flows from a basic belief that all Christians hold, that God has preserved his church; therefore, in matters regarding the proclamation of the a) faith (canon, interpretation) and b) morals (normative issues regarding human behaviour) the churches allied with the Roman bishop and the Roman bishop himself cannot and have not erred . Of course, one should ask ‘How are such proclamations identified?’, but it is not a doctrine that can be dismissed lightly.

        I’m not sure what you mean by 3.

        4. The sectarianism of the Roman Catholic Church. Just because the Roman Catholic Church is big doesn’t mean that its posture towards my Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters isn’t fundamentally a sectarian one. To my knowledge the anathemas and declarations of the Council of Trent haven’t been officially revoked and continue to stand between us.

        Perhaps. But what would you say if the Roman church lifted the anathemas against those who do not hold to doctrines decided at Nicea I and Constantinople I so that we can bring in our Mormon brethren? (I jest.) It is important to know the issues that can be compromised and the issues that can’t. The anathemas and declarations help define the problematic for Catholics.

        5. The place given to Mary and the saints in much Roman Catholic piety and teachings such as her immaculate conception and assumption.

        Veneration of the saints flows from several considerations, from which I can remember: a. the nature of the Body of Christ, b. James 5, which discusses the power of the prayer of the righteous.

        The Immaculate Conception is defensible from Scripture given a reading of Scripture that emphasises parallels, symbols, and prophetic interpretation. That may not be our preferred reading method of Scripture today, but it is not invalid. From this also follows the position of Mary among the saints, for she who has been preserved from sin by the grace of God therefore holds the highest place among glorified men.

        (I have heard assertions that Luther and Calvin themselves thought the Immaculate Conception was ok, but haven’t checked them out myself.)

        I have difficulty with the Assumption myself. At present, my posture towards it is: I accept it on the authority I believe the Roman church has, and that the evidence for it begins to appear in the 4th (I think) century.

        6. The fact that, no matter how Roman Catholics may defend their piety in theory, what I actually see on the ground is often very far removed from the sort of piety described in Scripture. Many of my deepest objections are to ‘actually existing’ Catholicism (I attended a Roman Catholic school growing up in Ireland and have seen plenty of Catholicism on the ground), not to an airbrushed Catholicism of the theological page, for which I have much sympathy in many areas.

        I have earlier commented on the praxis of Sola Scriptura. I also note that you took pains to separate yourself from what you state as the ‘common perception of Calvinism’. I cannot comment further until I learn a bit more about what you mean by ‘far removed from the sort of piety described in Scripture,’ but must add that if you are referring to burying St. Joseph upside down in the front yard to assist in the sale of a house or that one must not bite the Eucharist for fear of causing harm to Jesus, those beliefs are superstitious and should be rooted out. Why they haven’t, and why the church authorities in some areas don’t bother to do, is something they have to account for before Christ.

        7. While I believe that we truly feed on the body and drink of blood of Christ in the Eucharist (Calvin’s teaching isn’t all that far from Aquinas’s), I believe that Roman Catholic teaching and practice tends towards a more magical conception of what is occurring here. The role of the Spirit, faith, and the category of the symbol (not as opposed to reality) tend to be neglected.

        I don’t know what you mean by ‘magical’. Also, the problems that you cite appear to be more errors of poor catechesis, than of an actual difficulty in Rome’s doctrine, since I don’t see how the Spirit, faith, and the symbol are neglected in Rome’s teaching on the subject (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P3W.HTM), which should also be read within the larger context of the entire catechism. No doubt, however, that Catholics need better catechesis.

        Best wishes, and a Happy New Year!

  10. Salvatore Mazzotta says:

    Joshua,

    Rome’s failing is the same as the Kingdom of Israel’s: Idolatry.

  11. Pingback: Commenting on Alistair Adversia’s “Nine Reasons Why I Am Thankful To Be A Calvinist” | Current Events in Light of the Kingdom of God

  12. stewardman says:

    Thank Alastair for this. After 33+yrs in the Reformed Faith I concur…that the best parts of “Calvinism” are not at all unique to Calvin or the Reformed Faith! These (‘cept #3) are ALL Supra-Calvin, preceding him by centuries of Orthodox Church Tradition. Sorta like listing 9 reason I’m “Thankful To Be An Yankee”…ALL common to millions of humans centuries before the USA. So, to be more honest, it’s mostly NOT Calvinism you are thankful for…but rather Historic Christianity. And that also would be a good…thing to say. [yes…other nuances needed on some pts]🙂

    [of course, a charismatic Anabaptist pastor of ‘The Reorganized Church of Latter-Day Volunteers’ loves #3 too…as do thousands of protestant denominational authorities.]

  13. Tim G. says:

    “So, to be more honest, it’s mostly NOT Calvinism you are thankful for…but rather Historic Christianity.”

    It seems that is part of the point he is making in the article. “Calvinism” and the Reformed articulation of the Christian faith is a recovery of the THE Historic Christian Faith. Calvin and the other reformers were going back to the Apostolic and post-apostolic fathers of the faith to recover it and bring it back to light after many years of a darkened understanding. Thus clarifying and removing extra-biblical belief and practice.

    Thanks for the article.

    • stewardman says:

      I understand Tim G. and that would have taken the points mentioned outside the domain or Calvinism. But Alastair did not say what you’ve said “this is the old Christian Faith the Apostolic Fathers failed to pass on and was lost for centuries”. He is implying that his thankfulness is for these things unique to Calvinism. It is strange that Reformed theologians persist in “finding new things/insights” from the Patristic Fathers…they then pretend is their own discovery…sometimes rediscovery. Not true. These things have been well known by millions of Bishops, Priest, Deacons, Monks and saints the Orthodox Church since the Apostles (and likely parts of Rome)…centuries before and after the reformation by millions.

      But even IF we grant your contention was his intent…it is not historically or even Scripturaly tenable. Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to the Church (not private individuals)…to lead Her to all Truth. Did Christ made good on His promise — or was Pentecost just a brief flash? The Holy Spirit does not leave the Church but abides in Her…not a Blink-On and Blink-Off for centuries at the time while the Church languished in error. Let me commend this article to your serious consideration.
      http://orthodoxbridge.com/pentecost-and-the-promise-of-god-fulfilled/

      Much other good stuff there for your reading. God’s mercies to you brother.

      • Tim G. says:

        Thanks for the article stewardman. I’ll try and read it when I get time.

        It seems to me your reply has implied several things that I did not say and you have misquoted me by saying “this is the old Christian Faith the Apostolic Fathers failed to pass on and was lost for centuries”. I never said or implied that biblical Christianity was lost or the Patristic/Apostolic fathers failed to pass it on. Nor did I in any way say or imply the Holy Spirit took a leave of absence for any period of time. Nor did I say or imply that others outside the Reformed/Calvinistic tradition do not believe any of the points made in the article.

        Christ also promised to give gifts to men and give His church pastors and teachers that would guard her and teach her. Men called according to His purpose of ministry in the Church before, during, and after the time of the Reformation. The Holy Spirit was given to the Church and to individual Christians.

        Men like Luther, Calvin, and others fought tooth and nail to show their teaching was not some form of novelty.

        Read again this quote from the article above:

        “The following are a list of some of the things that have especially excited me about the theology of Calvin and the Reformed faith over the years. The points listed here are not exclusive to Calvin and the Reformed faith, nor do you need to read Calvin in order to learn about them. I believe that they are the common inheritance of all Christians and known and expressed by many brothers and sisters outside of my particular theological tradition. However, for me, as for many others, it was through studying the Reformed faith that I first came to understand and be gripped by these truths and realities.”

        I took that to mean they are taught in the reformed tradition but not exclusive to it. They are shared (common inheritance) of all Christians. Implying they are part and parcel of “The Faith”. The same faith Jude is talking about in the following passage.

        “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:3-4, ESV)

        My original post was a reply to you saying, “it’s mostly NOT Calvinism you are thankful for….”

        You are saying he is not thankful for Calvinism after he says it was through studying Calvinism and the Reformed tradition that he first came to understand and be gripped by these truths.

        As Spurgeon said, “The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.”—C. H. Spurgeon

        http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm

        Again Calvin never thought his teaching was novelty. He didn’t pretend to come up with “new” ideas. He was going back to the Scriptures and early church fathers like Augustine to refute the errors that crept into the church.

        So the points in the article are not focused on the narrow understanding that Calvinism and the Reformed faith can be reduced to TULIP. When I speak of Calvinsim or the Reformed faith I’m not speaking merely of Soteriology but of the whole scope of doctrine taught in the tradition. The the points in the article are taught in Calvinism/Reformed theology therefore the points mentioned do not take one outside the “domain” of Calvinism. That is my point

        Thanks for the discussion.

        Post Tenebras Lux

      • Tim G. says:

        Briefly read through the article and will tend to it more thoroughly in the days to come. First impression is that the article denies the reality of apostasy and false teaching in the church as warned about many times in the NT. As well as a caricature of a Protestant view of church history that I do not recognize in my own reading and thinking on the subject. And a deficient view of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit not taught in the Reformed tradition.

    • Bobbienry says:

      “….after many years of a darkened understanding”.

      Did Jesus ever say that the faith would be lost and then, centuries later, need to be recovered again? Or, did he say the very gates of hell would never prevail against the church?

  14. Tim G. says:

    I meant to say completely lost in my last reply. I see how saying recover and recovery can imply lost in the sense of completely absent. My apologies for not being clear.

  15. stewardman says:

    Thanks Tim for your comments. Seems we are both prone to think the other is saying
    things unsaid!🙂 Perhaps we should take this offline so not hijack Alastair’s space here? [agsteward@gmail.com] As for Calvin’s “Novelty” & departing from the Apostolic Fathers consider:

    http://orthodoxbridge.com/calvin-dissing-the-fathers/

    “Calvin’s low opinion of the Greek fathers comes across loud and clear in the following sentence:

    “Further, even though the Greeks above the rest—and Chrysostom especially among
    them—extol the ability of the human will, yet all the ancients, save Augustine, so differ,
    waver, or speak confusedly on this subject, that almost nothing certain can be derived
    from their writings.” (Emphasis added.)

    “The above sentence is pure dynamite. One, Calvin was aware of the early fathers (“all the ancients”) affirmation of free will. Two, that he believed the church fathers spoke “confusedly” meaning there was no patristic consensus on free will. Three, nothing worthwhile can be learned from the early church fathers on this matter. Four, the sole exception among the early church fathers is Augustine.”

    “These are all very interesting theses, but like any set of theses they need to be backed up evidence and arguments. It is disappointing, therefore, to find that Calvin disdains to provide supporting evidence.”

    “Therefore, we shall not stop to list more exactly the opinions of individual writers;
    but we shall only select at random from one or another, as the explanation of the
    argument would seem to demand.” [calvin example taught a very “Seclective” use of the
    Fathers?]

    Prof. Robert Arakaki, Phd goes on in this article to actually quote a host of the Fathers Calvin refuses to…So it appears for Calvin’s own mouth he knew he was very “Selective” in his use of only a few of the Father…when they agreed with his new and Novel views. Scholarship?

  16. Paul Baxter says:

    I think this is mostly an expansion of your point number 4, but for me one of the most wonderful things I’ve seen about the Calvinist tradition is the way that the doctrine of mission is handled. I attended a self-consciously Arminian college and had a minor in Christian missions. The lion’s share of the theology of mission we got was from Calvinists, including, as one textbook, An Introduction to the Science of Missions by J H Bavinck, a work I would still recommend today.

    In my experience it has been the Calvinists who have most thoroughly developed the theology of the Kingdom of God as it has been revealed in Christ and prefigured in Israel. Much of the best practical theology I’ve heard has been from missionaries in the Calvinist tradition, and most of the missionaries I’ve met have inclined toward Calvinism.

    • Joshua says:

      That’s interesting. For me, my experience has been that the best missionaries have come from those with self-consciously Arminian traditions, such as Methodism, and display a distinct aversion to Calvinist thought. Missionaries in my country align *away* from Calvinism, despite its apparent ability to resolve the tension between man’s suffering and God’s will for some.

      In the end, I am reminded of Paul’s jibe that he is thankful for those that preach Christ even if they are doing it for impure motives. How much more can the love of Christ shine through in those who truly love the Lord?

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