Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Taz.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Calvinists and Evangelism

One of the most recurring complaints made against Calvinists is that our theology kills our passion for missions. What is so frustrating is that this old straw man has been dealt with over and over and over again by many different writers and speakers. For all the words used to put this dead horse into the grave, it is still one of the most used attacks by non-calvinists against Reformed theology. I doubt this blog entry will put the matter rest once and for all time, but I want to go on record one more time on this topic.

Let me say this as bluntly as I can, Calvinists are passionate about evangelism and missions. Now, having said that, let me interject the inevitable caveat. Of course there may be some Calvinists who are not passionate about evangelism and missions. However, I do not believe that these people exist within Calvinism at any higher rate than they exist within non-calvinist ranks. I been in both Calvinist and non-calvinist churches and I heard sermons exhorting us (listeners) to be more passionate and more about the work of evangelism and missions. It seemed to me to be something that needed to looked at in both Calvinist and non-calvinist churches. To hear the critics of Calvinism tell it, Arminians are the consummate evangelists and Calvinists sit huddled in their churches and say "To heck with the rest of the world."

But nothing can be further from the truth. Believe it or not, in western Christianity there was a time when missions was not a priority. It was a Calvinist, Andrew Fuller, who noted the glaring omission of missions work among the Christians of his day. It was himself and some friends who organized the first foreign mission society. The first people to answer the call to go overseas for the furtherance of the gospel among the lost nations were Calvinists. It is no exaggeration to say that everywhere when you read the history of missions work, or when you read accounts of the people who gave their all to the work of missions, you will find pages filled with the works of Calvinists. When I say these folks gave their all, don't think I only am talking about giving their work a good effort. These men and woman buried spouses, and children, and lost their homes and belongings, often starting over several times, on the mission field. Many of these missionaries were buried among the people they ministered to.

Today, there is not a nationally or internationally known Calvinist who does not often exhort listeners to be passionate about evangelism and missions.

Why is this so? Because the first concern of the Calvinist is the glory of the Living God. Because the Calvinist knows that the problem with humanity is depravity and sin. They also know that the cure is the Lord Jesus Christ. Calvinists know that God has a people who are lost among every tongue, tribe, nation and ethnic group. They also know that gospel, faithfully preached and witnessed to, is God's means for calling His people out of the world to Himself. Calvinists have God's promises that His word will not return to Him void, and that the sheep will hear the Shepherd's voice and will follow him. "All that the Father gives me will come ... " Promises such as this give the Calvinist confidence that God's power will save in His own time.

But the work is not easy. Many missionaries served years before seeing their first converts. Hudson Taylor, of the China Inland Mission, served 7 years before anyone was saved. Spurgeon once said that if God had painted a white stripe down that back of every elect person, that he would go around London raising men's coattails to find the elect and give them the gospel message. But God has not done this. He calls on us to preach the gospel to every creature. Then he promises that "as many as were ordained to eternal life were saved."

Calvinists want to see God worshipped by all His people in every corner of the world. So, for His glory, they are passionate and zealous to carry the message of the forgiveness of sins in Christ to every human on the planet. Instead of killing a passion for evangelism and missions, the doctrine of election gives the Calvinist confidence that sooner or later, if we are faithful to the message, that people will be saved. A Calvinist without a heart for missions and evangelism is an oxymoron. Just as a Christian without a love for their fellow Christians is something that should never be, neither is a Calvinist Christian without a love for the lost people of the world ... from those in their own homes to those in the farthest corners of the planet.

My friend, examine your heart. Whether you are a Calvinist or an Arminian, no Christian ought to be without a passion for the lost of the world. Our passion ought to begin in our own hometowns and never be quenched until we can say the gospel has been preached to every human in the world. To the Calvinist, I say this ... we claim to have the highest form of systematic theology there is. If that is so, we should have the highest commitment to the commands of Christ and to His glory. If we are what we claim to be, it will show in the things we say and the things we DO. As James challenges us, let us be doers of the word and not hearers only.

There may be some few who call themselves Calvinists who do not have a passion for evangelism and missions. I pray this is not the majority. It is not my heart (to be passionless about evangelism and missions). It is not the heart of anyone I know. Honestly, I pray it never is. For the glory of God let us carry His good news into every corner of the world. It is His command and our joy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Doctrines of Grace are the sole ground of encouragement for missions and evangelism.

I can preach, teach, witness etc., knowing that God's sheep will hear and be brought into the fold.

The false charge will continue for those in opposition have nothing to answer our arguments. So don't get upset. I'm amused by their petty efforts to undermine and change the truth.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz

11:07 AM  

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