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.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why Calvinism?

I was going over the arguments against Calvinistic theology in my mind the other day and I had a picture appear in my mind of a friend asking me, "Why Calvinism?" There are many systems of theology out there, two main ones within Protestant theology, so why settle on Calvinism? I thought about it for a while and I think I have developed a good answer to the question.

It is not a secret that North American Protestant Christianity is a mess right now. We could even broaden that to Western Protestant Christianity. More and more people are moving away from a doctrinal faith towards a pragmatic faith of whatever works. Earlier today I read a blog that decried the emphasis on what the author called the "three B's" (baptisms, buildings, and backsides). It is all about the numbers. When I was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor, we had a joke that you tell everything you needed to know about a man by three things ... who he is, where he went to school (ie. who trained him), and how many souls sat under his preaching every Sunday morning.

[Extending hand] "Hello sir, I am John Sneed, Liberty University, class of '94, 35 in Sunday morning service." There and then, everything anyone would ever want to know about me was laid bare.

In other quarters we see a drift away from a biblically based faith towards an experience based faith. This is most often seen among the Pentecostals and Charismatics. However, this is not unknown in Baptist life either. Another trend that was well documented in Dr. John MacArthur's book "Ashamed of the Gospel" is a drift towards a buffet approach to Christianity. Today's Christians choose what teachings they want to believe in based on what they think is biblical, what they think sounds fair and right, and what they think requires the least of them to get by. The result of this is the that door is wide open for all kinds of errors and heresies to infiltrate our churches and our denominations. One Mormon bishop boasted that up to 60% of converts to Mormonism in North America come out of Baptist churches. He called Baptist churches the best training grounds for new Mormons there are. This tells me we are doing a dismal job of teaching our members what they believe and why.

Recently, Emergent Christianity has developed which has little or no truth at all. That is to say that Emergent leaders see doctrine as something that cannot be known but is something we encounter on our own personal faith journeys. In short, anything works as long as you are sincere and true to yourself. Friends, whole books have been written documenting these trends I have mentioned here.

What has all this got to do with why I believe Calvinism to be the most God honoring system of theology we have? Consider this quote from Charles Spurgeon, "We care far more for the central evangelical truths than we do for Calvinism as a system; but we believe that Calvinism has in it a conservative force that helps to hold men to the vital truth." Out of the Reformation came five great truths, or solas as they were called. Sola means "only, or alone." In Latin, sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, and sola Deo gloria. In English, scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. I believe with all my heart that these five truths are anchors of truth to hold our doctrine fast and faithful to the truth of the Bible. I believe when you begin to move away from any one of these five things, you move more and more into error. I find these great truths most loudly, passionately, and forcefully proclaimed in the system of doctrine called Calvinism. I will go so far to say that every other system of doctrine I am familiar with either denies these truths or waters them down or redefines them to mean other things.

"According to scripture alone, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone." Read Calvin, read Luther, or Bunyan, or Knox, or Wishart, or Taylor, or Fuller, or Edwards, or Spurgeon, or Camp, or MacArthur, or Piper or the Puritans or hundreds of others and you will see these fives things extolled over and over and over. It is said that our modern theology is a mile wide and an inch deep. We know about a lot of things, but we don't know much about a lot of things. Puritan theology was often times an inch wide and a mile deep. They would pick a topic and they would mine it until they knew it.

And it was always God exalting, Christ honoring, Spirit powered experiential Christianity. It was a Christianity of the head and the heart. Not only a Christianity to be studied, but one to be lived too. And always it was Calvinism, or the Doctrines of Grace, or Reformed theology, whatever you want to call it, it was these doctrines that raised up the banner of sola scriptura. It was these doctrines that taught us of justification by faith alone. These doctrines taught us of salvation by grace alone. These doctrines tied us tightly to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and taught us life by His glorious works.

Beloved, when I read the scriptures, taking them as my one and only measuring rod fr my life and my beliefs, I am compelled to be a Calvinist. As Luther said, "My conscience is captive to the word of God." Other kinds of Christians don't think or talk like that. But Calvinists do. In the scriptures I see God, high and lifted up. I see man low and helpless. I see God as just, not letting any sin go unpunished in the universe. I see Christ, mighty and capable to save. I see the Holy Spirit moving through the world with power. I see lives changed by the power of the Living God given through His mighty word. and I see all of that taught in the system called Calvinism.

So, I am compelled by scripture to hold the same things to be true that are taught within the Calvinistic system. I am compelled by experience to know that when you move away the truths taught within the Calvinistic system, more and more errors seem to appear. If I am to build my faith upon the Rock of Christ, I must build it on the Christian doctrine that holds me closest to Bible truth. That is why I am a Calvinist.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent post my brother.

4:48 AM  
Anonymous Pastor Jeff said...

Well written. I'm glad they don't necessarily look at things by our school of graduation, since I haven't graduated from college yet.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Pastor Sneed,
You probably don't remember me, but I was just a 12 year old kid when we were leaving North Hill in ND; right at the time you were starting your pastoral ministry there. I didn't realize that you went to Liberty University, that is where I am currently attending, and plan to graduate in 2011. Hope things are going better for you these days, and I will remember to pray for you and your ministry.
-Hal Scott

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it is Scripture Alone, then so may it be, yet fully be.

You have eloquently presented why you have chosen Calvinism, but with assisting words of reformers. Therein, and about those quotations, I see contradiction; by which you, in acknowledging those words as Truth, have "Sola Scriptura" no more or less than those of Catholicism.

If it is Scripture Alone, then so may it be, yet fully be.

7:17 PM  

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