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 Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Deep and Rich Theology

There is a basic mistake that a lot of folks who call themselves "Calvinist" make. It is to reduce the whole system of theology to the "5 Points of Calvinism." Now, this little acrostic is an important shorthand.

When the Arminian Remonstants petitioned the National Church of Holland to replace certain elements of it's doctrine with five articles of doctrine derived from the writings of Jacob Arminius, there petition was rejected and the Synod (of Dort) responded with five "Canons" or standards of doctrine. These were called the "Canons of Dort." Much later, the five canons were reduced to the heading titles and rearranged to form the acrostic "T U L I P" in English. These are the first letters of the phrases "Total depravity; Unconditional election; Limited atonement; Irresistible Grace; Perseverance of the Saints." These are the "Five Points of Calvinism." For most Calvinists, these words and their short definitions are all they know. To them, these short phrases form the whole of Calvinism as they know it.

But this is a grave error. The theological system called "Calvinism" is a rich and deep system. Some of the greatest minds ever produced within the Church have devoted themselves to deepening the understanding of Christians in this system of theology.

Consider this ...

"THERE is but one, and only one, living and true God. He is self-existent and infinite in His being and His perfections. None but He can comprehend or understand His essence. He is pure spirit, invisible, and without body, parts, or the changeable feelings of men. He alone possesses immortality, and dwells amid the light insufferably bright to mortal men. He never changes. He is great beyond all our conceptions, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty and infinite. He is most holy, wise, free and absolute. All that He does is the out-working of His changeless, righteous will, and for His own glory. He is most loving, gracious, merciful and compassionate. He abounds in goodness and truth. He forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. He rewards those who seek Him diligently. But He hates sin. He will not overlook guilt or spare the guilty, and He is perfectly just in executing judgment."

That is from chapter 2, paragraph 1 of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. It is a Calvinistic confession and mirrors the Westminster Confession of the Presbyterian churches. Read that paragraph and think about it. No one talks like that about God anymore. You can see, it is more than the five points.

Calvinism has produced theologian - pastors and academic theologians who have given us a wealth of written material. Almost all of it is useful for the Christian's faith and life. I could name books and articles written by reformers and puritan authors. But anyone I listed as useful would have several people leaving me comments about other useful writings that I forgot. But a few names stand out. In times past, men like John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Jeremiah Burroughs, Matthew Mead, Charles Simeon, Charles Spurgeon, James Montgomery Boice, James Pedigru Boyce, John Broadus and many many others. In current times the Calvinist baton is being carried high by men like Albert Mohler, Bryan Chappell, Philip Ryken, Michael Haykin, John Piper, John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, James White and many many others.

In their writings they are unanimous that Calvinism is not only the five points, but an entire worldview. It is a filter for understanding God and life. It is a way of thinking. It is a way of living. It is a way of worship. It affects everything about the Calvinists life. If it doesn't, it is nothing but words.

My friend, it is time to stop reducing Calvinism to the five points. It is time to embrace the whole system. But to do that requires time and effort. It means we have to stop reciting the five points and thinking that we know everything there is to know about Calvinism. It means studying and reading and learning what the giants of the past and present have left for us to learn and to build on.

We live in a day when people want something real and deep to latch onto. They think it does not exist within the Protestant tradition, so we hear of people converting to Rome or to some other church or religious tradition. But the truth is that everything a person could hope for to have a lifetime deepening relationship with the living God can be found within the Calvinist tradition. It is a flower with far more than just five points.


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