Friday, May 22, 2009

I am a Calvinist...well, sort of.....

I am a Calvinist. I don’t think this is too awfully revelatory to anybody who knows me through the internet or personally. But just in case you didn’t know, I’ll say it again….I am a Calvinist. But not that kind of Calvinist. You know the kind I’m talking about, don’t you? The kind that some men like to preach against…the kind that you often see attacked in some portions of the Christian blogosphere….the kind that hates evangelism and thinks that all babies go to hell….the kind that, in counseling people who aren’t sure whether or not they are saved, will often tell people that they might need to consider the fact that they are not one of the elect……no, I’m not that kind of Calvinist. While I have no doubt that particular strand of Calvinism is alive somewhere (it must be, or why would people always argue against it so vehemently?), I’ve never personally encountered it.

“So”, you might be asking yourself, “if Ellis isn’t the type of Calvinist that fits into every type of strawman that’s ever been erected, then just what type of Calvinist is he?” I’m thrilled you asked and, as luck seems to be on your side, I happen to have this little blog in which I can quickly answer your question!

I am the type of Calvinist who believes in intense evangelizing. I don’t understand why God chooses to use the “foolishness of preaching” as a means of drawing unregenerate man to Him, but He does. I’m humbled at the thought that God actually wants to use me to impact others for eternity. He commands evangelism and my understanding of the doctrines of grace leads me to a desire to take an aggressive stance in regards to reaching the lost for Christ. We must do it.

I am the type of Calvinist who is humbled and awed at God’s grace. I don’t understand why God would ever reconcile a vile man to Himself, but He does. One of the many strawmen arguments I’ve seen regarding Calvinism is that realizing that you are one of the elect inevitably leads to a type of arrogance (“God chose me and not you”). Nothing could be further from the truth. As we catch even a glimpse of the glory, majesty, and holiness of the Almighty, the thought of Him saving lowly worms like us is beyond anything that my vocabulary can express. Even a narrow understanding of God’s grace and mercy is incapable of producing anything but profound humility and unspeakable thankfulness in the hearts of those whom He saves. I have never, even in jest, uttered that idiotic phrase, “ain’t it great to be one of the elect”. That’s a phrase I’ve only heard from those who deplore and misrepresent Calvinism. The response of the poor soul to whom the Lord shows mercy should be nothing less than awe and wonder.

I am the type of Calvinist who believes that “world” means “world” and “whosoever will” means “whosoever will”. This may be difficult for some non-Calvinists to understand, but I can say (without reservation) that any person who wants to be saved WILL be saved. I’m in danger of wading into deeper waters than I want to here, but I’ll say that this speaks to an understanding of what biblical salvation is: a complete turning away from sin and a complete surrender to Christ as Lord.

I am the type of Calvinist who has preached “evangelistic” sermons on several occasions. I not only do this without reservation, I do it with enthusiasm.

I am the type of Calvinist who believes that those who die in infancy go to heaven. John MacArthur lays out a brilliant argument for this point of view (google it). Some say this is inconsistent with Calvinism, but it’s not. While the Bible doesn’t explicitly answer this question, there is ample biblical evidence to support this position.

I am the type of Calvinist who doesn’t tend to “proselytize”. I’ve always heard the argument that Calvinists always try to “recruit” others into their little Calvinist fold, but I don’t know that I’ve seen that. I’ve been in the same church for 4 years now. During that time the fact that I’m a Calvinist has come up in only 2 or 3 conversations. In the last year I discovered, quite by accident, that there are other Calvinists in this church. While we are certainly in the minority here, it’s not prevented us from sweet fellowship with these other wonderful Christians. And to my knowledge, there has not been a single case of some poor unsuspecting non-calvinist getting confronted by a Calvinist seeking to “straighten them out”.

I am the type of Calvinist who is still a dispensationalist. While I would call myself a “soft” dispensationalist, I am a dispy nonetheless. Believe it or not, there’s a lot more of us than you might think! Not all Calvinists are adherents to Covenant Theology. As a matter of fact if you look real hard you will find that there are flavors of Calvinism out there that break all sorts of stereotypes. I’ve spoken to Calvinists who are Charismatics, amillennialists, pre-trib, post-trib, preterist, partial preterist, cessationists, non-cessationists, drinkers, tee-totalers, and, believe it or not, I actually know several Calvinists who are also part of the KJVO camp….now since that thought might actually cause some of you to black out for a second, I’ll try to wrap this up.

I am the type of Calvinist who believes in Total Inability, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. While I might certainly have some minor quibbles with other Calvinists over some of the finer points of these 5 tenants, I fully embrace them.

I first began to embrace Calvinism when I actually began to study it. I was one of those guys who thought that John Calvin was nothing more than a pawn of Satan to bring disharmony to the church (I thought the same thing about all modern Bible translations back then, too). As I began to study what Calvinism actually was, and as I began to actually study Scripture, I came to find that the “Calvinism” I’d always thought existed was nothing more than a figment of my (and many others’) imagination. And therein lies the rub. The whole point I’m attempting to make with this blog entry is that, perhaps, it’s best not criticize something you may not actually understand.


Anonymous said...

"While I might certainly have some minor quibbles with other Calvinists over some of the finer points of these 5 tenants, I fully embrace them."


Be careful which "tenants" you embrace. What you mean to say, I believe, is "tenets", which means "beliefs". The other refers to people who dwell in a particular place.


Ellis Murphree said...

You know Marty, it seems like you called me on that the last time I used the incorrect word. I think I'll begin sending you all my material prior to posting... :)