Calvinism Commentary

American Christianity and the pointless source of division, Part 1

Calvinism emphasises that Jesus died only for the elect; Baptists believe Jesus died for everyone. Baptists, by definition, believe that baptism must be an informed choice by the individual, therefore limited to adults; Calvinists believe infants may be baptised. Calvinists think that God selects certain people for damnation; Baptists are more easy-going. reference

Not one piece of this article touches upon anything within the Scripture. Why is that I wondered. Why is a supposedly reputable news source, The Economist, not even doing the investigative journalism that is required? I figure its the same reason they don’t do rigorous research upon our current President and the books from which are his playbook. Maybe The Economist is merely economizing research, don’t want to spend all your research energy on one person or thing. Laughable,  instead just critically research everything and present the case. I know its The Economist, but I think referencing where in the Bible these religious denominations derive their beliefs is critical to accurately reporting on either one when making an article about statistics of division.

So guess what, I decided to do the research The Economist refused to do or simply cannot do because they would rather highlight division through statistics rather then unity in Scripture. I am going to point out relevant Scripture in which the separate Calvinist and Baptist doctrines could be derived, and show how theologically the importance is little, and realistically how both sides need to get their act together in regards to true Biblical exegesis.

The Baptists have missed out on other trends, such as the 1970s charismatic movement. They now have to decide whether neo-Calvinism is a movement they can safely ignore—or whether it may take over their church. reference

Read the language of the quote, “trends”, “charismatic movement”, “neo-Calvinism”. How about hearing terms in the mainstream media like, “Biblical theology” or better yet “Christian theology” and “critical exegesis” and “historical-critical”!? What is so hard about this, they are Christians are they not? The article is about Christian theology isn’t it? These are standard terms for the supposed intellectuals and yet we are losing people left and right to things such as social trends. This happens because of a lack of “theological training and rigorous Bible study.” What pastor Mr. Burleson says Christians are in need of in The Economist article. However I know to many Christians and people for that matter not able to defend or approach honestly the Bible.

The point is the discussion of Biblical topics are so substandard and in the gutter that an elevation and take back of language must be undergone. If we are to survive within the minds of intellectuals, we must approach debate even within public squares in an intellectual manner. In that context I can agree with Mr. Burleson. We need to get rid of the countless ideas by Christians of boilerplate trends and cliches. I want to see acts in the manner of intellectual rigor to articulate Christian theology. I want to see pastors like Mr. Burleson do that in his church and the public square.

American Christianity and the pointless source of division, Part 2

To recap the division was by theology, and was summed up in The Economist article in this way;

Calvinism emphasises that Jesus died only for the elect; Baptists believe Jesus died for everyone. Baptists, by definition, believe that baptism must be an informed choice by the individual, therefore limited to adults; Calvinists believe infants may be baptised. Calvinists think that God selects certain people for damnation; Baptists are more easy-going.

Jesus died only for the elect? A very restrictive sentiment can be attached to that theology. One which does not measure up when taking the Biblical text as a whole into consideration. The Calvinists and Baptists are denominations, or theological traditions of Christianity, there must be a return to a true theology of the Bible by studying it in the most scientific, logical and critical way possible. That type of reading, especially of religious documents is called exegesis, and it is underpinned by historical-critical methodologies.

The exegesis of ancient literature including the Bible helps illuminate the origin, nature, and reliability of the ancient history, people and places described. There are many criticisms differing in the types of substantive knowledge that is used to facilitate Biblical exegesis. There is philological criticism dealing with writing style and grammar, literary criticism tries to deduce original authorship and audience. Redaction criticism analyzes the way the author structures the narrative for theological goals (significantly used within Christian theology) and form criticism which presupposes the Bible as written through a revered oral tradition passed down for generations. In their cohesive form they are called Biblical criticisms. When applied in the process of exegesis incorporation of many scientific disciplines help maintain and thus constitutes a historical-critical or historical-grammatical Biblical exegesis.

The historical-critical interpretation allows the text to speak for itself and is an important way of reading ancient documents that first and foremost considers immediate contextual surroundings of a specific verse or verses in question. As scope widens study of many other historical contexts based in the authors, not readers, contemporary generation occurs. This imparts a great need for a varied spectrum of knowledge bases that can be pulled from and utilized when the comparison of the various contexts is done. This includes detailed research into the culture of the author, scientific discoveries, laws and theories, social structures as well as political and economic surroundings. In short the socio-historical contexts of the author are used by a skilled exegete or student of Scripture as a determining factor in deriving accurate interpretation. The critical investigation into the author of a text can sometimes be referred to as background studies. The ultimate goal of the historical-critical exegesis is to eliminate potential for eisegesis.

The 5 main points of Calvinism are;

  1. Total Depravity
  2. Unconditional Election
  3. Limited Atonement
  4. Irresistible Grace
  5. Perseverance of the Saints (also called Eternal Security)

God preordained…a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation. -John Calvinreference

If harmony can be found between the particular Christian theological traditions of Calvinists and Baptists, through a historical-critical exegesis without contradicting other Scripture, then the establishments need to get their act together. I believe the harmony is found by implementing free will into the second and third points, and then determining God’s pre-ordainment. Man was not preordained into salvation, free will is the essence of the human psyche and of God’s plan for mankind, as the Bible clearly points to even in its first book of Genesis.

It is very simple!

A consistent Biblical exegesis can emerge by merely looking at it outside of either entrenched theological viewpoint. What I personally do when I survey the intellectual battlefield of Christian theological criticism, both from internal and external sources, is see if what theology is being preached is in fact Biblical. The Bible presents itself by itself, then one can easily come to a harmonious conclusion based completely within Scripture. The historical-critical exegesis I have reached in my personal studies is quite simple. It is this; Christ died for the sins every single human being alive at the time of His life death and resurrection, as well as from that point forward into the future. The elect are not chosen without regard to free will. The elect are those who have chosen to believe in their heart and minds, as well as confess truthfully by their mouth that Christ is Lord. The non-elect are those that do not and thus do not live a Christian life based on such principles. The elect are only predestined by God in accordance but not subjugated by the free will of every human being. In other words yes there are few elect, not all will come to the Father through Christ. Yet God still provided the choice of Christ’s life, death and resurrection for all. To come to any other conclusion is absolutely unacceptable and provides basis for the uselessness of spreading the Christian Gospel.

What I have just laid out by addressing point 2 specifically of the five points of Calvinism, is a universal Christian doctrine with little room to argue when using the text. For every counter-argument brought by Calvinists regarding Scripture of Him only dying for many and not all, that is true, He died for all yet only few accept it. So it is consistent within the biblical doctrine I have derived that Christ did die for all, yet its manifest truth is only for few who accept. So could I not say that Christ died for all and yes Christ truly died for the few who accepted Him? There are two truths at play, He died for all and He died for the few that ultimately will accept Him. Baptists I am sure, since their position requires little maneuvering to fit into the biblical theology I have shown, will find little to argue with. Christ dying for all yet few accept, supersedes any complaints. The counter-arguments to my doctrine of salvation may stand if that is their fate, but let them stand against an even taller, far more inviting nature and thus theology of Christianity and God. For all of mankind, as the essence of the act of Christ’s resurrection. Again Christ did not die only for those who accept Him, but those who must. It is up to the Church that survives in Christ to give all a chance to come to salvation by planting the seed, by spreading the Gospel. God is not slow as some count slowness but careful to fulfill His promises. The salvation doctrine I have laid out is fully encapsulated by John 3:16 (and 1 John 2:1, Luke 19:10, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Hebrews 2:9, John 1:29, Mark 16:15-16, Romans 1:16). It sums up my statements beautifully;

16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.17“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.18“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

God does not just love His select few that have chosen to manifest His will in their life, but those who cannot and those who should. Those who choose not to manifest God’s will through Christ in their life, are those that when in death go into eternal death and sin. Instead of the Calvinist quibbling over who Christ was meant to die for based on it being preordained by God without regard for humankind, I think they would best pursue a better exegesis of John 3:16-18. Harmony is so very clear if theology is grounded in Scripture and the out-of-place hierarchical arrangement of what is either subordinate or complimentary theologies remain in proper order. If they don’t then logical/textual contradictions arise which are explained away by specializing the atonement of  Christ. I do not believe John 3:16-17 would be highlighted when explaining the second and third point of Calvinism. If it is the Calvinist exegete has to face directly that he/she has to explain the contradiction of the utterly superior and established doctrine of John 3:16-17. In other words, how could a specific elect be preordained into salvation by Christ’s sacrifice, if His sacrifice is intended for the world? As a Christian, I would say that yes, casually all can be saved, and that is why we are to preach the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.

You can also look at Christ’s salvation as a cause and effect. This can be likened into a logical argument if you look at the purpose of a book. A book has a fundamental superior cause or purpose. Its purpose is to be read, by well, everybody in the world. I don’t know a single author that wouldn’t want that! Similarly Christ’s sacrifice is to be considered truth, for well, everyone! Will the book be read by everyone? No. But attempts can be made, by say for instance putting it on the Internet so that it maybe accessible to anybody who wishes to look at it. Likewise will Christ’s sacrifice or the effect of His purpose be chosen as truth by all? No, but the effect does not change the original purpose. The Christian church for Christ, much like the Internet for the book, can spread His Gospel far and wide enough so that all may have a chance and choose by free will to accept. The Calvinist might say that the original purpose was obviously only for the few that will ultimately choose for Christ, this is acceptable, but MUST remain dependent upon the free will of man. God did not determine the elect outside of the consideration of the totality of every mans free will.

Now, do you see what happens when we delve a bit deeper instead of hovering on the surface of statistical division like The Economist did? How many people will do what we have just done with that article? I fear very few.

Calvinism revisited and free will superiority, Part 3

Recently I did some commentary on an article that appeared in The Economist. My main problem was that they glanced over theology and were so eager to reveal statistical divisions and the flexible nature of American Christianity.

Part 1 can be found here. Part two is here.

I have been thinking a bit since I last posted on American Christianity. I don’t think I dealt with free will as well as I should. I was browsing my library late around midnight the other day and came across a book I had forgotten about. The book is called Major Bible Themes by Lewis Sperry Chafer, revised by John F. Walvoord, 1974 Dallas Theological Seminary.  It sparked some thoughts I felt needed to be addressed within my commentary upon Calvinism. I flipped randomly and immediately I landed upon page 234 section C – Defense of the Doctrine of Election. In some ways the substance of Calvinist arguments are silently admitted to within my previous writing parts, although not explicitly mentioned as Calvinist-centric. I mentioned the need for God to ultimately take into account the human component of free will. Calvinists do accept free will of choice of man to determine himself elect or not. The book also lists some problems with free will of man and that of Gods will. Calvinists essentially believe that prior to our creation, and thus our ability to have  any choice at all, the purpose of God was that a specific elect shall come to know Him and His love. The question is of course, if this is so, who’s free will is superior? Why is a sovereign and complete purpose of God not wholly dependent upon Himself, but the will of His creation, which is outside of Himself and thus does not share the same characteristics? Does the dependency on human free will diminish God’s sovereignty? I do not see any contradictory notion within the logic of Scripture that would eliminate God’s sovereignty if the free will of man is taken into consideration as a determining factor for His purpose of salvation.

There is God’s will and our will. In Genesis, we see the creation of free will, it consisted of an original will of which was being followed, and then a choice that helps determine for yourself, if you live for Gods will or your own will. Actions present influence to all, and thus original sin or the choice exorcised by Adam and Eve has influenced mankind ever since. This influence as well as God compete for our choice and then ultimately produces an action based on that influence. God does not become subordinate by free will but rather either accepted or denied. From atheism to satanism, the idea of eliminating God as a source of will is a deep intellectual tradition coming out of the Age of Enlightenment if trying to place it in a modern context. It is the idea of a perfectible man, without need for God’s will, it is mankind’s faculties through rationalism and the social sciences that the human condition is to be diagnosed and fixed. Forming a new man from the old, education is key yet the Enlightenment eliminates the truths of will by God. It eliminates God as an influence and feeds upon the intellectual stimuli created by man to build humanity, molding the true human will, which will manifest choice and then action. To say  there is no permanent human condition, or that it is indeed changeable as the Enlightenment declares, is to create a type of god on earth called intellectual rationalism. This molds hearts and minds not towards something outside of themselves but is wholly built upon human ideals and values which humanity itself becomes a type of god. This would be called humanism. This is the same process used by the original ancestors of the human race when choice was implemented. Adam and Eve used intellectual rationalism, by an influence that was antithetical to God. The choice brought action and thus immense influence of humanism than originally implemented. Instead of established law and order built upon Christ (or what is God’s revelation to mankind) and righteous action to form a change. The enlightenment decided that mankind can bring about change, in which humanity becomes like God, and thus can change the very nature of man.

If what I describe is Calvinism, then I suppose I am a Calvinist, however in this light I would be Baptist as well. This is why I like to consider doctrine not based on denomination but whether it is Biblical or not.

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