Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Reformer John Calvin: Foe or Friend?

John Calvin is often demonized for his teaching on predestination. It is sad because Calvin did so much more for the Church than merely give us a biblical understanding of God’s election. Calvin is a hero of Christianity, but one who is treated as a villain, like Darth Vader.

Although Calvin did not create the following himself, the Five Points of Calvinism are easily remembered by the acrostic TULIP:


Total Depravity (Total Inability):

This is the doctrine that affirms the whole corruption of man's nature. According to the Calvinist, every aspect of the being of man is affected through the rebellion of the Fall, so that no one is capable of pleasing God through the efforts of his own natural disposition. According to the doctrine of total depravity, the human person not only cannot please God, but apart from God's effectual grace, no man or woman even has the desire to please Him. Since all sinned in Adam, the representative of all, all are born in sin, and none are innocent, not even infants. All carry the burden of Adam's guilt, since all are in Adam and he is the perfect representative. Since all who come after Adam inherit his guilt, so that everyone is totally depraved, having no natural ability or desire to know or please God, everyone who comes after Adam is also deserving of the hot wrath and punishment of a holy and righteous God.
The idea of total depravity, according to the Calvinist, is not that we all do all the evil we are capable of, but rather, that all parts of our beings are corrupted by sin, and therefore there is nothing in us which can naturally commend us to God.
The Calvinist therefore denies the common doctrine that men naturally hunger to know God, or that men and women naturally desire Him.


Unconditional Election:

Given that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," which means, according to the Calvinist, that we are all totally depraved, in order to be saved it is necessary for God to initiate salvation. He does this unconditionally, according to his own private desire, choosing whom He will save not according to each one's own merit, nor according to His knowledge of how each one will respond to Him, but rather, according to His own mysterious plan. God's election of those whom He will save is effectual from before the foundation of the world.
Some Calvinists differ on whom will not be saved. Those who teach "double predestination" assert that God also elects whom will be damned, while others assert that God merely overlooks those whom he has not elected to salvation, so that their own natural depravity damns them.
The Calvinst therefore denies the notion of free-will, as well as any idea that God and man works together in synergy in order to accomplish salvation.


Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption):

Since salvation is based solely on the desire and will of God, and not on the will of man, and since God unconditionally elects those whom He saves, while damning others, the atonement is logically therefore limited only to those whom He has elected.
The idea behind the doctrine of limited atonement is that God is absolutely sovereign, accomplishing salvation according to His will and power, not the will not power of man. Therefore, when Christ dies for sin, he dies only for the sins of the elect. It would not make sense for Him to redeem those whom God has chosen to damn, or those whom He has not chosen for salvation. Ergo, the atonement is never non-effectual, but it is totally efficacious, or powerful to save, in the lives of those whom God has elected.
The Calvinist would therefore deny the doctrines which assert that Christ dies for the whole world, including those who reject Him to their own damnation.


Irresistible Grace:

Again, undergirding this doctrine is the concept of God's absolute sovereingty, as well as the foregoing doctrines. Since the elect are saved according to the pleasure of God alone, not on the basis of their own merit or choosing; and since God effects this through the atonement which is achieved for the elect alone, God must therefore initiate salvation in the personal lives of the elect.
God does this through His grace, which changed the heart and nature of the elect person prior to conversion. Therefore, the elect person is regenerated (or "born again") prior to his conversion to Christ.
God initiates salvation by working upon the interior deadness of the person's heart and soul, bringing to life the desire to know Him, and as a result, the person whom God chooses in response chooses God. Just as there is no one who would naturally seek to know God, there is also no one who would willingly reject God's effectual grace towards salvation as His Spirit works upon the person's heart. His grace is completely efficacious, regenerating and converting the totally depraved souls of His elect people.

This doctrine is opposed to the idea that God's grace can be resisted, or that men can choose or resist the efficacious grace of God.


Perseverance of the Saints:

Those who are born as children of wrath, corrupt and sinful by nature, yet the elect of God, for whom alone Christ died, and who have experienced the efficacious grace of God leading to regeneration and conversion, will perservere to the end.
As a logical extension of the foregoing, the Calvinist asserts that the elect cannot fall away. His salvation, initiated and secured by Christ, rooted in the absolute sovereignty and power of God, is guaranteed to the end. In the eternal security of God's grace, according to the Calvinist, the elect person will experience the subjective knowledge of his own assurance of salvation.

Therefore, the Calvinist rejects the doctrine that one can be saved, then fall away from grace, or lose his salvation.


This is a summary view of the five points of Calvinism. The underlying theme is that God alone is responsible for every aspect of salvation, from beginning to end, election to glory, and man contributes nothing to it.
Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be glory) was the cry of Calvin’s heart, and it should be the heart cry of all Christians, for salvation indeed is by grace alone, through faith alone because of Christ alone.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


We meet all sorts of strange and interesting characters in Nepal. Enjoy the video!

Monday, August 11, 2008

I've Been Tagged!

I've been tagged by Susan, so that means I am supposed to share seven random and weird facts about myself (The rules are at the bottom). Since I've been tagged, I've happily included the seven facts about me, but that is probably to the extent I will take it; meaning, I don't plan to tag anyone else. Enjoy!

1.) I grew up until I was 10 years old on a big piece of property in Oklahoma. The closest house was five miles away, so as an only child, the dogs and horses were often my playmates.

2.) I’ve probably read more books from the 16th and 17th centuries than those written in modern times. My heroes are Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield and William Carey (all great Reformed men). Of course there are many more of my heroes in the Bible which I could mention. The “Solas” of the Reformation are my anthem.

3.) Being by myself and reading theological books rejuvenates and reenergizes me. On the other hand, mixing it up at social events with crowds of people drains me. I’m a hardcore introvert with the most extrovert calling imaginable. Funny how that works.

4.) Before becoming a Christian at 20 years of age, there were at least seven times I should have died (from falling two stories and being literally less than an inch from being impaled through my chest, to the most deadly car and motorcycle crashes, to a drug overdose, etc. It is miraculous that I am not in prison for the atrocities with which I was involved as a teenage, and even more miraculous that I didn’t die. God rescued me physically and spiritually through Jesus Christ.

5.) I never let dill pickle juice go to waste. I love the taste. I use it as salad dressing and sometimes just sip it like a fine wine.

6.) I am a flaming Calvinist, and as such I am passionate about the Gospel of God’s grace and its proclamation. This is the one area where the Apostle Paul and I can be most compared: No one taught about predestination more than Paul, and no one did more to advance the Gospel than Paul. The two go hand-in-hand. I would quit in a heartbeat, doing what I do, if it depended on me. It is because God is sovereign over mankind, and that nothing depends on me but rather it depends solely on Him, that I carry on.

7.) I can’t imagine life without my wife. God has been extremely good and gracious to me in so many ways.

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. **I DID THIS ONE.**
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Present an image of martial discord (as in "war," not as in "marriage") from whatever period or situation you’d like. **LUTHER'S FACE IS A WAR IMAGE.**

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Samuel Turns Two Months Old!

Our big boy is getting bigger! Samuel is so much more alert now, and he's a very happy baby too. He hardly ever cries unless somethign is actually wrong. He has brought joy to our house everyday. What a gift of God he is to us.

BTW: We plan to hold Samuel's dedication at our house on September 15th. You are welcome to attend (though we know Kathmandu, Nepal is probably a long hike from where you live!)