Calvinism Gets a Bad Rap-Part II

I missed commenting on this, somehow, in my previous posting. The Baptist Press article has more matters of frustration for me. Now, I don’t know his theological leanings, but some of the comments made by Hal Poe, Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University in Jackson, TN, illustrate several problems with today’s Church and Christianity in general.

Poe comments about the resurgence of Calvinism:

“In a broad sense, it’s happening on Christian college campuses too, as Calvinism appeals to young people who are wanting a more intellectual approach to Christianity,”

What is the problem with this? We should all want a more intellectual approach to Christianity, shouldn’t we? After all, doesn’t the “Greatest Commandment” include loving God with our minds?

Matthew 22:36-38 (ESV)

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” [37] And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. [38] This is the great and first commandment.

The scripture is clear—Christianity is to involve the mind. We are to know what the Bible says, we are to know what we believe, and we are to know why we believe what we believe. The Apostle Peter makes this point:

1 Peter 3:13-17 (ESV)

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? [14]But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, [15] but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, [16] having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. [17] For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Not every Christian is going to look like a seminary-trained minister. Certainly there are and will continue to be various levels of learning, ability, and commitment within the Church as a whole. But, some pastors, I fear, do not even attempt to properly train the Christians under their care. Poe’s further comments show my fears are not just fears—they are reality:

“Southern Baptists neglected serious Christian education from the early 1960s, and that’s when all the trouble started. From discipleship training we went to the amorphous youth groups, whose only real good was to keep kids happy until they graduated from high school and graduated from church. Now, you have a generation [of college students] who have come along and want something deeper and they have latched onto Calvinism.”

We, as a denomination (the SBC) and a Church have made a mess of things in this area.Poe is right—for years we have failed to engage the minds of the people under our spiritual care. We have been far more concerned with people coming to church and with how many baptisms we have rather than being concerned with how mature our people are. I say this to our shame.

Certainly we should be concerned with people being in church and baptisms are important. But, these things are not the most important things. The “Great Commission” does not tell us to “Go and bring people into church” or “Go and baptize all nations.” The verb in the passage is clear: Make Disciples. The church is commissioned by Christ Himself to make disciples. The “Go,” the “Baptizing,” and the “Teaching” are important aspects to making disciples, in fact disciples cannot be made without going, baptizing, and teaching.

The main thing is to make disciples—and we have lost sight of that. We have built our proverbial houses on two superficial things: 1. The amount of people on our membership roles—even if they haven’t darkened the door of our churches in decades; and 2. The number of baptisms we have in any given year—even if we are baptizing worldly, unregenerate people. Almost never do we seek to measure the spiritual progress or spiritual maturity of our people. No, we brag about our membership numbers and our baptism numbers—how superficial are we? No wonder our people look every bit like the people of the world and no wonder our people, youth specifically, are leaving the church—superficiality stinks and everyone, particularly youth, knows it! So people leave for a man-made system that will lead them straight to hell, because we have not engaged their minds and we have not taught them like we should. May God forgive us.

For those who do not leave the faith but want to have a far deeper experience of faith than they found in their churches, Calvinism offers that deeper experience—an experience that engages the mind and the heart. Poe notes:

“Calvinism has an appeal because it tends to have an answer for everything -– you can explain everything [by saying] that God predestined it.”

There is a reason people like to answer everything in terms of God’s sovereign control—it is a deeply biblical answer. Paul wrote:

Romans 8:28 (ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose.

There is deep comfort in this verse. This verse means that, for the Christian, God is working His purposes together for His glory and our benefit. Many people who have a superficial Christianity are taught to trust or delight in the things that God can give—health, financial stability or security, and deliverance from hell. Superficial Christianity gives the impression that God exists to give you these things. While God does delight to give good gifts to His children, that is not His ultimate purpose or His ultimate gift. His ultimate purpose is to glorify Himself and His ultimate gift is Himself.

Calvinistic Christianity (and deep-water Christianity in general) seeks to glorify God for His giving us Himself. People who regard God Himself as their ultimate treasure are far more likely to trust in His sovereignty because they know God holds the past, present, and future is his more-than-capable Hand and, in the end, He has our good in mind—this is why so many Calvinists echo the words of Job in all areas and situations of life:

Job 13:15 (ESV)

Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.

Furthermore, Calvinist churches are growing, some slowly, but they are growing the right way. These churches do not give out baptisms and church memberships like they were balloons at a church picnic. No, these churches seek to ensure, as much as is humanly possible, that the ones being baptized and the ones accepted into membership are, in fact, true believers who will want to grow deeply in their faith. So, the numbers of church members may be less and the number of annual baptisms may be small, but these Calvinist churches, by in large, are much more concerned with the spiritual maturity and spiritual depth of their members, not superficial and misleading numbers and this is to their credit.

1 Comment

Filed under "Doing" Church, Calvinism/Doctrines of Grace

One response to “Calvinism Gets a Bad Rap-Part II

  1. Thank you for providing good information on Calvinism, and remembering holy words of Bible.

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