Monday, July 18, 2005

Can I be a Calvinist and an Evangelist?

The question is sometimes asked, "How can you be a 'five pointer,' you are an Outreach Pastor?" As if to say a Calvinist has no concern for lost souls. We certainly do! I certainly do. I have no greater joy than one a new worshipper is born for the glory of God.

Let me paste a comment I made during a discussion over at The Cutting Edge. The discussion began by asking the question, "Was Jesus seeker sensitive?" to which I replied, there is no such thing as a seeker (Rom 3.10,11). So the next logical (some what Arminian) question comes, "Why do we share the gospel if God does all the deciding?" Here is was my reply...

"Can I be both a Calvinist and an Evangelist? An age old question... For this we turn to the examples of Mueller, Spurgeon, early Southern Baptists such as Boyce and many others throughout history that were strong Calvinists AND strong Evangelists. More recently we can look at the good doctor, Martin Llyod-Jones, who was an expositor but considered himself first and foremoest an evangelist. Remember, the only way a corpse can come back to life is the Word. The way the Word gets out is the faithful proclamation of the Gospel by faithful preachers. (Rom 10.9-17) In other words - we faithfully proclaim the Word, from pulpits, lecturns, classrooms, and in the intimacy of relationships. While we proclaim, we recognize we do so solely for the purpose of God's glory. We are obedient! God will care for the saving of souls. When I teach and lead our Grace Evangelism team out on visitation ministry every Tuesday night, I remind them, our goal isto make much of the glory of God as demonstrated on the cross of Chrsit. If God causes someone to respond, even better! But our task is to faithfully proclaim the good news for the Glory of God! God's Word will not return unto us void, it will always accomplish everything he intended it to."

I would submit that to you as a good motivation for evangelism - yea, even the most important motive for evangelism - namely, the Glory of God alone. Why do we go/send people to the mission field? Why do pass out Gospel literature? Why do preach the good news of Christ? Why do we tell our neighbors of the hope of the gospel of Christ? Obedience, of course, is part of it. Because we care about lost souls? Is caring about lost souls of preeminent importance?

Let me take moment to trace the evangelist fervor of Paul through his letter to the Romans...

Romans 1.1-5. Jesus Christ is declared, descended from David according to the flesh, the Son God, through whom we have received grace to bring about obedience of faith...why? "for the sake of His name among the nations." The Glory of God among the nations was the motivation for sending His Son.

Romans 15.8-11 Christ demonstrated God's truthfulness "in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy." Again, the motivation of the salvific work of Christ was the Glory of God!

Paul concludes his thoughts to the Romans with a Doxology that emphasizes the strengthening work of the Gospel. His final doxological thought is "to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Christ!" From where does the "glory forevermore" emminate? Jesus Christ!

You see, my motivation to share the Gospel is directly tied to my commitment to the sovereign work of God in eternity past desiring to bring His people to glorify Himself.

Yes, one can be, (and I am) an Evangelist and a Calvinist!

Grace to You!


Rose said...

Matthew 7:7 "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find..."
Jeremiah 29:13 "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."

The Lord mentions seeking a lot, yet, Reformer, you say there is no such thing as a seeker. Is He only talking to the elect here? That is the answer I keep hearing whenever I bring up these kind of verses that challenge the staunch Calvinist. I appreciate your ministry, Reformer, you know I do! I don't question your ability or desire to evangelize. I do wish people would be open to re-evaluating their particular stand on certain controversial doctrines. It is so important for EVERY christian to obtain their understanding from the whole Bible and not just view the Bible through the lens of their particular theological school of thought. This would solve a lot of the trouble. You are no heretic, Reformer, but statements of an extreme nature are sure to draw fire.
Those who insist that God asks for a response to His gift of salvation, that God requires we receive the gift, can be very passionate. I am so against the idea that we absolve sinners from the responsibility to respond (even if it is in our own minds, churches or seminaries that we absolve them) by proclaiming that God imposes His salvation on only certain select people. He has done all the work; He has opened the door, but we MUST walk through. Every Calvinist should ponder those verses that they are dismissing (by forcing them to fit into the Calvinistic wall) -there are so many - you know what they are.
Also - just because a person is not a Calvinist does not meke them Arminian! I know many Christians who are neither Arminian nor Calvinist. There is a balance somewhere that includes an HONEST approach to all the verses dealing with salvation, not just some. By the way - when a lost, depraved soul sees his dire situation and the free gift of salvation is presented to him, and he receives it, GOD IS GLORIFIED! The biblical view IS doxological and that should be our motivation. We love you Reformer!

Reformer said...

Rose, thank you for your passion. I do not disagree with most of what you say. You are right the Analogy of Scripture is vital to proper understanding. In fact I have been working on a list of verses the people often take out of context and create false teachings and false uderstandings. I have no always been convinced of the Doctrinces of Grace. This has been a result of thorough study and examination.

You imply, rather strongly, that I am not being honest with the text. That is a strong accusation. I work diligently to understand a text before I pontifcate as to what I believe it is teaching.

Also, I do firmly believe that we must call all men everywhere to repent. In the Grace Evangelism class (session 5 - which I teach tonight actually) I teach that we must call all people to repent and follow after Christ. I am passionate about making that appeal. However, John 6 and Rom 3, as well as many other passages, make it quite clear that no one can actually to that, no one can come to Christ until they are drawn and made alive by Father through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit - which only happens through the ministry of the Word.

As we faithfully proclaim the Hope of the Gospel from the pulpits, classrooms, radio, on mission fields and in the neighborhood where we find outselves, God will use His Spirt to drawn His people to Himself. A dead person cannot respond to the Truth until they made alive by God Himself. Rom 3.11 (which is quoting Psalm 14) specifically says "No one seeks after God").

And finally, speaking of context and whole Bible understanding that you were so adament about... the verese you spoke of above were both written to believers. Matt 7 is the beginning of the conclusion of Christ's sermon on the mount, which he specifically taught to His Disciples (Matt 5.1-2). And Jer 29 is addressed to the Jews in exile, they are told to return to point of obedience and God will allow himself to be found by them once again. They are really not soteriological at all.

Thanks for your passion, Rose! You and John are a great encouragement.

Richard D said...

Rose said: "I am so against the idea that we absolve sinners from the responsibility to respond ... by proclaiming that God imposes His salvation on only certain select people. He has done all the work; He has opened the door, but we MUST walk through."

Rose. Calvinists agree with everything in this quote. We must "walk through" or we won't be saved. But we cannot walk through. In Adam, we all chose alienation from God. In John 6, Jesus says, "No man can come to me unless the Father draws him and I will raise him up on the last day." It's obvious from this verse that God must draw or we are not able to come and that not everyone is drawn (because not everyone will be raised on the last day).

We do come freely though. But when God has given us a heart that is capable of doing so. God removes our "heart of stone" and gives us a "heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19).

Reformer - thanks for the link to your blog. Good job. Keep it up. My father is writing a book on evangelism that basically claims that unless you hold to a reformed soteriology, you will be ineffective in your witness.

Jim McDermott said...

Please post onto your page:

By doing so, you will enable the 70+% (according to Barna) who identify themselves as "evangelical Christians" in America who believe that there is something within US which is "the determinitive difference between heaven and hell" to have easy access to The Pelagian Captivity of the Church by R.C. Sproul. Deo volente, He will lift the veil and allow that which is spiritually discerned to be understood by some!

Sproul's essay is less than seven pages in length, yet it is a masterpiece of potentially eternal consequence for some who read it (and those who they may later impact). The last half of the essay is a "clarion call" to the true Church. But he "know[s], however, what will not happen; there will not be a new Reformation. Until we humble ourselves and understand that no man is an island and that no man has an island of righteousness, that we are utterly dependent upon the unmixed grace of God for our salvation, we will not begin to rest upon grace and rejoice in the greatness of God's soveriegnty, and we will not be rid of the pagan influence of humanism that exalts and puts man at the center of religion."

Rose said...

I know God persuades (draws) men to Him, he doesn't force! He entices them, but He doesn't make up their mind for them. The next verse says, "if any man comes to me..." Come... that is something I ask my children to DO....It is not the same as picking them up and bringing them to myself.

This is what I mean by not being honest with a text: "...not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world" - now take that text and say that He means the world of the elect. Please! Or "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." Then there's 1 Timothy 2:4 "...[He] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth". Taking these verses (and there are many more)and forcing them into the Calvinist program is also, I feel, less than honest. Ask yourself, "is this approach I insist on (predestination to Christianity/particular redemption) REALLY biblical?" Go for it ... you're young!

Reformer said...

I am not sure what "Go for it ... your're young!" means. I certainly hope you not making this is personl attack.

Are you actually asking if Predestination to Christianity is REALLY Biblical? See Romans 8.29 "those he foreknew, he predestined"; John 10.3,4,16 "he calls his own sheep" "When he has brought out all his own sheep" ""other sheep that are not of this fold"; Eph 1.4 "even as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world"; Eph 1.5 "predestined us for adoption"

Predestination is almost never denied. It is one of the most clear teaching of Scripture.

You are confusing predestination with particular redemption. Did Christ die for all? Or did Christ die only for the ones he predestined? That is altogether a different issue - though closely connected. Many people affirm predestination (the Bible is explcitly clear) and still deny particular redemption. I find this position inconsistent; nevertheless, many still hold to it.

Since predestination, which occured "before the foundation of the world," is the precursor to regeneration, sanctification and ultimately glorification (Rom 8.29-31, then if it were possible for all to be saved, then all would have to have been predestined before the foundation of the world. (No predestination means no glorification - again Romans 8). If all were predestined, then all will be saved, which clearly is not the case.

Proof texting is not a good hermenuetic. The analogy of Scipture will be maintained at all times. Therefore, we must understand all individual verses in the context of the whole of Scripture.

rose said...

I also think the u and the l of the tulip imply eachother and I agree that holding to one without the other is inconsistent. I concur that prooftexting is not good and that is why we need ALL the scriptures on any given topic.

You know I would not personally attack you! I wish I were younger. Age has nothing to do with - let no man (or woman) despise your youth. It was meant to be an encouragement.

Predestination IS clearly taught in scripture, but when you see the concept, it is usually, if not always, linked with the phrase "In Christ". God has chosen Christ and if we are with Him, then we are also chosen. All I am saying is, in order for all the different verses to be true, you have to come to a different understanding than that of either extreme. If you insist that individuals are predestined to believe, (predestined to Christinaity is how I put it before)then you have a problem with all those verses that I mentioned about us chosing, coming, Christ atoning for the sins of the whole world.... and on and on Perhaps "In Christ" is the key. Once you are in Christ, you are predestined for all that God has declared beforehand that His redeemed would do and inherit. You can't just disregard portions of the scripture in favor of others and neither can I. No personal attack!

Reformer said...

But the only way one can be "In Christ" is by the sovereign grace of God. I am utter unable to choose Christ until he first chooses me and gives me the gift of faith. I am dead, not ill. I am lost, not confused. I am born evil, not neutral. I cannot choose Christ until He chooses me - which God did before the foundation of the world.

I concur that we have free will to choose. We can choose whatever we desire. But the only thing a lost person will desire in to reject God and be an enemy. That is total depravity. They only thing that would make me, chief of sinners, choose Christ, is a completely newly created mind (which I recieved at regeneration - not before!)

rose said...

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

Reformer said...

That is a true statement - when you are talking about MAN leading HORSES. Not when you are talking about A SOVEREIGN GOD leading DEPRAVED MEN

rose said...

ok, you got the last word.

Reformer said...

You are a good thinker... don't ever stop studying! (someday you'll see I'm right! HAHA)

Brother John said...

A wise man once said, "One can be sure if you lead a horse to water the horse will drink it! If the horse is thirsty, the horse will drink. A salt lick and vigurous exercise will contribute to a horses thirst." Somewhere it is written, "You are the salt of the earth my friends, a Lamp light on a hill, don't let the small things trouble you, just do the Father's will. Just do the Father's will."

Jim McDermott said...

The English language is so frequently so imprecise! To wit:
Will (as in that of our Lord). Consider, if you will, 1 Thess. 4:3. "for this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality." A cursory assessment of the context indicates to whom "you" refers -- Paul's "beloved bretheren" [Paul expressly acknowledges their (our)"election by God"]. 1 Thess. 1:4. Even as to our Lord's elect, his express WILL is, unfortunately, not a foreordained certainty.

In the same sense, our Savior's "desire[] [that] all men [] be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth", 1 Tim. 2:4, is not a foreordained certainty.

Now, as to 2 Pet. 3:9 -- the Lord is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentence" -- to whom do "any" and "all" refer? Answering the question with a question, who is it that Peter is addressing? Well, it is the "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." 2 Pet. 1:2.

Alas, since I don't have a Greek lexicon with me and since the teaching pertaining to Matt. 5:7 begins less than 1/2 hour from now and I have a 25 minute drive, I must "leave it here", at least for now.

Reformer said...

Brother John... are you trying (albeit allegorically) to say that we can, by being "salty: make people want to drink (i.e. come to Christ)? I certainly hope not.

Indeed God uses the proclamation of His word by His servants as the tool (Rom 10, 2 Cor 5), but it is the sovereign grace of God alone that can regenerate a completely dead soul?

To insist that, by my faithful example, I can cause some spiritual life to be kindled in a dead soul is to reckon to humankind a power that is reservd for God alone.

Jim, I understand the point at which you aim. Just because God has enynciated His "will" does not mean that it will of certainty come to fruition. Obviously, in the txt that you mentioned about (1 Thess 4.3) this is clear. Not all men will abstain from fornication. Does that diminish the sovereignt of God? Of course not! We need to undestand the various "wills" of God. There is a distinction between the eternal decree of God and the express will of God. Thanks for the points!

Grace & Peace!

Jeremy Weaver said...

Wow! I keep finding great Calvinists all over the place. Good post! I keep hearing about all the Calvinists out there who don't want to see people come to Christ, but I've never met them. BTW, could I contact you about some of this Calvinistic Evangelism? I have family near Toledo.

Jim McDermott said...

F.Y.I. to Jeremy Weaver: Pastor Mullins will, I'm certain, promptly "click" onto your "page" upon reading your comment; however, such may not occur until Monday (his weekend began before you commented).

I've noticed a couple of problems with my most recent (rushed) comment. First, I inadvertently quoted from 1 Peter instead of 2 Peter. No worries, mates: 2 Peter is also addressed "to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ HAVE received a faith as precious as ours". 2 Pet. 1:1 (NIV) (emphasis added).

Second, as to election, God's will is irresistable. John 6:37 ["EVERYONE the Father gives me WILL come to me". (HCSB) (emphases added)

Again, unfortunately, time permits no elaboration at this time.

Reformer said...

As Jim indicated, Friday is my "day off." However, I do check my Blog - as well as the others I frequnet most often (namely Phil Johnson, Steve Camp and World Mag Blog).

Glad you joined us here Jeremy. I have seen you posts at PyroMania and Camp on This. I have visited you site, but not extensively. I look forward to reading your series on T.U.L.I.P.

You can email from my profile. I would love to hear about your nearby family.

Make it a great weekend all! Grace to You!

W Hall said...

Very interesting stuff here. In response to "Can I be a Calvinist and and Evangelist?" I give a hearty "Amen!"

To tell you the truth, after existing in a sea of Arminianism in my area (you know what I am talking about), I have grown weary of the endless questions from that end of the spectrum, whose biblical
answers are reflexively dismissed.

Someone gets saved. The Calvinist says, "Look what God has done", and the non-Calvinist says, "Look what that person has chosen for himself." We are talking about a spiritual miracle here, which will always contain a certain amount of mystery. However, the Bible does not leave us without any understanding of it, and in that light, the Calvinist's response is the most biblical and God-honoring.

Did God choose us, or did we choose him? The answer is "Yes." But the concept of a free will is biblically inane. If nothing is clear in scripture, it is that man is dead, lost, and in darkness in the unregenerated state. If we give the unregenerate a "free" choice, they will choose sin, death, and hell every time over righteousness, eternal life, and heaven. It is hard to read Romans 1 any other way.

This depravity is what the non-Calvinists are so opposed to, and I have never been able to fully understand why they insist on clinging to the belief that unsaved man has even the remotest inclination toward God. I surmise it is because if total depravity is accepted, their other sotieriological premises fall into a heap.

Salvation is presented from 2 perspectives in scripture: God's as in Rom 8 - God forknew, God predestined, God called, God justified, and God will glorify; and man's as with the question posed by the Philipian jailer in Acts -"What must I do to be saved?" One will never understand the process of salvation correctly until they understand that it is God's work done to and for man, and that man's involvement (faith) is only possible because of the conviction, drawing and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and that the very ability to express faith is a gift from God. (Eph.2:8)

Keep stirring the pot!

Reformer said...

Dr. Hall,
Extremely well said, as usual! Are you teaching that kind of soteriology at MBC now?

People naturally assume that because one holds to a limited atonement perspective of redemption, (therefore I cannot say with certainty to a lost person, "Christ died for YOU") that I am limited in my evangelistic appeal. That is illogical. Just because I don't use the line that "Christ died for you" doesn't mean I don't make the mass appeal to unbelievers with passion and zeal, "Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." I simply understand that only those to whom God has given the gift of faith will have a desire to respond to the the appeal. Thanks for your articulate comments.