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Monday, November 05, 2007

The Implications of Calvinism

In a recent post over at The Walking Fish, Isaac warns us of some of the horrible implications of Calvinism.

1. Calvinism produces cults. He warns that the Jehovah's Witnesses were started by someone who rejected Calvinism, thus producing a cult.

Think about it.

David Koresh led the Branch Davidians, a group that came from disfellowshipped members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Sun Myung Moon, originator of the Unification Cult, started as in Confucianism until his parents joined the Presbyterian Church. However, his Charismatic beliefs led him to conclude that the Holy Spirit can speak today providing information contrary to Scripture provided his basis for the cult.

Jim Jones started what ended up as The People's Temple in Indianapolis, coming from a Disciples of Christ background.

Mary Baker Eddy grew up as a Congregationalist, but rejected doctrines like predestination and Original Sin and founded instead the Church of Christ, Scientist. (Since Christian Science denies that Jesus was God or the Messiah, that there is no such thing as sin or the devil, and that Jesus didn't die, the group would be qualified as a "cult".)

Joseph Smith was upset by the variety of Christian denominations, so he joined none of them and started his own.

The Holiness movement of the 19th century produced the Pentecostal movement of the early 20th century. The Pentecostal movement produced the Oneness Pentecostals who deny the Trinity, mandate a specific baptism formula for salvation, require speaking in tongues as a sign of salvation (that is, without it, you cannot be saved), and hold that it is not possible to be saved outside of the Oneness Pentecostal church.

Conclusion: Cults can come from anywhere and everywhere. They can come from out and out lies or from shades of truth. The truth does not produce cults. Sinful people pervert the truth and produce cults. In other words, it does no good to argue that liars come out of any given structure; we must discuss the truth of the structure.

2. Aborted Babies Burn in Hell

Not much to say here. The opposition holds that the truth is something called "the age of accountability", a very nice doctrine that can't seem to be found in the Bible anywhere. Since Calvinism does not teach that "aborted babies burn in hell" and the Bible doesn't teach "the age of accountability" it's hard to argue about it.

3. Calvinism stalls evangelism.

It's a popular belief. It's also incorrect.

Calvin taught that Christ reigned, that the means God uses to bring people to Himself is the preaching of the Gospel, and, therefore, that Christ's reign required the preaching of the Gospel. In his commentaries, Calvin wrote, "The Lord commands the ministers of the gospel to go a distance, in order to spread the doctrine of salvation in every part of the world." In Calvin's The Bondage and Liberation of the Will: A Defence of the Orthodox Doctrine of Human Choice against Pighius he writes, "Although [God] is able to accomplish the secret work of His Holy Spirit without any means or assistance, He has nevertheless ordained outward preaching, to use it as it were as a means. But to make such a means effective and fruitful He inscribes in our hearts with His own finger those very words which He speaks in our ears by the mouth of a human being."

Calvin had a passion for missionary work. He started sending missionaries to France in 1553 who, by 1562, had established an estimated 2,100 churches with a membership of over three million people. According to various sources, Calvin's church in Geneva sent some 142 missionaries out in 1561 alone. They sent missionaries to the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Poland, Hungary, and Brazil (no small feat in his day).

Beyond this impressive array of missionary work from Calvin himself, it is regularly understood the the father of modern day missions is William Carey. Carey was a Particular Baptist -- a Calvinist. He defied the hyper-Calvinist beliefs of his day and argued instead that we should "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." He wrote An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, founded The Baptist Missionary Society, and became a missionary himself to India.

Does hyper-Calvinism stall evangelism? Sure. But hyper-Calvinism is a lie denied by Calvin and Calvinists alike.

4. The Doctrine of Election Produces a Lack of Peace.

Interesting argument. First, the doctrine of election is unavoidable. We can debate exactly what it means, but we cannot debate its existence. There are simply too many references to "the chosen" and "the elect" and such to deny it. Further, it is actually the Bible that suggests that we must "be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10). Now, to remove election as a doctrine would be to simply cancel this verse. "Sorry, Peter, you just don't know what you're talking about." Indeed, it would require that we shut poor old Peter up here: "Don't you know that requiring people to make sure of their election is to produce a lack of peace???!" In other words, it's not "Calvinism" in question here; it's the Bible.

On the other hand, when someone accepts the doctrine of election and actually follows Peter's prescription of making sure, the peace is more sure than anything the lack of that doctrine can produce. If God actually chooses you, what have you to fear? On the other hand, if it is solely up to you, can you ever be sure of anything?

These are common objections, easily dispatched. They may represent "implications" of Calvinism, but they are opposed to the Scriptures, to Calvin's teachings, and to Reformed theology. Can they be considered any more valid than the accusation that Christianity promotes war because of the Crusades?


Eric said...

It is interesting to note that all of the Christian groups specifically mentioned in your first point have a historical connection with the Swiss Reformation. I am not disagreeing with your conclusion by any means. I disagree with Isaac on this point. But it seems to me that the extreme fracturing of the Protestant Reformation begins sooner and is much more pervasive in the Swiss stream of the Reformation. In the German stream the fracturing begins around the time the Prussian monarchy attempted to unite the Reformed and Lutheran churches – a move that coincided chronologically with the rise of pietism within the Lutheran churches and the beginning of the Enlightenment in the broader European world. These forces combined to begin the decline into higher criticism and liberal theology, which has now bruised and broken the Lutheran Reformation as well.

Anyway... it is ridiculous to blame Calvin for Jehovah's Witnesses.

Stan said...

Seems to me that the Christian Church (read "truth") has been subject to fractures, schisms, and false doctrines from the beginning. Thus the need for much of the New Testament. Isaac's argument would have to apply to every heresy ever brewed.

(In case this wasn't absolutely clear, I'm not disagreeing with you.)