This week I’m writing about “Things IFB pastors could learn from the Calvinists.” I’m not a calvinist. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. While I don’t think hard core calvinism is Biblical or healthy, I think that calvinists have a lot to teach us.
In my opinion, a lot of the young guys who are going “calvi” probably wouldn’t if we’d learn these things:
One of the few doctrinal controversies that actually touch a lot of independent Baptists is the controversy over belief-only salvation, or over the doctrine of repentance. Some people, led by a few Dallas Seminary Theologians and Curtis Hutson, say that repentance is just a change of mind, and that no turning from sin is necessary. Others go to the opposite extreme, emphasizing a John MacArthur-esque Lordship salvation. I want to go on record as saying that I believe the whole debate is irrelevant.
That’s right. It’s irrelevant. A total waste of our time and thought.
As you study the Bible, Jesus is almost never presented as the savior from Hell. There are a few references where people are warned to flee the wrath to come, but that is not normally how Jesus is presented. He is presented as the savior from our sins. The very first mention of Jesus in the New Testament says:
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
There is actually so much Bible on this that it is almost silly. Consider the following passages:
We are not to come to Jesus for a “get out of Hell free card”, we are to go to Him for a cure to the disease that poisons our soul, and which will eventually secure our fate in Hell – our sin. The scriptural emphasis is on the loss of relationship with God, the cause of that loss of relationship is sin, Hell is just the final result.
Now if you present Jesus as a savior from sin consistently. Repentance is a given. The mere act of believing is going to also be an act of repenting. If you didn’t want to turn from your sins, you wouldn’t be turning to the Savior in the first place.
One of the most appealing things about Calvinism to young people is their clear cut soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) and their emphasis on regeneration. I don’t think that everything calvinists say about salvation is biblical, but put it next to the “one-two-three pray with me” nonsense being peddled by many independent Baptists in a suspect line, and I’d say the calvinist interpretation of salvation is guilty of being biblical every time. One seems like it has the whole weight of Romans behind it. The other one seems like somebody went through Romans, picked five verses somewhat out of context, and decided to base their entire understanding of the most important doctrine in the Christian faith on it. The other 427 verses in Romans – there not important.
Go read Charles Spurgeon’s All of Grace. Spurgeon, though an independent Baptist hero, was a pretty hard core calvinist. Some of the things he says about salvation from sin are pretty hard to get away from. Go read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Try to force your shallow, “just pray this prayer after me”, view of salvation into that book. Good luck. Obviously, the Baptists of the 1600s – 1800s didn’t share our shallow view of salvation. Our doctrine of salvation too often is a microwave dinner, theirs was a seven course banquet.
It’s pretty easy to get your hands on a copy of Charles Spurgeon’s sermons. Even the most narrow minded of preachers usually carry Pilgrim’s Progress in their bookstores. Even if you managed to keep those books out of young people’s hands, they’ve still got Romans. Now, as long as what we present as the doctrine of salvation resembles the biblical and historical view like Long John Silvers resembles fresh New England seafood, can we honestly wonder why so many young people are moving towards calvinism like Cubans toward Miami?