Sunday, October 5, 2008

Calvinism and The True Gospel

When I was first introduced to the Doctrines of Grace, I was utterly shaken to the core. Everything I had held to be true as a Christian seemed to be unraveling around me. It was as though I had been walking on a frozen lake and the ice was cracking all around me. I wrote a letter to the man who introduced me to the majestic beauty of these precious truths, in that letter I wrote the following words:

No one else knows how it was that I came to embrace the Doctrines of Grace quite like you do. As you can testify, the lights just turned on, one minute I was arguing with you and the next minute I was on the same side of the fence. Looking back on that experience, it is obvious that the whole worldview or paradigm I had held up to that point was utterly shattered. The majestic mountains of the Doctrines of Grace had fallen on the barren hills of Arminianism. I was a Calvinist plain and simple. Full of enough fire to burn anyone past the point of no return! God is gracious to us in our ignorance. What I hold now, as I see it, is the growth of that new worldview to its fullest meaning. The majestic mountains of the Doctrines of Grace have come into full color as it were. I am truly reformed to the depths of my being.

I believe with all my heart that God is the one who gets the glory in our salvation from first to last. This is what originally brought me to my knees, not in front of the doctrine of men, but in front of the doctrine of God. Our God is a sovereign ruler. He does as He pleases. This brings me to the point of my post: I am reading through J.I. Packer's introduction to the book, "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ," by John Owen. Packer in his opening essay sets forth so much about the doctrines of grace in so little words that I had to post some of what I have learned from him!

Consider this: there are two gospels which Packer refers to in his essay; the old gospel (which embraced calvinism, which was faithful to the word of God) and the new gospel (which embraces arminianism, which as Packer says so eloquently, "Part of the Biblical gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that gospel; and a half truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.) As you read this, ask yourself which you really believe, the old gospel or the new and which one is truer to Scripture:

  • The Old gospel's first concern is to always give glory to God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. (pp.2)

  • Where the Arminian says: "I owe my election to my faith," the Calvinist says: "I owe my faith to my election." (pp. 7)

  • "One makes salvation depend on the work of God (calvinism), the other on the work of man(arminianism)."(pp.4)

  • "One regards faith as part of God's gift (calvinism) the other as man's own contribution to salvation." (pp.4)

  • "One gives all glory of saving believers to God (calvinism), the other divides the praise between God...and man (arminianism)." (pp.4)

Every generation of the church is faced with its own unique struggles and challenges. Part of the challenge of this day and age is the apostasy from the true gospel. There is way too much man and not near enough God. Most Christians will confess that they believe in the sovereignty of God, however, probe deeper and you will learn what they truly mean. Ask them, where did their faith come from?

I will close with a few more quotations from Packer's essay:

A true ransom for the elect:

"Christ did not win a hypothetical salvation for hypothetical believers, a mere possibility of salvation for any who might possibly believe, but a real salvation for His own chosen people. His precious blood really does "save us all"; the intended effects of His self-offering do in fact follow, just because the cross was what it was. Its saving power does not depend on faith Being added to it; its saving power is such that faith flows from it." (pp.10)

The failure of "unlimited atonement."

"The true evangelical evaluation of the claim that Christ died for every man, even those who far from magnifying the love and grace of God, this claim dishonours both it and Him, for it reduces God's love to an impotent wish and turns the whole economy of "saving" grace, so-called (saving is really a misnomer on this view), into a monumental divine failure." (pp.12)

A proper definition of Calvinism:

"In the first place, Calvinism is something much broader than the "five points" indicate. Calvinism is a whole world view, stemming from a clear vision of God as the whole world's Maker and King. Calvinism is the consistent endeavour to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the council of His will. Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all of life under the direction and control of God's own Word. Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible-the God centered outlook which sees the Creator as the source, and means, and end, of everything that is, both in nature and in grace. Calvinism is thus theism (belief in God as the ground of all things), religion (dependence upon God as the giver for all things) and evangelicalism (trust in God through Christ for all things), all in their purest and most highly developed form. And calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God's world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of His great preordained plan for His creatures and His church. The five points assert no more than that God is sovereign in saving the individual, but Calvinism, as such, is concerned with the much broader assertion that He is sovereign everywhere." (pp.5)

(all quotes were taken from J.I. Packer's Introductory Essay, in The Death of Death, by John Owen)

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