Monday, December 22, 2008

Authentic Calvinism
In his soul-searching book, The Shadow of the Cross, Walter J. Chantry makes some very needed observations concerning the true nature of historic Calvinism. These words are not only good to correct those who slander Calvinism, but they are even better for those of us who are Calvinist in our doctrine and theology:
"True Calvinism always leads to the appreciation of self-denial. When the doctrines of grace are warmly and experimentally preached, denial of self is necessarily one of the chief experiences of the soul. Each one of the doctrines infinitely exalts the most high God and humbles the sinful and human self as a mere worm...One great benefit of the biblical truths called Calvinism is that they humble men in the dust. They make a man feel that 'the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores' (Isaiah 1:5-6). When this truth has seeped into the innermost man, he can no longer live for himself, but cries with Job, 'Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes' (Job 42:6). Calvinism that does not humble has missed its mark."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Universal Atonement and its Logical Conclusion
Consider this observation from Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892):
"The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, 'No, certainly not.' We ask them the next question - did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer, 'No.' They are obliged to admit this if they are consistent. They say, 'No, Christ has died that any man may be saved if' - and then follow certain conditions of salvation. We say, then, we will just go back to the old statement - Christ did not die so as beyond a doubt to secure the salvation of anybody, did he? You must say 'no'; you are obliged to say so, for you believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet fall from grace, and perish. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why you....You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it"
Some Thoughts on Definite Atonement
The doctrine of definite atonement or "limited atonement" or as it is called by many, "particular redemption", is certainly the most controversial and debated teaching among the so-called Five Points of Calvinism. For me personally, this was the one doctrine I struggeled with the most. Of course, the root of my struggles was having grown up in a church culture that embraced without question the idea of a "universal atonement". It was hard for me to imagine that the death of Christ wasn't meant for everyone without exception. Hence, I plunged myself into the Scriptures seeking to understand more fully the intended purpose of Christ's death. For what reason did He die? What was the design of His death meant to accomplish?
The answers to these questions from the Word of God opened my eyes to see that Christ did not die to make salvation possible for everyone but His death accomplished a real salvation for a particular people. He came "to save His people from their sins" (Matt.1:21). Or as Jesus Himself said in John 10:11-16, as "the Good Shepherd" He has come to lay down His life for "the sheep". And who are the sheep? He identifies them as those who hear His voice, follow Him, are given eternal life, will never be taken away from Christ, and they are those whom the Father has given to His Son to save (see John 10:27-29). By such a description, "the sheep" cannot be referring to the whole world. The sheep can only be describing believers in Christ.
Again, what one must conclude by such a passage like this, is that Jesus did not die to make salvation a possibility for someone somewhere to accept if they think it is worthy. That is to say, the death of Christ was not a gamble God took hoping that the sacrifice of His Son would mean something to somebody. No, Christ laid down His life to save only those whom His Father gave Him to save (see John 6:37; 17:2). His death therefore was a definite or particular atoning sacrifice for a particular people.
Expanding further on the glory of this doctrine, Joel Beeke once wrote:
"The good news of Christ's definite atonement is that it means He is a complete Mediator. He both merits and applies salvation. Both are necessary because we are unable to do either. Christ must be a full Savior because sinners are spiritually dead and cannot independently receive a Christ presented to them. Though Christ has merited everything, God's people know that they have no legs to run to Him, no arms to embrace Him, no lips to kiss Him. He must do everything - both the meriting and the applying. Thus, He receives all honor and glory as the Alpha and Omega for His own" (Living for God's Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008; pp. 91-92).

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Warfield & Predestination
B.B. Warfield (1851-1921), the famed theologian of Princeton Theological Seminary (before the school departed from the Bible!), was, among many things, a prolific writer. In a collection of his "shorter writings" he penned an article called, "Some Thoughts on Predestination." There are two quotes from this article which I wish every Christian would read and consider - especially those who are most hostile to this biblical doctrine.
The first quote regards the manner in which we should approach this doctrine:
"...if only we were willing to sit simply at the feet of the inspired writers and take them at their word, we should have no difficulties with Predestination. The difficulties we feel with regard to Predestination are not derived from the Word. The Word is full of it, because it is full of God, and when we say God and mean God - God in all that God is - we have said Predestination."
So, according to Warfield, if we would just take God at His Word we would have no difficulties over predestination. To say it another way, if we would just be honest with what the Bible teaches and take it seriously, then we should not be having fits over the truth of predestination. On another matter, Warfield also offers some deeply insightful words concerning why people reject the doctrine of predestination:
"Our difficulties with Predestination arise from a, no doubt not unnatural, unwillingness to acknowledge ourselves to be wholly at the disposal of another. We wish "to belong to ourselves," and we resent belonging, especially belonging absolutely, to anybody else, even if that anybody else be God...We will not be controlled. Or rather, to speak more accurately, we will not admit that we are controlled."
I am convinced that Warfield has exposed by these words the root of the problem, over why so many Christians reject the biblical doctrine of predestination. They don't want to think of themselves as not in "the driver's seat" of their life and destiny. Frankly, this is nothing but the residual sin of pride that remains in us all as believers in Christ. But despite what we may want to believe about our "destiny" being the result of our decision, there is no other explanation for our salvation but that God sovereignly set His love upon us, elected us to be saved by His Son, and thus predestined us to that glorious end (see Jn.6:37,44,65; 17:2; Rom.8:29-30; Eph.1:3-6; II Thess.2:13; II Tim.1:9). Left to ourselves, we would only be busting hell wide open. Thank God then, for His predestinating grace!

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