A Kind Hand in Times of Darkness?- Thoughts on Loving God and Helping People

March 20, 2009

Mental health is a big issue, and in my own life it has become a topic with which I am highly interested.  Between spending a weekend learning from To Write Love on Her Arms counsellors to my pending arrival in seminary, the thought of dealing with mental health issues as a pastor has been square in my focus recently.  I do not believe there is any other social good the church can do that is in more need in mainstream America today than to be able to counsel people on mental health issues.  Sure, there are poor people.  And of course there are those with AIDS or other physical ailments.  But by in large, Americans are wealthy, healthy people (which, as an aside, makes the health-wealth-and-prosperity gospel all that more ridiculous since we are already much healthier and wealthier than 95% of the world).  However, what we are not is a very psychologically stable bunch.  Mental health issues such as depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide affect many Americans, regardless color, class, or gender, and should be just as prime a target of our churches as any other more tangible need.

A question that arises in mental health then, at least from the Christian perspective, is what can we say about it?  I will state right off that I think Christians can say a lot on the topic of mental health and that a reluctance to do so has led to a number of worsened conditions over the years.  Some mental health issues have a physical component to them, and handling that with medication should not be frowned upon.  But, where it really gets gritty is in trying to flesh out what we see the ultimate goal of the sufferer to be.  Is it just to contain a condition?  Or should we attempt to extinguish an issue altogether, if that is even possible?  Are we to rely on secular psychology or only Christian theology?

You can work through these questions on your own, as I have been doing and keep doing the more and more I am confronted with it.  As you think on it though, I would like to point you to a quote from John Piper talking about social justice that I think we can use to glean some information for ourselves in this situation:

“If you don’t love God, you can’t do anybody any ultimate good.  You can feed them and clothe them and house them and keep them comfortable while they perish.  But in God’s mind, that by itself is not what love is.  Love does feed and clothe and house- and keeps the commandments that include helping others know and love God in Christ.  But if you don’t love God, you can’t do that.  So if you don’t love God, you can’t love people in the way that counts for eternity.” [Finally Alive, pp.135-136]

Think about that.  Think about what it he means by “lov[ing] people in the way that counts for eternity.”   What might that look like for a Christian pastor or counsellor? and what is meant by “lov[ing] God” in such a way that doing this is possible?  If we really understand and embrace this thought I think it will inform a great deal of Christian psychology and will help us who desire to be pastors to actually be effective pastors in the truest meaning of the word.

What We Believe- Article IX, The Kingdom

March 19, 2009

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After a weeks hiatus we are trucking along with our journey through the Baptist Faith & Message.  This week we are in the ninth article, focusing on what Scripture tells us and we confess as Southern Baptists in regards to the Kingdom (of God):

IX. The Kingdom

The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age.

Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Matthew 3:2; 4:8-10,23; 12:25-28; 13:1-52; 25:31-46; 26:29; Mark 1:14-15; 9:1; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:2; 12:31-32; 17:20-21; 23:42; John 3:3; 18:36; Acts 1:6-7; 17:22-31; Romans 5:17; 8:19; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 11:10,16; 12:28; 1 Peter 2:4-10; 4:13; Revelation 1:6,9; 5:10; 11:15; 21-22.

I will be honest, this is an awkward article to me.  As I look back at the confessions which I would say have a Baptist flavor to them I am unable to find any that pay particular attention to the idea of the Kingdom of God the way that the BF&M does.  Even the forebearer of the BF&M, the New Hampshire confession, makes no separate article for discussing the Kingdom.  Yet, all the way back in the first BF&M there it is, though I am baffled as to why?

Now, I say that it began in the first BF&M, but really, if you read that version you will find that it is quite dissimilar from the article on the tabel today (see here for a comparison).  For instance, the 1925 version seems to picture the Kingdom of God in a highly personal manner, expressing it as “the reign of God in the heart and life of the individual in every human relationship, and in every form and institution of organized human society,” whereas the 1963 and 2000 versions take on a much more corporate vision: “The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King.”  This again begs the question of why we are even talking about the Kingdom of God if we have so radically changed what seems to be the focus of it?

All that said, I do not disagree with most of what is said here (other than the emphasis on the word “willfully” in discussing the acknowledgment of God’s kingship).  I do not however find it very interesting or illuminating.  The big thing I wish it would do is to more clearly connect the way in which the church and the Kingdom interact/overlap.  Here is a statement from elsewhere which I find informative on this matter:

The task of the church is to make the invisible kingdom visible through faithful Christian living and witness.  The gospel of Christ is still the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 24:14; Acts 20:25), the good news of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  The church makes its message credible by manifesting the reality of kingdom life. [The Reformation Study Bible, p.1489] 

John the Baptist declared that “the kingdom of heaven [was] at hand” as he looked towards Jesus (Matthew 3.2).  Jesus declared that “the kingdom of God [was] in the midst of [the Pharisees]” (Luke 17.20-21).  Today, Christ is seated at the right hand of God, with all things placed in dominion under him and with him as the head of the church (Ephesians 1.20-23).  So, as the church we are under Christ’s reign, and therefore, being strangers and exiles still on this earth, we should live as the citizens of heaven that we are, paying respects to our king and making his glory known all throughout the land of our sojourning (Philippians 3.20, 1 Peter 1.1, 2.9).

This idea is simply omitted from the BF&M’s discussion on the Kingdom, due in no small part I would imagine both to a lingering fear of declaring the church to be the Kingdom of God (a la Roman Catholicism) and the modern influence of dispensational theology upon Baptist thought.  It is unfortunate, however, that this occurs, since otherwise we are left with the Kingdom of God appearing to be some abstract eschatalogical idea and not what it really should be to us: a daily reality of the sovereign reign of Christ demonstrated through the church, which will one day be fully consumated in a visible, earthly Kingdom.

Rocking the Cutting Edge of the 16th Century- Time Magazine on the Influence of the New Calvinism

March 18, 2009

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In case you may have missed it (and honestly, I don’t know how much press this got because I was out of town last week) but recently Time Magazine released its 2009 edition of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now,” and among these, listed at number 3 overall, was the New Calvinism.  Pointing to the influential ministries of guys such as John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Al Mohler, Time said that (in true pop culture fashion) “Calvinism is back”! 

Truthfully, this really is surprising to me.  If they had been doing a list on the top 10 ideas changing the church right now, sure, I would have definitely listed the New Calvinism.  But the world?  Wow!  That really is something.  

The question then becomes two things.  First, can we infer from the rising influence of the New Calvinism (which really is the old Calvinism just with new guys, right?) that there is a global revival in the church?  Second,  can we infer from the rising influence of the New Calvinism if the global church is moving towards orthodox, conservative Christianity?

In the first question, I think that I would have to say ‘No.’  I do not think from the fact that Calvinism is enjoying a resurgence that we can infer that Christianity as a whole is experiencing revival in the world.  It is true that many places such as Africa and the Global South are simply booming with new believers these days, but I don’t know that across the board we are seeing any more people coming to Christ (percentage-wise) than we have over the years past, it is just that the distribution of where believers are has shifted drastically.

On the second question, I do believe that we are seeing a move towards historic, orthodox, conservative Christianity, at least in the realm of theology.  Though there are still plenty of loud voices out there pushing the emergent agenda, it seems that the “Great Emergence” that they have been predicting has been nothing more than sociological wishful thinking thus far.  Particularly when you look to the abundant harvests being gathered in the Global South and Africa, these people are among the most conservative believers in the church today, leading the charge in various arenas such as the recent battle against the liberalization of the Church of England.  They may not all be Calvinists per se, but as Dr. Mohler was so wonderfully quoted in the article, “The moment someone begins to define God’s [being or actions] biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist.”

This is certainly something to be excited about.  It is a great day when a movement towards biblical authority and orthodox beliefs gets so large that a secular magazine recognizes how important it is.  Thanks be to God that we are living in a time where great men are being raised up with great ideas and are leading a great impact on the church and the culture.  Unlike the Jews after the exile, God is not silent in our day, if only we are prayerful enough to listen.

See the full article here.

Not Meant to Suffer Alone- Experiencing Community with TWLOHA and What it Means to the Church

March 17, 2009

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This past weekend I went out of town to participate in the first ever To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) Move Conference.  If you are not familiar with them yet, TWLOHA is a non-profit organization that focuses on starting the conversation with people about various mental health issues such as depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide; trying to help move people suffering from these towards treatment and recovery and trying to raise awareness among everyone else about the prevalence and symptoms of such problems.  The Move ’09 Conference was a weekend experience where the participants were trained in recognizing, understanding, and dealing with these issues, as well as learning about and working towards the ideal of community with a group of people.  It was an incredible experience and one I walked away from thankful that I was able to participate in.

Being there this weekend really encouraged me a lot as well.  I got to be surrounded by a number of people who were alright with being open about the problems that they have and still suffer through.  People who are broken, who realize that they have many things they need to work through, many insecurities and experiences that haunt them from day to day, and yet understand that there is hope of being better one day.  These people, who I feel I was one of, really tried to embrace the philosophy of “It’s okay to not be okay.”

Unfortunately, this is not the case in so many places.  Particularly in my mind I automatically think about the church and how shut off we are to each other in it.  If there is any one place where people should embrace the “It’s okay to not be okay” mindset it should be the church, and yet what we often see is the opposite.  Instead we get rows and rows of plastered on smiles and ironed-out clothes, when underneath of many of them is a balled up hot mess of a life that is barely being held together.  Of course, many people will say that we just need to have faith that God will make it all right, but I can’t help but believe that that hardly scratches the surface of what God really wants us to do.  If it were just about having faith that God will provide, then for what reason did he call us into communion with one another in the church?  

Hebrews 10.24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Who is the ‘us’ here?  It is the body of believers, the church.  And what are we told to do?  Far from sitting around and exchanging ‘Nice to see you’ and ‘How’ya doing?’, we are called to “stir up one another to love and good works“, to “not [neglect] . . . meet[ing] together“, and to “encourag[e] one another.”  This is community.  This is caring for one another.  And this does not occur unless we tear down the plastic facade that we so quickly put up on Sunday morning and bear our broken souls out in front of each other.

A large part of this starts with “not neglecting to meet together.”  If we ever want to feel comfortable with fellow believers and feel alright with being open with them, we have to spend time together.  Yet so many of us just treat Sunday morning first, as if its optional, and second, as if its enough.  How do you expect to grow together with people who you spend at best two hours a week with?  How do you expect to let people speak into your life in times of trouble and self-doubt if you never see them and they never get to know what it is that beats you down?  God did not ask you to sit back and simply rest on a promise of his provision.  God provided you with a community to be in, to grow together with, and to get healed and encouraged by.  It is part of the plan.  God built it in.  He meant for us to use it.  We will never see the maximum change in our lives, the full change and healing that God intended, if we do not learn to embrace this and to start walking with one another through life instead of simply walking alone into the same building for a short time each Sunday morning.

I am so thankful to To Write Love on Her Arms for what they are doing.  Though they are not overtly Christian, the principles of community and compassion that they embrace are at the core of what Christians should be participating in.  I pray that we can realize this and that as time moves forward we will learn the true purpose of the church and what a difference it can make in our broken and hurting lives.

As an aside, I am supporting TWLOHA through the SocialVibe network.  Please consider getting involved and helping raise money for this organization so they can continue reaching out and making a difference in the area of mental health.

Why His Stripes Healed Us- Daniel Montgomery on the Old Testament Sacrificial System

March 16, 2009

(Note: If you like what you have read on this blog, please go here and vote for it in the 2009 Blog Madness competition.  I am listed as the 15th ranked blog in the West Division.  Thank you for your support.)

As some of you may know from talking with me or reading in the Author tab, this coming fall my family and I are headed to Louisville, KY in order for me to start attending The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  And looking towards Louisville we are also looking ahead to what church we plan on joining while there.  Of course, knowing my interests and what is happening in that city right now, the most obvious front runner for us would be Sojourn Community Church.  Thus, in preparation for visiting there in the coming months I have already begun listening to their weekly sermon podcasts on iTunes.

Let me first say that I am very impressed by the ambituous task that Sojourn’s pastor, Daniel Montgomery, has embarked upon this year.  He has felt led to take his church through a sweeping tour of the entire Old Testament, hitting the major themes and events along the way, during the 2009 calendar year.  I love that they are pursuing that idea since there seem to be so few Southern Baptists that I think have a firm enough grasp on what exactly is in the Old Testament and why that content is important for us to know in light of New Testament revelation about Christ.

However, beyond that initial respect I have for his series, Daniel recently came upon a topic which I was flat excited to here someone preach on– that being the issue of the Old Testament sacrificial system.  Because he is going straight through the Bible, when he got to the opening chapters of Leviticus there was really nothing else to do but to deal with all of the sacrifices that are laid out for the Israelites to perform.  I can honestly say I have never heard this precahed on before in any church I have attended or downloaded, and was so ecstatic to hear Pastor Daniel go through it from the pulpit.  It really was a great message and I want to recommend it to all of you as a sermon of supreme importance in terms of where we come from and just why it was necessary for Christ to pay the penalty that he had to in order for us to be redeemed by his blood.  There is so much confusion on the meaning of the atonement these days, and unless we place everything back in the light of God’s Levitical requirements for sin we can not truly understand why a bloody, beaten Savior is what was needed for the fulfillment of the law.  Please, take the time to listen to this wonderful exposition of God’s Word.

Daniel Montgomery- Leviticus 1-6, 16: Sacrifice

Calvinism Really is the Gospel- Calvinism Preaches Particular Redemption of the Elect

March 15, 2009

Finally we have reached the last evidence offered by Spurgeon that Calvinism is the gospel, and is this one a firestarter.  I’ll just jump into what it says:

Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross.

Spurgeon’s last evidence that Calvinism is the gospel is that to preach the gospel one must preach the particular redemption of the elect earned by Christ’s death upon the cross.   This could not be any more hottly contested at any point in the history of Protestantism than it is today.  Not only do we largely take issue with the idea of unconditional election, the good news as we argued from evidence three, but even if we let God have that, we still want to insist that Christ nonetheless died for the redemption of all people– which is only fair, right?  I mean, if Christ did not die for all people then somehow God must be unjust or unloving or something that would make him less than God and therefore unacceptable for us to believe in.

But alas, I am willing to argue that it truly is good news, truly is gospel news, that the redemption wrought by Christ’s death is for all and only the elect.  (Of course, as I said above, we will take this elect to be the unconditionally elect from evidence three, and will not consider the elect as possibly being a conditionally elect group, who would certainly render any good news of election void.)  It is true that Calvinism teaches particular redemption of the elect (more commonly referred to as Limited Atonement, though ‘particular redemption’ carries a little more weight), so what we must do now is show where this comes from in the Bible and why such a thing is good news.

First, where does it come from?  There are several verses and several controversies surrounding places where Christ is said to be redeeming “his people” (Matthew 1.21), his “sheep” (John 10.27-30), and “the church” (Ephesians 5.25).  Now, on the whole, I think these arguments all have merit, but unless someone is willing to do the grunt work it is hard to see how these can be convincing over and against passages like 1 John 2.2.  Because of this, I like to turn to the idea of what exactly was being accomplished by the atonement, and in doing this show that there is no way to conceive of it other than its being limited in scope and particular in application.  This argument rests in analyzing the pictures of atonement given in Leviticus 16 and 17 and Hebrews 9 and 10.  You can see my full working out of this here and here

So, redemption is particular to the elect, but why is this good news?  Well, we must take this word elect for all we mean by it, namely that these are the people whom God has chosen to receive salvation and no one else, in order to truly grasp what’s being claimed.  If the elect are all and only those who will be saved then surely redemption for them in any fashion (particular or general) is good news, since it is the means by which they are reconciled to God.  However, so many are want to tell people that “God loves you and Christ died for you,” but what type of good news is that if you don’t believe, if you aren’t elect?  That Christ died for you and yet was unable to actually save you, why did he waste his time?  

The particular redemption wrought by Christ, the fact that he died for all and only the elect, all and only those who will be saved, is good news because it bears testimony to a God who is all powerful.   As J.I. Packer puts it, by viewing redemption as particular, along with election as unconditional and grace as irresistible, we see “the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind– election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit– as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly”; whereas viewing redemption generally “gives each act a different reference . . . and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them” (Introduction to The Death of Death, p.4).  Clearly only one of these stands as the genuine good news.

Thus in closing, we have demonstrated that the four evidences which Charles Spurgeon gives in his prolific quote are in fact the composite of the good news that has been “delivered to [us] as of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15.3), and each one also being a portion of the soteriological system know as Calvinism, so that therefore we can conclude what has long been argued– that Calvinism really is the gospel!

Calvinism Really is the Gospel- Calvinism Preaches God’s Unchanging, Eternal, Electing Love

March 14, 2009

Okay, I’ll admit, the first two days of comparing Calvinism with the gospel through Spurgeon’s quote were probably quite uncontroversial.  Very few of us in Protestant evangelicalism are likely to say we object to justification by faith and God’s sovereignty in granting his grace, even if practically we deny these things through how we behave.  However, this next part is different, and is truly where we will start to see the divide between the general ‘gospel’ and the gospel as championed by Charles Spurgeon.  Here is what it says:

Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah . . .

Spurgeon’s third evidence that Calvinism is the gospel is that, if one is to truly preach the gospel then they must ”exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love” of God.  Of course the rub here is in exalting God’s (unconditionally) electing love, so let’s approach the other characteristics first, seeing that all of these aspects are pictured in the great passage of Romans 8.31-39.

(Note: We must remark here that God’s love is being said to be unchangeable eternal, immutable, and  conquering for the believer.  This is carried in the quote by the fact that Spurgeon refers to it as “electing love.”)

God’s love is unchangeable eternal.  In Romans 8.38-39 Paul tells us, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Those are a great many things and yet none of them can separate believers from the love of Christ.  As well, Psalm 136.1 says, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  If anything is good news, the unchangeable eternal love of God for the redeemed would surely have to fit that description.

God’s love is immutable.  Now, I realize that this sounds quite like “God’s love is unchangeable eternal” but I think there is a difference.  In the first condition, there is nothing external that can change God’s love.  With immutability, we say that God will never change his love internally.  The immutability of God’s love is commensurate with the immutability of God proper, and this is testified in places like Numbers 23.19 which says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”  Therefore, just as God’s love being safe from external influence is good news, so is God’s love being safe from internal fluxuation.

God’s love is conquering.  Really all of Romans 8.31-39 proclaims this truth, but in particular we see verses 33 and 34 which declare, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”  No one may condemn us now, no one may prevail over us today, thanks to the conquering love of God which sent his son to bear the wrath we were to receive (1 John 4.10).  This is definitely good news, and is probably the best news never understood by most “Christians”– that our fate apart from Christ is death and eternal punishment (John 3.18), but through the sacrifical love of Christ and God in sending his son we may now become “more than conquerers” over sin and death (v.37).

Finally, that leads us to the idea of unconditional election.  How is it that God’s love is shown forth in unconditional election and how might that qualify as good news?  To start, Ephesians 1.3-6 says,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (emphasis added)

So, Paul tells us that the mere act of electing is done in love.  Likewise, in 2 Thessalonians 2.13 Paul calls the Christians in Thesslonica “beloved by the Lord” because they have been “[chosen] as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”  Thus, pretty clearly it is told that the acts of unconditional election and love go together in God’s plan of salvation.

But is this good news?  How could it not be?  Romans 8.33, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”  The elect are safe, why? because they are the elect.  With election comes the sure promise of redemption (cf. Romans 8.30) as well as the comfort in knowing that it is by no merit of their own that they are guaranteed this, but upon the unchanging purpose of him who chose them (cf. Romans 8.28, Ephesians 1.5).

Therefore, we have thus argued that the third evidence from Spurgeon’s quote, that God’s “electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love” is good news, is true and so stands as further proof that Calvinism really is the gospel.

Calvinism Really is the Gospel- Calvinism Preaches the Sovereignty of God in Dispensing His Grace

March 13, 2009

After yesterday arguing that Spurgeon’s initial evidence was true, that Calvinism’s teaching of justification by faith without works really is part of the gospel, we now want to move on to his second claim:

Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace . . .

The second evidence offered in support of Spurgeon’s claim that Calvinism is the gospel is that we are not preaching the gospel unless we are preaching of God’s sovereignty in His dispensation, or giving, of grace.  

Is this the gospel?  Well, first I guess we should dissect a little further what this actually means.  I think as a general rule (and in light of the next part of the quote) we would be going too far in assuming that here Spurgeon is talking about election.  Surely he would argue that God is sovereign in election, but that is a level of structure further into the nature of God than we need to be yet.  Here I believe that Spurgeon is simply speaking in accord with Jonah and the Psalmist when both of them proclaim “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2.9, Psalm 3.8).  Thus, the position is that there is no salvation apart from God’s sovereign allowance of it.  As it stands,  no man has the authority to come up to God and demand salvation; God is sovereign in granting it, and no man may partake of it otherwise (cf. John 6.44).

So, is this the gospel?  We can certainly see that it seems to be captured in the teachings of Scripture.  But is it good news?  How could it not be?  Is it better news to say that God is not in control, that God does not have sovereignty over his grace and that there is some way in which his granting of it is simply out of his hands who receives it?  In what way could this even take place?  Would grace be dispensed at random to people by a cosmic lottery?  Surely this is not good news.  Then maybe it is obtained by a Darwinistic natural selection of the population?  Yet, this also seems to not 0nly not be good news but also in opposition to Scripture  (1 Corinthians 1.26-29).  Maybe it is granted to those who perform mighty works in their own power?  But we have already expelled that idea by saying that we are justified by faith apart from works and by the fact that grace is not grace if somehow it is meritted.

Clearly, there is no good news in grace that is not sovereignly metted out by an omniscient, omnipotent Heavenly Father.  God’s sovereign dispensation is a truly a most glorious truth of the gospel.  It is also a part of Calvinism, and thus, two evidences in, we still have consensous between Calvinism and the gospel.

Calvinism Really is the Gospel- Calvinism Preaches Justification by Faith

March 12, 2009

Before we start, I do want to make the statement that, though there are several ideas over what does and does not constitute Calvinism, for the sake of maintaining the speakers original intent, we will treat every belief as a true belief of Calvinism and then attempt to show that it is also a critical aspect of the gospel, thus proving that whatever is Calvinism is also the gospel, and therefore Calvinism is the gospel.

Now, to begin our argument from Spurgeon’s famous quote that Calvinism really is the gospel, we will look at what he first gives as the evidence of this:

Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works . . . 

So, Spurgeon’s initial evidence that Calvinism is the gospel is because it preaches justification by faith without works.  This belief, however, is not just Calvinism.  The belief that justification is by faith apart from works is the backbone of all protestant thought.  Therefore, showing that it is most crucial to the gospel should not be too controversial unless we have some ardent Catholics peering in on us.

To show that preaching justification by faith apart from works is core to preaching the gospel, all wwe have to do is look at a few of the most important evangelistic verses in the Scriptures.  Ephesians 2.8-9 goes right for it saying, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Follow this with Romans 3.28, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law,” and it is pretty much a closed case that justification by faith is as fundamental to the gospel as anything possibly could be.  It is good news because it means we are not having to be in the business of saving ourselves, this has already been done for us.  Nothing could be better news than knowing that your debt of sin is taking care of by someone else and all you must do is believe; that though you deserved death, God freely gave his son to die as a sacrifice for us that we may be reconciled with him.

Therefore, one evidence in and the claim that Calvinism is the gospel appears to doing pretty well.  Of course, the hard part is yet to come.

Calvinism Really is the Gospel- Dissecting Spurgeon’s Quote for What it Actually Says

March 11, 2009

Calvinism is the gospel.

That phrase alone is enough to cause commotion to start ringing from all sides of the church.  On the Calvinist side you get a hearty “Amen!”  From the Arminian (or non-Calvinist for those sensitive Arminians in the SBC) side you get a rallying of the troops to fight the terrors of the next wave of non-evangelizing elitists.  And on the moderate (compatibilist) side you get a whiny, “Oh would you just shut up already!”  No matter which camp you fall in– and you do fall in a camp– there is no way you are totally ambivalent to this declaration.  And yet, as it stands, this snippet of a statement from the great Prince of Preachers Charles Spurgeon is being so utterly misapplied its not even worth the fight.

What Spurgeon really said, even though it is too much to fit in a cute little slogan, was this:

I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross.  

Yes, “Calvinism is the gospel” is said there, but so is so much more, and to simply leave the rest of it off total changes the color of what Spurgeon meant to get across.  

Therefore, at the risk of being shouted at from all the Arminians and moderates cruising the blogwaves, I will be attempting to show over the next several days that, yes, as explained by Spurgeon in the larger context of his quote, Calvinism really is the gospel.  Stay tuned and please, feel free to interact.