CSM—Christian faith: Calvinism is back

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Snow falls resolutely on a Saturday morning in Washington, but the festively lit basement of a church near the US Capitol is packed. Some 200 female members have invited an equal number of women for tea, cookies, conversation – and 16th-century evangelism.

What newcomers at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) hear is hardly "Christianity for Dummies." Nor is it "Extreme Makeover: Born-Again Edition." Instead, a young woman named Kasey Gurley describes her disobedience and suffering in Old Testament terms.

"I worship my own comfort, my own opinion of myself," she confesses. "Like the idolatrous people of Judah, we deserve the full wrath of God." She warns the women that "we'll never be safe in good intentions," but assures them that "Christ died for us so we wouldn't have to." Her closing prayer is both frank and transcendent: "Our comfort in suffering is this: that through Christ you provide eternal life."

It is so quiet you can hear an oatmeal cookie crumble....

Today, [Calvin's] theology is making a surprising comeback, challenging the me-centered prosperity gospel of much of modern evangelicalism with a God-first immersion in Scripture.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsReformed* Theology

10 Comments
Posted March 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. DonGander wrote:

My little theology study fails me. Where is “Calvin” in what they are speaking of?
I suppose that Calvin did address such subjects - but so did 10,000 other theologians.

Don

March 30, 5:22 pm | [comment link]
2. Brian from T19 wrote:

DonGander

Total Depravity (Absolute Inability) and Unconditional Election are bedrocks of Calvinism.  The article dramatically misses in its definition of predestination, but it is a common mistake.

March 30, 6:09 pm | [comment link]
3. WilliamS wrote:

Don is right.

The answer to how “Much of modern Christianity preaches a comforting Home Depot theology: You can do it. We can help” is ad fontes! No doubt, Calvin is one of those sources, but how about Arminius: “....the free will of man towards the True Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost….it has no powers whatever except as are excited by Divine Grace: For Christ has said, ‘Without me ye can do nothing’” (“On the Free Will of Man and Its Powers”). We could ad John Wesley’s sermons like, “On the Repentance of Believers” and “The Almost Christian.”

And what Ms. Tickle sees as “a backlash against the dominant religious trend of today” may actually be the stirrings of a renaissance.

William Shontz
The Lake Erie Confessing Anglican

March 30, 6:56 pm | [comment link]
4. Daniel wrote:

If you have been to most any United Methodist Church lately, the preaching will be a cheerful mix of universalism (God is love, a loving God would never keep anybody out of heaven) and works based salvation born of holiness church tradition.  I see their social justice mantra as a manifestation of sin and evil where people convince themselves that God wants them to use the government to coerce people into correct behaviors, or at least what they determine is correct.  Yesterday Prohibition, today Obamacare.

Just today I was reading a discussion on a Methodist blog where most of the participants said that Wesley taught that you could be perfected and become sinless via complete sanctification.  When one person responded along the lines of what about total depravity and man’s inability to do anything righteous without God, he was told that nothing in the Bible supported his claim.

Compared to what TEC and the UMC put out there, give me Calvinism any day as a welcome alternative.

BTW, I thought Baptists were strictly against Calvinism.  If you search on YouTube for Calvinism and Jerry Falwell, you will find a video where Jerry says that Calvinism is heresy.

March 30, 10:35 pm | [comment link]
5. Jim the Puritan wrote:

#4—Calvinism is becoming a real point of contention in the Southern Baptist Convention.  An increasing number of SBC pastors, especially the younger ones, and seminary students are either Calvinist or leaning that way, which is causing big rumblings.  Some of it is almost humorous, such as one article that said that anyone that uses an English Standard Version translation of the Bible (a popular translation among Calvinist and Reformed types) should be carefully watched.

BTW, Baptists in general should not be confused with the “Reformed Baptists,” which are thoroughly Calvinist but believe in credo-baptism (believers’ baptism) rather than paedo-baptism (infant baptism).

March 30, 11:17 pm | [comment link]
6. Jim the Puritan wrote:

Here are a couple of articles in Christianity Today about the growing influence of Calvinism in the SBC, and the tensions resulting from that:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/february/8.19.html
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1997/october6/7tb086.html

March 30, 11:27 pm | [comment link]
7. MichaelA wrote:

What’s in a name?

“Calvinist” can be as big a trap as “Catholic” - before starting a discussion based on either word, I suggest ensuring that your listeners have the same understanding of the word as you do!

Often the meaning changes depending on the context - I am happy to call myself a calvinist in discussions with many liberals, because it gets across to them that I have a certain worldview based on propositional revelation and “read the scriptures according to their plain meaning”, which is quite alien to the liberal mindset. But that is just a label - many other orthodox christians share the same worldview without being influenced by Calvin. But if it gets an important point across to the liberal listener quickly, then I am happy to use the label.

But in many other contexts, I wouldn’t call myself calvinist. Since like most Sydney Anglicans I am not a “tulip calvinist”, it could give the wrong idea and start unnecessary arguments.

In the end, I (attempt to) follow Christ, not John Calvin, or St Augustine or any other theologian, worthy fellows though they may be.

March 31, 2:40 am | [comment link]
8. WilliamS wrote:

#4Daniel

Gotta be quick, I’m off to work. In his “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection” Wesley stated that “sinless perfection is a term I never use, lest I be seen to contradict myself” (not sure if this is an exact quote, but it’s close).

I would not compare Wesley or Arminius with what may come from a United Methodist pulpit or blog any more than I would judge Calvin or Knox by what may come from a PCUSA pulpit or blog, or New England Puritanism from what may come from a UCC pulpit or blog.

William Shontz
The Lake Erie Confessing Anglican

March 31, 7:17 am | [comment link]
9. Milton wrote:

Entire samctification does not mean sinless perfection or that one never sins again or cannot sin again.  Perhaps one could sum up the Wesleyan definition of entire sanctification as held by the Nazarene Church as being a thorough change in one’s nature or orientation from self-will to God’s will, a consecration of one’s self to God in all aspects of daily life, to “do all things to the glory of God” rather than for our glory.  I paste below the article on Entire Sanctification from the Nazarene Manual as a more thorough explanation and official statement, with its accompanying Scriptural references.

X. Entire Sanctification
13. We believe that entire sanctification is that act of God,
subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made
free from original sin, or depravity, and brought into a state
of entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love
made perfect.
It is wrought by the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and
comprehends in one experience the cleansing of the heart
from sin and the abiding, indwelling presence of the Holy
Spirit, empowering the believer for life and service.
Entire sanctification is provided by the blood of Jesus, is
wrought instantaneously by faith, preceded by entire consecration;
and to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit
bears witness.
This experience is also known by various terms representing
its different phases, such as “Christian perfection,” “perfect
love,” “heart purity,” “the baptism with the Holy Spirit,”
“the fullness of the blessing,” and “Christian holiness.”
14. We believe that there is a marked distinction between
a pure heart and a mature character. The former is obtained
in an instant, the result of entire sanctification; the latter is
the result of growth in grace.
We believe that the grace of entire sanctification includes
the impulse to grow in grace. However, this impulse must be
consciously nurtured, and careful attention given to the requisites
and processes of spiritual development and improvement
in Christlikeness of character and personality.Without
such purposeful endeavor, one’s witness may be impaired
and the grace itself frustrated and ultimately lost.
(Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Malachi 3:2-3; Matthew 3:11-12;
Luke 3:16-17; John 7:37-39; 14:15-23; 17:6-20; Acts 1:5; 2:1-4; 15:8-9; Romans
6:11-13, 19; 8:1-4, 8-14; 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 6:14—7:1; Galatians
2:20; 5:16-25; Ephesians 3:14-21; 5:17-18, 25-27; Philippians 3:10-15;
Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; Hebrews 4:9-11; 10:10-17;
12:1-2; 13:12; 1 John 1:7, 9)
(“Christian perfection,” “perfect love”: Deuteronomy 30:6; Matthew 5:43-
48; 22:37-40; Romans 12:9-21; 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13; Philippians
3:10-15; Hebrews 6:1; 1 John 4:17-18
“Heart purity”: Matthew 5:8; Acts 15:8-9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:3
“Baptism with the Holy Spirit”: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27;
Malachi 3:2-3; Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17; Acts 1:5; 2:1-4; 15:8-9
“Fullness of the blessing”: Romans 15:29
“Christian holiness”: Matthew 5:1—7:29; John 15:1-11; Romans 12:1—
15:3; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:17—5:20; Philippians 1:9-11; 3:12-
15; Colossians 2:20—3:17; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 4:7-8; 5:23; 2 Timothy
2:19-22; Hebrews 10:19-25; 12:14; 13:20-21; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Peter 1:1-
11; 3:18; Jude 20-21)

March 31, 9:31 am | [comment link]
10. NewTrollObserver wrote:

One of the ‘young turks’ of Calvinism is Mark Driscoll.

March 31, 9:48 am | [comment link]
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