Going on a Worship Strike!

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JC's picture

God is not the 'God of Calvinism' nor his he the 'God of Arminianism'.

Worship God as Creator and Saviour and let's stop trying to define him and box him in by the musings of fallen men.

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

We all have systems. It sounds pious to say we cannot define God, or to appeal to mystery. It sounds humble. It sounds meek. In some cases, not all, I think it's often just a smokescreen for theological laziness. 

Doug Wilson is responding to an article Roger Olson wrote, in which he proclaimed this:

For years now I have been insisting that the main reason I am not a Calvinist (or any kind of divine determinist) is that, taken to its “good and necessary consequences,” Calvinism makes God morally monstrous.
 

The question at issue is this - to what extent is God in control of events? Does He decree and determine them, or doesn't He? Do things happen because God decided they would happen, or does God merely know what we will do? 

Any responsible Christian needs to deal with this basic question. You need to go further than an appeal to mystery. It's fine to admit there are unresolved issues we cannot understand, but we shouldn't use "mystery" as a "get out of jail free" card to excuse our own theological laziness. 

  • Did God decree the Fall or not?
  • Did God decree Christ's death or not?

The question must be answered. The buck cannot be passed - Harry Truman can't help anyone here. We often want to appeal to mystery in order to avoid the implications of the text. We can't do that. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

JC's picture

​Doug Wilson uses the term 'God of Calvinism' multiple times in his article to bolster his position.  Such a term has all the intellectual rigour of the KJVO theory - which is truly lazy.  The fact is that Jesus was incarnated 1,500 years before John Calvin.  The gospel was complete and completely understood long before the advent of 'Calvinism'.   And to try say that Jesus taught Calvinism, is the equivalent of trying to say that Jesus was a Baptist.

Let's not pretend that Calvinism reveals the gospel or has a monopoly on good theology.  At best that is a strawman argument.  We would be far better to develop good theology straight from the authortative source - the Bible.

For the life of me, I can't understand why 'Evangelical Christians' put Calvin on a pedalstool.  In his day, Calvin was the equivalent of ISIS, sanctioning the murder of those who did not submit to his exact interpretations.  Hardly a hero of the faith.

 

J. Baillet's picture

I agree that denial of the trinity is a quibble over "exact interpretations."  Why bother with historical fact or context.

JSB

Craig's picture

KJVO ... Calvinists .... Arminians ..... who else can we insult?

JC's picture

J. Baillet wrote:

I agree that denial of the trinity is a quibble over "exact interpretations."  Why bother with historical fact or context.

By all means, expand on the context.  The historical fact still is that John Calvin drowned Anabaptists in Lake Geneva.   True, he was not the only reformer to murder others.  My point is that Doug Wilson is dangerous in equating God with Calvinism.

@TylerR    

You are correct, we all have systems.   As long as we are on this earth there will be some element of identifying with Paul or Apollos.   My point is that Christian maturity will increasingly drive us directly to the Bible rather than a theological system.

Andrew K's picture

JC wrote:

 

J. Baillet wrote:

 

I agree that denial of the trinity is a quibble over "exact interpretations."  Why bother with historical fact or context.

 

 

By all means, expand on the context.  The historical fact still is that John Calvin drowned Anabaptists in Lake Geneva.   True, he was not the only reformer to murder others.  My point is that Doug Wilson is dangerous in equating God with Calvinism.

@TylerR    

You are correct, we all have systems.   As long as we are on this earth there will be some element of identifying with Paul or Apollos.   My point is that Christian maturity will increasingly drive us directly to the Bible rather than a theological system.

 

Source, please?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I believe JC is conflating Calvin with Ulrich Zwingli, who ministered in Zurich. He infamously consented to Anabaptist minister Felix Manz's execution, allegedly preaching calculatingly incendiary sermons where he proclaimed, "let he who talks about going under the water go under himself!" Manz was wrapped in chains and tossed into the River Limmat to drown after being sentenced by the Zurich city council for the crime of re-baptizing adults. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

J. Baillet's picture

Calvin did suggest to the civil council the sword as a more humane form of execution (not murder) than the stake.  Glad TylerR saved Calvin from the error of the Anabaptists. Calvin would not have required them to be baptized a second time (although he would have been open-minded on mode).

I believe TylerR has already made the point, but I will reiterate that Doug Wilson was not "equating God with Calvinism," as alleged by JC, but was contrasting "the God of Calvinism," i.e. how Calvinists view the sovereignty of God, with "the God of Arminianism," i.e. how Arminians view the sovereignty of God.  All orthodox Christians would agree that the ultimate issue is what the Bible says about the sovereignty of God. "Ay, there's the rub," "even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Hamlet's soliloquy)(II Peter 3:15b-16)(AV).  Ouch, even being driven to the Bible does not always provide us with a safe haven.

 

JSB

JC's picture

TylerR wrote:

I believe JC is conflating Calvin with Ulrich Zwingli, who ministered in Zurich. He infamously consented to Anabaptist minister Felix Manz's execution, allegedly preaching calculatingly incendiary sermons where he proclaimed, "let he who talks about going under the water go under himself!" Manz was wrapped in chains and tossed into the River Limmat to drown after being sentenced by the Zurich city council for the crime of re-baptizing adults. 

Both Zwingli and Calvin (and other reformers) have history of sanctioning killing of Christians for political gain.  In his writing in 1561 to the Marquis Paet (chamberlain to the King of Navarre), John Calvin said,

Honour, glory, and riches shall be the reward of your pains; but above all, do not fail to rid the country of those scoundrels [Anabaptists and others] , who stir up the peoples to revolt against us. Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus the Spaniard"  

We can keep discussing to what degree John Calvin's actions taint him, but that is is not the crux of the issue.  Even if Calvin had opposed the killing, we still should not elevate a human system to that of the Bible.   I was taught (and I believe) that the first and most fundamental doctrine for the Christian is that the Bible is the sole source for faith and practice.  

I do see Doug's (and many other strongheaded Calvinist warriors) equating of Calvinism and the Bible/God.  I have many friends who identify as both Calvinists and as Armineans.  That is fine.  What I baulk at is the exclusivity of defining God by one to the exclusion of the other.  

God is an infinite and powerful God.  He can both be sovereign and allow free will at the same time.  Christian maturity will allow us to hold those two truth in tension without needing to exclude either one of them.

JC's picture

If it sounds like I am too strong on this, it is because I've met enough 'Doug Wilson's' to last a life time.   I'm doing my best to not throw out truth with the 'Calvinist/Arminean bathwater'  

For Calvinists, I suggest that rather than telling Armineans that they really don't know who they worship, a better approach would be to go straight to the Bible's teaching on foreknowledge and predestination.  For Arminean's the same thing.  Rather than say that Calvinists don't worship a loving God, go straight to the Bible's teaching on God's sacrifice for all.

Craig's picture

J. Baillet wrote:

Calvin did suggest to the civil council the sword as a more humane form of execution (not murder) than the stake.  Glad TylerR saved Calvin from the error of the Anabaptists. Calvin would not have required them to be baptized a second time (although he would have been open-minded on mode).

I believe TylerR has already made the point, but I will reiterate that Doug Wilson was not "equating God with Calvinism," as alleged by JC, but was contrasting "the God of Calvinism," i.e. how Calvinists view the sovereignty of God, with "the God of Arminianism," i.e. how Arminians view the sovereignty of God.  All orthodox Christians would agree that the ultimate issue is what the Bible says about the sovereignty of God. "Ay, there's the rub," "even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Hamlet's soliloquy)(II Peter 3:15b-16)(AV).  Ouch, even being driven to the Bible does not always provide us with a safe haven.

"All orthodox Christians would agree that the ultimate issue is what the Bible says about the sovereignty of God." 

I'm not sure there is a such thing as the "ultimate issue" and if the sovereignty of God is the ultimate issue then based on the comments all Christians certainly don't agree about what the Bible says about it. I think Peter's comments have to do more with Paul's teaching on God's grace and not his sovereignty.

"For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?  And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just." (Romans 3:7-8)

Some were saying if Paul is teaching that God's grace is greater than our sin (Romans 5:20), then we should sin more so we can get more of God's grace and God be glorified. Paul refutes this in Romans 6, particularly verse 1 and 15.

J. Baillet's picture

In context, the "ultimate Issue" concerning the sovereignty of God is what the Bible says about it, not what John Calvin or John Wesley says about it. I was not applying II Peter 3:15b-16 to the issue of the sovereignty of God, per se, but to JC's point that we should "go straight to the Bible's teaching."  Peter may give some insight into why it is that "all Christians certainly don't agree."

JSB

Craig's picture

J. Baillet wrote:

In context, the "ultimate Issue" concerning the sovereignty of God is what the Bible says about it, not what John Calvin or John Wesley says about it. I was not applying II Peter 3:15b-16 to the issue of the sovereignty of God, per se, but to JC's point that we should "go straight to the Bible's teaching."  Peter may give some insight into why it is that "all Christians certainly don't agree."

Then what does the Bible say concerning the sovereignty of God and what are the implications?

Andrew K's picture

JC wrote:

 

TylerR wrote:

 

I believe JC is conflating Calvin with Ulrich Zwingli, who ministered in Zurich. He infamously consented to Anabaptist minister Felix Manz's execution, allegedly preaching calculatingly incendiary sermons where he proclaimed, "let he who talks about going under the water go under himself!" Manz was wrapped in chains and tossed into the River Limmat to drown after being sentenced by the Zurich city council for the crime of re-baptizing adults. 

 

 

Both Zwingli and Calvin (and other reformers) have history of sanctioning killing of Christians for political gain.  In his writing in 1561 to the Marquis Paet (chamberlain to the King of Navarre), John Calvin said,

Honour, glory, and riches shall be the reward of your pains; but above all, do not fail to rid the country of those scoundrels [Anabaptists and others] , who stir up the peoples to revolt against us. Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus the Spaniard"  

We can keep discussing to what degree John Calvin's actions taint him, but that is is not the crux of the issue.  Even if Calvin had opposed the killing, we still should not elevate a human system to that of the Bible.   I was taught (and I believe) that the first and most fundamental doctrine for the Christian is that the Bible is the sole source for faith and practice.  

I do see Doug's (and many other strongheaded Calvinist warriors) equating of Calvinism and the Bible/God.  I have many friends who identify as both Calvinists and as Armineans.  That is fine.  What I baulk at is the exclusivity of defining God by one to the exclusion of the other.  

God is an infinite and powerful God.  He can both be sovereign and allow free will at the same time.  Christian maturity will allow us to hold those two truth in tension without needing to exclude either one of them.

That "letter" is considered most likely a forgery due to inaccuracies of form, style, and content.

http://books.google.co.id/books?id=Aa1DAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA439&lpg=PA14&ots=KA...

JC's picture

Yes, some do dispute that particular letter's authenticity.  There are other letters with similar quotes that are not disputed.  So what is not fake, is Calvin's political executions of spiritual dissenters.   

If anyone wants to follow Calvin that is their choice and I won't demand their death because of it.  As for me, I'll follow Jesus and His teachings.

Andrew K's picture

JC wrote:

Yes, some do dispute that particular letter's authenticity.  There are other letters with similar quotes that are not disputed.  So what is not fake, is Calvin's political executions of spiritual dissenters.   

If anyone wants to follow Calvin that is their choice and I won't demand their death because of it.  As for me, I'll follow Jesus and His teachings.

I'm not particularly interested in following Calvin myself.

Nonetheless, I do consider him a brother in Christ and, while certainly not without his flaws (some of them glaring) deserving of better treatment than to be casually slandered for various theological purposes--that's even if he might not have returned the favor to us. Wink

JC's picture

Andrew K wrote:

 

JC wrote:

 

Yes, some do dispute that particular letter's authenticity.  There are other letters with similar quotes that are not disputed.  So what is not fake, is Calvin's political executions of spiritual dissenters.   

If anyone wants to follow Calvin that is their choice and I won't demand their death because of it.  As for me, I'll follow Jesus and His teachings.

 

 

I'm not particularly interested in following Calvin myself.

Nonetheless, I do consider him a brother in Christ and, while certainly not without his flaws (some of them glaring) deserving of better treatment than to be casually slandered for various theological purposes--that's even if he might not have returned the favor to us. Wink

I've already said that Calvin was not alone in executing disedents.  And inspite of his actions, Calvin's writings have a place in the broader context of church history.   I do believe however, that his actions should not be overlooked when we seek to define a movement after him.

The point is that a movement (ie theological system) was named after Calvin's work and 500 years later 'bloggers' are using the term 'God of Calvinsim'.  It is that dangerous elevation of Calvinism that I am highlighting.        

josh p's picture

Hi JC. I am not even close to interested in getting in a debate about Calvinism but I think you might not be seeing the fact that Calvinists believe that it is nothing less than the teaching of scripture. Somewhat like a person saying they are Trinitarian. It's not about the man himself (in most cases) it's about what Calvinism teaches.In other words it is not an either or.
 

Andrew K's picture

I don't even use the term "Calvinism," honestly, preferring "Reformed Theology." "Calvinism" is a minimalist term generally referring to a particular soteriology.

But if you have to name the system of soteriology after a man, "Augustinianism" would probably be more accurate. Calvin certainly never saw himself as innovating anything. His theology stands in the best tradition of the Western church, stripped of the medieval accretions.

Frankly, most Arminians and "Biblicists" don't even realize the extent to which their own thought is indebted to Calvin, as well as to many others--Reformers, Patristic authors, medieval theologians, etc. What they think as "just the plain Word of God speaking to them" didn't just drop out of thin air. Our theological constructs have a heritage: a lot of brilliant men have thought deeply and often about Scripture, and have passed down the fruits of the labors to us.

Jay's picture

When you say "Augustianism" as a system of soteriology - what exactly do you mean?  Is there a place that I could look into this?

The point is that a movement (ie theological system) was named after Calvin's work and 500 years later 'bloggers' are using the term 'God of Calvinsim'.  It is that dangerous elevation of Calvinism that I am highlighting.        

As someone who has no desire to be labelled with the "calvinist" brush or label, the quote that someone wrote above sums up my distaste for the term.  I am sick to death of Calvinism being treated as the sine qua non of Christianity.  Christianity was around long before Calvin, or Arminius, or Augustine.

Someone who alters their treatment of another believer because they are not 'calvinistic' enough introduces strife into the body of Christ. Period, end of story.  It would do a lot of Calvinist preachers (as opposed to Gospel preachers) to meditate on this passage instead of reading yet another textbook on the superiority of their system:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. ForJews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Greg Long's picture

It appears to me that JC started off this thread missing the entire point of Wilson's article and then the thread has followed from there. JC, what do you think of Olson's statements that even if God were revealed to truly be the "God of Calvinism" (note this is only Wilson describing what Olson is saying about God) that Olson would not worship Him?

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

JC's picture

Olsen makes two problematic statements in his blog.

What if God is really the devil in disguise?  

'What if' questions like these are never ending and dangerous when developing theology.  e.g. "What if you and I don't really exist?"   How does posing such a hypothetical question, build up the body of Christ?  We can have confidence in who God is, only because of what He has revealed.  That is why we need to develop theology directly from the Bible.

If God were the 'God of Calvinism' (Wilson's paraphrased term), I could not worship him.

Olsen says the God of Calvinism fails the 'goodness' test.   While God is all-powerful, His power can't break His declared Word.   Remember the kids song "God can doing anything, but fail"    If God were to break His word, then he would fail to be good and thus fail to be God.  If God had not said that He shed his blood for all men, then it would be a different matter.  But since God has paid the price for all, a theological system which says he has not (limited atonement) makes God a liar.    So I think Olsen is trying to say he does not worship a God that is a liar.  

_______________________

Finally, I wasn't trying to miss the point in writing on this thread.  Rather I was trying to make the point that in isolation, the systems of Calvinism and Arminianism are limited.  Each system emphasis one side of the coin, but neither side is the whole coin.  It truly is liberating when we are free to grow in the knowledge of God without human frameworks.  I'm happy to live with the mystery of Christ dying for all, and still loving Jacob while hating Esau.   

FWIW: This was also my position 3 years ago.  http://teaminfocus.com.au/why-i-am-not-reformed/

J. Baillet's picture

JC wrote:

...

Finally, I wasn't trying to miss the point in writing on this thread.  Rather I was trying to make the point that in isolation, the systems of Calvinism and Arminianism are limited.  Each system emphasis one side of the coin, but neither side is the whole coin.  It truly is liberating when we are free to grow in the knowledge of God without human frameworks.  I'm happy to live with the mystery of Christ dying for all, and still loving Jacob while hating Esau.   

FWIW: This was also my position 3 years ago.  http://teaminfocus.com.au/why-i-am-not-reformed/

I appreciate the following statement made In JC's blog post of 3 years ago:

"The Reformation was a necessary response to middle ages Roman Catholic Church doctrine and practice. Started by Martin Luther in Germany, subsequent European leaders (including John Calvin) moulded the reformation movement to their political and theological understandings. The Reformation was a precursor to great spiritual awakenings."

He was contrasting the "Historical Reformed" with the "Neo-Reformed."  I agree that there is an important distinction to be drawn.  In regard to the "whole coin" JC mentions above, I like the way Lorraine Boettner phrased it in The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination:

"The true solution of this difficult question respecting the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man, is not to be found in the denial of either but rather in such a reconciliation as gives full weight to each, yet which assigns a preëminence to the divine sovereignty corresponding to the infinite exaltation of the Creator above the sinful creature."  (p. 208).

JSB