Let's Separate over Calvinism

I've been astonished over the last few weeks at how many Fundamentalists think it's a good idea to have Calvinists (including 4-pointers) and Non-Calvinists (however that may be presented) in the same groups. If we for a moment leave out the mid 19th to 20th century, this seems extremely odd to me. The early Protestant Reformers did not allow latitude on this issue (Luther and Zwingli held doctrines that would now be considered broadly Calvinists). When the Lutheran Church under Melanchthon deviated toward a mediate position, the Reformed congregations considered them "other". When the Remonstrants sought to modify Reformed theology, representatives from all the major Reformed nations condemned them at the Synod of Dordt. Throughout Baptist history, there were both General and Particular Baptists - but they were separate from each other. The Methodist Church quickly separated into the Calvinist and Wesleyan Methodist Churches.

The admixture seems to have begun among the New School Presbyterians, some of whom took some eccentricities in Edwards' doctrine and magnified them into a Pelagianizing doctrine. Charles Finney wedded this "New Haven" theology with Methodist practices to produce revivalism in the mid-19th century. It is clear, though, that the results of that merger extended beyond what anyone expected.

How one answers the basic questions of depravity, regeneration, and election has innumerable consequences - potentially different views of justification, sanctification, assurance of salvation, proper evangelistic methodologies, proper preaching methodologies, proper apologetic methodologies, etc. It is obvious that the "Calvinist" controversy is much more significant and far-reaching than whether I wear jeans or khakis to church, or listen to Fanny Crosby instead of Kristyn Getty, or whether I attend prayer meetings with the local Southern Baptist minister.

Since we have the chance, why not separate over something important?

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Alex Guggenheim's picture

That is what denominationalism and sectarianism is about, not fundamentalism. When fundamentalism was initiated or the "fundamentals of the faith" it was not with the intent of either assuming all those identifying themselves as fundamentalist would necessarily cooperate with respect to ministerial efforts (they may or they may not, the idea that this is a latitude left to the local assembly and Pastor(s)) or with the object to introduce a new theological grid equal to the sophistication of denominational or sectarian doctrine.

While it is true that from time to time some isolated groups (who are characterized almost without exception as over pronouncing their significance) have claimed to be the real fundamentalists and have claimed some eccentric or immodest separation from others who are clearly fundamentalist, they are not representative of the original or historical intention of the identification of one holding to the fundamentals. Groups like that have attempted to arrest the real and more broad meaning of fundamentalist and redefine it with such exasperation that only those subscribing to their proprietary beliefs are to be called fundamentalist and those not subscribing to this should be strongly accused of NOT being a fundamentalist.

These attempts by them are not truly in harmony with the meaning of a fundamentalist which is in reality a rather generic and limited identifier. Once someone exceeds this threshold, it is here that sectarian or denominational considerations introduce themselves and forms of separation as you suggest become the boundary markers.

*I am willing to recognize that over time there has been some refinement of the term but once the term exceeds its designed boundaries and groups seek to synchronize its definition to portray their denominational or sectarian views, its real use as a theological identifier becomes ineffective.

Charlie's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
That is what denominationalism and sectarianism is about, not fundamentalism. When fundamentalism was initiated or the "fundamentals of the faith" it was not with the intent of either assuming all those identifying themselves as fundamentalist would necessarily cooperate with respect to ministerial efforts (they may or they may not, the idea that this is a latitude left to the local assembly and Pastor(s)) or with the object to introduce a new theological grid equal to the sophistication of denominational or sectarian doctrine.

*I am willing to recognize that over time there has been some refinement of the term but once the term exceeds its designed boundaries and groups seek to synchronize its definition to portray their denominational or sectarian views, its real use as a theological identifier becomes ineffective.

Thanks, Alex. I appreciate your whole response. I'm not sure how much of your post was a direct response to mine and how much was further extrapolation of your ideas, but I wanted to clarify a few things. First, in case I was unclear, I am not attempting to make either Calvinism or non-Calvinism a "test" of Fundamentalism or the criterion of "real" Fundamentalism. However, there are within Fundamentalism various sub-groups that stand for certain values and philosophies. I am merely suggesting that people who do primarily associate themselves with a Fundamentalist group ought not try to form close ministerial connections across major soteriological systems. So, if the FBF is just a little side thing that a pastor does every now and then, maybe it doesn't really matter who is in it. But, if a pastor sees himself in "the FBF circle" and finds his major base of fellowship and cooperation in the FBF, I cannot imagine why he would want to encourage soteriological diversification in the group, especially considering the number of nit-picky things associated with that group over the years.

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Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Charlie,

You are correct in that my post was general and not directly a response for you but your post made a nice spring board :). I agree with you about close ministerial associations and their ill-advised nature regarding soteriology. I do know some Pastors and/or teachers are more flexible than others and for good, better, best or poor reasons, they can tolerate cooperation with such differences more so than others. If a person finds their convictions not granting them a license for their conscience they really should avoid attempting to engage such groups. The FBF should better define itself with respect to these doctrinal issues and either clearly state that common groups of diverse but orthodox theology is accept or it is not and "here" is the stated position to be accepted and all others contended against.