Anthony W. Brooks
I know, I know, I used the C word. It’s okay, you’ll get over it. Calvinism isn’t all that bad and the caricatures that people make of it aren’t true so you can all calm the Calvinism down. I’m not giving a systematic exposition of the five-points or giving an apologetic on why we should all live like robots, this is a story so whether you agree with my Calvinism or not just sit back and enjoy.
The Calvinism Virus: First Exposure
Remember the setting of where I was before. As a youth I was a member of the First Baptist Church of Judson Texas. This church had a youth group who was led by the current pastor of this church. As youth pastor Tim Smith was mission minded. He wanted to create a missions minded youth group to tend the church. So anything that seemed antithetical to this mission mindedness was dismissed as untrue.
Well, in 2012 or so the youth read and studied a book by John Piper called Don’t Waste Your Life, perhaps you’ve heard of it. Great book. The kind of book that makes you say, “The Calvinism is strong with this one…” and we enjoyed this book to the point that we were all challenged to live as if Christ were the end of all our affections. But Tim had a problem with the book, namely its author, he was a Calvinist.
After the study was over, 12 weeks or so later, Tim and I were picking up some lumber for a contracting job he was doing on his house. The subject of John Piper came up and he said to me, “I like most of what John Piper teaches but the only thing I can’t get behind is his Calvinism..” This was the first time in my 17 years of life that I heard this term used. What was Calvinism? So I asked him for a definition. To this day I have never heard a more two-dimensional caricature of Calvinism than this, but I was young, ignorant, and not a Calvinist so I didn’t know any different. He basically said that it means God chooses unconditionally who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. I was appalled… who could believe such a thing?
The Part I’ve Already Mentioned
I’ve already mentioned this portion of what happened next in this post, but just to recap briefly I entered college. In college I took some classes on biblical survey and in one of these classes we surveyed the book of Romans. When we got to Romans 8 my renowned professor hovered there for a while and for a reason unknown to anyone but him said that if we didn’t believe in predestination we didn’t really believe the Bible. I was distraught and almost dropped his class. But I decided to study the issue further.
The Part I Haven’t Mentioned
I’ve already mentioned the debate invitation in the article cited above so I won’t recover that portion, James White was the victor by the way. But the portion that I didn’t mention was the aftermath of the debate… after I listened to the debate (on repeat several times) I sat down at the computer and went to Google. 150 pages of articles, papers, and John Piper quotes later I gave up… I knew that Calvinism was where I landed, but I didn’t know how to explain it or defend it. I called my friend Mark Lee Dickson (support his fight to end abortion in Texas here) to help me walk through these issues and he graciously met me at the Kilgore College BSM where Jaymi Blankenship (the renowned professor mentioned earlier) is director. He walked me through the tulip garden and convinced me of his position.
Calvinism Isn’t Evil
There are too many caricature of Calvinism to cover, but Calvinism probably doesn’t say what you think it says. When we say that God predestines individuals we mean that he chooses from fallen and sinful humanity people who don’t and will never choose him to be saved. Predestination is a FRIEND to sinners… without it no one will ever be saved. Period.
I hate the term Limited Atonement… it is an awful term that gives off false impressions. I much prefer Particular Redemption. This means that the atonement of Christ’s sacrifice accomplished what it was supposed to. Christ does not pay for the sins of those who will never be saved. No one’s sin debt will be payed twice. This sort of double payment is contrary to the doctrine of propitiation set forth in the scriptures. When Christ appeases the wrath of God towards a sinner for their sin this wrath can’t be unappeased… that’s what propitiation means.
When God saves a sinner he keeps him. He completes the work of sanctification and glorifies him. “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.” – Jeremiah 32:40 There are no if, ands, our buts about it. It is simply what he says.
So the system works. If you would like a complete systematic list of the tulip garden verses just click here.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Picture: John Calvin (1509-1564)