Monday, July 18, 2011

What I like about Calvinists

I'm of the opinion that the internet was made for Calvinists, since there seems to be so many of them who love endless discussions. I've been interacting with my Calvinistic brethren/sistren online for almost twenty years, going back to the SBC's old SBCNet Forum in the 1990s. I do like some things about them:

Almost all of the calvinists I know are serious about their beliefs.

An old prof said to our class years ago, "All you have is what you believe. Figure it out and stand behind it." OK, so calivinists think they have figured it all out, but I don't fault them for being studious and serious about Christian doctrine. After all it really doesn't matter what music we use in churches, what the buildings are like, or even what programs we employ if we're not serious Christians preaching and teaching the body of belief once for all delivered to the saints.

While most SBC clergy I have known would quickly subscribe to the Baptist Faith and Message Statement, am I far from the mark to speculate that practical theology is the only theology they are deeply familiar with.

Calvinists are willing to address egregious church practices.

One example: The SBC's Annual Church Profile collects data on the numbers of baptisms of kids under five years of age and there are hundreds, thousands of little kiddies age 4, perhaps younger, baptized. I've yet to meet the four-year-old who has sufficient comprehension, who can manage abstract thinking to the degree necessary to place their faith in Christ. Calvinists would address this even if it meant incurring the ire or mom, dad, and granny over a refusal to baptize their exceptionally spiritual three year old.

Calvinists recognize a problem with manipulative evangelism and practices whose main purpose is to generate statistics rather than accomplish God's will.

I once examined baptism statistics for a state and learned that in one year, half of the baptisms reported were rebaptisms - folks who had already been immersed or sprinkled. Many pastors would be surprised at the numbers of their members who were immersed at 7, 8, or 11 years of age and then again at 20 or 24.

Something has to be amiss here and calvinists I believe would both recognize and address it. We all know evangelists whose main thrust is to get church members lost, then saved, then baptized all over again. We all know pastors who can generate enough baptisms to lead the association or state convention but who show no church growth as a result. I surmise that my wonderful calvinist pastor colleagues would not participate in such charades.

OK, so I'm having trouble after three. What else might be something good to say about calvinists?


Anonymous said...

I've been around hundreds of pastors in my lifetime and very seldom have we discussed being a Calvinist or not being one. I don't think its an issue. The issue of statistics and re-baptisms has always been an issue because it involves integrity and right reporting. I couldn't care less if a person is a Calvinist or not as long as they are saved, love Jesus, serve Him, and preach the Word of God.

Anonymous said...

I have found that true Calvinists tend to eat at the better restaurants--and more often than others. More power to them.

Jared Moore said...

I like that Calvinists seek to have their methodology flow from the Scriptures. There is a wide spectrum on this, but Calvinists seem to try to build their methodology on Scripture instead of arguing that methodology is neutral.

D.R. said...


I think you've overlooked probably the most important aspect of Calvinism for Southern Baptists:

They wholeheatedly affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and fight hard to preserve this core doctrine.

In fact, consider that many of the best resources on inerrancy came from Reformed thinkers. One of the best historical defenses of inerrancy came from Clark Pinnock (who later rejected what he wrote and became an open theist) - Biblical Revelation: The Foundation of Christian Theology. At the time, however, Pinnock was an avowed Calvinist.

Another great defense of inerrancy is found in the late Reformed Southern Baptist Seminary Professor Carl F.H. Henry's 6-volume magnum opus, God, Revelation, and Authority.

A recent Reformed contribution that may end up become the standard textbook for the Doctrine of Scripture is John Frame's The Doctrine of the Word of God, the final tome in his Theology of Lordship series.

Other works on inerrancy by Reformed thinkers would include:

The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by B.B. Warfield

Scripture and Truth and Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon - both edited by D. A. Carson and John Woodbridge

Biblical Authority by John Woodbridge

There are also excellent articles by Calvinists Greg Bahnsen, Paul Feinberg, and (recently) Jim Hamilton (of SBTS) that are worthy additions to a study of inerrancy.

A couple of stories seems appropriate to relate as well. First, Paige Patterson allowed Ernie Reisinger to pass out copies of The Abstract of Principles at Criswell College in the 70s (after Reisinger had gotten kicked off every SBC seminary campus for doing so) on the basis of the fact that The Abstract essentially taught inerrancy.

Second, last year when some bloggers were up in arms over Al Mohler's statement in Christianity Today that "Non-Calvinist conservatives are not aware of the basic structures of thought, rightly described as Reformed, that are necessary to protect the very gospel they insist is to be eagerly shared", many of them failed to read the introductory sentence and realize that he was talking about the influence of Reformed thinkers on the development of the Doctrine of Inerrancy - (Worthen wrote immediately before the above quote, "Mohler believes that the only intellectually robust defense of biblical inerrancy lies in the Reformed scholasticism that emerged from the Synod of Dort (1618) and enjoyed its apogee at late-19th-century Princeton Theological Seminary, where James Boyce trained.")

Indeed what most don't realize is that many contemporary Non-Calvinistic defenses of inerrancy rely heavily on previously Reformed ones, dating at least as far back as B.B. Warfield and A.A. Hodge, if not to Dort or even Calvin.