May 022014

(This post is part of the Holding Up Our Sign series)

As I have previously posted, we find ourselves socially to be very, very at home with the Reformed Baptist churches in general (see Socially: A Lot Reformed Baptist).

tulipBut, as I also noted in that post, we are unable to reconcile with the Calvinist view of predestination.  (Please note that I am attempting to use “I” and “we” distinctly here, as they were a bit different in the journey – although “we” arrived unshakably at the same conclusion).

We attended a local Reformed Baptist church for about a month, and had a wonderful time of fellowship with like-minded (in most ways!) individuals.  We even had dinner at the pastor’s house, and had a whole evening to talk about doctrine.

I wanted to be able to be part of their fellowship.  I was willing to suspend some of my disbelief and really try to see the way they were interpreting things.  This was definitely not a case of rejecting something based on preconceived notions.

(I must also put in here somewhere that the people who want to distill the entire scope of the issue down to a debate of Calvinism vs. Arminianism are using drama to try to make their point.  In reality, there is a vast “grey area” between those two opposite views).

Posting a debate of each verse that was cited to us would be long and pointless, and there have been countless volumes written on both sides of the debate.  Suffice to say that while we saw many verses that could be interpreted that way, we didn’t see any that didn’t have another (easy and obvious) possible meaning.  I wondered if I needed to dig out my Greek New Testament and begin a more probing study of them.

Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.

- Oswald Chambers

It is interesting to note that our teen son, Nick, rejected Calvinism and this church violently upon his first visit there.  Without much ability to articulate more, he simply insisted that the notion of predestination was opposed to the character of God.  When we discussed the idea that perhaps we could differ in some ways and still enjoy their fellowship, he protested.  We didn’t understand his adamant perspective until a couple of weeks later.

Then one Sunday after services, we were all (our family and the congregation) sitting around chatting after the fellowship meal.  I found myself sitting with a group on women, including someone I knew outside of the church and considered a possible friend (to be developed).  I can write this story only because I know she does not read my blog, and I will further call her by the pseudonym “Jane” to protect her privacy.

Jane was upset, and as the conversation went on her tears flowed freely.  She was discussing her teenage son, who had not accepted Christ.  The discussion began with her question, “How can I teach him to lead a good life?  I know he may not be one of the elect, but I still want him to be a good person…”

Hold it.  Stop right there.

That clarified on a deep emotional level for me what Calvinism’s predestination really meant:

Calvinism asserts that there is no guarantee that my children can be saved.  

They may simply not be one of the elect.  Period.

I don’t have to cite chapter and verse to support how ridiculous that is.  Scripture should be taken in context, they say, and the whole of Scripture leads me to an understanding of the Lord that can not encompass this idea.

My son was right.

Clearly, we would never believe in the five “TULIP” points of Calvinism.  But further, we could not sit under that teaching, knowing that our children would be absorbing that message.

I miss their fellowship desperately.  But I continue to believe that the Lord has a plan for us.

  3 Responses to “Where We Differ With Reformed Baptists / Calvinism”

  1. First, regarding your son’s initial reaction, what initially seems right to a man, is no indication of the what God’s word actually teaches and might even be the opposite. Consider Proverbs 14:12. Or consider all the stories of the Bible where men that thought they were trying to please God really needed to just humble themselves better (Uzzah; Martha and Mary; Peter on the night Judas betrayed Jesus; Naaman’s leprosy; Nadab and Abihu; Saul’s offering in 1 Samuel 13; etc.) I’m not saying your son is right or wrong, but his instincts are certainly plenty fallible and certainly should be tested against God’s word.

    Secondly, Reformed Baptists are very much at the margins of the Calvinist tradition, and I mention this particularly because the story of Jane is a story that seems to very much embody the Reformed Baptist side of the divide between Reformed Baptists and the rest of the Calvinist tradition. But even most Reformed Baptists would not say they know this or that person is or isn’t one of the elect, so I don’t think you should reject their doctrines on account of someone in their ranks that expressed something that most Reformed Baptists would also reject. Calvinists don’t believe any less than other Christians that men are saved through faith and only through faith in Jesus. And they don’t believe any less than other Christians in preaching the gospel to all men everywhere. The difference is that Calvinists think the difference between the men that do believe unto salvation and those that don’t should ultimately be credited not in any way to man or differences between men but entirely to God’s grace working through the Holy Spirit according to God’s eternal plan. This is highly offensive to men, because it tells them that their salvation is no more appropriate for them than it would be for men that aren’t saved, which is to say it’s not “fair” (and seems irrationally random to us), but if God were “fair” none of us would be saved and Jesus wouldn’t have suffered on the cross. Thank God that He poured out completely inexplicable grace on us.

    In a sense Calvinism does assert that there is “no guarantee” that your children can be saved, but if we wanted a “we can be saved if we…” then we didn’t need Jesus; Moses already gave us a “we can be saved if we…” Jesus didn’t lower the bar for salvation; He met the bar for us, without lowering it, for all of us who do and who will believe on him. And if our salvation is something that Jesus accomplished on our behalf at Calvary for all who will believe, then that’s a guarantee that no “my children can…” comes close to. In other words, if it is God who is working in us, how much more certain is it that the work will be completed? And none of this means that Calvinists deny (which is to say Calvinists wholeheartedly affirm and proclaim) that all those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus will be saved. What guarantee would you want that Calvinists leave you without? Is there any?

    • Simply re-stated: The guarantee that Calvinism leaves me without is that my child CAN be saved (if they come to faith in Christ).

      I will obviously have to look into the differences between Reformed Baptists and other Calvinists more. But I still read your final paragraph as saying two things which contradict each other…

  2. Oh, how much I agree with what you have written. It is so dangerous on so many levels to believe and go along with the “TULIP” points of view. It may seem innocent but it changes the way people view God,man and The Scriptures. I think The Spirit of The Lord was urging your son to beware of the danger. The Lord desires all to be saved . He paid the price for all.
    All can come .I wish all would ,

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