Can only the confessional be Calvinists?

This is a thought provoking and interesting extract from the blog of Roger E. Olson. It raises a lot of questions in my mind, I don’t know If i am in full agreement but would be interested to know of others thoughts. I have worked in a church setting where being openly ‘Calvinist’ would have been frowned upon, and now I work within a church which has proud roots in the reformed faith.

“Due to the rise of what my friend Scot McKnight calls “neo-Puritanism” (what others have labeled “the new Calvinism” or just “resurgent Calvinism”) TULIP Calvinism is popping up in places it does not belong. Especially young men are reading John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, even Michael Horton, and taking this new found theology “home” with them into the denominations they grew up in or have joined. Often those denominations are historically averse to Calvinism–such as Wesleyan-Holiness, Pentecostal and Anabaptist ones.

Often these denominations did not have the foresight to expect this influx of “young, restless, Reformed” people and so never wrote statements of faith that explicitly excluded TULIP. Their whole, entire ethoses were contrary to TULIP, however, and “five point Calvinism” is completely foreign to their histories and theologies.

I receive e-mail all the time (too many to respond to) from pastors, lay people, and even theologians (college, university and seminary professors) informing me about this infection of Calvinism in their denominations and related institutions. Usually they want some advice about how to handle this.

Now, let’s be clear about what I’m talking about and am NOT talking about. Many denominations are historically-theologically, confessionally Calvinist. Of course I’m not talking about them. They are where Calvinists belong!

Then there are many other denominations that are historically-theologically open to Calvinism; Calvinism has long been accepted as a live option within them. An example would be certain Baptist denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention. I see no problem with Calvinists belonging to these denominations and even promoting Calvinism within them–so long as they do it fairly (not misrepresenting other views or implying that Calvinism is the only legitimate Christian theology).

Finally, though, there are denominations that are historically-theologically rooted in theological-spiritual movements antithetical to Calvinism. What I mean is that these denominations’ prototypes (founders, leading spokespersons, etc.) were set against Calvinism and everyone knows that. Some of them have authoritative confessional documents that rule out Calvinism. Some do not. Either they never suspected that Calvinism would come into them or they are non-creedal and non-confessional “Bible only” denominations that eschew written statements of faith.”

Read the full article.

I don’t think I fully agree with the writer, but I understand the struggle one invites upon their head in bringing historical, reformed faith to denominations that were set against it.


Jonathan Edwards Farted

The title of this post comes from Zach Eswine, an ‘ordinary’ pastor, seeking to do what He can to make the kingdom of God known.Image

Zach has written a book with the ominous title ‘Sensing Jesus’ with the subtitle ‘Life and ministry as a human being’. Brothers and Sisters, I cannot recommend this book enough to you. I have only managed 5 chapters so far as it is a thought provoking book and it has been good to pause, reflect and pray about what it says.

So many young guys like me have a major problem in ministry. We think we know it all. We think we can fix it all. We think we are the next big thing. We plan to do a great thing for the Lord. The trouble is, we lack omnipotence, omniscience and the holiness to be any of those things.

This is a book for all those who think they will be the next big thing. It helps us come to terms with the fact that obscurity in ministry can be true greatness. It reminds us that when we die, very very few will remember our name. It is precious grace for those of us who know it all and need desperate saving from our egos.

See an interview about the book here

Buy the book here

A Minister’s Bible

O God of Truth,

I thank thee for the holy Scriptures,

their precepts, promises, directions, light.

In them may I learn more of Christ,

be enabled to retain His truth

and have grace to follow it.

Help me to lift up the gates of my soul that he may come in

and show me himself when i search the Scriptures,

for I have no lines to fathom its depths,

no wings to soar to its heights.

By his aid may I be enabled to explore all its truths,

love them with all my heart,

embrace them with all my power,

engraft them into my life.

Bless to my soul all the grains of truth garnered from thy Word;

may they take deep root,

be refreshed by heavenly dew,

be ripened by heavenly rays,

be harvested to my joy and thy praise.

Help me to gain profit by what I read,

as treasure beyond all treasure,

a fountain which can replenish my dry heart,

its waters flowing through me as a perennial river

on- drawn by they Holy Spirit.

Enable me to distil from its pages faithful prayer

that grape the arm of thy omnipotence,

achieves wonders, obtains blessings,

and draws from streams of mercy.

From it show me how my words have often been unfaithful to thee,

injurious to my fellow-men,

empty of grace, full of folly,

dishonouring to my calling.

Then write thy own words upon my heart and inscribe them on my lips;

So shall all glory be to thee in my reading of thy Word!


A minister’s Bible, from The Valley of Vision

The House That Jesus Built

I’d really recommend a book I’ve recently read by Dale Ralph Davis, ‘The house that Jesus built’. It is a cracker, and only 64 small pages!

House that Jesus built

Dale, who is both presbyterian and reformed (but informs us ‘that you don’t need to be both to be biblical, but it helps’) outlines a welcome booklet for those who have turned up at church, new to Christianity. I mention that he is a presbyterian minister because the book is written for churches under presbyterian government and he is reformed because, well, he believes and teaches the Bible.

This book has much use and something i found particularly useful is his view of ‘Sunday worship’. Let me give you his statement and talk you through it:

To say that you will grow as a Christian through the worship of God is a bit dangerous or misleading.

This is so true brothers and sisters. I was told this as a young believer and it leads to the mentality of ‘in order to grow, i need to worship God more..’ That is wrong. The reason anyone should worship God is because God is supposed to be worshipped. We worship God because God has commanded us to do so (Psalm 95 and 100) and because He is worthy of praise.

Dale is blunt here, so i want to be too. Contemporary Christianity can view God as a big, wonderful vending machine in the clouds and if we put the right things in, the good stuff comes out. If that is true then worship, in a corporate sunday sense, is about making us feel better when the biblical reality is that God is there to be praised whether we feel good or not.

I had the joy of interacting with a teacher in a local school recently who seemed to be the chief banner-raiser for the entire secular government agenda. In our conversation, which covered everything from food, the government, Edinburgh city council and ending in world religions, she informed me that she regularly attends worship services. Some weeks in a church, other times in a chapel (rc) other times in a synagogue and on occasion in a mosque. I asked her one simple question in response to such a well rounded and level headed and non biased exposition of herself; ‘why?’. The answer? It made her feel better.

I don’t want to criticise the temporal feelings of being ‘lifted’ up but sometimes i watch top gear, and it lifts me up or i walk up to the park at lunch, and it lifts me up. Church, although a place for us to be cared for, ministered to and comforted, is the gathering of God’s people to worship God selflessly, because He is worth it.

If you want to grow as a Christian there is a simple set of imperatives: pray, read the Bible more, live as it says and go to church. What is the indicative for doing that though? Do it all out of thanks and praise to the one who paid your debt. That is worship.

Buy the book here!

Biblical Integrity

The phrase ‘Biblical Integrity’ is something I stumbled across recently whilst following the debates within the Presbyterian Church in America. I think it is a great little line. Those involved in church ministry on any level has probably been privy to the question ‘is it Biblical?’ with regards to a topic or song or celebrity pastor’s latest hobby horse making the rounds on YouTube. It seems  that an analysis of something being ‘Biblical or unbiblical’ often does not really offer any real distinctive anymore.

Let me explain. Scripture holds many things in tension, for example, the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God and the role of human responsibility. Individuals or groups can emphasise one of these and that would be Biblical, but if one is emphasised at the expense of the other, it no longer is a view with ‘Biblical integrity.’

I have found thinking and speaking in these terms a helpful corrective. Many of us are afraid of stepping out of our comfort zones when it comes to secondary convictions. What is ‘perfectly Biblical’ to one church or group can be viewed as ‘unbiblical’ by another. There is nothing wrong with secondary convictions, but I wonder if sometimes our arguments may be dissolved by exchanging our arbitrary jargon, ‘it is/is it Biblical/unbiblical’ with the more objective language of, ‘Does this hold to scripture with integrity?’

Of course, if more did that then we would all be reformed (and covenantal).