Calvinists are Evangelical

Below is a response I sent to The Christian Index in reply to a reader’s recent submission entitled Evangelical Calvinism is an oxymoron. Let’s see if it gets published.

Calvinists are Evangelical

I can’t believe some who professes to be Protestant know all that the original Protestants professed. If Southern Baptists wish to continue to call themselves Protestant and embrace the five solas shouldn’t they embrace infant baptism? No, and this is not a good position from which to argue. Much the same approach was used in a previous letter from Nelson Price arguing that Calvinists don’t know all John Calvin professed and this is not a good position from which to argue either. If one reads a bit of history it will be discovered that John Calvin never asked nor promoted a theological system be named after himself.

Since we are baptists it’s only fair to meet these Calvinists where they are from the Reformed Baptist perspective. Touting John Calvin is a red herring fallacy. If one studies the history of the SBC he will find that the term “evangelical” is certainly an applicable title unless one wants to stick with its origin in its use and only apply it to Lutherans. Then, we’d all be excluded from the term. I’d also like to add that Calvinism is hardly a problem in the SBC seeing as according to Lifeway’s recent study only about 10% of SBC pastors are Calvinistic.

One of the earliest Baptist Confessions on American soil, The Philadelphia Confession of 1742 states: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life, through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace; others being justify to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice.”

Or let us look at the famous and often mentioned Principles of Faith of the Sandy Creek Association, “IV. We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.”

These are early Calvinistic confessions and if one wants to dispute Reformed Baptist beliefs then these are a better place to start than with John Calvin. Or even better, start with the most popular 1689 Second London Baptist Confession. I’ve seen plenty of folks embrace both the 1689 Confession along with the current Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

As Southern Baptists who embrace sola scriptura I don’t believe that, however interesting a study it may be, appealing to Quantum physics and black holes answers the theological questions in view. And neither do flawed bus stop analogies. Theologically, if we seek to understand God’s providence we must all face the question of those who go to hell and why they do. Whichever side one comes from we all believe God knew before He created the first person that the fall would occur and which people would inherit eternal life in heaven and which would end up in hell. The question for each of us to think on is why did God create even one person who He knew, free will based or otherwise, would end up in hell?

In closing, if those who are anti-Calvinist truly do understand Calvinism they sure have an ironic way of expressing their understanding. Notice, I didn’t say “non” but “anti”. A few well known evangelistic Calvinists of our day include John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Dever and Albert Mohler of whom one could hardly say they don’t evangelize. There are many more pastors out here who are evangelistic Calvinists just take a look at Founders to find some of them. Some historic evangelical Calvinists include Charles Spurgeon, William Carey, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, John Bunyan and many, many more. For some history of Baptists and Calvinism check out Founders and Reformed Reader. Calvinism does not kill evangelism, but let us understand that we are called to spread the Gospel and God will do the heart changing and converting to Himself. It’s not a question of “Whosoever will?” but of “Who will?”

For your information: I write at hereiblog.com.

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tagged as in Arminianism,calvinism,Church Issues,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 selahv November 28, 2006 at 1:50 pm

Hello JonMark: First of all, let be say thankyou. I appreciate the fact that you took your concerns regarding Dr. Price’s public letter to the Index. I also appreciate you taking time to explain your position on evangelical Calvinism or Reformed believers.

I am not well-versed in this as you know. I’ve been on other sites where I’ve seen you post. I am learning. I appreciate men and women who will dialog about their faith. I was wondering from your post, if those whom some call Calvinist are not followers of Calvin, but instead reformed, then why do reformed connect themselves so tightly to Calvin? Shouldn’t they simply be reformed? And if one is Reformed, what are they reformed from?
It is when the Protestant faith separated from the Catholic faith?

I know this is a lot of questions, but since you are the only one who I saw taking the issue with Price to its source, I felt you would feel free to explain these questions to me. Also, in what information I’ve gathered from the Calvinist community, I have been quite confused about the evangelism issue. Not from anything Price said. But from the views Calvinists and Reformed believers espouse.

You said, “It’s not a question of “Whosoever will?” but of “Who will?” Help me here. I seem to hear in the Calvinist, Reformed Church thoughts: It’s not ARE you saved, it’s Can you Be Saved? How far off am I in my thinking on this last statement? SelahV

2 Jeremy Hasty November 28, 2006 at 1:34 pm

This is an excellent article Mark. I hope it gets published. You may notice my email has changed from 5 to 6 on the hastyjs because we just had our fourth (Jessica) on Sat, Nov 18th.

3 The Highland Host November 28, 2006 at 5:39 pm

Of course we don’t call ourselves ‘Calvinistic Baptists’. We get CALLED it. We are PARTICULAR Baptists (I an a genuine British Particular Baptist myself). Excellent. I have e-mailed Price about the article. I got what I strongly believe to be a standard reply that did not engage with any of my points, but in which Price claimed he was not ignorant of Calvinism. The article says otherwise.

Historically Arminianism has always been bad news among Baptists. The old English General Baptist Assembly was swallowed up by Unitarianism, and the English General Baptists of today (the Baptist Union) are full of every sort of heresy (my church left the BU over twenty years ago over their heresy). What have the General Baptists given the church? Error and spiritual death. Yet the Particular Baptists gave us world mission, campaigned against slavery, preached the Gospel to millions. From the General Baptists come such theologians as John Gill, James P. Boyce, and John L. Dagg, and such soul-winners as C. H. Spurgeon, William Gadsby, Andrew Fuller and Alexander Maclaren.
I know which I would rather be linked with!!!

4 The Highland Host November 28, 2006 at 5:45 pm

Selahv. As I said above, we do not call ourselves Calvinists. At least, I don’t. We are indeed Reformed from the deformities of the church of Rome. But most importantly we are ‘Reformed According to the Word of God’. Indeed, that is what ‘Reformed’ is short for. So Reformed Churches are Churches Reformed according to the Word of God. Thus Reformed Baptists (historically known as Particular Baptist Churches) are the MOST Reformed churches!
‘Particular’ Baptist refers to the controversy over the the atonement. The General Baptists (who went Unitarian) taught that Christ died in a ‘general’ way, in the place of none but securing potential salvation for all. The Particular Baptist found in the Bible that Christ died for PARTICULAR sinners, elect from before the foundation of the world, to secure their ACTUAL salvation.

5 johnMark November 28, 2006 at 6:19 pm

Jeremy, thanks and congrats on your recent blessing Jessica.

Highland, good information, thanks.

Selahv, thanks for your inquiry.

I will try to answer briefly. First, many times “Reformed” and “Calvinist” are often used interchangably. If you will notice even Nelson Price did this in his first sentence. Highland Host above made some good comments to your questions. And if you’d like to read some more information on Calvinism it may be easier to just go here http://www.theopedia.com/Calvinism and read. In that link Phil Johnson has an mp3 that you can listen to about the history of Calvinism.

I am sorry, but I don’t understand what you are getting at in your confusion with Calvinism and evangelism.

The “Whosoever will” is often used as a one-liner refutation of Calvinism which I don’t understand. The Calvinist certainly agrees that whosoever will may come, but who will come? Who has the will to come? In other words, I think they have mistated their own argument. The debate is more along the lines of who will come since Calvinists believe those who the Holy Spirit regenerates with a new heart will come. It’s the debate over the will of man deciding vs. God’s will deciding (regeneration preceding faith) which gets us back to the “Who will”. Does that make sense?

It’s not about asking “Can you be saved?” but to paraphrase John Piper, it is because of the grace of God that no matter how badly anyone has sinned that anyone can be saved.

Mark

6 Russ November 29, 2006 at 11:27 am

Mark,

Good letter. Hope it gets published.

Russ

7 centuri0n December 1, 2006 at 12:33 pm

For the record, it’s having friends like this which keeps me sharp.

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