Archive for the ‘Calvinism’ Category

Reading “The Institutes”

Last week, my brother and I started reading John Calvin‘s “Institutes of the Christian Religion“.  Pick up a reading plan here and join us.  This week we finally got out of the preface works and into the first chapter.  Here are some of the quotes that I took note of…

…the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty.
…we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves.
…Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.
…If, at mid-day, we either look down to the ground, or on the surrounding objects which lie open to our view, we think ourselves endued with a very strong and piercing eyesight; but when we look up to the sun, and gaze at it unveiled, the sight which did excellently well for the earth is instantly so dazzled and confounded by the refulgence, as to oblige us to confess that our acuteness in discerning terrestrial objects is mere dimness when applied to the sun. Thus too, it happens in estimating our spiritual qualities.
…not a particle of light, or wisdom, or justice, or power, or rectitude, or genuine truth, will anywhere be found, which does not flow from him, and of which he is not the cause; in this way we must learn to expect and ask all things from him, and thankfully ascribe to him whatever we receive.
…until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that nought is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; nay, unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity.

I think I may be a one point Calvinist now

I read the quote below the other day on the Acts 29 blog. It is from J.I. Packer’s introduction to the John Owen classic, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

The very act of setting out Calvinistic soteriology [the doctrine of salvation] in the form of five distinct points (a number due, as we saw, merely to the fact that there were five Arminian points for the Synod of Dort to answer) tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. For the five points, though separately stated, are inseparable. They hang together; you cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners.

God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing.

Saves – does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.

Sinners – men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners – and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedalling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.

I guess I’m a one pointer then…

Is Christ’s Atonement for Sins Limited?

The gospel message could be preached these three ways:

1) Christ died for some of the sins of all people.

2) Christ died for all of the sins of all people.

3) Christ died for all of the sins of some people

Which of these is faithful to scripture? The one that is faithful to scripture is the one we have been commanded to preach and teach.

Number 1 is not scriptural. In fact no matter if you are “reformed” or not, you would not agree with number 1. The reason being is that if number 1 is true, then no one is saved. God’s holiness and justice demand that all of a person’s sins are punished if they are to be free from condemnation. If Jesus only died for some of my sin, then I still face the wrath of God because of the sin that is left over as unpunished. No one should agree with number 1 as being faithful to scripture. If this is the message that is faithful to scripture then nobody is going to be saved.

I would say that number 2 is not scriptural as well. Someone who is not reformed would say that number 2 is scriptural, to which my response would be, “Then why doesn’t everyone go to heaven?” Of course the biblical answer to the question is that not everyone believes. I absolutely agree that the reason everyone is not going to heaven is because not everyone believes. However, isn’t unbelief a sin? Biblically speaking – unbelief is a sin. So then I would ask someone who agrees with number 2 if the sin that Jesus died for included the sin of unbelief. There are only two answers to that. One answer is – “Yes. Jesus death on the cross atoned for the sin of unbelief.” If you say that, then you must believe that all people everywhere are saved because you agree that the Bible says Jesus died for all the sins of all people. That is universalism and the Bible clearly denies it. The other answer is – “No. Jesus death on the cross did not atone for the sin of unbelief.” Then you must be saying that Jesus did NOT die for all the sins of all people because you just said that he did NOT die for the sin of unbelief.

If someone says that Christ died for all of the sins of all people then this means that God punished all sin for all time on the cross. However, the clear implication of the reality of hell and the judgment to come in Christ’s return is that there is still punishment to be dealt out for sin. If all sin has been punished on the cross of Christ then a hell and a final judgment are belittling to the cross and Christ’s atoning work. This implies that Christ’s work on the cross was not really sufficient to save anyone much less everyone. Do you see that this really limits the nature of Christ’s atoning work? His death on the cross is really limited to what I do with it. Maybe “limited atonement” is really a better description of the non-reformed position. Christ’s atoning work is limited to what we do with it? Is that really faithful to what scripture has to say about Christ’s death on the cross? That would be a works based salvation. And if salvation is possible through works, then some will have grounds for boasting in the presence of the Lord. This is not faithful to scripture.

That leaves us with number 3. Here is what “limited atonement” really means: the atonement for sins that Christ’s death accomplished is limited by God to those who believe. For those who believe, who are His sheep, who are the church – God definitely atones for their sins through the shed blood of Christ. I believe most people hear the words “limited atonement” and they say God’s forgiveness has no limits so then they look upon those who hold to this doctrine with disdain, when really they have misunderstood what is meant by the phrase “limited atonement”. Does everyone go to heaven? If you believe statement 2 is scriptural then you would teach that. Does no one go to heaven? If you believe statement 1 is scriptural then you would teach that. Or do some people go to heaven? This is what scripture says and this is what we must preach and we do that by being faithful to a scriptural view of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. That view says that Christ died for all of the sins of some people – those who believe. So then the question is, “Are you one of those people?”