2008May6, Tuesday

An Idol of the System

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:40 by Trey Austin

I have said it before that many Calvinists are devoted to the system of theology rather than what the Scripture says, and a comment i received from a post i wrote a few weeks ago is just one other example. Under the “I Don’t Know Nothin’ ‘Bout Debatin’ Nobody!” post, someone left a comment last night, responding to something that i had said in the post.

I said:

“we can and should affirm that God desires the salvation of all the non-elect”

And in response to that, an anonymous blogger (there are too many of those, if you ask me) said:

Most Calvinist Churches cease to be Calvinist through the normal erosion of time (and theology).

If Calvinists allowed and encouraged this kind of talk, it would accelerate that process.

Very nice. The highest and greatest concern for this person is staying Calvinistic—who cares if what we say is actually biblical, so long as we’re still good Calvinists! Oh, how very, very sad that is.

Let’s completely ignore the circumstances through which Calvinistic thought and practice took a nose-dive.

Let’s ignore the fact that the natural progression in almost every case where Churches (e.g., Congregationalists in New England and the PCUSA in the lat 19th century) and individual congregations have left Calvinistic thought and practice is because they first began to develop their “Calvinistic” thinking in such a “High Calvinism” that they either became Hyper or flirted with it, and then many people began to see how very extreme that kind of thinking is and reacted in the other direction of dropping it altogether.

Let’s ignore the fact that the view of conversionism brought about by the revivalism that men like Gilbert and William Tennet and Jonathan Edwards gave rise to a “personal experience” mentality and a gradual progression in the view of how God relates to sinners.

Let’s ignore the fact that a disregard for what Scripture actually says and a development of systematic and logical models in its place slowly displaced what Scripture actually says about the sovereignty of God together with man’s responsibility (this is true of both the New Divinity of New England and the Liberalism of the PCUSA).

So, you tel me who is more likely to leave the Reformed Faith: the one who is tenacious to keep it balanced and stayed upon the Word of God;or the one who, at all costs, must keep the tradition and wants to take “Calvinism” to whatever “logical ends” that seem right and able to keep it “consistent” enough to stay in place?



  1. TJ said,

    Trey, perhaps you have misread “Orthodox” in his post on the other thread. Perhaps he is actually encouraging this type of discussion because he wants to speed up the demise of Calvinism!

    I am, of course, sympathetic to what you are saying. However, there were other factors (other than high/hyper calvinism — notice the lower case “c”!) that led to the demise of the mainline Presbyterian church(es) in the 19th century. Certainly the infiltration of revivalism did not help matters, not did the emergence of the philosophical schools of thought like Romanticism and Modernism/Naturalism. The rise of German higher criticism, for example, and then the later emphasis on a moral example theory of the atonement did more to corrupt and destroy the greater part of a denomination than the Calvinism factors you mentioned. It can be easily argued, though, that high/hyper calvinistic tendencies were probably (at least in some cases, such as with revivalism) a reaction against what were perceived to be a sub-biblical tendency infiltrating the church.

    Perhaps it can be argued that this is often the Presbyterian/Calvinistic way: when we are confronted by unScriptural ideas, we tend toward overreaction (I’m thinking of Frame’s “Machen’s Warrior Children” article that you have reference elsewhere). Of course, Bucer was one of my favorite Reformers, so the peace-maker approach certainly appeals to me. But it seems to me that there were far more insidious things at work in Reformed circles that simply high/hyper approaches — and you know how much I despise hyper!

  2. David said,

    One thing that high/hyper viewpoints accomplishes is a person claiming that unbelief does not condemn a person,as in John 3:18, but rather that God wants that particular person in hell. This view can have two results:

    1. The OSAS mentality that states that I can act, say and think any way that I want to and God has no choice but to save my sinning butt because to let me perish would break His promise. This goes against all the commands in scripture to live careful lives. To be kind to our neighbour whether Christian or not or whether we agree with him or not. And if somethings happen in the congregation I don’t like and cannot find another one closer to MY belief. No problem! I am elect and dont need anyone besides myself and my bible.

    2. A terrified sinner because he or she cannot look to Jesus crucified for any assurance. There is no way to know for sure, if Jesus died only for a few, that one is died for. The law obedience is something we desire but it also always accuses. So many Christians think that God is impressed with grand efforts and doing our best as long as we show progress. When one becomes honest with oneself and see the standard is to be holy as our Father is holy the despair and grief are overwhelming.

    You do make a valid point that to always use human reason in a magesterial level rather than to be informed by scripture has and does lead to much error. It appears that it is easily forgotten that our entire existence is still spent as sinner as well as saint.

    God’s peace. †

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