Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Heart of a Calvinist

What is the heartbeat of a true Calvinist? What I mean is, what is the utmost desire of the person who holds to reformed theology? Perhaps a better question would be, what should be the heartbeat of a Calvinist?

I believe the heartbeat of many Calvinists is simply to win a theological debate with an Arminian. While claiming to hold to Pauline Theology (which I believe does speak very Calvinistically), these people fail to see the heartbeat of the apostle Paul.

One of the favorite proof text of the Calvinist is Romans 9. We like to point out that God chose Jacob before Jacob was even born. (Romans 9:11). God did this so that his purpose of election might continue, not because of works, but because of his call. We like to point that out.

But how many Calvinism verses Arminianism debates begin with Romans 9:1-3:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

In this passage we see the heartbeat of the apostle Paul is the salvation of his people, his relatives, the Jews. This is echoed in the very beginning of the next chapter as well. This passion is the springboard for his discourse on election.

Friends, if you claim to believe the doctrines of Paul, but do not share the heartbeat of the apostle Paul, then do not call yourself a Calvinist. If you simply just want to win a debate, then you need to examine yourself, because the heart of a Calvinist is a zeal for evangelism and a passion for the salvation of lost souls.


gordan said...

Why ya gotta be all up in my grill like dat?

No, seriously, I agree. And this is an admonition that internet Calvinists could stand to hear quarterly or so. One of my favorite dead guys, D.Martin Lloyd-Jones, a committed Calvinist, used to warn continually about a lifeless, wooden sort of Calvinism that would indeed kill evangelism and kill churches.

A car that is in neutral can move very fast down a steep hill, with no fire actually exploding in the engine. Let us pray for that spark of the Spirit within us.

Mike Y said...

I'd like to modify the position a bit. I don't think that's necessarily the heartbeat of a Calvinist as much as it is the heartbeat of a Christian.

Consider the following:

1) Told to love our neighbors as ourselves
2) Told to love our brethren
3) Told to love our enemies
4) Told to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and spirit

These are commandments most professing Christians ignore. And most of the Calvinists I've come across fail more miserably at these than some heathen I know.

Yet, are these not the trademarks of our people? Christ made it very clear that when we love others and bestow charity upon those who can't help themselves or us that we're doing it as if it's unto him.

Further, he makes it clear that it's our love for the brethren that tips off unbelievers that Christ's ministry was even real.

It's easy to love those who are kind to us and/or who agree with us. It's very difficult to love our enemies and those who disagree with us.


kangeroodort said...

Great points guys, though I just can't ever help but to notice nconsistencies with what you write and what Calvinism actually teaches.

If Paul's discourse in Rom. 9 has to do with the irrevocable reprobation of the Christ rejecting Jews [primarily], then what business does Paul have saying he wishes God would save those whom He has irrevocably damned from all eternity?

Worse yet, how is that Paul sees fit to pray directly against God's eternal decree in Rom. 10:1. Is not the "them" of 10:1 the same that Paul supposedly desribed as eternally reprobated in 9:11-22?


One might add that we should not pass over those in need as Jesus taught in the parable of the good Samaritan. I would think that Jesus gave us this illustration because it is a reflection of God's nature and love. However, such an image of God does not line up very well, in my opinion, with a God who is pleased to "pass over" the majority of His creatures leaving them with no hope for salvation. Just some thoughts that I am sure you guys will love to pick apart, in the spirit of Christian love and in accordance with Paul's example, or course.

God Bless,

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Ben, thanks for your comments. However, I don't know any Calvinist, and I have read alot of Calvinist works, that believe Romans 9 teaches that God has reprobated all Jews. Sure, probably many Jews are reprobate, but that does lead to believing all Jews are reprobate. Secondly, to teach reprobation in those passages, does not lead to a belief that it is the Jews who are reprobate.

Just clarifying things.

gordan said...

Ben, Paul doesn't know which individuals are elect and which aren't so praying for someone's salvation is hardly praying against a decree. But if they are not eventually saved, then we know why, per Romans 9.

kangeroodort said...


Thanks for the clarification. Allow me to do some clarifying as well.

Paul is addressing the apostasy of the Jews in Rom. 9. He is answering the Jews concern that the promises of God have failed because the greater part of Israel has rejected the Messiah. Paul is not giving a lecture on divine decrees.

When he speaks of Isaac, Esau, and Jacob, he is dealing with the false Jewish view of salvation in which they believed that they were unconditionally guarenteed an eternal inheritance on the basis of God's promise to Abraham. If some children of Abraham were rejected [Ishmael-firstborn, Esau-firstborn] then they have no claim to God's promises due to heritage or birthright alone. Being a descendent of Abraham does not guarentee God's favor.

Paul then goes on to demonstrate why the greater part of Israel has been rightfully rejected. The Jews sought to establish their own righteoussness and rejected the one who alone could make them righteouss [9:30-33- verses that James White doesn't even bother mentioning in "The Potter's Freedom"]. The issue Paul is dealing with is that the Jews have been rejected because they have rejected the only source of salvation. Paul is not saying that the Jews have been rejected due to an eternal decree of reprobation.

He continues to discuss the issue throughout cahpters 10 and 11. So when he speaks of his desire for his countrymen to be saved in 9:1, 2 and confesses his prayerful heart towards them in 10:1, it is because he does not believe that their situation is irrevocable. If the Calvinist view is correct then Paul was discussing and explaining the hardness of the Jews in the context of an eternal decree of reprobation in 9:11-22. Therefore, Paul's heart felt desire for their salvation would be in conflict with the decree that he supposedly appealed to in 9:11-22.

Paul makes it very clear in 11:19-31 that these same reprobates described in 9:11-22 have been reprobated due to unbelief and not according to an eternal decree. They may also be grafted in again, which plainly demonstrates that any such "decree" is conditional and not irrevocable. He tells us that these same reprobates will yet be shown mercy in 11:30-32.

Throughout these three chapters Paul is contrasting the unbelieving Jews with those who have embraced Christ by faith (both Jew and Gentile). The scope of the entire epistle is justification through faith in Jesus Christ [Rom. 1:16, 17; especially compare Rom. 4 to the subject matter of Rom. 9].

I know that is a lot to swallow, and I know you see Rom. 9 very differently, but at least you can see why I think it is by no means a stretch to believe that Paul is speaking about the exact same Jews in 9:1, 2 and 10:1 as he was discussing in Rom. 9:11-22.

That is why I said that Paul was speaking of reprobated Jews [primarily] because it is the subject matter of all three of these chapters. When Calvinists want to make it into a lesson on eternal decrees, they must lift these Scriptures from there context, and ignore Paul's purpose in dealing with God's just rejection of Israel.

That is why I said that Paul's comments in 9:1,2 and 10:1 do not comport with the Calvinist interpretation of Rom. 9.