On the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism, Definite Atonement versus Indefinite Atonement.
“It is the difference between the man who manufactures life vests and the man who pulls drowning people out of the water, between the man who makes a scalpel and the man who uses it to cut out a cancerous tumor to save a patient’s life. Creating a system to do something is a fundamentally different thing from actually doing it. Thus, saying that Jesus creates a salvation system rather than saving us gives us a fundamentally different perspective on the cross and the empty tomb.”
Happy Reformation Day! Like the Grinch, Stanley Hauerwas doesn’t celebrate because he doesn’t like to remember there are divisions in the church–to celebrate, he says, is to admit failure. But it’s not. To celebrate it in a way that invites all Christians to join is to celebrate the possibility of progress, the Holy Spirit’s sure and ongoing work in the church, and our unity in Christ. This is a holyday for all churches, just as justification by faith is a treasure for the whole church, even those confused on the subject. Christians are justified by faith, not by believing in justification by faith. The whole church is given the gift of the Reformation whether they complain about it or not.
What did the church actually recover at the Reformation? Too much to describe, but here are three big’uns: Gospel, Bible, Worship. One of the best things the reformers did was recognize the church must be always reforming, semper reformanda, so it’s a good exercise for churches and Christians to ask themselves if we’ve received these gifts or if we’ve forgotten them. Continue reading →
Loraine Boettner notes the connection between Calvinism and republican (representative) government:
Politically, Calvinism has been the chief source of modern republican government. Calvinism and republicanism are related to each other as cause and effect; and where a people are possessed of the former, the later will soon be developed. Calvin himself held that the Church, under God, was a spiritual republic; and certainly he was a republican in theory. James I was well aware of the effects of Calvinism when he said; “Presbytery agreeth as well with monarchy as God with the Devil.” Bankcroft speaks of “the political character of Calvinism, which with one consent and with instinctive judgment the monarchs of that day feared as republicanism.” Another American historian, John Fiske, has written, “It would be hard to overrate the debt which mankind owes to Calvin. The spiritual father of Coligny, of William the Silent, and of Cromwell, must occupy a foremost rank among the champions of modern democracy . . . The promulgation of this theology was one of the longest steps that mankind has ever taken toward personal freedom.”
According to McFetridge (Calvinism in History), the American Puritans,
Among all the people in the American colonies, they (the Puritans, Calvinists of New England) stood morally without peers. They were the men and the women of conscience, of sterling convictions. They were not, indeed, greatly given to sentimentalism. With mere spectacular observances in religion they had no sympathy. . . . All their thoughts and relations were imbued with [their religion]. Not only men, but beasts also, were made to feel its favorable influences. Cruelty to animals was a civil offense. In this respect they were two centuries in advance of the bulk of mankind.
What does Reformed theology look like when it becomes a club with secret code words and handshakes? John Frame confronts the beast in his frank and helpful (and long) review of R. Scott Clark’s book Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice. It’s rare to read such a thorough and balanced critique, but worth it if you enjoy hard-hitting and edifying confrontation (which is what charitable critique is–it builds the church, even when encountering its opposite). Read the whole thing or enjoy this worthy slice that provides a kind of summary both of the review and the issue:
Toward the beginning of this review, I criticized Clark’s definition of “Reformed.” Here I will say something about his general view of how the Reformed communion is related to the overall body of Christ. As one reads this book, the general picture that emerges is of what Van Til used to call the “isolation” of the Reformed community. We are not Eastern Orthodox, or Roman Catholic, or Lutheran, or Anabaptist, or evangelical. We are distinctive, holding a viewpoint defined more or less unchangeably by our confessions, a favored group of theologians, and various traditions. From Clark’s point of view, it is very important that such distinctiveness be maintained. So we must define every aspect of church life by the confessions and tradition. Both officers and (however implausibly) the whole congregation must subscribe in a strict and comprehensive sense to the confessions. We should study the Scriptures too, but there is a “Reformed reading” of Scripture that we must never depart from, a way of reading Scripture that will be governed by the confessions and therefore will never lead us away from the Reformed traditions. So when controversies arise, the most prominent question is not “what does Scripture say?” (which would be “biblicist”), but rather “what do the confessions say?”
It is true that the whole life of our Lord Jesus Christ has become our ransom, for the obedience which he yielded in this world to God his Father was to make amends for Adam’s offense and for all the iniquities for which we are in debt. But St. Paul speaks her expressly of his blood, because we are obliged to resort to his death and passion as to the sacrifice which has power to blot out all our sins. and for that reason, God has set forth in types under the law that men could not be reconciled to him except by that means.
It’s John Calvin’s 500th birthday this year, so I’m working through his theological treatises. Love coming across stuff like this:
It would be well to require that the Communion of the Holy Supper of Jesus Christ be held every Sunday at least as a rule. When the Church assembles together for the great consolation which the faithful receive and the profit which proceeds from it, in every respect according to the promises which are there presented to our faith, then we are really made participants of the body and blood of Jesus, of his death, of his life, of his Spirit and all his benefits. Continue reading →
Louis Bourgeois was a composer of music in the church of Geneva during part of Calvin’s pastorate there. He was thrown in jail for messing with hymn tunes, producing what became derisively called Genevan jigs. Who got this modern worship leader out of the clink? Calvin convinced the authorities that Bourgeois was simply trying to enhance congregational singing.
The Reformation was a breakaway from a late medieval corruption of part of the Church. In many ways, it makes more sense to think of the Roman Catholic Church as the one leaving the standards, beliefs and practices of the ancient church. It only looks like Protestants broke off because they left the old buildings and lit the world on fire with the Gospel. Many today have a high view of the invisible church, by which they mean all the truly saved whom we cannot know for certain or see or interact with until we die. They think this is a reformational viewpoint and that a high view of that shabby group who meets in the building down the street with the sign and coffee brewing after service doesn’t deserve the same esteem. Only Papists think forgiveness and authority resides in the church. Read this quote and tell me, without reading after it, who wrote it. Or just guess: Roman Catholic or Protestant? Continue reading →