Blog

“Calvinism is the Gospel” . . . and Other Stupid Statements

high_five_sunset There is quite a bit of celebration among us Calvinists about our particular beliefs about God’s sovereignty and our salvation. Well . . . maybe not at first. Most go through a pretty intense time of confusion and even despair as attempts are made to integrate so many non-intuitive doctrines that give us far more than a knee-jerk reaction. But as the unnatural becomes natural, the rejected becomes accepted, and the confusion becomes “selah,” a new attitude sets in. Normally, this attitude provides an ugly facelift that is about as unnatural to Christianity as what might have come before. An arrogance sets in and grabs a warm seat in the (mostly empty) bleachers of Calvinistic celebration. No longer is Calvinism this ugly aspect of Christianity that might have been the Achilles Heel of your faith, now it is central to everything you are. A celebration of Calvinism finds its place in your daily spiritual conversations. Some find themselves talking more about Calvinism than anything else. The spiritual stance of others soon becomes judged by one’s acceptance or rejection of the blessed five points. Why? Because what was anathema has now become central. “Calvinism is the Gospel” you will hear people say with great pride. As hard as it is for me to resist, I won’t be given anyone any high fives when this epiphany is called out.

Yes, I hear it all the time. In fact, I think I have said it a few times in the past. It just sounded profound to my newly formed reformed ears. But not only do I think this is an unfortunate saying, not only do I think it is off-putting and unnecessarily decisive, in the context it is usually said, it is truly wrong. Calvinism is not the Gospel. Don’t get me wrong. I did not say that I believe the particular doctrines of Reformed theology that Calvinism adheres to is unimportant. Nor did I say that I don’t care whether people accept it. I simply do not believe that a belief in the five points of Calvinism is either necessary to becoming a Christian or becoming a good Christian.

To say that Calvinism is the Gospel implicitly indicts all those who do not accept this theology (which would include most Christians who have ever lived) as not accepting the true Gospel. Sure, they may accept their own sinful condition, cry out to God through Jesus Christ for mercy, but until they become a Calvinist, they have not fully embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have heard this kind of rhetoric from more than just Calvinists (although it might not be stated the exact same way). It is a way of demeaning others while making ourselves feel like we are among the elect few who “get it.” It makes us think we have some type of special anointing by God to be just a little closer to his side.

If you think about it, you could say “_____ is the Gospel” concerning just about anything. I have heard people say, “The Rapture is the Gospel.” Others might say “The Church is the Gospel.” Still others, “Six day creation is the Gospel.” You can just fill in the blank with your particular specially held belief. In all cases (while this might not be explicitly stated or thought), what the person means is that those who do not accept this doctrine have yet to really accept the Gospel.

Of course, in the broader (and highly qualified) sense, we might be technically correct. After all, I think everything we believe about God and every doctrine written or alluded to in Scripture is a part of the good news of God (the Gospel). It is good news that God created women in Genesis. It is good news that God will never flood the earth again. It is good news that God never changes. It is good news that God is eternal. It is good news that God gave so many prophecies. It is good news that angels were created (and they serve us). It is good news that the church exists. It is good news that Jesus is coming again. And it is good news that inspired David to write so many of the Psalms. All of these are part of the fuller Gospel, but the are not of first importance.

Of first importance is that though we are sinners, God has sent his Son who died for our sins and rose again. The central good news is that we (though undeserving), through Jesus Christ, get God forevermore. When we speak of the Gospel, this comes before all else. So many of these other doctrines that are less clear, while they can be very important to us, should not be spoken of as the Gospel. This includes Calvinism.

It is important for us who are passionate about non-cardinal issues to remain passionate about these. But we need to keep things in perspective and learn to distinguish between those things that are essential and those things that are not essential. We do ourselves nor the Gospel any favors by zeroing in on subsets of our faith and exchanging high-fives with others who wear the same exact shades of color as we do. It is a big race we are in and fellowship should be fostered with everyone in this race, even when we may strongly disagree with things like Calvinism.

22 Responses to ““Calvinism is the Gospel” . . . and Other Stupid Statements”

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    I’ll just share how something like this happens in Catholicism sometimes, too. I think it is unconsciously done, and arises from much zeal, but ends up being damaging to souls. Here’s what I’ve noticed: some Catholics, whether they be teachers, parents, leaders, or whomever, tend to focus on just the distinctives of Catholicism…like the Rosary and Marian doctrines, saints’ feast days, Latin chant, etc…and so what happens is that kids miss out on the main Gospel message, and grow up without ever really taking it to heart, even though they may be very well educated in these peripheral areas.

    Now, of course, the Gospel message of Christ bringing us into God’s family is absolutely essential and central to the Catholic faith. I suppose what happens is that we feel put in a defensive position?, like we constantly need to explain ourselves?, and get the hierarchy of truths confused sometimes.

    Nowdays, though, we Christians have much more to worry about than picking on eachother about our differences. True, those differences do matter, but not as much as the evils we are facing.

    –When a maniac is at the door, feuding brothers reconcile.–

    • “We Christians have much more to worry about than picking on each other” words of contradiction and hypocrisy. You just did what you said we shouldn’t.

  2. It’s so amazing to re-read the Gospels, especially of John, and see things I never really “saw” before! The Gospel message is defined quite well, not only by the Apostles (Paul, primarily), but by Jesus Himself. He defines the “Will of the Father”, in context of salvation, as belief in Him. Calvinism of course includes this, but is not only this: and that is perhaps the big difference with many doctrinal variations. If we get the “only this” correct, then perhaps the “other than this” parts can be optional.
    I wish we could hear Jesus’ discourse on the thief who hung beside Him; but now that He is ascended, we must trust in the written Word.

    • Yeshua said to those who questioned the presence who Judas being by his side and He responded justly. There should be no question why Christ did this. Did not Christ preach that all sins can be forgiven? Did not the sinner ask for forgiveness?

  3. It’s just another denomination that ultimately turns you back into yourself for the assurance of your election.

    Ho hum…

  4. Denomination was tyne wrong word…it’s just another theology that finally leaves one looking inward. The last place that we ought to look.

    • Agreed, theology needs be obsolete and just simply preach the word of the Lord as He prescribed. Not picking and questioning His words are sabers that tend to mislead many. Preach instead of evaluating.

      • Um…to “just simply preach the word of the Lord as He prescribed” IS theology. You contradicted yourself. Without theology (religious beliefs, doctrines) you have chaos. What’s the difference between a Protestant Christian and a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness? It’s their theology. You can’t accept both or all. Unfortunately, most churches today put little emphasis on doctrine and leave their members confused and/or in a dangerous state of false assurance of their salvation. They believe every doctrine that blows in and they’re tossed to and fro on the waves.

        “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:14

  5. Do you, then, disagree with Spurgeon who called Calvinism a nickname for the gospel?

    • I think that when you label yourself as a “Calvinist” you become the very thing that Paul rebuked and reproved the people for. I am of “Paul”, I am of “Apollos”, I am of “Peter”……I think it is a shame that we “pick” what parts of the bible we will embrace and which we will ignore. Paul speaks very clearly about the fact that until the race is over is when we are saved. Why? Because only the Most High knows the intent of our hearts. We look at the fruit but the Almighty knows the heart. Recently I had a discussion with a neighbor who I had no idea was a Calvinist, I am not and I don’t need to be, the scripture says we are to follow Messiah, to be Holy because he is Holy. But how can we be holy when we have embraced every catholic pagan practice that Spurgeon and many other denominations knew to be “pagan” and that had nothing to do with the death and resurrection of Messiah? Would YHWH have sent the Lamb of God to die on “Easter”? If YHWH is sovereign over everything then the very idea that he would send the passover Lamb, the final sacrifice for all mankind, to die on any other day BUT on the Passover which is clearly defined as to when it falls during the First month(not Abib) on the 14 day of that month and 7 days of unleaven bread after. How can Calvinism claim to be the holy and right religion when they clearly have rejected the Passover Lamb YHWH sent to die for their sins and embraced the image and fabricated Christ of the Roman Catholic Church? If they cannot believe that YHWH is in control of such monumental events such as this than who can trust anything in Calvinism? Many things that were “vile” to the church in the 1800’s are now embraced because everyone else is doing it and not because there is any biblical foundation for it. The things that distinguish us in the kingdom is obedience, if the desire to obey the words of the Almighty is not there then we cannot possibly be his. The two contradict one another. I have seen people get downright angry about me not liking John MacArthur’s teachings(some not all) and immediately they start to get angry. Did John MacArthur die for you? Did “Calvin” die for you? No and even if they did they were not the Messiah sent from EL, the Most High. So why are people getting so defensive about a man but so “wet noodle” and wishy washy about YHWH’s decree to us NOT to look to the other nations to copy their rituals and worship him in a way that the “pagan” nations do? Why is that something we flippantly ignore? We think that WE can change the commandments of YHWH, we are saved by grace so we are no longer under the covenant that YHWH spoke to us on that mountain. The book of the law did not have the 10 commandments, the book of the covenant did and it went into the arc of the covenant. The book of the law was no longer a witness against us, so if YHWH never changes then how is it that we have changed his covenant that he spoke on that mountain? He never changes and that covenant is a copy of the commandments, statutes and judgements established in heaven and he even tells us this so please explain to me how this is so “disregarded” by calvinists who claim to have the truth but have twisted the writings of Paul making it seem as if the “law” is the same as the “covenant” the Messiah came to offer us once again? And another thing, the non-natural born son’s of Jacob were never excluded from being a part of Israel, NEVER. We see in the OT that YHWH made provisions for them and he called all who were willing to live as Israel, WERE ISRAEL. Therefore, the fact that Calvinists believe that non-natural born of Jacob are the Gentiles is FALSE…because YHWH has never excluded anyone from being a part of Israel, except the Canaanites in the land for their wickedness. Not for Israel’s righteousness. How can Calvinism be so off the mark and yet claim that they are the gospel? Spurgeon condemned the ritual pagan practice of “christmas” when the United States, who never practiced it or recognized it as having anything to do with the birth of the Messiah, made it a nationally recognized holiday back in the 1800’s. If the fruit is rotten then so is the root.

  6. As someone more Arminian, it’s good to hear this said! I unsubscribed from some email newsletters when I started seeing this. The good news is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and how He is now the reigning king. I as an Arminian can fully embrace that. I’ve really got so tired of seeing Calvinist debates that frankly, I don’t touch the whole debate itself with a ten-foot pole. It really just doesn’t interest me. What does concern me is the spiritual arrogance that I see in too many Calvinists. It’s why they’re such a major turn-off in listening to them. Show me someone whose world seems to revolve around Calvinism and that’s someone who I usually find tends to be extremely arrogant.

    • Nick,

      Here’s an example of people whose world revolves around Calvinism:

      “The site is also devoted to refuting Calvinism, a system of theology that lies within the pale of basic Christian orthodoxy, but that is at odds with Arminianism on many key points and that we believe seriously errs in its understanding of God, salvation, and the Bible.”
      http://evangelicalarminians.org/about-this-website/

      “refuting Calvinism and diminishing the number of its adherents, through the concerted, strategic effort of Arminians networked through the society for the accomplishment of these goals”
      http://evangelicalarminians.org/about-us/

      The world of SEA revolves around Calvinism.

  7. In response to Nick Peters, as a non-Calvinist (as I told my close Calvinist friend if I am going all in on Calvinism it’s with Pink and double predestination, as the great Spurgeon said that if we hold that God elected certain people to Heaven we have to acknowledge that the opposite is likely true, ie if some people are created for glory and others for destruction, Jacob he loved, Esau he hated are salvation verses) the most difficult thing I hear in addition to Calvinism is the Gospel is that one is not a “mature” Christian if they don’t accept Calvinism. I truly feel bad for those that believe Calvinism is the Gospel and you are not mature if not a Calvinist. Interesting enough Pharisees did and said a lot of the same talk regarding the understanding of God and salvation.

  8. No offense, Nick…but I think the (not biblical) notion that we can somehow choose God in our dead and lost state is a bit arrogant and bordering on blasphemy.

    The Gospel of John says it very clearly where it says that “we are not born of the will of man but of God.”

  9. This class explains very clearly and simply (I believe), how it is that our wills are bound to sin, and not free:

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/pastors-class-22free-will22-etc.mp3

    Whether you agree, or not, it is worth a listen top sharpen your own arguments…either way.

  10. “Of first importance is that though we are sinners, God has sent his Son who died for our sins and rose again. The central good news is that we (though undeserving), through Jesus Christ, get God forevermore. When we speak of the Gospel, this comes before all else. So many of these other doctrines that are less clear, while they can be very important to us, should not be spoken of as the Gospel.”

    I admit I struggle believing even this is the gospel. I so understand your point of being alienated because of my belief (thescripturesays.wordpress.com/gospel/) and thank you for raising the issue. Increasingly so, Christianity in my experience is becoming more and more power hungry and fragmented.

  11. Greg Stultz 2015-02-16 at 3:01 pm

    I have an absolutely proven method of ending this debate once and for all. Memorize Romans chapter 8 thru 11. Memorize Ephesians. Embrace and meditate on every precious word. No one can recite these verses from the heart and not “get” what they mean.
    I could be wrong. But I have NEVER met an Arminian who remained an Arminian after memorizing these passages. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.

  12. Yes, Calvinism is stupid.

    • While I don’t believe that “Calvinism is the Gospel”, I DO believe the reformers hit it right on the nose. So, we could probably say that Calvinism is PART of the Gospel….with a title. That being said, then, to call Calvinism stupid is to call part of the Gospel stupid.

      • Hi Big Al (great name by the way). You make a good point. I don’t think that Michael was saying that calvinism was stupid. Rather, his point was that equating calvinism with the gospel is stupid. I tend to fall on your side of this fence 🙂 I would rather not make the statement in the first place but sometimes being a tad bit controversial can get folks to really think about their beliefs in a way they may not have before. Keep the comments coming!

        • I couldn’t agree more, Ted. Ironically, if someone were to ask me what my religious beliefs are I would probably say the following: “If I were to put a title on it I’d call myself a Five-Point Calvinist”. Then let them Google it. Because unfortunately, telling someone you’re a Christian doesn’t have much meaning today (even “Evangelical” Christian). At least saying I’m a Calvinist still has it’s own brand of uniqueness. Though, I’m not sure If I’m pointing people to Jesus or just Biblical doctrine.

    • Come on now Step, you’re missing the point 🙂

Leave a Reply