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The Evolution of Reformed Theology: When Calvinism is Applied – Parts 1 thru 4

by Sonny Childs

From www.heybrothersonny.com

(This was divided into 4 articles on the website.  We present all 4 here.)

 

Part 1.   

     Some have asked, “Hey Brother Sonny, why all this obsession with Calvinism?” It is my prayer that this series of posts will answer that question.

     I am convinced that, other than apathy, two of the greatest threats facing the church today are Islam from without (physical threat) and Calvinism from within (spiritual threat). While I have prayed that God would remove this assignment from me, my concern deepens every day. Like Jeremiah, I feel a burning in my bones to expose this false teaching and draw the church back to a unity based upon biblical harmony.

     Jeremiah 20:8-10 has truly become my counsel. “…the word of the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily. Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.  For I heard many mocking: ‘Fear on every side!’ ‘Report,’ they say, ‘and we will report it!’ All my acquaintances watched for my stumbling, saying, ‘Perhaps he can be induced; Then we will prevail against him, and we will take our revenge on him.'”

     Some time ago, I received the following message from a young man drawn into Calvinism.

“My concern with your posts is the dissension it causes within the body.”

     My Response: While I would never create “dissension” just for dissension’s sake, it is important to note that most of God’s messengers were dismissed by false teachers who used this very same excuse.

      Jeremiah exposed false teaching and dissension happened. “Then the officials said to the king, ‘This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.'” (Jeremiah 38:4, NKJV)

      Jesus exposed false teaching and dissension happened. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’… And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-36, 38-39, NKJV)

      Peter exposed false teaching and dissension happened. “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men … When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.” (Acts 5:29, 33, NKJV)

     Paul exposed false teaching and dissension happened. “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains…” (Philippians 1:15-16, NKJV)

     When you think of me, please remember this phrase, “I WANT the approval of men but I NEED the approval of God!”

     Peter’s words ring loud and clear in the mind of every truth seeker, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Please don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking that just because a man’s word results in dissension it has to mean he intended for it to be that way. Don’t dismiss a man’s word simply because of the reaction it brings. Truth is often met with resistance. 

John 1:5 (NKJV) “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Part 2.

        Confession: I am not an expert on Reformed Theology.  Reality: No one is!

     Many claim to know the doctrine of Reformed Theology, but in reality, the views, teachings and conclusions differ as much as personalities. No one can be an expert in something that is so fluid in its development.         

     Reformed Theology has no North Star other than the ever-changing winds of human conclusion. While they claim Bible authority, the truth is, the teaching of Reformation leaders such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingly, and scores of modern-day Calvinists are always used as the filter through which they interpret Scripture. Without a rock-solid, immovable anchor point (biblical harmony), doctrine becomes the proverbial beach ball. Everyone tries to keep it aloft by poking at it with their own versions of human opinion. (Example: I challenge readers to take a general survey of the many online quotes being posted by Reformed Theologists. Be sure to take note of the number of times human scholars are used as the foundation for their doctrinal conclusions. Contrast that with the lack of emphasis placed on biblical quotes.)

     Reformed Theology has no end game. It is an ongoing process of human effort that turns the study of God into a pursuit of man’s definition of God. Restored Theology, on the other hand, is the ongoing process of Divine effort within the heart of students who wish to discover God’s definition of Himself. The word “reformed” implies adjustments, alterations, tweaking. The word “restored” implies a finished condition. 

     Galatians 1:6-9 (NKJV)  “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”

     The Gospel is not subject to human reformation! The message has been completed. The warning against tampering has been doubly made. The assignment is clear. Let the Bible interpret the Bible!

Conclusion:

     While I am not an expert in Reformed Theology, I am quite familiar with Calvinism, the foundational teachings of this movement. By dissecting the teachings of Calvin, we can begin to understand the reason for the plethora of doctrines being bounced around like that proverbial beach ball. Reformed Theology is simply Calvinism applied in a hundred different directions. It is the purpose of this series to examine the evolution of Reformed Theology and show that a foundation which is poorly laid (human doctrine) can only lead to a structure that is destined for destruction.

Part 3.

 In the last section I said, “Reformed Theology has no North Star other than the ever-changing winds of human conclusion. While they claim Bible authority, the truth is that the teaching of reformed leaders such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingly, and scores of modern-day Calvinists are always used as the filter through which they interpret Scripture. Without a rock-solid, unmovable anchor point (biblical harmony), doctrine becomes the proverbial beach ball. Everyone tries to keep it aloft by poking at it with their own versions of human opinion.”

HUMAN OPINION

In this section, let’s take a look at one example of these human opinions.

“…God gets as much glory out of His wrath as He gets out of His grace….” 

     Some time ago, I came across this quote by one of today’s highly respected Reformed Theologists. I have to admit that one of my first thoughts was, “Really?!! How tragic! Islam teaches the same thing!”  

     It is the tunnel vision of Calvinism that prompts such extreme conclusions. They take Romans 9:22-23 and develop it into an entire doctrine without filtering it through the rest of the Bible. They compromise the harmony of God’s Word in order to justify their own obsession with the doctrines of men. (See Matthew 15:9.) 

Q: Does God receive glory through wrath?

A: Perhaps indirectly. Romans 9:23 does indicate that God’s glory is made known through wrath.

But…

    The harmony of God’s Word gives balance to that idea. Remember, the very best Bible commentary is the Bible itself. Let God’s Word interpret God’s Word. 

     Notice what God also says in other places. (Note: The following passages – Ezekiel 33:11 and 2 Peter 3:9 – either contradict Romans 9:22-23 or they must be viewed as harmonious. What say you?) 

Ezekiel 33:11 (NKJV)

“‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.'” 

2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 

     So, what about the quote above? Does God get “as much glory out of His wrath as He gets out of His grace”? Only if you are trying to prop up the perverse doctrine of original sin. I believe this quote and the promotion of it is a man-made conclusion drawn from tunnel vision rather than a God-made conclusion drawn from the harmony of Scripture. 

For more information about the way Romans 9 harmonizes with the rest of Scripture, please visit http://www.heybrothersonny.com/predestination.html.

Part 4

     Let’s look at another example of human wisdom and the Calvinistic denial of the scriptural harmony.

The following quote comes from Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr.

“Children in the womb are not innocent. The Bible is abundantly clear on that principle, but History will suffice. Death is the result of sin. If babies die, we know they are not innocent. An innocent person only died once, and He volunteered for the job. The Scriptures are likewise clear that there is only one way for the guilty to be cleared: their sins must be covered by the blood of Christ. And there is only one way for that to happen: a person must trust in the finished work of Christ alone. If this is true, then our answer is abundantly clear. Those babies who trust in the finished work of Christ alone go to heaven when they die. Those babies who do not go to hell when they die.” (Source: rcsprouljr.com

     My number one frustration with false teachers is their refusal to be guided by the harmony of Scripture. Please notice the following two passages. I ask you, are they contradictory or are they complementary?

Romans 3:10-12 (NKJV)As it is written: 
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.”

Acts 10:34-35 (NKJV)
“Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.'”

Consider another example.

Psalms 51:5 (NKJV)
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.”

Luke 18:16-17 (NKJV)
“But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.'”

     Do these passages contradict each other or do they, through the harmony of Scripture, actually complement each other? Are Romans 3:10-12 and Psalms 51:5 intended to prompt a literal interpretation or is it possible that, when seen as examples of rhetorical overstatement (hyperbole), they actually accentuate the Divine principles found in Acts 10:34-35 and Luke 18:16-17?

Hyperbole Is Used All the Time

     It’s important to note that hyperbole is actually a communicative tool that is used quite often in Scripture. Consider two times when Jesus Himself used rhetorical overstatement:

Luke 14:26 (NKJV) 
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother … he cannot be My disciple.”

Matthew 7:3 (NKJV) 
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?”

Hate? Plank? Hyperbole!

Q: Did Paul intend to indict all of humanity with the words of Romans 3:12, “There is none who seeks after God.” (NKJV)? Is there no possibility that anyone ever did seek God or ever would seek Him? 

A: Certainly Noah sought after God and, as a result, was spared the results of the Flood. Abraham sought God and obtained at least enough understanding to enter into a covenant with God. In 2 Chronicles 17:4, the Holy Spirit says that Jehoshaphat sought after God and later the Holy Spirit even dates the year that Josiah “began to seek the God of his father David.” (2 Chronicles 34:3, NIV). Don’t forget the words of Jesus in John 7:17 (NIV), “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”

     Yes, there have been many through out the ages who sought after God and found Him! How then can Romans 3:12 and Acts 10:34-35 coexist? The harmony of Scripture forces us to conclude that Romans 3:12 is using hyperbole to emphasize the general degradation of humanity much like Jesus used the example of a plank hanging out of a person’s eye to emphasize the seriousness of hypocrisy.

     And what about David’s words in Psalms 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” (NKJV)? Did He intend for us to conclude that babies are conceived as sinners and therefore born sinful infants? Or is it possible that He too was using rhetorical overstatement to expose the impact of sin on the entire human sphere and emphasize our lack of excuse? A very serious application: It is one thing to be born into a realm governed by Adam’s nature (innocence removed), it is quite another to suggest that babies inherit Adam’s guilty sentence!

     When reformed theology bases its doctrine of original sin on rhetorical overstatement without filtering them through the rest of Scripture, they make a grave error. They willfully ignore the harmony of God’s Word. In order to poke the proverbial beach ball with another one of man’s opinions, they leap to extreme conclusions and assign babies to hell for their lack of faith. This is the sad result of Calvinism. This is the evolution of Reformed Theology.

 

                                                    Reprint from www.heybrothersonny.com

 




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33