Wednesday, January 21, 2009

calvinism by johnson

I love Phil Johnson's conclusion to his Clarifying Calvinism series in Pulpit Magazine.

You might be one of those people who doesn’t want to be referred to as a Calvinist or an Arminian. But the fact is, if you are a Christian at all, you do already affirm the fundamental principle in every one of those truths [TULIP]. You already know in your heart of hearts that you weren’t born again because you were morally superior to your unbelieving neighbors. You were worthy of God’s wrath just like them (Eph. 2:1 3). According to Ephesians 2:4-6, it was God who quickened you and showed you a special mercy—and that is why you are a believer. You already know that in your heart. You don’t really believe you summoned faith and came to Christ in your own power and by your own unaided free will. You don’t actually believe you are morally superior to people who don’t believe. You therefore must see, somewhere in your soul, that God has given you special grace that He has not necessarily shown everyone.

You also believe God is absolutely sovereign over all things. I know you do, because you lean on the promise of Romans 8:28. And that promise would mean nothing if God were not in control of every detail of everything that happens. If He is not in control of all things, how could He work all things together for good?

Furthermore, you pray for the lost, which means in your heart, you believe God is sovereign over their salvation. If you didn’t really believe He was sovereign in saving sinners, you’d quit praying for the lost and start doing everything you could to buttonhole people into the kingdom by hook or by crook, instead. But you know that would be folly. And you pray about other things, too, don’t you? You pray that God will change this person’s heart, or alter the circumstances of that problem. That’s pure Calvinism. When we go to God in prayer, we’re expressing faith in His sovereignty over the circumstances of our lives.

You even believe God operates sovereignly in the administration of all His providence. You say things like, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:15)—because in your heart you believe that God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11), and nothing happens apart from His will.

Nothing is more biblical than these doctrines that are commonly labeled Calvinism. In a way, it is a shame they have been given an extrabiblical name, because these truths are the very essence of what Scripture teaches. The very gist of Calvinism is nowhere more clearly stated than in the simple words of our verse: “We love Him, because He first loved us.”

In Part 1 of the series Johnson answers the question of whether or not Arminianism is heresy. It is not. In Part 2 Johnson pokes at that a little more explaining that while it may not be heresy, Arminianism is wrong.

... Arminianism is inherently inconsistent. Arminians technically affirm the fundamental, essential truths of the gospel. Then they try to build a theology on top of that which is totally inconsistent with the solid foundation they have affirmed. ... It’s an attempt to reconcile the sovereignty of God with human responsibility—and the Arminian method of reconciling those two truths involves a view of human free will that is inherently inconsistent with certain gospel truths every Arminian actually affirms.

Part 3 and 4 are book and audio recommendations on the topic along with Johnson's journey to Calvinism. I haven't read his recommendations so I'll mention two of my favorites, Chosen by God and Grace Unknown, both by RC Sproul. In Part 5 Johnson points us to 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us." The real meat of this is fleshed out in Parts 6 and 7. Johnson develops the following outline.

1. THE PERVERSENESS OF OUR FALLEN STATE = there was a time when we didn't love God. The very essence of depravity is a failure to love. (Total Depravity)
2. THE PRIORITY OF GOD’S ELECTING CHOICE - God's love precedes any movement toward God on our part. (Unconditional Election)
3. THE PARTICULARITY OF HIS SAVING WORK - this is key. Not all love Him. Therefore it is clear that God has done something on our behalf that he hasn't done for everyone else. (Limited Atonement)
4. THE POWER OF HIS LOVING DELIVERANCE - God's love for us is a productive love always bearing the fruit of our love returned to Him. (Irresistible Grace)
5. THE PERFECTION OF HIS REDEMPTIVE PLAN - the fact that we love means we have been fully transformed from that former state of not loving. (Perseverance of the Saints)

Great stuff!

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