Thursday, August 7, 2014

Inside the Body of Christ (Session 6 – Calvinism)

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

The purpose of this session is to consider Calvinism.

The History
John Calvin's international influence and eventual development of the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation began in 1534 when Calvin was 25. That marks his start on the first edition of Institutes of the Christian Religion (published in 1536). He revised this work several times, and produced a French vernacular translation. The Institutes, together with Calvin's polemical and pastoral works, his contributions to confessional documents for use in churches, and his massive outpouring of commentary on the Bible, meant that Calvin had a direct personal influence on Protestantism.


Doctrine
Sovereign grace

  • All people are entirely at the mercy of God, who would be just in condemning all people for their sins, but who has chosen to be merciful to some. Thus, one person is saved while another is condemned, not because of a foreseen willingness, faith, or any other virtue in the first person, but because God sovereignly chose to have mercy on him (Romans 9:16-17). 
  • Although the person must believe the gospel and respond to be saved, this obedience of faith is God's gift, and thus God completely and sovereignly accomplishes the salvation of sinners.
  • Views of predestination to damnation (the doctrine of reprobation) are less uniform than is the view of predestination to salvation (the doctrine of election) among self-described Calvinists. 

Five Points of Calvinism - Calvinist theology is sometimes identified with the five points of Calvinism, also called the doctrines of grace, which are a point-by-point response to the five points of the Arminian Remonstrance (see History of Calvinist-Arminian debate) and which serve as a summation of the judgments rendered by the Synod of Dort in 1619.  Calvin himself never used such a model and never combated Arminianism directly. In fact, Calvin died in 1564 and Jacob Arminias was born in 1560, and so the men were not contemporaries. The Articles of Remonstrance were authored by opponents of reformed doctrine and Biblical Monergism. They were rejected in 1619 at the Synod of Dort, more than 50 years after the death of Calvin.

  • Total Depravity - This doctrine, also called “total inability”, asserts that as a consequence of the fall of man into sin, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. (The term "total" in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as possible.) This doctrine is borrowed from Augustine. 
  • Unconditional election - This doctrine asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people; rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy alone. God has chosen from eternity to extend mercy to those He has chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen. Those chosen receive salvation through Christ alone. Those not chosen receive the just wrath that is warranted for their sins against God. 
  • Limited atonement - Also called "particular redemption" or "definite atonement", this doctrine asserts that Jesus's substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus's death. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is designed for some and not all. Hence, Calvinists hold that the atonement is sufficient for all and efficient for the elect. The doctrine is driven by the Calvinistic concept of the sovereignty of God in salvation and their understanding of the nature of the atonement. 
  • Irresistible grace - This doctrine asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and, in God's timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved. The doctrine holds that this purposeful influence of God's Holy Spirit cannot be resisted, but that the Holy Spirit, "graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ."
  • Perseverance of the saints - Perseverance (or preservation) of the saints (the word "saints" is used to refer to all who are set apart by God, and not of those who are exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven). The doctrine asserts that since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with or will return.

Covenant Theology - Calvinists take God's transcendence to mean that the relationship between God and his creation must be by voluntary condescension on God's part. This relationship he establishes is covenantal: the terms of the relationship are unchangeably decreed by God alone.

Worship regulated by God - The regulative principle regarding worship, which distinguishes the Calvinist approach to the public worship of God from other views, is that only those elements that are instituted or appointed by command or example in the New Testament are permissible in worship. In other words, the regulative principle maintains that God institutes in the scriptures what he requires for worship in the church, and everything else is prohibited. As the regulative principle is reflected in Calvin's own thought, it is driven by his evident antipathy toward the Roman Catholic Church and its worship practices, and it associates musical instruments with icons, which he considered violations of the Ten Commandments' prohibition of graven images

Material for this session was taken from Wikipedia.

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