Inroads to Reformation Theology

by J.R. Ensey

One Sunday last month, a lady who has begun attending our church told me that her son, who has a troubled life, had been informed by a Calvinist (a strict Reformed Theology adherent) that he was doomed to hell because he was not one of the elect for whom Christ died. It totally crashed his world and weighed heavily upon his mother. Without hope, what do we really have?

Calvinism is cruel. Reformed theology, of which Calvinism is a vital part, is dangerous. Even the respected Christian counselor Jay Adams (Competent to Counsel and many other books) made this statement in the above mentioned book: “As a reformed Christian, the writer believes that counselors must not tell any unsaved counselee that Christ died for him, for they cannot say that. No man knows except Christ himself who are his elect for whom he died” (p. 70). That is heresy, you say. But that is Reformed Theology—the theology of Calvin, of R. C. Sproul, John Piper, and a host of other prolific authors. Arthur Pink’s affirmation that Christ does not love the non-elect reminds us of one minister’s view of hyper-Calvinism: “God hates you, He has a terrible plan for your life, and there is nothing you can do about it.”

I would not worry about any of this, heresies will come, said the apostle, but I regret that it is creeping into our own Pentecostal ranks. Only certain aspects of it will show up at first, but when the camel gets its head under the tent, the body won’t be far behind.

Why the sudden popularity of the Eastern Orthodox Church brand of Christianity? EO churches love ritual. I suppose some just like to sit and watch it all unfold. Strange.

And why the movement toward Reformed Theology (RT)? Some Evangelical types are becoming enthralled with the likes of R. C. Sproul (pictured), John Piper, Jerry Bridges and others who are stuck in the sixteenth century and can’t seem to progress into the current millennium. A number of “emerging” ministers have adopted a Reformed position. Even some Apostolics have fallen prey to their glib teachers and have cast their lot with John Calvin rather than John the Revelator. What’s going on?

Some may become snared before they really know what is happening. RTs publish books and Bible studies prolifically while we are busy prowling the suit shops, pricing the latest tech toy, and texting on our I-Phones. They have flooded the print and broadcast markets with their skewed views, particularly in the area of eschatology. When you hear someone question the Rapture, the reality of a future Tribulation and Millennium, suggest that the devil has already been bound, that the Book of Revelation is to be considered as allegorical or historical in some way, that Jesus “came” or “returned” in some fashion in A.D. 70, that there is no future for national Israel, that the church is destined to be “triumphant” in evangelizing the world and taking dominion of its societal segments, you might suspect that they have been reading and studying Reformed Theology. Or at least being influenced by those who have.

If you would like to know more about what RT teaches, here is a link that you might find helpful:advanceministries.org.  


Michael said...

Seriously? Firstly, this post is logically fallacious, as the author contradicts himself by quoting a "Calvinist" who claimed to know whether an individual is elect, only to quote Adams who explicitly states than no one other than Christ knows the idenity of the elect. This kind of ill informed argumentation and your audacity to repeat it is exactly why OPism will never get out of the embarrassing fundamentalistic nonsense it was wrought in. There is a bright side though, the juvenile thoughts expressed in this piece are so transparent and so utterly shallow anyone with a modicum of sense will find it easy to avoid.

JN Anderson said...

Michael, it appears the post wasn't so easy for you to avoid. lol

Michael said...

There is a marked difference between avoiding something and pointing out its folly...

JN Anderson said...

Michael, I re-read your post this morning. I was wondering if you could tell me 1) how it was logically fallacious? Please be specific. 2)Obviously the story of the young convert got your attention, coupled with the quotes from Adams and Pink. When the lights come on about Trinitarian history the mess matches the odor because the Trinity is the beast of heresy in Sunday dress.

Michael said...

The author begins by speaking of a "Calvinist" who laid claim to know whether or not an individual is elect; this is a strawman, as it has been the explicit refrain of Calvinists since the Reformation that no one aside from God has that knowledge. Also, the author obviously engages in self contradiction as I initially pointed out. So too there are a number of mischaracterizations presented that only apply to a grossly distorted caricature of Calvinism.

Your inflammatory, vile, and vitriolic comment about the Trinity fits nicely with the embarrassing post you have provided.

JN Anderson said...

I think it is the point of the author to point out the nature of your beast. Theology matters and that is why such contradictions roll off the lips of Reformers mouth's. It happens to its apologists to this day.

Michael said...

If one wishes to point out the nature of something, they ought to represent it as it actually is, not some ill informed guys strawman version of it.

Bradley said...

Paragraph from Romans 8:26-30. "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because [6] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, [7] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."

The Bible clearly has a tension between foreknowledge and predestination that are married in the way we perceive it. One cannot ignore the hardening of pharaoh's heart nor the darkened hearts from Romans 1. It is obvious God punishes those who will never love him to fulfill his holy justice and yet loves those who love him. Romans also identifies the true people of God who though were punished with Israel were redeemed whenever he intervened. Christ is the connection between the presence of grace and the satisfaction of God's justice. Only through his atonement can anyone come to Christ. Reformed theology does not say that certain people cannot come to Christ, but that unless God intervenes they do not. Basically it is viewed like this: Everyone has the ability to do what they want, but they do not have the freedom to do what they desire. Only God ordains that and only he can change that.

Let me say further that hostility in this area helps neither side but may hinder the kingdom from being furthered. Hatred has a way of spreading like that. I respect both sides for their commitment to what God has convicted them. That being said we should view where we are getting our sense of identity as Christians. Are we defined by what we do or even the convictions that we hold? No, only by God's grace are we heirs with Christ. In my humble perspective Christians have two tendencies: (1) we'll call legalism and (2) would be the other extreme, which can lead to outright disobedience. Both have the same root: self-gratification. As sinners we seek our own glory rather than God's. It has been that way since our First Parents fell. They sought to become God and were cursed as such for it.

Instead of fighting, what if we confronted our own sin in humility and loved the world in a way that leads to its redemption? Just my humble opinion...

Bradley said...

I am Reformed and reading more in depth into this blog. I think just the very dialogue from which this is based is in essence the problem "Christians" give to those that are without Christ. We should never begin with judgement, but have a long term approach with people (though that might not always be practical I admit). In this way, we can gently reveal sin as it is in a loving way that is for the good of the individual and for the glory of God.

Further, every sect of any religion has its extremists, but extremists never represent the whole. We cannot judge the use of this language other than apologize for the grave error that Reformed individual made. I am merely a student in college, but trust me he was wrong.

Growing up in the Bible belt has made hardened hearts of those of my generation and they cannot be reached by ordinary means. Growing up in a society that hates them makes conversation difficult and only after building the trust that was broken by other "Christians" (I put that in quotes because they were not acting as such or were at least misguided). Outright condemnation leads to hatred, but loving correction shows the character of the Father.

Bradley said...

What is more, I am not sure where you have gotten your information about Reformed Theology, but the return of Jesus in AD 70 is new to my knowledge and that does not fit in with what I believe. May I be somewhat helpful and direct you to a Reformed site. Might as well go straight to the source I'd say: http://www.reformedliving.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=217:basics-of-reformation-theology&catid=48:systematic-theology

One more thing to note. The branch of Christianity you are criticizing comes from the belief that there is a Trinity (not quite sure how you arrive at your particular convictions though I would like to discuss it with you further), God is all powerful, and one of extreme avoidance of what they call legalism. Namely those who add cultural traditions to the Gospel as the Pharisees did and when Jewish Christians suggested adding Jesus to circumcision. They believe that only through Jesus' atoning blood (his perfection enabled by the Holy Spirit) in that as God's Son he walked as a man in a way no other could. He fulfilled all of the prophesies concerning the Messiah and lived as the true Adam and was the instrument by which God blessed the nations. I do not know how much of this you disagree with but, I would like for you to be properly informed.

I apologize for the hostility already presented on this blog and I hope that a more peaceful discussion can be made. It is my sincere hope that the truth of God's character may enlighten our minds as well as our hearts as we reject the folly of our misplaced affections and seek to love our Almighty God.

Thanks again,

I would like to email if you feel that is more appropriate. I would also like to find out more about your experience at Liberty seeing as that particular institution is not known (to my knowledge)for Oneness Pentecostalism. I also hope I am not overstepping any boundaries on this site. If so I do apologize, but I only seek for the glory of God to be made known.

Anonymous said...

I came from the UP background and am now a reformed believer. What you have explained here is NOT reformed theology! No one should tell anyone they are not of God's elect because they may not have been drawn yet! What you described is hyper-calvinism and it is a heresy. But do not confuse reformed theology with that!

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)