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I’m Done with Calvinism – Going to Damascus

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I’m Done with Calvinism

He bore my sin on Calvary’s tree
And Righteousness bestowed on me
That I might see his face.
God justified me, set me free,
And glorified I soon will be:
How marvelous this grace.
-James Montgomery Boice


After two years as a committed Calvinist, I’m done. No longer will I wear the quotes of dead white dudes on my sleeves; no longer will I stand committed to cleverly articulated doctrines in the shape of a flower.

Well, at least, not formally.

It has long been my conviction that titles and labels in Christianity are helpful so long as they serve to point people to Christ and stir their affections for Him. Labels and distinctions are helpful to communicate what and why we believe to be true about Christ, the Church and his Word.

The problem is, the term “Calvinism” often draws more hatred than it does stir affections; it turns people away from Christ rather than drawing them to Him. I’ve noticed this happens for one of three reasons: either 1) people don’t understand “Calvinism” and so they draw caricatures or interact with a false depiction of it, writing it off as cruel or mean, 2) people mistakenly think “Calvinists” worship Calvin over Christ, or 3) they’ve only interacted with cocky, prideful people who mistakenly believe themselves to be “true Calvinists.”

Taking these three things into consideration, I’m giving up on “Calvinism” and the five points of TULIP. Where these terms have failed, it is now my purpose and intention to elevate the grandeur and grace of my King Jesus Christ. You see, my King is gracious and worthy to be worshiped beyond all comparison. There is no one more worthy of his praise. Even if he were not gracious and kind to us he would still be worthy of all my worship because that is just who he is.

Yet, he is gracious. He’s so loving and gracious to us that we can’t begin to fathom it. Without Christ, all of us are dead in a rebellious state against the creator (Romans 3:9-18, Ephesians 2:1). When the Bible says dead, it means dead. Corpse. Lifeless. Incompatible with life. But in his kindness to us, knowing the consequences of our sin is death (Romans 6:23), he predestined a plan for us in the fullness of time (Ephesians 1:10-11).

This plan is Christ our Savior. On the cross, Jesus died for his sheep (John 10:11). The definiteness of his death is what enables the Apostle to say that before the foundations of the world he knew us! This efficacious grace in our lives does not mean we are robots just waiting for God to make a move. To paraphrase one of my favorite Christian artists, it was while we were dead and a slave to sin that we were actually robots. True freedom of our will only come when Christ breaks into our reality and frees us from life in the machine.

When Christ graciously, lovingly, and rightfully makes himself King of our lives he holds us tight in his hands. We are not held tight in his hands only, but because Christ and the Father are one we are held tight in the Father’s hands as well(John 10:28-30). What assurance this is! So much grace is given to us that the grace of God does not only save us but keeps us. Those whom Christ proclaims as his are kept until the very end. This is not some trite saying of “once saved always saved.” No, those whom the father saves he restores, and those whom he restores he fuels to obedience and good works. Those who are redeemed will be known by their works, those who are not known by their works are not redeemed (James 2:18).

This life, this inheritance, this adoption as a son or daughter is grace. Sweet, loving, amazing grace. Who are we to argue about this love? Who are we to deny the grace and love of our Father in heaven and diminish it to some argument over labels and titles? I do not love “Calvinism” because I worship Calvin; I am grateful to the work of Calvin and saints of history past for their work that helps point me to Christ, increasing my love for Him. If we decline the hard work and labor from the history of the Church, we are cutting ourselves off from the richness revealed to our forebears by the Holy Spirit.

Abraham Kuyper once said, “The special trait of Calvinism [is its ability to place] the believer before the face of God, not only in His church, but also in his personal, family, social, and political life. The majesty of God, and the authority of God press upon the Calvinist in the whole of human existence.” The sad reality is that many people who claim “Calvinism” do not live the way Kuyper outlines, favoring instead cockiness, arrogance and pride. Brothers and sisters, this should not be so! How can a doctrine that is all about the necessary grace and love of a God far greater than we can imagine ever make us prideful!?

The only hallmark of true Calvinism should be that of a penitent spirit, someone who wakes up in the morning and cries out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). This kind of posture of the heart can never take the form of pride or arrogance. B.B Warfield explains the “Calvinist” as “humble souls, who, in the quiet of retired lives, have caught a vision of God in His glory and are cherishing in their hearts that vital flame of complete dependence on Him.”

But as I said, I’m done with “Calvinism.” Seeing as how the name and fragrance of its tulips deter people from the grace of the King, from now on I will primarily and solely speak of His grace sans labels. See, I don’t want to convince anyone of “Calvinism.” Oh Lord would it not be so! No, I want to convince you of grace. If and when my “Calvinism” begins to get in the way of that more often than not, then I’m done with the title. My motivation is now to live my life in such a way that when you ask me why I live the way I do, I can confidently say “Grace.” Or, what was formerly known as “Calvinism.” No labels, no titles, no doctrines wrapped up in a pretty bow. Just grace.

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4 Responses to :
I’m Done with Calvinism

  1. nick says:

    I’m not a I’m not a I’m not a robot now.

  2. Jon Price says:

    I appreciate your heart my friend, and thanks for stepping out on this. My only hope is that every title representing every person other than Christ will fall away. I would like to see the quote from Kuyper be “The special trait of Christianity…” and likewise the quote from Warfield explain the “Christian” as “humble souls… etc. Until that allegiance is the sole one, I fear there will always be the separatist attitude that Paul so aptly warned about in 1 Cor 1:12 and 3:4 before the men that walked with Christ had even passed. I doubt these great men of the faith would even want their names associated with a Christian “viewpoint”, and if they did, that would be reason enough not to. Christ said He is the Way and the Truth, let it be so before we unknowingly become a part of the continued division of the Body.

    1. goingtodamascus says:

      Sir Johnny McJohnerson! Thank you for your continued steadfastness and support in reading these silly musings I put up online. I’m thankful for you because I know there are plenty of other things you could be spending time reading, and your comments are feedback that help me grow and sharpen as a communicator.

      I understand what you’re saying, of course, and its much of the heart behind why I wrote what I wrote. I do of course, like Christians should, long for unity and love under Christ.

      However, my natural instinct is still to call a spade a spade. I don’t think labels in and of themselves are necessarily harmful – in fact I can think of a number ways I don’t think we can dispute they are useful. For example, I find it very useful to apply labels to cults such as Mormons and JW’s who want to claim the name of Jesus and the Bible but clearly do not. I also find it useful and necessary to label those who believe Salvation is by grace through faith alone, or by grace + works (Roman Catholic).

      Or, within Roman Catholicism its become necessary to label those who are coming under the recent liberal surge which leans towards a muddy form of not-quite-universalism, vs classic Roman Catholicism which says anyone who isn’t in the Catholic church is damned.

      Even in the Evangelical church, which has classically been the church which relies on God’s Word, faith and grace alone, Christ alone – is no longer the case. Now there are liberal strings within Evangelicalism who are either universalist or in this new camp of “emerging” churches who are messing with all kinds of whack and muddy theology. What about those who teach you aren’t saved until you’re baptized? What about the “red letter” Christians who say that unless its the “red words” of Jesus, then the rest of the Bible isn’t inspired by God? Or I think of the maligned prosperity gospel, which cruelly and meanly leads people astray by the itching of their own ears. Closely related are the folks who say you’re not saved unless you speak in unintelligible, uncontrollable languages. I also think of the folks who teach crazy things like “getting high on the holy ghost” and absorbing the spirit energies of dead Christians by laying on their grave sites.

      So, I think, in all of those cases, its necessary to apply labels to distinguish completely bunk teaching and evil, repugnant, and mean people from Christianity.

      When I think about something like Calvinism, etc., my sincerest wish is that those who claimed such a label would associate themselves as Christian first and Calvinist second, and only in the context of helpfully explaining where we stand and why. I wish conversations between Calvinists and non-Calvinists always went something like this:

      Calvinist: Yeah, I’m a Christian, and I also would particularly associate my beliefs with the teachings commonly called Calvinism.

      Non Calvinist: Oh, really? Why do you associate with Calvinism?

      Calvinist: Well, I’ve found that those teachings and emphasis really increase my passion and love for Christ and my desire to glorify God in all I do.

      Non Calvinist: Thats awesome brother. I can really see how you seek to bring glory to God in all things. I might not agree with you on everything, but I love seeing your passion for Jesus grow.

      Calvinist: Amen, brother!

      Unfortunately, as you know, this isn’t always the case. Which is why I wrote what I wrote, as I’ve found that in today’s climate its not appropriate anymore to use a label which more often than not causes harm than good. So, in an effort to cut that out in my own life and hopefully influence others, I will drop the title itself and stop publicly identifying with it, such that I can hopefully 1) show people the glory and grace of God through my understanding of Gods word and 2) bring unity to God’s people by not fighting over arbitrary terms.

      1. Jon Price says:

        Neil the real deal! 🙂 I don’t think your writings are silly musings in the slightest, I think they are wonderful and heartfelt dealings with Truth. I see where you are coming from with “labels”, and maybe I’m a bit Utopian in my mindset, but I wish we could just be Christians (those who follow Christ) and non-Christians (those who follow Christ +/- ________).

        I do understand that there are things we need to thoughtfully and prayerfully seek out in regards to interpretations and meanings of certain passages, but when we begin to divide over these issues I think we are falling into the exact trap Paul was referring to in those passages in Corinthians. When it comes to black and white issues like the Deity of Christ, that grace alone saves and that works are simply a sign of that saving grace via response in love, or that sexual immorality of ANY kind is a sin, no more or less damnable than any other, but never to be justified more or less than any other, well, these are the issues that I believe should fall under Christ alone vs. Christ +/-. And anything Christ +/- is, well, not Christ, and therefore not Christianity as the term is meant to imply. And in case that offends anyone, I am sorry, but if Christ is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life, as He Himself clearly stated, any other way truth or life is not through Him, and therefore not through to the Father He represented.

        When it comes to old vs young Earth, pre-trib vs post-trib, pre-mill vs post-mill, Calvanism vs Armenianism, etc etc etc, I think that the one Body of Christ should stick together and talk about it like we’re doing here (or better yet in person), instead of dividing and surrounding ourselves with people that agree with us and therefore don’t challenge us to continue to be introspective about our views and continue to lean to the Holy Spirit to guide us. When Paul had his “sharp dispute” with Barnabus, they indeed were apparently so frustrated that they had to temporarily part ways, but they didn’t create Paulism and Barnabianism, in fact, as I’m sure you know, it was Paul that adamantly spoke out against it.

        Now, that being said, I feel that I can say that “I like/agree with what C.S. Lewis had to say about/how he addressed the issue of pride” or “I didn’t like/agree with what Bonhoffer said about ______” (I like Bonhoffer, hard to find an example ;-), thereby still drawing on the wisdom and insight of great thinkers and theologians without becoming their “disciples” (careful not to mistake that I am saying you are a “disciple” of Calvin, I know better).

        The reason I can’t bring myself to align with really any denomination or “label” is because I always (so far) find myself not agreeing with some part of their doctrine. I feel like the only way we can all be free to do that, is to align ourselves with Christ and His Word alone, and when we have a “sharp dispute”, walk away for a time if necessary, but always remain one Body when we return.

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