Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 31st: Protestantism & the West, Pt. 6

October 31st is the historical catalyst of Western liberties.

It is time to re-consider the vitality and viability of Christianity once again. Pragmatism is the only native American philosophy. And Americans live it to the hilt. Yet if we follow what 'works' why not follow Christianity?

This series is directed at encouraging American Christians to reconsider their roots and modern detractors to reconsider the historical significance of Protestantism. America is one of the best socio-historical evidences for Christianity.

Our freedoms were forged in the fires of the Reformation. And expanded through her children. And yet too many Americans wish to divorce these freedoms from the framework in which they were erected. They want the fruits without the Christian roots. If there is any cause and effect in the world, then this spells disaster for future generations.

Freedom & the Reformation

How is that so? Let a liberal historian from Yale explain the logical and psychological connections in a three-fold manner:

"How is it, then, that Calvinism is acknowledged, even by foes, to have promoted powerfully the cause of civil liberty? The reason lies in the boundary line which it drew between church and State. Calvinism would not surrender the peculiar notions of the Church to the civil authority. Whether the church, or the Government, should regulate the administration the Sacrament, and admit or reject the communicants, was the question which Calvin fought out with the authorities at Geneva, in this feature, Calvinism differed from the relation of the civil leaders to the Church, as established under the auspices of Zwingli, well as of Luther, and from the Anglican system which originated under Henry VIII…"

Thus, separation of church and state (a legal term not clearly defined until last century) began budding during the Reformation.

"A second reason why Calvinism has been favorable to civil liberty is found in the republican character of its church organization. Laymen shared power with ministers… Men who were accustomed to rule themselves in the Church would claim the same privilege in the commonwealth…"

The Presbyterian model is three-fold: a layer of courts (local church, regional church (Presbytery) and a national church (General Assembly)), joint-rule by laymen (elders) and ministers, and a written constitution. The people vote for their leaders and local issues. The people's voice is exercised through their elders at the regional and national levels. This republican system pre-dated America's by over two-hundred years.

"Another source of the influence of Calvinism, in advancing the cause of civil liberty, has been derived from its theology. The sense of the exaltation of the Almighty Ruler, and of his intimate connection with the minutest incidents and obligations of human life, which is fostered by this theology, dwarfs all earthly potentates. An intense spirituality, a consciousness that this life is but an infinitesimal fraction of human existence, dissipates the feeling of personal homage for men, however high their station, and dulls the luster of all earthly grandeur. Calvinism and Romanism are the antipodes of each other." (George Park Fisher, The Reformation, revised, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920), 207ff.)

In fact, historian and founder of Annapolis, George Bancroft (son of a Unitarian minister and no friend of Calvinism) declared:

"The fanatic for Calvinism was a fanatic for liberty; and, in the moral warfare for freedom, his creed was his most faithful counselor and his never-failing support. The Puritans...planted...the undying principles of democratic liberty" (A History of the United States, vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Brothers), 464)

He even declared:
"Calvin infused enduring elements into the institutions of Geneva, and made it for the modern world, the impregnable fortress of popular liberty, the fertile seed-plot of democracy."

(Literary and Historical Miscellanies, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1855), 405-406)

The Point of It All

The influence of the Reformation was not monolithic. And other factors were involved. And historians do debate on how and to what extent Calvinism influenced early modernity. Yet influence it did.

The theological influence of Luther and the Reformers is the most fundamental factor. As such I must mention again that the Gospel calls men to repent of their wayward actions and beliefs. Men, being bound in their sin, have guilty consciences they try to assuage, even to the point of creating entire new worldviews whole-cloth. But the Gospel of Christ, that He died for the sins of those who believe in Him and His work, can free such fettered consciences.

And a free conscience is a free man.

This entire series can be summed up by a modern encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics:

"In general it may be claimed for Calvinism that its influence has been an elevating and invigorating one. Abasing man before God, but exalting him again in the consciousness of a newborn liberty in Christ, teaching him his slavery through sin, yet restoring his freedom to him through grace, and leading him to regard all things in the light of eternity, it contributed to form a grave but very noble and elevated type of character, and reared a race not afraid to lift up the head before kings."

James Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Part 5, (Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 153.)

Part 1, October Revolution
Part 2, Education
Part 3, Birth of America
Part 4, Early America
Part 5, Political Roots
Part 6, October 31st

For more info: For a scholarly assessment of Calvinism's influence read, The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion & Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism, Witte; for evidence that resistance to tyrant was part of the middle colony Reformed thought read, Revolution and Religion, Griffin.


Our Founding Truth said...

I have learned John Calvin was the greatest influence to the founding fathers, however, Calvinism presents some problems for me.

polymathis said...


I can certainly imagine the problems it would cause. I wasn't always a Calvinist myself.

I will not try to pressure you beyond stating the obvious: I'm sure you've met a few cranky calvinists but look beyond the individuals and see the fruits of this understanding of the Bible; see how it radically formed the America you love.

By their fruits you shall know them.

in Christ,

Our Founding Truth said...

I haven't studied Calvinism deeply, so I don't know their apologetic on the issue of "Love"

However, the concept of love, to me, is the downfall of Calvinism. I cannot see God interfering with free will whatsoever; if so, then it isn't real love towards God. But, I could be wrong, because I'm not versed in Calvinism, or if love is even needed in Calvinist theology.

I haven't read anything on that either. Maybe you have some recommendations.

Based on "love" the last four out of five points are unsriptural to me. I believe in predestination, however unconditional election takes away free will, which compromises love.

It appears to me, that whatever my choice is, is God's will. No contradiction there. God foreknew what I am going to do. I John 2:2 contradicts limited atonement, but I haven't done a word study on "whole world" yet. Irresistable Grace attacks love again, and perserverance of the saints does the same thing.

Jesus told sinners if they were thirsty, they could come to him. It's not just the elect who get thirsty right? If those points in Calvinism were true, then maybe Jesus lied to some of those sinners, no? Were they all the elect? Did none of them believe? I'm reading it now, Jesus is speaking to Pharisees, and unbelievers. Why would Jesus tell someone to believe if it was impossible since they weren't elect?

I also can't understand why I couldn't see myself as a sinner, depraved and needing to be saved. I'm certain the Greek in Ro 3:11, "seeketh" is refering to understanding His ways, no?

From the principle of imputation, and James 3:9, I believe adherence to Original Sin is mandatory, because it has to be. If there is no original sin, there is no image of God in man. God made that easy, and John Locke rejected it, sealing his doom. You can't have one without the other. They are both based on the same thing; imputation, just as my wretchedness is imputed to Jesus, and Jesus' righteousness is imputed to me. I get all that, and believe it.

In the research I did in my last post on James Madison, I'm sure I proved that he wasn't a rationalist, at least while forming the nation. He believed, correct me if I'm wrong, as Knox and Edwards; that our choices are predetermined, accomodating, not eliminating our free will; just what I said earlier.

This is key information, because Madison believed in predestination, showing he actually was a Calvinist. If he believed in predetermined choices, he believed in predetermined souls.

Off to bed.

In the Lord

polymathis said...

Dear Our Founding Truth,

There are many things that could be written about Calvinism. At the least, one ought to understand God as not *only* loving but also just, good, etc.

But I think focusing on the relationship between love and justification will suffice.

You note at times on your blog that Original sin and justification by faith are important doctrines. This is true.

But what kind of love gives a salvation that can be lost? When a father gives his dying son medication does he not seek out the best, one that will work permanently?

But let me expand the illustration: what if the son has a death-wish? Should the father say, 'yeah, sure; I love you so much I'll let you die'?

The total depravity of man, from a historical viewpoint, necessitates a salvation outside of himself. Man is dead in trespasses and sins, having a ‘death-wish’ since he loves sin and hates God. If the Bible pictures man in sin like leopard who cannot change its spots (Jer. 13:23), then the love of God is not a passive wait-for-man-to-decide love but a sovereign love that must resurrect the spiritual dead (Ez.37).

The connection to justification is that the righteousness of Christ imputed to sinner through faith alone is a justification born out of a love that will not lose one from the embrace of Christ (Jn. 6:39): 39 "This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day."

So, believers cannot lose their salvation. On the front end, they cannot obtain it without divine help either because justification is by faith alone. And faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Of course, being born in (original) sin, no human's will is free but bound in sin (Eph. 2:1,2). Romans 3:11ff. summarizes: " 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."

No one seeks God. They turn from Him. They do no good. Exercising faith is to seek God, to turn from Him to do something good (pleasing). Therefore, faith cannot be exercised by man outside of Christ.

He and she need the work of the Holy Spirit to breathe life into them, to give them the new birth. After this regeneration man is then converted: he sees his sins (acts) and sinfulness (nature), repents and places his trust in Christ alone.

So, from this gloomy picture of man, election, predestination and the sole-prerogative of God to choose undeserving men and women is good news indeed.

Or consider: the Bible’s idea of free-will is a will that *follows the nature of man.* Men are not *free* to obey God because they are *born* sinners. They are free to sin. This is original sin. Since you believe in that, you are in principle in the same “dilemma” that Calvinists are in. Is it “fair” or “loving” that men and women are born (without their choice in the matter?) in the bondage of sin?

Please think on these things.

In Christ,

Our Founding Truth said...

It sounds to me the crux of what you said reflects what I said; i.e. Romans 3:11.

If "seeketh" does refer to "seek after" "enquire" "to search out" "to search for." It appears to me it contradicts Acts 10.

It says Cornelius "feared God, "worketh righteousness" and "prayed to God" "a just man"
but the Calvinist view, which could be the right one, says "no one seeks after God" But Cornelius did seek after God.

The NIV translates "seeketh" as understanding God and His salvation.

You say "No one seeks God. They turn from Him. They do no good. Exercising faith is to seek God, to turn from Him to do something good (pleasing). Therefore, faith cannot be exercised by man outside of Christ."

But Cornelius did seek after God, while he was yet in his sins, and God responded by sending Peter.

I think the context of Eph 2:8 is in verse 9, where He talks about works, and the colon after "yourselves." That salvation is by faith not works.

I know a guy who lost his salvation, and I doubt he was deceived. 8 out of 10 who go to secular college lose their faith. Calvinists may say, he never was saved, but I don't think I can judge a person's heart, and God doesn't want me too either.

I believe God will never let me go, as you said, but that verse pertains to God, not the individual. 8 out of 10 let themselves go, as Barna claims.

I need more than what I know, but I could be wrong.

In the Lord


polymathis said...


This is a thoughtful question.

I must first note that my reply was a general thrust, pointing to several verses. I did not deal with details. Now I will.

Part I.

1. Why should the Calvinist understanding of Rom. 3:11 contradict Acts 10 instead of the other way around? Rom. 3:11 explains Acts 10:
a) The presumption of Romans 3:11 explaining Acts 10 is strong because,
b) it is a didactic passage; one that deals directly with the question at hand;
c) in contrast, Acts 10 is a descriptive passage and these are not always prescriptive (commands) or doctrinal. Descriptive is explained by didactic/doctrinal.

2. The context of Romans 3:11 is clear:
a) The words "there is none" and "all" indicate every person;
b) v.9 begins this new section by the blanket declaration: "both Jew & Greeks..under sin"
c) If Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) are not "righteous," nor "understand" but
d) rather "turned aside," and become "unprofitable" (NKJV) (vs.10-12)
e) How can that paint a picture of unbelievers able to "seek God" without His aid?
f) Hebrew poetry is mainly built upon synonymous, therefore:
(i) "understands" and "seeks" are similar ideas that overlap
(ii) all the words thus far are saying the same thing in different ways:
(iv) all that man is and does is corrupt, sinful, rebellious, etc.

3. Thus, the solution could be many:
a) Cornelius could already be regenerate but not fully informed or
b) He is not regenerate but being drawn by the Spirit to the Gospel.
c) Given his reception of the HS in v.44ff. b) seems likely.
d) Why is he a God-fearer and giver of alms if unregenerate?
(i) Calvinists do not claim unbelievers can do no good work
(ii) Any good work, however, is not good enough for God
(iii) And it is not motivated by faith in Christ and love of God
(iv) God-fearers were gentiles who associated with the Jews.
(v) As such they had more Biblical knowledge the the vast majority
(vi) Any unbeliever is still made in the image of God and
(vii) may 'seek' out God in a sense of feeling something is missing, Rom. 1:18ff.

3. Thus there is no conflict between Romans and Acts

As for the use of the work 'seek':

1. The particular word in Rom. 3:11 is to seek "diligently" or "carefully" (Friberg)
a) It is used 7 times in NT.
b) Heb. 11:6 speaks directly of it:"And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that
he rewards those who *seek* him."
c) Heb. 12:17 writes of Esau: "he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he *sought* it diligently with tears."
d) Thus it is not the simple act of "seeking" that qualifies as an act pleasing to God but a 'seeking' through/by faith (Heb. 11:6).

A true seeking must always be in true faith.

As for Ephesians and faith. Ephesians 2:8ff: "For by grace you have been saved
through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

The question I ask you is: what is exactly is "the gift of God"?
Contextually, "that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God..." is close to the word 'faith'. The semicolon is merely a strong comma or a weak period, not necessarily dividing the topic. Also: if faith originates only with us (and not a gift from God), then we can "boast". Boasting, as Paul uses the idea elsewhere, is about what we have originally. Faith is not natural.

Even so, there is another verse saying the same thing: Philippians 1:29 "For it *has been granted* to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake..."

(more to come)

Our Founding Truth said...

I would say the gift of God is salvation as Jesus said in John 4.

It's actually a colon after yourselves, and gift of God, with "Not of works immediately proceeding, so to me, the context is salvation, and that it isn't by works but by grace through faith.

I see too many problems with Calvinism, on all the five points I mentioned earlier, but like I said, Calvin is the one most responsible for Republican govt, natural rights attributed to the enlightenment, as he explained in detail, what Aquinas vaguely touched on.

It is safe to say, the enlightenment brought nothing to the course of human rights to the Founding Fathers; the reformation was 150 years before the enlightenment.

As the pastors at my church, I am a abiding Calvinist; and I can say most, if not all, the Calvary Chapel Pastors adhere to that doctrine.

As far as losing salvation, I don't know how you get around Rev. 3:5. If you do discard it, you are claiming Jesus said something(losing your salvation) that isn't possible, which doesn't make sense.

But the framers at least believed in part of total depravity, including Washington.

In the Lord.

polymathis said...


Even granting that the subject of Eph. 2:8 is salvation, is not faith and repentance part of salvation? At the least they are required elements for any unbeliever to obtain the righteousness of Christ. Thus, even from this perspective the Calvinist view that faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit can still stand.

The particular problem you brought up (the two "conflicting" texts) I have answered within the strictures of normal Evangelical hermeneutics. Even if my conclusions are not comfortable, my reasoning follows actual biblical texts. It is best to deal with one question at a time.

The short answer to Rev. 3: those who persevere will make it to the end, but only the elect persevere. Others, who are members of the church were never true believers to begin with (1 John 2:19). But before going further, I think I need to step back and explain a few things first:

As for Calvary Chapel Pastors, the Christians I know who have attended a few of these (including Chuck Smith's in California) never knew their pastors to be a Calvinist in any historical sense of the term. That term I think is not properly understood. Let me define it:

Broadly, Calvinism can be explained in its understanding of sovereignty, sin and salvation. The Triune Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the starting point of informed Calvinists everywhere. The Trinity created all things and upholds and directs all things for their own glory. They do not kowtow to man's will but have their own free-will that follows the nature of God (who cannot lie, etc.). In radical, contrast, man is dead in trespasses and sins, with a natural mind that cannot serve God and a bound will that follows the dictates of an evil heart. Salvation, then is purely supernatural and fully gracious because nothing in the human condition moved God to save anyone. Salvation is full (those who are saved will be saved and cannot but be saved) and free (even the impossible requirement of repenting from sin and trusting in the Person and Work of Christ is possible because man is born again by the Spirit).

Even after I am saved, I am so impotent that I still need God working in me, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:12,13). How much more before I was saved?

I would encourage you to further investigate this issue. It is of utmost importance in the Christian life whether God's will follows mans (as you asserted earlier) or man's will ultimately follows God's will. There is no security in a life concerned about doing enough good to avoid losing one's salvation. But there is great joy in obeying God out of a changed heart of gratitude. Perhaps my short articles, Cain, Sin, & the Will of God may be thought-provoking,

Is this clearer now? After this is better understood, we can cover more questions,

for Christ's glory,


Our Founding Truth said...

Hi Shawn,

I was referring specifically to Rev 3:5. In order for the 4th or 5th point of Calvinism to be true, you have to claim Jesus said something that wasn't possible. I don't see how you can get around that, but maybe you can. I am no arbiter of Divine Truth.

The context for 1 Jn 2:19 is v. 18, "anti-christs" so the context is false Christians in the church, that lead us astray. As I mentioned earlier, I don't think it's right to judge without specific evidence of heterodoxy.

I will check out your article. Hope you had a great week. Enjoy the weekend.

In the Lord