As I have been going through the doctrines of grace (aka. Calvinism) in our church’s evening services, I find myself reminded again of their importance for the church. Rather than mere points of doctrine to be debated, the five points of Calvinism are to be lived and gloried in. Just this past Lord’s Day, in my discussion of election, I noted at least five points of application: it gives cause to worship; it grounds assurance; it spurs evangelism; it produces humility; and creates a means by which we understand the Christian life (ethics).
I’ve been a Calvinist for about seven or eight years now, and these were things that I thought long and hard about back then. But as I have grown in the faith and in my understanding of theology, the doctrines of grace have been assumed in my thinking, but not necessarily front and center. To be sure, Calvinism informs my thinking on everything — but when was the last time that I sat and meditated upon all five points? This sermon series has been a great exercise in going “back to the basics” for some meat and potatoes.
Charles Spurgeon, the “prince of preachers,” once said of Calvinism: “It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.” Those are bold words! But they are words that I quite frankly cannot deny. This is not to say that a non-Calvinist necessarily denies the gospel — there is such a thing as “glorious inconsistency” — but to have a full appreciation for the way that God’s salvation was accomplished and applied requires a robust understanding of depravity, election, atonement, grace and perseverance.
The great Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield once said that “Calvinism is (1) Theism come to its rights. Calvinism is (2) Religion at the height of its conception. Calvinism is (3) Evangelicalism in its purest and most stable expression.”
One’s understanding of doctrines like depravity, predestination, grace, etc., influences the way one interprets the bible. It impacts our understanding of God, Christ, salvation. In effect, an approach to the doctrines of grace amounts to an approach to Scripture as a whole. The Calvinist understanding of Christianity is, in many respects, a different understanding than the non-Calvinist. Of course, this is not to say that a non-Calvinist is a non-Christian. But it is to say that their overall methodology is different.
As the so-called “New Calvinism” spreads amongst a new generation of Christians, it’s my hope that the church will benefit by re-capturing the wonder of the gospel. And that the church’s witness to Christ will pay him the fullest homage he deserves: as the only Saviour whose grace and mercy is beyond compare.