Tuesday, March 27, 2007

One reason why i'm reformed

"All that the Father has given me will come to me. And the one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out." (John 6:37)

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend about witnessing to cult members, such as Jehovah's Witnesses. I was asking what his experiences have been like with them and to see what advice he would give me if I ever encountered one. To sum up his advice, "Don't bother. They don't want the truth. Your time would be much more well spent doing something else." During our conversation, I didn't disagree with him because I thought to myself, "He's right! These people are so hardened and blind that there is no point in even bothering."

Later on as I went through my day, I began thinking through this. So often i've been asked the question, "If Calvinism is true, why bother witnessing? Isn't God going to save them anyways?" In fact, a friend of mine just the other day asked me this question. Its a very legitimate question. But its an inconsistent one. Let me explain.

Why would someone give me the advice to not bother witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses? The obvious answer from their non-Calvinistic perspective would be because they have hardened their own hearts to the point that they are so brainwashed that there is nothing you could possibly say that could persuade them. But what about God? Couldn't He reveal Himself to them? Well, from an arminian perspective, God has already done all He could do. He's died for their sins and He's persuaded them with His Holy Spirit. Now its up to them to respond!

So when people ask me, "If Calvinism is true, why bother witnessing?" I simply ask in return, "If Calvinism isn't true, why bother witnessing?" If God has done all He could do, and if cultists have hardened themselves to the point of us giving up, then what more could we possibly do? In fact, why should we even pray for them? After all, its all up to them now!

But as I got to thinking through this, I was reminded of John 6:37, where the Father decrees the giving of of His chosen people to the Son; all that the Father gives to the Son will come to the Son. Is it possible that it could happen any other way? Could there be disunity in the Godhead? Could the Father command something of the Son that couldn't be accomplished because of the "almighty" will of man? Of course not! So how could I even think of believing that there are people out there that are too "hard" for God to save? My God can save anyone He wills to save! And yes, this includes even the most hardened Jehovah's Witness.

"But Mike! You are being inconsistent! If these people aren't God's 'chosen ones,' then you are wasting your time!" This could only be true if all of God's elect had glowing halos over their head so that I could distinguish them from the non-elect. But because I don't know who the elect are, I can truthfully and boldly proclaim the Gospel to all men and trusting God to do the rest. After all, Salvation is completely and totally of God and is not in any way dependent upon the will of man. This is called Monergism: God alone saves apart from the cooperation of man's "will."

One good point my friend did bring up that I agreed with is casting pearls before swine. If someone does not want to hear what I have to say, i'm not going to sneak into his bedroom at night, tie him up and scream through a megaphone, "accept Christ!" I think there needs to be a balance here. But if you know a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness who seems set in his beliefs, it is in no way a waste of time to share with him, even if it takes years. It would be absolutely wrong to conclude that this person is just like any cultist who refuses to even listen to what you have to say. And furthermore, this person may possibly have never heard the Gospel! Just because they proclaim Christ and his love, this doesn't mean that they know the true Gospel. We can never assume anything. Proclaim the truth, because God is always glorified when His truth is proclaimed. This is just one of many reasons why i'm a Calvinist.

3 comments:

jimfisher007 said...

Mike,

You bloggd: "cult members, such as Jehovah's Witnesses."

Some define sect to mean a group that has broken away from an established religion. Others apply the term to a group that follows a particular human leader or teacher. The term is usually used in a derogatory way. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not an offshoot of some church but include persons from all walks of life and from many religious backgrounds. They do not look to any human, but rather to Jesus Christ, as their leader.

A cult is a religion that is said to be unorthodox or that emphasizes devotion according to prescribed ritual. Many cults follow a living human leader, and often their adherents live in groups apart from the rest of society. The standard for what is orthodox, however, should be God’s Word, and Jehovah’s Witnesses strictly adhere to the Bible. Their worship is a way of life, not a ritual devotion. They neither follow a human nor isolate themselves from the rest of society. They live and work in the midst of other people.

If what you say is true then that would make Calvinism a cult since they adhere to his teachings, woudn't it? Double standard.

jimfisher007 said...

Calvinism has gone through a number of stages.

The First Reformation (1517-1580)
The Protestant Reformation took different forms in different countries. The Calvinist reformations in some of the countries are:

Switzerland: Reformation in Switzerland
Scotland: Scottish Reformation
England: English Reformation
Netherlands: Dutch Reformation (see also Dutch Reformed Church)
Hungary: Hungarian Reformation (see also Reformed Church in Hungary)
France: Huguenots

The Second Reformation (1621-1650)
The second reformation was given different names even in different parts of the English-speaking world. These include

Switzerland: The Reformation in Switzerland is often considered to have lasted through this time
Scotland: Second Scottish Reformation (see also Covenanters)
England:
Puritan Awakening of the Puritans
Pilgrims
Netherlands: Nadere Reformatie ("Another Reformation")
Some of the articles on the First Reformation also cover the second.

The First Great Awakening (1730s and 1740s)
UK and USA: Just as with the Protestant Reformation, so also the First Great Awakening had its Calvinist branch, as can be seen from the lives of some in the Awakening Generation.
Netherlands: Nadere Reformatie is also considered to have continued until this time.

Neo-Calvinism
Around 1886
Main article: Neo-Calvinism
A version of Calvinism that has been adopted by both theological conservatives and liberals gained influence in the Dutch Reformed churches, late in the 19th century, dubbed "neo-Calvinism", which developed along lines of the theories of Dutch theologian, statesman and journalist, Abraham Kuyper.

Neo-orthodox Calvinism
After World War I: 1918+
See also: Neo-Orthodoxy
Many Calvinists regard Neo-orthodox Calvinism as not being a form of Calvinism at all, as, unlike previous stages in the history of Calvinism, it rejects some of the more basic beliefs of non-neo-orthodox Calvinism

Christian Reconstruction (1958-)
See also: Christian Reconstructionism
Christian Reconstructionism is a distinct revision of Kuyper's approach, which sharply departs from that root influence through the complete rejection of pluralism, and by formulating suggested applications of the sanctions of Biblical Law for modern civil governments.

Calvinism (sometimes called the Reformed tradition, the Reformed faith, or Reformed theology) is a theological system and an approach to the Christian life that emphasizes the rule of God over all things.[1] It was developed by theologians such as Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and Huldrych Zwingli and influenced English reformers such as Thomas Cranmer and John Jewel, but it bears the name of the French reformer John Calvin because of his prominent influence on it and because of his role in the confessional and ecclesiastical debates throughout the 16th century. Today, this term also refers to the doctrines and practices of the Reformed churches of which Calvin was an early leader. Less commonly, it can refer to the individual teaching of Calvin himself.[2] The system is best known for its doctrines of predestination and total depravity.

Mike-e said...

Jehovah's Witnesses are a cult because they claim to be Christian but deny essential Christian doctrine, such as the Trinity. This makes them unorthodox in every sense of the word. And i'm not using "cult" in a derogatory way. In fact, I don't think too many JW's would be comfortable with being referred to as orthodox.

And no, this does not make Calvinism a cult. Calvinists do not "follow." We simply agree with his teachings on predestination and election. That's it. If you read Calvin's Institutes, for instance, you'll find that he is completely repulsed at the idea of "following" any human or organization would be also be disgusted at the idea of anyone today "following him."

As far as the stages in Reformed theology, i'm not sure what the relevance is.