Listening to Receive the Glory over on Worship Matters today, I was reminded of why I am drawn to Calvinism: Calvinists score high on giving the glory to God and not to ourselves.
I just don’t know about the word Calvinism. It brings up strong feelings — often negative — at the mere sound. When I mention I am becoming more Calvinist, most people retort with, “Doesn’t the Bible say we should NOT claim to be of Paul, Apollos, or Calvin? That we should claim to be of Jesus alone?” Obviously, Calvin wasn’t around when scripture was written, but in principle, yes! the Bible clearly states we should be dependent upon the Lord Himself and His word alone.
What I think of when I hear the word Calvinism must not be the same thing those who react negatively are thinking. When I say I am becoming more Calvinist, I certainly don’t picture myself bowing a knee to a medieval saint, nor signing away my soul to a contract of uptight religious ideals. I simply mean that I am coming to see that God has a lot more to do with what we see going on on our planet that I could have imagined, and the inverse, that this is all about Him and for Him.
It could be that dear old Calvinism has simply been often misunderstood. Check out Pyromanics, about halfway down this post, for an extremely interesting comparison of Historic v. Internet Calvinism (the post and ensuing comments are worth a read themselves). The only thing I would add to Johnson’s ideas is that it isn’t just the Internet that has given Calvinism a bad name — many people have blown Calvin’s words far out of proportion and wielded them as swords against innocent bystanders, whether on-line, in books, on television or in real life — but isn’t this simply reality? Doesn’t this happen to every people group in one way or another? Haven’t plenty of so-called Christians given authentic Christianity disgustingly ugly marks? Or even so-called Republicans or so-called Democrats, who speak out for “the rest of us,” when they haven’t a freaking clue what they are saying? To me this seems a human problem, not one unique to John Calvin or the genuine theology behind Calvinism.
Or maybe its just that one cannot see the genuine theology behind Calvinism with a man’s name tatooed to the front of it (not to mention a silly little flower being the basis for explaining its theological points!). The new buzz word for Calvinism is “Doctrines of Grace” or more simply “Sovereign Grace.” Now, that hits the nail on the head for me. The person of Calvin is dropped from the terminology, and its place are an emphasis on God’s Sovereignty and God’s Grace — two attributes of God that permeate scripture. There’s even an entire new (wonderful!) denomination, aptly named Sovereign Grace, that is built around “Charismatic Calvinism.”
I have also recently heard today’s Calvinism as being referred to as Neo-Calvinism, or Reformational (rather than simply Reform). In fact, Brian Borger, of the Coalition for Christian Outreach, defines the word Reformational in a way I wholeheartedly embrace:
“Reformational: A word coined to describe a new brand of Calvinists who take the ideas of the Protestant Reformation beyond theology and abstract debates about the nature of the atonement and church life and rather seek to bring about Christian cultural change and social transformation. Serious, lasting change, however, can only come about after serious and radical re-formation of the philosophical assumptions currently deforming each sphere of culture. Reformational folk realize that to be “light in the darkness,” we need to re-think the inner structures of each academic discipline which shape each area of life.”
I like to think of this “new” movement as Calvinism with a Heart and Legs. We’ve heard lately a lot about the Emerging Church, but as Calvinism makes a comeback, I think we ought to watch for the “Re-surging” Church. As the Church re-surges back to God’s Word Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, for God’s Glory Alone, She will pack a strong punch. Her strength will be built on the foundation of God Alone. Her charm and loveliness will become evident by her heart of compassion for the poor, needy, hurting and hungry. Her devotion will be revealed by her legs ready to run and meet the physical and spiritual needs of others as She spreads the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.
I am of the opinion that as a Church we need to re-surge, or reform, more than we need to emerge or evolve. Re-surging brings to mind reforming, and changing back to the way things once were. For you see, rather than coming up with a new gospel, The Five Solas of the Reformation point us back to God’s Word and God Himself. The New Testament does this same thing, and does it better, of course.
The Emerging Church has done us all a favor by pointing out many of Christianity’s current issues and blindspots. I would submit to them that these problems will be solved with resurgence — because God’s Word has answers that work in any time or age. My hope is that as the Emerging Church grows and matures it will join hands and stand together with the Re-surging Church on the Truth of God’s Word.
John Calvin would not have wanted glory for his ideas, he would have wanted the glory to go to God. This is the heart of Calvinism — whatever you want call it — to God be all the glory.
Check the sidebar for few ministries that seem very “Reformational,” “Neo-Calvinist” or “Sovereign Grace-ish” to me.