Spectrum of Christian Theism

Doctrine matters.  It has been well-said that it’s important to know what you believe, and why you believe it.

This becomes especially serious when the various subjects and ramifications of belief increase in importance.

For example I may “believe” that chocolate ice cream is superior to vanilla ice cream.  I may even have occasion to defend this belief, and attempt to persuade others to agree with my point of view.  But at the end of the day it really matters very little which ice cream preference I have, and I may even change my mind.  This type of belief is quite peripheral, and I frankly don’t order my life around my food preferences.

There are, however, more central or “core” beliefs that have far reaching consequences in my mind, and in the way I live.  And no subject is more significant than a man’s beliefs about God; one’s conception of Deity.

I’m firmly persuaded that the Biblical data, which represents God’s own Self-disclosure, sets forth the kind of God that is best described by what is commonly known as Calvinism, which is nothing more or less than a doctrinal summation of the God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself.

Yet the spectrum of Christian theism is very broad indeed, encompassing a vast array of overlapping, and sometimes competing systems of thought.  I found the following quote to be a helpful summary of the broad sweep of Christian theistic thought:

There are in reality only two types of religious thought. There is the religion of faith, and there is the religion of works. We believe that what has been known in Church History as Calvinism is the purest and most consistent embodiment of the religion of faith, while that which has been known as Arminianism has been diluted to a dangerous degree by the religion of works and that it is therefore an inconsistent and unstable form of Christianity. In other words, we believe that Christianity comes to its fullest and purest expression in Reformed Faith.

In the early part of the fifth century these two types of religious thought came into direct conflict in a remarkably clear contrast as embodied in two fifth-century theologians, Augustine and Pelagius. Augustine pointed men to God as the source of all true spiritual wisdom and strength, while Pelagius threw men back on themselves and said that they were able in their own strength to do all that God commanded, otherwise God would not command it. We believe that Arminianism represents a compromise between these two systems, but that while in its more evangelical form, as in early Wesleyanism, it approaches the religion of faith, it nevertheless does contain serious elements of error.

We are living in a day in which practically all of the historic churches are being attacked from within by unbelief. Many of them have already succumbed. And almost invariably the line of descent has been from Calvinism to Arminianism, from Arminianism to Liberalism, and then to Unitarianism. And the history of Liberalism and Unitarianism shows that they deteriorate into a social gospel that is too weak to sustain itself. We are convinced that the future of Christianity is bound up with that system of theology historically called “Calvinism.’ Where the God centered principles of Calvinism have been abandoned, there has been a strong tendency downward into the depths of man centered naturalism or secularism. Some have declared – rightly, we believe – that there is no consistent stopping place between Calvinism and atheism.

The basic principle of Calvinism is the sovereignty of God. This represents the purpose of the Triune God as absolute and unconditional, independent of the whole finite creation, and originating solely in the eternal counsel of His will. He appoints the course of nature and directs the course of history down to the minutest details. His decrees therefore are eternal, unchangeable, holy, wise and sovereign. They are represented in the Bible as being the basis of the divine foreknowledge of all future events, and not conditioned by that foreknowledge or by anything originating in the events themselves.

I strongly encourage the reader to consider the entire article from whence the snippet above was taken, which is located here.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Quotes (26)

John MacArthur“Death (of a Church) occurs when unbelievers are allowed to take over ministries in the church. It happens when a church becomes more concerned with form and liturgy than it is with life on a spiritual level. Death occurs when a church becomes more concerned about welfare and social ills than it is about salvation. It happens when a church loves systems more than it loves Jesus Christ. And it happens when a church becomes more concerned with material things than spiritual reality. That’s how a church dies. It all is a result of sin.

Sin–in any form that the church tolerates, whether it is in the members or the leaders. Tolerance of sin begins the cycle; then comes the tolerance of unbelievers in the church until no one cares who is a believer or an unbeliever. The end comes when the man who runs the church isn’t a believer. Sins of commission and omission kill a church little by little. When that happens, Christians become carnal. Soon afterwards, unbelievers come into the church, and then a total tolerance for sin exists. The church begins to die, and the people who really love Jesus Christ leave only to be replaced by people who don’t know Him.”

—John MacArthur

The Doctrine of God's Impassibility

Excerpted from “God Without Mood Swings”, by Phil Johnson

Perhaps the most difficult biblical dilemma for those of us who affirm the classic view of an utterly sovereign and immutable God is the problem of how to make sense of the various divine affections spoken of in Scripture. If God is eternally unchanging—if His will and His mind are as fixed and constant as His character—how could He ever experience the rising and falling passions we associate with love, joy, exasperation, or anger?

Classic theism teaches that God is impassible—not subject to suffering, pain, or the ebb and flow of involuntary passions. In the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, God is “without body, parts, or passions, immutable” (2.1).

God without passions? Can such a view be reconciled with the biblical data? Consider Genesis 5:6-7: “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (emphasis added). In fact, Scripture frequently ascribes changing emotions to God. At various times He is said to be grieved (Psalm 78:40), angry (Deuteronomy 1:37), pleased (1 Kings 3:10), joyful (Zephaniah 3:17), and moved by pity (Judges 2:18).

Continue reading here.

Quotes (21)

You must understand that there is only one door to salvation, and that is Christ; there is one way, and that is Christ; one truth, and that is Christ; one life, and that is Christ. Salvation lies in Jesus only; it does not lie in you, in your doings, or your feelings, or your knowings, or your resolutions. In Him all life and light for the sons of men are stored up by the mercy of God the Father. This may be one reason why you have not found the light; because you have sought it in the wrong place. Though the Lord has placed it on record in His Word, in the plainest language, that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. 9:16) yet most men in their hearts imagine that everlasting life is tied to duties and earned by service. You must abandon such vainglorious notions; you must come before God as a humble petitioner, pleading the promises of mercy, abhorring all idea of merit, confessing that if the Lord condemns you He has a right to do it, and if He saves you, it will be an act of pure gratuitous mercy, a deed of sovereign grace. Oh, too many of you hold your heads too high; to enter the lowly gate of light you must stoop. On the bended knee is the penitent’s true place. “God be merciful to me, a sinner’, is the penitent’s true place. If God should condemn you, you could never complain of injustice, for you could not accuse the Lord, for you have no right to be heard. He could righteously withhold an answer of peace if He so willed.

Confess that you are an undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving sinner and begin to pray as you have never prayed before. Cry out of the depth of self-abasement if you want to be heard. Come as a beggar, not as a creditor. Come to crave, not to demand. Use only this argument, “Lord, hear me, for you are gracious, and Jesus died; I cry to you as a condemned criminal. who seeks pardon. Deliver me from going down into the pit, that I may praise your name.” This harboring of a proud spirit, I fear, has been a great source of mischief with many, and if it has been so with you, amend it and go now with humble and contrite hearts, in lowliness and brokenness of spirit, to your Father whom you have offended, for he will surely accept you as his children. Your salvation does not depend upon what you do, but upon what Christ did when he offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin. All your salvation takes root in the death throes of Calvary; the great Substitute bore your sin and suffered its penalty. Your sin shall never destroy you if upon that bloody tree the Lord’s chosen High Priest made a full expiation for your sins; they shall not be laid against you any more forever. What you have to do is simply accept what Jesus has finished. I know your idea is that you are to bring something to him; but that vainglorious idea has ruined many, and will ruin many more. When you are brought empty-handed, made willing to accept a free and full salvation from the hand of the Crucified, then, and then only, will you will be saved.

-C.H. Spurgeon

1834-1892

The Doctrines of Grace – Loraine Boettner

For a guy named “Loraine” he sure does hit hard

Total Depravity

1. Statement of the Doctrine.
2. The Extent and Effects of Original Sin.
3. The Defects in Man’s Common Virtues.
4. The Fall of Man.
5. The Representative Principle.
6. The Goodness and Severity of God.
7. Scripture Proof.

Unconditional Election

1. Statement
2. Comments by Calvin, Luther, and Warfield
3. Proof from Scripture
4. Based on the Doctrine of Original Sin
No Injustice is Done to the Non-Elect
5. State of the Heathens
6. Purposes of the Decree of Reprobation
7. Arminians Center Attack on this Doctrine
8. Under no Obligation to Explain all These Things

Limited Atonement

1. Statement of the Doctrine.
2. The Infinite Value of Christ’s Atonement.
3. The Atonement is Limited in Purpose and Application.
4. Christ’s Work as a Perfect Fulfilment of the Law.
5. A Ransom.
6. The Divine Purpose in Christ’s Sacrifice.
7. The Exclusion of the Non-Elect.
8. The Argument from the Foreknowledge of God.
9. Certain Benefits Which Extend to Mankind in General.

Efficacious Grace

1. Teaching of the Westminster Confession.
2. Necessity for the Change.
3. An Inward Change Wrought by Supernatural Power.
4. The Effect Produced in the Soul.
5. The Sufficiency of Christ’s Work — Evangelicalism
6. Arminian View of Universal Grace.
7. No Violation of Man’s Free Agency.
8. Common Grace.

Perseverance of the Saints

1. Statement of the Doctrine.
2. Perseverance Does Not Depend Upon the Person’s Good Works But Upon God’s Grace.
3. Though Truly Saved the Christian May Temporarily Backslide and Commit Sin.
4. An Outward Profession of Righteousness Not a Guarantee That the Person Is a True Christian.
5. Arminian Sense of Insecurity.
6. Purpose of the Scripture Warnings Against Apostasy.
7. Scripture Proof.

HT: The Highway

Quotes (20)

“Be ye separate” – 2 Cor. 6:17

The Christian, while in the world, is not to be of the world. He should be distinguished from it in the great object of his life. To him, “to live”, should be “Christ”. Whether he eats, or drinks, or whatever he does, he should do all to God’s glory. You may lay up treasure; but lay it up in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, where thieves break not through nor steal. You may strive to be rich; but be it your ambition to be “rich in faith”, and good works. You may have pleasure; but when you are merry, sing psalms and make melody in your hearts to the Lord. In your spirit, as well as in your aim, you should differ from the world. Waiting humbly before God, always conscious of His presence, delighting in communion with Him, and seeking to know His will, you will prove that you are of the heavenly race. And you should be separate from the world in your actions. If a thing be right, though you lose by it, it must be done; if it be wrong, though you would gain by it, you must scorn the sin for your Master’s sake. You must have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Walk worthy of your high calling and dignity. Remember, O Christian, that thou are a son of the King of kings. Therefore, keep thyself unspotted from the world. Soil not the fingers which are soon to sweep celestial strings; let not these eyes become the windows of lust which are soon to see the King in His beauty – let not those feet be defiled in miry places, which are soon to walk the golden streets – let not those hearts to be filled with pride and bitterness which are ere long to be filled with heaven, and to overflow with ecstatic joy.

-C.H. Spurgeon

1834-1892