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!

What is the Gospel?

By Dr. Lorraine Boettner

The Gospel is the good news about the great salvation purchased by Jesus Christ, by which He reconciled sinful men to a holy God. The purpose of this booklet is to set forth, in plain language and in terms easily understood, the basic differences between the Calvinistic (Reformed) and Arminian understanding of the Gospel, and to show what the Bible teaches concerning these subjects. An accurate understanding is crucial; the harmony that exists between the various doctrines of the Christian faith is such that error in regard to any one of them produces more or less distortion in all the others.

There are in reality only two types of religious thought: the religion of faith, and the religion of works. The author is convinced 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 is therefore an inconsistent and unstable form of Christianity. In other words, Christianity comes to its fullest and purest expression in the 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 in the teaching of two 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). Arminianism is a compromise between these two systems; while in its more evangelical form (as in early Wesleyanism) it approaches the religion of faith, it nevertheless does contain serious elements of error.

At present, practically all 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. The history of liberalism and Unitarianism shows that they deteriorate into a social gospel that is too weak to sustain itself. The author is 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 argued convincingly that there is no consistent stopping place between Calvinism and atheism.

Read the entire article here.

Particular Redemption – Loraine Boettner

Absolute Dominion is pleased to offer Loraine Boettner’s work on Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption) for the edification of His people. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. – 1 John 4:9

Limited Atonement

Loraine Boettner

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.

HT: The Highway

Particular Redemption

Reposted in whole from “A Puritan’s Mind

Limited Atonement

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is not limited in its power to save, but in the extent to which it reaches and will save certain individuals.

Limited atonement is a theological term that has been used for centuries to define a very important aspect of the Gospel. It is a fundamental Christian doctrine which states that Jesus Christ came and died for a limited number of people. He did not die, or redeem, every individual for all of time, but for some individuals, i.e. His sheep and His church. This does not mean that the power of His death could not have saved all men if He wanted to. The power and efficacy of His death in and through one drop of His blood could have saved a million-billion worlds. That was not what God intended. The Scripture does not dabble in “possibilities.” It does, however, state that the scope of His death is limited.

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Quotes (12)

Man has become so fallen that he cannot keep the law. Sooner might the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots, than he that is accustomed to do evil learn to do well (Jeremiah 13:23); but what man cannot do, by reason of the perversity of the flesh, God performs within him, working in him to will and to do of his good pleasure. Oh, what amazing grace is this, which while it forgives our want of will, also removes our want of power!

And, dear friends, is it not a wonderful proof of grace that God does this without destroying man in any degree whatever? Man is a creature with a will,—a “free will” as they sometimes call it,—a creature who is responsible for his actions; so God does not come and change our hearts by a physical process, as some seem to dream, but by a spiritual process in which he never mars our nature, but sets our nature right.

If a man becomes a child of God, he still has a will. God does not destroy the delicate machinery of our nature, but he puts it into proper gear. We become Christians with our own full assent and consent; and we keep the law of God not by any compulsion except the sweet compulsion of love. We do not keep it because we cannot do otherwise, but we keep it because we would not do otherwise, because we have come to delight therein, and this seems to me the greatest wonder of divine grace.

See, dear friends, how different is the Lord’s way of working and ours. If you knock down a man who is living an evil life, and put him in chains, you can make him honest by force; or if you set him free, and hem him round with Acts of Parliament, you may make him sober if he cannot get anything to drink, you may make him wonderfully quiet if you put a gag in his mouth; but that is not God’s way of acting.

He who put man in the Garden of Eden, and never put any palisades around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but left man a free agent, does just the same in the operations of his grace. He leaves his people to the influences that are within them, and yet they go right, because they are so changed and renewed by his grace that they delight to do that which once they loathed to do.

I admire the grace of God in acting thus. We should have taken the watch to pieces, and broken half the wheels, and made new ones, or something of the kind. But God knows how to leave the man just as much a man as he was before his conversion, and yet to make him so entirely a new man that old things have passed away, and all things have become new.

And this is very beautiful, too, that when God writes his law in his people’s hearts, He makes this the way of their preservation. When God’s law is written in a man’s heart, that heart becomes divinely royal property, for the King’s name is there, and the heart in which God has written his name can never perish.

– Charles Spurgeon

1834 – 1892

HT: Pyro