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!

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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

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

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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