Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Principle Error of Popular, Modern Calvinism

Before beginning, let me first speculate that the denial of the necessity of faith is unique to Calvinism because the children of Calvin are a systematic type; following in the footsteps of the Institutes they seek to know why God would do a thing, while the children of Luther following in the footsteps of a Bible translation read the Bible as a story unfolding. You can forget the importance of faith in the first case, but it's impossible in the other. You never hear of hyper-Lutherans, because the beauty of faith is never forgotten.

The Centrality of Faith
Faith is:
  • That thing which pleases God. Heb 11:6.  (The opposite holds true as well, all things done without faith are displeasing to Him. Rom 14:23)
  • A settled confidence in God's promises, character, and goodness Heb 11:1 
  • A command from God for something we must do Mark 11:22 
  • The way we may be saved John 6:29
  • Grounded on the atoning work of Christ on the cross.  Without Christ we have faith in nothing, meaning faith becomes is useless. 1 Cor 15:14 But just as faith is no good without the atonement, the atonement is useless without faith Heb 4:2 
  • Possible only upon hearing the good news of Christ, which awakens our dead unregenerate hearts to life Gal 3:2,5, 2 Tim 3:15.  (Regeneration is a prerequisite for faith, until our will is put right we refuse faith)
  • Trusting in God enough to live out your convictions.  James 2:19-24 (I know I'm starting to sound like a Lutheran here, but when Martin Luther translated the Latin the word he selected to convey faith or belief was the word trust.)
By faith we are
  • sanctified  2 Cor 5:7; Gal 2:20, 3:11; Heb 10:38; Rom 1:17
  • adopted Gal 3:26
  • healed Mark 2:5; Mark 5:34; Luke 5:20, 8:48, 17:19, 18:42; Acts 3:16 and given strength Heb 11.
  • justified Gal 2:16 
  • saved should we have faith until the day of our death Eph 3:17; Gal 5:6; Col 1:23; 2 Thess 3:2; 1 Tim 1:19,5:8, 6:21; 2 Tim 4:7; Heb 6:12; Rev 14:2; Rom 10:9. (This is also proven out in scripture.  When Jesus prayed that they would be saved He asked His father that their faith not fail Luke 22:32, and when Satan attempts to bring people down into hell he attempts to remove their faith Acts 13:8)
Notice that faith is synonymous with salvation. When we have faith we have justification, reconciliation, eternal life, and should we lack faith we are already condemned. One thing alone astounded Jesus, and that was faith Matt 8:10, or lack thereof Mark 1:1-6, Luke 24:25-26.
It cannot be overemphasized: faith genuinely, totally, astonishingly, pleases God. He loves our faith. He desires we have it, because He is kindness beyond understanding.

Doctrines that Counterfeit Faith

Faith is not regeneration.  Nicodemus was correct in asserting that man cannot be born again of his own  power- it would be an impossibility to use your own will to re-create your will, it would be like entering your mothers womb as an adult. Only God can create, and only God can re-create.
But faith is not like this. Man has a natural ability to place his confidence, approval, respect, and trust in things. Indeed, the very problem is that he places his trust and approval in himself.  That's important, so I'll say it again, God's very grounds for anger against mankind is their demonstration of their abilities.  
It makes no sense therefore to assert mankind is incapable of faith, or to equate faith with regeneration.
And so the consequence of equating faith with regeneration is that it doesn't matter if you have it or not because God will take care of everything for you.  If faith is merely a sovereign act of God's power then there is no reason to act, there is no need to act.

2. The atonement. 
If faith isn't the thing that pleases God and erases our debt before Him then what does?  Christ's atonement is often the answer.  Now this is a good answer insofar as He has placated God's wrath by His atoning sacrifice, but this is only what makes salvation possible, not what actually saves.  The hyper-Calvinist asserts things like "does Christ potentially save, or actually save" without realizing that the atonement is not applied from the cross. We are under wrath until the moment of faith, and not until we believe is God pleased.
The cross placates the wrath of God but only faith pleases Him. And of course, the consequence of this error is that there is no need for faith, because the cross is the only thing we need.

The Final Result
Faith is the mountain snow and sanctification is the stream it feeds.  Without faith being honored the result is that there is no sanctification. Not only is there no love for non-believers, there is no love for the brothers. Go into a facebook use-group, or look at a web page, or talk to them in person, they are predominately characterized by their divisive attitude. Better yet, observe them. See if they don't make for themselves an enlightened splinter group and leave their current church, citing how the rest of Christendom has failing theology. This is because they deny faith, and in so doing remove the possibility of sanctification. 
Such is the principle error of modern Calvinists.

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