Monday, January 4, 2016

Presbyterianism and High Calvinism

When I first started this investigation into covenants about a month ago it was in order to prove to a worthy friend that the Baptist model was right and that his conversion was unfounded. As you can see, by deciding the Presbyterian position is the more biblical of the two I’ve failed in my mission. However, to repay him for upending my worldview and keep him from having the last laugh, I’m now going to up end his. Because if what I’ve said is right then logically he’s doomed to become a classic or moderate Calvinist.

The reason is that high Calvinism (the idea that Christ’s work is exclusively particular to the elect) is a flower that grows only in Baptist soil. If the New Covenant is equivalent to salvation then you’re excused from believing in a universal component of Christ’s atonement. It makes sense under this idea that His blood is given for, and only good for, the elect. Of course the non-elect have no share in the shed blood of Christ; they’re not under a covenant with Him. But if you’re a Presbyterian then high Calvinism is a horse blanket that doesn’t fit.

First, it’s totally unnecessary. I mean, why would you want accept the fundamental Baptist interpretive principles when it goes against your own? What does it get you? They need strict limited atonement to be true since without it they’re totally naked and defenseless against Presbyterianism. But you don’t need that because you’re already a Presbyterian. Your taking their framework for yourself is the equivalent of welding a boat-car hull on your BMW to make it more aerodynamic. Just… no. Your system already emphasizes that the work of redemption was done with the elect in mind, and you already know that He loves His people with a special love. So what does this Baptist idea get you? Think it over carefully, there’s nothing gained by asserting Christ’s work was only contained to the elect. Your system has already solved the dilemma of a universal offer and an elect for you.

Secondly, just like how the Baptists necessarily believe in a strictly subjective model, you necessarily believe in the objective work of Christ. You believe that all men can be under a covenant with Him, and that covenant blessings like sanctification loom larger than faith. You believe that Christ is a priest who propitiates the wrath of the Father. You believe He offers a sacrifice of Himself. You believe in the revelation that Jesus makes God willing to forgive sinners whereas there was no way God could’ve done that before. On what basis do you back up and say He propitiates only for the elect? On what basis are the non-elect excluded from this covenant? On what grounds is this forgiveness available only for the elect given the objective nature of Christs work? It’s impossible given your starting point. Adoption, justification, forgiveness of sin, these things are for believers. But the covenant made in Christs blood? That’s for everyone or you’re not consistent.

Lastly, the Baptists keep the atoning work of Christ from bleeding outward by reducing it to a single purpose. Not only can you not make that assertion, and not only does it get you nothing to make it, but it’s a belief going in the wrong direction for you. The New Covenant isn’t something that’s shrinking, but something that’s growing. The gates of hell aren’t going to prevail against it. Baptists need to keep that cage door closed or the lion escapes, but you’re marching forward waving the banner of post-millennialism. So let the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ be everywhere spread. Just as the covenant is, so must the covenant do.

There are other good arguments of course, and it’s those arguments that won me over as a Baptist. Things like the sincere offer of salvation and the payment for original sin, to say nothing of the specific verses that indicate it’s the correct interpretation. But I’m not really concerned with those, I only want to show you that structurally there’s no stable form of High Calvinism for a Presbyterian. This isn’t to say that you can’t be a high Calvinist Presbyterian, but it does mean that you’re holding it against gravity and it’s only a matter of time before the thing settles on firmer ground. The Nash equilibrium for High Calvinism is the Baptist view, for Presbyterianism its classic Calvinism. 

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