A Present Concern (continued)
An increasing number of people consider matters of doctrine to be nothing more than the egalitarian opinions of one ecclesiastical body to be on an equal par with the opinions of another. Furthermore, they liberally declare that everyone is entitled to their personal opinions.
God does not offer us mere opinions in the matter of salvation. He is not the Author of confusion, but of truth. He does not teach two opposing pathways to life. God nowhere reveals His sovereignty as an optional belief. Nor does He offer a series of multiple theological choices – where the correct answer is “all of the above.” The Bible reveals who man is and who God is. It does not leave this matter open to the speculations and formulations of depraved man.
Those who respond by saying, “But Arminianism works too” are woefully ignorant of God’s concept of Truth. Have we now reached the point of adopting a Machiavellian approach to theology, where the “end justifies the means”? The “end” (as well as the “beginning”) of all things must be the glory of God, not human claims to success.
And, what about this “end”? I have encountered enough Arminians who have no actual, solid, enduring comfort in their faith. They remain unsure as to their end. It is simply impossible for any man-centered theology to produce real comfort and peace to the soul. Yet, let’s be clear on this – whether Arminianism or Calvinism, “what works” is not the issue. The only valid consideration is whether it is true.
The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is the teaching of the Bible. It is the heart of the gospel. It ought to be sweeping the world instead of being brushed aside as a relic of an outdated system of doctrine. We need Christians with the courage and zeal to say, as Martin Luther did many years ago regarding the Bible, “Here I stand. I can do no other.”
My purpose in examining the subject of the sovereignty of God and His grace is not simply to win some theological debate, but to provide answers and clarification to this doctrine. It is not my intention to condemn Arminians, but to correct some serious errors they hold, and this, for their benefit. It is impossible to treat this subject without reference to Arminianism since the formulation of the Five Points of Calvinism grew out of the Remonstrant challenge.
We also need to set the record straight on the often misunderstood teaching of what is known as “Calvinism.” We adhere to the teaching of the Bible, and to what Calvin taught insofar as it is in agreement with the Bible. Only if our salvation is properly understood can all the glory rightly be attributed to God alone. Only if we properly understand our own salvation can we spread the good news to others. Only if we build our faith on this solid foundation can we as Christians have real and lasting joy, comfort, and thanksgiving in our salvation. And, only if our salvation is rightly understood will we properly give all the praise and glory to God for it.
I am concerned that we maintain the correct starting point in the study of our salvation. If we fail at the outset, we will undoubtedly fail at every point along the way. If man begins with a false premise, he can only end up with a false result. Calvinism is a “system” of doctrine which is intricately woven together by Scripture. It is not a potshot approach where each doctrine is defined independently of others.
I hope to lay before the reader, as clearly as possible, the teaching of Scripture, with the hope that he will build his faith on this foundation. Those who continue in their determination to reject these doctrines will have to deal with them from the Bible, not from their opinion of what the Reformed Church believes and teaches. Ultimately this study should help us to be able to clearly answer the question, “What does it mean to say we are Reformed?”
My objective is to deal with a limited area of theology which I am convinced is most important for Christians – the doctrine of salvation, or “soteriology.” I will be examining these under the five doctrinal headings called the “Five Points of Calvinism.”
I am not inferring that “Calvinism” is limited to only five doctrines. There are some who claim they are “Calvinists” solely because they believe in the doctrines of grace, while rejecting Calvin’s teaching regarding the covenant, sacraments, ecclesiology, and eschatology. Nor should we conclude that God reveals His “grace” only in soteriology. The Christian’s entire faith and life is permeated with the grace and love of God. We are partakers of the Covenant of Grace. The glorious result of true faith is that we understand our release from the bondage of sin and our restoration to God’s created purpose – that man is to bring glory to God in every moment and facet of his life, now and everlastingly.
Many excellent books have been written on this subject and I am indebted to their authors. I do not intend to expand on them, but to glean from them in order to briefly present in a workbook format the essential arguments and scriptural data necessary to a basic understanding which may spur your appetite for further study. I urge readers to use their Bibles and to faithfully look up the passages referred to. Furthermore, I encourage you to grapple with the questions and write down your answers which will help you retain them.
For further reading, I encourage you to read the books listed in the bibliography at the end of this study. The Scripture quoted will be from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
In conclusion, it is my hope and prayer that God will use this study to accomplish three things. First, may it edify and provide structure and deeper meaning to your faith. Secondly, that believing, you may lift your voice in praise to the sovereign, triune God for the gracious gift of salvation. And thirdly, that this study will equip you and fill you with a renewed zeal to proclaim this gospel of our sovereign God to others.
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author. If you’ve enjoyed reading it, you can purchase a copy for yourself. If you want to read the blog series from the beginning, start here.