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A Joke From A New Systematic Theology

I’m currently browsing my way through a review copy of Michael Bird’s recently released Evangelical Theology.
At over 850 pages I’ll strive to provide my impressions next week.
It contains characteristic expressions of humour, some of them in special boxes marked ‘comic belief’.

Here’s an example:

A Calvinist arrives at St. Peter’s gates and sees that there are two queues going in. One is marked “predestined,” and the other is marked “free will.” Being the card-carrying Calvinist that he is, he strolls on over to the predestined queue. After several moments an angel asks him, “Why are you in this line?” He replies, “Because I chose it.” The angel looks surprised, “Well, if you ‘chose’ it, then you should be in the free will line.” So our Calvinist, now slightly miffed, obediently wanders over to the free will line. Again, after a few minutes, another angel asks him, “Why are you in this line?” He sullenly replies, “Someone made me come here.”


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John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, Doxology – eBook Editions Available Free During October

Reformation Trust Publishing and Ligonier Ministries are making the electronic editions of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, Doxology available for free during October.
You can get the Kindle edition free at Amazon.
Other electronic publication types can be accessed at this page.
This is a no-brainer. Go and get it.

Ligonier describe the book in these terms:

JOH08BH_200x1000Burk Parsons, editor of Tabletalk magazine and co-pastor at Saint Andrew’s Chapel, has brought together an impressive group of pastors and scholars to reconsider Calvin’s life and legacy. Contributors include Jay Adams, Eric Alexander Thabiti Anyabwile, Joel Beeke, Jerry Bridges, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, D. G. Hart, Michael Horton, Phillip R. Johnson, Steven Lawson, John MacArthur, Keith Mathison, Richard Phillips, Harry Reeder, Philip Graham Ryken, Derek Thomas, Thomas Ascol, and others.
In twenty succinct chapters, these men examine Calvin the man; his work (as a Reformer, a churchman, a preacher, a counselor, and a writer); and his teachings (on subjects as diverse as the Holy Spirit and prayer). What emerges is a multifaceted portrait of a man whose contributions to Christian thought and Christian living were significant indeed, a man whose life, work, and teachings are worthy to be remembered and studied even in the twenty-first century.


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What’s So Great About The Doctrines Of Grace by Richard Phillips – eBook Free During July

Whats-So-Great-About-The-Doctrines-Of-Grace-205x300The ebook editions of What’s So Great About The Doctrines Of Grace by Richard Phillips is being made available for free during July.
The book is an introduction to the doctrines known as the Five Points Of Calvinism.
Amazon have the Kindle edition here.
Ligonier have more details at their blog, and offer these links:


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North Korea Announces Defeat Of Calvinism (via Tominthebox)

North Korea’s leader has it in for calvinism.
I need my therapy llama more than ever.
source


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BACON Is The New TULIP

Saw this on Rob Duncanson’s Facebook stream.
How to make good theology even more palatable.

And, for dessert, how about the (sadly US only) Burger King Bacon Sunday.

ht


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Common Misconceptions About Calvinism (via Crossway Blog)

We were having exactly this conversation last night, so I’m posting this here so Roger (and all of you) can read it.
The post is from Crossway Publishing blog and is based on themes explored in a new book The Joy Of Calvinism. (No, you shouldn’t wait for the movie)

1. Calvinism Does Not Deny That We Have Free Will

Today, the phrase “free will” refers to moral responsibility. When we say people have free will, we mean that they are not just puppets of exterior natural forces such as their heredity and environment; they are in control of their own choices and are morally responsible for them. “Free will” today has a radically different meaning from the one it took on in the context of the sixteenth-century Reformation debate. In the sixteenth century, nobody was questioning that the will is “free” in the sense of self-controlled and morally responsible. Everyone agreed that people have “free will” in this sense, but people didn’t call it “free will” because that phrase had a different meaning for them. Calvin even called the slavery of the will to Satan “voluntary slavery.” Read more.

2. Calvinism Does Not Say We Are Saved Against Our Will

It’s true that, in the Calvinistic view, the Holy Spirit does not ask our permission before working change in our hearts. But the change that he works makes us more free, not less. Here is another parallel to the work of creation—we all agree that even though God didn’t ask our permission before he created our wills, he nonetheless created our wills free. If he can create a free will without its permission, he can also make it even freer without its permission. The important point is that freer is what he makes it. Read more.

 

3. Calvinism Does Not Say That We Are Totally Depraved

When people hear the assertion that apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit we are “totally depraved,” they naturally take that to mean there is nothing in us that is good in any respect. Besides being false to all experience, such a view is easy to disprove from Scripture. The Bible frequently notes the presence of qualities in unbelievers that are good in some way. Moreover, if there were really nothing good in us, then we couldn’t know right from wrong—since knowledge of righteousness would be something good. If that were the case, we wouldn’t be culpable for sinning; it couldn’t be our fault that we sin if we didn’t know right from wrong. This seems to be exactly Paul’s point in Romans 2, where after observing that the Gentiles “by nature do what the law requires,” he goes on to comment that “they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness” (Rom. 2:15). Read more.

4. Calvinism Does Not Deny That God Loves the Lost

In each of the three cases above, people believe Calvinism says x when in fact Calvinism strenuously denies x. The question of whether God loves the lost, however, is different. Calvinism, in itself, implies no position one way or the other on this issue. Calvin himself didn’t address it because the question hadn’t been raised yet during his life. It was later generations of Calvinists, contemplating the Calvinistic doctrine, who started asking whether God loves those whom he has not chosen to save. Read more.

5. Calvinism is Not Primarily Concerned with the Sovereignty of God or Predestination

There is no absolute, unanswerable proof for what is or is not the “primary concern” of a theological tradition. It’s a matter of judgment. Yet I think this issue is pretty clear cut if you make a serious study of Calvinism, so it’s worth mentioning here. And the widely held idea that Calvinism is all about sovereignty and predestination is one of the most subtly destructive misperceptions of them all. To be sure, Calvinism strongly affirms a “high” view of the sovereignty of God and predestination. But that view was not the unique and distinguishing theological contribution of Calvinism; nor was it the issue that Calvin or his followers thought was most important. Calvinism insists upon this particular view of sovereignty and predestination only as a necessary precaution against errors that would undermine other doctrines, and those other doctrines are Calvinism’s real primary focus. Read more.

Adapted from The Joy of Calvinism: Knowing God’s Personal, Unconditional, Irresistible, Unbreakable Love by Greg Forster. Read this full sample chapter from The Joy of Calvinism.


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How to Call for a Gospel Response Like a Calvinist (via Eric McKiddie)

What does a Calvinist altar call look like?
Eric McKiddie takes a stab in this post from the Gospel Coalition.

How to Call for a Gospel Response Like a Calvinist

“Think like a Calvinist. Preach like an Arminian.”

That is how one preaching professor taught his students to call people to faith in a sermon. He couldn’t reconcile a theological system that embraces God’s sovereignty in salvation with a plea for sinful people to change. Ultimately, this prof thought Calvinism makes sense biblically and logically, but not practically.
Perhaps you have struggled with this, too. I know I have.
There was a season of my ministry where I didn’t call people to believe the gospel. I preached the gospel, of course, but only with the hope that the Spirit would use his word to regenerate spiritually dead teenagers against their will. I merely implied that they must believe the gospel.
But I have turned from this mindset. This is not because my pendulum has swung to a more balanced position between Calvinism and Arminianism—I don’t believe there is such a thing. It’s because I’ve grown to understand what Calvinism is and, perhaps more importantly, what it isn’t.

It is Calvinistic to call people to respond with faith in the gospel.
Eschewing theological labels for a moment, it is biblical and Christian to call people to believe in the gospel. This is, after all, how Jesus began his ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). You don’t have to know Greek to recognize the imperatives.
But we Calvinists love to quote Ephesians 2:8. “Faith is a gift from God!” we exclaim. “It doesn’t originate in the person!”
The question is: When non-Christians do repent and believe the gospel, do they express faith in Christ? Or does God grant the gift of faith in Christ to men? Yes! Why? Scripture teaches that faith in Christ includes both an objective and a subjective aspect. This is not a contradiction. Rather, the two must be held in tension.
Objectively speaking, faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8, although the “gift” is the whole work of salvation, not just the faith). Subjectively speaking, the person exercises faith in the gospel (Eph. 1:13). This is why Paul thanks God (the objective side) for the Ephesians’ faith in the Lord (the subjective side; Eph. 1:15-16).
Since faith is both objective and subjective, we are right, as Calvinists, to call unbelievers to put their faith in Jesus.
Hyper-Calvinists inappropriately overemphasize the objective aspect of faith. Therefore, they have a hard time calling people to put their trust in Jesus. Arminians, on the other hand, inappropriately overemphasize the subjective aspect of faith, as ultimately the responsibility of the individual.
Calvinism, and more importantly the Bible, appropriately emphasizes both, which is why we can (must!) call unbelievers to put their faith in Christ, and mean it.

Calvinists believe there is power in the call to respond.
Someone might respond, “Okay, faith is objective and subjective. But if the person hasn’t been regenerated, the call to faith falls on spiritually deaf ears, and therefore will necessarily be ineffective.”
But this response fails to recognize that the power for a person to change lies not in their current spiritual condition. The power lies within the preached Word through the work of the Holy Spirit. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).
The Word is what works the change: Jesus told the paralytic to get up. God told the light to show up. Jesus told Lazarus to come out.
Charles Spurgeon once said:

The effectual call of grace is precisely similar [to that of Lazarus]; the sinner is dead in sin; he is not only in sin but dead in sin, without any power whatever to give to himself the life of grace. . . . Sovereign grace cries, either by the minister, or else directly without any agency, by the Spirit of God, “come forth!” and that man lives. Does he contribute anything to his new life? Not he; his life is given solely by God.

By God’s grace, his Word, proclaimed by sinful people, contains the power to change hearts.

Calvinists pray for unbelievers to respond to the call.
Is there a point in praying for people to respond to the gospel if the number of those who will respond is fixed in God’s plan from eternity?
Paul seems to think so: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1). Who is Paul praying for? Israel, who seeks to establish a righteousness of their own through the works of the law (Rom. 9:31; 10:3) rather than by faith in Christ.
Does it shock you that Paul prays for Israel’s salvation in his most extensive section on God’s sovereignty in election? Perhaps a prayer like this sounds Arminian to you. Perhaps it sounds like the future is open for the souls we preach to, and that they have not been predestined one way or the other.
But to pray for someone to be saved is thoroughly Calvinistic. Why? Every prayer for God to save someone is at least an implicit confession that they can’t respond to the gospel in their own power, whether or not we explicitly acknowledge this to be the case. When you pray for God to save someone, you say, “God, you must do the work to save this person, because otherwise, they won’t turn to you.”

How to think like a Calvinist and preach like one.
Where do we go from here? This discussion boils down to three ways Calvinists ought to proclaim the gospel:

  1. Explicitly call the unregenerate to believe in the gospel.
  2. Trust that the Holy Spirit will do the work to make that call effective in the elect.
  3. Pray that God would save people through the inherent power of the gospel.

More than just being practical, Calvinism contains the power for calling sinners to respond to the gospel in faith.