Convictional and Compassionate: Being an All-Around Calvinist

What comes to your mind when you hear the term “Calvinist” or “Calvinism” mentioned? For some people, the term represents a theology and a people who are cold, selfish, eggheads, academics, not practical, and isolated. The caricature of Calvinism oozes forth from many people as if being a Calvinist and being a leper were synonymous with one another. As someone who gladly embraces the term (with qualifiers as a Baptist), along with unashamedly declaring the doctrines of grace from the pulpit, it raises a concern that perhaps our zeal apart from love contributes to the scarecrow straw-man constructed by those who oppose Calvinism. A Calvinist must be a man or woman who is a Calvinist all-around. This is a play on C.H. Spurgeon’s work An All-Around Ministry where the Prince of Preachers guides young pastors into seeing the many elements that must be a part of ministry. I would suggest a few elements that are needed for us to be all-around Calvinists.

Experiential Religion

Some might get the impression (fairly and unfairly) that to be a Calvinist requires an oath to reject any type of feelings and emotions in regards to the Christian faith. If one reads just a few Puritan works, the conclusion will be made that this is not true. As I read The Valley of Vision (which you should too) prayers, my heart stirs within me considering the greatness of our God and His grace manifest in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Calvinism fuels true experiential religion built upon the Word of God. In his work The Practical Implications of Calvinism, Pastor Albert N. Martin makes a striking observation: “I submit that a man has no right to speak of being a Calvinist because he can repeat like a parrot phrases brought to him in the great heritage of Reformed literature. He must ask himself, Has the Holy Spirit brought be me to this profound sense of God that has worked in me at least in some measure the grace of humility.” [1] It is not enough for us to systemize if we do not internalize. The doctrines of grace are the marrow for experiential religion for they are anchored to the text of the Bible, beholding the majesty of God, humbling our prideful spirits, and taking us upward to behold the Lamb of God. Is your Calvinism causing you to be a man or woman of biblical, experiential religion? May God help us if our Calvinism causes us to be cold and indifferent! Such an experience would indict us of not truly knowing the doctrines of grace.

An Informed Worldview

Calvinism extends far beyond TULIP and the latest conferences. Biblical and historic Calvinism provides a guide for how to view all of life. A person’s theology better be more than what takes them to corporate worship for an hour on Sunday. In fact, this is one of the great problems of the day. A ritualistic morality is a poor and cheap substitute for biblical Christianity. The great Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield defined a Calvinist in the following way:

He who believes in God without reserve and is determined that God shall be God to him in all his thinking, feeling and willing – in the entire compass of his life activities, intellectual, moral, and spiritual – throughout all his individual social and religious relations, is, by force of that strictest of all logic which presides over the outworking of principles into thought and life, by the very necessity of the case, a Calvinist. [2]

Warfield expands the playing field when it comes to Calvinism as being more than a theological acrostic. Theology can never be impractical due to the fact that doctrine fuels our lives. Each day decisions are made based upon a worldview, a grid for life. Calvinism will influence how you parent, how you relate to your spouse, the way you view your job, politics, and so forth. If Calvinism only comes into play when TULIP is spoken of, then it is not Calvinism but a sort of pragmatism that reigns in the heart and mind of an individual. J.I. Packer beautifully summarizes this in his introductory essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ:

        “Calvinism is a whole world-view, stemming from a clear vision of God as the whole world’s Maker and King. Calvinism is the consistent endeavor to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of his will. Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all life under the direction and control of God’s own word. Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible – the God-centered outlook which sees the Creator as the source, and means, and end, of everything that is, both in nature and in grace. Calvinism is thus theism (belief in God as the ground of all things), religion (dependence on God as the giver of all things), and evangelicalism (trust in God through Christ for all things), all in their purest and most highly developed form. And Calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God’s world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of his great preordained plan for his creatures and his church. The five points assert no more than God is sovereign in saving the individual, but Calvinism, as such, is concerned with the much broader assertion that he is sovereign everywhere.” [3]

A Gracious Outlook

Confessing a theology known as the doctrines of grace must impact us in being gracious to others. Sometimes I cringe reading Twitter and seeing how men who I am persuaded are true believers, who call themselves Calvinists, and yet speak to each other in ways that lack any type of grace and charity. Keyboard Calvinism is as dangerous as pragmatism. Calvinism is not a badge to wear for admittance into the cool kids’ club nor is it a club to beat people over the head with. When one gets a true sense of the grace that God has shown, how can that not humble us and guide us in our dealings with others?

One of the great concerns I have is that many Facebook and Twitter Calvinists are pragmatists when it comes to their ecclesiology. If you choose where you attend church and are a member at based on pragmatic values, then it does not matter how well you can articulate the doctrines of unconditional election and irresistible grace. One of the greatest changes in my life when I came to understand the doctrines of grace involved how I viewed the local church. If you want to destroy the caricature of cold Calvinism, band together with like-minded believers. The beauty of Calvinism should be seen in gracious cooperation: serve the community like ministering at a children’s home or a nursing home, show grace to one another knowing all of us are feeble human beings who need Christ and remember that the pilgrimage to Zion is not a road of isolation.

Steadfast Convictions

The false dichotomy that states being gracious and compassionate means the absence of convictions and beliefs must be rejected. Our Lord is all-gracious and compassionate yet He is dogmatic and narrow as He declares that He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. Calvinism must be compassionate and convictional. Our theology does matter. Our beliefs do matter. For someone to say that it is not a big deal what one believes concerning God’s sovereignty, man’s depravity and Christ’s sufficiency moves closer and closer to a false gospel. Further reformation is needed today when it comes to the regulative principle of worship, the perpetuity of the moral law of God, confessionalism, and covenant theology. However, a person can be fervently committed to the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith without being obnoxious about it. In my opinion, no one combined the doctrinal fidelity of Calvinism with experiential religion, powerful evangelism, compassionate ministry, and selfless service like C.H. Spurgeon. Yet, Spurgeon was no ecumenical in the sense of watering down doctrine and theological railing. [4]

Conclusion

In recent months, there seems to be a growing trend that to be aligned with the 2nd London Baptist Confession indicates that one carries it as a badge of cantankerous religion and a fundamentalist zeal. In fact, “1689 Twitter” became a hashtag on social media in regards to the unsavory attitudes displayed by those who claim subscription to the confession. A few bad apples claiming confessionalism should not distort the richness of the 2LBCF. The tradition of this confession is a Christ-centered, church-oriented Calvinism that calls us to be convictional and compassionate. May those who claim confessional Calvinism emulate the Christian piety and warmth of men like John Newton, George Liele, Lemuel Haynes, Andrew Fuller, J.C. Ryle, and C.H. Spurgeon.


[1] Albert N. Martin, The Practical Implications of Calvinism. (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1979), 10.

[2] Ibid., 4.

[3] See https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/packer_intro.html for the full essay.

[4] See https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2001/are-you-sure-you-like-spurgeon/


Jake Stone is a native of Gulfport, MS and has lived on the MS Gulf Coast his entire life. Pastor Jake began to serve full-time at New Testament beginning in August 2011 and this began the relaunch and revitalization process of the church. Jake is a graduate of William Carey University in Hattiesburg, MS. Follow Jake on Twitter @ntbcpastor.

Offices of Christ

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By Evan Knies

A few Sunday nights ago, we walked through this study with our students. These notes are adapted from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic. 

There were three major offices among the people of Israel in the Old Testament: the prophet (Nathan, 2 Sam. 7:2), priest (Abiathar, 1 Sam. 30:7), and king (David, 2 Sam. 5:3). In the Old Testament the prophet spoke God’s Words to the people, the priest offered sacrifices, prayers, and praises to God on the behalf of the people, and the King ruled over the people as God’s representative. These offices foreshadowed Christ and his work. Christ is the final prophet as is the Old Testament in Incarnate. The Word has become flesh as the Gospel of John. But in Hebrews 1, God has spoken in His Son. Jesus is the final Word.  Religions like Islam fail because they see Christ as a good prophet, Muhammad as a better prophet. Jesus is not a prophet, He is the prophet. God’s Word is final in his son. Christ is the final priest because he offers himself as a sacrifice on our behalf. He is King because he rules over the church and the universe. Continue reading “Offices of Christ”

Israel of God

By Evan Knies

In Galatians 6:16, Paul uses the phrase “Israel of God”. He calls the Galatians the “Israel of God” to show that there is one People united in the Son. The Israel of God is the blood bought, elect, bride of Christ. In Him and because of Him, “Israel” receives her promises. In Him, the True Israel receives the blessings and promises bestowed on them because of the work of the Son. Continue reading “Israel of God”

Book Briefs: Practical Religion By JC Ryle

JC Ryle was born in 1816. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1841. He became the rector of St. Thomas’s, Winchester in 1843, then to Helmingham, Suffolk the following year. From 1843 to 1879, he wrote various works and gospel tracts. In 1880, Ryle became the bishop of Liverpool and retired in 1900 at age 83. He died later that year.fullsizeoutput_5b9

I have benefited from the writings of Bunyan, Calvin, Luther, etc. But none have been more beneficial than JC Ryle. In his work Practical Religion, Ryle cuts to the heart of the Christian life. He saw problems in his day and addressed those. But those same problems are present today.

Practical Religion is divided into 21 Chapters: Self-Inquiry, Self-Exertion, Reality, Prayer, Bible Reading, Going to the Table, Charity, Zeal, Freedom, Happiness, Formality, The World, Riches and Poverty, The Best Friend, Sickness, The Family of God, Our Home, Heirs of God, The Great Gathering, The Great Separation, and Eternity.fullsizeoutput_5b8

Ryle addressed the skewed views of the gospel of grace such as “nominal Christianity”. Ryle calls it “churchianity”. But it is the same problem that still exists in many of our Churches today. Some claim Christ when it benefits them, but when life is tough, those  “nominal” believers are found not to be true. In reading Practical Religionthe Christian will be encouraged in Praying and Reading their Bible. But they will also feel conviction on living this life for eternity, not for the “here and now”.

fullsizeoutput_5baI am thankful to God for the life of JC Ryle and his influence in my life. But I am also thankful for Banner of Truth for publishing his works and other various works that are so important for the Christian life.

If you would like to purchase Practical Religion, you may do so here.

Banner has recently released Ryle’s Autobiography, you can purchase it here.


Evan Knies is a student at SBTS, grad of Boyce College, and Minister of Students at Bullitt Lick Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. He is married to Lauren and you can follow him on Twitter at @Evan_Knies.

William Perkins: 3 Reasons the Spirit Drove Christ into the Wilderness to be Tempted

By Obbie T. Todd

While a student at Christ’s College at Cambridge, William Perkins (1558-1602) experienced his conversion after overhearing a woman in the street chiding her disobedient child. Much to his surprise and humiliation, the mother alluded to him as “drunken Perkins.” According to Perkins, this experience then propelled him to reform his ways and to eventually cling to Christ for salvation. The young Perkins went on to meet Laurence Chaderton (1536-1640) who would disciple him and become a lifelong friend. Along with men like Richard Greenham and Richard Rogers, Perkins and Chaderton went on to form a spiritual brotherhood at Cambridge, regarded by many as the Puritan center of the day.

Perkins knew well the guilt and even the public shame of sin. Therefore he was a particularly wise source concerning the issue of temptation. According to J.I. Packer, the Elizabethan theologian became a “pioneer” for Puritan literature on everyday Christian living. (A Quest for Godliness, 41) Perkins defined theology as “the science of living blessedly forever.” (Golden Chaine) Due to the necessity for sanctification and godliness in the Christian life, it was incumbent upon the believer to approach temptation in a biblical manner. The Christian life could be divided into two chief actions: “mortification” and “vivification,” or putting to death the remaining sin of the flesh and living unto Christ by the Spirit. As Perkins demonstrates, temptation is one of the primary means through which Christ achieves this sanctifying process.

In his work The Combat between Christ and the Devil Displayed, taken from his sermons at Cambridge, Perkins scrupulously exegetes the Scriptures while also prescribing a way of righteousness for the sinner. For Perkins, Christ wasn’t simply our penal substitute; He was our perfect life: “But here Christ stood in our room and stead (as He did upon the cross) encountering with Satan for us, as if we in our own persons had been tempted.” (Works of William Perkins, Vol. 1, 97) The Christian looked to Jesus for his justification as well as his sanctification. This was axiomatic for Perkins’ view of Christianity. In his robust presentation of Christ’s desert trials, Perkins seeks to answer why the Spirit drove the Son of God into the wilderness to be tempted. Typical of Perkins’ Ramus logic, the Puritan divine produces three answers…

1. Christ Became a Better Adam by Overcoming Satan’s Assault.
For Perkins, the temptations of Christ in the wilderness should be interpreted against the temptations of Adam in the Garden. Only through biblical typology could Christ’s temptations find fuller meaning. According to Perkins, the Spirit moved Christ to be tempted “that He might foil the devil at his own weapon; for the devil overcame the first Adam in temptation, therefore Christ the second Adam would in temptation overcome him.” Just as Adam is the head of the human race, Christ is the head of a new humanity to be glorified at the resurrection. Without Christ’s conquering of Satan and complete abstinence from sin, this future hope isn’t realized. Our corrupt hearts “like tender do easily suffer corruption to kindle in us; but Christ’s most holy heart did presently like water quench the evil of Satan’s motions.” Jesus threw water on the sweltering darts of Satan’s arsenal. Christ is the guarantor of a better covenant built upon better promises. (Heb. 7:22, 8:6) This new covenant is established upon a sinless Savior who learned obedience and was made perfect through suffering. (5:8-9)

2. Christ Gives Us Insight into the Devil’s Schemes and How to Overcome Them.
According to Perkins, the Spirit cast the Son of God into the wilderness to be tempted “that in His example he might give us direction whereby to know the special temptations wherewith the devil assaults the church, as also how to withstand and repel the same.” Jesus teaches us how to endure temptation and trial, giving us the bigger picture of human suffering. For Perkins, this principle is especially important in deterring the ignorant notion that those who are tempted by the devil are necessarily in sin. Christ Himself was tempted! Perkins exhorts his readers to “behold Christ Jesus the most holy person that ever was, even the ‘holy one of God’ [John 6:69], was tempted of Satan, and that exceeding sore, having the same troubles and vexations thereby arising in His mind that we have, insomuch as the angels came to minister comfort unto Him (v.11).” Christ’s temptation doesn’t compromise his deity; it confirms his suitability, sufficiency, and superiority as our Intercessor and High Priest “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 5:15) This leads naturally to number 3.

3. Jesus Is Now Our Compassionate High Priest.
Jesus walked in our shoes. Just as we are tempted, he was tempted…and then some. Perkins reminds his readers that “Christ was tempted, that He might be ‘a merciful high priest unto them that are tempted’ (Heb. 2:17-18), for Himself knowing the trouble and anguish of temptation, must needs in a more compassionate fellow-feeling of their miseries be ready to help and comfort His members when they are tempted.” As head over the church, Jesus doesn’t lord over us as a tyrant; instead He “comforts His members” as a ruler who understands and empathizes with His people. Our Priest-King came as a servant, and thus He has walked a mile in our shoes. Against the accusations of the Devil, this is a comfort to the sinner. According to Paul R. Schaefer Jr., “The issue of holy living, or sanctification, pervaded the writings of the Elizabethan theologian William Perkins and provides a basis for understanding a primary concern of his theology.” (The Spiritual Brotherhood, 49) With such a conviction for Christian piety, it’s no wonder Perkins marshaled his biblical and intellectual resources in order to guide the sinner through the vicissitudes of human temptation.