Michael Bird on his blog Euangelion (sidebar here) notes that there is a free sample of his latest book Evangelical Theology being made available by Zondervan.
Reading a bit of it I noticed this:
"So when I explain Calvinism to people, I usually say this: “People suck, they suck in sin, they are suckness unto death. And the God who is rich in mercy takes the initiative to save people from the penalty, the power, and even the presence of this sin. This is Calvinism, the rest is commentary.” "
On that basis I am a Calvinist too. And pleased to be one. What about you?
BONUS LINK for the weekend: Richard Dawkins is an undercover agent for the Big Religa. Heh!
And another: Peter Mullen at Cranmer writing on the truth about ... that much misunderstood concept which is the key to understanding all theology, especially Calvinism :).
Thanks, but no thanks.
But do all people really suck? This is the problem with Calvinism and so-called "Reformed" theology. They think that the Romans 7 and Luther experience is the experience of all people. It isn't. And Jesus never acknowledged any such kind of experience. Jesus didn't tailor his preaching to people like that. He tailored it those who were seeking. "Seek and ye shall find." But you guys deny that anyone can seek. Jesus vs Paul. That's how its always been and always will be. Either Jesus is the Son of God, or Paul is.
I wonder, Peter, if Michael Bird is a New Zealander - a place where the word 'sick' if often pronounced 'suck'? In any case, the use of such a metaphor can hardly be called deeply theological, can it?
As some might say her: 'Whatever'!
If Mr. Bird's thesis here is the total summary of Calvinism, no wonder there are so few remaining Calvinists - except perhaps in Sydney. I would think that God, heving made us, would be much more interested in his human creation than just about their sin. Today is the feast of St. Clare, whose innate human goodness was one of the barriers against sin. She saw the goodness in people, not just their sins. But then, SIN does seem to be the preoccupation of some of our Christian Family. So sad!
I know I suck; and Romans 7 has described and describes my experience (maybe Luther too but I have forgotten some of the details and of the details I recall, I do not have a supply of liquid ink!).
Jesus did not have Paul's experience as Jesus was not a sinner whereas Paul was.
I am not at all clear why "you guys deny that anyone can seek" (unless you are speaking of the Calvinism of predestination so that it matters little whether one is a seeker or not. The Calvinism I am drawing attention to here is the passionately-seeking-sinners mercy and grace of God). Those seeking the God of mercy will find him.
Well, not only did Jesus not have such an experience but he also doesn't describe such an experience. Not only that, but the statements "Those who are well need no physician" and "I came not to call the righteous [to repentance] but to call sinners to repentance" indicate that he doesn't consider such an experience to be normative for everyone. He acknowledges the existence of righteous people who don't need him to call them to repentance.
Dr Bird is irredeemably and irrepressibly "Ostaylian."
"suck" is, as I understand the language of today, a way of saying "not good."
If our innate created goodness is as strong as you say, I am stumped as to why (a) Jesus came, and (b) the New Testament took the shape it did and received the reception accorded it by the catholic church!
Yet even the righteous such as Anna and Simeon welcomed the Saviour of Israel!
All objections to Calvinism are fundamentally rooted in a rejection of Total Depravity. It is an offense to the pride of man for it declares that man is incapable of earning favor with God by his own good effort. Worse, it testifies that man is by nature evil and deserving of eternal punishment. It is against this that men gnash their feet. 'Who are you to say that I am not good.' They do not comprehend that they manifest the offense of the Gospel.
That said, the description as offered is insufficient. It is too ambiguous to stand on its own. 'Suck' is not adequate to describe the nature of man.
"If our innate created goodness is as strong as you say, I am stumped as to why (a) Jesus came"
He says himself he came to call sinners to repentance, not to be a metaphyiscal solving agent to dissolve a metaphysical entity.
"and (b) the New Testament took the shape it did and received the reception accorded it by the catholic church!"
Yes, the inclusion of Paul was a big fat mistake of the Catholic church.
"Yet even the righteous such as Anna and Simeon welcomed the Saviour of Israel!"
They thought he was to be a physical savior, a deliverer from the Romans, even as the disciples continued to believe until his death when they had to invent a new purpose for him. The Old Testament knows no such thing as a metaphysical savior because sin is not a metaphyiscal entity but an act.
There can be no denying, Peter, that we are all sinners - in need of redemption. I suppose the problem with some Christians is that they think other Christians are more sinful than they are - and therefore, needing more redemption.
What I like about the Scriptures is when they are discovered to say things like: "Whatsoever things are pure, good, and so on... think on these things!"
Don't keep looking for evil under every bush - or it might nip out and bite you, or drag you in.
When we discover the ineffable beauty of God-in-Christ; our minds are turned to Him and away from our own tawdry little lives. God's goodness attracts us, making us more than aware of our need of repentance and grace. The Good News is, that God is there awaiting us!
Happy St. Clare's Day!
Er; one more time folks ...
As with many who criticize Calvin and/or Calvinism with barely a page of the Institutes (for example) being read seemingly, so too it would be helpful if commentators here would read merely Bird’s Intro, which he entitles “Why An Evangelical Theology?”. Thereafter, we might just get some good dialogue and genuine theological conversation going. Perhaps! I live in hope ...
Kia ora Peter,
No - I am not a Calvinist, except when he is with Hobbs. Generally, people don't suck as much as the average sermon.
Not sure if I am an 'ist' anything, and don't see it as much of an issue. Buddhist, if I must pick.
But Christian - yes.
"... the statements "Those who are well need no physician" and "I came not to call the righteous [to repentance] but to call sinners to repentance" indicate that he doesn't consider such an experience to be normative for everyone."
You need to read more carefully, James; for example, Luke 18.9-14, which Eberhard Juengel points out is a perfect narrative example of the 'Pauline' doctrine of justification by faith. If you know anyone who doesn't need saving from his or her sins, I would like to meet this prelapsarian angel.
Martin simul iustus et peccator
Thanks for comments above. Most interesting. Not commenting on each does not mean I think your comment is not worthy of comment, whether in hearty agreement or disagreement.
I must take issue, however, with Ron on one matter. I have never met a true Christian who thinks that some people are more in need of redemption than others. We are all sinners and, for those who can bear to receive it, we are all totally depraved, completely equal in our need of a Saviour.
The doctrine of Total Depravity needs to be understood accurately. It DOES not mean a person is utterly bad, as bad as he or she could be. Paul never says this, for he recognises that even the unregenerate can make moral judgments with some truth in them (Romans 2). It means *every part of our nature is infected by sin - mind, will, desires - so that no one, unaided by grace, could hope to please God and acquire eternal life by his or her own, unaided efforts. An analogy comes to mind, inspired by Carl's reference to gashed feet. I can still climb a lot of hills, but I wouldn't get far without my trusty boots and (increasingly) my walking pole. I don't know anyone who could climb the celestial mountain unshod. The whole Bible is the message of God's prevenient grace to the helpless and the undeserving.
Of course I echo Bryden's appeal to people actually to read Calvin's Institutes - one of the most remarkable works of theology ever written - and I am just discovering also how Calvin's doctrine of revelation through Word and Spirit has profoundly influenced the Trinitarian theology of Barth and Torrance. Tolle lege, as someone once said!
A Calvinist Baptist professor once explained to me that Calvin's doctrine of Total Depravity does not actually mean that we are literally 'totally depraved' - I.e. that there is absolutely no good in any of us - but rather that there is no part of our human nature which has not be infected by evil. ('Perseverence of the Saints', another facet of the Calvinist 'TULIP', also does not literally mean that we persevere but that God perseveres in his work in us and that God's intention for us will not be defeated).
I would also like to comment on Ron's view that Calvinists look for evil under every bed. Both Ron and I were born in the twentieth century, a century that saw the two great world wars, the Holocaust, and many other vicious atrocities. As Lewis pointed out. The intro to The Screwtape Letters, the insidious thing about evil is that the worst sort of evil is often perpetrated by clean cut men who go home at night to ordinary family homes. In such a world I do not need to look for evil under every bed, Ron.
And no, I am not a Calvinist in the full, 'TULIP' sense, though I once thought I was.
The following is a moderated comment from Ron. I have removed a last comment which makes an allegation about some commenters here which I do not think to be warranted.
"Thereafter, we might just get some good dialogue and genuine theological conversation going. Perhaps! I live in hope ... - Bryden Black -
You don't have to be a Calvinist to be able to engage in 'good dialogue'.
In fact, some Calvinists appear to prefer monologue - its less threatening to their presuppositions.
And, Peter, regarding your Comment; I don't think I've ever met a 'true Christian' (your term, presumably not derogatory, or dismissive of other Christians)who thinks that some people are more in need of redemption than others. ..."
Comment from me: I stand by my claim that I have not met a true I.e. genuine Christian who thinks that some people are more in need of redemption than others. One way of interpreting this observation is that every Christian understands him or herself to be a sinner in need of redemption.
"This is Calvinism, the rest is commentary."
Yes, but in the 'applied' commentary lies the problem, especially in the havoc caused by historical Puritanism against the Church of England from the Elizabethan settlement until the Restoration.
Calvinism in its first English incarnation: a movement that despised symbolism (no wedding rings, no sign of the cross on the forehead of the baptised in Holy Baptism); that attacked the threefold order of ministry as received from the Primitive Church; that sought to eradicate all sense of beauty from church worship (no organ, no hymns, no art); that overthrew the ancient liturgical order of the church in favour of ex tempore clerical monologues; and that arrogantly saw itself as a group of true believers amidst a corrupt church.
The movement was only content once the Sovereign and the Archbishop of Canterbury had been judicially murdered, the use of the Book of Common Prayer banned, the Episcopate disbanded, the observance of Christmas and Easter abolished, and the parish churches of England turned into white-washed sepulchres. But such Genevan 'simplicity'/emptiness could not last for ever.
Calvin was a lawyer and the approach of those who claim to be heirs of Calvin still retains a legalistic tone and method.
PS: To my mind the word "suck" is an impoverished term in theological discourse. However, it's comically appropriate when summarising a theology which seems to take such a low view of human beings - the ones created in God's image and called in Christ to share the divine nature.
It must be stressed that 'Calvinism' isn't simply or even primarily about re-asserting the Augustinian doctrine of grace and predestination over against Pelagianism (or semi-Pelagianism). The 'TULIP' acronym is from the Synod of Dort, in repudiation of Arminianism (who thought he was correctly summarising Calvin). The primary question, signalled already in the opening sentence of the Institutes, is how we may know God. Calvin's answer, over against the medieval schoolmen and their successors, is that we *do know God in the here and now, through his Word and Spirit, hence the priority of *hearing the Word in Reformed theology (as opposed to *seeing or vision in Catholic theology). Because we cannot see God in this life, Catholic theology has limited our present knowledge of God to assenting to the teaching of the church. Calvin does an end run around this with his doctrine of Word and Spirit. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Word and graciously grants us direct intuitive knowledge of God. This, as I understand it, is the real heart of 'Calvinsim'.
It is true that Calvinism is marked by moral seriousness, but I don't think it can be charged with a greater obsession with sin than traditional Catholicism, with its cultus of fasts and penances, and intricate hamartiology.
Excellent points Stephen! You explain why I am a "limited Calvinist"! Not being keen on whitewash and all that ...
Thank you Martin. Your excellent point explains why I am a Calvinist albeit with limited applications thereof ...
I can't see how any Christian, Calvinist or not, would have a problem with the idea that we are all sinners and all in equal need of redemption. The greater theological difference, it seems to me, lies in the idea that, "God.. takes the initiative to save." Now, obviously, God/ Christ is the only one who can save but non- Calvinist theology seems to place a greater emphasis on our role in ACCEPTING that salvation. Salvation is freely offered by God - who does not want any to perish- and freely accepted by us. Seeking God, reaching out to God and accepting salvation is not, of course, the same as saving oneself!
I do not think I am a Calvinist.
Who, Suem, prompts us to accept God's salvation, having prodded us to seek it in the first place?
I wouldn't say that a "who" prompts us to accept that salvation but rather a "what"- the what (to me) is what I would see as our impulse towards good and Godliness - an impulse that we do have as well as our impulse towards evil and sin- and our free will, our God given innate ability to make decisions and to respond to his love.
I've always thought the prayer book collects aeem to be informed by temperate and gracious moderate calvinism. Is that incorrect?
Stephen writes: "Calvinism in its first English incarnation: a movement that despised symbolism (no wedding rings, no sign of the cross on the forehead of the baptised in Holy Baptism); that attacked the threefold order of ministry as received from the Primitive Church; that sought to eradicate all sense of beauty from church worship (no organ, no hymns, no art); that overthrew the ancient liturgical order of the church in favour of ex tempore clerical monologues; and that arrogantly saw itself as a group of true believers amidst a corrupt church"
This is Puritanism more so than Calvinism per se, and an inaccurate statement of the case in what was a contentious, violent period (The "English" Civil Wars). Even before this, there were plenty of Calvinists in the Church of England in the 1570s-90s, including Matthew Parker and John Jewel, and the theology of George Herbert (no stranger to beauty, he!) was pretty Calvinist. Maybe if Charles I hadn't been such a fool, provoking war with Scotland over religion, and Laud such a domineering and vindictive knave, things might have turned out otherwise. Cromwell didn't want to put Charles on trial, and Charles, had he been wiser, could have kept his head and his throne. But extremism breeds extremism. Hymnody wasn't really part of Elizabethan worship, either - or Carolingian.
That's semi-Pelagianism, Suem - really a denial of the Fall and the sovereign election of God: 'No one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him' (John 6.44). 'You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to bear good fruit.'
"I've always thought the prayer book collects seem to be informed by temperate and gracious moderate calvinism. Is that incorrect?"
I think that is right - the theology of the collects is basically about prevenient grace underlying all our strivings to holiness, and the necessity of hearing God's Word. Beyond this, the Articles are clearly Calvinist in inspiration, and the service of Holy Communion reflects Calvin's sacramental teaching in the Institutes.
The, "You did not choose me but I chose you" bit is John 15:16 and I believe this is a reference to his disciples (ie the twelve that he "appointed".) A similar comment is made in John 6:70 where Jesus again reiterates "have I not chosen you, the Twelve?" As for the "no-one can come unless the Father draws me." Well, drawing someone is not making up their mind for them and can quite comfortably fit under the description of the God given impulse to seek him that I described.I think it is also part of the "two way street" language that runs throughout scripture- God draws us, we seek him, God speaks to us, we hear his voice, God does welcomes us as his children, we should not harden our hearts. And so forth. We have to look at the whole sweep of scripture - at least that is what I think.
In that case, then, Suem, "God draws us" is common ground between us.
It is good to have common ground! Of course I believe in God drawing us, prompting us, even choosing us (because he would choose that none should perish and clearly he does choose certain people for particular roles and functions.)I only have a problem with those who believe there is NO human agency at all. However, I think it is within our human control only to accept salvation, not to effect salvation.
So, that's my take on it for what it is worth!
(A revision of an earlier comment)
This afternoon I have removed a series of comments after receiving a threat to bring a complaint against me. The comments include an entirely innocuous response to the offending comment but I think I should remove the sequence.
While my own view is that the complaint if proceeded with would not go anywhere in particular, I have come to the view that the potential time and effort taken to get to that conclusion is not time and effort I particularly want to spend.
I warn Ron that he is in danger of having each and every comment simply deleted without explanation. STOP making denigrative remarks about other Christians.
To all commenters I say that a few bad comments may spoil the whole process as I am now inclined to delete without explanation any comment I am doubtful about.
Play the ball not the player.
What I find most significant re this entire thread is both the immediacy and the stridency with which most have commented. What is it about the mere mention of the word(s) Calvin and/or Calvinism that ignites such passion - on many a side? Might it not pay to try to stand back somewhat and get a gauge on the significance of this phenomenon? For my money, I sense when we drill down it has to do at root with our very human condition ...
"What is it about the mere mention of the word(s) Calvin and/or Calvinism that ignites such passion - on many a side?"
It does generate more heat than light, doesn't it? You would think the words 'predestination' and 'election' began with Calvin, but anyone with a soupcon of historical knowledge is aware that Augustine and post-patristic writers grappled with these questions, seeking to make sense of Romans 9-11 and many passages in John's gospel (such as I averted to above). It was as much an issue for Roman Catholics as for Protestants, as witness Jansen and Pascal, and the fierce treatment they received from their own church. And the teachings of Calvin become a storm-center in European politics in the generation after his death because of the Catholic persecution and massacre of Huguenots in France (1572) and the Calvinist-inspired insurrection against Spain in the Low Countries (the Eighty Years War 1568-1648) that brought England into war with Spain. It seems to have been born in conflict, where the dividing line between religion and nationalism (Ireland, South Africa) was blurred. But there are plenty of other places in the world (Ghana, the US, Korea, and down under) where Calvinism hasn't had that association.
Why, for some Christians, do all roads lead to Jean Calvin? Yes, he wrote a systematic theology that influenced reformed thought but so have many others and Christianity is bigger than one Franco-Swiss lawyer turned theologian. Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer, Melancthon and Erasmus, Hooker and Jewel, they also contributed to Christian thought during the reformation era and continue to inspire.
As for the collects of the Book of Common Prayer, 90% of Archbishop Cranmer's peerless compositions are translations from the collects of the Sarum Missal (what the Puritans called "the popish dunghill" - they did have a nice turn of phrase back then).
The Sarum collects are sourced from ancient Western sacramentaries from the 5th century onwards. If the BCP collects lean heavily on God's power, it has no anachronistic link with Calvin. Western Christianity was under attack by the Barbarian hordes when the sacramentaries were composed, and that tended to cleanse the liturgy of any platitudes to human self-sufficiency.
Stephen, your view of Calvin is too limited and unbalanced. He was a lot more than a 'Franco-Swiss lawyer turned theologian' (he was a Frenchman, actually, not Swiss). Besides his two-volume Institutes, he wrote commentaries on nearly every book of the Bible, and a vast body of sermons. As a humanist steeped in classical languages, he had access to the Greek Fathers and was very sympathetic to them, especially their Trinitarian theology. Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer did not write 'systematic theologies' but were in many ways indebted to Calvin. Jewel and Hooker were more concerned to defend the claims of the Church of England, while Erasmus was no Protestant. Calvin was a deeper and broader thinker than Luther (if less exciting), and Arminius, the Westminster Divines, Dort and Turretin all interact with him. It is no accident that in the 20th century, Calvin's thought significantly influenced Barth and Thomas Torrance. Luther, Calvin and Aquinas continue to be the most seminal theologians, in the west at least, since Augustine.
As for the BCP collects, these have been conformed to Reformed theology. The chief impact of Calvin's thought is in the eucharistic doctrine of the BCP.
Try reading some of Calvin's commentaries! They are remarkably informed for the 16th century and balanced in their purpose of reading the text according to the Antiochene school of historical-grammatical exegesis.
Greetings Stephen! I don’t know if you know The Collects of Thomas Cranmer, eds, Paul Zahl & Frederick Barbee (Eerdmans, 2006). It collects them altogether with original sources noted plus the changes, often subtle and slight, that Cranmer composed. And then they have meditations based on the prayers themselves for each Collect. I thoroughly recommend this resource for all Anglicans - not least as the fulsome Intro might just show how impoverished many/most contemporary collect writing has become ...
Thereafter, I must endorse another commentator’s remarks to the effect that the theme of predestination and other so-called Calvinist purple ideas don’t have their origin with him; rather, they are quite simply biblical, both OT and NT. Without election there is no Israel and no Messiah, and no Eph 1:3-14, for example, and certainly no Rom chs 9-11, without which there would be no “hope” and no “mercy”.
Once again, I have to ponder/wonder why ‘Calvin’ and/or ‘Calvinism’ excites so ...!
Bryden, I was browsing through this book the other day on the Amazon website - it's also on Google Scholar - and I recall hearing Zahl preach a few years ago. The book makes it clear that some of the most famous collects are Cranmer's own composition de novo (e.g. 'read, mark, inwardly digest') and they stress some Reformation distinctives, esp. reading the Scriptures for our own spiritual edification. As well, the 39 Articles' Eucharistic doctrine is most indebted to Calvin. Of course, Cranmer's own instinct was to be as conservative as he could in keeping with Reformed doctrine, and he strove to retain early prayers like the Gloria and the Prayer of St Chrysostom. Continuity with the early church was evidently his watchword.
NZ Anglicanism, in its wisdom, of course, threw out Cranmer's "...hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them..." collect in its "groundbreaking" collect revision in the NZ Prayer Book.
"groundbreaking" can be for a burial as well as planting or building.
"Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen." - infinitely better than the NZ PB. And the Advent Collects of the BCP have a much better sense of the doctrine of the Second Coming, which is downplayed in the NZ PB.
Martin; I have the book and have used it often ...! I shall do a trawl and discover what I have not bothered to find out until now: what % were edited and by how much; and what % are de novo. Be back in touch
Nice irony Bosco! But then you and I are agreed on the paucity and illiteracy of these new fandangled creations, especially in their lack of Trinitarian appreciation!
...and let's not start on the Trinity...
well; that's the case anyway Bosco; they havn't! And when they do try, they've created a form of functionalist modalism! Title D perhaps? or heresy trials?
Martin; I wont swear by these figures, as I did them rather hurriedly:
Cranmer's compositions - around 1/6.
Derived, by translation, from various Sacramentaries, three main ones mostly - nearly 3/4.
Balance, later Latin collects.
So; the comment in the Foreword is correct: "the vast majority of the Prayer Book Collects are in fact pre-Reformation". Note too that 1662 BCP thereafter tweaked a number of Cranmer's translations.
Thanks for making me do the homework!
MEN ARE NOT SAVED BECAUSE OF WORKS
1. Meritorious works cannot save you.
2. Works of the Law of Moses cannot save you.
3. Works of righteousness (good deeds) cannot save you.
Titus 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, (NKJV)
Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, (NASB)
Titus 3:5 then he saved us---not because we were good enough to be saved, but because of his kindness and pity--- by washing away our sins and giving us the new joy of the indwelling Holy Spirit(The Living Bible ---Paraphrased)
Ephesians 2:8-9....you have been saved...9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (NKJV)
Ephesians 2:8-9 ...have been saved...9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (NASB)
Ephesians 2:8-9 ...you have been saved...9 Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take credit for it.(The Living Bible---Paraphrased)
Galatians 2:16 "knowing that a man is not justified by works of the law..... (NKJV)
Galatians 2:16 and yet we Jewish Christian know very well thatwe cannot become right with God by obeying our Jewish law,...(The Living Bible--Paraphrased)
WATER BAPTISM IS NOT A WORK.
1.It is not a work of righteousness.
2. It is not a good deed.
3. Men are not baptized because they are good enough.
4. Water baptism is not administered as a reward for good deeds.
5. Baptism is not a work of the Law of Moses.
Water baptism is so men can be saved. (Marl 16:16)
Water baptism is so men can have their sins forgiven. (Acts 2:38)
FAITH, REPENTANCE, AND CONFESSION ARE NOT WORKS.
1. They are not works of righteousness.
2. They are not good deeds.
3. Men do not believe, repentant, and confess because they are good enough.
4. Faith, repentance, and confession are not works of the Law of Moses.
Faith, repentance, and confession are so men can have their sins forgiven and be saved. (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9-10)
SALVATION IS A FREE GIFT FROM GOD. But men have to accept that gift through faith, repentance, confession and water baptism.THERE IS NO WORK REQUIRED.
Men can be saved in the time it takes to believe, repent, confess, and be immersed in water.
(Note: Repentance in Acts 2:38 means to change from unbelief and to make the commitment to turn from sin and to turn toward God)
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