I often struggle with my decision to continually defend Calvinism. And more than defending it, I also “evangelize” it, explaining to others why I consider it to be nothing more or less than the Bible’s teaching on the doctrines of redemption. I find my mind wondering if it really is important enough to dedicate such time to it, and if the distinctions between Calvinism and Arminianism are worth studying and writing about. I often wonder if my defense of Calvinism works to the detriment of the kingdom of God as perhaps my words can even serve to cause Christians who are not Calvinists to doubt their own faith.
This morning I picked up my copy of Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton and read J.I. Packer’s foreward to this book, which is one of my all-time favorites. Packer says that at one time in the church’s history, Christians knew that the most important issues any person would face were those of eternity and the study of redemption was everyone’s concern. God’s plan of salvation was a matter of great interest to believers. Today, he believes, this is not so.
So why is it that the study of God’s plan of redemption is no longer of great concern? He believes the problem is that we have become distracted by the frantic pace of our culture and have become obsessed with material things. Because of the proliferation of information, we believe that we are the wisest generation in history. But “with all our technological expertise and intellectual arrogance, we have become the cleverest fools in world history.”
Packer is correct, of course, that the church used to devote far more attention to the study of redemption than she does today. Perhaps my ongoing attention to the study of redemption stems from the fact that I have been greatly influenced by the great, dead Christians of days past much more than those of our day. Beyond the Holy Spirit, my greatest teachers have been the men we might find in the biography section of the bookstore, rather than on the Christian Living shelves. They are men whose books are more likely to be found in antique stores than in Barnes and Noble. These are the men that many in our culture consider nothing but a “bunch of dead theologians” and hardly men worthy of our study. Yet to refuse to learn from them, is to admit that we believe what God has revealed to us through His Word today, is somehow superior to what He revealed to men of day’s past. It is sheer arrogance.
But there is more. At the conclusion of the first chapter of his book, Horton says “Grace is the gospel. The extent to which we are unclear about who does what in salvation is the degree to which we will obscure the gospel.” Those words rang true. I hate to see people confuse their role with God’s, for then I know that the gospel will soon be obscured. It is only through a meticulous study of the Scriptures that we can know and prove who does what in salvation. I love to study the doctrines of redemption, for the edification of myself and others, so that together we can bring the greatest glory to God, who alone is worthy of praise. When we are clear on who does what, we must necessarily be clear on the gospel.
And so I will continue to defend the doctrines of grace, not for mere intellectual stimulation or for the sake of argument, but for the sake of the gospel, and ultimately, to bring the greatest glory to God.