Monday, December 03, 2007

What is on the rise?

My North American friends might find this interesting.

My friend Matt from a beloved list I am still a member of shared with us this information that in SBC, the number of Calvinists are increasing. Read here.

This is one of the things that does not surprise me. I doubt if Bro. JK is surprised with this too.

As and ex-Evangelian, I am not at all taken a back at this. Many people from non-denominational, charismatic, baptistic groups have already been sensing the instability in the movement for many years. They are burnt out and dried out. For example, one of my friends, a fellow minister in the Pentecostal denomination I belonged (many moons ago), is now with a confessing, Reformed and charismatic denomination, namely the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).

It is natural for Evangelians to examine Calvinism because it is the closest to their doctrinal ancestry, so fair enough Calvinism is the one that gets examined first. This happened to me. That is the way this cookie crumbles. However, Evangelians are carrying over their natural flare of being pragmatists in the examination of the Christian tradition they should link back with. They are studying Calvinism from popularizers rather than study the Reformed confessions in history. They are doing dip theology, that is right, I say they are doing dip theology and not deep theology. They do cafeteria picking and choosing like ordering food from a menu. From popularizers these seekers are picking up Owenian Calvinism which is a nasty viral strain (see Calvin and Calvinism for some cures) with very coarse edges. They are doing the short cuts again. IMHO (you knew that was coming, but what else do I have, but that), this cafeteria method will not do. One should not transfer the mindset which made Evangelicalism precisely in turmoil to the process of examining confessions, there is no choice but to chuck away the pragmatism it was founded upon in the first place. No, hard yakka (i.e. an Aussie word for -- work) in terms of study is needed.

In a similar vain, through the Internet, you get to hear of many stories how Evangelians became RCs. Many RC e-pologists were former Evangelicals, if you notice. They are doing the things they got from Evangelicalism - the use of testimonies, making RC user-friendly, a bit of marketing here and there etc.

However, for reflection, I think there is lesson to be learned from Pr. Will Weedon's motto, "everyone wants to be a Lutheran; they just don't know it yet". I think he is onto something, there is something profound to this quip. I think it has a good amount of truth if by that is meant Old Lutheranism and its attachment to the Gospel; I can say "yes", this is what Evangelians and burnt out Charismatics are looking for, they can not just articulate it. My prayer is that we might be given a chance to help formulate such articulations and in the process Christ might be formed once again, in us and in them. This is joy, for Christ in his saving and forgiving office can not be but the only everlasting joy we long for. We are really looking for this, we just don't know it yet.


J. K. Jones said...

Your right, LP, I am not surprised. The two greatest misconceptions about the SBC are that:

1) we were never Calvinist (almost all of the original leaders in the SBC were)
2) we have a uniform theology (we do not, just look up the Baptist Faith and Message; that thing is so vague that it could almost be affirmed by a Roman Catholic).

“They do cafeteria picking and choosing like ordering food from a menu.”

That is, sadly, a very American thing to do. We are so pragmatic.

Thanks for the “Calvin and Calvinism” link! You might want to do some research on a guy named Andrew Fuller. He is rightly credited with the wane of “High Calvinism” (a rater vicious form of Hyper-Calvinism) in Baptist circles. He’s the right kind of Calvinist to me.

"everyone wants to be a Lutheran; they just don't know it yet"

That reminds me of a time when I heard J. I. Packer refer to John Wesley as a “confused Calvinist.”

J. K.

LPC said...


Yes High Calvinism I guess is now the term.

Hahaha. John Wesley was confused alright.

You might research too that Calvin was Lutheran.

Calvin signed the Augustana (a version of it), yes, even Calvin was a Lutheran in some sense, until he tried to improve it. As they say, if it ain't broken don't fix it , you will break what is already working (hahaha LOL)!


LPC said...


On a more serious note, IMO, High Calvinism is consistent Calvinism really. The reason is that Decreetal aspect of the Puritan based confessions like WCF, LBCF, Savoy necessitates one to be logically consistent with it and thus - you get High Calvinism if not Hyper-Calvinism.

In other words, it is not something that can be avoided by Puritan leaning Calvinists.


Augustinian Successor said...

"That reminds me of a time when I heard J. I. Packer refer to John Wesley as a “confused Calvinist.”

No way, Packer! Really, *Packer* has lost credibility in eyes of classical Protestants like me. A low church Anglican (and a Puritan at that!) making common cause with Romanists (ECT, etc.). And we evangelical catholics, reformed catholics, etc. repudiate Packer's ecumenical proclivities.

Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Bro. JK,

You might want to read on John Gill, instead of Fuller. Dr. George M Ella has done a research on Fuller and concluded that Fuller was a HYPO-Calvinist, much like vast, majority of so-called Calvinists today including the likes of David Ponter. You might be interested in getting the Eternal Predestination of God by Calvin, maybe from Reformed Free Publishing Association (they have a website). The issue of the salvific will of God is decisively against the Amyraldian and modern re-interpretation of Calvin. And also Jonathan Rainbow's book, The Cross and the Will of God.

Augustinian Successor said...

The 'reversion' from Arminian Baptist to Calvinistic Baptist represents the change from ecclesiastical antinomianism to ecclesiastical legalism (ala Puritanism). The Baptistic ethos of credo-baptism only is further entrenched in the switch to 'Calvinism', whereas as Piper being the classic example, marrying Calvinism with Charismaticism is a new brand of Reformed mysticism, which has its historical roots in Puritanism.

Yes, I like to the stick and beat the sacred cow of Puritanism. ;-)

LPC said...

Interesting comments Bro. Jason. I have not read that work of Calvin. I mostly concentrated on his commentaries.

From my observation, the Puritan version of Calvinism is more side winded into hyper/high or Supra, ie the Atlantic Calvinists. The Continental Side is less prone because when you looked at Heidelberg/Belgic and if I recall Dort, the decreetal exclamations are not as emphasized so I can only recall Hoeksema as being the most prominent one.

But I have to be frank, if I take the first axioms of Calvinism on decretal sovereignty of God, the only logical conclusion for me is to be SupraLapsarian.

The BoC does not speak of Christian faith in such a way - speaking in a certain way is quite important that is why we have a traditional phrase..."properly speaking"; in the Formula of Concord for example you will see this phrase.

I absolutely agree though, Puritanism is the stream that fed Revivalism in the past. Puritanism has a relationship with Pietism and Lutheran thought is not compatible with them.

J. K. Jones said...


Wow, what comments.

As to high calvinism being the logical outgrowth of calvinism, then maybe it's my turn to be illogical. High calvinism is not biblical. Period.

I'd be interested to hear you put some more details into these statements.

You might be interested to see how some others are commenting on the conference:


You really did not make sense to me in several of your comments. I'd like to know how you define legalism.


LPC said...

Bro. JK,

Firstly, my purpose for posting the said subject is not to annoy or to purposely upset (though sometimes the missus thinks I am just a prick).

My purpose is to share some hard knocks I got when in my walk of faith hopefully preventing others in painfully finding things for themselves and so save them of the pain.

From 1998 - 2005 I was in a hunt for a confession I can confess that explains Scripture well. I was studying Calvinism from 2000-2004 I was with a Presbyterian church. I have high respect for that church and I love and still pray for my pastor there even now.

In WCF look at Chapter III.3 By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels1 are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.2

This can legitimately be interpreted as double predestination. Note that this article comes ahead of any mention of Jesus or sin etc. If you grant this that God foreordains others to everlasting death then God is the author of sin and damnation.

Any explanation after this is just footnote or side issue. Any salvation narrative is just for the elect and not about sinners. Hence, you get Owen, Pink and others doing High Calvinism.

For the LBCF
3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice.

This is much better but because LBCF starts off in that God predestines by DECREE others to heaven even though he passes by others leaving them to their sins, this also meant by DECREE he is damning them.

So this is a zero-sum game. It is reduced to one and the same. It is the DECREE language that the confessions have adopted that is doing this.

This mitigates against hypo-Calvinism or moderate Calvinism.

At the core if one subscribes to WCF/LBCF there is a disconnect that happens psychologically to its adherents, this is that article that is made to control the other articles. Hence, you get the language of Sovereignty of God - it is true but all of Gods truth are not equal. And since that is the case, there is a consideration as to which one is the overall controlling truth? We can not speak all of God's truth at once, and if one is to chose which of these truth should we speak first?

In Calvinism it is the Sovereignty of God, in Lutheran it is the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Contrast this now to how the Formula of Concord handles election, the FC does not speak of election in a bare or raw way (see Solid Declaration starting at paragraph 14 onwards)

The SD links this to to objective justification and controls the thinking of the subscriber by stating how one is to think of it.

Both WCF/LBCF are not explicit in the speculations one might have concerning this teaching and so you get all sorts of diverse opinions in Calvinism to the point of labeling wars happen - the Hypo are called Arminian, while the High are called Hyper.

That war was settled long ago in the Formula of Concord. I commend it to you and if you should find your practice of the sacrament be barren, again I commend it to you for your study.


Augustinian Successor said...


Baptistic theology is inherently LEGALISTIC. Baptism is not man's work towards God after he is saved. Baptism is God's work of saving the saved. Baptism doth now saves us, saith St. Peter, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Notice, the verse says that Baptism NOW SAVES us, and this same Baptism IS the answer of a good conscience towards God, i.e. the act of being baptised washes away our guilt before God, NOT our profession of faith plus the demonstration of our commitment to discipleship in Baptism. No, the baptismal water now saves us. Period. If anyone has any doubt that Baptism is water Baptism, St. Peter's allusion, frequent it must be said, to the Flood ought to dispel such a doubt.

David Ponter said...

Shopping lists.

Yes. Owenic exegesis mostly does shopping list exegesis. They run down an lexical index and then pick a meaning that they want.

Owen is horrible at doing this. He just flattens out biblical genres and authorial intents. So for him, how Paul uses world over here has direct and immediate bearing on how John may use world over here. Its something akin to what Dispensationalists do to apocalyptic literature: just flatten it all out.

Whats worse is when Owen just creates semantic domains, then inserts them into the lexical range and exegetes from that insertion. You can see this on his treatment of agorazo in 2 Peter 2:1 where he tries to argue it means create and establish, etc. It never meant that at all.

Shopping lists, thats what a lot of us have been doing in all this.


LPC said...


I shall borrow your 'shopping list' insight if I may.


Flynn said...

you may.

Its basically part the fault of Strong's Concordance. You know, you have a word you want know about, you find an English word in a given verse. Go to the back, see the list of definitions and then pick one.

Strong has the effect of atomising words from verses, from context, from genre.

So take AW Pink. Here is my beef. Here is a man with no formal training in Greek that I know of. I could be wrong. He rejects the churches around him. He lives on this bare Scottish island so many years, over a decade as I recall. He is only reading very dated works of Puritans etc.

He then does these word studies on John's "world" of 3:16. He gets his Strong's out, or whatever he is using. He lists off all the possible meanings of world, and then picks on. Now, modern readers will use his list as some sort of authoritative catalogue of 'world' in Scripture. Here I found a classic example: THE MEANING OF "KOSMOS" IN JOHN 3:16

Modern readers take this "scholarship" as authority. Of course what is also operating is this sense that good modern critical scholarship is suspect. Pink is a "safe" right? I have seen people use Pink's list about 2 times this last month on blogs and in conversations.

Look at Pink's list there. Its all flattened out: he has no care for Authorial genre styles. He begs the questions critically. E.g: "Kosmos" is used of believers only: John 1:29 3:16,17 6:33 12:47;

To someone like me, I say, well I was thinking you would argue to that claim, not just argue from it by way of assumption.

Anyway sorry to bring some agro, I just get worked up over it: its all so shoddy, passed off as "credible" work. Feel free to edit or delete this if it comes across aggressive.

God bless,

LPC said...

Yeah I had a look at that Pink stuff and bro you have the right to be agro, as it turns the Bible to be a message not for sinners finding hope but for those who are already "in".

Pink is circular and it robs Christians of comfort in times of doubt, when they doubt if they are a believer or not, and when they doubt if God is for them in times when their hearts are condemning them.

This example you gave is blatant. I can agree that the word may mean this or that but it is up to Pink to establish why this is the way to read it and not possibly the other, and as you said, he went on by assuming what needs to be proven.

He sucks (sorry for my french).



PS. Perhaps you do not miss carols at the park eyh, since you are in Florida, God's own country? I am proud of the Aussie tradition though.

Past Elder said...

This and the previous post thread make me SO glad my own story did not entail a passage through "Protestantism"!

I went from being a happy pre conciliar RC to a very unhappy post conciliar RC, to a non-believer (in the sense of not believing in any version of Christianity), to being a confessional Lutheran.

In any of these phases, the beliefs discussed in some detail here simply struck me as off base and not really worth bothering with -- with one exception. It seemed to me that their principal and only value was that they made it less easy to assume without thinking that simply being around the right stuff was enough -- the focus on decisions for Christ etc, made whether one really believed or not from and centre.

I used to put it this way: the Protestants know how to get dressed up but have nowhere to go, and the Catholics have everywhere to go but generally don't know how to get dressed up.

Consequently, the faith of the BofC immediately struck me as the faith of Christ, the faith of Scripture, and the historical faith of the Church -- there was no imput from the later Reformers to work through, personally. I think Luther spent less ink on these guys simply because in his day they were the new kids on the block and didn't have the pervasiveness they now enjoy in "Protestantism", whereas Rome was everywhere.

Augustinian Successor said...

Interestingly, Pink's view isn't isolated. A more contemporary figure, the late Rev. Homer C. Hoeksema wrote an article (published in pamphlet form) defending precisely the interpretation advocated by Pink.

Magotty Man said...

Hmm - I am one swimming the Rhine. Personally I find 'continental Calvinism' much less problematic than the Puritan version and especially its derivatives. But can i say something controversial. Ignoring tnets of Anglicanism, if you want to be a historically consistent Christian, and shy away from modern rationalism in all its forms, and want to focus on Christ, you'll end up as one of two things: Lutheran, or Orthodox. I'm not going to try and explain what would make you end up in what camp, but there it is. That is my controversy for the day.... ;)

Augustinian Successor said...

May God bless you in your Wittenberg trail!

LPC said...

Absolutely Scyld's! Just be strong on your sacraments and you wind up from Geneva to Wittenberg.

Hah! Rationalism, well that is common to the other sects too, you controversial you.

Ditto to what Successor says too.


LPC said...

P. E.

(LOL). hahaha. One tradition that I like about Concordians is that they have a healthy clean sense of humor.

One time I went to a country church, and the pastor was dead serious when he was doing the liturgy and preaching etc; then after benediction announcements were made and all laughter broke loose (at his jokes and one liners).


J. K. Jones said...

Augustinian Successor,
“Baptism doth now saves us …”
If Baptism saves us now, how can it not act through faith. We are saved by grace through faith. (Ep. 2:8-9).
“…NOT our profession of faith…”
A mere profession of faith does no one any good whatsoever. Faith must be real and alive.
I am not a modern, party-line Baptist. I do believe that God’s Spirit work in the ordinance of baptism, to the point that I am accused of being a “sacramentalist” by some in my camp. Dito on the Lord’s Supper.

J. K. Jones said...


Okay, I give up. I am going to start a series of posts on what I think being a Calvinist means.

“…my purpose for posting the said subject is not to annoy or to purposely upset…” You oughta know by now I don’t get hung up on niceties.

“My purpose is to share some hard knocks I got when in my walk of faith hopefully preventing others in painfully finding things for themselves and so save them of the pain.” Thank you, sincerely.

“…double predestination…” Boy what a topic! I need to take some real time with this one, so I will on my own posts.

“In Calvinism it is the Sovereignty of God, in Lutheran it is the Cross of Jesus Christ.” The very reason I was attracted to Calvinism in the first place was it’s emphasis on Christ’s Cross.

I recommend the following books to prove my point:

“The Holiness of God” by R. C. Sproul
“Saved from What” by R. C. Sproul
“Faith Alone” by R. C. Sproul
“All of Grace” by C. H. Spurgeon
“Counted Righteous in Christ” by John Piper

“…the Formula of Concord…” This is now officially on my reading list, but it will have to wait behind “The Bondage of the Will” by Martin Luther and “Christina Dogmatics” by John T. Meuler (guess where I got the idea to read that one; yes, it was you; I didn’t forget.).

J. K.

J. K. Jones said...

Augustinian Successor,

By the way, have you read “The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration.” I commend it to you. You might also read R. C. Sproul’s exposition of it’s points in “Getting the Gospel Right.”

As far as I’m concerned, based on his signature on this document, J. I. Packer has repented.

J. K.

LPC said...

Bro. JK.

Iron sharpens iron bro. It will be a great interchange.

Just remember, we outnumber you from this side because many of us here are ex-Calvinists. I was a student of the Heidelberg/Belgic confessions and I preferred to study these JK rather than expositions of Calvinists. I did that before and just had a (pardon the slang) "bum steer".

BTW, this is for anyone who has time...I wish to post too on where Calvin veered away from the Lutheran understanding of repentance, but I have no time, so I need volunteer to post on that topic if there are any takers, email me.


Augustinian Successor said...


Yes, to be a Calvinist is not exactly the same as being a Lutheran. I'm actually neither a full-fledged Lutheran nor a full-fledged Reformed. As an Anglican, I take the liberty to take in the best of both worlds!

The Reformed Faith is admittedly not as "fixed" or "settled" as confessional Lutheranism. But if one wishes to discuss about Calvin, Beza and Reformed Scholasticism, then we are talking about double predestination, limited atonement, and the limited or particular salvific of God.

But modern Reformed world is a mish-mash of Puritanism, Revivalism and so on. This is to say, whilst the truly Reformed differs from the truly Lutheran in certain theological understanding and emphases, in terms of piety (small p), both share a common heritage and understanding grounded justified and sinful at the same time. The old Adam still exists in the believer. This is why the old Adam needs to be slayed, killed, drowned daily, and the new man in Christ transformed. This is Reformational piety. The power to do that comes principally from the Word and Sacraments and the Liturgy of Divine Service.

The Puritans, etc. sees sanctification as a "metaphysical" growth. This in effect makes grace into a something, a substance, so that sanctification is a personal development of holiness. The Reformational understanding is that sanctification *is* the presence of Incarnate Christ in us by His Spirit through the means of grace. Sacramental theology is an extension of incarnational theology (christology) which of course the Lutherans emphasise and safeguard in the maxim of all "theology is christology".

In other words, sanctification is God's work *alone*. Our good works are not sanctification but fruits. Our assurance is not in ourselves at all contra the Puritans but externally in the external Word, Baptism, Holy Communion and Absolution all given to us unconditionally because the Cross is the unconditional love of God in Christ. The Cross comes to us in the external Word, Sacraments, in the Liturgy.

Contra the Puritans, holiness is not about becoming more holy so that I can become more assured. Holiness is about the daily DEATH of the old man so that the new man can be RESURRECTED. It's christological - the re-enactment of the Cross and Resurrection in our lives. The battle which Christ fought against the devil on the Cross is now being fought again in our lives. All these point to the fact it is Christ Who works in us, monergistically, not synergistically. After all, we on our own even as sanctified ones could not slay the old man and renew ourselves. It's all EXTRA NOS.

Sadly, modern-Reformed is caught up in mysticism, charismaticism, etc. Piper is of course the classic one. And then neo-nomianism and legalism. The FV folks are classic example. The modern Reformed do not know what it means to be Reformed. The Lutheran are in much better state, I believe. Even the Banner of Truth truncated and eviscerated Pink's Sovereignty of God! Please compare the BoT's version with Baker. Half the book gone!

At least the Lutherans are consistent. Universal grace is grounded in universal atonement. And of course revisionists like Ponter is consistent too. How can God sincerely offer salvation if the atonement is not universal. Fact of the matter is that the Reformed is in a sorry state. If one talks about being truly Reformed as in historic and so on, then very very few men are such. We are talking about double predestination combined with sacramental efficacy. We are talking about combining the particular salvific will of God with a "substantial" view of the Supper (Calvin did hold to that view too) etc. etc.

Having said this, I no longer hold to Calvin's view of Christ's presence as mediated by the Holy Spirit. I now hold to Luther's view as more biblical and faithful to the Words of Institution and more christologically faithful (creedally orthodox). I'm more fascinated by Lutheran theology than Reformed. I suppose I'm 80 percent LUTHERAN. My Reformed extends only double predestination, limited atonement and particular will of God to save. In terms of Law and Gospel, sanctification, sacramental theology, revealed/hidden God, etc. I am solidly Lutheran, by the grace of God alone.

Having said this, thanks for sharing JK. Appreciate your thoughts.

Augustinian Successor said...


I have not read “The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration.” But to let you know, yes, RC Sproul is a favourite Reformed theologian. His "Holiness of God" is a classic! But I have not read all of his books. Although, I read more of Gordon H. Clark. Please visit for more info.

Augustinian Successor said...

I think it cannot be overemphasised enough that the Puritans have got it mixed up, literally in that although as persons, we can only be one, that is subject-agent, ego, consciousness, I there is one irreducibly absolutely one, we have but TWO natures, i.e. the old Adam and new man in Christ. We are, according to Reformation theology wholly just (outwardly) and wholly sinful (inwardly). simul iustus et peccator means precisely that. AT THE SAME TIME. Not before and after.

So, it's not a question of altering one's singular nature, but of DESTROYING the old and RAISING up the new. Only God can do that, from WITHOUT - EXTRA NOS. To use a Reformed theological component (like the Lutheran Law and Gospel, it's the ANTITHESIS within man).

So therefore, sanctification is participation in God's holiness, not a quest in devleoping one's personal holiness. This is more in common with Rome. We do not cooperate with God in our sanctification. But we work out the salvation already freely given to us in good works before the world and in the world. Because as the Reformed like to say, true faith causes genuine good works, just like a good tree produces good fruits.

And yes, yes, as Luther says, sanctification is OUR return to BAPTISM. Baptism is not like the Roman or Reformed view that is just a preliminary act in time and space. But Baptism not only marks the Christian life but is our (whole) LIFE in CHRIST. The daily drowning of the old man and rising of the new man ...

LPC said...


The influence of puritanism should not be left out as it has skewed the Christian landscape quite a bit.

The old brat as David the 5 Pinter called it, needs to be drowned, put down at the bottom of the pool as it always tries to rise.