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A World Changing idea – The New Calvinism

May 11, 2012

In March 2009, TIME magazine ranked ‘New Calvinism’ as one of the “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now”. For me personally ‘Calvinism’ has been a world changing idea since I discovered it as a young Christian of a way of understanding what Jesus has done for me. I would  also argue that it has been a world changing idea since the apostle Paul espoused it in his letters, that it got lost in the humanizing of Christianity in the dark ages and was rediscovered by Luther, Calvin and others at the reformation. It has been challenged by modernity with its individualism but is now finding a platform.

What is Calvinism and the New Calvinism and why is it such a world/life changing idea. It is this that I hope to open up to in this blog. I preached on this a few months back at my church (www.wallingford.org.uk to download sermon) and was a bit wary of doing so, as for some it is an unpalatable idea but I was amazed at the response with a few even suggesting ‘a light bulb moment’ which explained their experience of God. This is only a taster on the subject and I hope it will drive you to explore further (e.g. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism)

For me the New Calvinism is the theology of Ephesian 2:8 ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.’ Many of us know this verse by heart but actually understand it that we are saved by faith – No, we are saved by grace. This means my salvation is totally dependant on God. God initiated my salvation and even gave me the faith to appropriate this grace. My salvation has nothing to do with me. This is what Calvinist’s call irresistible grace. This means there is nothing in me – neither my intellect, a spiritual disposition, a social background, an innate morality, good works that predispose or put me in a position to receive grace – this is what Calvinists call ‘total depravity’.

Therefore the basis of my salvation is unconditional election. That is, God chose me. It is at this point that many want to turn away from this doctrine as it seems unpalatable and unfair. However let’s stop for the moment and think what the alternative is, which for me is even more unpalatable, that there is something in me or about me that predisposes me and makes me the master of my salvation. Salvation then depends on me.

Why is this idea so world changing? For me it is that it

  • informs my worship – my worship is a response to God’s amazing grace and love. It is not about what I like but about how my worship glorifies this loving God. My worship is also ’emotional’ as this undeserved love and grace affects my emotions and demands ‘my life, my soul, my all’.
  • motivates my evangelism – Calvinists have traditionally not focussed on evangelism as it is God’s domain but for the ‘New Calvinist’ it motivates our evangelism. Our evangelism is not dependent on who we witness to or trying to find something within that person to appeal to but it is a response to what we have received to tell/preach to others and leave space for God’s grace.
  • Determines my security – if my salvation was dependent on me, I could never be confident of my ability and therefore I could never be certain of my salvation. My faith would be determined by my feelings and oscillate from faith to doubt. However if my slavation is dependent on God, my faith is certain and sure. Calvinists call this perseverance of the saints.
  • Drives my sanctification – the new Calvinists, as opposed to more traditional Calvinist, have been accused of antinomianism (i.e. I can live however I want), interestingly something that Paul was accused of in Romans. This is a valid accusation, and one that we are proud of! However laws/rules can never change behaviour but love and grace does. It is God’s amazing love and grace that changes my desires and motivates me to live holy.

Therefore this new Calvinism changes my world as it changes my faith, my feelings and my behaviour. This new Calvinism changes the world as it builds an army of Christians motivated by love to go into the world to show and preach this love.

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