Friday, April 29, 2016

Was Calvin a Calvinist?

IT IS AN INTERESTING QUESTION. If John Calvin were alive today, would Calvin be a Calvinist? Oxford reformation scholar, Diarmmaid MacCulloch, doesn't think so.

"It is a mistake to see predestination as the dominant idea in Calvin’s theology, although for some of his Reformed successors, it seems often to become so. Rather it was part of Calvin’s growing conviction that he must proclaim the all-embracing providence of God in every aspect of human life and experience, so just as affirmation of a double predestination grew in Calvin’s successive remolding of the Institutes, so did his positive and comforting discussion of providence.” [1]

Oxford church historian, Alister McGrath agrees.

“Far from being a central premise of Calvin’s theological ‘system…predestination ancillary doctrine…Calvinism places an emphasis upon this doctrine (predestination) which is largely lacking in Calvin’s thought.”[4] 

Later in the same book, McGrath writes, "It must be stressed that at no point does Calvin himself suggest that Christ died only for the elect.”[5] 

Of course Calvin believed in predestination. It is all over the Bible. But many today think that predestination was the central concept in his theological system. It was not. "Calvinism"' was a synthesis of Calvin's thought, put together by his disciples in the decades after his death. "Calvinism" rather than Calvin, put the central emphasis on predestination. Calvin, to his credit, had the ability to hold seemingly contradictory theological ideas (i.e. God's sovereignty and human responsibility) in tension than many are today. 

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? 

[1] Diarmaid MacCulloch: The Reformation, (New York: Viking, 2003) pg 236
[4] McGrath, Alister E. A Life of John Calvin, pg 169, 209 (Oxford, Blackwell, 1990)
[5] McGrath, Alister E. A Life of John Calvin, pg 216 (Oxford, Blackwell, 1990)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Elizabeth Elliot on Gender Confusion

ELIZABETH ELLIOT, the grand lady of Evangelicalism, recently died. In the decade before her death she wrote these prescient words. They are a soothing balm for those utterly astounded by the gender confusion that swirls around us, a confusion so profound that no one would have thought it possible twenty short years ago.

“Throughout the millennia of human history, up until the past two decades or so, people took for granted that the differences between men and women were so obvious as to need no comment. They accepted the way things were. But our easy assumptions have been assailed and confused, we have lost our bearings in a fog of rhetoric about something called equality, so that I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to belabor to educated people what was once perfectly obvious to the simplest peasant.”  

Friday, April 15, 2016

What Are The Most Productive Decades of Life?

BETWEEN SEVENTY AND EIGHTY million baby boomers are going to hit age sixty five in the next fifteen years. If 20% are evangelicals and they decide to serve a  local church this means 20-30 unpaid volunteers at each place of worship. Tragically, we have bought the lie that our senior citizens are good for nothing but to be let out to pasture.  Henry Durbanville provides some  interesting facts to the contrary. 

A Productive Senior 
“There are figures to show that the greatest productivity of man’s life lies in the decade between his sixtieth and seventieth year. The method adopted to learn the actual facts relating to man’s working period was as follows: Some four hundred names of the most noted men in all times from all lines of activity, were chosen. There were statesmen, painters, warriors, poets, and writers of fiction, history, and other prose work. Opposite to the name of each man indicated his greatest work or achievement. This list was then submitted to critics, to learn their opinion of the greatest work of each man submitted. The names of their greatest works were accepted, or altered, until the list was one that could be finally accepted. After this was done the date at which the work was produced was placed after the name, and so the age was ascertained at which the individual was at this best. The list was then arranged according to decades." 

Durbanville continues, "It was found that the decades between sixty and seventy contained thirty-five percent of the world’s greatest achievements. Between the ages of seventy and eighty, twenty-three percent of the world’s greatest achievements fell; and in the years after eightieth, six percent. In other words, sixty-four percent of the greatest things of the world have been accomplished by men who had passed the sixtieth year; the greatest percentage, thirty-five, being in the seventh decade”[1]

Do many seniors  unwittingly waste their last decades? Could it be that our final years might be our most useful? If you are retired it's not too late to rethink what you have to offer? If you are a member of the local church, it is not too late harvest the skills and abilities of your Senior members. 

[1] Henry Durbanville, “Never Too Old,” from The Best Is Yet to Come 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

How To Become More Masculine

ALTHOUGH GOD ASSIGNS our biological sex at conception,  masculinity is learned behavior. That means that you can have a man's body but be feminine in behavior and orientation. Likewise, you can have a woman's body and be thoroughly masculine in your approach to life. 
True Masculinity

This is a problem because the Bible never defines masculinity. It just assumes it. In the ancient world there was little gender confusion, nor could anyone anticipate a day when it would arrive. 

Because the Bible doesn't address it directly several notable authors have taken a stab at defining biblical masculinity. 

In his book Church Planting Is For Wimps, author Mike McKinley writes, “Being a real man means being responsible, dependable, humble, and strong. It means pouring yourself out for your wife and kids. It means walking closely with Christ and taking care of people in need.”[1] 

Dr Leonard Sax says it this way. “What does it mean to be a man?” The answer is: being a man means using your strength in the service of others.”[2] 

On the other hand, Doug Wilson writes,  “Masculinity is the glad, sacrificial assumption of responsibility.”[3] 

Last, John Piper writes, “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women [and children] in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”[4]

These definitions all share several ideas in common. First, they see masculinity as something moral, not physical. Second, they center it in words like initiation, assuming responsibility, serving, providing for, sacrificial living, etc. 

So where should Christians go to get a solid idea of what masculinity looks like? The Bible doesn't tell us about masculinity: it shows us a picture of masculinity. Jesus was the Second Adam. He was everything that God designed the first Adam to be. Jesus was the ideal man. He modeled masculinity as God intended it. Therefore, a good place to see it fleshed out is Paul's short summary of his life and ministry in Philippians 2:5-8. 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:5–8).

In short, Christ-centered men are most app to express masculinity as God intended it. And we see Christ through the gospel. Therefore, Gospel-centered men are most apt to be Christ-centered. And Christ-centered men are most apt to be masculine.

[1] Mike McKinley, Church Planting is for Wimps, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010) pg 102
[2] Leonard Sax, Boys Adrift (New York: Basic Books, 2009 Kindle Edition). p. 181
[3] Douglas Wilson. From a video interview entitled “Masculinity is the glad assumption of responsibility” at
[4] Grudem, Wayne (2006-08-31). Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (pp. 5-6). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.