Calvinism is controversial. Further, the view that I will espouse in this blog will be controversial with many Calvinists. It is primarily those folks I wish to address. Calvinism as it is held in many conservative churches and denominations, is destructive of true doctrine and the Christian faith to a greater or lesser degree. I shall point out the deficiencies (as I perceive them) along the way.
I am a conservative evangelical, and hold to all the doctrines that label implies. I am a Baptist. I also call myself a Calvinist; that is, I hold to the doctrines of grace, as they are called: TULIP — Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. I must make an important qualification: I hold to the doctrine of limited atonement as it is defined by R. L. Dabney; I also hold to the doctrine of unlimited atonement as defined by W. G. T. Shedd. The first sign of life in the Calvinist mind is a willingness to grapple with the distinction made by these great American theologians of the 19th century between the work of Christ on behalf of the world and the application of that work to the individual believer. These men used different definitions for their terms and drew somewhat different conclusions. Wrestling with those definitions and distinctions will bring about a blessing, though one may be permanently afflicted with a limp. Much more on that to come in this space.
How would one label my position? The critic will be tempted to reach for the term “Amyraldian”; the difficulty with that label is that Amyraut’s work is not widely known, but his position has been vaguely equated with “four-point” Calvinism. I don’t know Amyraut’s position well enough to affirm or rebut this, but I doubt it is accurate. I am identifying more closely with Calvin, Shedd, Dabney, and Charles Hodge — would the critic call them Amyraldian?
How about “moderate Calvinism”? Certain authors, who shall remain nameless, have so abused that term as to make it useless. I oppose high Calvinism as held by many Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist theologians. I more strongly oppose the hyper-Calvinism of the Primitive Baptists and the PRC — as well as anything that has the whiff of hyper-Calvinism in it; unfortunately, much that is considered normal Calvinism these days has that malodorous essence. So I guess we’ll go with “historic Calvinism.” I hope to be able to explain and justify that label.
Enough for a brief introduction. We shall take up the cudgels tomorrow. I leave you with a quotation from John Calvin’s commentary on 2 Peter 3:9:
So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost.