Evangelical Calvinism


I am going to try and start posting a bit on Evangelical Calvinism again over at my original blog The Evangelical Calvinist at the blogger account. I think it might do me some good to focus some of my writing on something other than cancer. I’ll still be posting here, of course; but I just wanted to give a heads up on the other blog.

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Luke 18: 1-8 (NIV) says:

1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4″For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ” 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

I just wanted to share one of the passages that has been serving as the model for how we’ve been praying in regards to my health issue. Jesus wants us to be persistent in prayer and specific. Certainly we need to be mindful of God’s will (i.e. the “Lord’s Prayer”), and asking for this; but often times I see this used the wrong way. In other words, at points there seems to be a timidity associated with prayer when we ask for “God’s will.” Since — we think — we don’t necessarily know God’s will in given situations; we end up just throwing blanket prayers out there, without specificity, and without boldness. I’m not calling for name it and claim it or blab it and grab it kind of theology or prayer; but for the kind that Jesus calls us to, the kind in the parable above — persistent, specific, and bold (see Heb. 4:16). John A. Martin says on the parable:

. . . Jesus told the Parable of the Unjust Judge to teach persistence in prayer: that they, His disciples, should always pray and not give up. Verses 2-5 contain the parable itself. A widow continued to go before an unjust judge to plead for justice in her case. He continually refused to “hear” her case, but finally he decided to give her justice so that she would not wear him out with her complaining. Jesus interpreted the parable (vv. 6-8), pointing out that if the unjust judge would give justice, then imagine how God (the just Judge) will see that they get justice, and quickly. . . . (John A. Martin, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, “TBKC: Luke,” 249)

So the principles are:

  1. We need to persist in prayer.
  2. We need to be specific in prayer.
  3. We need to be bold in prayer.

This is how my wife and I have been praying, as many others have (thank you so much); we have been persistently praying that my diagnosis will be benign, and we have been entering into the throneroom of God boldly (borrowing from Hebrews 4). I hope you pray this same way!

I just wanted to say thank you guys for all of your prayers, I also wanted to open this thread up for any prayer requests you might have; please let me know, and I would be happy to join Christ in His intercessory work for you (Heb. 7:25) by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26,27). Also, I would just ask that you persist in specificity in your prayers for my situation; please ask the Lord for peace, I am a notorious worry-wart (which I don’t like to confess), and I sense that one of the lessons the Lord is teaching me is how to trust and rest in Him (in fact that’s the constant impression I get from Him in all of this — trust and rest). Thank you guys! By the way, this is how an “Evangelical Calvinist” prays — what I’ve been sketching in this post 🙂 .

As a result of an email I recently received, I am going to do a series of posts on God’s glory and suffering — this will be a slow series, and will depend on my state of mind in the near future (in other words I am processing all kinds of stuff right now). I think it is very important to have an understanding of God’s glory that is shaped by His life of love in Christ by the Spirit. Which means that glory is not a principle outside of love and personal relationship; but in fact it is its inverse. In other words, God’s glory cares about intimate and personal details (like the sparrows or us). I’m afraid that there is thinking out there that sees “God’s glory” as an impersonal force that has nothing to do with “us;” when in fact the Incarnation says just the opposite.

In other words, what’s at stake here is how we correlate something like: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God” with Jesus Christ’s revelation of God’s glory as He ministered His life to those around Him while on earth (or even in His mediation to Israel in salvation history). I think there are competing things going on between the “Westminster Shorter Catechism’s” understanding of “glory and glorify,” and who we see revealed in Jesus Christ in the Incarnation. This will be the jumping off point for the posts ahead . . .

Guest Post by: Dr Myk Habets[1]

This I Believe

It is a useful exercise to have to clarify what it is you really believe. Here I am thinking of the efforts of the great C.S. Lewis, Oxford don and advocate of Christianity who spoke of his ‘mere Christianity’, or G.K. Chesterton, arguably one of the best writers of the twentieth Century, who simply spoke of Orthodoxy. ‘This I Believe’ is my attempt to briefly present a sort of ‘Dummies Guide’ to my Christian belief for people who have no resemblance to dummies whatsoever. In presenting my beliefs I hope to stimulate your own attempts to think through what you believe.

To begin allow me to speak to my context. I am a man, a husband, a father, and a Christian. I am a conscious and devoted follower of the God who has revealed himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In this I am not alone, of course. Christianity has three grand traditions: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. While each tradition has its origin each also claims to be the most faithful expression of what it means to be a God-fearer and Christ follower. While I have the utmost respect for my Orthodox and Catholic sisters and brothers in Christ, I prefer the Protestant flavour. More particularly, I am a Reformed Protestant, those who affirm the basic truths of Christianity around several phrases:

  • Sola scriptura (Scripture alone) – the Christian scriptures are the ultimate authority for Christian belief and practice.
  • Sola gratia  (by grace alone) – a right relationship with God may only be received as a gift – that is, by grace.
  • Sola fidei (by faith alone) – relationship with the Christian God requires individual trust. 
  • Sola Christos (By Christ alone) – there are many ways to Jesus but only one true way to God – through Jesus alone. And,
  • Soli Dei gloria (to the glory of God) – all we think, say, and do must be to the glory of God who is the highest good of all.

I am an ecumenical Theologian by vocation. By ‘theologian’’ I refer to the fact that I am an established member of the academic guild of theological educators. I have a PhD in systematic theology, I publish articles and books on constructive theology, and I teach students and supervise theses and dissertations on theology.

By ‘ecumenical’ I mean that my ultimate commitments are larger than to any one sect of the Christian tradition. As faithful witnesses to Scripture, I believe in the ecumenical creeds of Christendom which are binding on the whole church. Here I am thinking specifically of the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Chalcedonian Definition, and the Athanasian Creed. As a theologian I seek to work within these confessional standards, making clear what they made clear. Thus ecumenical theology is theology for all Christians, regardless of tradition. Ecumenical Christianity seeks to uphold the standards of the faith ‘believed by all people everywhere,’ as one early Father of the faith expressed it.

What then constitutes the essential content of my ecumenical, confessional Christianity? While we could fill an entire books in reply, I think it fair to say there are several unique claims the Christian church makes in light of the history of Jesus the Christ. I want to address four of them.

1. Jesus and the Scandal of Particularity

‘The dogma of the Incarnation is the most dramatic thing about Christianity’, wrote Dorothy Sayers in 1937. And she was correct. She continues, ‘And indeed, the most dramatic thing that ever entered into the mind of man; but if you tell people so, they stare at you in bewilderment.’[2] In a letter she wrote in 1945 Sayers speaks of the ‘scandal of particularity,’ the fact that Jesus Christ was a real person, in a real place, who lived a real life. And that life was a disclosure of the nature of God. Unfortunately, writes Sayers, ‘the people of that time had not the faintest idea that it was happening.[3] Here I wish to pick up on her phrase – the scandal of particularity, a phrase which has gone on to enjoy an extended outing. It is the particularity of Jesus to which Christianity claims is part of its uniqueness. We hear this from such texts as John 14.6 and Romans 10.9. It is this claim that God resides in a real human person, a man from Galilee, a carpenter, that is at the core of Christianity and forms the basis for the critique of those who wish to challenge Christianity. This is the scandal of particularity.

Let us be clear on what the Christian claim is. According to the early creeds Jesus Christ has a complete, real, substantial human nature. He is the same as you and me. And yet at the same time Jesus Christ has a complete, real, substantial divine nature. He is the same as the Father and the Spirit – he is God. In mathematical terms, always a clumsy vehicle for speaking of divine mysteries, we may say Jesus is 100% human and 100% divine – at the same time. In non-technical speak Jesus is unique, a one-off. But what sort of ‘one-off’’ we may ask. Is he the prototype or the archetype? This is important. If Jesus is the prototype then we may assume he has been bettered. By who? Well by us of course! This is a view Christianity rejects. Thus Jesus is seen as the great archetype. In fact the Apostle Paul writes that Adam, the first created human in the biblical story, is the prototype and Jesus is the Last Adam, the great archetype (1 Cor 15.45). This has immense implications.[4]

A Christian understanding of Jesus Christ as fully human and fully divine also requires that people believe human flesh can be a suitable vehicle for divine incarnation. Any philosophy or religion that despises the flesh for any reason is thus incompatible with Christian theology. Those Christians and non-Christians alike who have sought to downplay the flesh, to diminish the role of the body or of things physical, have, in the opinion of ecumenical Christianity, grossly misunderstood the incarnation. You may know of this through the caricatures of Puritanism, or Christian prudishness, or some such. Here, as elsewhere, we must make a distinction between Christianity and individual adherents – the Christians. If nothing else, the incarnation shows that Christianity is a physical religion, related to our reality in every way possible.

2. God the Wholly Other

The second unique claim the Christian church makes in light of the history of Jesus the Christ concerns the question: Who is God? Note that the question is not ‘What is God?’ but ‘Who is God?’ To ask ‘what is God?’ comes close to blasphemy in the Christian tradition. God is a mystery and to ask of God – what are you? – is tantamount to asking God to give us knowledge of all mysteries and thus, to take the place of God himself. But to ask ‘who is God?’ is an incredibly biblical thing to do. In the Old Testament prophets, poets, and writers of wisdom we often find them asking God who he is. Moses, the liberator of Israel, asked God who he was. In the New Testament the disciples ask the same question. Each time God answers and each time he reveals more and more of who he is.

First we note that God is ‘wholly Other’ as the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth called him, bigger, different – transcendent. This is illustrated well when, in her book Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris includes the following account of the encounter between Moses the liberator of the Jews and God:

Seeing a bush that burns and yet is not consumed, Moses decides to investigate [and] God speaks to him from the bush, saying ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’

     When God demands that he return to Egypt, to Pharaoh himself, and boldly lead the Israelites to freedom, Moses understandably wants to know a bit more about this God who is addressing him. He proceeds by indirection. Not daring to ask God who he is, Moses says instead, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?’ God’s answer is hardly comforting: ‘I will be with you.’ And then follows one of the scariest passages in the Bible. God tells Moses that he will know for certain it is God who has called him to this task only when it is accomplished. Only when he has brought the people with him to worship on this mountain.

     This is a God who is not identified with the help of a dictionary but through a relationship. One that demands great willingness to trust and take risks. Moses is flummoxed. He knows that his own people will need convincing, that they will demand to know this God’s name. The next passage might be seen as the premier Jewish humour, a theological vaudeville routine. ‘What is your name?’ Moses asks, and God says, ‘I Am Who I Am.’ Moses might as well have asked, ‘Who’s on first?’[5]

When we speak of the transcendence of God we are talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us. It tries to get at his supreme and altogether greatness. Transcendence describes God in his consuming majesty, his exalted loftiness. It points to the infinite distance that separates him from and for every creature.

But this is merely a prelude to the real answer to the question Who is God? God is other, God is transcendent and immanent, God is personal and powerful, but who, who is this God? The theological clarification of this point revolves around the doctrine of settled belief in God the Holy Trinity: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Ecumenical Christianity affirms its belief, shaped by the life of Christ, that God is one Being, three Persons. God is a community, a divine fellowship, a perichoretic union in which three Persons are so identified with each other and so constitute each other they are, literally, in and of the other so completely that while remaining Three, they are simultaneously One. While various analogies could be employed to unpack that dogma, like jazz music or dance, they finally fail to adequately describe who God is like (mostly because they are actually attempts to clarify what God is).

Christianity has an entire arsenal of arguments to account for its belief in God the Trinity, formed over centuries of reflection on the implications of the life of Jesus the Christ, but I shall spare you from these for the moment. Perhaps it is sufficient for me to state the belief and leave it at that. Christians worship God in their worship of the Father of the eternal Son, in their worship of the eternal Son of the Father Almighty, and of their worship of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Sonship and bond of love between the Father and the Son. That is who Christians claim God is.

3. God is God – But what are we?

Central to Christian views of humanity is the contention that men and women are created by God, and are created in his image. Thus: ‘The real human is not what we now find in human society,’ writes one contemporary theologian. He continues,

The real human is the being that came from the hand of God, unspoilt by sin and the fall. In a very real sense, the only true human beings were Adam and Eve before the fall, and Jesus. All the others are twisted, distorted, corrupted samples of humanity. It therefore is necessary to look at [humanity] in [its] original state and at Christ if we would correctly assess what it means to be human.[6]

Christians claim that all humans are created according to the archetype of Jesus – we are images of The Image so to speak. Thus we insist that to know what a human really is, we do not start with studies of humanity (anthropology, sociology, or psychology); rather, we start with the central narrative of the Christian faith: the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus reveals what it means to be truly human in his life, death, and resurrection. All attempts to define what a real person is apart from Jesus Christ are reenactments of the story of Pinocchio: bad company produces bad character. Only in Christ do we find what a real human looks like. And only in Christ’s resurrection do we finally experience our true humanity.

Ecumenical Christianity is radically realistic, however. Genesis 3 tells us of humanities great Fall into sin. We are, in the language of Christianity, fallen beings, stained beings, sinful beings. And so we live with this consciousness that we are like God by design, but positively unlike him by intent. We are sinners. ‘Sinners’ – this word which has caused untold offence to untold millions through human history is still, and unavoidably still, part of Christian vocabulary. It is not that things could not have been different; it is the reality that things are not different. We live in a world of hostility, and evil, however this may be defined. And any religion or worldview has to be able to account for this.

According to the Christian worldview, sin and evil are realities – but so is Jesus the Christ and he can save us from sin and evil. To speak of evil and sin apart from the realities of grace and Jesus is a distortion. Christian philosopher Cornelius Plantinga puts it well:

God wants shalom and will pay any price to get it back. Human sin is stubborn, but not as stubborn as the grace of God and not half so persistent, not half so ready to suffer to win its way. Moreover, to speak of sin by itself is to misunderstand its nature: sin is only a parasite, a vandal, a spoiler. Sinful life is a partly depressing, partly ludicrous caricature of genuine human life. To concentrate on our rebellion, defection, and folly – to say to the world ‘I have some bad news and I have some good news’ – is to forget that the center of the Christian religion is not our sin but our Savior. To speak of sin without grace is to minimize the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fruit of the Spirit, and the hope of shalom.[7]

Well said. And a good segue into the final unique claim the Christian church makes in light of the history of Jesus the Christ.

4. What is to become of us?  

The theme of redemption revolves around the fact that God in Christ did for humanity what humanity could not do for itself. He dealt with sin, with death, and with defilement. This is perhaps what most people think of as central to Christianity, if they think of it at all. And this is obviously important, as important as any equation is to its problem. The solution to the problem of sin addresses the negative aspects of the human condition – but it does not yet address the positive aspects, so often underplayed or even ignored both within Christianity and from outside.

Redemption from sin and evil is only half the Gospel story. This is what deals with our past, if I may so speak, but it does not yet address that which is truly startling, exciting, and most shocking in Christianity – that to which we are conformed. What is to become of us – according to Christianity in each of its three Great Traditions – Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestantism – is truly offensive to human sensibilities.

In the Old Testament, the teaching of the creation of human beings in the image and likeness of God and the call of the chosen people Israel through the covenant to a closer communion with God prepared for the development of the theme in the New Testament. The New Testament teaching that God’s Son becomes human so that humanity may participate in God through the adoption of the Spirit is dealt with extensively.[8] C.S. Lewis expresses this belief in future glory and immortality in his classic little work Mere Christianity:

[God said] that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him – for we can prevent Him, if we choose – He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.[9]

I think you now realize why this is close to, if not completely, scandalous to the secular mind. The grand vision and end of all things, according to ecumenical Christianity, is for humans to participate in the divine Communion and yet humans remain human and God remains God! This is the classically articulated doctrine of salvation taught in Scripture, by the Fathers of the Church, and affirmed in Eastern and Western expressions of the Church today. This is what is Good News for those who believe but a stumbling block to those who do not.

Conclusion

What constitutes the essential content of ecumenical, confessional Christianity? I think it fair to say there are several unique claims the Christian church makes in light of the history of Jesus the Christ. I have addressed four of them. First, the question: who is Jesus? To which Christianity replies: Jesus is the Christ. Second, the question: who is God? To which Christianity replies: God the Holy Trinity: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Third, the question: Who are we (humanity) before this God? To which Christianity replies: people in need of that which they cannot get for themselves. And finally, the question: What is to become of us (humanity)? To which Christianity replies: your destiny is for immortality and the responsibilities that entails. 

This I believe! What do you believe?


[1]            Lecturer in Systematic Theology and Director of the R.J. Thompson Centre for Theological Study, Carey Baptist College. Myk.habets@carey.ac.nz. A version of this paper was originally delivered as part of the Horizons Seminars, Unitec,  April 15, 2008. Originally published as ‘This I Believe,’ The Baptist 125 no.6 (2009), 3, 23

[2]        D.L. Sayers to father H. Kelly, October 4, 1937, in The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, vol. 2, ed. B. Reynolds (Cambridge: Dorothy L Sayers Society, 1997), 43.

[3]        D.L. Sayers to I. Amesbury of Bristol, June 1, 1945, in ibid., 150.

[4]        See Col 1.15; 2.9; and John 14.9 for starters.

[5]        K. Norris, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (Oxford: Lion, 1998), 122-123.

[6]        M. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 496.

[7]        Cornelius Plantinga, Jr, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 199.

[8]        See for instance: John 120.34 (Ps 82.6), 17.20-23; Acts 17.28; and 2 Peter 1.4. It is not that these are the only verses which speak this way. Texts concerning divine sonship (Gal 4.5ff.; Rom 8.15), imitation of God (Mt 5.4-48) and of Christ (Phil 2.5-11), as well as texts presenting the new life of Christians as a pledge and anticipation of future glory (1 Cor 13.12; 2 Cor 3.18; 1 Jn 3.1-3), must all be considered in this light.

[9]        C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (London: Fount, 1952), 172.

I have some guest posts waiting in the wings from our very own, and venerable, Myk Habets. In lieu of those postings, I have something a bit off theme, from the blog here; although let me try to work it into an Evangelical Calvinist framework. I was put onto this by a budding TF Torrance scholar Adam Nigh (thanks Adam — he has this posted at his blog).

You’ll have to realize, I’m a fan of TFT (duh 😉 ); and if you didn’t know TF was quite the scientist (esp. in re. to the philosophy of science). TFT, as I understand it, was what one might call a Theistic Evolutionist or its more mild version a Progressive Creationist (hey, he was/is a man, he’s not perfect 😉 ). Anyway, it shouldn’t then shock you that I’m also interested in the philosophy of science (although my readings in this area have waned). I actually like Intelligent Design ‘science’; and I’ve struggled with this, especially since an EC’r does not place a high premium on ‘natural theology’. But, Torrance offers a nice way to deal with this; a way to place the “natural sciences” into the service of the Gospel through a ‘stratification of knowledge’. I’m not going to try and unfold all of this (Myk has two guest posts over at my other blog that explains this much more robustly [in re. to TFT’s approach to Natural Theology and a ‘theology of nature’]).

Anywho, here’s that video Adam Nigh has over at his blog:

H/T: Adam Nigh

What I want to highlight, between the naturalism that this video flows from and the approach that EC takes, is that we EC’rs believe that this kind of rampant Naturalism (worship of creation) needs to be reversed; it needs to be stamped out. We EC’rs believe that without Christ, videos like this make sense; without union with Christ’s humanity (‘divinised’ by His divinity, not swallowed up though — ‘glorified humanity’ if you will) by the Holy Spirit — belief states like the one represented here are sensical. That’s why the EC message is so important, it liberates man out of himself, into Christ’s self; and places us in right orientation to the rest of creation, which is reign over it as ‘Priests’ . . . that is, not worship it. EC’rs stand in awe of the Creator, as this scientist stands in awe of creation; and we do so out of the love that the Son of God shares with the Father through the communion of the Holy Spirit (okay a stretch, but I wanted to highlight this interesting video, and add another wrinkle and flavor to the blog here).

By the way, a strange but intriguing video.

I think union with Christ and how that relates to salvation is one of the key pillars upon which EC rests. This nuance, relative to Federal Calvinism, or what have you, differentiates Evangelical Calvinism from the other approaches, which gets me very excited. In that vein let me share something from Myk Habets, he is speaking to this issue in the theology of Thomas Torrance; and how our choice for God (salvation) is first grounded in Jesus’ choice for us (and is acted out in His Spirit constituted humanity in-our-stead [substitution]). I hope you find this helpful:

pentecost. . . Based upon the mutual mediation of Son and Spirit, there is both a God-humanward movement and a human-Godward movement and Jesus through the Spirit mediates both. This means, as Deddo explains, ‘the Spirit not only brings to us the objective effects worked out in the vicarious life of Christ, but also the subjective effects worked out in his humanity. That is, the Spirit enables us to share in Jesus’ own faithful repsonse to the Father’. Torrance’s doctrine of human response as previously analysed provides a foundation for what is developed here by way of the Holy Spirit.

Through the Spirit we share in Christ’s response to the Father. The Spirit empowers the believer to cry ‘Abba, Father’, in the same way that comes naturally to the Son of God; for to be ‘in the Spirit’ is to be ‘in Christ’. Deddo notes that according to Torrance, ‘our whole lives in every part are constituted a participation: a dynamic life of union and communion with God’. Torrance insists that our holiness or sanctification is realised in Christ by the Holy Spirit: our repentance, faith, and obedience are actualised in Christ by the Holy Spirit; every part of our relationship with and response to God is thus achieved in, through, and by the Son and the Spirit. Not only is the Holy Spirit instrumental in justification, but now, also, to sanctification. Critically, however, both are located in Christ. Here we have, in effect, the other side of redemption: ‘the side of the subjectification of revelation and reconciliation in the life and faith of the church. That means the Spirit is creating and calling forth the response of man in faith and understanding, in thanksgiving and worship and prayer. . . . (Myk Habets, “Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance,” 152-53)

What is keynote here is how all of the typical concepts (i.e. election, limited atonement, “by-faith-alone”, “by-grace-alone”, “in-Christ-alone”), which are usually placed in a decree, are reframed or recasted so that it is all grounded in God’s life in Christ by the Spirit. We don’t cooperate with God through grace (as if grace is something given to us that we can cooperate with Christ through) to appropriate salvation (which is the way Classic Calvinism construes it); instead we respond through the ‘free’ response of Jesus Christ to the Father by the Holy Spirit on our behalf. We are placed into, united to Christ, by the ‘person’ (non-created) of the Holy Spirt; it is through this union that our response is first instantiated, first accomplished in Christ’s mediation (in Christ’s Spirit constituted  humanity) for us. Union with Christ (and the broader category of Theosis from which this springs) is an integral part of the Evangelical Calvinist approach; that is because it holds that God’s life itself is salvation (not meeting the dictates of some decrees), thus if we are going to ‘be saved’ we must be in union with this life. And that is what happens through Christ’s humanity by the Spirit first; then we are united to His humanity by the Spirit, and it is out of this recreated humanity that we say ‘Yes’ to the Father (‘thy will be done’).

Does this help clarify anything?

Here is a post I wrote in the past, but I wanted to share it in this venue because I think it communicates something about my perspective that I want folks to bear in mind when they read here at The Evangelical Calvinist. Understand, I believe wholeheartedly in what I am doing here with this blog; and I believe that what we are calling ‘Evangelical Calvinism’ has a very good pedigree in the sense that I think it is positioned in a way that provides very strong explanatory power relative to emphasizing the truth of God’s life disclosed both in Christ and scripture. But, I also know that pressing ‘corners’ like this can tend towards sectarianism; which is to take on an arrogant attitude about what ‘we know’, and thus use that as a measurement to determine if someone is truly a brother or sister in Christ — i.e. if they don’t agree with EC, then they either aren’t a Christian (extreme); or, at least, they are ‘second-tier’. I want folks to know that this is not my approach or attitude with my promotion of Evangelical Calvinism. The following points should make that clear.

———-

Somebody wrote a book on this topic once (hint: C. S. Lewis). But I am not going to attempt to discuss the ‘ins-and-outs’ of the “moral argument for the existence of God;” instead I am going to provide a bit of an sketch on why I think of myself as a ‘Mere Christian’.

BurningHereticsIn Acts 11:26 it says: “. . . and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” This is the “label,” if any, that I want to wear. It is a name that literally means — Christ ‘in’ — and thus is a moniker that any person who has placed their trust in the Jesus of the bible can claim proudly. Of course, today, ‘Christian’ has many sub-sets underneath it as an general categorization; so that instead of using that “label” we identify ourselves as: Evangelical Calvinists, Calvinists, Arminians, Neo-Orthodox, Paleo-Orthodox, Biblicists, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Non-Denominational, Covenant, Baptist, Lutheran, ad infinitum. Certainly these labels, beyond just claiming “Mere Christian,” can be helpful in understanding what theological quirks and idiosyncrasies a particular person believes best represents what it means to be a ‘Mere Christian’ — so I am not really trying to denigrate usage of such ‘markers’. Instead all that I am trying to underscore here, is that if these ‘markers’ become an end in themselves — if we believe that only our particular brand of theology is “Orthodox” and what it means to be a ‘Mere Christian’; then I think we have another thing coming, at the coming of the LORD!

To be a ‘Mere Christian’ simply means that you have followed Jesus’ pronouncement when He asserted:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. ~John 5:24

This is all it takes to be called a ‘Christian’, just like the disciples were first called in Antioch! You might believe that narrowing it down by attaching a certain other label (like the ones I have listed above) to ‘Christian’ is necessary to truly be able to wear this label . . . but I would humbly submit that you are wrong. There is a minimum to what it takes to be a ‘Mere Christian’, and Jesus succinctly summarizes that for us in the passage provided by John the Evangelist.

I find it refreshing to realize that I am simply a ‘Mere Christian’, based upon the simple and Free Grace offered to us by and in Christ; I hope you do too!

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