Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Evangel" icalism, pt 2

Does evangelicalism really have a great and special emphasis on the gospel?  In part one, I said no, and gave three examples.  Are there any more?  Sure.  We can keep going, and not necessarily in any order,  one of the issues are evangelical endorsements, like we saw with Mother Teresa, MLK Jr., and Buddhists.  Also confusing the gospel by evangelicals is their strong approbation of the Protestant Reformers, among others.  Many evangelicals endorse Martin Luther and John Calvin, despite their gospel amendments.

Calvin wrote in his Institutes (4:17:1, 4:15:3, 4):

God, regenerating us in baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption . . . whatever time we are baptized, we are washed and purified . . . forgiveness, which at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone . . . forgiveness has reference to baptism.

He also wrote (1547 Antidote to the Council of Trent, Reply to the 1st Decree of the 5th Session):

We assert that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism, so that the remains of sin still existing are not imputed. That this may be more clear, let my readers call to mind that there is a twofold grace in baptism, for therein both remission of sins and regeneration are offered to us. We teach that full remission is made . . . by baptism . . . the guilt is effaced [and] it is null in regard to imputation. Nothing is plainer than this doctrine.

Calvin wrote these things and many more, but yet John MacArthur, a conservative evangelical, will rave on Calvin as an incredible Christian man:  "John Calvin . . . was such a profound Christian."  He goes on and on about him as a great preacher.  So does John Piper, another favorite "conservative evangelical."  As does Steven J. Lawson in an entire book.  This type of treatment of Calvin is not unusual among evangelicals, which does confuse the gospel in light of Calvin's writings.

I spent 13 years in Wisconsin in the same town as a Lutheran college and seminary.  We played against the Lutherans in sports in jr. high, high school, and college.  When I was in college, the crosstown rivals, Northwestern Lutheran College, would run off the field at the end of the game so we wouldn't evangelize them.  These men were unsaved.  But Luther is such a favorite still among even conservative evangelicals.
Luther wrote:

Baptism worketh forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and confers everlasting salvation on all who believe as the Word and promise of God declare.

And yet John MacArthur says about Martin Luther:  "Pick one shining light in the history of the Christian church by the name of Martin Luther. Now Martin Luther, coming out of Roman Catholicism, fought more than anyone for the truth that man is saved by faith and not by works."  Piper, again, also heavily promotes Luther.  And yet Luther taught baptismal regeneration, that likely has sent more people to Hell than any other false doctrine.

What MacArthur and Piper do and have done in promoting Calvin and Luther in a way that will confuse about the gospel is all over evangelicalism.  I have never understood their promotion of these men as if they were great Christians.   It doesn't stop there for MacArthur.  Of the Jesus' Movement, MacArthur said: "I really think that one hundred years from now the 1970s and the early 1980s will look like a revival — and that period really was." Another occasion he said:

We kind of caught the wave of that, the tail end of the Jesus Movement. There were new Bible translations, that was huge. People were beginning to understand the Bible in new ways. There was just a wave, I think, at that time when I came that the Lord sort of allowed us to catch that I think a real moving of the Holy Spirit in a special way.

MacArthur calls the Jesus' Movement a true revival. These types of endorsements confuse people about the grace of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Jesus' Movement was a counterfeit that produced all sorts of deviant forms of Christianity that still pervade churches today.

Recently, John Piper caused a controversy, when he preached that "salvation is not a decision."  I have not found this kind of thinking that uncommon among Calvinists.  They would say that salvation does not have to be really a particular point in time, a time of any kind of profession of faith, but you'll just know that you have been converted, not knowing exactly when that was.  John MacArthur shares this in his testimony:

When God did His saving work in my heart, it was not discernable to me. I went away to high school and for all I knew, I loved Christ, I was part of the ministry of the church. I went away to college and I wanted to serve the Lord and honor the Lord. I was certainly immature. But at some point along the line, I really do believe there was a transformation in my heart, but I think it may have been to some degree imperceptible to me because I didn't ever have a rebellious time, I didn't ever revolt against, you know, the gospel or not believe. And I guess that' some ways that's a grace act on God's part. So that all that wonderful training found some level of fertile soil in my heart and none of it was wasted.

With this kind of thinking, God does a sovereign work in your heart and when He is saving you, you might not even know about it.  It isn't really perceivable.  I've heard the same kind of teaching from other Calvinists.

Scripture actually does present conversion as a decision we make.  It does show our salvation experience to include an act of our will.  Jesus is very clear about that through the gospels, especially considering what He said to an unsaved crowd in Luke 14:25-35.  Jesus tells stories that make it very clear that our salvation is a decision of the will that includes "counting the cost" and "denying self" and "forsaking what he has."  You really must decide to follow Jesus.

Confusion abounds in evangelicalism over the gospel.  And through its authors and publishers, this confusion spreads.


Robert said...

Is there an example in Scripture of someone who got saved without knowing it? I can't think of one right off hand, but maybe I'm missing something.

Kent Brandenburg said...

No passage that I know of, Robert, which makes the view rather suspect, doesn't it?

Thomas Ross said...

Many Calvinists also hold the dangerous soteriological error, based on their view that regeneration preceeds faith, that infants and others may be regenerated, grow up, and go to heaven, without ever conciously coming to a recognition of their lost estate and consiously, for the first time, repenting and believing the gospel. Thus, for instance, John Murray affirmed that those who receive infant baptism are to be treated as children of God (cf. pgs. 56ff., Christian Baptism, John Murray. (Philipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980) Many others even repudiate the necessity of any kind of experimental religion (cf. the discussion in “Historic Calvinism and Neo-Calvinism,” William Young. Westminster Theological Journal 36:1 (Fall 1973) 48-65 & 36:2 (Winter 1974) 156-173, and the related discussion in “Edwardsean Preparation For Salvation,” John H. Gerstner & Jonathan Neil Gerstner, Westminster Theological Journal 42:1 (Fall 1979) 5-71). Thus, while it is true that in exceptional and very unusual situations, such as a believer who suffers a mental disease and loses his memory of thirty years of his life, including that portion in which he was converted, when the Reformed affirmed “against the Anabaptists . . . that believers did not have to know, and could not always know, the time of their regeneration” (pg. 74, Reformed Dogmatics, Herman Bavinck, J. Bolt, & J. Vriend, vol. 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), they placed themselves on very dangerous ground.