Does the Bible actually teach doctrines such as unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace? Today, Burk Parsons examines where the theology of Calvinism comes from.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: I'm joined by the senior pastor of Saint Andrew's Chapel, Dr. Burk Parsons. Dr. Parsons, is Calvinism a biblical view?
DR. BURK PARSONS: That's a great question, and I'm glad you asked that question. Firstly, when we use the term Calvinism, we need to understand that that term, that language, is language I've never been particularly comfortable with. The reason for that is that I don't think John Calvin would like us calling the doctrines of grace and the doctrine of salvation after him. And so, while many people use that terminology, I've always hesitated to use it because, in fact, the doctrines that we're speaking of when we speak of Calvinism or when we speak of Reformed theology or Reformed soteriology, which is the doctrine of salvation, we are speaking of course of biblical doctrines. Now, of course not everyone believes that those doctrines are biblical, but we do, and we believe they are thoroughly biblical.
When people speak of Calvinism, they're typically speaking of the five points of Calvinism, as they're oftentimes referred to. Those five points of Calvinism as they're typically defined are as follows: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement or definite atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. These doctrines flow from Scripture. And to reject any one of those doctrines"as many people are quick to reject that third doctrine I mentioned, limited atonement or definite atonement; they are quick to dismiss that doctrine yet claim to adhere to the rest of those doctrines. But the problem with that is if we reject any one of those doctrines, the entire biblical system and doctrine of salvation really begins to crumble apart. And so it is absolutely vital that we understand that each of those doctrines flows from Scripture and they all fit together appropriately and necessarily, and they flow from one another as well.
We understand that the Bible teaches plainly that we are totally depraved, that we are sinful, that in our natural state as sinners before God that we are against God, we are at enmity with God, we are in opposition to God, that we don't deserve grace. We don't deserve heaven. We don't deserve salvation. We also understand from Scripture, as Paul plainly teaches in Romans and Ephesians, as Jesus plainly teaches throughout the Gospels, that salvation is by God's unconditional choice of those who are His, and that He chose us in Christ from before the foundation of the earth.
The Bible also plainly teaches that the redemption that is ours in Christ is a redemption that actually accomplishes something. Some people believe that God sent Jesus, the Son, our Savior, simply to provide a way of salvation or to make salvation possible, but that's not what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to actually accomplish something, not just to make something possible. But He came to accomplish salvation. So Jesus' life and death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, His life and ministry, actually accomplished redemption. And so, when Christ died on the cross, God poured out His wrath upon Christ and Christ bore the wrath of God for all those who belong to God, for all those whom the Father chose in Christ from before the foundation of the earth. And so, Jesus took the wrath of God for us.
This is the language of Scripture, that God poured out His wrath on Christ for those who belong to Christ. And so, for all those who are not chosen in Christ before the foundation of the earth, for all those whom God did not choose, for all those whom God in His sovereign power decided to pass over, God's wrath is still upon them. They are still in their sins and they are awaiting the wrath of God to come upon them in God's eternal punishment in hell.
Now, that's not easy for us to hear. That's not easy for us to understand fully. And there is a great deal of mystery surrounding that. But what we do know is that God has done this according to His perfect and sovereign will. We know that God has done this according to His good pleasure. And while we don't understand why some of us have been chosen, why some of us have been given the grace of God in Jesus Christ and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, while we don't understand that, we know it's according to God's good pleasure. And we don't understand why God has chosen not to save others. But here's really the question that we need to ask: Why does God save any of us? Why does God choose any of us? Why did God show any of us grace when we don't deserve it at all?
When God chooses, God saves, God accomplishes, God redeems, and God also regenerates by His grace. And God also preserves us by His grace, by the power of the Spirit to the end, because God, who began a good work in us, is faithful to complete it.
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