This study focuses on a broader explanation of Calvinism. It considers both selected theological reform personalities and contemporaries of Jean Calvin, both the theological considerations of the Dutch theologian Arminius, his followers of the Remonstrants, and the final decisions of the Anti-Remonstrants at the Synod in Dort, the Netherlands, in 1618-1619. Next in focus is, very briefly, Calvinism in the Reformed Churches, and the last part draws attention to both positive and negative aspects in the contemporary application of Calvinism. I would also like to point out that detailed historical and biographical contexts are beyond the scope of this discourse, so readers are brought to relevant historical sources.
What is predestination? What does the Scripture teach; what was the understanding of the Church; and how did modern theologians in 20th cent. approach to it all? The key concepts, along with predestination, are foreknowledge, predetermination and preordination. The author recapitulates how that conceptual framework developed throughout the Old and New Testaments, paying then special attention to the Gospels, the Apocalypse and the Pauline epistles. Then the author analyzes the key terms: προγινώσκειν, προνοεῖν, προορᾶν, προορίζειν, and προτίθεναι used to describe various facets of the concept of predestination and providence.
Substantial attention is then paid to the theology of the concepts, its turning points being Scholasticism, Reformation, Protestant Orthodoxy and the Protestant dialectical theology, covering the issue of determinism and other approaches (God as originating, tolerating or knowing all in advance).
Finally, the exposision turns to modern dialectical theology: creatio ex nihilo, creatio continua, conservatio, maintenance by grace, providence and theodicea.
The American “New Calvinism” — Jean Calvin “Redivivus”
The article reflects the “New Calvinism” movement in the USA as an attempt to present and defend the traditional “five points of Calvinism” as truly authentic legacy of Calvin’s reformation emphases capable to revive and enrich the contemporary theological stage. After dealing with the historical background it treats the nature of the main affirmations of this revival of the reformation orthodoxy and points out both its assets and its deficits. A reference is made to a notable reaction of some American evangelicals, and to some emphases of Karl Barth as possibly the most important reformed theologian of the 20th century.
The Reformation and the Future of Christianity
The author deals with the theological method used by the Reformers, especially Martin Luther and John Calvin. Evangelicals and others tend to appropriate what Luther said about the gospel and neglect what he said regarding God’s law. Nevertheless, a carefully differentiated understanding of the multiple relationships between God’s moral law and the gospel of Christ is a key to the theological method of both Luther and Calvin and is crucial to the future of a healthy Christianity that can address our strategic problems. These problems include: (1) fluctuating between relativism and harshness, (2) confusing the roles of faith and reason, (3) being uncertain of how apply ethics in the public square, and (4) how to relate God's word to so many cultures.
Luther distinguished carefully between law and gospel. His attributing distinct functions to each was appropriated by John Calvin as crucial. While only faith can rely on the gospel, reason properly applies in the civil use of the law. Reason is “blinder than a mole” concerning grace, adds Calvin. But reason is competent to frame our practical life so as to promote civic righteousness while leaving man a sinner. God's written law helps keep our consciences free from errors arising due to general darkness. Luther, on the other hand, emphasizes the way in which people misuse knowledge of the moral law to earn God’s favor.
Preachers must proclaim both the promises and commands of God (ad 1). While faith reaches beyond reason by trusting in the gospel, there is a significant knowledge of the law in our reason and hearts already, though this knowledge must be clarified by the Bible (ad 2). We should learn to apply ethics based on reason in civic communities and Christian ethics within the Christian community so as to neither occupy the public square nor leave it empty (ad 3). God's law and the gospel each apply to cultures. We should reject a theory that says we must choose one of three or five models of relating faith and culture (ad 4). The method of the Reformers can help us strategically equip for a future outreach.
The statement translated below was precipitated by the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. The statement claims that the majority of Southern Baptists including even the Calvinist minority find unacceptable especially double predestination and limited redemption. The traditional Southern Baptist soteriology believes that each person may and must be saved by free personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as one’s personal Saviour and Lord.
The belief that grew traditional throughout the Convention, as claimed by the authors of the Statement, can be defined with ten articles of affirmation and denial supported with Bible quotations. The key ones are: (art. 3) The atonement of Christ must be responded to, but Christ did not die for those only who respond to Him. (art. 4) Grace is God’s free decision which, however, does not negate the human freedom. Grace can be resisted. A response of faith in not meritorious in any way. (art. 5) A person responding to the Gospel is born again through the Holy Spirit, not earlier and not apart from any response. (art. 6) God planned and wants to have a redeemed people, but did not destined particular individuals for salvation and other ones for condemnation. (art. 8) God expresses His sovereignty also in making humans free. When a person decides, God respects it. God does not call certain individuals “effectively” to have them respond, and others “generally” to prevent them from responding. (art. 9) When a person responds to Christ, God promises to complete their salvation. Such a relationship cannot be broken and there is no possibility of apostasy.
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