By Mark A. Taylor
“We need a thorough treatment of Calvinism to share with our members.”
The young preacher of a growing new Christian church in the East made the comment to me just as we were finishing this issue. His request confirmed our decision to devote significant space to the subject of Calvinism, but it didn’t prompt it.
The catalyst for our decision was a September cover story in Christianity Today that claimed, “Calvinism is making a comeback and shaking up the church.”
Calvinism may not be shaking up Christian churches and churches of Christ yet. Indeed, three prominent leaders among us, interviewed for this issue (see page 8), aren’t too concerned about Reformed theology taking sway in the congregations they know.
And yet all of us realize leaders of Christian churches tend to adopt and adapt the successful approaches of other Bible believing churches. We tend to be a pragmatic bunch, concerned more with “what works” than nuances of theology. Too many of our local church leaders are not readers, and those who are will be drawn to some best sellers written by preachers and teachers with Calvinist leanings or an outright agenda to promote Calvinism. With a wave of Calvinism washing over many evangelical colleges and congregations, can Christian churches avoid being caught in the undertow?
The Christianity Today report makes clear that Calvinism can divide. It quoted Steve Lemke, provost of the Southern Baptist Convention’s New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, who said Calvinism “has split literally dozens of churches, and it holds the potential to split the entire convention.”
And yet we’re not printing these articles to convince readers that Calvinists are the enemy. The CT report said many young evangelicals have embraced Calvinism amid a backlash against manipulative evangelism, business models of ministry, and believe what you want churches. Their attraction to Calvinism has come from a growing desire to explore biblical doctrine and the glory of God. All of this is good.
When we see young people in our own churches seeking an emphasis on God’s glory and will, we can celebrate. When we hear them praying, “God show us what you are doing in our world and how we can participate in that,” we can say, “Amen.”
We can encourage believers to dig deep into what the Bible says about how God works and how he saves. With wonder at his grace and humility before his mighty acts, we can worship his glory without denying our own free will or subscribing to any other part of the Calvinistic system.
To that end we dedicate the series of articles beginning today.
ALSO CONSIDER READING:
Calvinism and the Bible: Part 1 by Jack Cottrell Calvinism and the Bible: Origins by Jack Cottrell Calvinism and the Bible: A Bibliography by Jack Cottrell Should We Care About Calvinism? (Panel Discussion) “