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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

Where'd All These Calvinists Come From? Part 10 of 10


I first thought of these blog entries back in January.  I had had a conversation or two with friends in which they asked my why I thought there was this resurgence of Calvinism among younger evangelicals.  Of course, theologically, the answer is “because of the sovereignty of God.”  But I’ve never been convinced by hyper-Calvinism’s argument that because God has determined the ends, the means don’t matter.  Means do matter.  And as a Christian, as an historian who had lived through the very change I was considering, I wondered what factors had been used by God.

Before I go further, I acknowledge that in this blog I depart from giving answers that even Arminian friends of mine could agree with.  (For more on how those of us who are more Reformed in our soteriology can work with the more Arminian see a blog I wrote recently over at the T4G website.) If my Arminian friends agree that this rise has happened/is happening, then there is no reason an Arminian should want to disagree about the effect of any of the previous nine influences I’ve noted.  They may lament such influences, but they need not dissent from my suggestions, at least not for theological reasons. 

This tenth and final influence that I note will be different.

When I doodled this list back in January, I tried to imagine the influences chronologically, like a picture slowly developing.  Under God, where did this come from, who's given it shape, lines, color?  From the background noise of respect for Spurgeon and the reprinting of his sermons to the latest conference John Piper has addressed or blog he’s written, I’ve tried to trace out this path from inside American evangelicalism for the last several decades.  This last influence that I suggest is, however, less immediately obvious.  But I think it has been increasingly present throughout the last part of the 20th century in America.  And I think it has shaped the “theological climate” in which weaker, more wan versions of Christianity pale and fade, and in which more uncut, vigorous versions thrive.  It is the rise of secularism and decline of Christian nominalism.

This may seem as unlikely as saying that the Great Awakening was caused by the Enlightenment, but I think there is actually a little more reason to suspect this observation of being true.  My fundamental thesis is this:  Arminianism is a theodicy.  That is, Arminianism tries to exculpate God from the problem of evil.  It tries to make sense of God in a world with sin and suffering.

Much as the modern Limitedness of God and Process thinking has tried to get God off the hook by redefining what God knows or is responsible for, so its earlier ancestor—Arminianism—with the best of motives (honoring God) desired to make sense of God.  (See Richard Mueller’s excellent study of Arminius, God, Creation, and Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius:  Sources and Directions of Scholastic Protestantism in the Era of Early Orthodoxy [Baker Book House:  Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1991] 309pp.)  In the course of constructing a theology and philosophy and of exegeting Scripture, Arminius & Co redefined term after term so as to both present God as the majestic being He so clearly is, and us as the responsible beings we so clearly are.  But they did this by reversing too many Biblical truths about who first chooses whom, and how specifically the choice is made, and to what end.

My point in this already too-long entry is not how much Arminianism changed, but how incomplete their labors were.  They said God hadn’t predestined and elected the way most earlier Protestant theologians understood Scripture to teach, but they didn’t say God couldn’t.  In a nominally Christian culture, Arminianism may appear to be a satisfying explanation of the problem of evil—“God’s good; it’s our fault”.  But as the acids of modernity have eaten away at more and more of the Bible’s teachings and even presuppositions about God, that answer is proving woefully insufficient to more radical critics.  It appears merely like moving the wrinkle in the carpet. A backslidden United Methodist may be satisfied with such teaching, but a Deist, a Buddhist or an atheist would have no reasons to be.  A. C. Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and their like will not for a moment be satisfied with someone saying “Well, God could have made this world without suffering, but in order to be loved with dignity by free beings, He decided He must allow such sin and suffering as we experience.”

Really?  Then hang being loved with dignity!  Forget the whole experiment!  It costs too much!   Furthermore, what kind of God NEEDS to be worshipped?  What kind of deity is this?!

And it’s this line of questioning that I think has quietly, deeply, perhaps subtly been re-shaping the field into one in which the half-measures of Arminianism are not even beginning to be satisfying.  They are attractive to fewer and fewer people.  Their adherents average age will grow even as their numbers shrink.  They will be recruited mainly from the churched, and perhaps even those who’ve nurtured grievances against God, for allowing this or that to happen.

Reformed theology, on the other hand, teaches about a god who is GOD.  The kind of objections that seem to motivate Arminianism are disallowed by the very presuppositions Calvinism understands the Bible to teach about God.  This God is sovereign and exercises His sovereignty.  This God is centered on Himself.  And this God is understood to be morally good in being so Self-centered.  In fact, it would be evil, wrong, deceptive for Him to be centered on anything other than His own glory.  There is no apology about this. 

This God saves to make His name known (read Exodus, or Ezekiel!).  This God has created us to display His own power and glory, His holiness and mercy to His creation.  Creation is a theatre for His glory.  This is the God of Genesis 1 and Revelation 22.  Even as the book of Revelation came not from John’s philosophical discussions in the king’s court, but from the crucible of persecution by worldly powers opposed to God, so this world’s increasingly open and categorical denials of God and His power will likely be met not by retreats, compromises, edits and revisions, but by awakenings and rediscoveries of the majesty and power of the true God who reveals Himself in the Bible, the God who made us and who will judge us, the God who in love pursued us even to the depths of the incarnation and humiliation of the cross.

This is Christianity straight and undiluted.  And the questing, probing spirit of the rising generation has, by this God’s grace, found this Rock.  May they stand upon it faithfully in these unbelieving times, until God calls them home to Himself. 

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This is so incredibly spot on

The reason Calvinism is growing is because Biblical Ignorance is at an all time high.

I have yet to find a person who was saved by Calvinism, or who came up with the 5 points of Calvinism completely on their own. Someone has to teach you TULIP first, and how to twist the Scriptures (like 1 John 2:2) completely out of recognition as "proof" texts. Nobody can come up with it right from Scripture. That is because it is not there.

- Don Reiher

The first time I ever read the Bible, seeing God at work in his people for His great name's sake, was different than what I had been hearing in sermons. God is the center and mover of events so His Greatness will be known, and in His kindness He bring us humans into this. Many years have passed since I started reading and studying the Bible and only a Calvinistic view more closely explains what the Bible is saying.

Hello don
I am one of those "worked out the 5 points of Calvinism" all by my self.
While coming from a non church background, I ended up at 17 years old going to a church youth group / concert and "put my hand up and walked to the front" then joined that Pentecostal AOG church.
Without reading ANY book from a reformed person, or even reformed leanings, I started after 3 or 4 years to move in the direction of reformed thinking, I concluded that if God was not "sovereign" he was not God. I started to talk about the "God picking saved people..." ideas in church
, to which a church elder showed me the book of Ephesians where I read the words "predestined and elected" for the first time I got to see it in the text. (the elder did not believe or teach anything on the 5 points)
Then before you can say "Benny hinn" I was put out of the church. "get a revelation or get out" was said to me, because I was not fitting in...
It was 5 years after being saved, before I read my first history book, and read the name "John Calvin" saw the path of history and got a glimpse in to what I already believed, That people before me believed what I did, that people down the road called "reformed" were not evil spiritialy dead People.
All I am saying is that a man, with a bible who is not influenced by others, can indeed come up with the "five points".
Please remember 2 things....
Reformed teaching is so much more than just the five points.
And that you should entertain the idea that it could be your self who has been taught by others who may had filled you with doubt and missinfo about reformed theology and what the bible teaches?

I completely agree with your observations. I grew up in an Sbc church that never mentioned anything about Calvinism. In fact, the first time I knew anything about the protestant reformation and reformation theology was in European History class in High School (sad). John MacArthur was the first Calvinist that challenged my view of God. He lead me to wrestle with the sovereignty of God. After about four years, I read John Piper's When I Don't Desire God and I melted under the magnificence of God's beauty. Piper's words showed the beauty found in God's sovereignty and rest found in it. After continued evaluation, I am still firmly convinced of the doctrines of grace, they are the essence of the gospel. Of course, the scriptures were ultimately what I had to contend with, but the writing of these men pointed me to the scriptures in the first place. How gracious God is to sinners like us.

Unconditional election is also taught throughout the entire OT, and in the Creeds of the early church. To say that the Reformers were teaching something new is poor historical theology, not just poor systematic theology

As long as we're piling up anecdotes, I finally admitted the truth of Reformed soteriology after an intense study of Romans that lasted most of a year. Why was I studying so intently? A series of Calvinism v. Arminianism debates prompted me. Why did they make such a big impression? Because I had been the one defending Arminianism.

Interesting you should say that. I was raised in a non calvinist home, went to a non calvinist church, worked in a non calvinist summer ministry and didn't even know what TULIP was until my sophmore year of college. In fact in debates I used to violently stand against the arguments of Calvinism. I even prayed to God one night and said "how can anyone think that about you" (that being unconditional election. I read books by John MacArthur and John Piper and I loved them but I agreed to disagree with them on divine election. Then I read Romans chapter nine. I realized I was wrong and I submitted to the beautiful theology and truth of the sovereignty of God. That all happened because I read the Bible. Period. So I would have to say my friend, you are wrong. Also I know that I am not the only one. There are many like me with the same or similar story.

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Mate, just read Romans. It's basically outlined from 5 through 8

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{Pretty sure|Fairly certain} {he will|he'll|he's going to} {have a good|have a very good|have a great} read.
{Thank you for|Thanks for|Many thanks for|I appreciate you
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{Wow|Whoa|Incredible|Amazing}! This blog looks {exactly|just}
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{Excellent|Wonderful|Great|Outstanding|Superb} choice of colors!|
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{I like|I love|I really like} {all the|all of the} points {you made|you've made|you
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{You made|You've made|You have made} some {decent|good|really good}
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go along with your views on {this website|this site|this web site}.|
{Hi|Hello|Hi there|What's up}, I {log on to|check|read} your {new stuff|blogs|blog}
{regularly|like every week|daily|on a regular basis}. Your {story-telling|writing|humoristic} style is {awesome|witty}, keep {doing
what you're doing|up the good work|it up}!|
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{in order to|to} {check up on|check out|inspect|investigate cross-check} new posts|
{I wanted|I needed|I want to|I need to} to thank you for this {great|excellent|fantastic|wonderful|good|very good} read!!
I {definitely|certainly|absolutely} {enjoyed|loved} every {little bit of|bit of} it.
{I have|I've got|I have got} you {bookmarked|book marked|book-marked|saved as a favorite} {to check out|to look
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{Hi|Hello|Hi there|What's up}, just wanted to {mention|say|tell you}, I {enjoyed|liked|loved} this {article|post|blog post}.
It was {inspiring|funny|practical|helpful}. Keep on posting!|
I {{leave|drop|{write|create}} a {comment|leave a response}|drop a {comment|leave
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{I have|if I have} something to {add|contribute|valuable to contribute} {to the discussion|to the conversation}.
{It is|Usually it is|Usually it's|It's} {a result of|triggered by|caused by} the {passion|fire|sincerness} {communicated|displayed} in
the {post|article} I {read|looked at|browsed}.

And {on|after} this {post|article} Reply to comment | 9Marks.

I {{was|was actually} moved|{was|was actually} excited} enough to {drop|{leave|drop|{write|create}}|post} a {thought|{comment|{comment|leave
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{Is it|Could it be} {just|only|simply} me or {do|does it {seem|appear|give the impression|look|look as if|look like} like} {some|a few}
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{like they are|as if they are|like} {coming from|written by|left by} brain dead {people|visitors|folks|individuals}?
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{twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile|linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed|Facebook page, twitter
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{Hi there|Hello}, I enjoy reading {all of|through} your
{article|post|article post}. I {like|wanted} to write a little comment to support you.|
I {always|constantly|every time} spent my half an hour to read this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}'s {articles|posts|articles or reviews|content} {everyday|daily|every day|all the time} along
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I {always|for all time|all the time|constantly|every time} emailed this
{blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site} post page to all my {friends|associates|contacts}, {because|since|as|for the reason that} if
like to read it {then|after that|next|afterward} my {friends|links|contacts}
will too.|
My {coder|programmer|developer} is trying
to {persuade|convince} me to move to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because of the {expenses|costs}.

But he's tryiong none the less. I've been using {Movable-type|WordPress}
on {a number of|a variety of|numerous|several|various} websites for about a year and am {nervous|anxious|worried|concerned} about switching to another platform.
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Is there a way I can {transfer|import} all my wordpress {content|posts} into it?

{Any kind of|Any} help would be {really|greatly} appreciated!|
{Hello|Hi|Hello there|Hi there|Howdy|Good day}! I could have sworn I've {been to|visited} {this blog|this web site|this website|this site|your blog} before but after {browsing through|going through|looking at} {some of
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{Anyways|Anyhow|Nonetheless|Regardless}, I'm {definitely|certainly} {happy|pleased|delighted} {I
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{Terrific|Great|Wonderful} {article|work}! {This
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{Disgrace|Shame} on {the {seek|search} engines|Google} for {now not|not|no longer} positioning
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{Thank you|Thanks} =)|
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{Hi|Hello|Hi there|Hello there|Howdy|Greetings},
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{A person|Someone|Somebody} {necessarily|essentially} {lend a hand|help|assist} to make {seriously|critically|significantly|severely} {articles|posts} {I would|I might|I'd} state.
{This is|That is} the {first|very first} time I frequented your {web page|website
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{create|make} {this actual|this particular} {post|submit|publish|put up} {incredible|amazing|extraordinary}.
{Great|Wonderful|Fantastic|Magnificent|Excellent} {task|process|activity|job}!|
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{useful|helpful} & it helped me out {a lot|much}. {I
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{Hello|Hi|Hello there|Hi there|Howdy|Good day|Hey there}!
{I just|I simply} {would like to|want to|wish to} {give you a|offer you
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{info|information} {you have|you've got|you have got} {here|right here}
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I {always|all the time|every time} used to {read|study}
{article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} in news
papers but now as I am a user of {internet|web|net} {so|thus|therefore} from
now I am using net for {articles|posts|articles or reviews|content}, thanks to web.|
Your {way|method|means|mode} of {describing|explaining|telling} {everything|all|the
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Thanks a lot.|
{Hi|Hello} there, {I found|I discovered} your {blog|website|web site|site} {by means of|via|by the
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{I have|I've} bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

{Hello|Hi} there, {simply|just} {turned into|became|was|become|changed into} {aware of|alert to} your {blog|weblog} {thru|through|via} Google, {and found|and located} that {it is|it's} {really|truly} informative.
{I'm|I am} {gonna|going to} {watch out|be careful} for brussels.
{I will|I'll} {appreciate|be grateful} {if you|should you|when you|in the event you|in
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{in future}. {A lot of|Lots of|Many|Numerous} {other folks|folks|other people|people} {will be|shall be|might
be|will probably be|can be|will likely be} benefited {from your|out of your} writing.
{I am|I'm} curious to find out what blog {system|platform} {you have been|you happen to be|you are|you're} {working with|utilizing|using}?

I'm {experiencing|having} some {minor|small} security {problems|issues} with my
latest {site|website|blog} and {I would|I'd} like to find something more {safe|risk-free|safeguarded|secure}.
Do you have any {solutions|suggestions|recommendations}?|
{I am|I'm} {extremely|really} impressed with your writing skills {and also|as well as} with the layout on your {blog|weblog}.
Is this a paid theme or did you {customize|modify}
it yourself? {Either way|Anyway} keep up the {nice|excellent} quality writing, {it's|it is}
rare to see a {nice|great} blog like this one {these days|nowadays|today}.|
{I am|I'm} {extremely|really} {inspired|impressed} {with your|together with your|along with your} writing {talents|skills|abilities} {and
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{Is this|Is that this} a paid {subject|topic|subject matter|theme} or did you {customize|modify} it {yourself|your self}?
{Either way|Anyway} {stay|keep} up the {nice|excellent} {quality|high quality} writing, {it's|it is} {rare|uncommon} {to peer|to see|to look} a {nice|great} {blog|weblog} like
this one {these days|nowadays|today}..|
{Hi|Hello}, Neat post. {There is|There's} {a problem|an issue}
{with your|together with your|along with your} {site|web site|website} in {internet|web} explorer, {may|might|could|would} {check|test}
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this problem.|
{I'm|I am} not sure where {you are|you're} getting your {info|information},
but {good|great} topic. I needs to spend some time learning {more|much
more} or understanding more. Thanks for {great|wonderful|fantastic|magnificent|excellent} {information|info} I
was looking for this {information|info} for
my mission.|
{Hi|Hello}, i think that i saw you visited my {blog|weblog|website|web
site|site} {so|thus} i came to “return the favor”.{I am|I'm} {trying to|attempting to}
find things to {improve|enhance} my {website|site|web site}!I suppose its
ok to use {some of|a few of} your ideas!!\

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