Why are new Calvinists so…enthusiastic?

 

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Comic by Adam Ford. Used by permission

Calvinism has been on the ascendance in the last couple of decades of American Christianity. More and more young pastors are part of a group of “new Calvinists.” Reformed theology has taken hold of more and more evangelical seminaries as professors have taught the “doctrines of grace.” Almost 10 years ago, even Time Magazine took notice.

One of the anecdotal results of this has been the rise of the sometimes-tongue-in-cheek identification and designation of a “Cage Stage Calvinist.” This is supposedly the phenomenon of a believer who has come to grips for the first time with the ideas of human depravity, God’s sovereign choice, and Christ’s atoning work for his people. Enamored with these new-found discoveries, and arrayed in his favorite Depraved Wretch t-shirt, he proceeds to badger every poor believer he encounters to proselytize them into affirming these once-hidden, now-obvious truths. And since his understanding is not nuanced at all, he comes across like a sledgehammer. Older, wiser Calvinists roll their eyes and quietly wish they could assign him to a cage for a couple years until he settles down.depraved

There is something that happens during this learning process that excites the mind and causes one to want to share this knowledge with others. What is it?

I was Reformed before Reformed was cool, and I don’t recall any cage stage in my life. But I do remember the growth in knowledge as I studied the Scriptures in my journey toward the doctrines of grace.  Over the years I’ve come to realize in a meta-cognitive way what these truths have meant to my understanding. My theology was deepened in 3 significant ways.

God

 “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

Perhaps most foundational to my thinking was the emphasis on God being God. I suppose to some degree I related to God as if he and I were in some sort of partnership in my life and salvation. Encountering God as sovereign lifted my understanding of him to heights previously unknown. “Let God be God” has become my mantra as I promote the doctrines of grace.

Myself

 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:10-11

When one realizes the radical nature of sin that has affected everyone, there’s no room for pride and ability – ever. Where my testimony might have once hinged on “my decision” to follow Jesus, it now glorifies the God who saved me not only when I couldn’t save myself but when I couldn’t even know I needed saving, and wouldn’t want it if I did.

Grace and Christ’s work on the cross

 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

I memorized that verse as a child, long before embracing the doctrines of grace. But “it is the gift of God” took on a much deeper meaning as I realized that I was incapable of generating my own faith apart from his definitive work for me as a chosen child of God. If there is to be any salvation for me, it must be because of his gracious gift.

Obviously, these are things to get excited about. And when one’s doctrine causes a deeper understanding and appreciation of these truths, it’s bound to result in some enthusiastic bubbling over. So, forgive the Cage Stage Calvinist; just hand him a Charles Spurgeon bobblehead and tell him to sit in the corner. He’ll calm down after a while.

This is your God!

Note: Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach at my church.  Missio Dei Churchvectorstock_20456096 small, in Asheville, NC. We are in a series on the 10 Commandments, and my message was on the 1st Commandment, “you shall have no other gods before me.” In my message, I indicated that the true God has revealed himself to us by his name and by his work in history. What follows is a recitation of some of the true God’s deeds…

Who is the true God?

He is God the Father, the God who created all things out of nothing by the power of his Word, which we know is his Son, Jesus Christ…

The God who placed the crown of his creation, man and woman created in his image in a perfect garden, with the promise of life if they obeyed and immediate death if they did not,

Who, when they sinned, graciously withheld his immediate judgment and promised a future redeemer and covered their sin with clothing from a slain animal,

Who judged the wicked world by flood but spared Noah and his family so that mankind and his redemptive promise would go on,

Who entered into a covenant with a pagan Abram and promised his seed would be as numerous as the stars.

This is your God!

Who preserved his people by sending Joseph to Egypt in chains so that the family could be saved from famine,

Who 450 years later spoke to a lowly shepherd from a burning bush and sent his servant Moses to rescue this now nation from bitter bondage,

Who spoke from the mountaintop and gave his people laws and commandments so they would know how to worship and obey,

Who time and again was patient with his people when they failed to keep the covenant he had made with them.

This is your God!

Who, after speaking at many times and in many ways by the prophets, spoke to us in these last days by his Son, Jesus,

Who was God-made-flesh, born of a virgin, God with us, Emmanuel, Jesus, who shall save his people from their sins,

Who lived a life in perfect obedience to the law, both in deed and in thought,

Who, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, was crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

This is your God!

Whose death lovingly purchased forgiveness for the sins of all who would believe in him, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus,

Who, when his work was complete, demonstrated the Father’s acceptance of his sacrifice by raising from the dead,

Who ascended to heaven, with the promise of his return as reigning King of kings and Lord of lords.

This is your God!

Who sent the Holy Spirit, who is himself God, to indwell his people with power, and to intercede for us with groanings too deep for words,

By whom, even to this day, is building his Church upon the rock of the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God,

Who now is seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come,

And he is the God who in the fullness of time will by his return unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth,

To the praise of his glorious grace!

THIS IS YOUR GOD!

My Sin, My Sin – O Savior!

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Poetry by Mark Knox

My Sin, My Sin – O Savior!

My sin, my sin – O Savior!
Is not a trifling thing;
My sin is vile rebellion
Against my rightful King.
The holy God is justified
To banish me from him
And wrath is stored against me
For all my wretched sin.

My sin, my sin – O Savior!
Caused not my God to hold
His love forever from me,
His mercies to withhold.
He sent his Son, now emptied
Of glory, as a child,
And raised him up to seek and save
One such as I, defiled.

My sin, my sin – O Savior!
Sent Jesus to the cross.
Submitted to the bitter cup;
Sustained the crushing loss,
Until, the Father satisfied,
He cried out, “It is done!”
And with his final dying breath
Declared salvation won.

My faith, my faith – O Savior!
This cross I now embrace.
Enabled by the Spirit,
I’m saved by sovereign grace.
He overcame my waywardness,
Subdued my heart so wild,
And drew this former enemy
Who now is reconciled.

What words, what words – O Savior!
Could I justly bring
To aptly praise my Jesus,
Adore my glorious King?
Rejoice in God through Jesus Christ
Through sufferings untold;
With certain love he’ll carry me
Safely into the fold.

Insufficient worship

by Mark Knox

God is not the greatest high to get you through the night; He’s not the means for you to reach your potential; He’s not a cosmic boyfriend/girlfriend…He’s the Almighty and Sovereign God. King of kings and Lord of lords. And it’s time our worship songs start taking that seriously.