Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Calvinists don't evangelize!

"Calvinists don't evangelize. After all, if you're among the elect, God will save you no matter what happens. If you're not, God will send you to Hell regardless of what you do."

If you're a fellow monergist, you have no doubt heard those statements countless times. If you are a synergist (either of the classical Arminian variety or a modern "all means all" Southern Baptist/Calvary Chapelite), you have probably said them. A good friend of mine who is one of the latter said essentially this very thing to me not long ago, and there is a recent comment in Tim Challies' blog saying essentially the same thing. I would like to give an answer to this from the point of view of one monergist.

The crux of the issue is that we need to distinguish between classical Calvinists/monergists and hyper-Calvinists. As I discussed in an earlier entry (although Phil Johnson does a much better job of it than I ever could) they are not at all the same thing. I have generally found that those who are not monergists generally don't make such distinctions - not that nobody does, but that most don't. It's not that surprising, really: people tell me all the time that the kinds of music I favor (classical, jazz, and bluegrass) "all sound the same," though they know next to nothing about the genres. We tend to lump everything we don't really know or understand into one big category: thus black/European/Asian people "all look the same," and as C. S. Lewis pointed out, in most people's minds basically all of history up to about 100 years ago was one big undifferentiated soup of Roman centurions, Vikings, Renaissance men, and Knights.

If you are only planning on having a passing interaction with a subject, I suppose that's reasonable: I don't expect a person who likes to listen to general "classical stuff" as background noise to master the fine distinctions between fugues and canons; similarly, between bebop and post-bop, or between Bill Monroe's instrumentation and that of Flatt and Scruggs. There are only so many hours in the day.

However, if you are going to make an argument maligning another person's love for the lost, it is a serious charge and you really should know what you're talking about. And this is what I find many synergists don't do. Many of them take a sketchy understanding of the monergist's understanding of the secret will of God, and then they extrapolate it to be his total belief about the action of God in history. Furthermore, they then assume the monergist will ignore the clear teaching of Scripture to evangelize the world in favor of his understanding of God's secret will.

For that is what we are really being accused of: ignoring God's clear command to evangelize in favor of our understanding of God's secret will. This is no small accusation. However, if you think about it, does it really make any sense? Is somebody willing to tell me to my face that we monergists are willing to ignore God's clear commands and follow what we think (even based on good evidence) that God is planning on doing to the unregenerate in the end? If one is going to take that tack, why not do as the extremist Muslims to, and kill the infidels? After all, God is just going to send them to hell in the end anyway, right? One might object that we don't know somebody is non-elect, only that they are not yet regenerated (yet synergists make this same mistake when they facetiously ask us "why don't you just preach to the elect?") But let's say that we somehow did know who was elect and who was not. In principle, why not kill them now, since we know God is planning on reprobating them anyway?

The answer should be obvious: because God never told us to. He told us to love our neighbor and preach the Gospel. And ignoring what you are clearly told for what you think God will do in the end is not only extremely foolish but sinful.


kdsheahan said...

"God's clear command" tells us to make disciples, not converts!

I find that many people view evangelism as the means by which people get saved, and it is true that God's used the preaching of the Word to accomplish salvation. However, I think many people extend that to assume that the better we preach, the more people will get saved. This is salvation by works, in an even weirder way than usual.

The Arminian is right in that the amount and quality of our preaching does not affect the numbers of those who will be saved, but that misses the point--it is our privilege to preach the Word of God and teach what it says!

Gary (aka fool4jesus) said...

True enough. I would never mean to imply otherwise. However, in many churches, "making disciples" seems to be an excuse for not preaching the Gospel. In this church they say:

There are many pre-disciples in Metro Huntsville that will come, will hear the incredible news of Christ, and WILL become new disciples.

What's missing from this little equation? Conversion! I agree a conversion without making a disciple is wrong: with (re)birth must come growth. But trying to make a disciple without making a convert is just making more of the some of the "disciples" that Jesus had.

Also, note that in the Great Commission Jesus says to make disciples, "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you." Again, you can't make true disciples without preaching the whole truth of the Gospel.