A Proud Calvinist

In May of 2009 Dr. Joel Beeke and I were in the Philippines to attend a conference on reformed theology in which Dr. Beeke was the speaker. During the Q&A session one of the delegates asked, “Can you be a Calvinist and at the same time proud?” To this question Dr. Beeke initially replied, “To be a Calvinist and proud at the same time is an oxymoron.”proud calvinist

Indeed, a proud Calvinist is a combination of two terms that have opposite meanings. A true Calvinist is one who humbly submits to God’s sovereignty. A proud person is one who places himself above God. A Calvinist prays with the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” A proud person prays with the Pharisee, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11-13).

I think the aforementioned question arose out of a concern that some of those who have discovered Calvinistic theology have become proud of themselves. What does a proud Calvinist look like?

  1. A proud Calvinist looks down on those who are not Calvinists. He thinks that he is superior to them. And when he refutes their unscriptural doctrines, he does so very sarcastically. He acts like the unbelieving criminal, who railed at Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! (Luke 23:39). Likewise, when he defends his faith, he does so with harshness and disrespect. This proud Calvinist should learn from Peter: “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
  1. A proud Calvinist brags about his collection of reformed books. He gathers books for his self-glorification, rather than for his sanctification and God’s splendor. John Bunyan calls this kind of sin “the pride of the library.”[1] According to Bunyan, this particular sin is committed:

When men secretly please themselves to think it is known what a stock of books they have; or when they take more pleasure in the number of, than the matter contained in their books.

When they buy books rather to make up a number, than to learn to be good and godly men thereby.

When, though they own their books to be good and godly, yet they will not conform thereto.[2]

 

  1. A proud Calvinist is only concerned with theology (the study of God); he does not care about piety (the practice of godliness). For instance, with great diligence he reads a lot of books on reformed theology but only to increase his knowledge, so that he can show to others how theologically intellectual he is. This proud Calvinist should realize that the Reformers as well as the Puritans did not only write to inform the head (know God) but to touch the heart (love God) and move the hands (serve God). In fact, the very purpose of John Calvin in writing the Institutes, his great theological work, was “solely to transmit certain rudiments by which those who are touched with any zeal for religion might be shaped to true godliness.”[3] In short, Calvin wrote to promote what John Murray called “intelligent piety,” spirituality that is rooted in Scripture. In Calvinism, theology and piety are inseparable. The study of God prompts the practice of godliness.

Are you a proud Calvinist? Does your study of reformed theology produce piety in your Christian life? Does your study make you love Christ more and hate sin more? Pray with Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “Lord, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.” Remember, a true Calvinist is marked by piety not pride, humility not haughtiness.

 

 

                 [1] John Bunyan, “A Holy Life,” in The Miscellaneous Works of John Bunyan, vol. 9, gen. ed. Roger Sharrock (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), 324.

                 [2] Bunyan, “A Holy Life,” 324.

                 [3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 1:9.

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Cultivating Godliness in Seminary

When I was preparing to enroll at Southern Seminary to begin my M.Div. studies, more than one person counseled me to not allow my zeal to fizzle while in seminary. While some of that counsel probably reflects my membership in a tradition that is still somewhat suspicious of theological education, I suspect that many other aspiring seminarians I other traditions have received similar advice. And for good reason—each of us know of someone whose faith withered in seminary, even in orthodox seminaries. By God’s grace, I really believe I loved Christ more when I finished seminary than when I started, in part because I attended two fine seminaries, but also because of some steps I took to try and cultivate godliness during seminary. I want to share some strategies for cultivating godliness while in seminary. It is my hope that these suggestions may help some seminary students to stay close to the cross and grow in their faith while pursuing their theological education.

 

The article is by Nathan A. Finn, assistant professor of church history and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. An earlier version of this article appeared at Between the Times, the official faculty blog of Southeastern Seminary.

Click here to view his entire article.

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Cultivating Holiness: An Antidote for Worldliness

The godly farmer who plows his field, sows seed, fertilizes, and cultivates is acutely aware that, in the final analysis, he is utterly dependent on outside forces for an assured crop.  He knows he cannot cause the seed to germinate, the rain to fall, or the sun to shine.  But he pursues his task with diligence nonetheless, looking to God for blessing and knowing that if he does not fertilize and cultivate, his crop will be meager at best.

Similarly, the Christian life is like a garden that must be cultivated in order to produce the fruits of holy living unto God.  “Theology is the doctrine or teaching of living to God,” wrote William Ames in the opening words of his classic, The Marrow of Theology.[1] God Himself exhorts His children, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16).  Paul instructs the Thessalonians, “God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (1 Thes. 4:7).  And the author of Hebrews writes, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).  The believer who does not diligently cultivate holiness will neither have much genuine assurance of his own salvation nor be obeying Peter’s call to seek it (2 Pet. 1:10).[2] In this chapter I will focus on the Christian’s scriptural call to cultivate Spirit-worked holiness by diligently using the means God has provided to assist him.

 

The article is by Joel R. Beeke, president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He is also a pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Click here to read the entire article.


[1]The Marrow of Theology, trans. and ed. John D. Eusden (1629; Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1968), p. 77.

[2]Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1978), pp. 13-14.

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