Category Archives: Calvin/Calvinism

Evening of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty at Trinitas Christian School

Dr. George Grant exhorted and encouraged us this evening to conquer the world. This remarkably titanic vision, he argued, is actually grounded in the prayer our Lord taught us: “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” We need to start believing this prayer.

Grant sprinkled his optimistic talk with particular moments of history where darkness reigned, but yet God–in His mercy–provided and prepared men to embrace the challenge and plant seeds that would bear much fruit long after their deaths.

Among many contributing factors to the grim state of our culture, Pastor Grant argued that a pessimistic view of the world is very much guilty for what is transpiring in our midst. If we expect darkness, then why should darkness not prevail?

Grant’s magnificent rhetorical gifts coupled with his pastoral concerns and passion for the Church, and his loyalty to recover a Christ-centered education inculcated in us a robust vision for the world and the profound need to think futurely.

History has taught us much, but the knowledge of history without the formation of a future vision for Christendom is not the way forward. By embracing those true historical heroes, we have an inheritance that causes us to pursue and desire a world where truth, goodness, and beauty prevail and where Christ is all in all.

Here is my opening prayer for the evening:

Almighty and Gracious God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give you thank for your tender mercies toward us.

We are grateful this evening  for the labors of Trinitas Christian School in these last fourteen years; for their commitment to training men and women to know biblical truth, and also to apply that truth in all areas of life. With Abraham Kuyper we affirm that “there is not one square inch that Christ has not claimed as His own.” We are thankful that You are the writer and master of history; nothing happens outside Your sovereign control. And this is why we commit this time unto you, for you have fashioned our ears to hear wisdom and our bodies to live by wisdom.

We thank you that in education You are forming us to be better lovers of truth and protector of that sacred inheritance given to us by our forefathers. With Chesterton, we affirm that “the true soldier fights because he loves what is behind him.” May our environment be bathed with the grace to know that we are not fighting for a vain cause, but for the future of our children and the glory of the Kingdom of God.

We pray for Pastor George Grant; that he might give us a greater vision for truth in our city, and that his words might cultivate in us hearts to desire truth for ourselves and our children.

May the truth of Your Word, the Goodness of your hands, and the Beauty of your majesty be with us now and forever more, through Jesus Christ, the world’s only Redeemer. Amen.

Painters Plus in Pensacola, Florida

Honoring others is becoming a lost art, but Paul says in I Thessalonians 5 that honoring those in the congregation is part of our calling. Allow me to honor a dear friend and parishioner, Mark Price.  Mark has endured over these last 9 months what no man should endure. Some endure hardships with dishonor, but Mark endured it with utmost honor. He could have taken the route of self-pity, but he took the route of selflessness. He could have said that he needs time away from church to privatize his grief, but instead he came to church to share his grief. In a culture when manhood is despised, Mark is counter-culture. He embraces biblical manhood and strives for excellence in his life and labor.

Mark is a friend. I have walked with him and seen the pain of a man hurt by betrayal, but I have also seen the courage of a man who persevered in his loyalty to his Lord. One cannot commune with Mark Price without seeing his transparent faith. Mark is faithful, and knowing him is an honor. He has set an example of the type of man the church desperately needs.

The uniqueness of Mark Price is also his strong work ethic. Mark has embraced what some call the Puritan work ethic. He is disciplined and utterly zealous for hisreputation in the community. He has been a painter in Pensacola for over 30 years. His business, Painters Plus,

is known for its  excellence. A simple glimpse at his work makes the point abundantly clear. As the website states, “The name Painters Plus encompasses a lot more than just paint.” Painters Plus is not just another business, it is a distinctly Christian business. It is more than painting, it is painting to the glory of God. Mark Price believes that his work of renovating and renewing is more than making furniture look attractive–you will not be disappointed with his work–but it is also a small contribution to the world as art. For Mr. Price, the world belongs to God. Mark’s labors and professionalism are gifts from God. He does not paint for the sake of painting; he paints because he wants to beautify his God’s world. And this is what drives Painters Plus.

Find out more about Mark’s work by visiting his website. To contact Painters Plus, visit here.

Different Dispositions

Calvin is highly devotional and pastoral in his commentary on I Thessalonians 5. Reading that section alone is a conviction masterpiece.

In a lengthy series of exhortations on how to deal with the idle and disruptive, Paul does not have a one-size-fits-all approach, rather he writes:

But since different people have different dispositions, it is with good reason that the apostle commands believers to use a variety of methods to achieve this end.

Paul is aware of the necessity of many gifts to address many problems through many  methods.

Calvin and the Sacraments

My former professor Keith Mathison’s work Given For You is undoubtedly the best work on Calvin’s view of the Sacraments. The book argues that Calvin avoided the pit-falls of the Roman Church and the symbolic memorialism of the Zwinglians. Rather, Calvin approached the sacraments with biblical vocabulary focusing attention on sacraments as signs and seals (Rom. 4:11) and the centrality of union with Christ (John 15:4-8).  In Calvin, there is a parallelism between the action of God and the action of the minister. God truly accomplishes what he signifies in the sacraments (271). The sacraments are not empty signs, but the “Holy Spirit uses them as his instruments (271).”

If You Continue in My Word…

The call of discipleship is a costly call. Discipleship is desperately needed in the Church today. When Luther went to Rome his fellow monks assumed that Luther would find the beauty of Rome to be irresistible. However, Luther became quickly aware not only of the vast immorality, but also the ignorance displayed in parish life. The people did not know what it meant to be a disciple because priests failed their task of maturing their sheep. In John 8:31, our Lord says that “if you abide in my word, then you are truly my disciples.” Near to the heart of discipleship is a life tied to the ministry of the Word. John Calvin directly addresses this issue in his commentary:

… it is not enough for any one to have begun well, if their progress to the end do not correspond to it; and for this reason he exhorts to perseverance in the faith those who have tasted of his doctrine. When he says that they who are firmly rooted in his word, so as to continue in him, will truly be his disciples, he means that many profess to be disciples who yet are not so in reality, and have no right to be accounted such. He distinguishes his followers from hypocrites by this mark, that they who falsely boasted of faith give way as soon as they have entered into the course, or at least in the middle of it; but believers persevere constantly to the end. If, therefore, we wish that Christ should reckon us to be his disciples, we must endeavor to persevere.

The Reformation was a call to discipleship. The badge of discipleship must not be worn lightly.

Calvin on Weekly Communion

The Eucharist in the Reformation by Lee Palmer Wandel

Wandel asserts the centrality of frequent communion in Calvin’s theology:

“Perhaps most important of all, however, was Calvin’s insistence on frequency.  Most evangelicals condemned the medieval requirement of annual communion as nonscriptural.  Luther condemned it as well for denying the laity that moment of intimate communion with Christ, which, as he said, nourished faith.  But no other evangelical so explicitly situated the Eucharist within a dialogic process not simply of deepening faith, but of the increasing capacity to read the signs of the Supper itself, and by extension, of God in the world.  The Supper, for Calvin, was not “external”—a ceremony to be performed regularly—nor even “worship” in the sense that other evangelicals, such as Zwingli and Luther, used:  a mode of honoring God.  The Supper was, for Calvin, mutual:  Christ “is made completely one with us and we with him.”  One was not “made completely one” with Christ in a single communion; one was “made completely one” over time, through the interdependent activities of the Holy Spirit: preaching and the Supper.  Frequent communion, therefore, for Calvin was essential to one’s growth as a Christian—it transformed one in one’s being and epistemology.  When Calvin’s liturgy was instituted in Geneva, however, the City Council restricted the number of times the Supper would be offered to four:  Easter, Pentecost, mid-September, and Christmas.  On this essential point, the government of Geneva did not follow Calvin.” [1]

[1] Wandel, The Eucharist in the Reformation, 171-72.

{HT: Reformed Liturgical Institute}

New Calvinist on the Block

My old friend Dee Dee Warren has endured a great deal of struggles in the last few years, yet she continues to persevere. She has been one of the leading defenders of Preterism (Orthodox Preterism). Her website came to my attention about ten years ago. She has faithfully opposed the non-creedal view of preterism, which denies the Second Coming of our Lord. I actually interviewed her some years ago. However, over the years I could never understand Dee Dee’s loyalty to molinism. It seemed so inconsistent with her overarching eschatology. All that said, I was pleased to hear Dee Dee has embraced God’s sovereignty over salvation. She even talked about it on her podcast. Take a listen and visit her website.

Quarreling, Machen’s Warrior Children, Reformed & CREC

C.S. Lewis argues that quarreling demands a certain a priori knowledge of right and wrong. Quarreling also demands a certain knowledge of the quarreler.

I follow–as I have for almost ten years–the Reformed wars. I follow these wars as someone who wants to avoid becoming one of Machen’s Warrior Children, but also as someone who receives some thrill from these battles. The problem with being too well informed is that you are sucked into these battles as if someone is picking a fight with you. Pastorally, these battles have little to no profit. They lead to all sorts of misconceptions. They divide. They create a category of people who are known for what they are against, rather than what they are for. They create a class of pugilists. Give them a dose of true Calvinistic sacramentology, and suddenly you are an enemy of the Reformed tradition; a tradition which for many goes only back to Princeton.

I say all these things because people speak past each other quite often in our micro-Reformation circles. I am certainly to blame at times, but I want to listen. I want to heed apostolic warnings. I want to be more Solomon-like in my wisdom: discerning what is helpful from what is not.

Those of us part of a confederation filled with convictions need to learn to deal with those who believe their convictions are typically not worth sharing. If we postmillennialists want the world, we are going to have to start talking and engaging those who don’t want it; and many of those label themselves Reformed. 

Practically, this means attending local associations in town as a start to this unity project. Explaining the C-R-E-C to people has a rather comical affect at times, but then it leads to perfectly natural questions on our view of Christian liberty–which usually entails, at least in the South, our view on alcohol consumption.

There is also the benefit of seeing just how broad the Christian world is. God is using the local charismatic preacher to denounce homosexuality more effectively than a thousand pages of academic journals.

My contention is that the Reformed world is generally small and ineffective due to its inability to see beyond itself. Granted, many of us are trying to take a different trajectory; a trajectory that comes with all sorts of bumps on the road. We have the choice of hitting the bump and keep moving or we have the choice of giving in and self-imploding. The gospel demands more.

Calvin on Reason

All my years of reading Calvin (a weekly part of my sermon preparation) I have often found him much more consistent with a VanTilian way of looking at reason than other attempts that claim Calvin. In his commentary on John, he says the following about the source of sound understanding:

All that Scripture tells us about the Holy Spirit is regarded by earthly men as a dream; because, trusting to their own reason, they despise heavenly illumination. Now, though this pride abounds everywhere, which extinguishes, so far as lies in our power, the light of the Holy Spirit; yet, conscious of our own poverty, we ought to know, that whatever belongs to sound understanding proceeds from no other source. Yet Christ’s words show that nothing which relates to the Holy Spirit can be learned by human reason, but that He is known only by the experience of faith.

At the very least, we conclude that a) Human reason is full of limitations when it comes to divine things; and b) Calvin does not overlook the noetic affects of the fall.

Shepherds and Wolves

Calvin observes in his commentary on John 10:

No plague is more destructive to the Church, than when wolves ravage under the garb of shepherds.

False shepherds are everywhere. This is a further call for ministers to uphold truth. Societies, and the greater society, the Church, can only stand firm if it is unified in truth. Take truth away and the foundation crumbles.