Neo-Calvinism: Conclusions, Part 1

There’s a lot of material on the Internet about neo-Calvinism, much of it quite good. And we could go on for months talking about it. But it’s time to come to some conclusions.

You don’t have to be a Calvinist to agree with most of neo-Calvinism.

That’s me. In fact, it seems to me that neo-Calvinism fits more comfortably in a non-Calvinistic theology. You see, Calvinism presents a God who predestines most of the world to damnation, and neo-Calvinism presents a God who provides a good Creation and common grace to all people because he loves them and wants what’s best for them. I have trouble reconciling those two Gods.

Narrative theology is essential to a proper understanding of the Bible.

We covered the basics of narrative theology back in the Blue Parakeet series. Let me explain it a bit differently here. Those of us who grew up in the Churches of Christ were taught a dispensational theory of the Bible. God dealt with mankind in different ways, by different rules, at different times. Therefore, we were taught, the Old Testament has been repealed and we are “New Testament Christians.”

The Old Testament, therefore, has great stories that are good for children’s stories, and has valuable prophecies of the Messiah, but is otherwise a dead letter. We even have preachers who argue over whether the ministry of Jesus was part of the Mosaic or Christian dispensation and so whether the Gospels should be treated much the same as the works of Old Testament prophets.

However, while there certainly are differences between the times, this approach has hidden much more important commonalities — themes that run throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, leaving us woefully ignorant of the Old Testament and therefore clueless about much of the New Testament.

A proper hermeneutic studies the great themes of the Bible from beginning to end. We don’t “rightly divide” the word by throwing away the first 39 books! Rather, the goal is to recognize that it’s the same God throughout, working a common plan for his own purposes.

And one of these major themes is the Creation, Fall, and Redemption, that is, God’s work through Abraham, Israel, and the church to undo the damage done by the Fall in Genesis 3. And the Fall did more than damn humanity. It also adulterated the entirety of the Creation.

(Rom 8:19-23)  The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Paul’s language of the “firstfruits” of the Spirit means that the receipt of the Spirit is a first step toward being with God, just as Adam and Eve were. It’s a sign that we are returning to the Garden, because we see God with us through the Spirit.

Utter sovereignty

Kuyper’s famous line is —

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!”

Most in the Churches of Christ would agree with this — in the abstract. But in fact, like most evangelicals and fundamentalists, we don’t teach or act this way. For example, when the preacher or elders start talking about our giving, or our decisions to have children or not, or how many children to have, the church is quick to declare such decisions as “personal,” as though there might be some zone of privacy into which God cannot intrude.

In American political theory, we believe in limited government and checks and balances and separation of powers — which is fine for politics but has nothing to do with God. God made us, and actually has quite a lot to say about our money, our time, and even our sexuality and marriages.

(Psa 96:10-13)  Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. 11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; 12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; 13 they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.

God reigns over the Creation, and over the people in it, in every way possible. This means that our understanding of God affects our thinking about the government, about business, about marriage and parenting, about sex, about education, about … everything.

And that means that a theology overly focused on “spiritual” or “religious” things, such a worship and church organization, is woefully incomplete. Christianity is about much more than going to church and getting doctrine right. It’s also about changing the world —

(Psa 146:5-10)  Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, 6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– the LORD, who remains faithful forever. 7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, 8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. 9 The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. 10 The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD.

Christians are, by definition, Christ-like. That’s what the word means. And Christ is a part of God; he’s God the Son. Jesus is — and always has been — concerned with the planet, the oppressed, hungry, imprisoned, blind, the alien, the orphan, and the widow — and in opposing wickedness. God reigns, but not all knees bow to God.

When we are saved, we are not only promised a home with God, we become a part of Christ’s body on earth, charged with his mission to a fallen world.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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One Response to Neo-Calvinism: Conclusions, Part 1

  1. Guy Woldt says:

    Brenda: “Neon Trees. . . “

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