Link: Why Your Next Pastor Should Be A Calvinist

The Founders Journal, Winter 2008 edition has an article by Tom Nettles entitled “Why Your Next Pastor Should Be a Calvinist.

Dr. Nettles begins by pointing out that the slide in to liberalism [and I might add, a host of other problems] can be traced to a decline in belief in the doctrines of grace.

The twentieth-century slide into liberalism rode on the back of a growing indifference to the doctrines of grace, because the doctrines of grace are tied vitally to more biblical doctrines than just perseverance of the saints. The recovery of a fully salubrious evangelical preaching ministry depends largely on the degree to which the doctrines of grace are recovered and become the consciously propagated foundation of all gospel truth.

If a church, therefore, gets a Calvinist preacher, she will get a good thing. Several issues will be settled forever and the church will not have to wonder about the soundness of her preacher on these items of biblical truth and their soul-nurturing power. Calvinists have stood for more than just their distinguishing doctrines, but have held steadfastly to other doctrines that are essential for the health of Baptist churches in our day. Let’s look at a few of these.

Here are the reasons he gives:

(1) A Calvinist firmly believes in the divine inspiration of Scriptures.

Defenders of inerrancy must explain the relationship between divine control of inspiration and the human freedom of the writers. Calvinists are in a unique position to defend inerrancy because of their understanding of the relationship between sovereignty and human freedom in salvation.

(2) A Calvinist firmly believes the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.

The doctrines of grace are themselves expressions of Trinitarian theology. Especially among those who are covenantal in their interpretation there is a commitment to a Trinitarian view of God that is expressed in his dealings with humanity since “Calvinism rests its soteriology on the doctrine of the Trinity.”

(3) A Calvinist firmly believes the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.

Three quotes from Dr. Nettles on this:

“Calvinists, virtually without exception affirm in the strongest terms this clearly biblical presentation of the death of Christ.

“If the death of Jesus genuinely removed the judicial verdict against sin, then who among those from whom the judicial verdict has been removed will suffer its penalty? Because of this connection, many that do not hold to a definite effectual atonement remain open to other options concerning Christ’s death.”

“The Calvinist has the greatest stake in maintaining the biblical view of Christ’s suffering in such a way as to redeem, reconcile, forgive sinners.”

(4) A Calvinist firmly believes in religious liberty.

The earliest Baptists in America believed in religious liberty. Every person must give account of himself to God so each person must be free to worship in accordance with the dictates of his or her own conscience.

The rationale for this position, beyond the fact that the Bible assumes its truthfulness, is clearly Calvinistic. Because of the fall, the human will is in bondage; only the effectual call of God can open the heart to believe. God is determined that all His elect shall come and no power of hell can keep Him from saving His elect and thus building His church. In order, therefore, to build a church of living stones with a principle of holiness as their driving motivation, one must eliminate all factors of external coercion. God builds His church through the preaching of His called and sent ministers, and not through government sponsorship or carnal intervention. If a church has a Calvinist pastor, she has a man that believes strongly in religious liberty.

(5) A Calvinist firmly believes in missions and evangelism.

Two quotes from Nettles:

“Calvinists believe that God accomplishes His decrees in ways consistent with His character.”

“When a church has a Calvinist preacher, she has a preacher that is committed to persuasive preaching and witnessing as God’s ordained means to bring sinners to faith in Christ.”

(6) A Calvinist firmly believes in Christ-centered preaching.

If any would see God glorified and sinners saved then the preacher’s exposition must lead to Christ, the one in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells in bodily form. Election can not save apart from Christ; irresistible grace cannot save without establishing union with Christ; Christ’s death was fully effectual because of who He was. The Calvinist believes that God operates by means that are consistent with His character, and the only one in whom salvation resides in a way consistent with the character of God is in Christ. If a church has a Calvinist as a preacher, she has a preacher that will consistently and joyfully preach Christ in the fullness of his saving power.

(7) A Calvinist firmly believes in holiness of life.

Since salvation is from sin, both its penalty and its power, holiness is a certainty that issues forth from ones salvation. Indeed, The purpose of election is to make a people zealous for good works (Titus 2:13-14). The Calvinist preacher “expects holiness in increasing measure in all the people of God.”

(8) A Calvinist firmly believes in regenerate church membership.

Calvinists are committed to a true biblical understanding of evangelism and conversion and place church membership in that context. Seeing church membership as a covenantal relationship between saints, Calvinists are committed to regenerate church membership and are committed to its two accompanying disciplines: “one, care in receiving members, and two, care in maintaining spiritual health in the entire congregation through close attention to both formative and corrective discipline.”

Conclusion:

A Calvinist pastor will never manipulate his people but will always seek to motivate them by truth and an increasingly clear vision of the glory of God. He will know that his ministry is not to be built on deceit, nor guile, nor flattering words, nor is he to use his influence as a cloak for covetousness, but because he has a stewardship of the gospel, he speaks, not as pleasing men, but God (1 Thessalonians 2:1-5). Churches, you should seriously consider, for the sake of your souls and the glory of God, calling as your next pastor a historic Baptist Calvinist. As Boyce said, they make “good and effective preachers.”

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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