30 October 2005

An abbreviated account of Calvinism

Last week I was asked to give a group of college students a 50-minute survey of the history of Calvinist opinion. Sound like I bit off more than I could chew? That's what I think, too. But if you want to listen to "The story of Calvinism," it's downloadable for free.

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Joe L. said...

Nice, I'm all over it Phil.

Also, here is a plug for an excellent overview of Calvinism: The History and Theology of Calvinism by Curt Daniel. It's a great read and worth the price.


LegoVires said...

I saw the comment last week refering to the session and immediately went looking for it; it was very good.
I noticed it took a couple days to get posted.

I really enjoyed the surveys of heresies, and I was hoping that perhaps you would consider one on the Reformation.
Maybe highlight the major periods, characters, then doctrines. ? hmm ?

Greg Hewett said...

Phil, I appreciate your ministry here. I listened to your account of Calvinism, and I enjoyed it very much. You used an example of a sunday school teacher that stopped praying for unbelievers because he came to the realization that an individuals salvation was in the their own hands.

That got me thinking. As a calvinist, if God has elected us, why should we need to pray for unbelievers. God has made his decision, right? (This is a slippery slope, I know.)

What is the relation of prayer to God's soverignty?

jason worthen said...

Greg, I look at your question with examples from Christ. If we didn't need to pray for others, why did Christ pray for them? Christ prayed not only for the disciples and for the believers but for the non-believers. If that is the example we are given in the Scriptures, how much more should we pray for them? The Lord can certainly bring these folks to Him without us but we may be the very instrument that He wants (not needs) to accomplish that goal. My two cents.

Greg Hewett said...

Jason, that is where I have found peace with this question. We are called to be obedient. That answer is adequate for me, but I was curious if there was more. Thanks for your 2 cents.

BlackCalvinist aka G.R.A.C.E. Preecha said...

Greg - prayer is actually more for us than anything else. True, God-honoring 'thy will be done' prayer demands a right attitude toward God, His will, His actions and forces you to bring your heart, mind and such into conformity with His. This is part of the process of sanctification and (by relation) glorification, since bringing 'every thought captive' also includes our prayer life and being 'transformed by the renewing of our minds' involves having all of our thoughts (including our prayer life) become more Christ-like.

Phil Johnson said...

Greg: God has ordained the means as well as the end.

The same answer applies to the question of why gospel preaching is necessary if God has ordained to save the elect anyway. Answer: because He does not save them "anyway." He saves them through the means He ordained, which is our preaching and witnessing (1 Cor. 1:21; Romans 10:14-15).

Same with prayer. God has ordained this as a means by which He mediates His dealings with His people, because we naturally give Him glory and praise when He answers our specific requests.

bob said...


You ask a good question that deserves to be answered. It is one of the favorite arguments that the Arminian theologian will thrust before a Calvinist.

Calvinists both preach the gospel and pray for the souls of men because we actually believe that God can save them.

We are commanded to pray and can pray simply from a pure motivation of obedience. We are promised: "And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will , He hears us" (I John 5:14)

We know that man is dead in his trespasses and sins and that he has no capability to comprehend the things of the Spirit. We know that he does not seek after God and that he hate the light which is Christ because his deeds are evil.

When the gospel confronts the lost man, he will regard it as foolishness or a stumbling block and flee from it. He will mimic the first man when he fell - he will retreat into the blackness of depravity and there he will hide from the Almighty unless God is pleased to draw Him out.

We believe that God has not only ordained what shall come to pass, but has ordained the means through which he will accomplish it. I recognize that God has been pleased to save me from the bondage of sin and has commanded that I go and teach all nations. He has equipped me with certain gifts and has established me as an elder in a church. I will preach the gospel because I am commanded to and because I believe that it is through the preached gospel that God will be pleased to save sinful men.

With the proclamation of the gospel comes the ability or power that is necessary for those who are quickened by the Spirit to both receive it and respond. When God spoke "Let there be light!" - there was light. When God spoke to a dead man who was rotting in the tomb "Lazarus, come forth!" - a dead man came to life and came forth.

It is a rather bizarre thing to pray for and speak to a dead man because he cannot hear, let alone walk. It is rather odd to speak to the light - because it cannot hear. Both the light and the dead man obeyed, but this was not the efficient cause of the actions being carried forth. With the command, the power or ability to obtain that which was commanded was also given.

When I pray for the lost and preach the gospel to them, I know that they are dead in trespasses and sins. I believe that the Spirit of God can move in the hearts of men and can enable them to believe. I believe that God can take out their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. I believe that God can so move as to "shine in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ"
Thus I pray for them and share the gospel for them, "...if perhaps God may grant them repentance and freedom from Satan's snare"

"The fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much." Calvinists affirm this and are grateful that God is gracious and willing to use us as vessel through whom He can accomplish His purposes.

In Christ,


Unknown said...


Great message... how about an "Abbreviated Account of Dispensationalism"???


Anonymous said...

The fact that God uses prayer as a means to an end implies of course that prayer does not just change us, it also changes or influences the mind of God.

A.A. Hodge: "If we are to pray honestly for daily bread, or for any other desired material good, it must be because we are assured that if we pray we may really and truly influence the mind of God to give it to us. To ask God for an objective material good, when we believe that the only possible effect of the asking is an internal and spiritual modification of our own feelings, is false and hypocritical, unworthy of either God or man, and sure to be of no effect."

Jim Bublitz said...


John Piper has a great page on his site that shows you how prayer and predestination fit together. It's a "role play" dialog that makes it really clear. Here it is:

Mike said...

"Great message... how about an "Abbreviated Account of Dispensationalism"???"

No Please!

One of the reasons I enjoy reading this Blog so much is Phil's great devotion to pure soteriology. I cannot say that I have substantively disagreed with him on any issues yet. Then again, I haven't heard anything about Charismatic Chaos or Dispensationalism. Lets not start now!

However, while the topic is raised ... I do have one question for those who follow Phil and MacArthur closely as I presume several of you do. Which "branch" of Dispensationalism would GCC/TMC/TMS/etc fall under? From what I have heard it sounds more like the modified Dispy views of people like Ryrie. Is this correct? I think that basically everyone rejects the classic views of Darby, Scofield, Plymouth Brethren, etc but I am also aware that there are many in this "modified" category who reject Progressive Dispy views such as propossed by Bock, Blasing, Saucy, etc.
If someone can clear that up for me I would be appreciative.

Bobby Grow said...

Hey Eric,

I realize you want to hear from Phil, on Dispensationalism, but until then here's a link:Click here to a brief sketch on dispensationalism.

I'm curious too, Phil, what brand of dispen. does Grace Community hold to?

Mike Perrigoue said...

Ahhhh....dial-up...two hours to download?!

Unknown said...

Bobby Grow,

Thanks for the link... it was a good article. I consider myself a Dispensationalist but with a more progressive slant. I would likme to hear Phil's take on dispensationalism... I know I don't agree with the "classical" approach but I see problems with Progressive Dispensationalism as well, although it has much to commend it as a system. I thought Phil would be great to comment since Pastor MacArthur has mentioned his "leaky" dispensationaliosm for years and seems to have carved out some type of middle ground.


Anonymous said...

Yeah... goodness knows MacArthur is such a fence-rider (NOT). : D It seems like MacArthur calls himself a Progressive Dispensationalist, but I can't say for sure (Phil, no doubt, can). I myself am not sure that I could call him a middle-grounder, even if his views differed with mine (which seems to be the issue with most people who differ with MacArthur's dispensational view; I say this because I've been to the chatroom of James White several times).

As for the thing about prayer, I think all the comments pretty much answered it. Yet, simply, the question really belongs to the Arminian: if God is not the Sovereign in salvation and it is merely up to man to decide, why should we pray to God... what can He do if it's really up to the person? The burden of proof is just as much on the Arminian at this point as it is the Calvinist.

Craig Schwarze said...

Phil, do you have a PODCast? If not, maybe its time my friend...

Unknown said...

I did NOT mean "middle-ground" as an insult. So much of dispensation seems to be "hyper-dispensationalism" and the other extreme is Covenant Theology... so I think finding a biblical "middle ground" is commendable. MacArthurs position seems to make good sense so I would like to see it more thouroughly explained (systematized?).

PS: I do NOT think he is in the Progressive camp because the Masters Seminary has written articles against their hermaneutics.