Thursday, September 08, 2005

Calvinism #3: The Courage of Conviction

A personal note today. 

Over the past few todays, in preparing this little series of posting on Calvinism, I've been rereading the little booklet What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, from Bethlehem Baptist Church.  Mostly, I was looking for those quotes from Augustine, Whitefield, Spurgeon and others that I've included in the previous posts.

Well, be careful what you read and what you type.  God might just use it to convict your heart and redirect your life.

First, being a huge fan of Spurgeon's teaching, I was quite affected by this quote from WWBA5PC:
Spurgeon started a college for pastors and was intent that the key to being a worthy teacher in the church was to grasp these doctrines of grace:

Arminianism is thus guilty of confusing doctrines and of acting as an obstruction to a clear and lucid grasp of the Scripture; because it misstates or ignores the eternal purpose of God, it dislocates the meaning of the whole plan of redemption.  Indeed confusion is inevitable apart from this foundational truth [of election].

Without it there is a lack of unity of thought, and generally speaking they have no idea whatever of a system of divinity.  It is almost impossible to make a man a theologian unless you begin with this [doctrine of election].  You may if you please put a young believer in college for years, but unless you shew him this ground-plan of the everlasting covenant, he will make little progress, because his studies do not cohere, he does not see how one truth fits with another, and how all truths must harmonize together...

This coherence that election provides to the Bible has indeed been foundational for me.  In understanding God's electing sovereignty, much of what was previously incomprehensible within the Bible now makes sense: the call of Abraham, the choosing of the nation of Israel, the entire passage of Romans 9, etc.

While working through these thoughts, I also read this post from Clint Humfrey about the Toronto Baptist Seminary, where amongst other details he describes it as:
the only school in Canada that explicitly emphasizes the sovereignty of God in all things, particularly soteriology. This has been popularly called 'Calvinism' but the emphasis is larger than the label.

I thought about my own studies at Tyndale Seminary, where I've been studying part time for the last year.  I really enjoyed the Greek classes, but was concerned that in some of the other courses there was a lack of Bible-centredness.  The experience of another close friend at this school led me to understand that this lack would likely become more significant as I went forward.  I may very well be painting with an overly-broad brush, so don't take my comments as a wholesale criticism of the school ... these are my personal thoughts and experiences and may not correspond to most peoples' encounters with the school.

The final confirming note came from my rereading the last chapter of Piper's book Brothers, We Are NOT Professionals.  God had used this book 1.5 years ago to totally change the direction of my life and send me to the seminary.  Now He used it again to change the school I was in.

The last chapter of this excellent book, called "Brothers, Pray for the Seminaries", says this:
We cannot overemphasize the importance of our seminaries in shaping the theology and spirit of the churches and denominations and missionary enterprise.  The tone of the classrooms and teachers exerts profound effect on the tone of our pupils.  What the teachers are passionate about will by and large be the passions of our younger pastors.  What they neglect will likely be neglected in the pulpits.

When I was choosing a seminary, someone gave me good advice.  "A seminary is one thing" -- he told me, "faculty.  Do not choose a denomination or a library or a location.  Choose a great faculty.  Everything else is incidental."  By "great faculty" he, of course, did not mean mere charismatic personalities.  He meant that wonderful combination of passion for God, for truth, for the church, and for the perishing, along with a deep understanding of God and His Word, a high esteem for doctrinal truth and careful interpretation and exposition of the infallible Bible.  (pp. 261-262)
That was enough for me.  With the help of my pastor, on the very last day of registration, I've transferred from Tyndale to TBS.  I don't want to be a great scholar.  I don't want to be known as an expert in any given field.  I want to passionately love God, His church, His Word, and the lost!  I want to accurately preach and teach the transforming truths of the Bible, to model Christlikeness, and to delight in God's glory in and through his global body and local church!

Now, if only I could get the textbooks in time......


Anonymous said...
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Clint said...

Great blog with welcome emphases.

Glad to see the references to Piper's Brothers We Are Not Professionals. We've used it at TBS to address some of the things that get overlooked in seminary training.

grace to you in Christ,


God Driven (Damion) said...

As I look to venture into the seminary world I see that much of what Pipe has to say about picking a seminary rings true. Pick one because of the faculity because I really believe they will mold you to the leader you will become. I find I am getting advice from people who went to school to be scholars, theologians and not lovers of God and his church. While there calling maybe different than mine I feel it important to focus on loving God as you say. Thanks for the great post.