Friday, September 07, 2012

Why are you a Calvinist?

(Assuming you are one)

Earlier I published a link to a discussion of what may be responsible for the growth of Calvinism in recent years. That list goes like this:

1. Charles H. Spurgeon
2. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
3. The Banner of Truth Trust
4. Evangelism Explosion
5. The inerrancy controversy
6. Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)
7. J. I. Packer
8. John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul
9. John Piper
10. The rise of secularism and decline of Christian nominalism

In a discussion at Old Life, there is a discussion of this list, and within the comments, an alternative list has been produced:

1) John Calvin
2) Late Reformation Confessions (Belgic, Heidelberg, Scots, Second Helvetic, 39 Articles) and associated luminaries
3) Westminster Standards/Divines
4) Old Princeton (Turretin, Hodge, Warfield, Machen)
5) Old Westminster/OPC (Machen, Murray, Stonehouse, Van Til, Young, R.B. Kuiper, Boettner)
6) Redemptive Historical (Vos, Ridderbos, Gaffin, Kline, Kerux)
7) Old Westminster West (Frame, Johnson, Strimple, Kline, Godfrey)
8) New Westminster West/White Horse Inn
9) Neo-Calvinism (Kuyper, Bavink, Dooyeweerd, Plantinga, Van Til, Schaeffer, Calvin College/Seminary, ICS)
10) Reformed Historians/Academics (Noll, Marsden, Hart)
11) Ligonier (Sproul)
12) New Life OPC-PCA/C. John Miller/PCA/Keller
13) Reformed Baptist influences (Piper, Dever, Mohler, SGM, Spurgeon, Pink, Begg, GC, etc)

If you're a Calvinist (and my guess is that most Triablogue readers are adherents of some form of Reformed or Calvinist doctrines), what led you to become a Calvinist?

What has had the greatest influence on you?


  1. I would include G.K. Beale and J.V. Fesko in 6), Gordon Clark in 9), Richard Muller in 10), and James White in 13). Those authors, including Sproul and Piper, have been God's means of influence in my spiritual life.

    1. Thanks Ryan. I've never forgotten how James White described the two ways the atonement might be "limited". That comparison turned some lights on for me.

    2. "WHY" are you a Calvinist?

      A very ironic question.

  2. Amsterdam and Old Westminster. Read a book on Christian Philosophy (by Spier?) that led me to van Til. Also influenced by a Reformed Baptist history prof at Oregon State who directed me to WTS Philly in the late 70s.

  3. Al Mohler, RC Sproul, James White, and John MacArthur all influenced me and my coming to a Calvinistic understanding of the Scriptures.

  4. 3 Presbyterian Professors I had for Greek and Theology at Columbia Biblical Seminary (now CIU), Columbia, South Carolina
    William Larkin (beginning Greek and NT survey)
    Igou Hodges (all three Systematic Theology courses; one on the Trinity; another on Sin and Salvation, and another on Bibliology)
    Paul Fowler ( later went to Covenant Seminary) - His 2nd year Greek class on Romans exegesis was excellent.

    I wasn't totally convinced, even after graduating(1988), but what they taught me came together later in my soul and mind - but on the mission field in 1994, it hit me as I was looking at, studying, meditating on the great commission (matthew 28:18-20) and church planting issues, and meditating and studying Revelation 5:9 and Ephesians 1 and Romans 9 all together.

    Piper, Sproul, James White, McArthur, Wayne Grudem (minus charismatic stuff) and Sam Storms (without his Charismatic stuff)

    Storms book, "Chosen for Life" was especially good that I read in 1996, after coming home from the foreign field.

  5. Wow -- I never realized Turretin actually taught at Old Princeton.

    But seriously, put me down for James White.

    1. Turretin is really under (2). He was taught at Old Princeton, but he himself did not teach there.

    2. He certainly didn't teach there, but my understanding is that he was taught there (insofar as Charles Hodge taught his works, and based his Systematic Theology on Turretin's). Or so I've heard.

  6. MacArthur, Sproul, James White, Louis Berkhof and Francis Schaeffer. But mostly it was the pastor at the Methodist church I attended just after becoming a Christian. After several friendly discussions at a Bible study he said "You sound like a Calvinist!" and I had to go look up what that meant.

  7. Reconstructionist writers in the early 90's, especially Bahnsen, Gentry, Chilton, and mostly Dr. North.

  8. I was at an RZIM apologetics conference run by Joe Boot and he gave a talk on VanTil's apologetic. I had a question after the talk and he spent a couple hours with me discussing all sorts of theological questions. I'd never met anyone like him! The breadth of his biblical, theological, and philosophical knowledge astounded me and gave me confidence that you didn't need to chuck your brain out the window to be a Christian. He suggested that I read Bahnsen's big book on VanTil. From there I decided to look into this 'Calvinism thing' but I was newly married and broke so I couldn't buy book and had to get all my information online. Occasionally I would be able to find answers off of Desiring God but the clearest answers came from James White, Steve Hays and Paul Manata. I wanted to know that Calvinism could be defended both exegetically and philosophically and between these three guys (especially Hays and Manata) I discovered that it could. Thanks guys! :)

  9. I remember following the Reformation through history -- Calvin and then the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, Old Princeton, Charles Hodge, Machen, Westminster. I looked for those kinds of teachings. And I mentioned James White's article on the "Limited" atonement.

    I've been strongly influenced by Robert Reymond; less by Berkhof. I can barely read Turretin. I like Bavinck a lot because he's a recent translation into modern English; and as well, he treats the history of the various doctrines. I like the works of both Frame and Scott Clark. More recently, I've been working through Gregg Allison's Historical Theology.

    Steve has always been an advocate of commentaries. I have about 50 or 60 different commentaries now, mostly on New Testament works. I do believe we need to have a solid exegetical foundation for our theologies. Schreiner and Beale, Carson and Moo, Hagner, France, Danker, Garland, F.F. Bruce all can be found on my book shelves.

    I've listened to a large number of the seminary classes and lecture series that are available online, from RTS especially, but also Covenant and WTS and some Dallas.

    While I appreciate the confessionally Reformed, and I think the confessions are marvelous distillations of biblical teaching (and I loved a J.I. Packer series that he gave on the English Puritans), I've also got a great deal of admiration for most Baptists, and some of the "continuing" Anglicans (and the conservative Anglicans over time). I'm less familiar with the Lutherans. And I've got good friends who are Arminians of various stripes, and so I try to focus on the positive aspects of those relationships.

    In case you hadn't noticed, I think that the "Roman" influence on Christianity is literally the worst thing that has ever happened to Christianity -- far worse than the early persecutions, or even anything that the non-Trinitarians have done.

  10. There's a back story including significant precipitating events but the immediate cause was that a friend gave me the book Debating Calvinism by James White and Dave Hunt. I found White's side of the exchange far more biblical and reasonable than Hunt's. Indeed, that's an understatement; I was all but convinced White was correct. This led me to check out White's stuff which in turn led me to check out other authors. After reading and listening and watching a bunch of resources, as well as talking and discussing with others of course, I was fully persuaded.

  11. 1) The 39 Articles. I grew up in an charismatic, evangelical Episcopal Church. That seedbed was watered by reading the 39 Articles as a young Christian, but I did not understand what I was reading.
    2) R.C. Sproul. The first book I ever read on theology and doctrine was a book called *Essential Truths of the Christian Faith* by Sproul when I was in high school. I didn't know anything about Calvinism at the time, but the book shaped my theology in many ways.
    3) A Calvinistic SBC pastor. He was my best friend's dad. When my best friend died at 17, I got to know his father a little bit. I told him I wasn't a Calvinist. He asked if I loved the Scriptures. I said yes. He said, "Then you will be a Calvinist one day." I scoffed.
    4) Online theological forum discussions, particularly at Christian Guitar Resources, which led to:
    5) Greg Bahnsen's debate with Gordon Stein, which led to reading *Always Ready*
    6) Cornelius Van Til's *Defense of the Faith*
    7) James White's debates. These were really the tipping point, though I only became aware of it on reflection.

    8) Lectures by Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt at the Youthworkers Convention and the Emergent Convention. I know this sounds strange. But I had been doing youth ministry in the Episcopal Church, and the work of Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt was ingratiating because it essentially validated every ritualistic and contemplative, non-Gospel-centered nonsense that we were already doing. But I was increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that the Calvinistic folks I had been reading had solid ground on which to stand, that is, the Scriptures, while the foundation of my ministry to young people was largely built on traditions and vague allusions to Scripture. At the two conventions I mention, I attended the Jones/Pagitt lectures hoping to find something more solid in what they had to offer. What I found was bitterness directed towards every single person who dared ask them to provide Biblical support for their more outlandish claims. Finally, I asked Jones, "I have several friends who are traditional Calvinists, and their beliefs seem so solidly Biblical, and I really have a great deal of trouble trying to dispute their statements from Scripture and support the system you've proposed. How do you build this from Scripture?" Jones's response: "Well, I don't really have anything to say to traditional Calvinists." My thought was, "Indeed."

    9) R.C. Sproul again - when I THOUGHT I might be a Calvinist (something that initially gave me great consternation), I read *Chosen by God*, which convinced me that I had become a Calvinist, and this was a good thing.


    As someone who grew up far from most of the influences mentioned by others, I want to say that many of them have been formational for me SINCE becoming a Calvinist. Old Princeton, J.I. Packer, John Stott, Westminster profs, Vos, Spurgeon, Reymond, Turretin, the Confessions, etc., have been absolutely pivotal in the *development* of my Calvinism, but not in its initial emergence. I wonder if one of the assumptions working in the lists is that most of the young and recently-Reformed have come from evangelical denominational backgrounds, and thus were exposed to strong preaching and teaching (thus Piper, MacArthur, Dever, Mohler, Begg). At least a few of us come from backgrounds without strong expository preaching traditions and thus many never even heard an expository sermon before becoming a Calvinist. I was 28 before I started regularly hearing expository preaching.

  12. A pastor I met while reading to the Newark airport with another pastor asked me if I was a Calvinist or Arminian. I didn't know how to answer so I said 'Calviminian.' He told me he was Arminian.

    At the same time I had begun a Romans series on Wed nights and was using commentaries by Boice and Lloyd-Jones. When I got to Ch. 9 I realized I was a Calvinist. Then I read books by Sproul, White, Boettner, Pink, and Sermons by Spurgeon.

    1. J. Brian - that's a pretty cool story. I wonder how many other "Calviminians" might have that same experience?

    2. Same *kind* of experience, I should say.

  13. Yup, chapter 9 was transformative to me as well.

    In particular, when my mother asked me, "What does it mean that JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED?"

    Another Arminian undone.

  14. @Larry: "The BIBLE"


    I saw a lot of "calvinist" teachings in the bible as a teenager but didn't put it together systematically till I had been part of a PCA church for several years. I'm sure I was influenced by Schaeffer prior to that...

  15. "WHY" are you a Calvinist?

    What an ironic question when you think about it.

    1. This is a blog post among friends. We all agree that ultimately, it is the grace of God and His effectual call. The question was about, rather, what elements did God use to effect that call.

    2. Morrison's comments on Triablogue are often ironic when you think about it.

    3. I don't really think about Morrison.

  16. The dour, humourless worldview, sprinkled with stern moralism is what pushed all the buttons for me.

    Also, powdered wigs.

    1. Hi Mathetes. I gotta get me a wig. T-Fan has an awesome wig.

  17. Mom took us to her Church of the Brethren where I was baptized at 11. Relatively devoid of any firm doctrinal stance (pacifism and trine immersion are pretty much it) I didn't get much solid food there.

    After my mom died, my dad remarried a Lutheran and we all joined her church. The small catechism just wasn't enough (The Apostle's Creed, The Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. Seriously? That's all there is to it?) so I decided to study more on my own. I was greatly interested in Luther's published debate with Erasmus and his work, Bondage of the Will, was formative.

    As I continued to study, I came to disagree with Luther over the sacraments. Additionally, I saw problems with the hierarchical church polity. It was natural to switch to Baptist when the ELCA started to tank over the homosexuality issue. At my new church, our minister of education, a Calvinist, taught a series on the five points of Dortian Calvinism. Well, that's an order of magnitude more refined than Luther, but it made perfect sense. So here I am.

  18. Having no exposure to Calvinism at all during the period my theology was turning that way, my experience of becoming a Calvinist was rather disorganized and came in fits and starts. The first step was my professors at Moody Bible Institute years ago teaching some sort of attempted synthesis of Calvinism and Arminianism that was so patently inconsistent that it left me looking for something else and I couldn't see how Arminianism could be consistent with so many Biblical passages teaching the sovereignty of God so I went feeling around in the dark for teachers of a Calvinism I only barely knew existed. Guys like Arthur Pink and Gordon Clark were early, influential reads of mine, before I had any idea of who's who in Reformed orthodoxy.

    Then I stumbled upon New Westminster West and East, and particularly historians like Carl Trueman and R. Scott Clark who led me to discover the riches of the past in confessions and theologians like Calvin and Luther, John Owen, Turretin, Witsius, and the Old Princetonians as well.

  19. John MacArthur professes calvinism and we find out that he said you can receive the mark of the beast and still be saved!? In direct contradiction to the word of God. Didn't do him any good. Look at the blind man in John's gospel - the pharisees, with all their knowledge, threw him out of the synagogue...and who was out there? Jesus Himself met him outside...where most believers in Christ will find themselves when they don't agree with the religious elite.

    Okay, I don't know everything but what I can say is that Christ came to me and loved me and then I went to church denominations and they just turned me upside down and inside out...which one is right...which denomination holds the key?? Who? All this division is caused by one thing - pride.