The State of the Evangelical Calvinist

An interesting phenomenon for me personally is when I come across folk who have not read me or my blog or our Evangelical Calvinism book, and come with all kinds of certain perceptions about what this must all be PICKWICK_Templateabout. At this point I have been stewing in all of this Evangelical Calvinist stuff for many years, and so much of it (I am still learning of course!) has become pretty normal and almost second nature to me. And so when I come across folk who have never considered such thinking (I am thinking mostly of interaction I have had on Facebook, not here at the blog as much), it is hard for me to know how to communicate the conceptual stuff of EC in a way that is accessible, and even persuasive.

We have been trained through our study Bibles, evangelical (Reformed/Arminian/Somewhere in between/etc.) sermons, North American Christian sub-culture to think through certain categories. When we hear about election, or justification, or the atonement; we have already been conditioned to think and process a certain way. And so a lot of this stuff, stuff that is highly philosophical (so we are able to pretty easily think in deterministic or rationalist modes), actually, seems like second nature to us. And so when we are confronted with a way of thinking that contradicts what we normally associate with Gospel thinking we have a tendency to dig in our heals; and I don’t really see a problem with that — none of us want to be duped, or led down a wrong path, especially with something as important as our relationship with God in Jesus Christ.

Evangelical Calvinism, taken from Thomas F. Torrance’s Scottish Theology, and for me, assimilating many of Karl Barth’s motifs, confronts the normal way of conceptualizing theology. It starts with Jesus as God’s exhaustive Self-revelation, and it works from this concentration. Most other theologies in the West start with nature, and think about God through the philosophical categories derived from that situation; which is why Aristotle, Plato, and others take such a prominent role in supplying the categories for how we think about Godness in the West, in particular. And so it is this way that we conceive of God, categorically, before we ever meet him in Jesus Christ. We have already observed God’s perfections in nature, by contemplating upon the kind of power it must have taken to create, for example; then we try to integrate these categories, and use them for articulating God’s Triune nature etc. And so we end up with a God who is a Sovereign Creator God who relates to his creation (untouched by) through decrees. Jesus becomes the instrument (not necessary to God’s life) of securing salvation for the elect, and for fulfilling the condition set by the decree, which itself is grounded in nature.

Anyway, I am just rehashing some of this to say that I have a hard time at this point–sometimes–of getting all worked up about trying to explain or even argue with someone about all of this. I still care, and want to make an impact as I can; but I am finally under the realization that this is just a blog, and so I can only really explain this stuff in this venue with so much depth, and then I run out of space, time, and motivation. I still look forward to trying to explain all of this, as I can; but really it is incumbent upon you, if you care enough, to research yourself. I would suggest that you pick up our edited book on EC, or read anything from Thomas F. Torrance (he is still my most prominent voice in all of this Trinitarian styled theology).



  1. My suggestion is to make a post or a page which is an intro of sorts to what you believe, but in non-technical wording – without words like logico-deductive, classical substance metaphysics, causal-determinism, without referencing PHD dissertations or Bruce McCormack or George HUnsinger and the like – and refer folks to that. Make it short and sweet, and have as endnotes references to the more advanced stuff. That will go a very long way with folks who aren’t as familiar with dogmatic and philosophical theology, and a very long way in relieving your frustrations.


  2. WF,

    That could help, certainly. But that’s really not how I use the blog, but sometimes I get motivated to use it that way; we’ll see, maybe I’ll try more posts like that.


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