How evangelical Calvinism fits with Calvary Chapel Theology Without Confusion

This post, at this point, almost seems petty to write given the absolute turmoil that is unfolding in Iraq and Syria, as well as in many other places in the world; in particular, the persecution of Christians. But I am going to go ahead and write this, with the caveat that I want all of those who read this to be in continual prayer for all of the people groups (in particular, as I write this, the Christians in Iraq) being persecuted by ISIS right now.

Apparently the fact that I am an evangelical Calvinist and attend a Calvary Chapel church has caused at least one person, if not more, some confusion. And so for the remainder of this post I want to clarify why my attendance at a Calvary Chapel church makes more sense (materially) than it does for Calvary Chapel pastors to use and employ material in their churches provided by Federal and Five Point Calvinists.

Someone has claimed that Calvary Chapel’s would look more critically upon my evangelical Calvinism, and reading of Karl Barth, Thomas Torrance, et al. than they would upon the employment (as I already noted) of classical Calvinist material within the walls of a Calvary Chapel church. This claim, though, misunderstands what in fact evangelical Calvinism represents (at least in the form it has taken through the theological theses Myk Habets and myself have articulated in our edited book Evangelical Calvinism), materially, and I think it also misunderstands how interconnected particular doctrinal and theological points are to the basic and general hermeneutic of Federal and/or basic Five Point Calvinism in contrast. Without going too deep (since this is a blog post), let me explain a fundamental reason why Calvary Chapel as a movement would fit better with evangelical Calvinism than it fits with classical Calvinism; it can be reduced to one theological point. The one theological point that makes evangelical Calvinism more coordinate with Calvary Chapel trajectory, more than classical Calvinism is, is that evangelical Calvinists believe in a universal atonement. Unlike classical Calvinism which argues for a limited, particular, or definite atonement, evangelical Calvinism holds to an unlimited, universal, intense atonement such that it argues that Christ died for, and then lived for (the resurrection) all of humanity. This point, all by itself, makes evangelical Calvinism an excellent fit with Calvary Chapel theology, if in fact Calvary Chapels had an overt stated theological grammar (which they don’t, and in fact avoid).

There are many other reasons why evangelical Calvinism fits much better with the Calvary Chapel trajectory, like the fact that we do intentional Trinitarian theology that emphasizes that God is love, we have a high theology of the Word, we eschew thinking apologetically about the Christian faith, we reject natural theology, and a whole host of other things, that again, fit much better with Calvary Chapel  than does classical Calvinist theology, even if that theology is only at an influential level within the walls of Calvary Chapel rather than in an explicit and overt level. So from a purely theological level, getting beyond caricature, and politicking, evangelical Calvinism is much more coordinate with Calvary Chapel theology than is the teaching of any classical Calvinist theology (since through and through that theology, at a hermeneutical level is riddled with the kind of interpretive keys that give us such things as limited atonement).

This is why I can usually attend a Calvary Chapel and fit in more there than I can with a Presbyterian church who might affirm the Westminster Confession of Faith (even if they try to soften that). So there should be no confusion about why and how I can fit in at a Calvary Chapel at a theologically sensible level. Whether or not a Calvary Chapel wants to genuinely engage with the theological material of evangelical Calvinism is another question altogether, but that is neither here nor there in regard to whether or not evangelical Calvinism can be a better fit with Calvary Chapel trajectory, in fact evangelical Calvinism could furnish Calvary Chapels with a theological grammar that it has never had, but in fact needs.

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