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One Point Calvinist

By Pastor Scott Thomas, Acts 29 Director

 

As a church planter, I received more arguments over our position of Reformed Theology than I did everything else combined. It angered the most faithful of Christians and confused others. Only a handful, I believed, truly understood the doctrine of salvation as described in the Bible. It was a point of contention that got people off mission--even though it was not presented in a polarizing manner.

[JI Packer, above, at a hotel room in Orlando talking to us about his desire to leave a lasting legacy]

 

Recently I read The Five Points of Calvinism co-authored by David Steele, Curtis Thomas and Lance Quinn (P&R Publishing). I felt it was a shepherdly treatise on the doctrines of grace that can help the layman to understanding the centrality of God in the salvation of man. The book quotes JI Packer, whom I had the pleasure of spending the day with recently. I think his explanation of Calvinism as "one point" is brilliant.


Packer said, "The very act of setting out Calvinistic soteriology [the doctrine of salvation] in the form of five distinct points (a number due, as we saw, merely to the fact that there were five Arminian points for the Synod of Dort to answer) tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. For the five points, though separately stated, are inseparable. They hang together; you cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners.


"God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing.


"Saves – does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.


"Sinners – men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners – and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedalling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen."

 

J.I. Packer, “Introductory Essage,” in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen (London: Banner of Truth, 1959) 4-5.

8 Comments

Gino Curcuruto

on Oct 17, 2008 :: 3:15 pm

Good stuff. Thanks for posting this Scott!

Dennis Reed

on Oct 18, 2008 :: 10:50 am

great article-

and God does Save Sinners like me.

thanks scott

Jon Jordan

on Oct 19, 2008 :: 2:25 pm

great post, love how God-honoring J.I. Packer was in his writing.

i look forward to referencing this article often when seemingly divisive debates on the topic come up.

thanks!

John Fooshee

on Oct 20, 2008 :: 3:47 pm

Great point & post.

The 5-point approach does imply separate categories. Although I agree with those points, it's no wonder why so many of our conversations that begin with the 5 points end up "not being able to see the forest for the trees." And the "forest" of the Gospel, isn't something that should be missed in any conversation. "God Saves Sinners" - how insightful & how wonderful!

Wow, what a great privilege to hear from Packer... considering his mind, perspective & especially his age.

Kevin Layne

on Oct 20, 2008 :: 5:35 pm

Awesome stuff. We're in a place where people are a little scared of Calvin. So, this will help a ton as we share what we mean by a God-centered Gospel and a God-centered theology... Thanks!

Derek Iannelli-Smith

on Oct 26, 2008 :: 7:07 am

Scott, just got a chance to read this... This topic is one of the reasons why I liked CJ's redemptive response to "Hello, how are you?"... Answer: Better than I Deserve.... I am not a cliche dork, but this reminded me for years of God's Holiness, my sinfulness and the mercy of the Cross... Loved the book you mentioned above and found also these resources to help some folks in processing this topic:
1. Sovereign Grace and the glorious mystery of election: http://www.sovereigngracestore.com/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=B3095-00-60
2. Amazing Grace: This History and Theology of Calvinism: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=789433&netp_id=441267&event=AFF&item_code=WW&view=covers
3. Basics of the Reformed Faith Series: http://www.wtsbooks.com/product-exec/product_id/5112/nm/Basics_of_the_Reformed_Faith_Set_12_Booklets_Paperback_?utm_source=dianellismith&utm_medium=dianellismith

These resources have also helped to walk out 2 Tim 2:24-26 with folks exploring these topics of the faith... Thank you for your faithfulness and for poking our comfortableness and most importantly, Glorifying Christ

Douglas A. Logan, Jr.

on Oct 27, 2008 :: 9:47 pm

Scott thanks for that. great encouragement! Good lookn' out!

Terrin Phillips

on Mar 12, 2011 :: 10:00 pm

I know your probably going to pass out, but wait....I still don't follow Calvin I follow Jesus. The point is, that after the last year, going through Re:Train and studying Calvin and his writings, my appreciation and respect for the insights and wisdom God gave Him has changed. You would probably...and I said probably, call me a Calvinist....(If you tell anyone I said that, I will lie about it...Ha-Ha) Seriously though, I miss judged him without ever reading about him and I was wrong. I listened to what men had to say about him and never found out for myself. The truth is, every where I read in scripture now, I see his points...whether we are chosen by God, called or predestined. Needless to say, I was wrong by judging him and even talking bad about him.
This article was right on, I totally agree. To many people get caught up in getting upset, fighting and in some cases cutting friends and others off because they call themselves Calvinist.
After maturing in my faith and having my butt handed to me in a spiritual sense in an Acts 29 assessment, I have come to realize that I am so thankful for God's sovereign grace an that apart from Him, I am crap!
Thanks for the article and interview with Mr. Packer. And thanks for the butt kicking, guidance and opportunity.
I will make sure I use this article with some of my ministry com-padres.

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