Thursday, March 22, 2012

Calvinists Who Love Evangelism

The picture may look like an oxymoron to some.  It is a gospel tract (used for personal evangelism) with a picture of Charles Spurgeon (a Calvinist-Baptist preacher).  Some Christians, especially in my denomination (Southern Baptist) stereotype those who hold to Calvinism as non-evangelistic. They think that those who have a high view of God’s sovereignty in election and predestination are not eager in evangelism. This may be the case for some, but not true consistently.

I was a member of a Baptist church in college that held Calvinistic theology.  More missionaries went out from that church than my non-denominational church I was in as a teenager that taught a more free-will theology.  The seminary I went to is considered the Calvinistic one in my denomination.  Many of my friends I graduated with are either on the mission field or planting churches and working hard in evangelism.  My heroes, William Carey and Adoniram Judson both held to a high view of God’s sovereignty in election, yet gave up all their comforts in life to share the gospel with pagan people. So the stereotype does not hold true consistently.

As I write this, I’m preparing to go to an evangelism conference this weekend led by a man who holds to more of a free-will theology. I may not agree with some of what he says, but I always desire to grow and become a better evangelist and that’s why I’ll go. I confess that I don’t always seek opportunities when I should.  At the same time, some of my most joyful moments in ministry have been sharing the gospel with unbelievers and I try to consistently present the gospel to unbelievers in many of my sermons.  When I fill a pulpit where I don’t know the congregation, it is usually an evangelistic message.

I dislike the label Calvinist.  First, I’m not sure how Calvin feels about us attaching his name to it in light of 1 Cor 1:12-13.  Second, the TULIP acronym comes not from Calvin but from the Canons of Dort, so more accurately it ought to be labeled Dortism.  Either way, I hold to all five points of TULIP because I think they are all biblical and logical.  But I also see that it is biblical to be earnest in evangelism. Paul tells Timothy:  “…do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5).  This is why there are Calvinists who love evangelism: because they love God and His Word and want to obey it....just like Mr. Spurgeon. 

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