Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Effects of Calvinism on Missions

Listen here to a young, Calvinistic Maranatha grad (who's about to take his family to the other side of the world) preach about the driving motivation of missions—to see God call out worshipers of his Name from the ends of the earth. He's preaching in a church planted by young, Calvinistic Maranatha grads.

20 comments:

Coach C said...

I find that address to be uniquely precarious.

Anonymous said...

give it up and do something with your life guys.

Anonymous said...

The effects of Calvinism on missions? Well, perhaps mixed.

After all, it took 100 years(from the writing of the WCF to David Brainerd) for Calvinists to field their first legitimate missionary.

And surely it didn't help early on that Beza (and others) argued against the great commission as binding upon the church, which is perplexing, to say the least. In fact, it's ironic. Here we have Calvinists supposedly recovering the gospel and then refusing to share it with others!

What makes the Calvinian missional spirit so embarrassing in our own day is that the Hyles crowd can claim, with confidence, between 700-900 churches planted in the past 40 years. And, the last I checked, it took the Protestant Reformed Churches 8 years to plant one church of a handful of people. And, apparently, it's taking quite some time for the Founders and Friends to get anything going.

That Calvinism can claim some great lights is true, but they are few (and most have been dead for a hundred years or more) in comparison to the many non-Calvinistic examples in both missions and evangelism.

If evangelizing the United States, for instance, were left up the Calvinists, they'd still be stuck in New England arguing over the use of means or complaining about non-Cals advertising evangelistic meetings.

Remember, one reason the Methodists (and many non Calvinistic Baptists, for that matter) were so successful in this country is that Calvinism (as a spiritual power) failed. Utterly failed.

tjp

Coach C said...

tjp, I'm not so sure that much of what you state is true, but I don't have the statistical data to back that up . . . we Calvinists tend to not keep extenstive statistics on salvation decisions or churches planted.

I will say that I spent time with a dozen or so very calvinistic BMM missionaries in a Germany a couple of years ago. They had planted some strong churches in a very difficult place.

Once characteristic of their ministry was a total reliance on God for any positive results of their efforts. As such, they rejected any pragmatic or man-centered strategies for spreading the gospel.

Is is possible that we could compare the results of the Hyles ministries that you cite to another Arminian style ministry from the 1800's? That of Charles Finney?

Greg Linscott said...

Tracy (TJP),

I understand what you are saying about the sheer numbers. Having grown up in those influences, though, I wonder how many of those congregations sustain themselves from one generation to the next. I know many of my peers raised in that era in those churches have fallen by the wayside (including, sadly, some of my own siblings). Obviously, that happens to Calvinists and Arminians (churches, anyway), but it does seem to me, having been in both scenarios, that those who have tended to be Baptist Calvinists, anyway, have tended to take a longer term vision with both evangelism and discipleship rather than purposefully pursuing quick growth for the sake of quick growth alone.

Having lived and ministered in New England, you are right about the historic failure of those who were Calvinistic (the Congregationalists). But that being said, the "burned over district" failure followed that failure, too, don't forget- which was a decidedly non-Calvinistic phenomenon. All I am saying is that history could be interpreted and emphasized either way.

Coach C said...

So tjp was correct when he said that the effect of Calvinism on missions was "mixed".

And we could also say the same about the more Arminian convinced brethren.

Anonymous, what is the source of your frustration? What exactly are you upset about?

Anonymous said...

Coach C.: "we Calvinists tend to not keep extenstive statistics on salvation decisions or churches planted."

tjp: Really? Sounds a little self-serving, if not suspiciously convenient, to me.

Coach C.: "I will say that I spent time with a dozen or so very calvinistic BMM missionaries in a Germany a couple of years ago. They had planted some strong churches in a very difficult place."

tjp: Great! But my remarks were aimed at strictly Calvinian missional concerns. I doubt very much Baptist Mid Missions is a strictly Calvinian missional agency. That Calvinists have used, and continue to use, non Calvinist institutions to advance their peculiar views is true. But for Calvinists to piggyback on non Calvinist agencies is hardly an argument for Calvinist missional passion. It sounds more like "man-centered" strategy.

Coach C.: "Is is possible that we could compare the results of the Hyles ministries that you cite to another Arminian style ministry from the 1800's? That of Charles Finney?"

tjp: Sure. Just as it's possible to compare Hyles ministries to George Whitefield, John Wesley, or even the Tennets. Personally, I rather like the direct style of Finney. I like the fact he called men to an immediate repentance and faith and to an open, public confession of Christ. I like the fact he rebuked Calvinists on secret conversion and for leaving their people with the dangerous notion that somehow spiritual doubt and uncertainty were pious. He certainly unsettled the religious wigs of his day, that's for sure.

tjp

Coach C said...

tjp, and the Hyle's boasts about church membership and the number of souls saved under his ministry were not self-serving?

I really don't have any idea of the official BMM statements about the doctrine of election all I know is that I spent time with a group of men who only focused on the truth of the Gospel in ministry and consistently gave God the credit for the "increase". There was freedom in their approach that relieved them of the burden of results. I appreciated my time with them and would love to return.

tjp, I can see that you are someone who likes to stir the pot a little so I am not sure if your statements in support of "finneyism" are sincere or facetious.

Anonymous said...

Greg: "Having grown up in those influences, though, I wonder how many of those congregations sustain themselves from one generation to the next."

tjp: Perhaps very few. But that's really not an issue. Each generation must reach its own. Besides, few of the apostolic church plants survived past their own generation, and those that did certainly didn't survive in a doctrinally pure manner.

Greg: "Obviously, that happens to Calvinists and Arminians (churches, anyway), but it does seem to me, having been in both scenarios, that those who have tended to be Baptist Calvinists, anyway, have tended to take a longer term vision with both evangelism and discipleship rather than purposefully pursuing quick growth for the sake of quick growth alone."

tjp: Well, if Baptist Calvinists feel that way about men's souls, that time and urgency are of secondary importance (2 Cor. 6:1,2), then Calvinism, along with its distorted view of divine sovereignty, will certainly fit their ministry style. Personally, if a missionary came before our church missions committee and said he wasn't really interested in the immediate growth and the salvation of sinners, we'd never consider him. I think part of being faithful is being fruitful. And I don't think seeing 100 people come to Christ in one year is any less holy than seeing them come over a ten year period. It's amazing how many "elect" show up when the church reaches out.

I was involved with the Hyles men for years. And while I witnessed many of their ministries grow and multiply, I don't ever recall their saying they labored "for the sake of quick growth alone." At best, that's a Calvinist slur. The men I knew really believed in building churches, and building them through personal evangelism and soulwinning. They may have done crazy things in their assembles and promotions, but they were dead serious when it came to sharing the gospel of Christ. In fact, they were fearless. I've preached with them on street corners, in laundromats, parking lots, malls, bus stations, on the job, and at busy intersections. I can't recount how many Saturdays I've spent with them visiting door-to-door, handing out tracts, and witnessing to strangers. Oftentimes our Saturday personal work would last 10-12 hours. But the efforts paid off. People were saved, and churches were built.

Greg: "Having lived and ministered in New England, you are right about the historic failure of those who were Calvinistic (the Congregationalists).

tjp: You should also include the vast majority of Presbyterians and the fact that a distorted view of divine sovereignty--one that claimed that absolute sovereignty equals total causation--ultimately gave birth to Calvinism's greatest menace, Unitarianism.

Greg: "But that being said, the "burned over district" failure followed that failure, too, don't forget- which was a decidedly non-Calvinistic phenomenon."

tjp. Very true, Greg. I'm not defending nonsense. But let's remind ourselves that before it was ever a "burned over district" (another Calvinist slur), it was also a froze over district. Calvinism has managed to turn tens of thousands of their people into religious zombies.

Greg: "All I am saying is that history could be interpreted and emphasized either way."

tjp: True. But that should give Calvinists pause before launching into exaggerated claims for itself.

tjp

Anonymous said...

Coach C.: "Anonymous, what is the source of your frustration? What exactly are you upset about?"

tjp: Who said I was frustated and upset? I merely made the observation that Calvinists have struggled in getting up to speed on missions. By the way, some missiologists believe the real hindrance to Calvinist missional endeavors was a distorted view of divine sovereignty, as well as the spiritual weakness of the Reformation itself. But that's another matter. Perhaps Gustaf Warneck summed up the presdestinarian view of missions best when he said, "Where there are Christians, missions are superfluous; and where there are no Christians, they are hopeless."

James Kime said...

tjp, I honestly am surprised at your insistance on posting on a blogsite when people are going to hell because you aren't witnessing to them. Just think about how much you could get done if you didn't waste time on here? I will cut my post short so I don't interfere or heap more guilt upon you than what you surely are already dealing with.

Anonymous said...

Coach C.: "tjp, and the Hyle's boasts about church membership and the number of souls saved under his ministry were not self-serving?"

tjp: I'm sure they were. But, then again, there's more than one way to boast; there's more than one way to show a false piety (or humility).

Coach: "I really don't have any idea of the official BMM statements about the doctrine of election

tjp: If I'm not mistaken, BMM would subscribe to four-point Calvinism, thus rejecting limited atonement.

Coach: "all I know is that I spent time with a group of men who only focused on the truth of the Gospel in ministry

tjp: Great. Terrific.

Coach C.: "...and consistently gave God the credit for the 'increase'.

tjp: So are you implying non Calvinists don't? Every Hyles man I've ever worked with expressed the same dependence. But they'd also put in 20 hours a week going door-to-door, handing out tracts, and sharing the gospel with whoever would listen.

Coach C.: "There was freedom in their approach that relieved them of the burden of results."

tjp: Great. Terrific. But did that include their being pure from the blood of all men (Acts 20:26)? Did that free them from the heaviness and continual sorrow of heart as described by Paul (Ro. 9:1-3; 10:1)? Did that mean they were no longer burdened for the salvation of sinners (1 Cor. 9:22)? It seems to me their Calvinism has inoculated them against genuine burden for souls.

Coach C.: "tjp, I can see that you are someone who likes to stir the pot a little so I am not sure if your statements in support of "finneyism" are sincere or facetious.

tjp: I'm not a Finney fan, per se, although I do think he was correct in confronting sinners directly. He never beat around the bush. He called for sinners to repent and confess Christ openly. For the most part, he outraged the Presbyterian Calvinists who, unfortunately, believed public confession was unnecessary because all those Finney was calling to repentance had been baptized and presumed regenerated as children, which attacked their very notion of Covenant salvation (that is, the children of believing parents are presumed regenerate).

Have a good one!

tjp

Justin Nale said...

Ben,

How do you know Steven P.? Just curious - he spoke at our church a couple years ago.

JN

Anonymous said...

Jimmy: [tjp, I honestly am surprised at your insistance on posting on a blogsite when people are going to hell because you aren't witnessing to them.]

tjp: Where have I ever said people are going to hell because I haven't witnessed to them? No, people are going to hell because they are lost (2 Cor. 4:3,4), but I do have, and have had, the privilege of seeing some snatched from the burning (Jude 22,23).

Jimmy: [Just think about how much you could get done if you didn't waste time on here?]

tjp: Well, just to comfort your soul, I do believe time is, more often than not, well spent on the net. After all, we are called upon to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3) to combat error (Titus 1:10-16), and what's a more obnoxious to the faith than Calvinism?

Jimmy: [I will cut my post short so I don't interfere or heap more guilt upon you than what you surely are already dealing with.]

tjp: Thank you. I appreciate your concern. Perhaps one day I'll feel as comfortable in your lethargy as you are. But, in the meantime, I must confess that while I have no guilt, I do have a burden (Acts 20:31; Ro. 9:1-3; 10:1) And, as deplorable as it may sound to those Calvinists who've inoculated themselves against such "Arminian passions," I trust God will never take it away.

Have a good one!

tjp

James Kime said...

tjp, I can only assume you meant to slur my name by referring to me as Jimmy. It is all good though, I grew up with that name.

"people are going to hell because they are lost."

That is true. Given your anticalvinism and your praise of the Hyles-Anderson types though, you must not have thought through your own actual beliefs.

To you, Calvinism is something antichristian, against the gospel, and must not be true.

The responsibility to save men then is not on God, who has already done everything in his power. The responsibility is all on Christians to get people saved. For you to spend time on the internet, you are betraying your own beliefs about evangelism.

Of course, since it is up to us to get people saved, any and every means is legitimate.

In a nutshell, here is why many calvinists don't do missions: disobedience.

In a nutshell, here is why many arminians don't do missions: disobedience.

It isn't tricky.

For me though, I believe in missions and evangelize because I believe God has told us to preach the gospel so that people will be saved.

Ben said...

Justin,

I met Steve's older brother while we were working at a camp in Wisconsin in 1995. I wound up moving to WI a couple years later. Steve was an undergrad student in the school where I was in grad school and on staff.

How did you meet Steve? Did I give you his name for pulpit supply?

Justin Nale said...

Ben,

You know, its been so long, I've forgotten. But that's probably how it happened. Hope all is well up in D.C. - you'll be glad to hear that our church adopted a new constitution this past Sunday night. It was a real big moment for us. If you ever come back to town, lets definitely do lunch.

JN

Anonymous said...

Jimmy: "Given your anticalvinism and your praise of the Hyles-Anderson types though, you must not have thought through your own actual beliefs."

tjp: Probably not. But understand, I "praise" the Hyles types within the context of my original statement: that they very zealous for evangelism and missions and that, from what I've observed, they are in dead earnest about sharing the gospel and building churches. And there's considerable evidence to back that up.


Jimmy: "To you, Calvinism is something antichristian, against the gospel, and must not be true."

tjp: No, I don't believe Calvinism is antiChristian, but I do believe it's perhaps one of the great mistakes of church history and that it's a poor reflection of gospel truth.


Jimmy: "The responsibility to save men then is not on God, who has already done everything in his power. The responsibility is all on Christians to get people saved.

tjp: You misread me. I do not believe I'm responsible to save anyone. It's God Who singularly and sovereignly regenerates. But Scripture is clear that I'm responsible to preach the word, to witness, to share the saving claims of Christ with sinners. That's my duty as a gospel steward, and I take it seriously. There's a divine human cooperative in reaching sinners, but not in regenerating them. The latter is God's exclusive work, the former is a partnership, a laboring together with God. Unfortunately, it appears Calvinists, or at least you, confound the two.

The great antiCalvinist, the apostle Paul, used very "man-centered" language in revealing his passion and duty as a minister of the gospel: "that I might gain the more," "that I might gain the Jews," "that I might gain them that are under the law," "that I might gain them that are without law," "that I might gain the weak," "THAT I MIGHT BY ALL MEANS SAVE SOME" (uh-oh!). The truth is Paul saw himself as a co-laborer with God (1 Cor. 3:9). That neither diminished God nor elevated Paul. It was a simple fact. After all, who but a non-Calvinist fruitcake would say something like this: "That I have a great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, and kinsman according to the flesh."

Now, to put it simply, it's God's exclusive duty to regenerate (Jo. 3:3-5; Titus 3:5), but it's my duty, working in obedience and power of the Holy Spirit, to spread the word through which the Holy Spirit regenerates (Jo. 15:3; Ro. 10:14; Ja. 1:18). I must say I reject the paedeobaptist, Reformed, hybrid Calvinism that advocates the monstrous notion of regeneration before faith. Again, I believe it's the normal practice of God to bring about the new birth through the word, and I believe we are responsible to spread it for that reason, among others.

While I don't do the saving, I'm sometimes there at the birthing of sinners into the kingdom of God. In an intimate sense, as Paul suggests and Scripture fully approves, I become a father to those I see come to Christ. Here are Paul's words to his Corinthian converts: "For thou ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15). Obviously Paul didn't save anyone, but he was intimately connected with the conversion of sinners through his obedience and witness. Personally, I don't think Calvinists have a clue when it comes to this view of ministry.

Jimmy: "For you to spend time on the internet, you are betraying your own beliefs about evangelism."

tjp: Not at all. I'm responsible for more than evangelism. As I said earlier, I'm also responsible to earnestly contend for the faith, and warning against error (such as Calvinism) is part of that responsibility: hence, the internet. But I suppose you could whine about Paul, too, and say that if he really took his evangelism seriously, he's spend less time fooling around with tents and more going door-to-door. But, as Jesus said of your kind, wisdom is justified of her children.

Jimmy: "Of course, since it is up to us to get people saved, any and every means is legitimate."

tjp: But, of course, it isn't up to us, is it? But even if it were, why would it necessarily follow that every means would be legitimate?

Jimmy: "In a nutshell, here is why many calvinists don't do missions: disobedience."

tjp: I agree. Yet in Calvinism's case there were also self imposed doctrinal errors that handicapped its missional spirit--a perverted view of sovereignty, to name one. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, there was also Calvinism's twisted view of the great commission. So it wasn't (and perhaps isn't) simply disobedience with Calvinism when it comes to evangelism and missions. There are also doctrinal distortions that breed their own impediments.

Jimmy: "For me though, I believe in missions and evangelize because I believe God has told us to preach the gospel so that people will be saved."

tjp: Great! And those Hyles men don't?

Have a good one!

tjp

James Kime said...

tjp:

"Probably not."

Yeah, that sums up alot and explains much of the rest of your post.

"But understand, I "praise" the Hyles types within the context of my original statement: that they very zealous for evangelism and missions and that, from what I've observed, they are in dead earnest about sharing the gospel and building churches."

Do you also praise Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, etc for their zeal? I hope not. Zeal without knowledge is why Israel is not saved (Rom 10).

"After all, we are called upon to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3) to combat error (Titus 1:10-16), and what's a more obnoxious to the faith than Calvinism?"

then you said

"No, I don't believe Calvinism is antiChristian, but I do believe it's perhaps one of the great mistakes of church history and that it's a poor reflection of gospel truth."

You will have to decide which side of the mouth you are speaking out of. Jude 3 isn't about a minor doctrinal difference. It is about the very heart of the truth given to the saints. If calvinism is a violation worthy of Jude 3, then it is antichristian. You don't need to shrink from your statements. If you believe it, own up to it.

"I do not believe I'm responsible to save anyone. It's God Who singularly and sovereignly regenerates."

How very nonarminian of you.

"But Scripture is clear that I'm responsible to preach the word, to witness, to share the saving claims of Christ with sinners. That's my duty as a gospel steward, and I take it seriously. There's a divine human cooperative in reaching sinners, but not in regenerating them."

Calvinists don't believe this? Btw, I also despise reformed theology and all its bastard offspring. However, I do embrace sovereign grace in salvation.

"The great antiCalvinist, the apostle Paul, used very "man-centered" language in revealing his passion and duty as a minister of the gospel"

None of these passages are mancentered, not a single one. They are reveal the importance and hard work of the gospel. That is something that everyone should agree with.

"Personally, I don't think Calvinists have a clue when it comes to this view of ministry."

Now I remember why I stopped reading blog comments. Ignorance is not a virture. Read the history of modern missions. If it weren't for calvinists believing that God had people out there to be saved, it never would have happened. William Carey was a calvinist.

"But I suppose you could whine about Paul, too, and say that if he really took his evangelism seriously, he's spend less time fooling around with tents and more going door-to-door."

Wow, again, it is because you have not thought through your position that I said this. And now it comes back yet again.

"But, of course, it isn't up to us, is it? But even if it were, why would it necessarily follow that every means would be legitimate?"

That is a question you should think on. When you have the answer, you will see the folly of your view.

Is it okay to tell a child that you will give him some candy if he prays a prayer?

Ben said...

I think it's time to wrap up this conversation. Comments are closed.