Home > Calvinism, Election > The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVII- The practical importance of the doctrine

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Chapter XXVII- The practical importance of the doctrine

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination

Chapter XXVII



The harmony which exists between all the branches of Scriptural doctrine is such that truth or error in regard to any of them almost inevitably produces truth or error, in a greater or less degree, in regard to all the others,— which means that only Calvinists hold views which are, in all respects, Scriptural in regard to any of the leading doctrines of Christianity. This does not mean that the main substance of the most important doctrines, such as the Divinity of Christ, His sacrificial death, His resurrection, the work of the Holy Spirit, etc., are not held by others; but that the general tendency of mistaken views in regard to these distinctively Calvinistic tenets is to lead to greater departures from sound doctrines on other subjects. As a general rule anti-Calvinists so seriously impoverish doctrines such as the atonement, the agency of the Holy Spirit, the guilt and inability of man, regeneration, etc., that these are often little more than empty words; and along with this impoverishment goes the tendency to neglect them entirely. Anti­Calvinists commonly make little distinction between the objective work of Christ for us, and the subjective work in us; and for all practical purposes the atonement is reduced to little or nothing else than an exhibition and proof of God’s indiscriminate love to men, through which it is shown that God is ready and willing to forgive. The tendency of other systems is to the “moral persuasion” theory of the atonement, while Calvinism holds that the suffering of Christ was a full satisfaction made to the justice of God,— that his sufferings were a full equivalent of those which were due to His people for their sin.

We are living in a day in which we see practically all of the historic Protestant churches attacked by unbelief from within. Many of them have already succumbed; and the line of descent has invariably been from Calvinism to Arminianism, and from Arminianism to Modernism or Unitarianism; and this latter state has proved to be self-destructive. We firmly believe that the fortunes of Christianity are bound up with the fortunes of Calvinism. Certainly the history of Modernism and Unitarianism in this country has proved that they are too weak to maintain themselves. Where the principles of Calvinism are abandoned, there is a powerful tendency leading downward into the depths of Naturalism. Some have declared— and rightly we believe — that there is no consistent middle ground between Calvinism and Atheism.

These distinctions which we have set forth between Calvinism and Arminianism are broad and important; and until one has made a special study of these truths he does not realize what a large amount of heresy has been incorporated into the Arminian system. If one system is true, the other is radically false. As strict Calvinists we believe these doctrines to embody final truth and to be eternally right. We believe this to be the only system of Christian truth which is taught in the Bible and the only one that can be logically and respectably defended before the world. And certainly it is much easier to defend a type of Christianity which is in harmony with both Scripture and reason than to defend any other type. We believe that Calvinism and consistent theism do not merely have points of contact but that they are identical, and that to fall away from Calvinism is to fall away by just so much from a truly theistic conception of the universe. Dr. Warfield has said that Calvinism is “Theism come to its rights,” that it is “Evangelicalism in its pure and only stable expression,” that it is “religion at the height of its conception.” We believe that the future of Christianity — as its past has done — lies in its hands, and that as Christianity progresses in the world this system of doctrine will gradually come to the front.

Because of the inconsistent position of Arminianism as a half-way measure between a religion of grace and a religion of works, it has been able to offer but little resistance to the naturalistic tendencies of the last few years. Practically all of the professedly Arminian churches have been swallowed up by the present day Liberalism.

“If we are not only to defend Christianity against modern attacks,” says Dr. S. G. Craig, “but to commend it with any hope of success to the modern world, we must undertake the task armed with a consistent and scientifically conceived life and world view that rests on Christian facts and principles . . . . I hold with those who believe that such a consistent Christian life and world view is given us only in Calvinism, and hence that a renaissance of Calvinism is an outstanding need of the times if we are successfully to defend even what we call common Christianity in the forum of the world’s thought.” The late Henry B. Smith was right at least in principle when he wrote, “One thing is certain — that infidel science will rout everything excepting thoroughgoing Christian orthodoxy. All the flabby theories, and the molluscous formations, and the immediate purgatories of speculation will go by the board. The fight will be between a stiff thorough-going othodoxy and a stiff thorough-going infidelity. It will be, e.g., Augustine or Comte, Athanasius or Hegel, Luther or Schopenhauer, J. S. Mill or John Calvin.” The fight is between the naturalism of science and the supernaturalism of Christianity; all compromising schemes are doomed to failure. (Let it be understood at this point that we have no quarrel with true science as such. We recognize the great value of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, etc., and realize that much of our twentieth century progress has been possible only through the contributions which these sciences have made. We welcome truth from whatever source it comes, and believe that in the end it will be seen to substantiate Christianity. The psalmist declared, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament showeth His handiwork,” Psalm 19 :1; and again, “O Jehovah, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth,” Psalm 8:1; and certainly the more we know about these things the better we shall understand God. Our quarrel rather is with certain unbelieving scientists who attempt to bring their anti-Christian or even atheistic theories over into the spheres of religion and philosophy, and who profess to speak with authority on subjects concerning which they are ignorant.)

It is very interesting to notice how, in the history of the Church, other systems of theology have risen and fallen while this system has steadily endured. Arminianism, in its present form at least, is of comparatively recent date. From the time of the Reformation until late in the eighteenth century it was consistently outlawed by Protestant church counsels and creeds. Nor has it fared much better in the Catholic Church. In the fourth century Augustine succeeded in making his doctrine of Predestination the recognized doctrine of Christendom and at no time has the Catholic Church consistently and officially adopted the tenets of Arminianism. Likewise Neatorianism, Arianism, Pelagianism, Semi Pelagianism, Socinianism, etc., have risen, have had their day, and passed out; while this system, known in different ages as Augustinianism or Calvinism, has remained fundamentally the same in its basic principles. Is not this in itself a strong proof that it is the true system? In regard to the Calvinism of the Westminster Confession, Dr. C. W. Hodge has said: “The newer modifications of Calvinism have passed away, and this pure consistent form of supernaturalism and evangelicalism stands as an impregnable barrier against the floods of naturalism which threaten to overwhelm all the churches in Christendom.”

In Calvinism alone does the logical and consistent mind find rest. That it is a logical system is admitted even by its opponents. A man who is acquainted with Calvinism will either love or hate it, but even if he hates it, he cannot but speak respectfully of it. The criticism is sometimes made that it places too much stress on logic and too little on emotion. It is true that this anthracite Calvinism does not blaze up like straw; but it is also true that once afire it produces an intense and steady heat. “Calvinism,” says Prof. H. H. Meeter, “bears the distinction among religious groups of being highly intellectual. Calvinism is known for its dialectics. The Calvinists are recognized as the logicians par excellence among theologians. Oliver Wendell Holmes even went so far as to satirize this aspect of Calvinism in his burlesque: ‘The Deacon’s Masterpiece.’ The old one-hoss shay, which was so well constructed that every nut and bolt and bar and spoke was of equal strength and collapsed all at once before the meeting house, was to him the story of Calvinism. As a masterpiece of logic it had continued for ages, but was supposed to have collapsed completely when transcendentalism gained the ascendancy in New England.” 6

The objection, however, that it over-emphasizes logic, has no adequate basis, as anyone who approaches the system from a sympathetic standpoint can readily see. Yet if we are to err on either side it is probably better to err on the side of the intellect than on the side of the emotions. But who ever heard of a system being thrown out because it was too logical? Instead we glory in its logical consistency.

Loraine Boettner- The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination


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