In the following I will critique Martin's pamphlet on "The Practical Implications of Calvinism" and consider some implications of Calvinism from an historic point of view.


The Practical Implications of Calvinism

A.N. Martin

THE EXPERIENCE OF GOD

The example of Isaiah (Is 6) Summary: Calvinistic thought results in humility.

THE POWER OF SAVING RELIGION

I. It should lead to honest scriptural self-examination.

II. These doctrines will lead pursuit of practical godliness.


Critique

Does Calvinism has any applications to the exclusion of Arminian thought? I've asked this a number of times with little or no response. Martin's book is an example of a Calvinistic attempting to answer this. The book is only 23 pages long, and even so he is still rather wordy, which itself says something. Why is it that Calvinists can come up with volumes arm-chair theology, but only a small phamphet when it comes to speaking of the practical applicatons of their theology? Not that I completely disagree with the theology of Calvinism, nor do I completely agree with Arminian thought.

Honest scriptural self-examination

To summarize my critique, I would say that Martin fails to show a logical connection between Calvinist thought and practical applications. For example: Martin points out an application of the 5th point of Calvinism - The Perseverance of the Saints, which happens also to be the only point of Calvinism I agree on. The idea is that it is inevitable that one's salvation status is revealed by one's performance. Thus one can measure his salvation status by his performance. I had come to this conclusion myself when I did a personal study of the book of 1John, years before I even heard of Calvinism.

The problem is that since the Calvinists denies he has any choice in being saved, what is the application if he evaluates his performance and realizes that he is not redeemed? For an evangelical like myself, coming to such a conclusion would lead me to make an effort to seek God. I would reexamine where my faith was deficient and cooperate with God in correcting it. And before you Calvinists accuse me of heresy, who is to say that such a reaction would not be of God's doing?

A holy watchfulness and distrust of oneself

Marting argues that since we are Total Depraved, which is the first point of Calvinist thought, therefore this should lead us to be even more watchful of our behavior, knowing the power of our sinful nature.

The problem is, that since there is no free choice, what are you hoping to accomplish by being "watchful"? Since God controls everything, and there is no free choice, there is nothing you can do. If you find you are falling into sin, God is in control of that, He will carry out his purpose no matter what you attempt by your own will. At least that's the logical conclusion to Calvinist thought. Here's a quote from a Reformed theological source noting Zwingli's theology "Zwingli's understanding of predestination as indistinguishable from providence, logically inclines him to the conclusion that God is the cause of human sin." So the Calvinist holds the illogical position that God is just even though he is the cause of human sin. The puppet model of Calvinism just doesn't fit what the Bible says.

There is no application here. Rather the Arminians have the advantage on this point. For they have a purpose for being watchful. Choice is involved both in salvation and sanctification. For why is faith in Christ preached as a necessary condition for salvation if no choice is involved? And why are there rewards for services rendered promised for the believers in the kingdom if there is no choiced involved in their service to God? Repentance from sin, by its very nature requires a person's will to be involved.

True that Calvinist can argue that they may think humans more depraved than Arminians. But by doing so they effectively nullify any application to their theology.

A consistent prayerfulness

Much the same argument for developing a prayful dependency upon God. If God is going to do whatever He is going to do, according to Calvinist thought, and there is no choice involved on our part in carrying out God's will, then why pray at all? It seems to me that not only is the argument for prayer weak on the Calvinist's part, but the Arminians have a much stronger argument on this point, since from their perspective, choice is involved and therefore prayer more essential. In the puppet theology of Calvinism, God is logically presented as simply praying to himself.

A trustful dependence on God to fulfil all that he has purposed

Martin also proposes that Calvinism leads to a trustful dependence on God to fulfil all that he as purposed. But once again this is not to the exclusion of Arminianism. Rather both come to this same end from different perspectives. Thus there is no application here exclusive of Arminian thought.

Humility

Finally going back to Martin's first point concerning humility, I would say that humility is the most essential characteristic one must have to be saved and live the Christian life appropriately. Martin makes the Calvinistic thought concerning the depravity of man should logically lead to humility. If that were the case, then one would think that Calvinists would tend to be humbled than Arminians. But I have not found that to be the case. In my experience, I have found that the more zealous people are for Calvinism, the more arrogant they are. Most Calvinists I've run into are simply interested in arguing over issues of armchair theology, trying to figure out who they can label a heretic. Did his humility stop John Calvin from torturing a man to death? No. Nor did any repentance follow. Did his revelation of his own depraved nature make him more cautious doctrinally? Calvin was involved in persecuting and condemning Anabaptists as being unbelievers simply because they didn't believe in infant baptism. They insist upon forcing their theological assumptions into the scriptures, relying more on the words of other Calvinists rather than honestly evaluating the scriptures themselves.

To you Calvinists out there, I would recommend you take a few years and put away your volumes on Calvinist theology and develop your own convictions based upon your own personal Bible study. Now there's an application!


Theological Implications of Calvinism

A major theological problem I would have with Calvinism is with its implication of holding people responsible for things they have no control over.


Implications of Calvinism 
from an historic point of view

Calvinism implies Hyper-Calvinism. That is, if we really try to apply calvinistic thought, we come up with hyper-calvinistic applications. Such applications have dominated the history of Calvinist theology. While armchair Calvinists sat around debating their theology, it was the hyper-Calvinists who actually applied it.

I. Anti-Nomianism

II. Anti-Mission

III. Replacing God's Word with Man's

IV. Infant Baptism

V. A Ravenous Hatred for Non-Calvinists

"Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him."1 John 3:15

"Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt."John Calvin


These are not strictly speaking "Calvinism", but rather implications of Calvinism which people do in the name of "Calvinism". Calvinism has little direct application, while Arminian thought does have much direct application. Why are these not called "HyperArminianism"? Because they have little to do with Arminian thought. They are Calvinistic in nature.


Addendum

I wrote this article in response to a request by a Calvinist. I had asked him if there were any applications to Calvinism, and he was unable to give me an answer but asked me to read Martin's book. If you ask someone a question and they can't answer it, but points you to someone else who they think may have the answer, then they have neither come to understand nor believe such an answer. For if they had understood it and believed it, they would have told you. If we cannot express the things we claim to believe, then we haven't actually come to believe them.

I say this simply because I'm tired of people who pretend to have convictions in areas in which they really don't have convictions; people who pretend to understand, but are incapable of expressing their supposed "beliefs". A person of conviction is never caught by surprise by questions or issues, for such a one has already asked themselves the essential and logical questions. Such a one has already gone through the battle, having wrestled within oneself these ideas in mind and spirit, and thus is ready for ministry as Paul writes: "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2Co 10:5

Simply put, in trying to convince someone else what you supposedly believed, rather than telling someone else to read a book or listen to a preacher, why don't you do so instead, and then tell them what understanding you have gained and what convictions you have developed as a result.

Steve Amato
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources
http://www.bcbsr.com




The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources
Jul 29,2015