The “Old” Calvinism vs. Modern Intellectualism – History & Theology, Part 80

We will continue with the thought from John Owen and B.B. Warfield that theology must be God-centered first and foremost. It is possible to develop a theology from the Bible without the central thrust being the true glory of God, and all of that theology will be man-centered in some way. We can perhaps see this in two glaring errors of our day. One, we have arrived at the point in our man-centered and miserable theology by thinking that we can do things that glorify God or make Him look good. In other words, it is possible to speak a lot about doing things to the glory of God and still have a very man-centered approach to it. It can still be focused on my works and my efforts and things done in my own strength. We can give lip service to grace and still go on doing things in our own strength all the while mouthing out words that speak of the glory of God. To put it plainly, there are a lot of man-centered activities and works going on under the guise of the glory of God.

Second, we can speak much of the glory of God and do this in a way that focuses on man. We can speak of the glory of grace and the glory of salvation as if the glory of those things was because God did those things for man. We can weep about His grace at the cross and still be focused on ourselves. After all, Scripture tells us that even sinners love those who do good to them. It does not take a change of heart for a person to love (so to speak) God if they believe that He died for them and saved them from hell. It is not only possible but is perhaps the way things are done a vast majority of the time that God and His Gospel are presented. It is presented in such a way that sinners have no need to have a changed heart. This is presenting God in a man-centered way and proclaiming our own glory by mouthing that we are doing all for His glory. It is not the Gospel but is a truncated message at best.

In our day a man-centered spirit or focus has taken over. God is presented to people as if His glory is all about human beings and as if His focus is on what sinners would think is good for them. When professing Calvinists and professing Arminians agree, they are usually agreeing on principles derived from a human centered god rather than the God of Scripture who is centered upon Himself and His glory in a way that is not centered on man. God loves His glory more than all human beings who have ever been born and it is holy and loving for Him to do so. Until a human being has his or her heart changed to love God for God as He is and not just some man-centered teaching, that individual has not been reconciled to God. Even the Gospel that is presented in our day is so focused on man that a person hears nothing of the true God and does not need the true God to be saved in the man-centered way. The person evangelized continues on at enmity with the true God while thinking that s/he loves Him.

Modern Calvinism is primarily an intellectual movement in our day and has not returned to the view of God that is at the heart of historical Calvinism. A man or woman is considered a Calvinist today if s/he adheres to a certain Confession that is historically considered Calvinistic. However, a person can strictly adhere in intellectual belief to the 1689 Baptist Confession or the Westminster Confession or the Heidelberg Confession and still not be a Calvinist in reality. There is a huge difference between a person that intellectually believes in the doctrine of justification by faith alone and one that is justified by faith alone. There is a huge difference between a person that intellectually believes in the drawing grace of God and the one that has been drawn by the grace of God. There is a huge difference between the person that intellectually believes that all should be done to the glory of God and works to that end and the person who loves God and His glory so that the glory of God shines in and through that person. There is a massive difference between the person who with intellectual precision believes that Christ died on the cross for his sins and the person who sees the glory of God shining in the cross and knows that Christ died out of love for the Father first and foremost and yet has the very life and love of Christ in the soul.

Why am I going to such lengths in this? It is a cry from the heart that Calvinism today is not the biblically based theology of the past. It is a cry that Calvinism today has been hijacked by historians and theologians (not all) and has settled into following the intellect and creeds apart from the flowing of eternal life in the soul that desires God and His glory to be manifested in a God-centered way. The old Calvinism that Warfield and Owen spoke of and that was taught and loved by Edwards, Chalmers, and many others is the one that was breathed forth in proclamations with love and desire and panting for the glory of God. These were men who were caught up with the sight of God and their souls were aflame with His glory and for His glory. These were men who thought of God’s glory as being for God Himself and thought that God existed for Himself. They did not see God’s glory as focused on man, but as focused on Himself. They saw the doctrines of grace as doctrines that came from God’s focus on Himself and as an expression of His glory rather than His focus on man and that was why it was grace.

This God-centered form of Calvinism has all but disappeared which means that the true sight of God has all but disappeared. The rigid doctrinal variety is still here to some degree, but where is God in our land? Where are those who love His glory more than life? Where are those who believe from spiritual taste that His lovingkindness is better than life? Where are those that have tasted and see that the Lord is good? Where are those who desire with a love for God and His love for Himself to see His glory manifested apart from their own church growth? Until we are finished with man-centered history, theology, bible teaching, and our doctrine of God, we can see a rapid and large growth in Calvinism without a shred of spiritual life in the land. It is not doctrinal and creedal Calvinism alone that we need, but we must have truly broken hearts that desire nothing but God and His glory if we are to see true Reformation and Revival. Until that happens, we will just continue playing with our man-centered theology which in truth is opposed to the true God at its very core. A man-centered Calvinism is no better than a man-centered Arminianism and both deceive souls and are opposed to the true God. May God grant us all repentance.


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