What is Calvinism?

You may not find a better answer than J.I. Packer’s from his introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. It is certainly more than five points:

In the first place, Calvinism is something much broader than the ‘five points’ indicate. Calvinism is a whole world-view, stemming from a clear vision of God as the whole world’s Maker and King. Calvinism is the consistent endeavor to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of his will. Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all life under the direction and control of God’s own word. Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible – the God-centered outlook which sees the Creator as the source, and means, and end, of everything that is, both in nature and in grace. Calvinism is thus theism (belief in God as the ground of all things), religion (dependence on God as the giver of all things), and evangelicalism (trust in God through Christ for all things), all in their purest and most highly developed form. And Calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God’s world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of his great preordained plan for his creatures and his church. The five points assert no more than God is sovereign in saving the individual, but Calvinism, as such, is concerned with the much broader assertion that he is sovereign everywhere.

Some Reviews to Look Forward To…

I might be setting myself up for failure with this one, but I’d like to review a few books on the blog in the coming weeks.  In the past months I’ve finished reading Crazy Love, Finally Alive, Knowing God, and will soon finish The Masculine Mandate.  Here’s a quick note about the books:

  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan
    If you want to be challenged to be all-in in your relationship with Jesus, this book will do it. It’s nearly a newer version of Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life. Chan brings to light biblical Christianity and asks the reader to put away cultural Christianity as well as the Christian version of the American Dream.
  • Finally Alive by John Piper
    Being born again is the only way to see the Kingdom, Jesus said. In this book, John Piper takes a series of sermons from a few years ago and examines from Scripture why the new birth is important, what it is, what it accomplishes, how we can experience it, and what it means for every-day Christian life.
  • Knowing God by J.I. Packer
    This classic book is a systematic theology of God. Packer uses nearly every corner of Scripture to talk about who the God of the Bible is and how we can know him. He includes chapters on God’s most controversial attributes, Wrathful and Judge, as well as the most helpful treatment on Adoption that I have ever read.
  • The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips
    This is not your normal “man book” for Christians. Phillips contends that man’s identity and purpose can be found way back in the Garden, with God’s original command to Adam to be a builder and a keeper. Whether in relationships, work, play or spiritual discipline a man should always be building and keeping.

What does it mean to have the peace of God?

J.I. Packer gives the answer in his book Knowing God:

Too often the peace of God is thought of as if it were essentially a feeling of inner tranquility, happy and carefree, springing from knowledge that God will shield one from life’s hardest knocks.  But this is a misrepresentation, for on the one hand, God does not featherbed his children in this way, and anyone who thinks he does is in for a shock, and on the other hand, that which is basic and essential to the real peace of God does not come into this concept at all…

The peace of God is first and foremost peace with God; it is the state of affairs in which God, instead of being against us, is for us. No account of God’s peace which does not start here can do other than mislead. One of the miserable ironies of our time is that whereas liberal and radical theologians believe themselves to be restating the gospel for today, they have for the most part rejected the categories of wrath, guilt, condemnation and the enmity of God, and so have made it impossible for themselves ever to present the gospel at all, for they cannot now state the basic problem which the gospel of peace solves.

This has application for when we pray for people, especially. How many times have you prayed for someone who is not even a Christian, “Lord, give them peace.” I’ll raise my hand on that one. What kind of peace are we praying for? in a situation? with a friend? It’s impossible for them to experience any kind of peace, as Packer points out, unless they have peace with God himself.

The only way for anyone to have that peace is to receive Jesus as their substitute Savior — as the one who took their place on the cross in order to satisfy God’s wrath against sin. When sin, condemnation, and guilt are out of the way, a river of peace will rush in and overwhelm the most weary of souls.


What is Justification?

Series Index

  1. What is Justification?
  2. What Does Justification Do? (Part 1)
  3. What Does Justification Do? (Part 2)
  4. Jesus Became Sin For Us
  5. Christ’s Imputed Righteousness
  6. Justification by Grace
  7. Justification by Faith
  8. Does James Contradict Paul?

Part 1 in an 8 part series. View series intro and index.

During the Reformation, Martin Luther and others recaptured the beauty and glory of the doctrine of justification.  We contribute absolutely nothing to this wonderful doctrine, but gain everything from it. Over the next several days, we’ll look at what justification is, what it does, how it happens, and how we receive it.

First of all, why do we need to understand the significance and meaning of this doctrine? Wayne Grudem said:

A right understanding of justification is absolutely crucial to the whole Christian faith. Once Martin Luther realized the truth of justification by faith alone, he became a Christian and overflowed with the new-found joy of the gospel…Even today, a true view of justification is the dividing line between the biblical gospel of salvation by faith alone and all false gospels of salvation based on good works.

Jonathan Edwards defined justification this way: “A person is said to be justified when he is approved of God as free from the guilt of sin and its deserved punishment; and as having that righteousness belonging to him that entitles to the reward of life.”

J.I. Packer said that it is “a judicial act of God pardoning sinners (wicked and ungodly persons, Rom. 4:5; 3:9-24), accepting them as just, and so putting permanently right their previously estranged relationship with himself. Finally,Grudem says, “Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in His sight.”

In short, justification is the legal act of God the Father in which he 1) forgives our sins and 2) declares that we are righteous before him.  According to this definition and what we will see in Scripture, we know that justification is something that is declared about a person, not something that is done to a person. In regard to this, John Murray wrote,

Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgment of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that of the distinction between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes an inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does — he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly.

To be continued.