Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dever on the "reformed revival"

Growing up I didn't have a clue about Calvinism. Oh, I heard Calvinists denounced from the pulpit and had a vague notion that Calvinists were Baptist and Baptists were the ones who believed in "eternal security". I later learned that not all Baptists are Calvinist by a long shot (alas!) and describing the doctrine of God's preservation of the saints as eternal security is like describing prime rib by producing a McDonald's hamburger! I hasten to add that there are "hypers" on all sides who are eager to denounce and caricature those of other doctrinal persuasions. Perhaps there are folks who grew up in hyper-Calvinist environs hearing Methodists and Wesleyans denounced as less than Christian. I say all that to say it's quite surprising that I ended up finding a home within Reformed theology. Surprising, but not uncommon it seems.

Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church recently completed a fascinating 10-part series on the factors behind the resurgence of Calvinism among 20 and 30-something evangelicals called Where'd All These Calvinists Come From?...not theological factors, but historical and sociological factors. It makes for interesting reading and ironies abound. The generational shift is hard to miss. 50 years ago there was nary a prominent evangelical who would claim the label Calvinist and many were openly anti-Calvinist. How things have changed! Reading Dever's series I recognized many of the signposts encountered on my own "journey to Geneva" i.e. the role of the PCA, the writing of J.I. Packer, Charles Spurgeon and the Puritans, the teaching of R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur, and above all, the mind-blowing, soul-stirring influence of the Pastor for Preaching of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Yet even before I'd ever heard of any of these men the Holy Spirit began to open my eyes to the glorious doctrines of grace thru a personal study of Romans, interestingly enough, undertaken along with a young lady I was romantically interested in at the time. It was one of those deals where we each read a chapter and then journaled our thoughts and impressions. I remember my excitement the morning after studying and gaining a dawning realization of the implications of Romans 3 and 4. Shortly thereafter I came across
Modern Reformation magazine and the die was cast. This is my home, but I recognize also my debt to many that don't fit the Reformed/Calvinist label -- men like C.S. Lewis, the Wesley's, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Richard Foster, even the English Catholic Evelyn Waugh -- whose novels helped keep the flickering flame burning during some dark years. Truly "God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform" (William Cowper). If someone reading this is inspired to pick up a book by J.I. Packer or listen to a sermon by Martyn Lloyd-Jones or John Piper I'll be happy. Most of all -- search the scriptures! Perhaps you'll find (in the words of Spurgeon) that Calvinism is simply a nickname for the "gospel and nothing else", and "that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism."

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